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Sunday, July 17, 2016

[Matt's Messages] "The LORD Lives"

“The LORD Lives”
The King of Kings in the Books of Kings
July 17, 2016 :: 1 Kings 17:1-24  

Our series is called “The King of Kings in the Books of Kings,” and we’ve been learning a lot over the last 10 messages in this series about the kings of Israel, both good and bad.

More bad than good, I’m afraid.

When these kings are at their best, they remind us of Jesus.
And when they are at their worst, they reminds us why we need Jesus.

And we’ve already learned about 13 kings so far between the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah.

David, Solomon, Rehoboam, Jeroboam, Abijah, Asa, Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zimri, Tibni (if you count him), Omri, and last and worst so far, Ahab.

A few of those kings were thumbs up guys, at least for part of their life.

But most of them were two thumbs down in the eyes of the LORD.

Now, this morning, we start a new section of 1 Kings that’s a little different from what we’ve seen so far.

Today, the focus shifts a little off of the kings for a while and onto a prophet who bursts onto the scene with absolutely no warning.

And his name is Elijah.

A pretty significant character in the Old Testament!

This chapter, 1 Kings 17, is where he comes into the story.

And I was sorely tempted to title this sermon, “The Days of Elijah: Part One.”

But I didn’t. Because 1 Kings 17 is not at its deepest about a prophet or a priest or a king.

It’s about the LORD.

The LORD is the main character of books of Kings, and He is the main person Whom we encounter today in 1 Kings 17.

So, I actually took my title from a little phrase in verse 1.

Where Elijah says that the LORD (capital L-O-R-D) lives.

“The LORD Lives.”

Yahweh lives.

The God whom the Bible calls Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of David and Solomon. The God over Israel and Judah.

Capital L-O-R-D. That God lives!

And by that, I mean that He exists.

The LORD is real.
He is not fake.
He is not just a myth or a story or a made-up fairy tale.

The LORD lives.

Now, you all have come to church this morning so I could probably guess that you already believe that.

The LORD lives. Amen?

The LORD exists. And not just like a rock exists. He’s alive.

He’s personal. He’s relatable. And He’s true.

The LORD lives.

We believe that. ... Or least we say we do.

But there was a real question about it in Elijah’s day.

Idol worship had crept into Israel.

Remember Solomon fell for it and then his son did, too, in the South.

And they fell for idolatry even worse in the north.

Jeroboam set up those golden calves in Bethel and in Dan. Remember that?

He set up a whole invented religion.

But then it got worse. Because instead of just falsely worshiping Yahweh, they began to introduce other gods.

And the worst at it so far was the last king we met last time.

King Ahab of Israel.

Ahab was not a Arab. He was a Jew. The king of the Jews.

But he worshiped a god named “Baal.”  Or “Ba’al.”

Remember this?  Chapter 16, verse 30?

“Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the LORD than any of those before him. He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, but he also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him. He set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he built in Samaria. Ahab also made an Asherah pole and did more to provoke the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger than did all the kings of Israel before him” (1 Kings 16:30-33).

Ahab acted as if Yahweh did not exist. He treated the LORD with contempt.

And he set up worship of this other god, Baal, in Israel!

And what do you think? Will God let that go?

The true God will not take this lying down.

Chapter 17, verse 1.

“Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, ‘As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.’”

Elijah just comes out of nowhere, doesn’t he?!

Bam! There is he talking to Ahab out of the blue.

Because more important than who he and where he comes from is the message that he has to present.

“There will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.”

Wow.

This guy means business. And that’s the because the LORD lives, and He means business.

‘As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.’”

“Shots fired!”

These are the opening shots in a great battle in Israel.

I almost titled this sermon “The Battle of Baal: Part One.”

Because Elijah, in making this declaration, is taking a swipe at Baal.

Do you know what Baal was the god of?

Rain.

He was the god of rain. He was the rain god and the god of fertility, the god of life so they said.

So what was Yahweh saying by sending Elijah?

“I’m turning the faucet off! If Baal is god, if Baal is for real, then he can turn it back on again.”

That’s what’s going on here.

The LORD promised this back in Deuteronomy. He said in Deuteronomy chapters 11 and 28 that if Israel abandoned their covenant with Yahweh, He would withhold the rain.

And now He’s making good on that threat.

How devastating that would be for inhabitants of this land.

No rain, no life-giving dew. Just whatever they can find trickle in or transport in from other lands.

For years.

The LORD lives.

Elijah had to say this up front or they wouldn’t have known that it was Yahweh. They might have said it was a coincidence or tried harder to get Baal to do his thing.

But before the rains stopped, Elijah said they would.

And everyone suffered.

That’s what happens when people give in to idolatry. People suffer. People get hurt.

Idolatry always leads to death.

Idols promise life and blessing, but they always bring trouble and death.

Elijah was in trouble. Ahab didn’t like what Elijah had to say. In fact, he put out a hit on Elijah and any other prophets of Yahweh.

So the LORD placed Elijah in His own special witness protection program.  Verse 2.

“Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah: ‘Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. You will drink from the brook, and I have ordered the ravens to feed you there.’ So he did what the LORD had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.”

Crazy story, huh?

King is such a crazy book and whenever these prophets come on the scene, you never know what’s going to happen.

Here, the “word of the LORD” comes to Elijah. Remember that phrase from a few weeks ago? That’s an important phrase.

The LORD who lives also speaks.

And what He says should be listened to and believed and obeyed because it always comes to pass.

And here the LORD says, “hide.”

“Hide in this ravine. Where there would normally be no food and in drought conditions, there would be no water.

But I’ll make sure there is water in the brook, and I’ll send ravens to bring you food twice a day!”

Ravens!

Those things are unclean. And the LORD is using them?

What kind of meat would they bring twice a day in “Ravine Service?”

I’m not sure I want to know. But if you cook it, it will keep you alive.

Don’t rely on Baal. Rely on the LORD because He’s real. He lives.

He tells the birds what to do!

Here’s application point number one of three this morning.

#1. DON’T WORRY.

Do you need to hear that this morning?

I know I do.

There is so much in life right now that tempts me to worry, to grow anxious.

We all have our list.

When you wake up in the morning, and you start to go over that list in your head.

I’ve got my list. I’m sure you’ve got yours.

What are you worried about right now?

What’s at the top of the list?

Here’s the word of the LORD to us today, “Yahweh lives.”

God is real. And He is able to protect and provide and sustain us in amazing ways.

If we trust Him.

Don’t worry. If God still has a job for you, then He will sustain you until that job is over.

Elijah was on a mission, and he was indestructible until that mission was over.

Are you and I on a mission?

The Challenge Group said last week that we are. We are a family of servant missionaries SENT on a mission.

And the LORD will take care of us.

Don’t worry.

I know that’s hard to do.

Worry is my superpower. I come by it naturally. I am the son of worrier, and the grandson of worrier.

But God can send ravens to take care of me if He wants to.

So what have I to dread? What have I to fear? V.7

“Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land. [Just like the LORD said. Time for plan B.] Then the word of the LORD came to him: ‘Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food.’”

Now, that might be even crazier!

Where is Zarephath? In Sidon. That’s Baal territory.

That’s Baalsville.

Move to Baalsville where you are a hunted man, and I’ve got someone to take care of you.

Who is it?

It’s a widow.

What?!!!

Are widows, in the Bible, people with money? People with means? People with stuff to give?

No, widows in Bible times are often destitute and needy.

They are very unlikely benefactresses.

But, of course, the LORD lives and He has a plan. Go and find this widow woman, and I’ll take care of you.

Don’t worry! V.10

“So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, ‘Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?’ As she was going to get it, he called, ‘And bring me, please, a piece of bread.’  [Elijah is trusting the word of the LORD. But he may have come to the wrong woman. V.12]

‘As surely as the LORD your God lives,’ [That’s interesting, isn’t it?] she replied, ‘I don't have any bread–only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it–and die.’”

What an incredibly sad story!

She’s gathering firewood to heat their last supper.

She has nothing to offer!

This is the end.

But Elijah knows that the LORD lives and therefore she should not worry. V.13

“Elijah said to her, ‘Don't be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. [That’s bold!] For this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the LORD gives rain on the land.’”

What a promise!

And that’s exactly what happened. Because the LORD lives. V.15

“She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the LORD spoken by Elijah.”

The LORD lives, and when He speaks it comes to pass.

What do we have to worry about?

I love this miracle because it’s a daily miracle. It’s a quiet miracle.

This woman didn’t get a truckload of food.

How much did she get?

A little bit. Every day.

Every. Single. Day.

His mercies were new every morning.

Every day, “the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry...”

Do you need to hear that?

That’s a mega-miracle.

And it’s the kind of thing we experience all the time.

God’s daily faithfulness. Amen?

Morning by morning, new mercies I see.
All I have needed, thy hand hath provided.
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.

Don’t worry.

#2. DON’T MISS OUT.

What do I mean by that?

I mean, isn’t it strange that the LORD sent Elijah out of the country to get this help?

Weren’t there any widows in Israel?

Why did Elijah have to leave Israel for this miracle?

That’s what Jesus asked in Luke chapter 4.

He was in Nazareth, his hometown, and the locals were listening to Him preach. And the liked what He said about the day of the LORD coming.

But they didn’t like it when he brought up this story from 1 Kings 17.

He said, “I tell you the truth ... no prophet is accepted in his hometown. I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah's time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon.”

And you know how they took that?

They tried to kill Him.

They were so furious, they tried to throw him off a cliff.

He just walked away.

Why were they mad?

Because the LORD who lives is gracious to those who will trust Him but He’ll also pass over those who should trust Him but don’t.

They were mad because Jesus was going to save Gentiles!

Like you and me!

But He was going to allow Jews to die in their sins if they ignored and rejected Him.

Don’t miss out.

Jesus is the way, the truth, and life.

The LORD lives.

There will be many “good,” upstanding, moral, religious people who will perish on the day of the LORD because they had not received the Lord Jesus.

Don’t miss out.

Have you trusted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?

I’m not asking, “Are you a good citizen? Do you pay your taxes? Do you obey the law? Do you do volunteer in your community?”

I’m asking is Jesus Christ your Master and Rescuer?

There were many widows in Israel at this time.

And they were, by and large, rejecting Yahweh.

So God went out and found an unlikely candidate to shower His mercy on.

There will be current members of ISIS in Heaven and current members of EFCA churches in Hell.

Because God doesn’t save based on niceness.

He saves based on our reception or rejection of Jesus.

And there are some in ISIS who will truly repent like the Apostle Paul did on the Damascus road.

And there are some I’m sure, hopefully not many, who look good on the outside but have not repented and received Jesus on the inside here in our churches.

Don’t miss out.

The letter to the Hebrews says, “How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?”

Don’t miss out.

This widow did not miss out. She trusted in the living LORD.

But then she had an unexpected tragedy. Her son died. V.17

“Some time later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing. She said to Elijah, ‘What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?’”

“What good is it to have this flour and oil during this drought if I don’t have a living son to feed it to?”

“Is God just messing with me?”

Have you ever felt that way?

Well, it could just end there and God be justified.

He gives, and He takes away, and blessed be His name.

But there was more going on here. V.19

“‘Give me your son,’ Elijah replied. He took him from her arms, carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his bed. Then he cried out to the LORD, ‘O LORD my God, have you brought tragedy also upon this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?’”

The stakes are so high!

Have you ever prayed like this?  Not for a dead person to come back but honestly crying out to God from the depths of you heart? And asking God to do something big? Desperate prayer. V.21

“Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried to the LORD, ‘O LORD my God, let this boy's life return to him!’ The LORD heard Elijah's cry, and the boy's life returned to him, and he lived. Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house. He gave him to his mother and said, ‘Look, your son is alive!’ Then the woman said to Elijah, ‘Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the LORD from your mouth is the truth.’”

I don’t know why he laid himself out on the boy three times. A lot of times in the Old Testament, the prophets acts out his prophecy. So he’s probably identifying, his life for the boy’s life and pleading with God for the boys’ life.

And I love what verse 22 says. “The LORD heard Elijah’s cry.”

The LORD lives, and He hears.

Dead gods don’t hear.

False gods don’t hear.

Real gods hear!

Living gods hear.

The LORD heard Elijah's cry, and the boy's life returned to him, and he lived.

#3. DON’T DESPAIR.

Don’t despair. Don’t give up. Because the living God can bring back the dead.

He is more powerful than death.

You know Baal supposedly died a little every year.

Their story, the Baal worshipers’ story, was that the rainy season would end because Baal would meet up with the god of death named “Mot” and have give in to him.

And then when the rainy season returned, Baal would start up his work again. How convenient.

But there was nothing that Baal could do about Mot. Mot was more powerful than Baal. Baal had to yield to death.

But death is not more powerful than Yahweh.

Yahweh is more powerful than death.

This little resuscitation was a foretaste of the resurrection.

Don’t despair!

The LORD lives forever, and so will you and I if we belong to Him.

Jesus said in the book of Revelation, “I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.”

Believe it.

Don’t despair. Even of death.

Believe the word of the Lord.

This Gentile widow did. Verse 24 tells us that she believes that Elijah is telling the truth and giving out the word of the Lord.

What’s sad is that pretty much all of Israel did not.

We’re going to see that next week when we head up for the showdown on Mount Carmel.

There is still no water, no rain, at the end of our story today.

Because God is still showing that He is more powerful than Baal.

More powerful even than death.

So don’t give up. Don’t despair.

Don’t pull out your hair in worry and fright and desperation and lose hope.

Yes, there is trouble and terror in our world. And even terrible death.

But take heart. Jesus has overcome the world.

He has even overcome death!

The LORD lives!


***

Messages in this Series:
01. Who Will Be King?
02. The Wisdom of the King
03. The Temple of the King
04. The Incomparable King of the Temple
05. A Breathtaking King
06. The Turned King and the Torn Kingdom
07. The Two Kings and the Tearing of the Kingdom
08. The Word of the LORD
09. In the Eyes of the LORD

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