Wednesday, June 16, 2010


1 Kings 16 Withstanding The Culture


29 In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab the son of Omri began to reign over Israel, and Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty-two years.
30 And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him.
31 And as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, he took for his wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went and served Baal and worshiped him.
32 He erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he built in Samaria.

33 And Ahab made an Asherah. Ahab did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him.
34  In his days Hiel of Bethel built Jericho. He laid its foundation at the cost of Abiram his firstborn, and set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the Lord, which he spoke by Joshua the son of Nun.

Chapter 17 1 Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.”
2 And the word of the Lord came to him:
3 “Depart from here and turn eastward and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan.
4 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. He went and lived by the brook Cherith that is east of the Jordan.
6 And the ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.

Have you ever wondered why so much of the Bible is biographical? Its not just theory or theology, it is life lived out real. We are going to read of Elijah over these next several weeks. The reason we are studying his life, is that his life echoes so much what you and I are called to do today. God calls us to live out our lives counter culturally. He calls us to live Courageously in the face of values and beliefs that oppose our faith in the Lord. He calls us to live faithfully, trusting that He will sustain us through the battles we must fight if we would be truly Christian in this present age.

James 5 : 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours,

This man was no cardboard Christian who never had a brush with reality! Here was a man just like us.

Relevance and realism is laid out for us here.

In every generation, it seems that God has a few extremely unusual people who, just because of who they are and how they live out love for Christ, impact countless other people.

Things were dark enough. After the death of Solomon, his kingdom split into two parts--the southern under Rehoboam, his son; the northern under Jeroboam, who had superintended the vast public works. Jeroboam was desperately eager to keep his hold on his people; but he feared to lose it, if they continued to go, two or three times in the year, to the annual feasts at Jerusalem. He thought that old associations might overpower their new-born loyalty to himself. He resolved, therefore, to set up the worship of Jehovah in his own territories, and erected two temples, one at Dan, in the extreme north, the other at Bethel, in the extreme south. And in each of these he placed a golden calf, that the God of Israel might be worshiped "under the form of a calf that eateth hay." This sin broke the second commandment--which forbade the children of Israel to make any graven image, or to bow down before the likeness of anything in heaven above, or in the earth beneath. So weak and sinful a bid for popularity is never forgotten in Holy Scripture. Like a funeral knell, the words ring out again and again: "Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin."

After many revolutions and much bloodshed, the kingdom passed into the hands of a military adventurer, Omri. The son of this man was Ahab, of whom it is said, "He did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him." This came to pass, not so much because his character was more depraved, but because he was a weak man, the tool of a crafty, unscrupulous, and cruel woman; and some of the worst crimes that have ever been committed have been wrought by weak men, at the instigation of worse--but stronger--spirits than themselves.

Ahab was periodically involved in war with Syria to the north, and so, in order to strengthen his country, he made alliances with the leaders of Tyre and Sidon, in Phoenicia — or Lebanon as it is called today. He married the daughter of the king of Tyre, a woman whose name was Jezebel, and he made her his queen. Jezebel — it's a name that even today rings with hardness and cruelty and passionate spitefulness — this queen had an agenda for the nation. It was every bit as aggressive as her husband's agenda, and she was a strong fearsome person. Her father had not only been the king of Tyre, but he was also the chief priest of all the prophets of Baal. Jezebel was absolutely determined to establish Baalism as the official religion of Israel. She was strong and domineering and self-willed and forceful, a fanatical devotee of Baal, with over 800 prophets of Baal on her day-to-day staff. If her husband wanted to be able to depend on her father's nation as an ally, then she required that Ahab establish Baal as, at least, equal to the Lord Jehovah in the land of Israel.

When the young and beautiful Jezebel left the celled palaces of Tyre, to become the consort of the newly-crowned king of Israel, it was no doubt regarded as a splendid match. Tyre at that time sat as queen upon the seas, in the zenith of her glory: her colonies dotted the shores of the Mediterranean as far as Spain; her ships whitened every sea with their sails, and ventured to the coasts of our own Cornwall for tin; her daughter, Carthage, nursed the lion-cub Hannibal, and was strong enough to make Rome tremble. But, like many a splendid match, it was fraught with misery and disaster. No one can disobey God's plain words against intermarriage with the ungodly without suffering for it at last.

As she left her palace-home, Jezebel would be vehemently urged by the priests--beneath whose influence she had been trained, and who, therefore, exercised an irresistible spell over her to do her utmost to introduce into Israel the hideous and cruel rites of her hereditary religion. Nor was she slow to obey. First, she seems to have erected a temple to Astarte in the neighborhood of Jezreel, the Windsor of the land, and to have supported its four hundred and fifty priests from the revenues of her private purse. Then Ahab and she built a temple for Baal in Samaria, the capital of the kingdom, large enough to contain immense crowds of worshipers (2Ki_10:21). Shrines and temples then began to rise in all parts of the land in honor of these false deities; whilst the altars of Jehovah, like that at Carmel, were ruthlessly broken down. The land swarmed with the priests of Baal and of the groves--proud of Court favor; glorying in their sudden rise to power; insolent, greedy, licentious, and debased. The fires of persecution were lit, and began to burn with fury. The schools of the prophets were shut up; grass grew in their courts. The prophets themselves were hunted down, and slain by the sword. "They wandered about in sheep-skins and goat-skins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented;" so much so, that the pious Obadiah had the greatest difficulty in saving a few of them, by hiding them in the limestone caves of Carmel, and feeding them at the risk of his own life.

The whole land seemed apostate. Of all the thousands of Israel, only seven thousand remained who had not bowed the knee or kissed the hand to Baal. But they were paralyzed with fear, and kept so still that their very existence was unknown by Elijah in the hour of his greatest loneliness. Such times have often come, fraught with woe: false religions have gained the upper hand; iniquity has abounded; and the love of many has waxed cold.


If you are a Christian, then this age is not your friend.

Chapter 17 1 Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.”
Elijah’s very name set him at animosity with the spirit of his age.

Elijah means “Yahweh is God!”

Elijah lived during the period of Ahab’s reign, when pagan worship was formally introduced into Israel (1 Kings 16:32 And as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, he took for his wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went and served Baal and worshiped him. 32 He erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he built in Samaria. 33 And Ahab made an Asherah. Ahab did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him.). Jezebel was not only a zealous propagandist for her religion, but was also a persecutor of the true followers of Yahweh. The very existence of true Yahweh worship was threatened.

Baalism emphasized power and pleasure and success, and anything was okay as long as the end result was pleasure and pleasing Baal, who delighted in pleasure. Dishonesty, bribery, even murder were justifiable, in certain cases, under this system. Nothing could have been more in disagreement with the responsibilities and with the faith of the people of Abraham than the worship of Baal, which involved sleeping with temple prostitutes of both sexes and encouraged the most lascivious practices. Its most famous and horrible practice was the practice of child sacrifice. Children were greatly valued by the people, but it was believed in that day that to sacrifice the life of a child could enable people, in the end, to have better lives. That's a principle that's not all that far from the philosophy of our day that justifies abortion when the pregnancy is inconvenient.

Baalism was holding the day: its aggressiveness appealed to the young people of Israel and it encouraged their natural rebelliousness against the older values. So, calling people back to the strict moral demands of God seemed like an almost hopeless task when the going philosophy of the day was: "You can have your cake and eat it too, whatever you want." For these reasons, most people thought the religion of the Lord God Jehovah was on its way out. Baal altars had been built all over Israel. Jewish priests had pretty much lost their moral power. Hundreds of the prophets of God had actually been murdered by Jezebel's representatives, and Ahab, according to 1 Kings 16, did more to provoke the Lord God than all the other kings of Israel who were before him. So, you thought things were bad in Washington. [Laughter.] No, never had the national character of Israel been so morally bankrupt — at least it seemed that way — but, you see, God wasn't at a loss. God is never at a loss. When times seemed particularly bad, God usually has his eye upon a person, a man or a woman whom God is shaping, directing, preparing, sharpening so that this person might become a tool in God's hands. This takes us now to the passage from 1 Kings, chapter 17.

Idolatry had spread throughout Israel.

Ahab and Jezebel must have thought Yahweh was done.

King Omri did evil in the sight of Yahweh and Ahab followed by marrying Jezebel. (1 Kings 16:30)

Ahab was dominated by Jezebel, as we in America is today.

He erected an altar to Baal, sinning more than all the kings before him.

It was not convenient to godly living, as it never is.

Christianity did not flourish in prosperity; in fact peace and prosperity hinders Christianity, though it flourishes in persecution.

Elijah was opposed to the accepted standards of his day, when belief in many gods was normal. He appears in the role of God’s instrument of judgment upon a wayward Israel because of the nation’s widespread idolatry. Elijah’s views were in conflict with those of King Ahab, who had attempted to cultivate economic ties with Israel’s neighbors, especially Tyre. One of the consequences was that he had married Jezebel, a daughter of Ethbaal, king of Tyre. Ahab saw no harm in participating in the religion of his neighbors, particularly the religion of his wife. Therefore, he established a center of Baal worship at Samaria. Influenced by Jezebel, Ahab gave himself to the worship of Baal. Suddenly Elijah appeared on the scene.

Elijah came from a tiny hamlet of Tishbe, so he was called "Elijah the Tishbite." It was a rugged land of solitude that produced tough people. Elijah was a roughly-clad, rather frightening-looking person with unkempt beard and hair, but God had given him a gift of prophecy and, when he spoke in the Spirit, he spoke with power and conviction.


Elijah knew himself to be the Representative of the living God.

A voice of a man will never suffice. Here is the man representing God. When he spoke, Ahab listened.

James 5 : 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours,

Elijah’s first act was to announce to Ahab that the true God was about to send a dreaded famine upon the country because of Ahab’s religious sins. Baal, the Canaanite god of storm and fertility, was directly challenged in this prediction of drought. Martin Luther was like Elijah in compassion and in discouragement. Once in great discouragement Luther’s wife asked “Is God dead?” And this sparked Luther to bold faith. We would not say God is dead but we often live that way.

Deut 11: 13 “And if you will indeed obey my commandments that I command you today, to love the Lord your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, 14  he will give the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the later rain, that you may gather in your grain and your wine and your oil. 15  And he will give grass in your fields for your livestock, and you shall eat and be full. 16 Take care lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them; 17 then the anger of the Lord will be kindled against you, and he will shut up the heavens, so that there will be no rain, and the land will yield no fruit, and you will perish quickly off the good land that the Lord is giving you. 18  “You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 19 You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 20  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, 21  that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth.

He knew the Word of God and knew that God would fulfil His Word!

God is not out of business, He is alive and would fulfil His Word.

As Elijah prayed, apparently the conviction grew within him that he should actually go to the court of the king, which was many days' journey, and confront the king personally with the word of God. In his heart, he had come to the place where he knew now that God was going to keep his word and drought would come and that only national repentance, beginning at the top, could avert the coming drought. How he managed to come into the king's court, getting past all those court attendants and palace guards, we don't know, but he did, and we read:

1 Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, "As the LORD the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew or rain these years, except by my word."

What an amazing thing to say! What a confrontation! The unkempt, puny little man of the desert stood up against the smoothest man in the kingdom, the king. Nothing could have been calculated to make Ahab more angry. Elijah had courage that grew out of an unshakable faith in God, and a righteous indignation for the sake of God. It's as though Elijah knew in his heart, and he came to the king and he said: "You know, this is what God has said. It's true; you better believe it." Elijah's strength — where did it come from? It came from God. You see this in his first two preliminary statements that I've just read. "As the LORD, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand." As the Lord lives. You see, God was the primary reality in Elijah's life. Could that be said of you that, above and beyond everything else, the primary thing in your life is God? Then he said, "Before whom I stand." In other words, Elijah was standing before the king, but he was conscious of standing in the presence of one more important, namely, God himself. You and I need to cultivate this same moment-by-moment awareness of being in the presence of God, wherever we are, whomever we're with.


What was the secret of Elijah’s strength? If it can be shown that it was due to something inherent in Elijah, and peculiar to himself; some force of nature; some special quality of soul, to which ordinary men can lay no claim--then we may as well close our inquiries, and turn away from the inaccessible heights that mock us.

But this splendid life was lived not by its inherent qualities, but by sources of strength which are within the reach of the humblest child of God.

Elijah's strength did not lie in himself or his surroundings. He was of humble extraction. He had no special training. He is expressly said to have been "a man of like passions" with ourselves. When, through failure of faith, he was cut off from the source of his strength, he showed more craven-hearted cowardice than most men would have done; he lay down upon the desert sands, asking to die. When the natural soil of his nature shows itself, it is not richer than that of the majority of men, in fact, maybe much weaker. But he had a trust in God. He trusted in God’s divine resources.

Beginning at verse 4, God says:

4 "You shall drink from the wadi, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there." 5 So he went and did according to the word of the LORD; he went and lived by the Wadi Cherith, which is east of 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 [stream]."

Phil 4:13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. 19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater, He sendeth more strength as our labors increase;
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy, To multiplied trials He multiplies peace.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision, Our God ever yearns His resources to share;
Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing; The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure, His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.

A. He can provide grace in times of weakness

B. He can provide goods in times of poverty

C. He can provide glory in times of opposition

Matthew 6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

A. We still need faith in lean times

B. We still need faithfulness in lean times

C. We still need fruitfulness in lean times

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