#7 (THE "COURAGE" SERIES)
"THE COURAGE TO STAND LIKE ELIJAH!"
TEXT: I Kings 17:1-16; Deut. 11:16-17; 26-28
INTRO: We live in a world where nobody likes to take a stand. Politicians like to ride the fence on issues, they will say things like: "I am personally opposed to abortion, but I don't want to inflict my views on others" ... translation -- they are for it while being against it!
Sadly we live in a time when too many religious leaders are doing the same thing; they won't take stands on issues of sin for fear of offending society and being chastised by the press as old fashion and out of style. They are afraid they will be rejected if they take a stand and speak the truth.
Our young people are being told that nothing anymore is really wrong, just be careful not to hurt anyone and everything is ok ... teachers and schools avoid taking stands on any issue, they try and be morally neutral on everything.
When it comes to world crisis, we stay out of them unless it is in our national interest; we take stands only when we benefit from them – not necessarily because of moral absolutes.
How different were men in years past, even great scientists of the past were not afraid to take stands; men like Sir Isaac Newton -- he was a brilliant mathematician, a great physicist, he gave us the invention of the telescope, his studies in gravitation opened the understanding of great forces in the universe. Yet, when asked as an old man, “What do you consider your greatest discovery?” he responded humbly, “I have made two important discoveries in life, the one, I know I am a very great sinner; the other, I know Jesus is even a greater Savior!” This was taking a stand!
PROP SENT: The Bible teaches us that we are to have the courage to take a stand for Christ in this world, even if it means standing alone at times!
I. THE STAND! 17:1-6
A. Price 17:1-3
1. Ahab was one of the wickedest kings of the Northern Kingdom which was called by the name of “Israel.”
2. Ahab with his wife Jezebel had introduced Baal worship to replace the worship of God
a. Baal was the son of Asherah, Asherah was the mother goddess of fertility and Baal was the god of rain, he was sometimes depicted with a bolt of lightening in his hand!
b. Elijah is not afraid to stand up and proclaim the true god ... and that there would be no rain or dew in Israel because of their sin, a real slap at Baal since he was the god of rain! It was even a greater slap since Elijah said that Baal wouldn’t be able to cause dew even to form on the ground, that’s how impotent he was as an idol!
3. Elijah's courage is obvious here: “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve...” this phrase is also translated, “Before whom I stand!”
a. Elijah was willing to pay the price for confronting a sinful King and country.
b. Elijah was not afraid to STAND UP for God, and against a sinful nation, even if it meant going it alone, and in nearly did mean going it alone!
c. There were about 100 other prophets still alive, but they were in hiding thanks to Obadiah who himself was secretly serving God for fear of his own life.
4. The price for standing up for God was going to be 3 years in hiding, alone, with only a bunch of birds to keep you company and to feed you daily!
a. Taking a stand meant no turning back!
b. Do we have the courage to stand up for God?
ILLUS: WHEN CORTEZ DISEMBARKED HIS 500 MEN ON THE EAST COAST OF MEXICO HE SET FIRE TO THE SHIPS THAT HAD BROUGHT THEM T0 THE NEW LAND. HIS WARRIORS, WATCHING THEIR MEANS OF RETURN GOING UP IN FLAMES, KNEW THAT THEY WERE COMMITTING EVERYTHING, EVEN THEIR LIVES, TO THE CAUSE OF CONQUERING A NEW WORLD FOR SPAIN. IF THEY COULD TAKE THIS KIND OF STAND FOR AN EARTHLY KING HOW MUCH GREATER THE STAND WE CAN TAKE FOR THE KING OF KINGS! -- SOURCE UNKNOWN
B. Provision 17:4-6
1. Because Elijah's stand cost him his personal comfort he had to hide, but God took care of his basic needs!
a. When we take a stand for Christ He will meet our needs!
b. This is what happens when you tithe, you take a stand to obey God's Word on giving and you discover that He has many ways of taking care of you!
c. Elijah didn't get dining privileges at the “Windjammer” (upscale restaurant in Burlington, VT.) or “Fire and Ice” (upscale restaurant in Middlebury, VT.), he got his daily bread and a little meat delivered by ravens – which interestingly enough were considered unclean by the laws of Moses!
d. Along with the same basic meal day after day for nearly 3 years, he drank from a stream that slowly dried up because of the draught!
2. While not deluxe accommodations, it was adequate to meet his needs!
a. It was not the most comfortable lifestyle, but he doesn't complain.
b. While the price for standing up for God was hard, the provisions he needed was given him by God, God takes care of His children when we are willing to take a stand, even if we are not super comfortable our basic needs will be met!
ILLUS: QUEEN ELIZABETH ASKED A RICH MERCHANT TO GO ON A MISSION FOR THE CROWN. THE MERCHANT REMONSTRATED, SAYING THAT SUCH A LONG ABSENCE WOULD BE FATAL TO HIS BUSINESS. "YOU TAKE CARE OF MY BUSINESS," REPLIED THE QUEEN, "AND I WILL TAKE CARE OF YOUR BUSINESS." WHEN HE RETURNED, HE FOUND THAT HIS BUSINESS, THROUGH THE PATRONAGE AND CARE OF THE QUEEN HAD INCREASED IN VOLUME AND HE WAS RICHER THAN WHEN HE LEFT. IT IS STILL TRUE, "SEEK YE FIRST THE KINGDOM OF GOD AND HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS AND ALL THESE OTHER THINGS WILL BE GIVEN YOU AS WELL." (MATT. 6:33) -- SOURCE UNKNOWN
3. It is quite the testimony that Elijah did what the Lord had told him!
a. What would happen to America if every Christian did what the Lord has told us to do!?
b. Even a small number of believers who are willing to stand up for Christ can make a giant difference!
II. THE SUCCESS! 17:7-16; Deut. 11:16-17; 26-28
A. The Paradox! 17:7-12; Deut. 11:16-17
1. Did this judgment from God turn King Ahab and the Israelites away from their worship of Baal ... NO!
a. This time of judgment didn't effect any change in Israel's heart, they continued their rebellion against God and their worship of Baal and Asherah.
b. Because of the long time period the brook that gave water to Elijah finally went dry, God would now need to provide another way to meet Elijah’s needs.
(1. The failure to repent as a nation finally affected the quality of Elijah’s life too ... God would provide through another way now.
(2. If our country does not turn from sin we might experience the down turn as God withdraws His blessings from our nation too.
2. It became necessary to work out another way for God to take care of Elijah, ironically, God will send Elijah into enemy territory and supply his needs through a most unlikely source!
a. From an non-Jewish source, a Phoenician widow from Zarephath who was dirt poor!
b. The place Elijah was sent was ruled by Jezebel's father, he was going to be living in the very heart of the enemy’s stronghold! God can take care of us right in the heart of enemy territory!
c. It will be here paradoxically that his first success in ministry will come, this non-Jewish widow will become a believer in God and she will experience God's covenantal blessings that Israel was giving up through their disobedience!
3. Of all the ways God could provide for Elijah this was certainly the most unlikely source, and perhaps for this reason it was the most unlikely place Jezebel would have looked for him too, thus he was safest here.
a. When Elijah meets this woman we are told that she is gathering a few sticks, an immediate hint of the woman's poverty.
b. He asks for water from her and a piece of bread and her response tells him she is a widow and out of resources.
c. The fact that later he stays at her house and lives on the second floor tells us that at one time this was a wealthy home, few homes had second floors unless they were a family of means – therefore at one time this woman had been married to a wealthy man but over time had probably sold everything off and was dirt poor now.
d. Like the rest of the people the drought had taken its toll on her life as well as having been widowed with no source of income.
e. The woman was discouraged and was ready to give up, being at the end of her rope however opened up an opportunity to have her see how God would help her.
4. This was precisely what God was trying to do for Israel, by taking away the blessings of the covenant He was trying to get them to turn back to Him, indeed they had been told that if they strayed this was exactly the kind of thing that would happen to them as a warning sign: (read Deut. 11:16-17).
a. Baal was no help to them, this so called god of rain had been absolutely useless, yet they still kept praying and worshipping Baal in hopes of a change, they were going to the wrong source for help! Baal had not even been able to cause dew to form on the ground for 3 years! They had trusted in an unreliable source!
ILLUS: ONE DAY A MAN APPROACHED A VERY LIBERAL PREACHER WHO CARED LITTLE ABOUT THE BIBLE THOUGH HE WAS A PASTOR. THE MAN CAME FOR PEACE AND COMFORT; HE WAS LOOKING FOR A WAY TO BRING PEACE TO HIS CONSCIENCE. THE LIBERAL PREACHER SAID TO HIM, "FORGET ABOUT THOSE THINGS! GO TO SEE AND HEAR THAT FAMOUS COMEDIAN WHO IS NOW PLAYING IN OUR CITY AND IS KEEPING HIS AUDIENCE IN A CONSTANT UPROAR. THAT MAN WILL DISPEL THESE MORBID BROODINGS OF YOURS." THERE WAS A MOMENT OF SILENCE AND THEN THE VISITOR GROANED, "I AM THAT COMEDIAN!" WHILE HE MADE OTHERS LAUGH, HIS SOUL WAS IN ANGUISH, AND HE NEEDED SOMETHING TO ANCHOR HIS SOUL TO BESIDES THE SHALLOW LAUGHTER OF THIS WORLD! -- SOURCE UNKNOWN
b. Israel should have known what was happening to them, God had told them well in advance what this drought meant, and what they needed to do to reverse it!
5. The only one to come to God however and find His blessings will be a non-Jewish poor widow!
B. Possibilities 17:13-14; Deut. 11:26-28
1. Everyone was at a crossroad ... choices needed to be made, but the nation wasn't turning. Does this mean that nobody will experience His blessings?
a. This is the beauty of the way God works, even if everybody else fails to obey God will take care of those who do obey Him, even if it is only one or two!
b. God was taking care of Elijah who was obedient, and Elijah is now offering this widow an opportunity to get in on God's blessings!
c. This is really the heart of his request to make bread for him first, as God's representative with God's message, will she obey and show faith in God?
2. The first thing he says to her is "Don't be afraid!" -- A very important message to someone who is considering becoming a believer!
a. The request for her to consider him first is a test of obeying God's Word through him!
b. This was not a selfish request by an arrogant prophet!
c. Her willingness to act in faith would bring her under the covenantal blessing that Israel had abrogated through worshiping false gods, this is what was behind Elijah’s request, not just a selfish request.
3. Elijah knew that if she acted in faith she would be blessed by God with the same covenant blessings that Israel could have had had they been repentant and obedient.
a. The choices we make have a very real impact on our lives before God!
b. Read Deut. 11:26-28, we all have these same choices to make!
c. Those that choose wisely experience God's provisions for their life; those who choose foolishly lose the blessings of God.
ILLUS: THE GREAT EMPEROR OF ROME NAMED JULIAN ONCE WAS A CHRISTIAN. HOWEVER, LATER HE TURNED HIS BACK ON GOD AND CHOSE TO ACTUALLY WIPE CHRISTIANITY OFF THE FACE OF THE EARTH. IN THE YEAR 363 A.D. DURING ONE OF HIS CAMPAIGNS A SOLDIER IN HIS ARMY ASKED A CHRISTIAN WHO WAS BEING MOCKED BY THE OTHERS, "WHERE IS YOUR CARPENTER NOW?" STEADFASTLY THE CHRISTIAN SOLIDER ANSWERED, "HE IS MAKING A COFFIN FOR YOUR EMPEROR. A FEW MONTHS LATER JULIAN RECEIVED A MORTAL WOUND IN BATTLE, AND ACCORDING TO THE LEGEND, WHEN DEATH WAS APPROACHING HE DIPPED HIS HAND INTO HIS OWN BLOOD AND THREW IT TOWARD HEAVEN WITH THE CRY, "0 GALILEAN, THOU HAST CONQUERED!" HE HAD CHOSEN UNWISELY TO TURN AWAY FROM GOD EARLIER! -- SOURCE UNKNOWN
4. Elijah promises her that her faith would be rewarded; she must however make the choice! It was the same offer that God had made to Israel, they had chosen unwisely!
C. Power 17:15-16
1. She went and did what God's Word had said; she acted in faith and believed!
a. This was remarkable for a non-Jewish woman in the heart of enemy territory!
b. Her immediate obedience brought immediate results too – her oil never ran out nor the flour used up during the entire drought! 17:16
c. God's blessings kicked in right away, these blessings not only were felt by her but also by her whole family! 17:15b
2. God's power was unleashed when she obeyed, and the covenant that promised abundance to a nation if they walked with God now opened itself up to an individual who obeyed!
a. This can still be true today, no matter how the world or our country might fall apart, for those who choose God they will experience a different way!
b. We can be whole in a broken world if we follow God's Word and His ways!
3. God's power is released by faith and the actions we take in faith!
a. Does this mean this woman never had another problem? NO! Just look at the passage that follows, her only son dies!
b. The tests of faith never end, but her son is restored as she is again obedient and trusts God.
4. Notice too that the day the rain was going to continue again she would have to resort to the usual means of supply, the flour and oil would cease to miraculously come once the curse on the land was removed, she would then have to secure means by ordinary channels!
a. A miracle in our lives does not exempt us from using ordinary means again of meeting needs.
b. But what a witness to others this woman must have been, and how wonderful that God provided through her for Elijah in the very heart of the enemy.
c. It doesn't matter where we are, if we are faithful and obedient to God He can meet the need!
5. All she had to do to see God's hand move on her life was make it clear that she believed; her act of faith in providing for Elijah was evidence and proof of her faith!
ILLUS: DURING WORLD WAR II WHEN THE RUSSIANS INVADED FINLAND THEIR PLANES BOMBED A HOSPITAL THAT ACCORDING TO INTERNATIONAL LAW SHOULD HAVE REMAINED UNTOUCHED; IT WAS CLEARLY MARKED WITH A HUGE RED CROSS ON ITS ROOF. INVESTIGATION HOWEVER, REVEALED THAT SHORTLY BEFORE THE ATTACK SNOW HAD FALLEN AND COVERED THE CROSS. SO AS LONG AS THE CROSS COULD BE SEEN -- ALL IN THE HOSPITAL WERE SAFE, BUT WHEN IT WAS COVERED OVER AND NOT VISIBLE MANY WERE KILLED. THIS IS STILL TRUE IN THE SPIRITUAL REALM, AS LONG AS THE CROSS OF JESUS IS VISIBLE IN OUR LIVES THE ENEMY CAN'T HURT US, WE ARE SAFE FOR TIME AND ETERNITY, BUT IF WE COVER IT OVER WITH SOMETHING ELSE WE BECOME AN EASY TARGET FOR THE ENEMY AND GET HURT. KEEP THE CROSS OF CHRIST ALWAYS VISIBLE IN YOUR LIFE! -- SOURCE UNKNOWN
a. This widow woman demonstrated the same courage to take a stand for God that Elijah had been willing to take. They both received from God and had their needs met!
b. It is sad that Israel didn't learn the same lesson, God would deal with them further, but for now at least 2 people had had the courage to stand for God, DO YOU?
CONCLUSION: Elijah had the courage to take a stand for God with almost no success to his ministry! His only convert after 3 years was a Phoenician widow and her son. There was no glory, no great results, no easy lifestyle, no friends … or few, no evidence things were getting better, yet he remained faithful to God. Taking a stand for God was the only right thing to do no matter how good or bad life was for Elijah. HAVE YOU TAKEN A STAND FOR GOD?