Sermon from August 26th, 2018

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“The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful #14: Elijah - The Job's Not Done!”

1 Kings 19:1-18; John 3:16-17


By Pastor John Bent



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Sermon Text
Good morning!  Let’s pause a moment and pray for our fire fighters and for rain. “Lord, please protect all of those working on the fires that stretch from Alaska to California.  Provide us with the rain that is so urgently needed.”

Today we finish our study of Elijah. We can’t overlook his role in our salvation story. Elijah was there with Moses at Jesus’ Transfiguration. Moses represented the Law and the 10 Commandments and Elijah represented the prophets and the restoration God would do to save his people from their sin. Remember Elijah’s name means “the Lord is God”.

Last Sunday we looked at the great battle on Mount Carmel between the prophets of Baal and the LORD. It could be called the battle of the rain makers or the life-givers. We learned politicians can’t provide rain. Neither can wealth, or anything else human beings generate. Only God can provide the rain we need to save and sustain life. You can go back and review these messages on our church website.

Let’s open our Bibles to 1 Kings 19.  After Elijah prayed over the sacrifice, the fire of God fell from heaven and consumed the altar, the rocks, the bull and the people said, “The LORD is God, not Baal, the LORD is God!” 

Duh!  Someone asked me last week if ‘duh’ was a theological word. In this case, it is. God’s miracles surround us every day but we are too stubborn, too distracted to see them. Then the Lord opens our blind eyes to see that he alone is God! Duh! How blind can we be?

After the people had destroyed the prophets of Baal, Elijah went to the edge of the cliff and looked out over the Mediterranean. He saw a small cloud rising out of the sea. He told King Ahab, “Get in your chariot and boogie, the rain is coming!”

Then Elijah hitched up us robe and began to run. He wanted to be there when Ahab told Jezebel what happened on MT Carmel. It was a 17 mile run to Jezreel. Elijah and Ahab got there about the same time. But when Ahab told Jezebel what had happened instead of cowering in fear, Jezebel rises up in rage!

She storms out to see Elijah. “May the gods deal with me be it ever so severely if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of you of them!” 1 Kings 19:2

Never underestimate Satan’s power of intimidation, it’s his specialty!  Jezebel was an evil and terrifying woman. In her presence, Elijah’s confidence turns to jelly and he runs like a terrified rabbit 90 miles to the southern tip of Israel. There he leaves his servant and he stumbles another day into the desert where he collapses from exhaustion.

It appears he didn’t take any water or any food. Why? Look at what he says, “He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said, “Take my life, I am no better than my ancestors.” 1 Kings 19:4

Have you ever felt that way? I have. Did you know the most vulnerable time for pastors is Sunday afternoon?  We’ve poured our lives into our message and maybe God has even answered our prayers and done spectacular things, but when we get home, we’re out of gas. And that’s when we are most vulnerable to Satan’s attack.

He makes us question our call, our effectiveness, our faithfulness. Parents feel this, too. We may have just experienced a wonderful success in raising our kids and then Satan shows us and starts accusing us and we fall into discouragement and fear.

Elijah is exactly right. He’s not more faithful that the prophets who went before him. He’s just a man. But God doesn’t compare us to anyone else, he simply asks us to be faithful, to do our best in the place he’s given us and he’ll take care of the rest.

God is the one who saves, not us. Our job is to be as faithful as we can be in our work, our ministries, our relationships, as parents, pastors, friends. The results are in God’s hands.
 
I think Elijah went out in the desert to die. I think he was overwhelmed with shame and exhaustion. When Jezebel threatened him, fear took over and he ran. Just when his people needed him most, he disappeared. What did he say to the people on Mount Carmel? “If the Lord is God, follow him, but if Baal is god follow him.”

But when Jezebel threatens him, Elijah responds as if Baal is greater than the Lord! He wanted to turn in his prophet badge. He wanted to resign his commission. He wanted to check out but God’s not done with him yet! There’s still more work to be done. How tough are you Elijah? Not very? It’s like Elijah is saying to the LORD, “I can’t do this anymore!”

The LORD is saying, “Don’t be silly. Of course you can’t, I never asked you to do it by yourself!  But you can do all things if I give you the strength! Just like on Mt Carmel!”

So there in the meager shade of that broom tree, Elijah falls asleep hoping to never wake up in this world. He is startled awake by an angel touching him. “Get up and eat!” the angel said. There by his head was a loaf of fresh baked bread and a pitcher of cool clean water.

But this wasn’t just any old bread and water. Look at verse 7. “The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” 1 Kings 19:7

Bible scholars have discovered that whenever the ‘angel of the LORD’ appears in the OT, it’s Jesus. Jesus, who later said “I am the living bread heaven. I am the water of life.”

“So Elijah got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and nights until he reached Horeb, or Mt Sinai, the mountain of God.” 1 Kings 19:8

That’s over 200 miles through some of the driest, harshest terrain on earth. How did he do it? Only in the strength of the LORD! When he arrived he climbed the side of the mountain and hid in a cave, maybe the same place Moses had been 700 years earlier. There the word of the LORD came to him. Perhaps it was audible, more than likely it was the LORD speaking directly into his heart, “What are you doing here, Elijah? There’s still a lot of work to do but up in Galilee. I didn’t call you here, so why are you here?”

And Elijah begins to pour out his frustration and fear. “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn 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.” 1 Kings 19:10

Ever felt like everyone else had abandoned you and left you to do all the work?  This reminds me of Mary and Martha in the Gospel. Yeah, I’ve thrown more than a few pity parties for myself along the way. More than I care to admit. So how is the Lord going to handle his discouraged prophet who is stuck on the pity pot?

He could have cracked his whip and said, “Elijah, quit whining and get back to work! If you can’t do the job get out of the way, I’ll find someone who can!” But that’s not what happened!  The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” 1 Kings 19:11

The Lord had said the same thing to Moses, I think on this same spot. So what did the LORD reveal about himself to Moses as he passed by 700 years earlier? “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.”  Ex 34:6-7

So let’s see what the Lord has to teach his discouraged prophet Elijah. First, a powerful wind tore the mountain apart and shattered the rocks. But the LORD was not in the wind. Then a terrifying earthquake, but the LORD wasn’t in the earthquake, either. Then a raging fire swept the mountain, but the LORD wasn’t in the fire.

After the fire came a gentle whisper, so faint that Elijah had to leave his place of refuge to make out what was being said. It was the voice of the LORD and he said to Elijah, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Instead of answering the question, Elijah repeats his complaint. “I’m all alone. I’m the only one left and now they are trying to kill me, too.” Of course, they are trying to kill you, Elijah! That’s what the world does to the Lord’s prophets!  Although the story doesn’t say it, that’s the point. The point isn’t that we do spectacular signs for the world to see so the world will praise us and believe. When Jesus did his miracles the people said, “Nice trick, do it again.”

It wasn’t Jesus miracles that changed the world, it was his cross. It won’t be our miracles that convince the world; it will be our lives as we pick up our cross and follow him.

God loves to do miraculous signs and wonders, but they will never change the world, they will never melt sin hardened hearts. What will change the world is the lives of people who have died to themselves and been raised to a life of faith and obedience to Jesus.

How does the LORD answer Elijah? He simply recommissions him and sends him back out to his job.  Then he reminds him, “By the way, there are still 7,000 in Israel who have not bowed the knee to Baal or kissed him.”

The job the Lord has given you isn’t easy. It will cost you your life!  There is still much work to be done. Whatever the Lord has called you to do, keep at it. When you fail and you will-never, never, never give up!  Get up, give it your all and he will empower you. And always remember, no matter what happens, our God raises the dead, day, by day, by day, by day!

Amen.


     

Christ Lutheran Church • 5150 River Lakes Parkway, Whitefish, MT 59937 • 406-862-2615


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