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Los Lunas Cornerstone

Church of the Nazarene

How Long? (1 Kings 18)

    Today, we’ll take a significant leap in the timeline of 1 Kings, and we’re actually going to end 1 Kings this morning, but, we should think of this as just a pause between two parts. 1 and 2 Kings were written as one book, and later broken up for the sake of making copying easier, so really this is just sort of part one and then part two will be next. The chapter we’ll look at this morning is one of my all-time favorite passages of Scripture. I love it. It’s full of drama and intrigue, it’s full of sarcasm which I use in increasing measure as I get older, it’s full of supernatural power displayed in the most mighty of ways. It’s just cool!
    But, before we get to the main event, we need to do some catch-up so we can understand where in the story of God’s people this passage fits. When we looked 1 Kings 12 last week, we saw the splitting of Israel into two kingdoms: Israel, made of ten tribes in the north ruled by King Jeroboam; and Judah, made of the last two tribes in the south ruled by Solomon’s son King Rehoboam. Both were remembered only for the great evil that they did in the eyes of the Lord in leading their people into the sin of worshiping pagan gods.
    If you’ll take a look on the screen, and in your bulletins as well, you can see the line of kings for each kingdom. In the first column, you’ll see the southern kingdom ruled by Rehoboam, and then his son, Abijam or Abijah, ruled after him and he followed in Rehoboam’s ways and did evil in the eyes of the Lord. Then came Abijam’s son, Asa, and he broke the mold! We’re told that he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. And then next is his son Jehoshaphat, whose name I have to look up every time I need to know how to spell it, and he also did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. These are all kings in the line of David, who God promised would always have a king on the throne as long as the kingdom existed. God was faithful to that, even if Solomon and Rehoboam and Abijam were not faithful to God.
    In the second column is the northern kingdom, and you can see after Jeroboam came his son, Nadab. Because of Jeroboam’s great evil in the eyes of the Lord, he was told that his line would be cut off, and that’s exactly what the next king did: Baasha cut off Jeroboam’s line with Nadab and took the throne for himself. But, he was wicked too, so during his son Elah’s reign, their line was cut off as well. Zimri was the one who cut that line off, and he didn’t last for very long, no more than a few months, before Omri rose up against him, and Zimri committed suicide. Omri reigned for some time, and then when he died, his son Ahab became king. Now Ahab is probably a name you might be familiar with, and he is the king we’re going to deal with today.
    The thing to note about every single one of these kings in the northern kingdom of Israel is that not one of these kings walked with God. Every single one of them is noted for doing evil in the sight of the Lord. The last two we see there, Omri and Ahab, we’re told did more evil and more wickedness than any other king before them.
    And this is where the passage is situated, in the midst of Ahab’s very evil kingdom. Ahab and his wife Jezebel worship Baal and Ashtoreth. Both were fertility gods, and Baal became closely related to the well-being of the land. Baal was the god of storms and lightning and thunder, but also the god of the sun. So if you don’t have his favor, your crops don’t grow because they’re no rain and the sun is too harsh…or so they thought.
    The worship of these false and pagan gods had become so wide-spread throughout Israel that they had all but forgotten the one true God. Baal had at least 450 prophets in Israel, whereas God’s prophets were few and far between and had become persecuted and scattered throughout the land. Since they were in the north and Jerusalem was in the south, there was no temple for the few followers of the Lord to worship Him. The altars that had been built to the Lord had been neglected and torn down. The people forgot that the Lord God is Almighty and He was the one who showed might and power over the all the gods of Egypt, that He was the one who gave them manna and quail in the desert and made water run out of rocks, that He was the one who made David the greatest king they had ever had. They forgot who God was and all that He had done for them. And then God raised up Elijah.
    Ahab, the wicked and evil king called Elijah the troubler of Israel. I am sure he was not the only one who thought that of Elijah. Elijah was a prophet, and if you look throughout the Old Testament, what you see is that any time a prophet spoke about coming judgment upon the people, that prophet was not usually well-received. In fact, those prophets were generally ridiculed and mocked, even though they were not at fault for the trouble the people were in. It’s the old adage of shooting the messenger for the message.
    The message Elijah brought was one that became more and more frequent as the kings of Israel became more wicked: repent and turn your heart back to God. When Elijah entered on the scene in 1 Kings 17:1, he told Ahab, “There shall be neither DEW nor RAIN these years, except by my word.” Those are your first two blanks in your bulletin if you want to follow along and take notes. Elijah, by the power given him by the Lord’s Spirit, told Ahab that the rain would be held back until Elijah called to the Lord for it to return.
    Why? To get across the message, repent and turn your heart back to God.
    James 5:17 tells us that when Elijah prayed for rain to be withheld from the land, that it did not rain for 3 1/2 years! Without rain, the crops didn’t grow, and without crops, the food stores in Israel would have quickly been exhausted. The people would have been desperate, looking for an answer in any place they could find, appeasing anyone they could think of, to get the rain to fall again.
    Then the Lord told Elijah to go back to Ahab, ultimately to deliver the message that the people needed to turn their hearts back to God, and then God would send the rain. Let’s look at 1 Kings 18:17-20, “When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is this you, you troubler of Israel?” He said, “I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father’s house have, because you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord and you have followed the Baals. Now then send and gather to me all Israel at Mount Carmel, together with 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of the Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.” So Ahab sent a message among all the sons of Israel and brought the prophets together at Mount Carmel.”
    These verses tell us that all Israel was supposed to be gathered, in addition to the many prophets of Baal and Asherah. This was a message to be delivered to the whole nation.
    “Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you HESITATE between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people did not answer him a word.” (1 Kings 18:21).
    That’s your next blank in your bulletin. The people had been distracted away from God, led away from devotion to Him. They forgot Him. They became consumed with their need for other gods and other things to fill the void left by the Lord. Elijah calls them out here, “How long will you hesitate between the two?”
    The picture here that Elijah was getting at is the picture of a religious servant on their knees in desperation, desperately trying to serve both gods at once, limping on their knees back and forth, exhausting themselves trying to stay on good terms with both. This kind of charade can only be kept for so long before a choice must be made. That’s what Elijah is saying to them. How long will you let yourself be pulled away from devotion to the Lord? How long will you give something or someone else your energy, love, time, and treasure? How long?
    The people would have to make a choice, and Elijah was going to remind them of why God deserved their undivided attention and loyalty.
    They took two oxen, one for the prophets of Baal, and one for Elijah. The prophets of Baal prepared the sacrifice on one of the many altars that had been built to Baal, but didn’t set fire under it. They were to call on Baal and if he answered by sending fire to burn up the sacrifice, then he would prove he is a god worthy of worship.
    “Then they took the ox which was given them and they prepared it, and they called on the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice and no one answered. And they limped about the altar which they had made. And at noon Elijah ridiculed them and said, “Call out with a loud voice, since he is a god; undoubtedly he is attending to business, or is on the way, or is on a journey. Perhaps he is asleep, and will awaken.” So they cried out with a loud voice, and cut themselves according to their custom with swords and lances until blood gushed out on them. When midday was past, they raved until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice; but there was no voice, no one answered, and no one paid attention.” (1 Kings 18:26-29).
    They tried everything. They danced around and shouted and Baal didn’t answer. And when Elijah mocked them, telling them to yell louder, telling them that maybe Baal had gone on a journey or maybe he was in the bathroom or maybe he had even gone to sleep, they became even more frenzied in their attempts to get Baal to answer them. They cried out and cut themselves, all day long. But there was no voice, no one answered, no one paid attention.
    Of course, we know why Baal didn’t answer. Baal wasn’t real. There was no real power there. No power to bring the rain. Nothing at all.
    Elijah then called the people close to him, and used twelve stones to rebuild the altar to the Lord, an action that was meant to remind the people of the altar Jacob had built to the Lord when He changed Jacob’s name to Israel. Then he had the altar soaked with water until it was so drenched with water that it flowed into a trench around the altar.
    “Then at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet approached and said, “Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word. Answer me, Lord, answer me, so that this people may know that You, Lord, are God, and that You have turned their heart back.” Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood, and the stones and the dust; and it licked up the water that was in the trench. When all the people saw this, they fell on their faces; and they said, “The Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is God!” ( 1 Kings 18:36-39).
    God answered because He is real. He is true. He is always near, always listening to His people. He sent fire to the offering and burned it all up, even the stones, even the water, even the dust. With that fire, God reignited the FAITH of Israel. That’s your last blank in your bulletin. With that fire, He proved that He was all that Israel needed.
    This isn’t just a story about how God is mightier than Baal. It’s a story about how God is mightier than anything, and I’m not just talking power. Israel needed rain to grow food, but they forgot that it is God who truly sustained them.
    He didn’t demand perfection from them, He asked for faithfulness. He asked for them to be completely devoted to Him, and He made promise after promise that if they would just turn to Him for everything, He would bless them.
    One of the things Jesus told His disciples was that those who hungered and thirst for righteousness were blessed because they would be satisfied. God has always been enough, for everything we could ever possibly want. He will always be enough. He was enough for Israel, but they still went looking elsewhere for what only God could give them. And that’s what we do, isn’t it?
    Jesus told the woman at the well that if she knew who she was talking to, she would ask Him for living water and He would give her water that would made it so she would never thirst again. He offers us that same living water, but we look elsewhere.
    We look to family, we look to our jobs, we look to friends, we look for comfort, we look for peace, we look for security in the promises of politicians, we look to every other source that we can possibly imagine hoping to get a little taste of what God offers us so freely and abundantly. And all the while, His presence is right here in our midst and He’s just waiting, waiting for us to realize that He is enough. That He is more than enough. That He is everything.
    He’s sending the fire, and He’s whispering, “Don’t you know, I Am? I Am the Living Water. I Am the Bread of Life. Come to Me, and you’ll never need anything or anyone else.”
    He just wants us to realize, He’s enough. He is enough. He is more than enough. He is everything we need.

1. What does 1 Kings 18 reveal about God’s personality and character, especially in contrast to Baal?

2. In Matthew 21:42, Jesus said He is the stone the builders rejected, even though He was the cornerstone. Jesus was rejected as the Messiah by religious leaders of their time, even He wasn’t enough. What were they looking for that they didn’t find in Jesus?

3. Is Jesus enough for you, or do you find yourself drawn to distractions? What items in your life bring fulfillment where Jesus should?

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