Today I am pushing pause on my Romans devotion (well it has been nearly two months since I posted a new devotion)and posting something else. This summer I have been co-preaching with my pastor at First Presbyterian a series called GREAT CLOUD OF WITNESSES. The series is looking at various Old Testament men and women that God called to be His representatives. Ultimately we are looking at the discipleship qualities of these individuals and seeing how they can teach us to become better disciples of Jesus. I thought I would post my most recent sermon I preached in case you missed it, fell asleep during it or would like to read it for yourself.
One day a man approached a wise holy man. He said to the wise man, “You have such a great love for God. I want to have the same affection for God that you have. What do I have to do to get this passion?” The wise man said to follow him down to the river. He entered the river and stopped in the middle and grabbed the man by the head and dunked him under water for a few seconds. As he let the man up for air he said, “What is it that you want most right now!” The man responded, “I want to have the same kind of love for God that you have!” The holy man proceeded to dunk him in the water again and this time left him under water a little longer. He let the man come up for air and asks the same question to which he answers the same. The holy man repeats this process a dozen times or so each time holding him under water for a longer period. On the last dunking the man is held under for quite a while and emerges gasping for air. The holy man then asks, “What is it that you want most right now?” The man still struggling replies, “AIR! I need air!” The holy man turns around and walks out of the river and says, “When you get to the point in your life where you need God as much as you need air, then you will have the passion for Him that you seek.”
When I think about individuals in the Bible who have passion, I immediately think of the prophet Elijah. Elijah had a unique mission in life. He was called by God to be the one who would win Israel back to the one true God after their affair with foreign idols. In his passion for God he was able to fully trust Him and he was able do some very difficult and dangerous things that ultimately led Israel back in right relationship with God.
Last week as I talked about King Solomon. Solomon was a man of wealth and wisdom, unfortunately he did not always rule with the wisdom God gave him. Later in life allowed his heart to be swayed from the true God of Israel to foreign gods mostly because of his weakness for foreign women. God told him that if he did not change his ways that He would allow the nation of Israel to be divided. We do find that after Solomon’s death the nation goes through a civil war of sorts and does in fact divide in half. It divides into the Southern and Northern Kingdoms. The North consisted of 10 tribes and retained the name Israel. The Southern Kingdom was called Judah. Both kingdoms do not fair too well in history. Both Kingdom have many wicked Kings but there were some only in the Southern kingdom that were good and actually followed God. However the northern Kingdom had a history of wicked kings. The nation forgot their God and the kings never bothered to exhort the people to turn from their evil ways.
In the midst of this evil period of the North there was one King in particular named Ahab. He was considered the worst king in Israel’s history. We read in I Kings 16:33 “Ahab did more to provoke the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger than all other kings of Israel who were before him.”
He was married to a woman named Jezebel. She was an evil woman. It is believed that she is responsible for bringing Baal worship to the Northern Kingdom. Now, you may not know a lot about Jezebel but I guarantee that everyone in this room knows that if you call someone a Jezebel, you are not given that person a compliment. She brought prophets of Baal with her, she erected temples and she had a close relationship with these religious leaders of this false God. She was an evil manipulative queen who had no regard for the God of their forefathers. She, like others before her, turned the people’s heart from the one true God.
Elijah – A Man of Passion and Courage
Elijah was a prophet of God from Gilead. He was tasked by God to be a sort of thorn in the side of King Ahab. He was to inform him about a draught in the land that would last for three year. In fact he says there will be no rain until Elijah tells it to rain. God tells Elijah to leave the land and God would take care of him.
Over time eventually God then tells Elijah to confront King Ahab. When they met King Ahab says to Elijah, “So, you’re the trouble maker of Israel.” To which Elijah responds, “I am not the trouble maker, you are, because you have abandoned the commands of God and turned to other gods.” He then challenges Jezebel and Ahab’s prophets to a contest of sorts to show who the true God really is.
Elijah declares to the people of Israel, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, then follow him.” He proceeds to challenge the prophets. There are 850 prophets of Baal and Asherah present.
The contest goes like this… There will be two bulls. One will be given to the prophets of Baal to sacrifice and the other will be given to Elijah. They will prepare the bulls and lay them on the wood but put no fire to it. The prophets of Baal will call upon their god and Elijah will call upon his God. The one who answers with fire from heaven to consume the sacrifice is the true God. The people agreed and thus the competition begins.
The prophets of Baal were the first to start. They begin by calling on the name of Baal. They cried out for hours. These prophets believed if they yelled louder then Baal would hear them. Nothing happened. Elijah begins mocking them by saying, “Maybe your god is asleep, or on vacation, or maybe he is in the bathroom.” The prophets went more extremes as they cried louder and cut themselves with sword and lances as was their custom. The prophets were screaming at the top of their lungs, tired and a bloody mess and still no word from their god. The irony in all this is that Baal is the sun god, so sending fire down from heaven should have been no problem whatsoever. The people lost interest and moved on.
It is now Elijah’s turn. He erects an altar that represents the twelve tribes of Israel. He places the bull on the altar. He then commands the people to drench the sacrifice with water. There was so much water the trenches around the altar were full. Elijah prays a simple but expectant prayer, “Show yourself to be the one true God, so the people will know you and turn back to you.” It was at this moment that a fire from heaven came and consumed the sacrifice, the wood and all the water. Once the people saw this they fell on their faces and worshiped God.
Concluding the contest Elijah had all the prophets seized and he killed them all.
The draught was thus ended and he gathered his garment and ran away.
Elijah Runs and Hears from God
Once Jezebel hears what Elijah did, she put a hit out on him. Elijah hears this and he runs for his life because he was afraid. He ran to Beersheba and went a day’s journey into the wilderness. Something amazing happens in the wilderness. After this amazing victory and sign from God Elijah goes into a deep depression. After all he has witnessed his God do and sees the power He possesses he runs away from one person who threatens to kill him. He asks God to take his life. This is where we get the term a valley experience. Elijah has an extreme high in his victory but goes into a deep valley of depression after.
He is visited by an angel twice and given food. He then went up for forty days into Mount Horeb to hide. As he was hiding the word of the LORD came to him and asked what he is doing there to which Elijah opens up about his depression and loneliness. The Lord tells him to go and stand before the mount of the LORD. He does as he is told and a strong wind, earthquake, and fire happened and God was not in any of them. He then hears a low whisper that was the voice of God and he tells him that he is to anoint a king Israel and Syria and appoint Elisha to be prophet in his place. These men will kill all the people who worship Baal. God would leave seven thousand people in Israel who have not bowed to Baal and God. God visits Elijah in his darkest hours.
He does as he’s told. The remainder of I Kings talks about the destruction of the worshipers of Baal and ultimately the demise of King Ahab, who’s death was prophesied by none other than the prophet Micaiah (who happens to hold a dear place in my heart). I would encourage you to read the story on your own.
After the battle Elijah and Elisha were on their way to Gigal and Elijah tells Elisha that his time is up and Elisha asks for a double portion of Elijah’s Spirit. Elijah is thus taken into heaven by a whirlwind and the chariots of God.
The life of Elijah is amazing. God used this prophet in a mighty way. He brought a nation back to God, He cleansed the nation of idolatry and he commissions a prophet to go out after him to make a bigger impact on this nation. So what can we take with us today? What can we learn from Elijah and how can it apply to us today?
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