Faith Like Elijah Part 4

Trusting God to Show Up

Imagine facing off against a wicked, angry king and 450 false prophets! In today’s word of encouragement from Elijah, we shall examine how God draws His wayward people back to Himself through a miraculous display of His power. First, we need to be reminded that in any Biblical narrative, God is always the subject and focal point. This story isn’t centered on Elijah’s faith or how he brings great revival–it’s about God showing up and calling His people back to Him. Obviously, God works through His faithful and obedient servant Elijah!

Setting and What Is At Stake 1 Kings 18

The time has come wherein God is calling His people to choose between the false gods of baal and Yahweh-the One True God of Israel. After three long and dry years, God sends Elijah to Ahab. Interestingly, the author mentions that God intends to “send rain upon the face of the earth.” God has already decided that He will send refreshing rain! God is gracious! He has sent the drought and now is ready to refresh the weary land and people. The rain returning is a precursor to the people returning to God–in a real sense this verse and phrase indicates that the contest has already been decided! Elijah knows that God will bring His people back!

As you read through this passage, it is worth noting that Obadiah remained faithful to God and sheltered 100 prophets from the murderous Queen Jezebel. Obadiah’s name means “servant or slave/worshiper of Yahweh.” Remember that Elijah means “Yahweh is my God/Lord.” The author of 1 Kings is making a point here: namely that God’s true servants align themselves with Him even during time of national apostasy. Apostasy generally means a time of falling away. As Ahab is seeking water for his horses to survive, Obadiah and Elijah are seeking to serve God. The author of 1 Kings suggests that Ahab cares more about the horses (horses that powered his war chariots) than the people of Israel who are suffering from the drought. Extra biblical sources mention that Israel had over 2,000 war chariots. God mercifully sends Elijah to Ahab to gather the people.

The Choice

The people of Israel face a choice: to worship and follow the false gods of Baal and Asherah or the True God Yahweh. Ahab calls Elijah (v18) the “troubler of Israel” and Elijah correctly points out that it is Ahab and his father’s pursuit of the baals who is the real origin of trouble. As humans we daily face a choice: to follow God or to follow whatever idol(s) that we have in our lives. As people who enjoy action, we tend to read and focus on the exciting parts of scriptures wherein God sends the fire and consumes the offering, wood, stone, water, etc. Yet, I want us to focus on the faithful obedience and trust in God aspects of this narrative.

Elijah was outnumber 850 to 1. But numbers don’t matter when Yahweh shows up! Elijah taunts the false prophets who are powerless to cause fire to come from heaven. Baal is supposedly the “weather god” who supposedly was in charge of storms and rain. The drought was a direct attack against the idol’s “claimed” power. Elijah didn’t use magic: he used prayer! God answered Elijah’s prayer and the people saw God’s power and realized the error of following baal. Revival came when the people trusted in God and acknowledged Him. Elijah then has the false prophets executed. Acknowledging God meant destroying those who would continue to lead astray. Imagine the shock on Ahab’s face when all of this happened! I imagine that he would be horrified and afraid of his wicked queen’s anger over this. Even Elijah feared Jezebel in chapter 19. Elijah’s fear was appropriate considering her threat and previous actions.

God demonstrated His power and the Israelis recognized Yahweh as the True God! Tragically, we often mistakenly believe that if God would just reveal Himself then we or others would trust and obey Him. Scripture teaches us that this isn’t the case. The Hebrew people rebelled against God after He brought them out of Egypt. People forsook Jesus after He had miraculously healed, feed, and taught them. God showing up in power isn’t enough to guarantee faith! When God makes Himself clear, humans tend to rebel.

After the false prophets were executed, the first hint(s) of a rain cloud became visible. God’s blessings follow obedience and repentance!

Applications

  1. Are you obeying God? If He leads you in a direction will you recognize His leading?
  2. Do you depend on your own strengths and abilities? God’s power and presence are key to accomplishing the mission He has for you.
  3. Are you living your life for God’s glory and purpose(s)? Can others see God’s presence in your life?
Author’s Note:

I post encouragement videos on Facebook two times a week. I invite you to join me on Facebook at the following link:

https://www.facebook.com/lee.stanfill80/

I produce a variety of encouraging media forms. Comments and suggestions are welcome.

Faith Like Elijah Part 3: Effective Prayer

Bible Passage: 1 Kings 17:17-24

Following God is no guarantee that seemingly “bad” things won’t happen. Let’s look at the widow’s situation in our passage for today. God was miraculously sustaining the widow, her son, and Elijah with daily provisions of grain and oil. While hosting God’s prophet, the son suddenly becomes ill and dies. Scripture makes it clear that he is in fact dead by mentioning that “he stopped breathing.” The boy wasn’t in a coma, asleep, or in a state of shock. His body was dead and his soul has departed.

The son was the widow’s only future as he would be the one to care for her in her old age. Imagine the crushing loss that she faces! First her husband has died. Next, a severe drought and famine is ongoing. Finally, her only son is gone. She feels as though God is punishing her as she remarks to Elijah “call attention to my iniquity so that my son is put to death”

Can you sympathize with the widow’s feelings at this point? Have you ever faced death, loss of health, bitter disappointment, or other crushing blows in life? Maybe you faced these difficulties as you were following God and seeking Him daily. If we are to be honest with God, we need to admit that we have doubts, fears, and hurts in our life. Even when we are obeying God, life can be hard and unfair!

I wonder about Elijah’s relationship with the boy. Might he have come to care about the son? I imagine that during his stay with the widow that the son (like most boys I know) would have gravitated to the male figure Elijah. Elijah may have talked with him and taught him about the God of Israel. Elijah may have told him the history of how God had delivered His people and how God had fed him personally with the ravens. I would assume that Elijah would have been saddened by the sudden passing of the boy. Scriptures don’t discuss Elijah’s relationship with the son so we can only imagine.

How did Elijah respond? He took the lifeless boy upstairs in his arms, laid him on his bed, stretched himself over the boy three times. Can you see Elijah tenderly picking the lifeless boy up from his mother’s arms and gently carrying him upstairs? Elijah “cried out to the Lord” and asked that God bring the boy’s life back into him again. In verse 22, we learn that “the LORD listened to Elijah, and the boy’s life came into him again, and he lived.” Can you imagine the joy of Elijah and especially of the grieving widow when God brought the boy back? A day of death and despair was immediately turned into a day of great joy and renewed hope. Verse 24 reveals the widow’s profession of faith in Elijah and God of Israel. Ken Schroeder writes in his commentary Elijah: Living Outside the Comfort Zone :

“The women’s confession. . . indicated that she had come to faith through this agonizing experience. . .In essence the woman confessed that she believed in the Lord God of Israel because He raised her son. The reality of the resurrection is rooted in faith in the living God.”

God is the Author of Life, we see this particularly in Genesis wherein God “breathes life in Adam” at creation. Death is no obstacle to God as demonstrated in numerous passages in the Scriptures. Jesus commanded Lazarus to “come forth.” Peter and Paul also brought people back (through Jesus Christ’s power). Faith is powerful!

What was it that made Elijah’s faith/prayer effective? He trusted in God and brought the issue of death to God knowing that God has the ability to bring the boy back. James 5:16-17 mentions Elijah’s effective prayer. The key is faith–prayer must be rooted in the confidence that God hears us and will respond according to His will. How do you respond when you face difficulties? Do you bring them before God in faith? Trusting God and bringing our troubles before Him is a great privilege and relief.

Life Applications from this passage

1. Notice that Elijah didn’t give the widow “helpful” platitudes or a theology lesson–he took the boy and prayed over him! He acted with compassion not correction. He didn’t respond to her comment.
2. Elijah trusted the boy to God’s Amazing Power! That’s all that he could do in light of the death. We need to be praying for others daily, bringing others before God’s Throne!
3. Faith comes from acknowledging God. The death and return to life of the boy opened the mother’s heart to God. What began as tragedy resulting in her trusting in God. Our difficulties will lead us closer to Christ!
4. We need to expect difficulties in life! Christians and non-Christians alike suffer illness, death, and sorrow in life. Christians turn to God and receive comfort through His Living Word and Holy Spirit.

When your stream dries up

Intro

Walking with God involves obedience and trust, when we obey and follow God, others are blessed too!

Scriptural Passage 1 Kings 17:7-16

Has God ever led you to do something or go somewhere that didn’t seem to make sense to you or others? In today’s encouragement blog, we follow Elijah as he obeys God even when it doesn’t seem to make sense. First, the wadi where God had sent Elijah to live has dried up and can no longer sustain him. Have you ever thought that if you just followed/served God then things would be easy? Elijah’s experience reveals the true nature of following God.

Jesus teaches that to follow Him is to “take up our cross” and “deny ourselves” daily dying to our self. Elijah has already confronted the wicked King Ahab, received nourishment in the wilderness from ravens, and obeyed God. Eljiah is being obedient yet the stream still dries up. God isn’t finished yet!

Now for the next task: go to Zarephath in Sidon to a widow who will provide for you. Understand that Sidon is the homeland of the evil Queen Jezebel wherein her father rules as king. God is sending Elijah to a foreigner widow who lives in the middle of a baal worshipping nation! How does Elijah proceed? He obeys and goes to Zarephath. For a Jewish Prophet this would have been inconceivable! Leave God’s nation and go to a pagan non-Jewish widow! Yet, Elijah obeys and meets the widow. The widow provides a drink of water then Elijah requests some bread. The widow makes it clear that she is preparing the last meal for herself and son! Yet, she honors his request!

First Elijah obeys and then the widow. Both individuals were obeying God’s Word even when things didn’t make sense! God graciously provides for Elijah, the widow, and her son. God takes care of three people at once!

Jesus mentions this account in Luke 4:25-26 and Elisha’s healing of Naaman to teach the universal nature of God’s kingdom. The audience becomes enraged and attempts to drive him off a cliff. Why were they so enraged? Because the Messiah dared to show that God’s grace and provision(s) are for others even pagan neighbors. The audience also realized the religious significance of foreigners receiving God’s sovereign blessing!

It’s important to notice that God DIDN”T provide a massive sack of flour or a barrel of oil! God provides enough for each day and no more. The miraculous provisions allowed survival in a time of drought and starvation. Notice that the drought didn’t just affect Israel but the entire region. Drought was an attack upon the baal idols who supposedly guaranteed rain and fertility. Suffering and death are universal. Are you walking daily with Christ, trusting Him to fulfill His Word? Do you know God’s Word enough to walk in obedience knowing when to make changes?

Life Lesson Applications:

1. serving God doesn’t remove difficulties in our life nor makes things become “easier”
2. obeying God requires faith–certainty of God’s ability to fulfill His Promises even when we can’t see or understand how
3. obeying God blesses others! Elijah demonstrates his faith and the widow follows in obedience
4. God is faithful to His Word–all three ate for “many days” on God’s provision of flour and oil
5. God daily provides for needs–we can depend on enough for the day at hand

In Christ and for His Glory,

Lee

Faith Like Elijah Part 1

God feeds Elijah using the ravens!

In part 1 of this article, join me as we explore the setting, appearance, and radical obedience of God’s faithful prophet Elijah as recorded in 1 Kings 17:1-7

Setting 1 Kings 16

Israel’s national power and influence is at it’s peak during the reign of King Omri. Numerous extra-biblical sources mention the power and wealth of the Northern Kingdom. Surprising, God’s word in 1 Kings 16 doesn’t mention the wealth or national influence of the kingdom but instead focuses on the evils committed by Omri (v 25-26) and later his son Ahab (v 30-32). The kings introduced idolatry and promoted false worship of the baals. Ahab also married a wicked queen named Jezebel who will viciously persecute the true prophets of God.

Why was idolatry such a problem? God commanded His people to worship and serve Him alone. The King and Queen were promoting worship of foreign gods/goddesses. The term “baal” refers to “master”, “lord”, “husband”. Baal worship like the Greeks had a number of deities to worship depending on location and function. Jezebel promoted the worship of Asherah, a fertility deity. Ahab set up Asherah poles for worship and sacrifices. It doesn’t seem as though the King and Queen banned worship of the True God Yahweh, but they were encouraging the worship of the “local” or “regional” deities of the Israelities’ neighbors. For more information regarding the baals check out the link below:

https://www.christalmighty.net/2017/02/baal.html

As we learn later in 1 Kings, many people were confused on the true God of the Hebrew people. That’s the real danger of national prosperity and power. It’s easy to drift from God when we forget that He alone is God and worthy of our worship.

Elijah’s Appearance 1 Kings 17:1-2

Elijah appears before King Ahab and bravely pronounces God’s Righteous Judgement. Elijah’s name is significant for what it means in Hebrew! EL–refers to Elohim the Creator God, i-represents “my”, and jah or yah refers to Yahweh. Yahweh is God’s name as revealed to Moses at the burning bush in Exodus. Yahweh refers to God’s Covenantal Faithful Nature and means literally, “I Am Who I Am”. John Piper provides a list of 10 things that Yahweh means in his post:

https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/10-things-yahweh-means

Elijah’s name confronts the paganism of the the vile King and Queen. His message is a direct judgment against the false idols who supposedly bring the essential rains and fertility of crops and animals. Only when God tells Elijah to pray for rain will it rain again. Later we learn that this is a period of three years with no dew or rain! There can be no doubt that the false idols are powerless when the land and crops wither.

Radical Obedience 17:5-6

Notice how that Elijah responds to God’s Word to him: he immediately obeys. When God gave him a message to deliver, he delivered it. When God sent him into the wilderness to feed him by ravens and drink from a wadi, Elijah complied. Ravens are typically scavengers who eat things considered ceremonially unclean to the Jewish people. Yet, God sends the unclean birds to fetch Elijah bread and meat! Can you imagine the birds bringing you daily bread and meat and drinking from a wadi (small creek)? In the middle east, wadis are narrow streams/brooks that have varying amounts of water depending on the season and rainfall.

Application

Are you being faithful to God’s call on your life? What message(s) might God want you to share with others (personal testimony, the Gospel message)? God seeks out people who will obey Him. Are you willing to go where God calls you? The journey of faith begins and continues with obedience to God. Just as God provided the ravens to feed and water to sustain Elijah, He will provide for you as well!

In Christ and for His Glory,

Lee Stanfill

Encouragement is?

What does it mean to encourage others? Why do we need to be encouraged ourselves? How can we be encourages. These are important questions that I want you to consider with me. Join me as I explain the history, scriptural basis, and give some practical examples.

First, let’s start with the what the word encourage actually means-a brief history of the word itself. The English word encourage comes from the old French word encoragier meaning to make strong. The word corage refers to “courage, heart.” The word relates to the Middle Age belief that the heart is the seat of a person’s emotions and will. To encourage someone literally means to give them courage in the heart.

As we all know from personal experience in life, events and tragedies can cause us to lose hope or focus. Scripture commands us in Hebrews 3:12-14

12Take care, brothers and sisters, that there will not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. 13But encourage one another every day, as long as it is still called “today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14For we have become partakers of Christ if we keep the beginning of our commitment firm until the end

The deceitfulness of sin in our lives and trials that we face can cause our hearts to be hardened. Thus, encouragement reminds us of our identity and purpose in Christ. Paul reminds Timothy and the Christians in Thessalonians (just 2 examples) of the importance of building each other up (edification). The book of Acts mentions numerous instances wherein Barnabas and others encouraged fellow believers. In fact, it was Barnabas who encouraged the Apostles to meet with Paul and ultimately hear Paul’s testimony. There are numerous biblical examples that could be presented in this discussion.

How can we encourage others in practical ways? Perhaps one of the easiest ways is to practice active listening with others around you. As you encounter people in daily life take time to ask questions and consider needs that become apparent. As you daily read God’s Word, ask Him to point out a verse or truth(s) that He would have to share with someone else. Make time to connect with people through phone calls, email, written messages, online, etc.! Most important of all, seek to have an open heart when engaging others. Look for opportunities to edify and support others. Ask God to give you direction, discernment, and wisdom to speak life into the lives of others!

Website Disclaimer

I am writing these blogs with the purpose of encouraging others in their daily Christian walk. Blog contents reflect my personal opinion(s) which don’t necessarily represent a church or educational community in which I currently serve. I am not a licensed personal counselor or mental health professional. Consequently, my blogs are intended for common issues or struggles that individuals typically face in life. I advise individuals to seek qualified professional help for personal issues such as depression, anxiety, grief, martial issues, and etc. in order to receive proper medical and psychological care.

Also, I will be quoting and paraphrasing from various authors in this blog. I don’t necessarily agree with all elements of his/her theology or life practices of selected authors. Please understand that the purpose of this blog isn’t to debate theology or various points of view that exist within topics as they appear in this blog.

This blog is designed to supplement regular church attendance and personal Bible study. If you’re not a member of a local community of fellow believers, then I strongly recommend that you prayerfully seek a local church to actively support.

Sincerely,

Lee Stanfill