The Distinctiveness of a Place
New Hope Baptist Church
August 3, 2008 9:30 a.m.
Text: 1 Kings 17:2-4
Reflecting on this text and this topic, I was reminded of a movie from 2005 entitled: “Are We There Yet”? The movie starred Ice Cube and Nia Long. He wanted to entice her and she was heavily involved with career. Two things stood in his way, her two children. As they traveled on a long road trip with Ice Cube to meet their mom, through one mishap after another; one set back and set up after another; the question is often raised, “Are We There Yet”? Sometimes, in our destinations, in trials, mishaps and delays of life, we too find ourselves asking, “Are We There Yet”? But my reference to that same question today is not to suggest just any place, but a distinct place, a place called “THERE”.
This familiar text offers several implications and examples of obedience and faith that we can all gleam from today. In fact, it introduces a popular prophet we were taught about even as children, the prophet Elijah. Let me just pause here a little while and reintroduce him to our mind sets this morning. James, in his New Testament writings, has colored Elijah as a man of like passions as we are: Elijah struggled in many of the same ways that we do; he dealt with sorrow; he dealt with despondency; he dealt with questions about circumstances in his life; but yet, if I may use that vernacular, he believed God and he was obedient to God.
Elijah was unique in another way; he never saw death. The Bible records that he left this old earth riding upon a fiery chariot, sent down by God. God has some unique taxis and He can perform mind boggling acts, can’t He? Elijah was a mighty prophet of God and he was used mightily by God: he experienced the power of God upon Mt. Carmel; he blessed a woman and her child at Zarapeth; he was seen by Peter and John with Jesus on the Mt. of Transfiguration; yet one of the most pivotal points and times in Elijah’s life and ministry came at a special place, a distinctive place; a place of deprivation and plenty; a place of confusion and concession; a place of disarray and agreement; a place called “There”.
The Bible states that Elijah, whose name means “the Lord is my God” had been commanded by God to prophesy to a King named Ahab. Ya’ll do remember Ahab, the Arab? Kings and priests in Israel were anointed to serve as official representatives of the Lord; and to lead Israel in the way of faithfulness to the Lord to channel His blessings and covenantal care to them. Since the days of Jeroboam, the Northern Kingdom had not had such a priest, and its kings had all been unfaithful. Now, Ahab had introduced Baal worship in the land, so the Lord sent Elijah to tell him that there would be no dew or rain upon the land until he said so. This drought would serve two purposes: 1] as a divine judgment on a nation that had turned to idolatry, and 2] as a demonstration that even though Baal was considered the god of fertility and lord of the rain clouds, he was powerless to give rain. By Elijah’s obedience to the Lord in making this prophesy to King Ahab, his own life became one of imminent danger. Notice that even in the midst of danger, the Word of the Lord came to Elijah. It’s good to know that no matter what situation you’re in, no matter what circumstances may befall you, in your obedience you can always rely on and depend on the Word of the Lord. The Psalmist said, “Your Word I have hidden in my heart that I may not sin against You”. I also like the way Paul put it: “nothing and nobody can separate you from the love of God.” Amen?? But I get ahead of myself.
After Elijah gave the prophesy to Ahab, the Lord gave him some very specific instructions, and it’s within those instructions that we find requirement we must meet when God is leading us to our place called “There”: those requirements call for some separation (to leave or part from something); it requires travel deviation (a different way taken in thought or action); after which we will experience consummation (the perfect ending or completion of a deal), and it all depends on our obedience on our way to the place called “There”.
Elijah was instructed by God to separate from his familiar surroundings.
The Word of the Lord came to Elijah and told him to ‘go away from here’. He was told to leave the place that was home to him; to leave the place that had provided his needs and provided his shelter. Leave and go to the brook Cherith. Cherith means the cutting place; to cut away or cut off. Sometimes God calls us to separate ourselves; to move from a place; to go to another place. Sometimes it’s a physical place we must leave; sometimes it’s a mental, emotional or habitual place that we must separate from; and it is not always obvious what that other place will hold, but two things must work together; obedience and faith. When God gives us a command, He expects obedience; He requires obedience; and He deserves obedience. Sometimes, you have to leave some familiar things; things that wear on you like old clothes; you have to give up old friends and old loves; places that you have become too comfortable in; places that only serve to hide mundane living on one hand and unprocessed blessings on the other. Yeah, sometimes you are not experiencing your blessings because you have not separated; you are not where God has called you to be. You’re all up in my business instead of taking care of your business. You’re trying to run some situation and God just wants you to be still, and know that He is God. You need to separate. It’s a funny thing but, when it’s time to separate, those old things and those old people will try and hold on. They try and work your consciences and accuse you of abandonment and resignation; of giving up and giving in. And we help too. We rationalize reasons for holding on; we dismiss God’s leading as our own wisdom; because it’s not an easy thing to turn away from what has become familiar and comfortable and walk into an unsure path. Sometimes we know that a place, or a relationship, or situation is not where we should be, but leaving is more difficult than staying. But when God tells you to move, you don’t ask questions, just like Elijah, you just move. Abraham didn’t know where God was sending him, but he separated from where he was. We tell our children to obey us and that when we say to jump their only response should be to ask how high. God doesn’t even want you asking how high; just start jumping. God is looking for that kind of abandoned obedience to His Word today. Not only obedience but faith that when you start jumping He has already worked out the logistics. He knows how long to leave you in the air and he knows when and where to let you land. Not only must you separate yourselves from some familiar things and places and people, but it’s often necessary to deviate, to turn; to shift; to change your course of travel.
Deviation: V. 3
Unless Elijah spent time at the brook, he would not have been ready for Mt. Carmel. God has prepared something for you “There”, but you have go down His path, following His directions; and that path often leads to the brook, Cherith, the cutting place.
It’s “THERE”, at the brook, that He will refine you and cut some things away from you; things that would hinder you in the work He has planned for you.
Elijah not only had to leave his home, but he was instructed to take a specific path. He was told to go eastward to the brook Cherith. When you think about it, it was a curious thing to send Elijah to a brook. He had already declared a drought, right? And a brook only flows and is only sustained by the rain. No rain, and soon the brook would dry up. And that’s exactly what happened. Elijah moved knowing that his place at the brook would only be temporary; and not knowing how God would sustain him continually.
It’s not only important to leave when God says to leave, but you have to go exactly how and where God says to go. If Elijah had gone West instead of Eastward, he would have run smack dab into Ahab and Jezebel. If Elijah had not been exactly where God had ordained, he would have missed God’s blessings. God always makes provisions for our needs in advance. It’s us getting to the place, to the “THERE” where we are able to unite our needs with His provisions that is most often the problem. But if we trust Him, if we are obedient to His leading, He will always lead us to where our needs will be met. God won’t leave you hanging when you move in obedience to His Word for your life.
Sometimes, God will lead you, like Elijah, to a brook and the brook will dry up. Suddenly, everything you have come to rely on or find security in will be gone! The truth is nobody has all they need. No one has in himself all the wisdom, all the ability, or all the means to meet the needs of life or even an hour of time. You were not made to be totally and completely independent. Whatever your Cherith has been or now is, whatever you find security in will one day dry up, because a brook is just a place of rest, and a place where God removes some imperfections. It is not a permanent place. Maybe it’s your home; your car; your education, your looks; your job; your circle of friends; whatever it is, it will dry up. You need to know today that a brook cannot satisfy forever – how easy it could have been for Elijah to stay by the brook; even the ravens bringing dirty food from trash heaps was better than being exposed to Ahab and Jezebel. Finding comfort at a brook can lead to pride – Elijah could have reasoned “this shows how special I am. God has provided the brook and the ravens; what other prophet ever got this kind of treatment?” A brook is for rest, not recluse – you can’t stay at the brook indefinitely because it will dry up. A brook, by its very definition, cannot be permanent. So, why does God move us and separate us from some things and send us to brooks that only dry up?
Sometimes, when God moves you from where you are and down a specific path, it’s to give you a little lesson to remind you of the One who really sustains you. Last week, my grandson asked me if God had caused the earthquake. I began trying to answer him from my theological mind; explaining that God was Sovereign and that He could do anything He chose to do and that he also allows some things to happen. Just then, God spoke to my heart and I said to him, Scean, what happened during the earthquake. He said, the house was shaking. I said, what did you do. He said, I went in the doorway. I asked, what was it that you could not do? He said, I could not stop the shaking. As my Pastor would say, I said, that’s it! Scean, sometimes God either causes or allows things to happen to remind us that without Him, we can do nothing. If The Lord never allowed the brook to dry up, we would begin to love things, people, and places more than we love and trust and depend on Him.
Sometimes you have to leave some things and some places; that’s separation; there will be directional changes, that’s deviation; but when you arrive “THERE”, God will let you again experience consummation.
Consummation: V. 6-7
When Elijah obeyed the Lord, he found himself at the brook Chreith. A brook in an area that was deplete of any other sustenance. There was no wheat growing in the field, so no bread. No plants on the rivers’ edge, so no veggies. There were no cattle roaming in the area, so no meat. No collard greens and corn bread; not even wild honey or locust in a tree trunk. There was just a brook that would one day dry up. I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced God like that, but sometimes when you’re in His will; sometimes when you’re walking as close to Him as you can; sometimes when you follow His every lead as close as you can, sometimes even then, He will take you to a barren looking place. Can we be real this morning? Have you ever wondered why God allows some situations in your life? I know that the world, when tragedy visits them, will question “How can a Loving God allow such bad things to happen?”; but I’m not talking to the world right now, I’m talking about some of you, who know that you know; you, who love Him with all your hearts and keep your minds stayed on Jesus; you, who have trusted Him and depended upon Him for your daily living, have you ever wondered why some things, some situations and some experiences been allowed in your lives? David thought about that very thing. In one passage he declared that “Many are the afflictions of the righteous…” David had come to know, to realize and to experience that the righteous, those who love and are loved by God would experience afflictions and tribulations in life. But David discovered something else also, in that same passage he goes on to say, “but God delivers them out of them all. I like when he says, “I’ve never seen the righteous forsaken or his seed begging for bread”. Yes, we may have tribulations, yes we may experience many afflictions, yes, we may be lead to a place that is not of our choosing, but never will God forsake us; never will He abandon us; never will He forget about us.
When Elijah got “THERE” he consumed God’s pre-arranged blessings by unconventional means. God can command even those things meant to cause you harm, to serve you and bring you life, joy and hope instead. God had already commanded the ravens to nourish Elijah. Ravens that usually only show up when death is imminent to eat of the carcass of the dying thing; ravens that are the most dreaded prey in the wild to any injured living thing; ravens would now bring bread and meat, morning and evening to Elijah. God said, “I have commanded the raven to care for you, where? “There”. Has anyone ever tried to relate a story or situation to you, only to stop and say; “you had to have been there”?
Beloved, you have to be “There” in order to reap the blessings that God has for you. He has already called for your separation for He said, “Come out from among them, be ye separate, says the Lord”. He requires your deviation: “No man comes to the Father, but by Me”. And the consummation is both present and future: “In this world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world”. I’ll tell you about the future consummation later, but know now that God has ordained that your blessings come to a distinct place, a place called “There”. If you are not in your “There” you will miss your moment and miss your miracle and abort your blessing; because you are not “There”. When you listen to the Word of the Lord and follow His directions, you will find yourself “There”. Your “There” may not look all that appealing at first, but just stay “There”. Remember, THERE is also where God will cut some things away; THERE is where God will began to prepare you for another work; THERE God will renew your mind and commitment. Something may look like death; or sound like a death sentence; it may fly overhead and threaten you or taunt you with promises of defeat and doom. It may look like you will not heal; it may sound like there is no way out from abuse, misuse, disrespecting people and daunting, disturbing thoughts; it may seem like bills are mounting too high to fall down and circumstances are overwhelming. If that is your THERE this morning, I encourage you to hold on knowing that God still sits on the Throne and He alone has the final Word over your life and every situation you face.
Even when everyone and everything around you is drying up like Elijah’s brook; even while gas prices continue to rise; even while food prices jump and quantities decrease; even while the world is full of dismay and distain; even in the midst of lack in the land of plenty; the Lord, the God of heaven and earth; the Giver and Sustainer of life; the Great I Am; the Bread of life; the Fountain of Living Waters; the Lillie of the Valley; the Bright and Morning Star is ABLE to keep you, ABLE to sustain you, ABLE to feed you, and ABLE to quench your thirst. I know He is ABLE and I know He will keep you because, remember the Psalmist said, “but God delivers them out of them all.” He has not only led you “There”, but He has already made provisions for you while you are “There”.
The word THERE is used over 2200 times in Scripture, and it is used in a plethora of ways: It’s used as an adjective, a pronoun, a noun and an interjection. But in this text, in the 4th verse, “There” is used as an adverb to denote a distinct place and destination. “There” you shall drink of the brook; I have commanded the ravens to feed you, “There”. Not anywhere, but, THERE. Not somewhere, but THERE. Not over there, but THERE.
“THERE” has great spiritual significance for us today; It a place where God allows His power and His sovereignty to shine. But getting to “THERE” requires some separation; it requires some deviation; and it provides consummation. For Elijah, THERE was at a brook named Cherith, then “THERE” was a woman at Zerephath, followed by a “THERE” at a battle on Mt. Carmel. It was THERE at the brook that Elijah realized and experienced the power, the miracle and the workings of the Lord. It was also THERE that he was shaped and prepared as things were cut away for what lay ahead.
Others besides Elijah found THERE; Jacob’s THERE was in a wrestling match – there will I rename you. Joseph’s THERE was in an Egyptian prison –- there will I lift you. Moses’ THERE was on the back side of a mountain – there will I call you and send you. Naaman’s THERE was in the muddy waters of the Jordan – there will I cleanse and heal you. Ezekiel’s THERE was in a valley of dry bones – there will I preach through you. The 3 Hebrew boys’ THERE was in a fiery furnace – there will I deliver you. Daniel’s THERE was in a lion’s den -- there will I protect you. Jeremiah’s THERE was at the Potter’s House – there will I remake you. Stephen’s THERE was at a stoning – there will I stand up to meet you. The woman of Samaria found THERE at a well; the blind man found THERE on a street corner; the lame beggar found THERE at the Gate beautiful; Paul was THERE on the road to Damascus.
Are We There Yet? I don’t know, but I’ve had some THERE experiences: in cancer – He healed me. I’ve been THERE in abuse – and He bought me out. I’ve been THERE in uncertain times – and He sustained me. I’m THERE right now – and His Grace keeps me, His angels protect me; His Spirit guides me, His love surrounds me; His Mercy outlasts me; His faithfulness assures me; His goodness shocks me; His kindness overwhelms me; His blood protects me; and His Word directs me. But you know what?
Are We There Yet? I can’t say, but we often pray and ask God for favor, and I think that we fail to remember that by its very definition, favor only comes following some bad deeds, disservice, rejection or some hindrance. To find God’s favor, baby you’ve got to allow some separation to come; there must be deviation from your usual paths and mode of travel. To find God’s favor, the real place of consummation, you’ve got to go “THERE”. THERE is where you will meet God and experience His power, His blessings and His work. I’m glad to know this morning, that when you trust God He will move you from where you are to THERE. God may have many “THERE” places for you; places where He has already ordained you to be, to meet Him and to experience Him in your life like never before, and we can all experience THERE because Jesus went THERE.
Jesus was THERE on a hill called Calvary. He went THERE for you and for me. It was THERE, at Calvary, that men mocked Him and dared Him to come down. It was THERE that His Father turned from Him. It was THERE that the sun refused to shine. It was THERE that they pierced Him in His side. It was THERE that He cried out with a loud voice, It is finished! It was THERE that He hung His head and died. It was THERE that He paid the price that man could never satisfy. It was THERE at Calvary that He died, THERE, in a grave that He lay all day Friday, and all day Saturday, and it was from THERE that He got up early, on Sunday morning. Jesus went THERE, all the way to death and back, and then all the way from earth to glory for you and for me.
I know that I’ve done a little play on words this morning, but my main purpose has been to get to this part, to remind you of another THERE. Another distinct place called heaven where your future consummation awaits; where the perfect ending and the completion of the deal will transpire. Jesus said, “I am going to prepare a place for you, if I go I will come again to receive you unto Myself, that where I am, THERE you shall be also.” There is a place on the other side of time, a place in Eternity; THERE is a place where the weary shall cease from trouble; THERE is a place where all tears shall be wiped from eyes. THERE we shall see Him, in all of His glory and majesty. THERE is where He is and where He longs for us to join Him, but until we get to that THERE, even now, while we are in this life, we can experience Him in our THERE places and times when we strive after Him in abandon and obedience to His Word and faithfulness to His leading. Now, my original question remains. Are We There Yet? I can’t answer for us all, so let me ask, Are You There yet? Are you at the place of salvation? Even if you miss out on your place of THERE down here, you don’t want to miss the ultimate THERE called heaven. THERE, in heaven, is a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Immanuel’s veins, and sinners plunged beneath that flood, loose all their guilty stains. Are you There yet?