When the girls were young and we were making the trip between Indiana and Pennsylvania, we would alternate between kid music and Pam and my music. Sandi Patti and the Friendship Company was one of the tapes. Another was something called the Bee Attitudes. It was a very cute tape about how we should treat others – which we could use as a sermon. The whole point here is that the characters on the tape used something called the “imaginifying glass.” It would help them use there imaginations so that they could understand what others were going through. It we had one today, it could really help us. So, on the count of three, I want you to…IMAGINIFY yourself in the situation I’m going to describe to you. One…two…three…imaginify…..
As you got up you turned on the TV. All the major networks – ABC, NBC, CBS, and the major news networks CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, Fox where broadcasting a statement from a well known man of God. This man of God was well known in the country for his prayer life and was considered the person who knew God’s heart. (Before I go any further, I want you to remember we are using our imaginations here…) This President had followed directly after his father. His father was known as the most evil man on the face of the earth. To make things worse, the current President was even worse – even building a temple and then an altar for a false god. This provoked God greatly – this is why God’s man – a prophet was on TV – He said, “As the Lord God lives – the God I serve – there will be no dew or rain on all of this land until I say so.”
I tell you, Hollywood can’t write stories like these. After the man of God makes the statement, he is whisked off by his supporters to an unknown location – probably somewhere in the wilderness of Upstate New York for example. There God has provided him with plenty of food and water to survive the drought. For three years there was no rain on the entire land. During the third year, God spoke to the man of God and told him to go and present himself to the President.
In the meantime, the President has issued an all-points, wanted alive warrant for the man of God. He sent out his finest men to search for him. One of his men was a godly man and had helped other prophets during this time. He happens upon the man of God. The man of God tells him to go and tell the President that I am on my way. The President’s man said, “Are you kidding me? You don’t value my life very much. If I tell the President you are coming and you don’t come, I’ll be killed.” The man of God reassures the President’s man, “I’ll be there.”
Not long after the man of God presented himself to the President. “So there you are, you troublemaker. We are in a big mess in this country and it’s all your fault.”
The man of God replies, “I have made no trouble for this country. It is you who are the troublemaker. You have refused to obey God and have worshiped false gods.”
Some of you have already figured out the story is not fiction, but is recorded for us to see in 1 Kings. It is the story of Elijah. The prophet spoke and there was no rain on the land for several years.
So now that I have your interest, let’s see how this story plays out. Elijah (the man of God) tells the President (King Ahab of Israel) to gather up all the prophets of Baal and join Elijah on Mount Carmel.
As they gathered on the mountain, Elijah shouted to the people, “How long will you waiver between two opinions? If the Lord is God then serve Him! If Baal is God then serve Him!” And the people didn’t say a word.
Elijah sets up a challenge – a Battle of the God’s as it were. Two bulls were brought to the mountain. The prophets of Baal could pick either one. They were to sacrifice it and lay it on the wood on the altar, but they could not set fire to it. Elijah instructed them to call on their god. Elijah said and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers with fire is the true God.
Elijah told the prophets of Baal to go first. So the battle was on. They prayed all morning until noon and nothing happened. They cried, “O Baal, hear us!” There was no answer. Then they danced, and there was still no answer.
Once noontime arrived Elijah started to taunt them. “You’ll have to do better than that. Maybe you’ll have to shout louder. Maybe he is daydreaming. Maybe he is away on a trip. Maybe he is sleeping and needs to be wakened.” Elijah just keeps on taunting the prophets of Baal. He guys, maybe your god just wants a little blood, maybe he’s playing a little game with you. “Oh, Baal, hear us!” they cry again. They begin cutting themselves. The scriptures tell us they raved all the way until the evening sacrifice and yet – there was no fire.
Finally, Elijah cries out, “Enough! Come over here.” Calmly Elijah repairs the Lord’s altar. He dug a ditch around the altar. Then he laid the wood and the altar and then finally the bull. Then to the surprise of everyone, he asked water to be poured over the sacrifice and the wood. He asked that to be done three times. By the time they were finished even the trench was full.
Then Elijah walked up to the altar and prayed,
O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, prove today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant. Prove that I have done all this at Your command. O Lord, answer me! Answer me so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God and that you have brought them back to yourself.
Immediately, God’s fire fell from heaven, burned up the bull, the wood, and the stones and even licked up all the water in the trench. When the people saw it, they fell face down and declared “The Lord – he is God! Yes, the Lord is God!”
Elijah commanded, “Seize all the prophets of Baal and kill them.” And the people did.
Elijah tells the King Ahab to eat, because there is a heavy rain coming. When the mountain was cleared, Elijah and his servant were alone. Elijah bowed his head low and put it between his knees and prayed to God for rain. He told his servant to go and look toward the sea. “There are no clouds,” said the servant. This happened seven times. On the seventh time the servant spotted a small cloud. Elijah now warns the King a might rain is on its way and he better get moving or the rain will stop you. And the rains came just as Elijah said.
All of this did not please the King’s wife Jezebel one bit. All of her prophets had been killed and Elijah was a national hero. So she sends him this message:
“May the gods do more to me than you have done to my prophets, if I do not remove your head from your body before tomorrow ends. I want you wiped off the face of the earth.”
Before we go any further, let me tell you that Elijah was a man of God. He was a man of prayer. James records it this way.
“The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years! Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops.”
Just think what we could do as a church, if we were people of prayer like Elijah was. This man defied a king and a queen. He stepped up when no one else would. Elijah didn’t just get his prayer life in order before he told the king there would be no rain. No, Elijah consistently walked with God. Prayer was a constant in his life. He knew he was on the Lord’s side. I think you would have to know that considering the way Elijah laid down the challenge. And yet, as much as a man of God that he was, the depression came.
As soon as Elijah receives the message from Jezebel, he goes running, as fast as he can. Sort of like Forest Gump. Run, Elijah, run! He ran all day. After traveling all day, he talks to the Lord, “I have had enough, Lord, Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.” Then he fell asleep.
Wait a second, is this the same man of God who defied a king and cause the rain to stop for three years? Yup. As men and women of God, we have to be careful after the victory. That can be our weakest moment. It was for Elijah.
An angel woke Elijah up and told him to eat and God gave Elijah the strength to travel to Mt. Sinai, the mountain of God and he spent a night in a cave.
God comes to Elijah and asks, “What are you doing here?” I don’t think God was too happy with Elijah at this moment. He defies the king, wins a decisive victory, kills off the false prophets and then goes running. What is going on?
Elijah tells God, “I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty, But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” I think Elijah was expecting a pity party from God, but God didn’t want any part of it. He tells Elijah to go to the top of the mountain for God was about to pass by. First, came a windstorm, but God was not in the wind. Then there was an earthquake, but God was not in the quake. Then, there was fire, but God was not in that…Then, there was a gentle whisper. As Elijah heard it he wrapped his cloak around him and went to the entrance of the cave.
The Lord asked Elijah again, “What are you doing here?” Elijah replies with the same answer. God tells Elijah to pull himself together and stop wallowing in pity and get back to the Lord’s work. In other words, Elijah just received a little heavenly spanking. Have you ever been spanked (or disciplined) by God. Elijah was a righteous man and yet as close to God as he was, as much of a man of prayer that he was, he still needed discipline from God. There’s a lesson in there for all of us. None of us, including this pastor, are above the Lord rebuking us and correcting us. Sometimes we need to be told by God, stop wallowing in your own pity and get back to doing his work; building the Kingdom.
We also need to remember that many times God does not speak in those celebration times. God does not speak in those loud, boisterous ways. He speaks in the lonely times. He speaks in the still small voice. Sometimes we think that God is not speaking to us, when in reality, we have too much going on…we have too much clamor around us. The scriptures tell us to “Be still and know that He is God.” I believe that we are afraid of silence. We are afraid that God will speak to us to do something we don’t want to do. I encourage you to have down time, quiet time when the Lord can speak to you. Don’t crowd him out will all the stuff that we think that we have to do. That can wait. When Elijah quiets himself be for God, we learn the rest of the story.
God tells Elijah that he is not the only one in Israel who has not bowed down to Baal. Matter-of-fact, God says, “There are 7,000 faithful in Israel at this very moment who have not bowed down to Baal. It’s time for you to get busy. Here’s what I want you to do. Anoint Hazael to be the king of Aram. Anoint Jehu to be the king of Israel and anoint Elisha to replace you as my prophet.”
Wow! Just when we think all is lost, God really has a plan in mind. And that’s not the end of the story. Elijah does what God commands and Elisha becomes his assistant. Before we finish, I want to share one more thing. Elijah shares a distinction with only one other person who ever walked this earth. There are only two people who never died. One was Enoch – what happened to him? Enoch never died because God took him, because he walked with God. Elijah is the only other person who walked with God so closely that he never died. In 2 Kings 2 we have the account of Elijah being taken up to heaven. Elijah asked Elisha if there was anything he could do before he left. Elisha asked for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. It was a tough request. Elijah replied, “If you see me when I am taken up, your request will be granted, otherwise it won’t.” Suddenly they were walking along, when God showed up and took Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind and as Elijah was going up Elisha saw Elijah and knew that he would receive a double portion of Elijah’s spirit and God was faithful and Elisha’s ministry was even more fruitful than Elijah’s.
Oh, that we could go out like Elijah. To be so close to God, that God wants us for His very own. That is my prayer for you. Can you live your life like Elijah lived his? He was a man of God who walked closely and was a man of prayer, so much so that James commends him in his letter. What is God asking you to do for Him today? How are you building His Kingdom?