Showdown: God vs. the rest

Posted: April 29, 2010 in 1 Kings, Uncategorized

1 Kings 17-18, “Showdown: God vs. the rest”
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In a world & culture that offers so many different religious choices – so many different so-called “paths to God” – how do we know which one is right & which ones are wrong? If we’re going to follow the one true God, we need to have some way of identifying Who that one true God is. (Thankfully we can know exactly that as we look at the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ!)

This was the problem Israel had after the kingdom had split into north & south. By this point in the history of the northern kingdom (Israel), they had a succession of apostate kings that led the people increasingly into idolatry to the point where they now had King Ahab, who was worse than every other king who had come before him. The true worship of God had all but vanished in the land, and idolatry reigned supreme. But God is not going to let that stand without making Himself known. And that’s exactly what He does by sending Elijah on the scene – setting up a showdown between God Almighty & the false god of Baal. And He starts the showdown by throwing down the gauntlet (so to speak) in the form of a supernatural drought…

1 Kings 17 (NKJV)
1 And Elijah the Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the LORD God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word.”

A. Introduction to Elijah. We’re not told much about him or his background, other than he was a Tishbite of Gilead (Transjordan region). He seems to appear out of nowhere, but though he never even wrote a book, he’s going to end up being one of the most influential prophets in Biblical history. (Even appearing with Jesus at the Transfiguration)

B. Pretty big words from Elijah! To proclaim a drought that would last for years is a tall order… Certainly would give credence to him as a prophet of God if it came to pass (and it did). We’ve already been told that Ahab had instituted the worship of Baal (1 Kings 16:32) – this proclamation of a drought was a direct attack on the false god. There were varying types of Baal – the particular one worshipped here was a rain & fertility god. Elijah was basically proclaiming that Yahweh rendered Baal impotent. … We’re not told when God instructed Elijah to say this, but it is obvious Elijah was following the command of the Lord & speaking in God’s name.
__a. Was Elijah anything special in all of this? Obviously he was a prophet used mightily of the Lord – but was there something about his DNA or his practices that made this all possible? No. Elijah was just a guy – but he was a guy who had faith in the All-Powerful God of the Universe. James 5:16-18 (16) Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. (17) Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. (18) And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit. []
__b. Is your prayer like Elijah’s? Based in the righteousness of Christ – effective – fervent? I wonder sometimes if we pray, expecting God NOT to answer; we just prayed because it was the “Christian” thing to do. [] Pray fervently in faith! You might just be amazed at what you see God do…

C. Question: was the power of the drought based in Elijah? Absolutely not. “As the Lord God of Israel lives…” Elijah was basing his proclamation not upon his own power, but upon the power, reality, and existence of God Almighty. [] Quite the opposite of what we often see proclaimed on TV today… When God moves in supernatural ways, it is ALWAYS to bring glory to Himself (as we’ll see repeated tonight)…
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2 Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying, 3 “Get away from here and turn eastward, and hide by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan. 4 And it will be that you shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.” 5 So he went and did according to the word of the LORD, for he went and stayed by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan. 6 The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the brook.

A. Wonderful provision from the Lord! Elijah had declared a coming drought, but how would the prophet himself survive during these years? Obviously he needed to live through the drought in order to proclaim its end. God made the provision for him!
__a. We can trust God as our provider. … He clothes the lilies (Matt 6:28-29)…
__b. Ultimately He provides for us in our salvation in Christ! This is exactly what Abraham learned when laying Isaac on the altar… Jehovah Jireh!

B. Note that God rules the ravens. He is the God of all Creation… Seen wonderfully in Jesus’ rebuking of the waves (Luke 8:24-25). There is nothing beyond our God’s control & no limit to the ways in which He can provide for us.
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7 And it happened after a while that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land. 8 Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying, 9 “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. See, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.”

A. Even after the brook dried up (it was a long drought!), God STILL provided for Elijah (even if the widow wasn’t yet aware of her divine command)…

B. There may be times that you’re trusting the Lord’s provision & think it’s starting to come to an end. At that point, what do you do? Certainly act in wisdom, but ultimately you keep trusting. Our God knows our needs! …
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10 So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, indeed a widow was there gathering sticks. And he called to her and said, “Please bring me a little water in a cup, that I may drink.” 11 And as she was going to get it, he called to her and said, “Please bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” 12 So she said, “As the LORD your God lives, I do not have bread, only a handful of flour in a bin, and a little oil in a jar; and see, I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.” 13 And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said, but make me a small cake from it first, and bring it to me; and afterward make some for yourself and your son. 14 For thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘The bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the LORD sends rain on the earth.’ ”

A. The widow was in desperate straights…

B. Quite a request from Elijah. Basically he says, “I know you think you’re about to starve, but feed me 1st & then see what happens.” …. …
__a. We need to trust the Lord 1st in all things.

C. What do we base this trust upon? The same thing the widow had been given: the promise of the Lord God of Israel. …
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15 So she went away and did according to the word of Elijah; and she and he and her household ate for many days. 16 The bin of flour was not used up, nor did the jar of oil run dry, according to the word of the LORD which He spoke by Elijah.

A. Huge step of faith for the widow! And as a result, she saw the truth of the word of God…
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17 Now it happened after these things that the son of the woman who owned the house became sick. And his sickness was so serious that there was no breath left in him. 18 So she said to Elijah, “What have I to do with you, O man of God? Have you come to me to bring my sin to remembrance, and to kill my son?” 19 And he said to her, “Give me your son.” So he took him out of her arms and carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his own bed. 20 Then he cried out to the LORD and said, “O LORD my God, have You also brought tragedy on the widow with whom I lodge, by killing her son?”

A. That’s a serious charge! Had God really “killed” her son? Keep in mind the Scripture is simply recording what was said; not necessarily giving instruction here as to what God actually did. God certainly knows the day of our death – our very life is in His hand. But there’s definitely no indication here that God struck down the child for any reason. He died for the same reason all of us do: we live in a fallen world. In their emotion, Elijah & the woman cried out to God in blame.
__a. Seems similar to Jesus’ raising of Lazarus. Mary & Martha (and even the people witnessing) blamed Jesus for Lazarus’ death. But there was a purpose in his death, unbeknownst to Lazarus’ sisters, the mourners, and even the disciples. God knew exactly what He wanted to do…
__b. Keep in mind that God’s ways are not our ways – His mind & manner of thinking is much higher than our own. We may not understand WHAT is taking place at any given time, but we know WHO we can trust through it all.

B. Interesting the progression here. The widow asked Elijah & Elijah asked God. It’s not that Elijah had any better answers; he just knew who to ask.
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21 And he stretched himself out on the child three times, and cried out to the LORD and said, “O LORD my God, I pray, let this child’s soul come back to him.” 22 Then the LORD heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came back to him, and he revived. 23 And Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper room into the house, and gave him to his mother. And Elijah said, “See, your son lives!” 24 Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now by this I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in your mouth is the truth.”

A. Resurrection! … Seems to be the 1st resurrection in the Bible. (Jesus’ is the 1st permanent resurrection).

B. The result? The woman’s faith moved from her lips to her heart – “by THIS I know that you are a man of God…” She had recognized Elijah as a prophet already; but now her intellectual knowledge is a personal faith. (There are a ton of people in churches today that need to make this same transition…)
__a. (Carson) “The widow’s exclamation in v 24 contains exquisite irony: a Phoenician woman realized that Elijah spoke the word of Yahweh, while the Israelite king, worshipping his Phoenician gods, had refused to see it.”
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1 Kings 18 (NKJV)
1 And it came to pass after many days that the word of the LORD came to Elijah, in the third year, saying, “Go, present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the earth.” 2 So Elijah went to present himself to Ahab; and there was a severe famine in Samaria.

A. Time for the famine to end & God sends Elijah back to Ahab. Notice that God is leading Elijah one step at a time. God obviously knew what He was doing – He could have told Elijah from the outset that he’d speak to the king, be fed by the ravens, stay with the widow, and after 3 years go back – but that’s not what God did. God led Elijah one step at a time. He gave him a single opportunity to trust God by faith every time, like building blocks…

B. Often we want to know everything all at once – but that’s generally not what God does for us. He gives us one opportunity to trust Him at a time – and as we’re faithful to every individual opportunity, He leads us in more.
__a. Have you been obedient to the opportunity God has given you right now? Or are you too busy looking ahead trying to see what God has not yet revealed?
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3 And Ahab had called Obadiah, who was in charge of his house. (Now Obadiah feared the LORD greatly. 4 For so it was, while Jezebel massacred the prophets of the LORD, that Obadiah had taken one hundred prophets and hidden them, fifty to a cave, and had fed them with bread and water.)

A. Is Obadiah the same as the prophet? Not very likely – just shared the name.

B. As bad as Ahab was, praise God that he had men in his service such as Obadiah. Obadiah served the king out of obligation, but he “feared the Lord greatly.” He was willing to be faithful to God even while serving an unfaithful king.
__a. Obadiah was as obedient as possible, without violating the word of God. He knew it was better to obey God rather than man when the circumstances demanded it. [Peter & John – Acts 4:19]
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5 And Ahab had said to Obadiah, “Go into the land to all the springs of water and to all the brooks; perhaps we may find grass to keep the horses and mules alive, so that we will not have to kill any livestock.” 6 So they divided the land between them to explore it; Ahab went one way by himself, and Obadiah went another way by himself. 7 Now as Obadiah was on his way, suddenly Elijah met him; and he recognized him, and fell on his face, and said, “Is that you, my lord Elijah?” 8 And he answered him, “It is I. Go, tell your master, ‘Elijah is here.’ ” 9 So he said, “How have I sinned, that you are delivering your servant into the hand of Ahab, to kill me? 10 As the LORD your God lives, there is no nation or kingdom where my master has not sent someone to hunt for you; and when they said, ‘He is not here,’ he took an oath from the kingdom or nation that they could not find you. 11 And now you say, ‘Go, tell your master, “Elijah is here” ’! 12 And it shall come to pass, as soon as I am gone from you, that the Spirit of the LORD will carry you to a place I do not know; so when I go and tell Ahab, and he cannot find you, he will kill me. But I your servant have feared the LORD from my youth. 13 Was it not reported to my lord what I did when Jezebel killed the prophets of the LORD, how I hid one hundred men of the LORD’s prophets, fifty to a cave, and fed them with bread and water? 14 And now you say, ‘Go, tell your master, “Elijah is here.” ’ He will kill me!”

A. Obadiah had a big problem. Elijah had disappeared every time someone had attempted to turn him into Ahab, and Obadiah didn’t want to be next on the list. … What to do? Present his problem with honesty & turn it over to the Lord…
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15 Then Elijah said, “As the LORD of hosts lives, before whom I stand, I will surely present myself to him today.”

A. Just as God provided for Elijah, and God provided for the widow, and God provided for the widow’s son – God provided for Obadiah. Perhaps not in the same sort of miraculous fashion, but it was lifesaving, nonetheless. …

B. Do we get caught up looking for the flashy miracles? Or are we looking for God to provide in whatever manner He chooses to provide? Just the fact that God DOES provide for us is a miracle in itself! It’s the supernatural intervention of Almighty God on behalf of His people. That’s the very definition of what a miracle is…
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16 So Obadiah went to meet Ahab, and told him; and Ahab went to meet Elijah. 17 Then it happened, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said to him, “Is that you, O troubler of Israel?” 18 And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father’s house have, in that you have forsaken the commandments of the LORD and have followed the Baals. 19 Now therefore, send and gather all Israel to me on Mount Carmel, the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal, and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.” 20 So Ahab sent for all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together on Mount Carmel.

A. Who troubled whom? Elijah may have proclaimed the drought, but Ahab had earned himself the discipline of God…he was the one that brought this upon Israel. Ahab simply did not want to admit to the blame.

B. Amazing depths to which Israel had fallen! In just a few short generations, they went from serving the Lord at the magnificent temple in Jerusalem to having literally hundreds of false prophets & priests in the land. … It doesn’t take long…
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21 And Elijah came to all the people, and said, “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people answered him not a word.

A. Reminiscent of Joshua’s charge to the people. … Joshua 24:15 And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” []

B. There is no riding the fence when it comes to God! The 1st Commandment is to have no other gods before Him & we see it in the Great Commandment to love Him with everything we have & with everything we’ve got. … … Make up your mind! Who are you going to serve?
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22 Then Elijah said to the people, “I alone am left a prophet of the LORD; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men. 23 Therefore let them give us two bulls; and let them choose one bull for themselves, cut it in pieces, and lay it on the wood, but put no fire under it; and I will prepare the other bull, and lay it on the wood, but put no fire under it. 24 Then you call on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the LORD; and the God who answers by fire, He is God.” So all the people answered and said, “It is well spoken.”

A. The test…

B. Question: do we test God today? No. As a general rule, we’re never to test or tempt the Lord God (Matt 4:7). Keep in mind that Elijah lived prior to the cross of Christ. If people today ask for proof of God, we have all the proof we’d ever need in the Resurrection! …
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25 Now Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one bull for yourselves and prepare it first, for you are many; and call on the name of your god, but put no fire under it.” 26 So they took the bull which was given them, and they prepared it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even till noon, saying, “O Baal, hear us!” But there was no voice; no one answered. Then they leaped about the altar which they had made. 27 And so it was, at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, “Cry aloud, for he is a god; either he is meditating, or he is busy, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is sleeping and must be awakened.”

A. Gotta love Elijah’s spiritual gift of sarcasm. 🙂 “he is busy” = a euphemism for having taken a few moments to go to the bathroom. Rain gods would have that kind of problem, of course. 🙂
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28 So they cried aloud, and cut themselves, as was their custom, with knives and lances, until the blood gushed out on them.

A. Terrible…what a scene! Moaning, wailing, gashing themselves in pagan ritual… These were the priests of the land – these were the people to which Israel was entrusting itself!
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29 And when midday was past, they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice. But there was no voice; no one answered, no one paid attention.

A. No surprise there. False gods are always silent.
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30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” So all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the LORD that was broken down. 31 And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD had come, saying, “Israel shall be your name.” 32 Then with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD; and he made a trench around the altar large enough to hold two seahs of seed. 33 And he put the wood in order, cut the bull in pieces, and laid it on the wood, and said, “Fill four waterpots with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice and on the wood.” 34 Then he said, “Do it a second time,” and they did it a second time; and he said, “Do it a third time,” and they did it a third time. 35 So the water ran all around the altar; and he also filled the trench with water.

A. Now it was Elijah’s turn at it – he’s not near as dramatic as the false prophets of Baal, but he is a lot more practical. Took several steps:
__a. Step #1: Repair the altar. We’re not told when exactly an altar of the Lord was originally built at Mt. Carmel, but obviously there were ruins of one there, which Elijah took the time to rebuild.
__b. Step #2: Do it according to God’s word. Elijah built the altar using 12 stones for the number of tribes in Israel…no more & no less.
__c. Step #3: Do it to the glory of God. Elijah built the altar “in the name of the Lord.” The other altar was for Baal; this was specifically dedicated to the Lord God & His purposes.
__d. Step #4: Left no doubt that it would be the work of God. Water filled the trench to overflowing. It’d take something bigger than a blowtorch to start a fire on the altar…God was going to do something bigger than that!

B. We could easily look at these same steps when speaking about revival in general. The people of Israel desperately needed revival in the land – our own land & culture is no different. We need revival!
__a. Step #1: Rebuild the altar. We obviously don’t have animal sacrifices to make, but we do need to pray that people would PRAY. The altar is where people went to worship God & consecrate themselves again to Him. That’s exactly what is needed among the Church today…
__b. Step #2: Do it according to God’s word. We don’t need false hype & incredulous testimonies in order to try to “gin” up revival in people’s hearts. We need to get back to the purity of God’s word…
__c. Step #3: Do it to the glory of God. Revival is NEVER about man. Sometimes in history, there have been great men that God has used (Whitefield, Wesley…others within the “Jesus Movement”) – but all these men (and women) sought to give all the glory to God! It’s not about any particular crusade riding into town waving its flag; it’s about holding up the cross of Jesus Christ…
__d. Step #4: Leave no doubt that it is the work of God. True revival can NEVER be faked. No matter how many times we may use the label “revival,” it’s not truly a revival until the Spirit of God does a work in the hearts of the people…
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36 And it came to pass, at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near and said, “LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word. 37 Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that You are the LORD God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again.”

A. Wonderful prayer! Like elsewhere in our Scripture tonight, Elijah does not seek glory for himself, nor does he seek miracles for miracles’ sake. He desires 2 things:
__a. That people would know that God IS God
__b. That people would repent & trust God again
__c. What a great prayer we could pray for our own people & nation!

B. So often we see people praying for miracles in order to see fireworks. Although there would definitely be fireworks in a few minutes for Elijah, that wasn’t what he was looking for. Miracles are never done just to be impressive; whenever God grants miracles it is always to display the glory of God & to bring honor to His name. …
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38 Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and the stones and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench. 39 Now when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, “The LORD, He is God! The LORD, He is God!”

A. Wow… No wonder the people responded the way they did!
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40 And Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal! Do not let one of them escape!” So they seized them; and Elijah brought them down to the Brook Kishon and executed them there.

A. Sounds pretty gruesome after such a mighty display of God’s power & majesty, but this was absolutely necessary. The false prophet were proven to be false & according to the Law of God, they needed to be dealt with (Deut 13:12-15). This would be a day to remember…
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41 Then Elijah said to Ahab, “Go up, eat and drink; for there is the sound of abundance of rain.”

A. Now that the false apostate prophets are gone & God had been proven to be the only God, Elijah can get back to the task at hand – the drought. [] “Wasn’t that kind of a long way to go in order to bring rain to the land again?” Not at all! The whole reason for the drought was because Ahab had continued to lead the people of Israel in apostasy. With the false priests/prophets gone there would be absolutely no doubt Who it is that brings the rain back: God alone. …

B. Elijah heard the sound of rain – but it’s interesting that we’re not told what sound he heard, of if he was the only one who heard it. This is faith in action…
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42 So Ahab went up to eat and drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; then he bowed down on the ground, and put his face between his knees, 43 and said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” So he went up and looked, and said, “There is nothing.” And seven times he said, “Go again.”

A. How many of us would have given up after 1-2 times? Even 6 times? Never give up trusting God! Even if it seems you’ve gone 6 times (or more), you can ALWAYS trust the word of God…
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44 Then it came to pass the seventh time, that he said, “There is a cloud, as small as a man’s hand, rising out of the sea!” So he said, “Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot, and go down before the rain stops you.’ ” 45 Now it happened in the meantime that the sky became black with clouds and wind, and there was a heavy rain. So Ahab rode away and went to Jezreel. 46 Then the hand of the LORD came upon Elijah; and he girded up his loins and ran ahead of Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.

A. The drought ends pretty dramatically. Went from dry to drenched in a matter of minutes. In the process, Ahab’s chariot gets delayed in the rain & Elijah has a supernaturally empowered half-marathon run that overtakes the king on the way back to Jezreel.

Conclusion:
God vs. Baal? No contest. As Ps 113:5-6 says, “Who is like the Lord our God, who dwells on high, Who humbles Himself to behold the things that are in the heavens and in the earth?”

Through it all, we see:
• The provision of God
• The call to walk in faith
• The call to revival

Some of you in this room may be waiting upon God’s provision. He is faithful!
Some of you may be having a tough time trusting God & obeying Him in faith. He is worthy of your trust!
Some of you here may be needing a personal revival… Or maybe have a heart to pray for revival… Don’t give up.

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