THE NEW EWE
"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
February 6, 2008
I am continuing the series I have been doing on Elijah. If you would like to study Elijah's life for yourself, you can find the scriptures relating to him in 1 Kings chapters 17-19, then in 2 Kings chapters 1-2. My prayer is that you will be encouraged and learn from these devotionals over the next few weeks.
The four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal, four hundred prophets of Asherah, King Ahab, and all Israel are all gathered on Mount Carmel with Elijah. He asks them how long they would waiver between two opinions; if the Lord is God then follow Him; but if Baal, follow him. The people were quiet and didn't answer.
Elijah then boldly issued a challenge to the people. He told them to get two bulls; and they would have first choice on which one they wanted. They were to cut it in pieces, lay it on the wood, but put no fire under it. Afterwards, he would do the same with his bull. They would call on their gods, and Elijah would call on name of the Lord; and the God who answered by fire, He is God. All the people answered and said, “It is well spoken.”
The prophets of Baal chose their bull first, and prepared it as Elijah had instructed. They called on the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, hear us!” But there was no voice, and no one answered. So the prophets leaped about the altar which they had made.
Elijah began mocking them saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god; either he is meditating, or he is busy, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is sleeping and must be awakened.”
The prophets of Baal cried aloud and cut themselves, as was their custom, with knives and lances, until the blood gushed out of them.
They continued this until time of the offering of the evening sacrifice. But there was no voice; no one answered, no one paid attention.
Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” As the people came near, the first thing he did was repair the altar of the Lord that was broken down. He took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob. With the stones, he built an altar in the name of the Lord; then he made a large trench around the altar.
He put the wood in order, cut the bull in pieces, and laid in on the wood. Elijah said, “Fill four water pots with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice and on the wood.” Then he said, “Do it a second time,” and they did it a second time; and he said, “Do it a third time,” and they did it a third time. The water ran all around the altar; and also filled the trench.
Elijah then came near the altar and prayed, “Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word. Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that You are the Lord God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again.”
Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and the stones and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench.
When the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, “The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God!”
Sometimes we read stories in the Bible such as this one, and it is so unlike anything we have ever seen or experienced, that it almost seems unreal and unbelievable. How can fire, that is not man made, suddenly descend and consume a sacrifice that has been drenched in water? The fire consumed everything; the bull, wood, stones, dust, and even all the water. That just doesn't seem possible or feasible!
Israel had become a very sinful nation and had turned their back on God. The three years of drought and famine hadn't got their attention. In fact, King Ahab and Queen Jezebel were so wicked, that the true prophets of God had either been killed or were having to hide out in caves. Jezebel even had the prophets of the idol, Asherah, eating at her table. The people were sacrificing at the temple, yet making sacrifices to all the other gods too.
God had had enough! He spoke through Elijah, in order to bring the people back to a place where they would acknowledge that He was the only true God.
Elijah gave Baal's prophets first chance at proving that their idol was God. Look at the difference between how they requested Baal to hear them and send fire, and Elijah's prayer. They were shouting, dancing around the altar, cutting themselves with knives and lances, and pleading with him to answer. But an idol made of stone and sand is nothing but a statue, and has no power to hear or answer.
The first thing Elijah did was repair the altar of the Lord that had been broken down.
At times we may feel like our prayers aren't being answered, nor our needs met. It seems like God is silent. The first thing we need to do, is make sure “the altar” hasn't been torn down or replaced with something else in our lives. It's easy to become busy and forget to spend time in prayer each day. We have good intentions but work, family, daily duties, responsibilities, and various other things fill our time. We get to the end of our day and realize we haven't prayed. We are tired when we go to bed, so think, “Tomorrow I will for sure pray and read my Bible.” Yet there are times when days can go by, without us spending any time with God. It's not enough to attend church on Sunday, then forget God the rest of the week. We need Him daily in our lives.
There are people who are in church every time the doors are open, yet their relationship with God is empty. All they're doing is going through the actions, but their heart isn't in it. On the other hand, there may be those who aren't in church every service, yet their relationship with God is strong and growing. Why? Because their hearts are committed to serving and loving God. They make time for God in their life, seven days a week.
Keeping the altar in our life is of utmost importance. The altar is a place of worship, fellowship, and relationship between us and God. We need to make sure it never stands idle, or it will begin to crumble and break down. The good news is; if that should happen, we can go back and repair it.
The next thing Elijah did was have the people pour water on and around the sacrifice three times. He wasn't doing this for show. He wanted the people to know that when the fire came and consumed the sacrifice, only the true God could have performed that miracle. He didn't want any of the attention or glory be given to him, but wanted the focus to be on God.
It's easy for evangelists and pastors to sometimes become focused on themselves and their accomplishments, instead of what God is doing through them. It's easy for us to judge them and say what they did, or are doing, is wrong, and we become critical.
But on a smaller scale, how many of us are guilty of doing something good, then wanting a little bit of the thanks or glory for it? God places a need someone has on our heart, we have the resources to provide and help out; yet, we can't stand not telling others what we did. We want someone to know how we gave sacrificially, or how WE were the ones who helped so and so out, or gave to the church. We get a promotion at work, and instead of giving thanks to God, we like hearing people brag about how successful and smart we are. I'm sure that each of us has had to deal with our pride and ego at times.
Elijah knew this was neither the time nor place for the people's focus to be on him. This was the time for Israel's eyes to see the power and majesty of God, and acknowledge that He was truly the One and Only God.
While the prophet's of Baal had danced, begged and pleaded, and cut themselves; Elijah stood and spoke a very simple and short prayer. God honored Elijah's faith, and answered quickly.
At times we get caught up in the length or wording of our prayers. But all we have to do is boldly approach God with faith, and simply make our request known. Too often, we pray, then feel like we need to do something to prove to God that we're sincere. We may not dance around the altar or cut ourselves or holler at God, but we bargain with Him. “God if you will do this for me, then I promise to do such and such for You.” Or “God if you will meet this financial need, then when I have the extra money I will give to the church.” We try to figure out how we can get God to answer more quickly. More times than not, we devise our own plans, then ask God to bless them.
After Elijah's simple prayer, that was filled with belief and faith, God sent fire that consumed everything; the sacrifice, altar, wood and water.
The people immediately bowed down and acknowledged that, “The Lord, He is God!” It was so obvious that Baal couldn't hear or answer their cries; only the Lord God could do that. Their hearts were once again turned to the true and living God.
The last thing Elijah did, was command that the prophets of Baal be seized, and none of them be able to escape. He took them to the Brook Kishon and killed them there.
Their death was justifiable under the law of Moses, which was all that the people had to govern them at that time. God had given those laws to Moses to go by until New Testament laws were put into place. Idol worship and sacrifice was so prevalent in the nations, that there had to be laws put into place to deal with those who ordained and initiated it. Elijah's action against the false prophets represented God's wrath against those who were trying to destroy the faith and spiritual heritage of God's chosen people. Israel was being spiritually destroyed by false religion.
But in the New Testament, that type of action against false prophets is prohibited.
We are warned in Mark 13:22 that, “False Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall show signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect.” We must be alert and pray for discernment, so that we will not be led astray by those who would try to mislead us. They may preach/talk a doctrine that sounds good, but if it cannot be verified by the Word of God, we are to stay as far away from those people as possible. Be careful that someone is not using just a sentence here and there to justify their beliefs, or that they are twisting the scriptures to serve their own purposes. Many think they will befriend those who are misguided, only to find themselves eventually drawn in by the false teachings. Be careful of those things that “tickle our ears” or make us feel good.
God is a merciful and loving Father who bestows His grace upon us and offers forgiveness. But the Bible tells us that God is also a God of judgment. It's not enough to be a good person and do good deeds. Our works won't get us into heaven. We must confess our sins and repent of our wrongdoing and recognize that we are all sinners.
1 John 1:9 says “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
There are teachers and preachers and individuals telling people that God is a loving God, and that everyone will go to Heaven. Many are being led astray by believing that being a good person is all it takes to spend eternity with God. But there are no scriptures that back up those teachings. We either have to choose to believe the whole Bible or none at all. We cannot pick and choose what we want to believe, and throw out the rest. The way to God is easy, and He explains over and over again in His Word how to receive the salvation that is so freely offered to all. It's as easy as ABC. We have to first: A – Acknowledge that we are sinners. We have to understand the fact that no matter how good we may be or what we may do for others, we are filled with sin. Next we: B – Believe with our heart that God raised Jesus from the dead. Lastly: C – Confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord.
Romans 10:9 says, “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
Romans 10:13 says, “For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
My favorite is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Ephesians 2:8 tells us, “For by grace you are saved through faith; and not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.”
God offers each and every one of us the gift of receiving salvation, but He will not force Himself on us. He wants us to freely accept this gift for ourselves. But it's a personal choice that each of us will have to make individually. The choice can't be made for us by our parents, our friends, our pastors, etc. If we choose to accept this wonderful gift of salvation, we are promised eternal life in Heaven with God. If we refuse, then we are damned to Hell, spending eternity separated from God. It may seem harsh, but we each have to make the choice for ourselves. There is no other alternative, no other choice. Those facts are written out very clearly in the Word of God.
I challenge you today, just as Elijah did the Israelites. Don't waver between two opinions, but if the Lord is God, follow and serve Him!
All too often, when things in our lives are going well and we feel in control, we feel like we don't need to put God in control. The biggest danger is losing out on eternity with God. But God doesn't give up on us so easily. If comfort is what keeps people away from Him, He is willing to take our comfort away.
When the Israelites grew too complacent and started worshiping idols, God took away their comfort, and rain, too. They needed to become desperate for God. Instead of looking to God for relief, they turned against God, and blamed Him (and Elijah) for the lack of rain. I've heard many unbelievers supporting themselves by claiming that God can't exist because He wouldn't let America suffer anything, or blaming Him for all suffering, or (somehow) both at once.
Another important fact here is that the entire country went without water for their disobedience. Many prophets were protected, but they still suffered. Most had to hide. They were likely hungry and thirsty most of the time. It certainly wasn't a prosperous life. It must have been difficult for them to patiently wait for Israel to give up their pride and submit to God so they could have rain, too.
French Bread – cut in half lengthwise
Alfredo Sauce (I use a jar of store bought)
Chicken – diced (can use canned)
Fresh Spinach- chopped
Cut French bread in half lengthwise (or regular pizza crust can be used). Spread on the Alfredo sauce. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Next put on the diced chicken. Saute the mushrooms and garlic together in a little oil or butter. When finished, pour on top of the chicken. Layer next with the chopped spinach. Top with mozzarella cheese. For French bread, bake on 350 for 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly. For regular pizza crust, follow directions on package for cooking.
Here's an idea to keep track of your blessings:
Start a journal, and each evening reflect back on your day and write down 5 things that happened that you are thankful for. Then take a few moments to thank God for those things.
If you don't want to keep a journal, make a habit of stopping each evening and think of 5 things you're thankful for from your day, and give God thanks.
It helps keep things in perspective and you become more focused on the good and not the bad.
(I received this cute story by e-mail from a friend this week.)
A mother was preparing pancakes for her sons, Kevin 5, and Ryan 3.
The boys began to argue over who would get the first pancake.
Their mother saw the opportunity for a moral lesson.
"If Jesus were sitting here, He would say,
'Let my brother have the first pancake, I can wait.'”
Kevin turned to his younger brother and said,
"Ryan, you be Jesus!"
Celebrate all the special moments – both the big and small.
Life is both precious and short, so we need to make each day count.
Today (February 6th) is Jon's parents 46th wedding anniversary. We would like to wish them a “Happy Anniversary”.
It was three years ago, February 5th that Jon proposed to me. What a wonderful, exciting, unforgettable day that was!
May your life be blessed and filled with many wonderful, unforgettable moments.
We love you!
Loretta & Jon