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JUNE 5 2016 ELIJAH

Elijah!

 

Our Scripture reading this morning is I Kings 17:1-7. 

 

[I. Introduction] When Elijah appears Israel was in a greatly apostate state.  The nation had already been divided into a Northern kingdom, which retained the name Israel, and a Southern kingdom which took the name of one its tribes, Judah. Elijah lived as a prophet to the Northern Kingdom. Ahab was the king and he was one of the most wicked kings in the nations history. His wife, Jezebel, was the most wicked woman recorded in the whole Bible.

 

Elijah was considered by the Jews to be the greatest prophet of all and it seems that this judgment was right. When Jesus was transfigured on the mountain before the eyes of Peter, James, and John it was Elijah, representing the prophets, and Moses, representing the law, who appeared and spoke with Jesus. During Jesus’ ministry he was thought to be Elijah resurrected by the people. Why? Because of the miracles that he did.  John the Baptist came in the spirit and power of Elijah.

 

Here, in I Kings 17:1, Elijah first appears and we are not told who his parents were. In this respect he is like Melchizedec who is likewise shrouded in mystery. He was from the town of Tishbe. This was a small and insignificant town in Gilead, east of the Jordan river.

 

[II.] God often raises up and uses those from insignificant beginnings to do great things. This shows that it does not depend on your bloodline. It does not depend on your family heritage. It does not depend on where you are from. It only depends on whether God has chosen you. If he has chosen you then he will fill you with His Spirit, as He did Elijah, and you will accomplish things that you never thought you could.

 

Consider John Bunyan, that great Christian author and preacher from the 1600’s. He has written the most blessed Christian book ever written, Pilgrim’s Progress. It has been translated into over 200 languages and has never been out of print since its first publication in 1678. It is unquestionably the greatest selling English book in history after the Bible.  So much so that it has sold about three times as many copies as the number two book. The number two book (again, not considering the Bible) is The Lord of the Rings, which has sold about 150 million copies. Pilgrim’s Progress has sold over 400 million copies. It has proven to be a tremendous encouragement and blessing to those who have read it.

 

John Bunyan was born in a small and insignificant town, Elstow near Bedford, and grew up in a poor family. He describes his family as the poorest and most despised “in all the families of the land.” His father was a tinker, meaning that he repaired pots and pans, an occupation that did not pay well to say the least. Yet they sent John to school and he learned how to read and write when many of the poor never did. God’s hand was upon him. The Holy Spirit would move him to write the most blessed of books which would not only draw many believers into a more consecrated life to their Lord but would also be used to convert thousands to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

God raised up Elijah from insignifance to usefulness. He raised up John Bunyan from poverty to untold spiritual riches. He can use you despite your beginnings. He will use you if you will but give yourself to him without holding back. Will you?

 

Will you allow yourself to be used of the Lord? Will you put behind you your beginnings, your failings, your sins, the way you have disappointed others? We know nothing of Elijah’s failures, but all men have them. We do know of John Bunyan’s. He reveals them in his autobiography, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners. Put yours behind you and be ready to be used of the Lord! It is never too late! Whether you are 16 years old or 60, the Lord has joyful opportunities if you will give yourself without holding back.

 

What is holding you back? Whatever it is, it is not worth it. What a sad regret it would be to get to the end of your life and say, “If only I had served the Lord more! Now, it is too late!” There is nothing better than serving Him!

 

[III.] Verse 1 reads that Elijah “said to Ahab…” Ahab was the king, a man of power and authority and with the ability to put Elijah to death – and that was a common undertaking of ancient kings, especially wicked ones. Yet, Elijah was bold to confront him, to rebuke him, to call him and all Israel to repentance!

 

To confront, to rebuke, to point out the need for repentance, is not the exclusive calling of a prophet, an apostle, or a preacher. It is the calling of every child of God. It is your calling! We are all entreated by the Lord to be a shining light in a dark world. We must expose the ideas and the deeds that are dark as dark. We must not be silent. Elijah was bold and we are, each one, called to be bold.

 

“But, pastor, I’m not a bold person. I’m a quiet person. I can’t do that.” There is no question that some people are bold by nature and others are quiet by nature and some are in-between. But standing and speaking against ungodliness and sin has little to do with our natural inclinations. It is of the Spirit! The quietest person can speak boldly when the Spirit moves them. The Bible reveals, two chapters later, that Elijah himself was a fearful man. It is not us! It is the Lord!

 

John Knox, the Scottish Reformer of the 16th century, was called before Mary Queen of Scots to answer for a book he had written against women rulers and the Roman Catholic Church. The book was written mainly against Queen Mary Tudor of England, also known as Bloody Mary, who had 280 Protestants burned at the stake between 1553 and 1558 because they refused to recant their faith and bow the knee to the Pope. Yet, Mary Queen of Scotland was also a woman and also a Catholic. She had the authority to put John Knox to death.

When he was called before her he said that God had called him “to disclose unto this Realm the vanity of the Papistical Religion, and the deceit, pride, and tyranny of that Roman Antichrist.”

 

When she asked him if princes (meaning kings and queens) should be resisted, he replied, “If their princes exceed their bounds, Madam, no doubt they may be resisted, even by power.”

 

It is recorded by those present that when she heard these words she arose from her chair with a look of amazement and stood there for “more than a quarter of an hour” thinking in silence. Was she considering having his head?

 

Then she sat down and continued her interview with John. John said to her that rulers of nations are in subjection to God. And this “subjection, Madam, unto God, and unto His troubled Church, is the greatest dignity that flesh can get upon the face of the earth; for it shall carry them to everlasting glory."

 

Queen Mary then said, "Yea, but you all are not the church that I will nourish. I will defend the Church of Rome, for it is, I think, the true Church of God."

 

John replied, "Your will, Madam, is not a reason; neither doth your thought make that Roman harlot to be the true and immaculate spouse of Jesus Christ. Wonder not, Madam, that I call Rome an harlot; for that Church is altogether polluted with all kind of spiritual fornication, as well in doctrine.”

 

Although many think that it would have been unlikely that Mary would have called for his head, seeing that the majority of Scotland was already Protestant and any such action would have incited a rebellion and probable overthrow of her crown, one cannot deny the boldness that John exhibited at this meeting before the queen.

 

It is not just Elijah and John Knox. We can all be bold. God has called you to it. Open thy mouth and see the deliverance of God from your quietness. See what God can do with what you say!

 

[IV.] Elijah says, “As Yahweh the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand…” Besides the Spirit of God, here is the reason for Elijah’s boldness. He recognized that he was standing before God. This means that he was aware that God was watching his actions and that he was responsible to Him. Oh, brothers and sisters, this is an awareness that should be upon us all! Such an awareness not only keeps us from sin but it will lead us to be bold for the Lord and his will.

 

What better answer could be given to those who contradict us when we speak on behalf of the Lord than, “I can say no other thing, for I stand before the Lord Jesus Christ, and this is what He teaches, as well as his apostles. And there is no surer truth on this earth.”

 

Consider the so-called “transgender” iniquity that fills our land. God has spoken on this subject without lisping. Jesus has said, “He made them male and female. (Matthew 19:4)” Jesus was quoting from Genesis 1:27. It does not say, “God made them male and female and transgender.” God would further say:

 

 A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the Lord your God detests anyone who does this. (Deut. 22:5, NIV)

 

Some liberal minded folk may tell you are narrow minded. You may always say, “I can say no other thing, for I stand before the God, and this is what He has spoken.”

 

Knowing that we do, indeed, stand before God gives us boldness. Believe it! Know it! Speak it! Live it!

 

In one sense, everyone stands before God. But, in the sense that Elijah meant it, only those who belong to Jesus stand before God. If you belong to Jesus you stand before God! Let us declare that together.

 

I stand before God!

I believe it.

I know I stand before God!

I stand before God!

I will live standing before God!                       (twice)

 

Do you know why that is a good declaration? Because it is true! We need to declare those things that are true and we need to cease saying anything that is not true.

 

You stand before God!

 

[V.] What does Elijah tell Ahab? “There shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.” The Lord often uses calamities, such as drought or famine, to chastise his people. Despite their waywardness, the Israelites were still his people. Elijah was telling Ahab, “You are leading the people further astray. So, judgment is coming from Yahweh. There will be no water and you, and all the people, will suffer.”

 

That is a daring, even audacious, claim! How could Elijah be so confident in it? How did he know it would happen? The answer is two-fold. He prayed for it. And, he was a righteous man. We do not learn this from the account here in Kings. We do not know what led up to this prophecy. But, in the New Testament, James tells us.

            Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth.

(James 5:17 ESV)

 

We tend to think that the great men of God that we read about in the Bible are so far above us that their lives in no way reflect ours and that we cannot do what they did. James disabuses us of this notion. He states that Elijah had a nature just like ours. He wasn’t superhuman. He was just a man. He had a sinful nature because all people do. He sinned because all people do (I Kings 8:46). He did do something, though. He prayed fervently!

 

Never underestimate the power of just one person praying. Of course, when two or more agree in prayer, there is even more power!  James had just said, in chapter four, “You do not have, because you do not ask.” The reason why many of us do not receive what we desire is because we do not pray for it. Or, if we do pray for it, we may only ask a few times and then give up. Don’t give up! Keep asking!

 

How many times did Elijah pray that it would not rain in the land of Israel? James does not tell us, but if the teaching of our Lord Jesus is any indication it was more than once. It was many times. It was likely for days and weeks on end. The word “fervently” also implies this. It is hard to pray fervently one time! Elijah prayed fervently and persistently.

 

It is effective not because of the man, although we will see momentarily that the way we live has something to do with it. It is effective because of God. The request in prayer is put into action and made effective by God—it is dynamic and can have tremendous power.

 

I said that the answer was two-fold. The other half is that he was a righteous man. We see that in the prior verse.

 

The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

(James 5:16 ESV)

 

I like the way the KJV puts it:

 

The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

 

There are two kinds of righteousness that the Bible presents. One is an imputed righteousness. This is the righteousness of Christ applied to our very being so that, in God’s eyes, we are as righteous as Jesus Himself. Every Christian has it. This is what makes us acceptable to God the Father. This is what ensures our entrance into the presence of God. Thank the Lord for imputed righteousness!

 

The Bible also speaks of a practical righteousness. That means we try to live in accordance with God’s revealed will and we succeed. I do not mean that we never fail. We will. A practical, or what can also be called a personal righteousness, simply means that we live in obedience and, when we fail, we confess and turn away from any sin.

 

Living a holy life will result in our prayers being answered.

 

If our prayers have fervency, persistence, and we are living rightly then they are dynamic and the things that we ask will come to pass.

 

Ask, you chosen ones! See the hand of the Lord when you do!

 

[VI. Conclusion] By the Lord’s grace, I hope to continue our look into Elijah’s life next week. Until then, his potent life shown in this one verse shows us some things.

 

  • He was a man from small beginnings. Do not think because of the way you began, nor the way you have fallen, that you cannot finish strongly. Both Elijah and Bunyan finished mightily. You can! Give yourself anew to the Lord this very day and do not hold back.
  • Elijah rebuked the king. John Knox rebuked the queen. We may never stand before the President, a senator, or a congressman, but we can speak to our family member, our neighbor, and our co-worker about what is right, about sin, and about our need of the Lord. Boldness is our benefit and it is from the Lord, not from us.
  • Elijah stood before God. We also stand before God. Let us never forget that. This remembrance will itself impart boldness.
  • Through prayer and personal righteousness Elijah stopped the heavens. Through your prayer and your holy living you will see the hand of the Lord.

 

By his example, what may Elijah do for you?

 

  • He gives you an opportunity to live for the Lord in a better way.
  • He calls you to stand before God and to live and speak boldly.
  • He hails you to pray fervently and live righteously.

 

Do these things today, tomorrow, and the next day. See the hand of the Lord in your life.