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Sunday, August 28, 2016

[Matt's Messages] "The LORD Is Still God."

“The LORD Is Still God.”
The King of Kings in the Books of Kings
Back 2 School Sunday :: August 28, 2016 :: 1 Kings 19:1-21  

This is Back 2 School Sunday, and it seemed appropriate to me for us to go BACK to 1 Kings.

Back to 1 Kings on Back 2 School Sunday.

Does anybody remember what was going on 1 Kings?

Well, we’ve met a lot of kings so far. In fact, we’ve met 13 different kings.

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

Do you remember all of those guys?

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.

Especially this last one, King Ahab.

This guy was worse than everybody before him.

The author says that he “considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat.” So he married the wicked queen Jezebel and began to serve and worship Baal. He was the worst so far. Six thumbs down.

And it was during his reign that we began to hear another story being told. A story about a prophet named Elijah. The days of Ahab turned out to be the days of Elijah. Like we sang this morning.

Elijah had a tough job–to prophesy during the reign of Ahab and Jezebel.

They were prophet-killing-type rulers.

Jezebel especially hated the prophets of Yahweh and wanted them all dead.

So Elijah spent a lot of his ministry on the run. Hiding out from Jezebel’s hitmen.

But he didn’t hide all of the time. He also confronted the prophets of Baal.

First, he showed up one day and announced that it wouldn’t rain again until he said  it would. Remember that?

And they went more than 3 years without rain.

That’s because Baal was supposed to be the god of the storm.

But the LORD, Yahweh, had turned off the faucet.

Three years.

And then one day when the cattle dying, Elijah shows back up and calls for a contest to see whose god is real. Whose god lives. Whose god is really God.

Remember this? They have a contest up on Mount Carmel. 450 prophets to 1. And they are still no match.

Because the Baal isn’t real. He doesn’t answer. He isn’t powerful. He is not God.

Do you remember what all of the people of Israel yell after the fire came from heaven and sucked up all of the water and the sacrifice and even the altar?

“The LORD–he is God! The LORD (Yahweh)–he is God!”

And then the rains came.

And Elijah, empowered by the LORD runs faster than Ahab’s chariot all the way to Jezreel.

That’s where left off last time.

“The LORD–he is God! Yahweh–he is God!”

Here’s the title of today’s message.

“The LORD is Still God.”

Yahweh is still God.

Even when it doesn’t seem like it.
Even when it hurts.
Even when we lose.
Even when we feel alone.
Even when we are discouraged.
Even when we are weary.
Even when it feels like nothing ever works.

The LORD is still God.

That’s the point of today’s message.

My guess is that some of us really need to hear it.

Because in chapter 19, Elijah–who has just won the biggest showdown of the prophets since Moses versus the Magicians of Egypt–Elijah is going to be significantly disappointed.

He has just won. Yahweh has sent the fire. Baal has been discredited, dishonored, and disgraced. The prophets of Baal have been put to the sword. The people are shouting, “Yahweh is God.” And Elijah has run with supernatural speed to confront Jezebel.

It’s even possible that now that Ahab has seen the power of the LORD with his own eyes, that he will repent and lead Israel to return to Yahweh. National revival may be on the way!

But none of that happens.

That’s not how it turns out.

In fact, it looks like all of this was for nothing.

Let’s read. Chapter 19, verse 1.

“Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, ‘May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.’

Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day's journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. ‘I have had enough, LORD,’ he said. ‘Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.’”

Wow. That’s a big change, isn’t it?

From running full tilt towards Jezebel in victory to running full tilt away from Jezebel in what felt like defeat?

That’s a big change in a very short amount of time.

Have you ever felt like Elijah?

“I’ve had enough, LORD. Take my life.”

This guy was depressed. He was despondent. He was heartsick. He was despairing.

Elijah was discouraged.

It seemed like it hadn’t worked.

All that stuff he’d been doing for the last how many years, and it didn’t change anything!

Ahab didn’t repent. He tattled. He didn’t tell Jezebel that Yahweh was God, and they were now going to follow Him.

He said just told her what happened and then let her do whatever she wanted.

And what she wanted was to go after Elijah.

There was no national revival.

Nothing changed!

The official religion of the royalty of Israel was still Baalism!

After all that?!

In the NIV, verse 3 says that Elijah was afraid, and it seems like he had good reason to be.

But the footnote says that the Hebrew could be translated, “Elijah saw.” I think that’s probably more likely.

Elijah saw the way things were and what was going to happen next.

And it was almost devastating to him.

He leaves his servant at Beersheba, I think that means he doesn’t expect to come back. And he finds a broom tree which is as desolate as it sounds and plops down and tells God that he’s ready to die.

“I’ve had enough, LORD. Take my life.”

He doesn’t want Jezebel to take to his life. He doesn’t want her to win. But he’s just played out. He doesn’t have anything left.

It feels like the game is over, and he’s lost it.

Have you ever felt like that?

I know you have.

Probably some of you are basically feeling that way today.

“I’ve had enough.”
“I did all of this, and it didn’t work.”
“Why has it turned out like this?”

I’m not sitting blessed under my vine and my fig tree (4:25).

I’m sitting depressed under a broom tree in the desert. And I just want to curl up and die.

I love it when we win.

When things are going great for other Christians.

Last week, we had a tremendous Good News Cruise. We prayed for it all Summer and did all of that work and we had a great turnout. And a little bit of rain. And so many affirmations from people that we had done a good job.

That felt good.  God is good! Amen?

What if it had rained all day long?
What if nobody had come?
What if all of those hotdogs and chips that Art had been stockpiling went bad and uneaten?
What if there had been an accident and somebody’s car got totaled in our parking lot?

There is no promise in Scripture that those things would not happen at our Good News Cruise.

And if they did, would the LORD still be God?

Cancer.
Divorce.
Death.

Losing the game.
Losing your savings.
Losing the culture war.
Losing your country.

I’ve been the pastor here for 18 years, and they’ve all been good years. Some harder than others. Some have been more fruitful.

But we’ve never seen great revival. Never seen an amazing spiritual awakening in our community.
And we’ve not seen national revival though we’ve prayed for it many times.

It’s easy to get discouraged.

“Nothing changes. It didn’t ‘work.’ I’m just so tired. I’ve had enough. Take my life.”

It’s times like that when we need to be reminded that LORD is still God.

Yahweh is still God.

Not just in the exciting times when we’re winning.

But after that when it doesn’t seem like anything has changed.

Four points this morning. Here’s number one.

#1. HE IS STILL GOOD. V.5

“Then [Elijah] lay down under the tree and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat.’ He looked around, and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.”

I love that. God is so good to Elijah. He’s so gentle and generous.

Elijah wants to die, but God gives him sleep, something warm to eat, something cool to drink, and an angel to deliver it.

God’s still good.

These may not be the things that Elijah wanted, but they were just what the doctor ordered. They were what Elijah really needed.

God’s still good.

And He’s always giving little gentle gifts to us even when things are at their worst.

Last week, Dan Kerlin’s brother was in that bad accident.

I texted him to find out how Murph was doing. He replied, “Pretty much the same, induced coma, brain bleed drain has been removed, lots of movement, still on vent. God is working in this situation.

I said “Thanks for the update. Praising and praying.”

And Dano wrote back, “Thank you. God is good all the time.”

He’s still good. Even in the worst of times, He’s still looking out for us and giving us little, gentle gifts of His grace.

In verse 7, we find out that this was the angel of the LORD Himself who was taking care of Elijah. And He’s got a new plan for him. V.7

“The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.’ So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.”

Now, if you’ve read your Bible for a while, all kinds of bells and whistles should be going off in your head right now.

Forty days and forty nights? Remind you of anybody? Moses on Mount Sinai?

What’s the other name for Mount Sinai? Mount Horeb.

This is the place where God made the covenant with His people.

This is the place where they broke the covenant, and then He made it again.

This is the place, the mountain of God, where Moses asked God to show him His glory. In fact, this may be the very spot on “Covenant Mountain!”  (What Dale Ralph Davis calls Horeb.) V.9

“There he went into a cave and spent the night. [Is that the cleft in the rock? We don’t know.] And the word of the LORD came to him: ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’”

Now some people think that that’s big rebuke. Like God is saying, “And what do you think you’re doing here, mister?”

“Come for a little pity party, have we?”

And maybe there is a little bit of a rebuke there, but I don’t think much. Why is Elijah here? Because God told to him come here. V.7 indicates that, right? Elijah wanted to die in the desert. The LORD wanted him to eat up to take a forty day journey to Horeb.

“What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Maybe God is saying, “Why do you think I have you here?”

It’s an invitation to trust Him.

Here’s Elijah’s answer. Tell me if you think he answers the question or not. V.10

“He replied, ‘I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.’”

Is that an answer?

Now many people think that Elijah is whining here. He’s just a big whiner. I heard a preacher once read verse 10 like this, “I have been very jealous for Yahweh and all I got was this lousy t-shirt!”

That’s a possible interpretation of this verse (and verse 14). And I think there is an element of complaint here. And some exaggeration. Elijah knows that his friend Obadiah has hidden 100 prophets in Israeli caves. He might be the only one who was public, but there were others.

But I think he’s mainly just pouring out his lament to the LORD.

“Lord, it hurts!
Lord, it didn’t work!
Lord, we lost!
Lord, it’s all falling apart!

I do love you, LORD. I’ve been very zealous. You know I have.

I’ve given my life to this work.

But it hasn’t been working.

And I’m just so tired. And I feel so alone.”

Have you ever been depressed for God’s sake? [I got this language from Dale Ralph Davis.]

Elijah is not just depressed for Himself. He hates what has happened to the name of the LORD.

The Israelites have rejected the covenant.
They have broken down the true altars and erected them to Baal.
They have put the true prophets to death and elevated their own.

This is not the way things ought to be!

Have you ever looked out on the world, and said, “Lord! This is not the way things ought to be. They are dragging your name through the mud. And it hurts me to see it.”

But even when that happens, the LORD is still God.  V.11

“The LORD said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.’ Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.”

#2. HE IS STILL SPEAKING.

I’m not sure all of the reasons why God puts on this fireworks display for Elijah.

I don’t think it’s to scare him or shame him.

“Oh yeah? You’re gonna whine like that? I’ll show you who’s still God!”

But it is probably to remind Elijah that God is still powerful.

He’s the same God who burned up that sacrifice yesterday.

And He’s the same God that set this whole mountain on fire when He gave the 10 commandments to Moses.

But more important than the demonstration of power is the still small voice of God.

The gentle whisper.

He’s not just like Baal the storm god. All flash and thunder supposedly but nobody really home.

He’s the speaking God.

The God who is there.

And He’s still speaking today.

What’s He saying to you?

He’s calling you to trust Him. V.13

“When Elijah heard [the gentle whisper], he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’

[Do you know why you are here?]

He replied, ‘I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.’”

“I’m here because I belong to you.
I’m here because I love you.
I’m here because of your name.
I’m here because things aren’t working the way I thought they would.
I’m here because you have me here.

Same story as before.

I’m tired. It hurts. And I feel alone.

What do we do now?”

It’s possible that he’s whining. It’s possible that he didn’t learn anything from all of this.

It’s possible that God is rebuking Elijah by asking him the same question a second time.

But that’s not how it feels to me when I read it today.
It doesn’t feel like an accusation. It feels like an invitation.

And see what God does next?

He sends him on a new mission. V.15

“The LORD said to him, ‘Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel–all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him.’”

You know what that feels like to me?

It feels like Yahweh says, “You’re right, Elijah. You have been very zealous for my name. They have broken the covenant. They have broken the altars. They have killed the prophets. And I’m not done yet.”

“I understand how you feel, but this story is not even close to being over.”

#3. HE IS STILL WORKING.

The LORD is still at work.

And He’s got more work for Elijah to do.

Now, we’ll find out that Elijah doesn’t have a lot more to do. He’s coming to the end of his fantastic ministry.

But God still has a job for him–anointing.

Anointing two kings and a new prophet.

Hazael over Aram. And he’s going to rain down judgment on Israel.

And Jehu to be the next king of Israel. And he’s going to rain down judgment on Baalism.

And Elisha to come alongside Elijah so he isn’t so lonely and so that someone else can take up and keep the work going.

“What are you doing here, Elijah?”

“Let me tell you. You’re not here to die. You’re here to know that I’m still God and to know that I’m still at work. And to get back to work yourself.”

“I assure you that this story is not over. I assure you that Baal does not prevail. I assure you that you Ahab does not prevail. And you can bet the house that Jezebel does not win.”

“I am still at work. No matter how bleak it seems, I have not gotten even close to quitting.”

#4. HE IS STILL FAITHFUL.

God always keeps His promises.

Always.

I love verse 18. Because Paul quotes it in Romans chapter 11. Remember that?

“Did God reject his people? By no means! [Paul says,] I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin.  God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. Don't you know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah–how he appealed to God against Israel: ‘Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me’? And what was God's answer to him? ‘I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.’”

There is always a remnant.

Even if the nation goes down in flames and exile.

God always keeps His promises and always preserves a remnant for Himself.

Because He is still faithful.

And that calls for us to trust Him.

Trust Him for salvation.

God has promised to save all of who will trust in Jesus.

Jesus died and rose again to save sinners like you and me.

And God promises to save us if we will turn from our sins and put our faith in Jesus and Him alone.

The LORD is faithful, and He will do it.

Trust Him. And follow Him by faith.

Seek His kingdom.

That’s what Elijah does. He gets up right from there and goes right back to work.

I’m not saying that he doesn’t still hurt. I’m sure he does.

None of this erases the pain. But He’s heard from God. God is still working and still has a job for him, and God is faithful. So Elijah goes back to seeking His kingdom.

He goes to find Elisha. V.19

“So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat. He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him [Swack. Gotcha!]. Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. ‘Let me kiss my father and mother good-by,’ he said, ‘and then I will come with you.’ ‘Go back,’ Elijah replied. ‘What have I done to you?’ [Sounds good. No problem. Go say goodbye, and off we go. V.21] So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his attendant.”

That’s burning your bridges right there. Or burning your beef, at least.

No turning back, no turning back.

“Bye Mom! Bye Dad! I’m off to seek the kingdom of Yahweh, with His prophet Elijah!”

How do you burn your bridges like that?

How do you give up everything and throw a feast then follow, follow, follow?

You believe that the LORD is still God.

And He’s still faithful.

And that He’s still keeping every one of His promises.

School starts this week.

Here’s the message for all of our students, all of their parents, and everybody else who is headed back to school.

The LORD is still God.

No matter how it feels.
No matter how much it hurts.
No matter whether this school year goes like you want it to or if it just flops.

The LORD is still good, He is still speaking, He is still working, and He is still faithful.

The LORD is still God.


***

Group Discussion Questions

1. Remind each other of the story so far. Who was Elijah and what was his mission?  What do you think Elijah might have expected to happen after the events of chapter 18?

2. Read 1 Kings 19:1-5. Why do you think Elijah was so discouraged?

3. Read 1 Kings 19:6-9.  How does the LORD minister to Elijah in his time of testing?

4. Read 1 Kings 19:10-14. Do you think Elijah is whining? Why or why not? If he’s not whining, he is certainly expressing his lament with the LORD. As Christians, we often don’t understand the language of lament, but it is godly way of expressing our tear-filled pain to the Lord. Where else in the Bible can believers learn to lament? What have you learned about lament that helps you to understand Elijah’s prayers in verse 10 and verse 14?

5. Read 1 Kings 19:15-21 and review Pastor Matt’s 4 points about how the LORD is still God. How does each point come from the story?

6. Did you need this story today? Why?  When have you felt the kind of discouragement that Elijah felt? What helps you when you feel that way?  How should we apply 1 Kings 19 to our lives today?


***

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
10. The LORD Lives

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