|WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE ELIJAH?
1 KINGS 19:1-4
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
February 23, 1997
This morning we want to focus on the
miraculous - That God desires to do the miraculous in our
lives and to keep on working powerfully in us and through
us. One question - as we begin. Do you believe that God
can do the miraculous in your life?
Nine-year-old Aram came running out of Sunday School racing in every direction as he tried to find either mom or dad. Finally, after a quick search, he grabbed his dad by the leg and yelled, “Man, that story of Moses and all those people crossing the Red Sea was great!” His father looked down, smiled, and asked the boy to tell him about it.
“Well, the Israelites got out of Egypt, but Pharaoh and his army chased after them. So the Jews ran as fast as they could until they got to the Red Sea. The Egyptian Army was gettin’ closer and closer. So Moses got on his walkie-talkie and told the Israeli Air Force to bomb the Egyptians. While that was happening, the Israeli Navy built a pontoon bridge so the people could cross over - and they made it!”
By now dad was a little concerned. “Is that the way they taught you the story?”
“Well, no, not exactly,” Aram admitted, “but if I told it to you the way they told it to us, you’d never believe it, Dad.”
Today we live in a world of science and technology - a world of facts - hard - immutable - stubborn facts - reliable as the sunset. And people who conduct their lives according to this modern age of reason are called smart and there is seemingly no room for the miraculous.
We struggle when the “facts” of our lives come into conflict with the miraculous power of God - when we struggle to “let go” of what is comfortable and fear to trust Him further with our lives. But God is not limited to our perception of “the facts” - reality as we see it. And God desires to do the miraculous in us and through us.
I’d like invite you to turn to 1 Kings 19:1-4 and we’ll come there together in a few moments.
Elijah was a man like us. A man who witnessed the miracles of God first hand and was afraid to go farther. The text we are coming to takes place after one of the most dramatic miracles in all of the Bible.
850 prophets of Baal and Asherah and the Jewish people were gathered at Baal’s stronghold on the top of Mount Carmel - 1,732 feet above sea level overlooking the coast of Israel and Lebanon. On this mountain the Jews had torn down God’s altar and replaced it with an altar where they worshipped Baal.
God had been calling His people to repentance - to turn back to Him from their idolatry and sin. Now, here on Mount Carmel God, through His prophet Elijah, would prove His sovereignty - the prophets of Baal would be destroyed.
Elijah instructed the prophets of Baal to provide two bulls. One the prophets of Baal would cut up and place on their alter to be sacrificed to Baal, and the other one Elijah would sacrifice to the living God of Israel. Neither of them were to light a fire under their sacrifice. Just put their sacrifices on the alter and then call on their respective gods to light the fire.
For the prophets of Baal this should have been a sure thing - a cinch. Baal - among other things was the god of fire - he was known for starting fires with lightening bolts. Do you remember this scene? 850 prophets of Baal and Asherah dancing in circles - tearing off their clothes, cutting their flesh with knives - screaming and calling out to Baal to send down fire - and nothing happens.
And then Elijah - rebuilding the altar of God - having the offering drenched with water - not once, but three times - then filling a trench around the altar with water - so that there was no known way any human could have lit that fire. Then without screaming, or dancing, or cutting himself, Elijah prays to the one and only living God and asks for God to reveal Himself to His people that they would return to Him.
And God’s fire falls from heaven - consumes the burnt offering - consumes the wood - melts the stones of the altar and the earth around it - evaporates the water in the trench - and when God is done, there’s nothing left. God’s people repent - the prophets of Baal are wiped out - and the wicked King Ahab is sent back to Queen Jezebel with his tail between his legs - broken and defeated.
That’s a miracle of God. And, Elijah saw it first hand - so close he could feel the heat.
Which brings us to 1 Kings 19:1-4.... And a contrast which is so profound and yet so real in our “fact filled” lives.
“Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had slain all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, ‘So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.’ Then he (Elijah) was afraid, and he arose and went for his life, (he ran away) and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree, and he asked that he might die, saying, ‘It is enough, now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.’”
I keep thinking, what is wrong with this picture? This is the Elijah who stood firm for God in the face of the entire religious and political system of his day - through whom God was in the process of changing the very spiritual core of the Hebrew nation. Why is Elijah out in the wilderness asking God to kill him? In verse 9, God asks him the same question, “What are you doing here Elijah?” - after seeing the miraculous - why are you hiding in the desert? Get up man, I’ve got other miracles I want to perform - more stuff to do through you - the best is yet to come.
What happened? In the text, there is only one explanation given - it’s in verse 3: “then (after Jezebel threatened his life) then, he was afraid.” Elijah wanted to rest on what God had already done. The home team had won the game and it was time to collect the trophy. He started to trust in the facts as he understood them. But Jezebel didn’t give up. Elijah saw only Jezebel and became afraid instead of continuing to believe in the miraculous working of God.
Same fear we have as we focus on “facts” as we see them and not the “reality” of our God who specializes in miracles - as we place our trust - security - in ourselves, in people, programs, buildings - even what God has already done - rather than in God. We’ve heard this expression: “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink”
Elijah was brought to the water - the miraculous work of God - and told to drink - to move forward trusting God. The wiping out of the prophets of Baal was only the beginning. Drinking the water - the next step would be an even greater miracle - God desired to work through Elijah to bring the complete spiritual reformation and transformation of the Hebrew nation. But, Elijah balked - he ran from the water.
God brings us to the water and urges us to drink. Let me share two examples:
One of the present challenges we face as a congregation is the shift from being a facility building focused congregation to a ministry building focused congregation. We’re doing this - But, its a struggle - Why? It is a known fact of church fund raising - in any church - that people will support a building program more readily than a ministry program - buildings are immediately tangible - factual - you can see and feel a building. There is a security in being involved with the known - the tangible. And, the miracle of changed lives is much more subjective and not always as readily seen.
God has done a tremendous miracle here. Just look around at this facility and wonder at what God has done through this congregation. But, also look around and let’s see each other. And wonder at the miracles God desires to do in our lives - and in the Armenian community around us - if we will leave behind what He has already done and trust Him to lead us into the future. A more personal example: God brings us to salvation in Jesus Christ. Perhaps in all of creation there is no greater miracle. Imagine that the Almighty Holy God loves us - comes in the flesh to die in our place for our sins - that we might have our sins forgiven - might know God and dwell with Him forever.
One of the personal struggles of our lives is when we would like to rest and be comfortable with what God has already done. But, God does not want to stop with salvation. He wants to transform our entire lives and use us in the spiritual transformation of others. There is an ongoing miracle God desires to perform in our lives. This means that we need to let go of the comfortable circumstances of our lives and trust Him.
It is easy to become comfortable with our level of spiritual maturity and commitment to Jesus and His church. It is easy to become comfortable with what God has already blessed us with. The abundant life, security, the ability to hold a good job and have a solid financial base, physical health, a good house in the right neighborhood, and the right schools for our children. None of these are necessarily wrong - just dangerous - if we trust in these rather than God..... These limit the work of God in our life.
What miracle does God want to do in your life - what transformation - what healing - what restoration? How does He want to use you in someone else's life? What Jezebel keeps you back - threatens you - makes you fearful - and keeps you from what drinking of His miracle in your life?
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright© 1960,1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.