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 20, 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 past few weeks we have covered many miraculous events in Elijah's life. God sent ravens twice a day to deliver bread and meat to Elijah while he was at the Brook Cherith. After leaving there, God led Elijah to a widow and her son. While there, God provided enough oil and flour for each meal. The widow's son also died and after Elijah prayed for him, he came back to life. At the end of 3 ½ years, God speaks to Elijah once again to tell him that rain is coming. Elijah goes and finds King Ahab, has him gather the prophets of Baal and Asherah, and all the Israelites on Mount Carmel and issues a challenge. God sends fire to consume the sacrifice, altar, stone, dirt and water after Elijah prays a simple prayer. The people acknowledge that, “The Lord is God!” Elijah then kills the prophets of Baal. Afterwards, he tells Ahab to eat and drink because he hears the sound of an abundance of rain. Elijah then goes to the top of Mount Carmel and prays until the rain comes. He sends his servant seven times to go look out over the sea to see if there are any clouds. Finally, the servant sees a small cloud the size of a man's hand. Elijah sends his servant to tell Ahab to get back home, and the spirit of God comes upon Elijah and he outruns the chariot carrying Ahab the twenty miles back to Jezreel.
You would think after all this happening that Elijah would be on a spiritual high, but the next event that takes place in his life is very surprising. The Israelites did acknowledge that the Lord was God, but they didn't get rid of their other idols and return to serving only God. The spiritual revival that should would have swept across the nation did not occur.
Ahab goes back and tells his wife, Jezebel, what had taken place on Mount Carmel and how Elijah had killed all the prophets of Baal. Jezebel then threatened to take Elijah's life by that time the next day. Elijah is afraid, flees for his life and runs as far from Jezreel as he can possibly get. He travels over eighty miles, and gets out of the territory that Ahab and Jezebel rule. He then leaves his servant and travels into the wilderness alone.
When he gets there, he sits down under a juniper tree and asks to die. “I've have had enough, Lord. Take my life; for I am no better than my ancestors.” He then lies down and falls asleep.
All at once, an angel touch him and said, “Get up and eat.” Elijah looked around and there by his head was bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.
A second time, the angel of the Lord came back and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” So Elijah got up and ate and drank. Then he went in the strength of that food for forty days and nights as he traveled to Horeb, the mountain of God. Upon arrival, he went into a cave and spent the night.
It is so easy for us to look at those we consider to be spiritually strong, and expect them to continually be positive and full of faith and excited and eager about God. Then if we ever see them in a bad mood or hear them make a negative comment or experience doubt, we immediately begin to judge them. We feel disappointed because this wonderful, strong man/woman of God is showing human emotion, and are not reacting as we think they should. They have not lived up to our expectations. When we put someone up on a pedestal, they will eventually let us down. We need to be careful how we perceive others, that we don't see them through rose colored glasses.
I had a lady tell me one time, “You are always so spiritual. You do the right things, you read Christian books, have devotions every day, etc. You need to be like the rest of us and not always be so perfect.”
At the time, I thought, “Yes, I do try to do the right thing and make the right decisions. I enjoy reading fictional books written by Christian authors. I do try to read my Bible and pray every day, although there are times when things happen and I don't do it. But I also know that I make a lot of mistakes and am far from perfect!”
There are areas in my life that I struggle with; such as my attitude, being critical and judgmental at times, not keeping my mouth shut and being too outspoken more than I should, and the list could go on and on. There are times when my faith seems strong and times when it doesn't. At times when I pray I believe that God can do anything, and other times I'm filled with doubt and try to figure out how to take care of it on my own.
My mom was truly a woman of God and about as close to perfect as anyone I've ever known. Yet I have to be careful that I don't let the love and respect I had for her elevate my opinion of her so high, that I fail to remember that she had imperfections like every one else. She may not have had as many weaknesses as most people, but I know there had to have been times during her battle with cancer that her faith was weak and she had doubts. There were times when she was in so much pain that she prayed to die. But just like Elijah, she allowed God to strengthen her and listened for that quiet reassuring whisper of God. She didn't stay discouraged and never gave up on God.
Elijah witnessed all these awesome miracles and spoke with such boldness and faith. Then he is filled with fear when Jezebel threatens him, and he runs for his life. We see from how he conducted himself for three and a half years that Elijah was certainly no coward.
Personally, when I am in the midst of a crisis or a particularly demanding situation, I do what I have to in order to survive it. I don't think about it, I just react and do what's necessary. I have had people tell me, “If I had to go through what so and so did, I would never make it. There's no way that I could handle it.” But I've learned through my own personal experiences and from observing my close family and friends, that when you are faced with a situation, you do what you have to do, at that time, to get through it. Whether it's sickness, death of a close family member or friend, job or financial insecurities, family problems, etc., you pull on the inner strength that God gives and you lean on God, and you get through one day at a time. And then when that situation comes to an end or you overcome the initial shock, you are physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted.
Perhaps that's where Elijah was. He had to depend on God for provision during the drought in order to survive. God gave him instructions and Elijah boldly did what had to be done. After facing Ahab, the prophets of Baal and Asherah, and the Israelites on top of Mount Carmel, and then afterwards slaying all the false prophets of Baal, I would think that he would be totally exhausted. The people acknowledged the true God, the rain came and Elijah had to have been feeling ecstatic at that particular moment. But when they didn't turn completely over to God and continued with Baal worship, he must have been let down and heart broken. Then on top of it all, when Jezebel threatened his life, he must have felt like, “What's the use!”
He goes into the wilderness, lies down and tells God that he wants to die. There have been times when each of us have faced discouragement and may have felt like giving up; and Elijah felt that way too.
But God still had a purpose for Elijah and wasn't finished with him. He didn't berate and chastise Elijah for how he felt or for running away. God sent an angel twice to minister to Elijah, and those two meals strengthened him to get through the next forty days. God nourished and ministered to Elijah, and was with him the whole time.
When we go through times of disappointment or discouragement, God is not going to beat us up and condemn us. He will be there to strengthen and encourage us. He will minister to our needs; whether it be through His Word, through another person encouraging us, etc. God will nourish and strengthen us for the next part of our journey.
On the other hand, if we fail to listen to God and allow Him to minister to us, we may eventually feel the results of His chastisement. If we're not careful, discouragement can turn into self pity, which in turn can lead to bitterness, which many times draws people away from God. If we wallow in self pity and discouragement for too long, God may need to do something to get our attention in order to draw us back to Him.
After Elijah enters the cave, the Lord spoke to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Perhaps God wanted Elijah to consider why he was running away and why he was hiding out in a cave.
Elijah 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.”
Elijah felt like he was the only follower of God left in all of Israel. That must have been a very lonely, overwhelming feeling. He may have thought, “I'm the only prophet of God left in all Israel, and if they kill me, then there will be no one to preach to them and tell them about God.” He probably felt like he had given his all to follow and obey God, yet no one listened to him and God had let him down. He felt like a failure.
God told Elijah, “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. After the fire came a gentle whisper (still, small voice). When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak (mantle) over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Once again a voice came to him asking, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Elijah gives the Lord the same reply as he had the first time when the question was asked.
God then gave Elijah instructions on what he needed to go do. Elijah was to go to Damascus and anoint Hazael to be king over Syria; then anoint Jehu to be king over Israel; then anoint Elisha to be prophet in his place. The Lord said, “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.”
Then God tells Elijah that he was not alone. “Yet I will leave Myself 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” What an encouragement that must have been to Elijah, to know how many people were still left that had refused to bow down and worship Baal.
There may be times when we feel like we are standing alone in our commitment to God. It may be that you are the only Christian in your workplace. Or perhaps you may be the only Christian in your family, and you feel like an outsider. It could be that you have committed your life to Christ and none of your old friends have, and you feel lonely or pressured to rejoin old activities. Maybe you're going through a difficult situation that you feel that no one else can understand. Whatever your circumstance, don't be discouraged or lose hope. You may feel like running away or hiding in a cave, like Elijah did. But you can have assurance that you are not alone in your situation. There are thousands of others who are facing similar circumstances, even though you may not know them personally.
I'm sure that during the 3 ½ years of famine and drought, and with the Baal worship being so prevalent, the other 7,000 in Israel also had times when they felt like a minority and felt like they were all alone. There may have even been times when they felt like giving up and going along with the rest of the nation. I'm sure it would have been a whole lot easier on them if they had of let down their standards in order to fit in. But they were determined to serve only God and not worship any other idols.
God knew who they were, and He even knew them by name. He saw their stand for holiness and righteousness, and that they refused to bow their knee to an idol. I believe that they were rewarded for their faithfulness.
God sees you and knows you by name. He cares more for you than you will probably ever realize or comprehend. Be encouraged and know that God will always be there for you. Don't give in to the pressure from those around you in order to fit in. Stand strong in your faith. There may be times when you become discouraged and feel like, “What's the use.” But if you will listen, you will hear the quiet whisper of God, letting you know that He is with you. God will direct your steps and lead you in the way in which you should go.
It's true that I have times of doubt and weak faith. So does my wife. But it's pretty easy for us to hide it.
One of the great things about marriage is that Loretta and I complement each other perfectly. When I'm in a time of doubt, Loretta is at her strongest. And when her faith is weaker, I'm at my strongest. Marriage is great.
Jesus told many parables. Several of them compare heaven to a wedding in different ways. But in our relationship with God, when we are at our weakest, we can depend on Him. But when we are at our strongest, we can still depend on Him, even if we don't feel like we need to.
Sour Cream Enchiladas
1 lb. ground beef
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 small onion, chopped
1 (8 oz.) tub sour cream
salt and pepper to taste
1 (8 oz.) pkg. Cheddar cheese, shredded
1 (4 oz.) can sliced black olives
2 (4 oz.) cans chopped green chilies
Brown ground beef with onion; drain. Salt and pepper to taste. Mix soup, sour cream, black olives and green chilies together. Fill each tortilla with ground beef, a tablespoon of soup mixture and some cheese. Roll up. Place tortillas in 9x13-inch pan and cover with remaining soup mixture. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.
One of my sisters is starting to get a lot of gray in her hair. Well, actually all of us girls are; but my oldest sister is completely gray, this sister is getting gray, and the rest of us color the gray. This particular sister works with kids in the afternoons. Recently, one of the little girls said, “You have a lot of white in the front of your hair.” My sister told her that it wasn't only in the front, but all over. One of the little boys said, “They make this stuff that comes in a box that you can put on your hair, and it will turn it back to it's real color.” My sister told them that she was almost a grandma, so she was old enough to have some white hair. Of course, that led to them asking just how old she was! My sister told me there's nothing like having second graders notice how gray she was getting, comment on it, and tell her how to fix it. Kids are so honest!
It's better to stand alone for the right thing, than to stand in a crowd for the wrong.
Thanks again for reading our newsletter. May you be encouraged and blessed.
We love you!
Loretta & Jon