"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!'"
July 4, 2018
Last week I began writing about Elijah, and would like to continue this week.
Where I left off last week, Israel was in the middle of a 3-1/2 year famine. Here is a really quick version of what has happened so far: King Ahab did more evil than any other king before him, marrying Jezebel who was as wicked as he was, and worshipping idols. Elijah spoke to King Ahab, telling him that there would be no dew or rain until he spoke the word. God sent Elijah to a brook, providing water from the brook for him to drink and ravens bringing meat and bread to him morning and evening. But then the brook dried up. God then instructed him to go to Zarephath and stay there. There he found a widow gathering sticks to make a last meal for her and her son. Elijah instructed her to first bake a small loaf of bread for him, then make something for herself and her son. God promised that her jar of flour would never be used up and her jug of oil would never run dry until the Lord sent rain on the land. That's exactly what happened. One day the son became very ill and died. Elijah prayed for him and he came back to life.
I don't know how many years Elijah stayed by the brook, nor how long he stayed with the widow and her son. But now over three years have gone by. We begin in 1 Kings chapter 18:
The word of the Lord came to Elijah and said, "Go and present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the land." So Elijah went to present himself to the king.
The famine was severe by this time in Samaria, and Ahab had summoned Obadiah, his palace administrator. Obadiah was a devout believer in the Lord. While Jezebel was killing off the Lord's prophets (I told you she was evil!), Obadiah had taken a hundred prophets and hidden them in two caves; fifty in each, and had supplied them with food and water.
Ahab said to Obadiah, "Go through the land to all the springs and valleys. Maybe we can find some grass to keep the horses and mules alive so we will not have to kill any of our animals." So they divided the land they were to cover, Ahab going in one direction and Obadiah in another.
As Obadiah was walking along, Elijah met him. Obadiah recognized him, bowed down to the ground (in respect), and said, "Is it really you?!" "Yes," he replied, "Go tell your master, 'Elijah is here,'"
"What have I done wrong," asked Obadiah, 'that you are handing your servant over to Ahab to be put to death? As surely as the Lord your God lives, there is not a nation or kingdom where my master has not sent someone to look for you. And whenever a nation or kingdom claimed you were not there, he made them swear they could not find you. But now you tell me to go to my master and say, 'Elijah is here.' I don't know where the Spirit of the Lord may carry you when I leave you. If I go and tell Ahab and he doesn't find you, he will kill me. Yet I your servant have worshipped the Lord since my youth. Haven't you heard, my lord, what I did while Jezebel was killing the prophets of the Lord? I hid a hundred of the Lord's prophets in two caves, fifty in each, and supplied them with food and water. And now you tell me to go to my master and say, 'Elijah is here,' He will kill me!"
Elijah said, "As the Lord Almighty lives, whom I serve, I will surely present myself to Ahab today."
I wonder why Elijah wanted Obadiah to go tell the king that he was there, instead of going directly to Ahab himself? We could guess or have ideas, but the scripture doesn't say.
Obadiah went to meet Ahab and gave him the message, and Ahab went to meet Elijah. When he saw Elijah, he said to him, "Is that you, you trouble maker of Israel?"
Isn't that just like human nature? Often people who are sinning and doing evil don't want to take responsibility for their actions, but point their finger at others, blaming them. Apparently, in those three and a half years, Ahab had never searched his own heart to see if perhaps his wickedness was the cause of the famine; but he blamed Elijah and thought of him as the "trouble maker of Israel".
"I have not made trouble for Israel," Elijah replied. "But you and your father's family have. You have abandoned the Lord's commands and have followed the Baals. Now summon the people from all over Israel to meet me on Mount Carmel. Bring the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel's table."
God has prophets, but so does Satan. God's prophets declare truth; Satan's prophets declare lies. Jesus warned against this when He was on earth; and we need to still heed those warnings today.
Matthew 7:15 says, "Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep, but are really vicious wolves."
The following verses tells us how to recognize them: "You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit." We look at the fruit in their life and judge what they say to the Word of God.
Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel. Elijah went before the people and said, "How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal is God, follow him." The people said nothing.
Are christians guilty of this today? We aren't deciding between Baal and God; but are we guilty of keeping silent and not speaking out when put to the test? Too often christians are accused of being bigoted, intolerant, self-righteous, narrow-minded, etc by groups of people who want the the church to be accepting of their lifestyle choices. If anyone dares to speak up and declare the truth, according to the Word of God, then they are negatively labeled by the world. So often, it's easier to keep silent than to speak out. So by our silence are we guilty of not declaring "the Lord is God" and boldly standing up for truth and righteousness? Something to think about -- for myself, anyway.
Elijah said to them, "I am the only one of the Lord's prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets. Get two bulls for me. Let Baal's prophets choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood and not set fire to it. Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by fire -- he is God."
All the people agreed and said, "What you say is good."
Elijah told the prophets of Baal to choose one of the bull and prepare it first, since there were so many of them. Call on the name of their god, but do not light the fire. Then they took the bull given them and prepared it. Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. "Baal, answer us!" they shouted. But there was no response, no one answered. They danced around the altar they had made.
At noon Elijah began to taunt them. "Shout louder! Sure he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened." So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.
Then Elijah said to all the people, "Come here to me." They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the Lord, which had been torn down. Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, saying, "Your name shall be Israel." With the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord, and he dug a trench around it. He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, "Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood."
"Do it again," he said, and they did it again. "Do it a third time," he said, and they did. The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench.
At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed, "Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel (Jacob), let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts again."
Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.
When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, "The Lord -- he is God! The Lord -- he is God!"
Suddenly, the people's silence came to an end. They had watched the demonstration by the prophets of Baal, with no results. They had shouted out to Baal, had danced, had cut themselves with swords and spears so that their blood ran. But an idol can't answer and respond!
What did Elijah do first? He repaired the altar of the Lord, which had been torn down. Perhaps that is key for us, today. If we are feeling disheartened, or overwhelmed, or out-numbered by non-believers, or as we are being ridiculed for our faith, or if we are keeping silent when we really should be speaking God's truth...... the first thing we need to do is repair the altar of the Lord in our life. We need to find that place of prayer that we can go to and commune with God on a regular basis.
Elijah then had the people fill up four large water jugs and pour the water over the offering and the wood. He had them do that three times, so that the altar and the trench was filled with water. He didn't want to leave any room for doubt in the heart and minds of the people that the fire would fall from any source other than God, Himself.
There was no shouting, dancing, or cutting himself; but Elijah prayed a simple prayer. He didn't have to beg or plead with God to answer. But as soon as he finished, the fire of God fell and consumed the sacrifice, wood, stones, soil, and water.
No longer were the people silent! But they immediately declared that the Lord -- He is God!
When we will stand firm in our faith, we can also be a testimony to the power and faithfulness of God. It may not be in the dramatic way in which God directed Elijah; but then again, we're likely not going to be facing the king and an entire nation. But we can allow the truth and light of God shine through us so that others will see and declare that the Lord truly is God.
Elijah commanded that the prophets of Baal be seized and that none of them get away. They were taken to the Kishon Valley and were slaughtered there.
When people's hearts are turned to God, every idol and sin needs to be destroyed and gotten rid of in their life. It doesn't mean that they go out and murder those who may have had a wicked influence in their life, but it does mean that all ties need to be severed so that that sin can no longer have a stronghold over them.
Elijah said to Ahab, "Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain." Some versions say, "There is the sound of an abundance of rain."
Ahab went off to eat and drink, but Elijah climbed to the top of Mount Carmel, bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees."
"Go and look toward the sea," he told his servant. And he went and looked. "There is nothing there," he said.
Seven times Elijah said, "Go back." The seventh time, the servant reported, "A cloud as small as a man's hand is rising from the sea." So Elijah said, "Go and tell Ahab. Hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you."
Meanwhile, the sky grew black with clouds, the winds rose, a heavy rain started falling and Ahab rod off. The power of the Lord came on Elijah, and tucking his cloak into his belt, he ran ahead of Ahab all the way to Jezreel.
God had already told Elijah that the time had come for the 3-1/2 year drought and famine to end. In our mind, that means that God will miraculously send rain and we won't have to do anything. But that wasn't so for Elijah, and often isn't the case for us.
Before the rain came, Elijah had to confront Ahab and the prophets of Baal. Even after the fire of God fell and consumed Elijah's sacrifice and the people declared that the Lord -- He is God; the rain still didn't come immediately.
In fact, after the people left to go back home, Elijah climbed to the top of Mount Carmel and fell down and put his face between his knees and prayer. He sent his servant to go look at the sky to see if there were any rain clouds. Seven times, the servant was sent to look! Finally, he reported back that there was a cloud the size of a man's hand rising from the sea. Elijah had to persevere in prayer and asking God to release rain from heaven and end the famine and drought. After the first few times, he didn't give up and say, "Oh, I must have misunderstood God and been wrong! I 'thought' He said that the rain was coming, but maybe He didn't mean right now." No! He kept praying and kept sending the servant back, until the rain cloud finally formed and was seen.
When we've been given a promise from God and have heard from Him, we often give up too soon or start doubting or allow our thoughts to intrude, causing us to not persevere until the promise is fulfilled. We think that the promise will come easily, or that we won't have to do anything to receive it, or that once it has been spoken we won't have to do anything else. But that's not always true. Sometimes we may have to face down unbelievers, tear down idols, and get rid of those things that are interfering with God being revealed. Then we may have to persevere in prayer; going back and looking again and again until we receive the Word of the Lord for our life.
I've wondered about the other 100 prophets. God obviously arranged for their protection and survival. I wonder if He also told them to confront the false prophets or even Ahab. But they didn't do that.
I also wonder about how many people in America today have been told to speak up in various situations, and they don't. When God told Elijah to confront Ahab, it wasn't to get Elijah killed. And I'm confident if He tells someone today to speak up, it isn't to get them killed, either.
I don't want to encourage anyone to stir up trouble, or to speak up when God isn't saying to. But if I am confident that God has set up a situation to speak up, I hope I'm never afraid to do so.
Corn on the Cob
6-8 ears of corn, husks and silks removed
1 cup milk
1 stick butter
Fill a large pot about halfway with water. Bring water to a boil. Add milk and butter to the water; add corn and reduce heat. Simmer corn for 6-8 minutes. Remove corn from the cooking liquid and serve.
**No need to butter the corn before eating. If you use salted butter, you won't need to salt it either. If the corn is not in season and as sweet as it should be, you can add a little sugar to the water when cooking the corn, if desired.
Happy Independence Day! Celebrate and thank God for our freedom, as well as say a prayer for those who are serving in our armed forces.
The song 'God Bless America' was first written by Irving Berlin in 1918. He then rewrote the song in 1938 as a prayer for peace, in response to the rise of Adolf Hitler. Today, we need to still pray for our country that God's blessing and protection will rest upon our nation.
"God bless America; land that I love. Stand beside her and guide her; thru the night with a light from above. From the mountains, to the prairies, to the oceans white with foam; God bless America; my home, sweet home."
Inside each one of us lie dreams waiting to be unleashed.
No matter who you are, where you live, or what your past was;
the dreams God has placed inside of you can still come true!
Let your dreams be bigger than your fears
and your actions louder than your words. - Christine Caine
We love you!
Loretta & Jon