Elijah and Elisha 2.
• Enough of the prophets! Let’s have a story! Please turn to 1 Kings chapter 17. [P] The story of “Elijah and the Ravens” – you notice it is a story for “young children”. Or as I have preferred to call it: “ELIJAH - THE MAN OF GOD” [P] Later on in the chapter we meet a widow woman – this is what she said: [1 Kings 17:18 “What do I have to do with you, O man of God?] The widow calls Elijah a man of God. If you look in v.12 you will see that immediately she saw him she knew that he served יהוה. Then later on in: [1 Kings 17:24 Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of יהוה in your mouth is truth.”] The prophet was a man of God – he stood out as a man of God – do I? Do you want to be a man of God? A woman of God? Let’s have a look at the characteristics of Elijah, what made him a man of God: [P] [1 Kings 17:1-10 Now Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the settlers of Gilead, said to Ahab, (he was the king of Israel) “As יהוה, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.” The word of יהוה came to him, saying, [P] “Go away from here and turn eastward, and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. “It shall be that you will drink of the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to provide for you there.”[P] So he went and did according to the word of יהוה, for he went and lived by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, [P] and he would drink from the brook. [P] It happened after a while that the brook dried up, because there was no rain in the land. Then the word of יהוה came to him, saying, [P] “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and stay there; behold, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.” So he arose and went to Zarephath, and when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks; and he called to her and said, “Please get me a little water in a jar, that I may drink.”] Elijah is a significant character, the archetypical prophet. The Jews look for Elijah's coming and he prepared the way for Jesus and will do so before His return (Mal 4:5). He was with Moses on the mount of transfiguration and is one of the two witnesses at the end (Rev 11). What was his great significance? Elijah always ushers in a new era. These chapters describe a watershed in Israel's history and God's dealings with them. Very akin to our own day, it was a time of great prosperity and materialism, but also of compromise with other religions and turning away from the genuine worship of God. They were ripe for judgment! The great proverbial dynasty of David only held the nation united for 73 years. When Solomon’s son took the throne the ten tribes to the north split and put Jereboam on the throne. They had all the fertile land, so they prospered materially, but religion was centred in Jerusalem, so Jereboam set up two centres of worship with golden calves as gods so that the people wouldn’t travel south to Judah to the temple. Immediately, at its inception, Israel went into institutionalized idolatry, and all subsequent kings persisted in it. Now some 60 years and 7 kings later Ahab is king. His father, Omri, an army commander, had been made king, but his son was even worse than all the idolatrous kings before him. [1 Kings 16:30-31 Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of יהוה more than all who were before him. It came about, as though it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, (he was the first king of Israel who set up gold calves as gods) that he married Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went to serve Baal and worshiped him.] Israel was prosperous but apostate – sounds a bit like New Zealand today. It was ripe for judgement! [1 Kings 17:1 Now Elijah the said to Ahab, “As יהוה, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.”] Suddenly Elijah bursts on the scene [P], we've never heard of him before; this is the first time he appears; but he must have been prophesying for some time and had a reputation; I mean, you don't get an audience with the king just like that, but this is the first time the Bible mentions him. Suddenly he is there, dramatic, announcing judgment! Elijah comes pronouncing judgment – a drought. When we get a rainy day we say that the weather is bad – we show our city bias! When your whole economy depends upon agriculture and horticulture, when you are a farmer; then your perspective changes. Rain is good! If you don’t get rain it is bad! Make no mistake – this wasn’t good news forecasting a nice summer and plenty of sunbathing; this was judgement! Elijah was announcing national calamity! This would not go down well with the king! This was not a recipe for becoming popular. Ahab hated Elijah and later went to extreme lengths to try and have him killed. As I intimated last time I spoke, there is a drought in our land, a famine for hearing God’s word. Here comes this uncouth man from the backblocks, the other side of the Jordan, and says it will not rain or dew until I say so! The audacity - "At MY word"! who does he think he is?! Not at “יהוה's word” but at “my word”. The strange thing is though, that it didn't rain for 3 1/2 years – that is because his word was the LORD's word. Why didn’t it rain? Because Elijah’s words had power? No, because יהוה said so! By the power of יהוה’s word. Elijah was speaking יהוה’s words – that is the essence of being a prophet [1 Kings 17:24 “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of יהוה in your mouth is truth.”] – what he says happens! HE SPOKE GOD'S WORD [P] His words had authority and power because they were God's words. How can he say that it is not going to rain except at my word? He had simply aligned himself with God's word [Deuteronomy 11:16-17 Beware that your hearts are not deceived, and that you do not turn away and serve other gods and worship them. (but that is what they had done!) Or the anger of יהוה will be kindled against you, and He will shut up the heavens so that there will be no rain and the ground will not yield its fruit; and you will perish quickly from the good land which יהוה is giving you.] They had filled the conditions by serving other gods; so the consequence of drought followed – Gods’ Word had stated it. It was simply what the word of יהוה said. The Word of the LORD was in his mouth. We have so many words and we will be held accountable for each one of them – if we want them to have power, authority and impact they must be God's words and not our own. How come Elijah spoke the words of יהוה? Elijah says he stood before Him – as we saw in the introduction last week – the prophet stands in the council of יהוה! In God’s presence! That is where you hear from God! The duration of the drought is not given precisely, but it would be long, in the order of years, not weeks or months. Its length would be determined by how long it took for them to recognize that "יהוה is God" (i.e. "Elijah"), not Baal. Repeatedly the Gospel of John says that Jesus spoke only what He heard from His Father – are we speaking God’s word, the words He gives us to speak? Christ dwells in us, we have His mind! [1 Corinthians 2:16 But we have the mind of Christ.] If His life is living in us, if we are abiding in Him, being led by the Spirit we should be speaking His words – authoritative, powerful, making an impact, life changing, life imparting, truth There are prophecies that do not come about – people are saying “God says” when He hasn’t said! There is a famine for hearing the genuine word of God that is true and can be relied upon. We need the voice of genuine prophecy. So Elijah told the king that it wouldn’t rain – now I don’t think Ahab would be thanking him for the heads-up. If you speak to the king like he just had, you don't make yourself popular – especially when it comes to pass. No, the king was livid! Elijah’s life was in danger so he fled – didn’t he? No, Elijah didn’t flee because of Ahab. He didn’t do anything until he heard from God, but God protects His own. He hid himself because יהוה told him to. Verse 2 reads: [1 Kings 17:2 The word of יהוה came to him, saying,] – it says exactly the same thing in verse 8, and again at the beginning of chapter 18 – the word of יהוה came to Elijah; he heard from יהוה, heard His words, heard His voice! The man of God hears from God! [P] In fact if he speaks יהוה’s word, it is a prerequisite that he has first heard from Him. A contempory of Elijah who was a true prophet, called Miciah said: [1 Kings 22:14 “As יהוה lives, what יהוה says to me, that I shall speak.”] But we have men speaking from God (so they maintain) when they haven’t heard. It is an awesome thing to hear from God! [Isaiah 66:2 “For My hand made all these things, thus all these things came into being,” declares יהוה. “But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word. ] It is something to tremble at! Awesome! In chapter 19 Elijah is not moved by a mighty wind, earthquake or fire but at יהוה’s voice: [1 Kings 19:13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. And behold, a voice came to him…] The word of יהוה came to Elijah – HE HEARD FROM GOD! A prophet is a man who hears from God and tells other people (we looked at this last time in the introduction to the prophets) – no altering it, watering it down, ad-libbing, explaining – just faithfully saying what you are told to. Elijah stood before יהוה – to stand before יהוה is to serve Him, to be in His service, awaiting directions. This is where prophetic revelation comes from - the presence of יהוה, standing in His courts [Jeremiah 23:2 “But who has stood in the council of יהוה, that he should see and hear His word? Who has given heed to His word and listened? 1 “I did not send these prophets, but they ran. I did not speak to them, but they prophesied. “But if they had stood in My council, then they would have announced My words to My people, and would have turned them back from their evil way and from the evil of their deeds.] There is no record of Ahab’s response to Elijah’s announcement (but one can take it was not repentance nor an eager reception). Elijah said his bit and left. Announced the message God had given him and then departed. Ahab’s response must have been one of anger because the LORD next gives Elijah instruction to hide because his life is now in danger. Elijah didn’t hide himself because he was afraid of Ahab, he hid himself because יהוה told him to: [1 Kings 17:3 “Go away from here and turn eastward, and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan.] Elijah knew what to do because יהוה told him – he heard from יהוה! How do we know what to do, how are we to react when crisis hits? – and we’ve had them – the vital necessity is to hear from יהוה! That marks the man of God – every man’s heart is failing them for fear but the man of God knows what to do because he hears from God. So יהוה provided for His servant – here is the word that יהוה spoke to him: [1 Kings 17:4 “It shall be that you will drink of the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to provide for you there.”] All others would be suffering from the drought but not Elijah. God Himself provided him with drink and food – both by natural means (the brook) and supernatural (the ravens) – we feed the birds, birds feeding you is not natural. Another mark of the man of God is that is he is supernaturally sustained [P] – it’s not just Elijah – the life that Jesus has called us to live is impossible! ….. by natural means, in the flesh. [Galatians 2:20 Christ lives in me! The life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God! ] By His life – supernatural, life in the Spirit. The raven was an unclean bird yet יהוה fed Elijah by them. This prepared him to be fed by the unclean Gentile widow (cf. v.9). This had spiritual significance in that Israel would reject her God and His blessing would come to the unclean Gentiles [Luke 4:24-26 And He said, “Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown. But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land; and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow.] The man of God is called to do some unconventional things; things frowned upon by the legalistic and the religious. Look at Elijah before Ahab – he wouldn’t get a job with the diplomatic corps! He didn’t live to please man, but to please God - He obeyed יהוה implicitly [P][1 Kings 17:5 So he went and did according to the word of יהוה, for he went and lived by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan.] He heard the word of יהוה; then he did it. יהוה told him to go to the brook Cherith, so he went to the brook Cherith. Later יהוה told him to go to Zarephath to a Gentile widow, something that any respectable Israelite would have balked at; but he went to Zarephath. What is the point of hearing from יהוה if you don’t do according to what you hear?! The word of יהוה came to Elijah and he did exactly as the word of יהוה commanded. It is not enough for a prophet to receive the word of the LORD, even to just pass it on – he must live by it – obey it. It is to such that יהוה entrusts His word – to those who act according to it. If we be men of God then we must be acting in accord with His word. What He tells us, we must do. [1 Kings 17:6 The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he would drink from the brook.] Elijah acted in accordance with the word of יהוה and so did יהוה. Elijah drank from the river just as יהוה had told him to; and יהוה sent the ravens to feed him – just as He said He would. The natural supply (the river) is just as much יהוה’s faithful provision as the ravens were. The natural means are just as much God’s doing – we are totally reliant on His provision whether the means be ordinary or extraordinary. [1 Kings 17:7 It happened after a while that the brook dried up, because there was no rain in the land.] But as the drought took hold, the natural supply dried up, the river ceased to flow – note it is the natural supply that dried up, not the supernatural supply. Eventually all natural resources upon which we rely will dry up. What then?! Has God failed us? Has what He Himself has told us to do let us down? Are we trusting in the river or the Supplier? [Jeremiah 17:5-8 Thus says יהוה, “Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind and makes flesh his strength, and whose heart turns away from יהוה. For he will be like a bush in the desert and will not see when prosperity comes, but will live in stony wastes in the wilderness, a land of salt without inhabitant. Blessed is the man who trusts יהוה and whose trust is יהוה. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; but its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit. Psalm 25:3 Indeed, none of those who wait for You will be ashamed.] Elijah’s faith was tested – where was his trust based? The man of God trusts in יהוה. [P] Elijah’s trust was in the Supplier not the supply and he was not disappointed/ashamed. [1 Kings 17:8 Then the word of יהוה came to him, saying,] The river wasn’t there but revelation still was. God spoke to him. The river dried up but יהוה did not – Hallelujah! Still the word of יהוה came – it is this that sustains life, not some natural resource [Deuteronomy 8:3 that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of יהוה.] The river dried up but God’s faithfulness never dries up. The word never dries up; it is always there to sustain the one who trusts in Him. The drought doesn’t touch the one who trusts in יהוה, who waits for His word only. Bless the LORD! But if you forsake the fountain of living water, no longer rely on Him, the drought is devastating [Jeremiah 2:12,13 Be appalled, O heavens, at this, and shudder, be very desolate,” declares יהוה. “For My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, to hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water; Jer 17:13 O יהוה, the hope of Israel, all who forsake You will be put to shame. Those who turn away on earth will be written down, because they have forsaken the fountain of living water, even יהוה.] Whenever the crisis comes the word of יהוה is there to sustain, direct, show the way to go that leads to life. The word was: [1 Kings 17:9 “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and stay there; behold, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.”] When the brook dried up the word of יהוה came to Elijah with further instructions of what to do now – his life was wholly directed by what יהוה commanded. He told him to go to Zarephath. Zarephath comes from a root meaning to burn, smelt, refine, test, prove. Elijah would be tested. Faith is tested. He had to leave the territory of Israel altogether. Obeying יהוה’s command means overcoming some inbuilt prejudices: first fed by unclean ravens, now to dwell in a heathen land, fed by an unclean Gentile woman. I mean, how does it look? – a man of God living among the heathen, living in the home of a woman? Elijah found refuge and sustenance in the very place from which Jezebel, the cause of all the trouble, came. How does it appear for a man of God to be living with a woman alone? But יהוה commanded and so Elijah obeyed. יהוה commanded ravens to provide for Elijah; now He commands a widow to provide for him. Those that provided for Elijah did so at יהוה’s command. He was giving His orders to his creatures in order that His servant was taken care of – someone ought to do a series on the sovereignty of God. Was the woman aware? No, she hadn’t heard, she knew nothing about it – but still she was acting under the command of יהוה nonetheless. [1 Kings 17:10 So he arose and went to Zarephath, and when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks;] There she was! Obeying יהוה’s command, there where He placed her. יהוה said "arise" so Elijah arose; יהוה said "go" so Elijah went. Again, he obeyed exactly and went to Zarephath. So far so good but how does he know who the widow is that יהוה has commanded to feed him? He obeyed what he could and the rest was for יהוה to sort out. And arrange it He did. Hallelujah! Elijah had only come to the entrance to the city and the first person he encounters is a woman gathering sticks – the very woman יהוה had appointed! Coincidence? No such thing! God is in control! The man of God obeys and יהוה provides. The man of God trusts in יהוה and is never disappointed. His faith is vindicated – God comes through for him. But there is part of the story that we don’t see here – there was a drought, the rivers were drying up – why wasn’t it raining? We get insight into what was going on in the spiritual realm in the New Testament: [P] [James 5:16-18 The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit. ] What was Elijah doing all that time at the brook Cherith? Studying the wildlife? No, he was praying! [P] The man of God is a man of prayer. Was it a single prayer that asked God to withhold the rain? I don’t think so; it was his continual prayers that were continually holding back the rain in accord with God’s word. Later we will see his importunate prayers that caused the rain to come. He was in continual communication with God. [P] He spoke to God. [P] The man of God is a man of prayer – one who speaks to God! Not just mouthing words and making pious speeches. This is communication with the Almighty – יהוה hears and acts! [P] That is God’s seal that he is His man – He responds to him How do I know if I am a man of God? Does God respond? God did as he said! Powerful stuff! Elijah prayed that it wouldn’t rain [P] – and it didn’t rain [P]. He prayed again and the rain poured down and the plants grew again [P]. But that was Elijah – the great prophet, not little me, insignificant and weak at Tedder ave. But what does James say? [P] Elijah was a man with a nature like ours! [P] The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much, has great power! [P] Hallelujah! But let us be clear, the power, the effective working, is in the God who answers, not in the man who prays. I must admit it sometimes gets to me when people go forward to some renown man of God for prayer – why don’t they ask Him themselves?! You are speaking to the same God! It is God who does it not the man praying! God hears your prayer. For יהוה to hear is for Him to answer [1 John 5:14-15 This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.] Exactly as Elijah prayed so יהוה did! Elijah did exactly as יהוה said – יהוה responded by doing what Elijah said! Awesome! Elijah was answered because he knew יהוה his God; he knew Him and was in relationship with Him because he obeyed His word. Obedience brings us close to God, not obeying His word distances us from Him and we need not expect for our requests to be answered. As Israel was prosperous but apostate; so too is New Zealand. There was a drought, a famine in Israel and we also are in a time of famine – a famine for hearing God’s word, yet the man of God is sustained. The man of God is sustained by the word of God [P] – it is in his mouth – he hears it, speaks it and acts upon it. This is life for us: hearing God’s Word, proclaiming God’s word, living according to God’s word. We live by faith in God’s word. Our desperate need is to hear God’s Word; that quickened specific prophetic word – supernatural provision, revelation – to hear it, speak it, live by it. God provided by ravens, by widow – God provides for His own in the time of famine. God’s word sustains, there was always the grain and the oil – the drought will not affect us. [Psalm 1:2,3 his delight is in the law of יהוה, and in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers. Jeremiah 17:7,8 “Blessed is the man who trusts in יהוה he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; but its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit.] The brook failed but God’s word never does [P] [Isaiah 40:8 The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.] That is really the message I have for you today, I should end here; but just relating back, for a moment, to Malachi which prophesied Elijah coming before Jesus’ return, before the great and terrible day of יהוה. We are approaching that time, Jesus’ return is near! But Elijah comes first. Before Jesus comes, Elijah does. So how do we recognize Elijah? [P] What does he look like? How will we know him when he comes? So I have picked out some characteristics from today’s story, you will notice them in John the Baptist also. Well, he appeared suddenly [P] – we hear nothing of him, then suddenly there he is before Ahab. It says he stood before יהוה – he has access to God’s presence [P]. He tells the king it won’t rain until he says – he is audacious [P]. He is not afraid to confront the evil king – he is bold, fearless [P]. His prophecy didn’t go down well with the king – he is unpopular with the system [P] hated by those in power. But his declaration that it wouldn’t rain came to pass – he has authority [P] – he had access to authority, he appeared before the king, but not as a cowering subject but in a higher authority. It was the same with John the Baptist, he appeared before king Herod and told him that he shouldn’t have taken his brother’s wife, Elijah has supernatural power [P] – he withheld the rain, it only rained at his word. The widow recognized this supernatural power and called Elijah a man of God [P] – that is the mark of Elijah, undoubtedly he is a man of God, that is why the people went out to see John in the desert. We saw that he hears from God [P]. That he speaks God’s message [P]. He went to live with an unmarried Gentile woman – that is unconventional [P]. In fact everything he did was unconventional, he stood out. We saw that what he did was directed by God – he obeyed יהוה’s directions [P]. He went out by the brook, he was alone, John the Baptist was the same – he was a man apart [P]. And we saw that he was supernaturally sustained [P]. John the Baptist did no miracles but otherwise he shares many of these characteristics. There is a thumbnail outline sketch of some of the characteristics that might be expected to be seen in Elijah when he returns. May we have eyes to see him when he comes, have the ability to discern a man of God from the mass of others around. May we also be men and women of God, those who: who hear from God, speak His word, trust and obey Him, are supernaturally sustained, and who are in communication with God: speak to Him and He acts in response. The world needs more men of God!