July 21, 2019
Pastor John Hering
14 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” 15 The LORD said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. 16 Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. 17 Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. 18 Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel– all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him.”
19 So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat. He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him. 20 Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. “Let me kiss my father and mother good-by,” he said, “and then I will come with you.””Go back,” Elijah replied. “What have I done to you?” 21 So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his attendant.
1 Kings 19:14-21
In God We Trust. You are familiar with this statement that is printed on the money you own. To have “In God We Trust” printed on money probably doesn’t make a very big impression on people. What makes a big impression on people is what happened to Elijah on Mount Carmel. Listen to the story:
So Obadiah [the servant] went to meet [King] Ahab and told him, and Ahab went to meet Elijah. When Ahab saw Elijah, he said to him, “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?”
“I have not made trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “But you and your father’s family have. You have abandoned the Lord’s commands and have followed the Baals. Now summon the people from all over Israel to meet me on Mount Carmel. And bring the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.”
So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel. Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.”
But the people said nothing.
Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only one of the Lord’s prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets. Get two bulls for us. Let Baal’s prophets choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by fire—he is God.”
Then all the people said, “What you say is good.”
Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first, since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire.” So they took the bull given them and prepared it.
Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. “Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made.
At noon Elijah began to taunt them. “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.” So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.
Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come here to me.” They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the Lord, which had been torn down. Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, saying, “Your name shall be Israel.” With the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two seahs of seed. He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, “Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood.”
“Do it again,” he said, and they did it again.
“Do it a third time,” he ordered, and they did it the third time. The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench.
At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”
Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.
When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!”
Then Elijah commanded them, “Seize the prophets of Baal. Don’t let anyone get away!” They seized them, and Elijah had them brought down to the Kishon Valley and slaughtered there.
Elijah was a soldier for the Lord. After his show down with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, wicked Queen Jezebeel went on a rampage to have Elijah found and killed. Elijah ran for his life and ended up hundreds of miles away from Jerusalem on the Mountain of God. The Lord dealt with Elijah according to his mercy and calls upon Elijah to trust in him once again. May we renew our desire to boldly proclaim In God We Trust.
In God We Trust To Focus Us On God’s Blessings
The prophet Elijah was so disappointed that he felt like dying. Perhaps we’ve never felt like dying because our bearing witness for Jesus didn’t bear more fruit, but we’ve all wondered whether there is a better, more effective way to win hearts for Jesus than by just sharing God’s Word. But, God teaches Elijah and us that his way of winning hearts is really the best way, no, the only way. God urges us to trust in his Word.
While Elijah felt like he was the only good guy left, God asked Elijah what he was doing hiding in a cave 480 km away from his preaching post, Elijah answered: “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” It’s been said that when you stick your head in Limburger cheese, the whole world stinks (Jeske). That was Elijah’s problem. He was so caught up in Jezebel’s threat to kill him that he had become blind to God’s blessings. Even if the showdown at Mt. Carmel had never happened, it wasn’t true that Elijah was the only believer left in Israel. In his self-pity Elijah had forgotten about Obadiah. Obadiah was King Ahab’s right-hand-man and still was a believer in the true God. Obadiah had even hidden a hundred of the Lord’s prophets when Jezebel was putting God’s prophets to death (1 Kings 18:1-15).
You and I are guilty of the same, even here at church. It is a great joy when we can read in the bulletin how many new people are taking Starting Point membership classes during the week. Only these days we haven’t seen so many of these classes in the bulletin. I might complain that the number of folks in Pastor Hering’s Bible Information Class is down from last year. I could become so disappointed about these “numbers” that I don’t notice the ones who ARE learning more from God’s Word in worship and Bible Class! What other blessings are we missing because we’re too busy focusing on our challenges? Our conversations about our country can easily dwell on all that is going wrong with America, and at times we are blind to God’s blessings because we’re too busy complaining! God has blessed us with a peaceful country, plentiful food, and absence of war in our boarders. If we take these blessings for granted, we need to ask God’s forgiveness for our ungratefulness and acknowledge that we only have ourselves to blame for having our heads stuck in Limburger cheese! Then let’s show that we still trust in God and focus on God’s blessings through the proclamation of his Word.
In God We Trust To Win Hearts God’s Way
Being blind to God’s blessings wasn’t Elijah’s only problem. When he claimed that his work of preaching God’s Word had not produced results even though he had been very zealous in this work, Elijah was implying that God’s way of winning hearts wasn’t working. So the Lord invited Elijah to stand at the mouth of the cave. A wind stronger than a tornado ripped through the mountain smashing rocks. An earthquake shook the mountain threatening to swallow Elijah. A raging fire came next. As he witnessed these displays of power Elijah must have thought to himself: “That’s what I’m talking about Lord! Send that wind to blow Jezebel to kingdom come. Use that earthquake to shake some sense into King Ahab. And if he won’t repent, then burn him up in the fire of your justice!” (Jeske)
Aren’t we a lot like Elijah? Don’t we think that if God would only perform miracles of power like sending fire down from heaven, church attendance would go up? The strange thing is that God’s power to change hearts was not in any of those displays of power. Instead he came afterwards in a still, small voice as quiet as a gentle whisper. God was illustrating a point he would make four hundred years later through the prophet Zechariah. “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty” (Zechariah 4:6). God does not use celestial 2 X 4’s like wind, earthquake, and fire to scare the hell out of people and get them to obey him. No, he moves people to obey him willingly, cheerfully by lovingly work Jesus into them. He makes this love known through the quiet words of the Bible. The same quiet Word a mother shares with her children when she sings, “Jesus Loves Me” at bedtime, the same quiet Word a Christian includes in a get-well card signed with a Bible passage, the same quiet Word preached from this pulpit and used in our outreach efforts – that’s what God uses to change hearts.
Dear Christian Friends, God’s Word works in real life! Elijah didn’t think so as he was sure that he was the only believer left in Israel. He was wrong. God’s Word had worked in the hearts of seven thousand people in Israel keeping them from bowing down to Baal (1 Kings 19:18). God’s Word still works today. It might not work as quickly as we would like it to but if the Word won’t change the hearts of the people we are reaching out to, nothing will.
But, what about the enemies of God’s Word? Was God going to let them get away with the things they had done? No he wouldn’t. God went on to tell Elijah to go back up north, as far north as present day Syria, where he was to anoint Hazael king of Aram. Then he was to go to Israel and anoint Jehu king of Israel. Finally he was to track down Elisha and anoint him to be his successor as God’s champion prophet. Hazael would be God’s arm of justice on impenitent Israel. Jehu would cut down those who escaped Hazael’s sword (By the way, it was under Jehu’s leadership that Jezebel was killed). And the impenitent who escaped from Jehu would die under Elisha’s watch.
A new hope had been given to Elijah. He was reminded that God remained in charge, that the Church would prevail, and that God would deal with the evildoers. So, Elijah’s ministry wasn’t over. The Lord still had work for Elijah to do as he proclaimed God’s Word to the Israelites. Even as he had learned, so he would teach them to confess, “In God We Trust!”
How about for us? Our country was founded on Christian principles. And so today we have some real concerns about our dear country. Some days we fear for the condition we are in, the economy, the wars we are fighting against our enemies, and even the future of our county. But, even more so, the battle for the Kingdom of God rages on against Satan and his evil enemies. Don’t give up on the powerful tool God has given to you in order to share the power of forgiveness from Jesus with the people in your life.
“In God we Trust!” It is a very important slogan for us as Christians. Despite what modern politicians, the contemporary media or the history revisionists say – America was founded not on the concept of freedom to worship any god (Buddha, Allah..etc) but on the freedom to worship Jesus Christ. It is time for us to return to the source of the power we need to live each day under God’s grace. Return to God’s Word! Let it serve us today as it served our founding fathers. Let us boldly and passionately proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ so that future generations will be found to say, “In God We Trust!” Amen.