Speaker: Pastor Darin Browne
1 Kings 18:22-24 (ESV)
Then Elijah said to the people, “I, even I only, am left a prophet of the LORD, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men. Let two bulls be given to us, and let them choose one bull for themselves and cut it in pieces and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it. And I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood and put no fire to it. And you call upon the name of your god, and I will call upon the name of the LORD, and the God who answers by fire, he is God.” And all the people answered, “It is well spoken.”
I wanted to have a look at my favourite prophet in the Old Testament, mainly because he still speaks into our society today. Elijah was raised up by God because he had an excellent Spirit, and sensational faith, but he was also flawed and struggled.
Elisha, his protégé, faced the Jordan river, hit it with Elijah’s cloak and said,
2 Kings 2:14 (ESV)
“Where is the LORD, the God of Elijah?” And when he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha went over.
WHERE IS ELIJAH?
Elisha said, where is the Lord God of Elijah, but I believe we should ask the opposite today…where are the Elijahs of the Lord God? More than ever before, we need the Elijahs of God to this generation. God is looking for Elijahs…
Ezekiel 22:30 (ESV)
And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none.
Will God find no one today for our nation, and our generation? He is looking at you and me, and I aim to be an Elijah, and I think you should be one too. So, let’s look closer at my favourite prophet.
ELIJAH, AN ORDINARY MAN
When we read the Bible, we assume that the mighty men and women of old were all super saints. That’s not true. The Bible tells us they were just like us…
James 5:17-18 (ESV)
Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.
Elijah had a nature like ours! The Greek word for nature is HOMOIO-PATHES, literally meaning same passion. He had the same passions, desires, needs and affections as us. An ordinary guy from Tishbe in Gilead, east of the Jordan, a remote, hilly wilderness that bred tough shepherds. So, Elijah probably grew up a working-class man tending sheep. Nothing extraordinary, no training, no genealogical pedigree, just a tough exterior and a heart totally devoted to God.
1. THE CALL OF ELIJAH
We know nothing about his past until he bursts onto the stage, confronting the evil King Ahab, and praying in faith to shut up the heavens. The first thing here is we see a powerful call of God on his life, confronting and evil King and his evil wife, and having faith enough to cause a three and a half year long drought.
1 Kings 17:1 (ESV)
Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.”
He marches in, pronounces his prophecy, and marches out. Wow! That’s courage, and honestly, that’s what we lack in our nation today. It would be like you rocking up to Canberra, marching into the Prime Minister’s office and pronouncing judgement on his policies. You want The Voice, Albenese? Here’s one you’ll never forget! Instead in Australia we see leaders, even Christian leaders, bowing and scraping to minorities, fearful of upsetting any one of them and being labelled a bigot. I used to be called a religious nut, but now I am labelled a sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic hypocritical bigot.
Where are the Elijah’s of God in our generation, that are called and stand up for truth?
2. THE COMPASSION OF ELIJAH
Elijah, in the middle of the drought, had compassion on a poor widow, who wasn’t even a Jew. She was in Zerephath in Sidon, a gentile territory, but she worshipped the one true God. Elijah tested her faith, by asking her to give her last little bit of flour and oil in the drought. She trusted God and gave it, and Elijah prophesied this…
1 Kings 17:14 (ESV)
For thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the LORD sends rain upon the earth.'”
Elijah, who proclaimed the word of the Lord to kings, took time out for and had compassion on a poor woman from the wrong side of the tracks. Later her son died, and with it her financial provision and future, and Elijah again cared for her…
1 Kings 17:20-22 (ESV)
And he cried to the LORD, “O LORD my God, have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by killing her son?” Then he stretched himself upon the child three times and cried to the LORD, “O LORD my God, let this child’s life come into him again.” And the LORD listened to the voice of Elijah. And the life of the child came into him again, and he revived.
GOD CARED FOR ELIJAH AND HE CARES FOR YOU
It’s one thing to have an opinion, to stand on the word of the Lord, to make a stand for Jesus. But it’s another thing to be kind to the poorest, to take time for those that others overlook. If you are poor, downtrodden, kicked around by life, I tell you today that God loves you, cares for you, has a plan for you and wants you to come Him this day.
Where are the compassionate Elijahs of God?
3. THE CONFRONTATION WITH BAAL
Then we get the big showdown, and it is here that we see the incredible faith of Elijah. Elijah randomly appeared again and confronted the king and wicked Queen Jezebel. She had routed the priests of the Lord, murdering them all, save for one hundred that Obadiah had hidden in caves. Like today, spiritual darkness covered the land, as people ignored God and pursued their own agendas.
1 Kings 18:17-19 (ESV)
When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?” And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father’s house, because you have abandoned the commandments of the LORD and followed the Baals. Now therefore send and gather all Israel to me at Mount Carmel, and the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.”
Notice the deities mentioned here. Baal was a God of fertility, all about materialism and prosperity. Ashera was about sex, homosexuality, transgenderism. Guess what? These are the exact same demonic deities we face today. The same demons! Elijah didn’t compromise and preach tolerance, he stood up and confronted them head on in a mighty showdown.
Elijah lived every moment with God. He thought about the nation’s sins like God and he grieved over sin like God. He confronted and spoke against sin like God. Elijah was passionate in his prayers but also in his confrontation of sin. He didn’t preach tolerance, he didn’t preach to be popular, he preached truth.
ELIJAH SETS UP A SHOWDOWN
And so, Elijah set up a showdown on Mt Carmel, in northern Israel. Mt Carmel rises over 500 metres above the Mediterranean Sea, and normally it has a high rainfall, representing lushness, fertility, and majesty. But when Elijah took his stand, the lush slopes were withered and parched, showing the judgement of God against Israel and especially Baal.
Amos 1:2 (ESV)
And he said: “The LORD roars from Zion and utters his voice from Jerusalem; the pastures of the shepherds mourn, and the top of Carmel withers.”
That’s why Elijah chose Mt Carmel, because it was a symbol of fertility, and its brownness in the drought was a direct attack on Baal and Ashera.
1 Kings 18:20-21 (ESV)
So Ahab sent to all the people of Israel and gathered the prophets together at Mount Carmel. And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word.
What a challenge for us today. Many of us are like the people and say nothing. Edmund Burke said, “All that is required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing!” How many of us are limping between two opinions? How many Christians say, well I know the Bible says this, but social media is saying that, or the government, or the Gay BC.
Peter Marshall said, “Better to stand for something lest you fall for anything.” The Hebrew for limping is PASAH, which means to hop, limp, or dance. How many Christians are dancing between what the world says and what God says, when we should stand on the truth, because truth is truth, it’s not relative.
There has never been a greater need in my lifetime for the Elijah’s of God to rise up and stand for truth!
4. THE CONTEST AGAINST BAAL
1 Kings 18:24 (ESV)
And you call upon the name of your god, and I will call upon the name of the LORD, and the God who answers by fire, he is God.” And all the people answered, “It is well spoken.”
Finally, the people speak, and they are up for a spectacle. They don’t care about truth or right and wrong, they want a show. This is just like today as well, we are all on social media looking for entertainment, not truth. We look for funny cat videos, embarrassingly bad singers on The Voice and we get outraged against people who disagree with us. Back then, like now, people forgot truth and said, entertain us!
Elijah says, “I can live with that,” and lets the prophets of Baal go first.
We need courage like Elijah. 850 to 1 are the odds, and Elijah knew if they were successful with lighting their altar, his goose was cooked. But Elijah had courage, he had faith, and he also has a wicked sense of humour!
1 Kings 18:27 (ESV)
And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing (Hebrew meditating), or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.”
This guy was so cocky in God that, in the face of overwhelming odds, he not only challenged but mocked the opposition. We are told as Christians we just need to be meek and mild and not speak meanly to those who oppose us, but Elijah didn’t get the memo! He played to the crowd and entertained.
1 Kings 18:28-29 (ESV)
And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention.
Their gods were not real, they were blocks of wood. The God of Elijah is real, so after letting them cut themselves and do their thing, Elijah now faced the sternest test of faith… praying, and letting God be God!
1 Kings 18:30 (ESV)
Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” And all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the LORD that had been thrown down.
Hebrew for repair is RAPA, which means to heal and make whole. The word is applied to a physician healing a person. God wants to heal, both us and our nation.
Then he built an altar, and he made things even harder.
1 Kings 18:33 (ESV)
And he put the wood in order and cut the bull in pieces and laid it on the wood. And he said, “Fill four jars with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.”
He saturated the wood, twice.
1 Kings 18:36-38 (ESV)
Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.
A mighty contest, and a spectacular victory. He then slayed the evil prophets…
1 Kings 18:39 (ESV)
And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The LORD, he is God; the LORD, he is God.”
5. THE CLOUD OF BLESSING
Right after this, at the word of Elijah, the drought was about to break. He went to the top of the mountain, bowed down and prayed, and instructed his servant to observe. Seven times he asked, and each time the servant said no clouds, no rain. Then
1 Kings 18:44 (ESV)
And at the seventh time he said, “Behold, a little cloud like a man’s hand is rising from the sea.” And he said, “Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot and go down, lest the rain stop you.'”
We need faith like Elijah, to pray and keep on praying until we see God move. Honestly, most of us do not persist in prayer, we give up, often just before a breakthrough. We think faith is seeing the answers we are praying for, but it takes more faith if the Lord tarries. We must learn the lesson of persistence.
It reminds me of the parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18, which concludes with Jesus pointing us to His imminent return…
Luke 18:7-8 (ESV)
And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
Elijah had a faith that confronted and saw massive miracles, and one that persisted where necessary, knowing God was in his corner. Some of you here today need a miracle, so let us persist with you, believe with you, and see miracles with you. Where are the Elijahs who persist in the things of God?
6. THE COLLAPSE OF ELIJAH’S FAITH
The thing I love about Elijah is how human he is. He had the biggest triumph of his career, saw the hugest, spectacular miracle, then collapsed. He plunged into depression, right after his greatest victory. Honestly, this is so much like me.
Grappling with depression is very real. And before you condemn me or others, it’s not an act of rebellion, it’s a crisis of faith. Elijah ran for his life in fear of Jezebel, and found himself alone, depressed, sitting under a broom tree.
1 Kings 19:4-5 (ESV)
And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.”
ELIJAH’S RESPONSE IS NOT THE ANSWER
Elijah was actually so depressed and down he was suicidal. I’ve been there, have you?
Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Whatever drives you to despair is never permanent, and suicide should never be an option. Some here grapple with this regularly, and we are here to help you be set free from this bondage. If you battle with chronic depression and even suicide, our inner healing team are here to help. Ignite is about sharing the load and caring and sharing the journey with you, so don’t be like Elijah and sit alone, plunging into depression.
The angel then awoke Elijah and provided food. Sometimes the best thing we can do for depression is practical…get some rest and a decent feed. After rest and food, Elijah was ready for an incredible encounter with God Himself.
1 Kings 19:8 (ESV)
And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.
7. THE COMPLAINT TO GOD
Where are the Elijahs who seek God? Elijah encounters God on Mt Horeb. He was honest with God about how he felt, and you can be honest with God too. If you’re depressed, let Him know. If you feel cheated, hard done by or overlooked, tell Him so. God is big enough; He can handle your complaints!
1 Kings 19:10 (ESV)
He said, “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.”
Elijah, as most depressed people do, saw the world much darker than it was. He said all the other prophets are dead, and I’m the last surviving one. Not true, but that’s how he felt. He had a high high, and now he experienced a low low.
8. THE CONNECTION TO GOD
Elijah, at his lowest point, was looking for God. He was seeking the Lord, and God surprised him. So often we want God to show up in the spectacular, but he doesn’t.
1 Kings 19:11-12 (ESV)
And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.
God most often speaks in the still, small voice, and often when we are at our low point. Be still and know that I am God! Here’s one of life’s greatest secrets…God is near, very near.
Psalms 34:18 (ESV)
The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
Psalms 139:7-10 (ESV)
Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.
GOD IS ACTIVELY SEEKING YOU
God is near to you right now, and He is actively seeking you. He loves you, so don’t look for Him in the spectacular, however successful you might be, hear His still small voice calling you, wooing you. God speaks tenderly to me every day, not in explosions, or healings, or prophetic words, but in my quiet times, as I read the Bible and pray every day. Listen for His voice today, let Him whisper His truths into your soul.
WHERE ARE THE ELIJAHS OF GOD?
Elijah was a real person, just like we are. He stood in faith, proclaimed God’s truth to a hostile, anti-God world. But he also had deep bouts of depression…he was a real person! And through it all, Elijah found a powerful, intimate relationship with God. Who are the Elijahs of God in 21st century Australia?
It is you and I, if we are prepared to stand in the gap for our people, and for God’s unchangeable truth. We might have successes, we may face failures, we might feel sensational, and we might get depressed. Through it all, at the top or the bottom, Elijah was sold out for God, and that is what we need to be in this hour.
Elijah was brash, sometimes abrasive, often criticised, but Elijah was a man of courage and conviction. What we need today is people of backbone, not wishbone. We need more Elijahs of God.
We probably won’t stand on top of a mountain and call down fire from God. But we can pray fervently like Elijah for our people and our generation, and we can settle things in our heart to stand for God’s truth without compromise. When we talk to friends, in Facebook, at work or school, we should with firm and quiet resolve speak Jesus to our nation.
I want to also focus on the not just the highs, not just the stand against tyranny, but also on the struggle Elijah had with depression and even suicide. If you struggle with depression, I can confidently tell you that that’s not God doing it, it’s not His will. Jesus promised life to the full, not a dreary, depressed existence. God has far more for you, if you would bring your pain and your hurt, even your bitterness to Him.