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Archive for the ‘1 & 2 Kings’ Category

In the first 16 verses of 1 Kings 18 we saw Yahweh protecting his messengers and so preserving his Word. Now to the contest…

2. Yahweh is the Real God

(vv17-46) When he saw Elijah, he said to him, “Is that you, you trouble of Israel?”  What a contrast … between the way Ahab and Obadiah greet Elijah. Obadiah greets Elijah by calling him my lord Elijah… Ahab refers to Elijah as the trouble of Israel. Hey, wait a minute your majesty… Elijah responds (v18) “I have not made trouble for Israel,”  “But you and your father’s family have.”  Ahab is the trouble and not Elijah.  You have abandoned the LORD’s commands and have followed Baal.  Shall we  really trade Yahweh, the Maker of heaven and earth with god’s made of wood,  with idols – not necessarily graven images … but what of the many things we idolize, the things take hold of us to a point that Christ is not the centre, and ultimate focus in our lives?

(vv19-20) Elijah calls for a contest on Mt. Carmel.  The Baal prophets are wining and dining with the Queen. But the party is almost over.

The problem:

(v21) ‘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.” But the people said nothing.’

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other.” You can’t serve Yahweh and Baal at the same time… No half-hearted commitment to Yahweh the real God. Its either Yahweh or Baal. Friends, we cannot walk the fence with the Lord. We cannot have both ways. There is nothing more pathetic than to see a child of the living God tottering between two opinions, torn between a vital commitment to the Lord and seeking happiness in the gods of this world.

Will the real God stand up? Elijah has called for a contest. Is it showdown time or what? The cameras are ready….. This is a not a wrestling match, But a contest  for the world to know who is the Real God, who says what goes, whose voice we should hearken to, whose word stands forever.

(v22) The prophets of Baal and the people of the land have gathered…..  Elijah speaks and says to them, “I am the only one of the LORD’s prophets left.” (Elijah does not let on about the one hundred prophets in Obadiah s protection programme). He is the only one in this unequal contest (1 versus 450). But literally speaking Elijah is not alone… because Yahweh the Almighty is with him. Elijah is in the majority. Elijah is saying, “Unless Yahweh is the one I claim He is, what, humanly speaking, can one man do against so many?” In view of what Elijah knew God would do, he was calling their attention (and ours) to an important truth. When we stand for the Lord of the Bible, we stand in the sovereign strength and majority of the true God of the universe who surrounds us with His hosts.  In a world where our faith in Jesus is being ridiculed and where some are being persecuted we should always remember that God is for us.

(vv23-28) “The God who answers by fire— he is God, He keeps His word.” This is the only way the people will know who is the real God. The preparations are over. It’s now prayer time. Will the Real God stand up! Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. “O Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made.

(vv27-29) I love this… the real God does not sleep nor slumber, He does not go on safari, He changes not, He is all powerful , all knowing, He is ever present . What He can do no other god can do. I thank God for giving us Jesus Christ. He is what we need to have access to the Father. We don’t need to do all sorts of gymnastics for God to hear us. Verse 29: “no-one answered no-one paid attention.” Will the Real God please stand up?

Tension must be building up really fast here. Baal has refused to answer, or is it that Baal can’t hear because he is a god made by human hands.

It’s now prophet Elijah’s opportunity to let the world know who the Real God is.

(vv30-39) Because of neglect, the altar of Yahweh has fallen into ruin and needs to be repaired.  He uses twelve stones: Twelve stones representing the twelve tribes of Israel. This is also a reminder to the people of the God of Jacob, who made covenant with Jacob, the father of all Israel. He built the altar in the Name of Yahweh. This is to show that he believed and depended on Yahweh. After finishing, the altar is ready; it’s wetter than before. Baal did not answer, will the God of Elijah answer or is He also on safari?

Elijah steps forward and prays… remember he is all alone, therefore I guess there must be a lot of silence here… the people and the prophets of Baal are silent, watching and waiting to see what happens next. Ahab is also present  … Elijah does not seek glory for him but he does all this that the Yahweh may be glorified. The Cameras are in focus… Elijah prays:

  1. That the Lord would “hear” him. We must be a people that God hears!
  2. That the Lord would “show up” and that the people would “know that Yahweh alone is God.” We are in a position like Elijah, that if God doesn’t show up, we will utterly fail.
  3. That they would also “know… that You (Yahweh) have turned their hearts back to You again.” Notice he didn’t ask God that the people would turn back to Him, but that they would “know” that the Lord Himself had already “turned their hearts.” May God turn our hearts back to Him.

Will the real God Please stand up! The results of Elijah’s prayer are fire…Aha!!! The Real God has stood up; His fire has burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. What else than to confess that Yahweh is God (v39). He is the real God. He is the same God that raised to life the son of the widow at Zeraphath (1 Kings 17). The real God has stood up!!!!  Where is the press…..? ? Here is the headline of the newspaper…. here is a news like no other. Yahweh is the Real God! He is a reality. He is second to none.

Verse 40:’ Then Elijah commanded them, “Seize the prophets of Baal. Don’t let anyone get away!” They seized them, and Elijah had them brought down to the Kishon Valley and slaughtered there.’  The prophets of Baal are dead. Why kill them we may ask? Did God sanction it? This has been done as stipulated in the Mosaic law (Deut 13): that the prophet or dreamer that will direct people to worship idols must be put to death. Not even king Ahab can question this; after all it is written that such prophets should be killed.

In our next point, because Yahweh is the True and Living God, we shall see him fulfilling His word.

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1 Kings 18

Theme: Yahweh is the Real God, who’s Word never returns void.

Introduction:   Who is the real God?

Since time immemorial, there have Imagebeen many gods at display, gods of wood, gods of iron, of silver and other materials but all made of human hands. But all these so called gods have never done man any good. Why so many religions and so many god’s. I think it is alright to ask the question; who is the real God? Who says what goes and it goes? In this pluralist world; whose voice should we listen to? In today’s passage we encounter Elijah calling for a contest, that people may know who the Real God is.  Is it Yahweh or Baal?

And how does Yahweh prove Himself to be the real God and no one else? Well, let us see.

Context

“After a long time, in the third year, the word of Yahweh came to Elijah” (v1).  I would like us to keep in mind those four words… “the word of Yahweh.”  That is because it is by the Word of Yahweh that we see Him at work and reigning sovereign above all other gods.

From the previous Chapters, we learn that, Elijah had announced that there would be no rain or dew for some years.  In 17:1 “…there shall be no dew or rain these years, except by my Word.” This was Yahweh’s judgement to Israel because of the sins they had committed. They had violated their covenant with Yahweh; they had made the wrong choice of bowing to Baal instead of the Sovereign Yahweh.  (In Deut. 11:16-17) one of the repercussions of a broken covenant was that God would shut the heavens and there would be no rain. After Elijah made this announcement, he had to leave and settle east of Jordan River. By doing this, he obviously escaped death but also, as the prophet of God, he was the one who spoke the word of God to the people and therefore without him there was no God’s word to Israel during the dry spell. “There will be no rain except by my word” (17:1). Elijah’s word was the word of Yahweh.  Three and a half years have passed… without rain.

The weather focus was always the same, clear skies, plenty of sun, no clouds and no rain. Thus it had been for over three years.

The barns are running out of food, the wells are drying up; there is no grass for the animals. Elijah has come to speak the word of Yahweh, so that it may rain as God had declared. Their problem was no rain but now the resolution of the problem has been announced – there is Good news “Go and present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the land.” (A good news flash… is it not?)

1. Yahweh preserves His servants in the midst of opposition

While Elijah was away a lot has happened including the killing Yahweh’s prophets. (vv2-6) But there was a man by the name of Obadiah – who was in the king’s service. Look at this contrast – Ahab was a wicked man who did more evil than all the kings that preceded him (1 Kings 16:30). Obadiah was a godly man who feared the Lord from his youth.

Obadiah was a man who feared God.

  • A devout believer in the Lord (v3)
  • He feared the Lord from his youth (v12).
  • He hid 100 prophets of the Lord in a cave to keep Jezebel from killing them (v4).
  • He also supplied those prophets with food and water to keep them alive (v4)
  • He put his life at risk by hiding 100 prophets of Yahweh when Jezebel was on a killing spree, killing the prophets of Yahweh.

I call this an act of courage. This man has guts .Can you imagine what Jezebel would have done to Obadiah, if she found what Obadiah was doing? But above courage is the grace of God. The very same God who protected  Elijah, fed him and quenched his thirst is also protecting and providing for  His other prophets through Obadiah. Obadiah serves the real God in the most unlikely place, in a time of tension and obstacles.

Because of the drought king Ahab and his servant Obadiah takes a trip in search for grass so that the king’s animals may not die of hunger. It is while on this trip that Obadiah meets with Elijah.

(vv 7-17) Obadiah can’t believe his eyes!  Elijah the prophet of Yahweh is finally here after a long time.  He is here and he wants to meet with the king, and who is better placed to inform king Ahab than Obadiah his servant.  And therefore Elijah sends Obadiah to the king. But Obadiah won’t just go no – “What have I done wrong,” asked Obadiah (v9), “that you are handing your servant over to Ahab to be put to death? Is this a joke? Has Obadiah misunderstood Elijah? Is he protesting out of ignorance no!

Elijah had a reputation for disappearing without a trace…  No wonder the reason Obadiah says… v12 “I don’t know where the Spirit of the LORD may carry you when I leave you.” Any time the Spirit of Yahweh can take Elijah away and nobody will trace him until he appears again. Obadiah then narrates to Elijah how busy he has been protecting the prophets of Yahweh from the wrath of viscous Jezebel.

(v10) After Elijah went away….The king ordered a search for Elijah, The CIA or the NSIS or MI6 of that time… has been having  a busy schedule, a busy time trying to track him down. However they can’t trace him. Yet he didn’t go very far. He was well protected by Yahweh. He was hidden from the king. Just like Obadiah Elijah was in danger. His life was at risk. But he continued to serve God amidst all this danger.

Application:

Yahweh preserves both Elijah and Obadiah in the midst of opposition to Yahweh and His Word. Through Obadiah, Yahweh protects other prophets as well.   In the midst of opposition to Yahweh’s rule and Word, he will surely protect and preserve His own.  What of those who get persecuted – e.g. in Islamic countries?

In our next point we see that God is not only a speaking God but also a listening God…

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We’re going to be preaching through 1 Kings in our morning devotions at the iServe Africa office. It’s also a book that we looked at during the Raising the Bar conference. So bear with us as we share some thoughts on the book as we wrestle with it over the coming weeks and please contribute things the Lord has taught you from the same…

It’s always helpful to take a helicopter over a book and look down and just get an idea of the basic landscape, the big features and divisions.  As we look down on 1 & 2 Kings (the division between the two halves is arbitrary) we see the land rising quickly to a high point, a beautiful summit, and then falling away, a long slope down and down, sometimes rough and barren, sometimes a small fertile patch but continually downward all the way to a cliff edge and a deep dark ravine.  That’s the basic shape.  What about the important features to look for?  There are at least three important ones, each connected to a promise:

  1. The blessing – This is the promise to Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3). As we go through Kings are we seeing a great people with a great name, occupying the whole land, living under God’s blessing? In particular, are the relationships between God’s people and the nations healthy or unhealthy? Are the nations streaming to Jerusalem to worship or for plunder?
  2. The Temple – This is the promise to Moses (Deut. 12:5,11). Look at what happens to the Temple as we go through the book. Is it being (re-)built and stocked or destroyed and plundered?
  3. The king – This is the promise to David (2 Sam. 7:11-16). Will God be able to keep his promise about David’s line in the midst of all the wars and revolts and political chicanery? In particular the writer is concerned about God’s assessment of the kings – how they are in His eyes.  Very often the state of the king is the state of the nation. He is the representative. His sin takes the nation down with him.

In 1 Kings 8-10 we have the high point of the blessing, the glory of the Temple and the supremely wise king. And yet at the very same point we have the seeds of destruction and fulfilment of all the warnings about kings given through Moses (Deut. 17:14-20) and Samuel (1 Sam. 8:11-18). In an article for the Tyndale Bulletin I wonder if the famous 666 of Revelation 13:18 is an allusion to this key moment in the history of Israel (1 Kings 10:14) – the moment that seemed so close to perfection but hid hell in its glory – Solomon, the super king, the Great Man, “an overreaching Adam at the height of his glory but also on the verge of disaster” (cf. Ezek. 28:1-19). Whether or not that’s right the important thing is that through the rise and fall of the blessing, the Temple and the king we’re immediately seeing Jesus in the book of Kings.  He is the great King of whom Solomon and the others are at best shadows and at worst parodies. He is the Temple where forgiveness is to be found, neglected, stripped, destroyed and trampled. He is the salvation of his people and blessing for the world.

Part 2

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