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The OT Challenge: The Loyalty of Elijah

ONLY IN AMERICA
1- Only in America can a pizza get to your house faster than an ambulance.
2- Only in America are there handicap parking places in front of a skating rink.
3- Only in America do drugstores make the sick walk all the way to the back of the store to get their prescriptions, while healthy people can buy cigarettes at the front.
4- Only in America do people order double cheeseburgers, large fries and a DIET coke.
5- Only in America do we leave cars worth thousands of dollars in the driveway and put our junk in the garage. 
6- Only in America do we use answering machines to screen calls and have call waiting so we won’t miss a call from someone we didn’t want to talk to in the first place.
7- Only in America do we buy hot dogs in packages of ten and buns in packages of eight. 

This story has it setting when the spiritual tide in Israel is at an extremely low ebb. The people have, for the most part, turned their backs on God and have gone after the Canaanite god Baal. It is against this backdrop of apostasy and idolatry that the prophet Elijah strolls onto the stage. He is introduced in 1 Kings 17:1. When he makes his appearance, he comes with a message from the Lord. It is a call for repentance and for a renewal to loyalty to God.

1 Now Elijah, who was from Tishbe in Gilead, told King Ahab, “As surely as the LORD, the God of Israel, lives—the God I serve—there will be no dew or rain during the next few years until I give the word!” 1 Kings 17:1 NLT 

In our passage for today, things come to a head. On the one hand there is Ahab, Jezebel, the prophets and priests of Baal and an entire nation, less 7,000 people of God. (1 Kings 19:18) On the other, there is Elijah and the Lord God Jehovah. The odds may looked stacked in the favor of evil, but Elijah is about to experience the truth that one plus God is a majority.

Elijah’s story should lead us to a sense of introspection and personal growth. 

• There is a desperate need for spiritual heroes who will stand against the tide of ungodliness.

• There is a need for the people of God to gage their allegiance to the Lord and to determine where we really stand when it comes to being on the Lord's side. 

• There must be a willingness to reject the evil that surrounds us and be a “separate” people usable by God as light and salt on this earth. 

• There must be a willingness to renew our commitment to God and place Him above all other pursuits, interests and loyalties. 

Now let me tell you the story of one of the greatest events in Elijah’s life. After Elijah the prophet of God pronounced that it wouldn’t rain for three years everyone’s life took a miserable turn. The King spent a great deal of time looking for Elijah and he wasn’t happy. King Ahab had led the people of God away from worshipping God to worshipping Baal. (tell more of the story using the scripture) 

THE DILEMMA OF THE PEOPLE OF GOD

“So Ahab summoned all the people of Israel and the prophets to Mount Carmel. 21 Then Elijah stood in front of them and said, “How much longer will you waver, hobbling between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him! But if Baal is God, then follow him!” But the people were completely silent. 

 22 Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only prophet of the LORD who is left, but Baal has 450 prophets. 23 Now bring two bulls. The prophets of Baal may choose whichever one they wish and cut it into pieces and lay it on the wood of their altar, but without setting fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood on the altar, but not set fire to it. 24 Then call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD. The god who answers by setting fire to the wood is the true God!” And all the people agreed.”
1 Kings 18:21-24 NLT

A. Their Waywardness  

Verse 21 tells us that the people of Israel were possessed of a divided allegiance. On the one hand, they enjoyed their name as God's people, but on the other hand, they loved the sensual, fleshly appeal of Baal worship. Elijah described their condition as "one limping along a fence" or hobbling between two opinions.  They were torn between two ideas and as a result, they were accomplishing nothing! 

Then Elijah stood in front of them and said, “How much longer will you waver, hobbling between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him! But if Baal is God, then follow him!” But the people were completely silent. 1 Kings 18:21 NLT

There is nothing more miserable than living a double life. The story of Steve McNair that is slowly emerging appears to be the old story of trying to live in two worlds. You read the words of his friends and you hear about his wife and kids and how he wouldn’t do anything to hurt or not be a role model for his kids. Then you read about a 20 year old girl that he has been in an apparent affair with for five months or so.

It never pays when you are living a double life. Israel would find that out but they were doing it even though God had done so much for them. 

B. Their Warning - Elijah's admonition is direct and to the point. He tells them that they have to make a choice! Elijah sees their compromise as an affront to God. He is telling them that they must choose which side they will be on, since they cannot genuinely have 2 gods. 1 Kings 18:21 

My prayer is that you and I will hear the same warning today. If there is an area in your life that is inconsistent with your profession of faith bow yourself before God and cry out for Him to give you a sense of conviction and the courage to stop your double life. 

C. Their Willingness 
I find it interesting that this people had the audacity to expect God to prove Himself to them. After all, look at all the God-sized things He had done for them over the years and still they are willing to give Baal a chance to compete with God. At least they were willing to take another look at God in their lives. 

D. Their Weakness 
They had no ability to speak or think for themselves.
“But the people were completely silent.” 

THE DEMONSTRATION OF THE POWER OF GOD 

 “25 Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “You go first, for there are many of you. Choose one of the bulls, and prepare it and call on the name of your god. But do not set fire to the wood.” 

 26 So they prepared one of the bulls and placed it on the altar. Then they called on the name of Baal from morning until noontime, shouting, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no reply of any kind. Then they danced, hobbling around the altar they had made. 

 27 About noontime Elijah began mocking them. “You’ll have to shout louder,” he scoffed, “for surely he is a god! Perhaps he is daydreaming, or is relieving himself. Or maybe he is away on a trip, or is asleep and needs to be wakened!” 

 28 So they shouted louder, and following their normal custom, they cut themselves with knives and swords until the blood gushed out. 29 They raved all afternoon until the time of the evening sacrifice, but still there was no sound, no reply, no response.”
1 Kings 18:25-29 NLT

A. The futility of following Baal 

All day long the prophets of Baal prayed and cried out to their god. Yet, they received not so much as "small still voice." Elijah saw the folly of what they were doing and mocked them, v. 27. This sent them into a frenzy. But, when the smoke had cleared and the dust of their activity had settled, Baal was still as dead as he had ever been and they stood humiliated and defeated before the lone prophet of God.

This will be the experience of every person who attempts to follow the false gods of religion and of this world. They are all dead and can do nothing for those who cry out to them. I am sure that many who are caught in this trap feel that they are right and that men who cry out for change and separation are fanatics and are people to be pitied. However, I would like to remind anyone who feels that they can connect God with worldliness that they are doomed to failure, no matter how right they think they are. (Pro. 16:25) When this world is over and the dust of this life has settled God will still be God and His way and His Word will still be right and everything else will still be wrong! It is futile to follow the course of this world!

B. The faith of Elijah 

After the prophets of Baal had finished with their efforts, Elijah stepped forward. Looking at what he did is very interesting. First, he repaired the altar of God, v. 30. Then, he chose 12 stones to remind Israel that they were one nation in the eyes of God. Then he had 12 barrels of water poured over the sacrifice and the wood and the altar. He did this final thing to remove all doubts as to who was to get the glory for that which was about to happen. Then, He stepped forth and prayed a simple 60 word prayer and the fire of God fell from Heaven and consumed every part of the sacrifice, the altar, the water in the trench and even the dust round about. God answered in a spectacular display of power in response to the faith of His servant.
This man had honed his faith on the grindstone of affliction. He had already seen God do the miraculous, no rain - 1 Kings 17:1; food supplied by ravens - 1 Kings 17:2-7; an endless supply of meal and oil - 1 Kings 17:8-16; and the resurrection of the widow's son - 1 Kings 17:17-24. This man knew that this little thing was nothing for God. He was willing to put his life on the line because he believed that he served a God who moves in response to His people's prayers.

C. The faithfulness of the Lord 

When all is said and done, the fact the God honored faith that honored Him is the only explanation! Elijah stepped forward on a dark stage and threw the spotlight on God and said, "My God can!" God always responds to that kind of faith!
“The simple truth is that if you had a mere kernel of faith, a poppy seed, say, you would tell this mountain, ‘Move!’ And it would move. There is nothing you wouldn’t be able to tackle.” Matt. 17:20 The Message 

When you and I decide that we will exercise our faith in God and take our stand we will see God come through for us. The reason we don't see this kind of miraculous display of the power of God can be attributed to two great failures on the part of God's people. 

1. Many fail to separate themselves from the world and from the apostasy that surrounds them and God cannot bless them! 

2. Many refuse to exercise their faith in God and God doesn't move in response to doubt!)

When you as an individual and we as a church body reach the place where we are willing to stand for God alone and we are willing to exercise our faith in Him, then God will not leave hanging out there to flap in the wind. When we take our stand for Him, He will take His stand with us! 

THE DECISION BY THE PEOPLE OF GOD 

“Then Elijah called to the people, “Come over here!” They all crowded around him as he repaired the altar of the LORD that had been torn down. 31 He took twelve stones, one to represent each of the tribes of Israel,[c] 32 and he used the stones to rebuild the altar in the name of the LORD. Then he dug a trench around the altar large enough to hold about three gallons.[d] 33 He piled wood on the altar, cut the bull into pieces, and laid the pieces on the wood. 

   Then he said, “Fill four large jars with water, and pour the water over the offering and the wood.” 

 34 After they had done this, he said, “Do the same thing again!” And when they were finished, he said, “Now do it a third time!” So they did as he said, 35 and the water ran around the altar and even filled the trench. 

 36 At the usual time for offering the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet walked up to the altar and prayed, “O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,[e] prove today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant. Prove that I have done all this at your command. 37 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.” 

 38 Immediately the fire of the LORD flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up all the water in the trench! 39 And when all the people saw it, they fell face down on the ground and cried out, “The LORD—he is God! Yes, the LORD is God!” 

 40 Then Elijah commanded, “Seize all the prophets of Baal. Don’t let a single one escape!” So the people seized them all, and Elijah took them down to the Kishon Valley and killed them there.”
1 Kings 18:30-40 NLT

A. They experienced God in power 

God answered the prophet by fire in their very presence. There was no denying the reality of what they had seen. After this moment, it wasn't just some stories about God told by gray-haired old men, it was reality. They had seen it and they responded to it.

There is no other way to know God than to experience Him in a personal way. I am convinced that this is the root of all wondering and waywardness.  When men meet the Lord they are changed. When they just go about some religious form they are led and motivated by the flesh. 

Perhaps this explains why there is a cry from the heart of every saved soul to be free from the bondage of religion without God, to be free from the form of godliness without God that so dominates the world. Meeting God will change you forever! I'll go so far as to say that being saved will unfit you from what is happening in the religious world around you. You will be different and the Lord will bless the difference!

B. They exalted God in praise 

Notice that the people of God bowed themselves to the earth. They didn’t just kneel they laid on the ground face down in humility before God. 

The last sound the Baal prophets and priests heard as they were being led away to their deaths, v. 40, was the sound of the people of God shouting praises to their Lord. What a sight and sound that must have been!

Nothing in this world is quiet so liberating as finding yourself focused on God and on Him alone! When He has your attention, your affection and your allegiance, He will be satisfied and so will you! Nothing liberates the Christfollower more than knowing you are in a place in your walk with God that pleases Him, that there is nothing between you and God. When you get there, God can and will bless you with gladness of heart and joy of soul. 

There is an old song written a long time ago that testifies of a desire for knowing that there is nothing between you and God. 

Nothing between my soul and the Savior,
Naught of this world's delusive dream;
I have renounced all sinful pleasure;
Jesus is mine, there's nothing between.
Nothing between my soul and the Savior,
So that His blessed face may be seen;
Nothing preventing the least of His favor,
Keep the way clear! Let nothing between.
Nothing between, like worldly pleasure;
Habits of life, though harmless they seem,
Must not my heart from Him e'er sever;
He is my all, there's nothing between.
Nothing between, like pride or station;
Self-life or friends shall not intervene;
Though it may cost me much tribulation,
I am resolved; there's nothing between.
Nothing between, e'en many hard trials,
Though the whole world against me convene;
Watching with prayer and much self-denial,
I'll triumph at last, with nothing between.
Aristotle said, "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is not an act. It is a habit." So what kind of habits have you developed in your life?

Are there areas of your life that, if you were honest, you would have to say were not surrendered to God. You love God on the one hand but love other things in your life that you know are not pleasing to God. Somehow you have conjured up a god in your mind who winks at your personal weaknesses and hidden sins.
Maybe you are tired of trying to straddle the fence. Hear again the words of Elijah: “How much longer will you waver, hobbling between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him! But if Baal is God then follow him!” 

Don’t be silent with your faith. Live it with no apologies or embarrassment. Live 100% for God because anything less is to miss the experience that God has always intended for the people He created. Your life will never feel right until you follow Him with total abandon. 

Send Out and Benediction: 

I declare my allegiance to You, God, and You alone.
My loyalty belongs to You.
My plans and my future belong to You.
I put You above all other pursuits and interests.
I give You both the known and the unknown.
Take the good, the bad, and the ugliness that sometimes plagues me.
Transform me into Your likeness.
You are my God.
I am following and surrendering myself to You.
I am Yours.

 



2009/07/06