Wednesday, June 16, 2010
1 Kings 17:1-16 How To Become God’s Servant
WE are studying the life of a man of like passions with ourselves--weak where we are weak, failing where we would fail; but who stood single-handed against his people, and stemmed the tide of idolatry and sin, and turned a nation back to God. And he did it by the use of resources which are within reach of us all.
But, before this can happen, we must pass through the same education as he. You must go to Cherith and Zarephath before you can stand on Carmel.
1. GOD'S SERVANTS MUST LEARN TO TAKE ONE STEP AT A TIME
If he delivers the message, How would he be received? What would be the outcome?
He only shows us one step at a time--and that, the next; and He bids us take it in faith.
I like that phrase, "the word of the Lord came to him." He did not need to go to search for it; it came to him. And so it will come to you. It may come through the Word of God, or through a distinct impression made on your heart by the Holy Ghost, or through circumstances; but it will find you out, and tell you what you are to do.
It may be that for long you have had upon your mind some strong impression of duty; but you have held back, because you could not see what the next step would be. Hesitate no longer.
The strength is according to the moment's need. God does not give all the directions at once, lest we should get confused; He tells us just as much as we can remember and do. Then we must look to Him for more; and so we learn, by easy stages, the sublime habits of obedience and trust.
2.GOD'S SERVANTS MUST BE TAUGHT THE VALUE OF THE HIDDEN LIFE.
"Get thee hence and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith." The man who is to take a high place before his fellows, must take a low place before his God;
We cannot give out unless we have previously taken in.
John Welsh had it, who thought the day ill-spent which did not witness eight or ten hours of closet communion. David Brainard had it in the woods of North America, which were the favorite scene of his devotions. Christmas Evans had it in his long and lonely journeys amid the hills of Wales.
3. GOD'S SERVANTS MUST LEARN TO TRUST GOD ABSOLUTELY.
There is strong emphasis on the word there--"I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there."
Our supreme thought should be: "Am I where God wants me to be?" If so, God will work a direct miracle, sooner than suffer us to perish for lack. If the younger son chooses to go to the far country of his own accord, he may be in danger of dying of starvation among his swine; but if the Father send him there, he shall have enough and to spare.
If we do His will on earth as in heaven, He will give us daily bread. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you."
could be multiplied an hundred-fold from the experience of living people, who have had their needs supplied in ways quite as marvelous as the coming of ravens to the lonely prophet.
4. GOD'S SERVANTS ARE OFTEN CALLED TO SIT BY DRYING BROOKS.
What did Elijah think? Did he think that God had forgotten him? Did he begin to make plans for himself? This would have been human; but we will hope that he waited quietly for God, quieting himself as a weaned child, as he sang, "My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from Him."
Many of us have had to sit by drying brooks; perhaps some are sitting by them now--the drying brook of popularity, ebbing away as from John the Baptist; the drying brook of health, sinking under a creeping paralysis, or a slow consumption; the drying brook of money, slowly dwindling before the demands of sickness, bad debts, or other people's extravagance; the drying brook of friendship, which for long has been diminishing, and threatens soon to cease. Ah, it is hard to sit beside a drying brook--much harder than to face the prophets of Baal on Carmel.
Why does God let them dry? He wants to teach us not to trust in His gifts, but in Himself.
Let us learn these lessons, and turn from our failing Cheriths to our unfailing Savior. All sufficiency resides in Him--unexhausted by the flight of the ages;
5. GOD'S SERVANTS AWAITS GOD'S PLANS.
the pools shrank. The birds fled; the wild creatures of field and forest came no more to drink; the brook was dry. Only then, to his patient and unwavering spirit, "the word of the Lord came, saying, Arise, get thee to Zarephath."
Most of us would have got anxious and worn with planning long before that. nd probably, long ere the brook was dry, we should have devised some plan, and asking God's blessing on it, would have started off elsewhere. Alas! we are all too full of our own schemes, and plans, and contrivings. And if Samuel does not come just when we expect, we force ourselves, and offer the burnt-offering (1Sa_13:12). This is the source of untold misery. We sketch out our programme, and rush into it; and only when we are met by insuperable obstacles do we begin to reflect whether it was God's will, or to appeal to Him.
WHEN THE BROOK DRIED (Annie Johnson Flint)
God knew when the widow's cruse was low And the meal was almost gone,
And he dried the brook where Elijah drank, And He sent His servant on,
That the handful of meal should not be spent, Or the little oil grow less,
And that, when the widow's son lay dead The prophet's prayer should bless.
Hath He dried the brook where thou long hast dwelt? Canst thou find no solace there?
Zarephath is ready if Cherith fail, With oil and meal to share.
Oh, tarry not, should He bid thee go, His messenger thou shalt be;
Thou shalt carry a blessing to those who wait, And a blessing waiteth thee.
6. GOD'S SERVANTS MUST BE EMPTIED OF THEMSELVES
Why does God let these brooks go dry in our lives? He has his particular reasons but, primarily, I believe, it is for one reason: God wants to teach us to trust, not in the gifts he has given us, but in himself. He wants to drain us of all vestige of self-sufficiency alone, and teach us, finally, to depend upon him. That's what faith is. It's so easy for us, subconsciously, to end up relying on other people or money, or our own ingenuity, or our own moral strength for security, but the child of God is only secure in Christ. He's our only ultimate security. Our brooks may dry up; but Jesus says, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give shall never thirst."
Someone has said: "Faith works better when there is no natural hope. If there be even a straw for sight to cling to, then faith finds difficulty."
George Mueller said, "Remember, it is the very time for faith to work when sight ceases; the greater the difficulty, the easier for faith. As long as there remain certain natural prospects, faith does not get on as easily as where natural prospects fail."
The greatest faith is born in the hour of despair. When we can see no hope and no way out, then faith rises and brings the vic tory.
J. Hudson Taylor's favorite verse was, "Have faith in God." As a man who lived by faith, he often said, "I have trembled and failed again and again, but God has never failed."
When the moment arrives when a person has to throw himself completely upon God, when she at last realizes that she cannot make it except from God's help, then and only then, does that person learn the secret of the Christian life. The secret is this: it's not I, but Christ who lives in me.
One day the brook completely dried up. The ravens quit coming and Elijah was there all alone. Because he had no "plan B," he simply sat there and waited, and that's where the story ends today. If this, in any way, is relevant to your situation in life right now, there are four simple things about God you must remember that grow out of this story, and the first is this:
God is not absent. Jesus said: "I will ask the Father, and he will give you another helper, the Holy Spirit, to be with you forever. I will never leave you or forsake you." God isn't absent.
Second, God is not uninformed. Jesus said: "Don't be anxious; your heavenly Father knows that you need whatever it is you need." God is not uninformed. Third, God knows your needs. Jesus said: "Your Father knows what you need even before you ask him."
God will provide. Jesus said: "Up until now, you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive that your joy will be full." Humbly ask him, day-by-day.
7. GOD'S SERVANTS DO GOD’S WILL
"So he arose and went to Zarephath," Zaraphath? Near Sidon? Near the home of Jezebel? Past Megiddo, Ahab’s fortress palace?
Then there comes a command clear and unmistakable. We must leave some beloved Cherith, and go to some unwelcome Zarephath; we must speak some word, take some step, cut off some habit: and we shrink from it--the cost is too great. But, directly we refuse obedience, the light dies off the landscape of our lives, and dark clouds fling their shadows far and near.
"I come to do Thy will, O my God." Mary, the simple-hearted mother, uttered a word which is pertinent to every age, when, at the marriage-feast, she turned to the servants and said, "Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it."
"Zarephath" means a smelting-furnace. It lay outside the Land of Canaan, which stands on a long ridge, backed by the snow-clad steeps of Hermon, and overlooking the blue waters of the Mediterranean. Many things might have made it distasteful to the prophet. It belonged to the land from which Jezebel had brought her impious tribe. It was as much cursed by the terrible drought as Canaan. It was impossible to reach it save by a weary journey of one hundred miles through the heart of the land, where his name was execrated, and his person proscribed. And then to be sustained by a widow woman belonging to a heathen people! He would not have so much minded to have sustained her; but it was not pleasant to feel that he must be dependent on her slender earnings or meagre store. Surely it was a smelting-furnace for cleansing out any alloy of pride, or self-reliance, or independence which might be lurking in the recesses of his heart.
"Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you."