God's Powerful Prophets

God's Powerful Prophets: Jeremiah

Jeremiah Sermon Notes

Jeremiah

Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Sunday August 21, 2016

Pastor Paul L. Davis

 

Key Goals: (Know) Understand faithfulness and perseverance. (Feel) Feel empowered to persevere.  (Do) Follow hard after the Lord.

Introduction: God’s Powerful Prophets. We are in the midst of exploring four key men in God’s plan for redeeming mankind; they were all prophets. Our first two prophets were Elijah and Elisha, and today we are going to meet Jeremiah. A prophet’s job was to tell God’s people the truth about God and their sin. They were to clearly reveal sins that needed to be repented of and truths that needed to be remembered. Sometimes, a prophetic word is exactly what we need to hear. People can become forgetful, rebellious, complacent, preoccupied, stubborn, busy and just plain disobedient. A prophet’s job was to wake people up and turn their hearts away from sin and towards God. The Hebrew word for prophet is “naw-bi.” The root of that word means “to be open or hollow” and described the hollow part of a flute[1]. The idea is that a prophet’s mouth was to be hollow so that it would speak God’s words into the world.

The Story of Jeremiah

The man wakes up suddenly as his cheek touches the cold mud. Goosebumps make his whiskers stand on end. It’s dark, and just for a moment the man wonders where he is. He shivers as the cold mud has sapped the warmth from his body. As he looks up, he sees the mouth of the well some 30 feet above him. The brightness of the daylight causes his eyes to hurt. “What day is it?” he wonders. “How long have I been down here?” As he asks himself these questions, his weight shifts in the mud. His legs have fallen asleep again and the painful tingling forces him to fight the mud that holds him captive. He thought when they were lowering him down that he would land in water but the well was almost dry and there was only a thick layer of mud to break his fall. Alone at the bottom of a well, imprisoned and shivering in the mud—how did a powerful prophet of God end up here?

Jeremiah was born to be a prophet. The morning he first heard the Lord’s voice, God said to him, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5)[2] From his youngest days Jeremiah struggled with his assignment. He had told the Lord that he was not a strong speaker. (Jer. 1:6) But God had said, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.” (Jer. 1:9) And even when Jeremiah thought in his heart that he was not going to tell the people what God had revealed to him, God’s words became like a fire in his bones, burning so strongly he didn’t have the strength to hold them in (Jer. 20:9). So Jeremiah preached, and spoke the truth to kings and princes and anyone who might listen.

When he began, he was only 17 years old. The cold mud is much harder on his now 50-year-old body. For 40 years Jeremiah only spoke truth. Five kings had come and gone and through them all he had faithfully brought the messages God had given him.

At first God told him to preach repentance. “Root out, pull down, destroy and throw down, Then build and plant,” God had said (Jer. 1:10). His nation had forgotten their God, even though godly King Josiah wanted the people to turn back to the Lord. People are not easy to turn. They had actually lost the Bible and when King Josiah found it, Jeremiah read it to the people over and over, pleading with them to repent of their sin and turn to God. God let Jeremiah see the grave consequences on the horizon if the people ignored him. But no one listened. Not one. So God told Jeremiah to warn the people of coming destruction, that invaders were coming from the north (Jer. 1:14-15; 4:6), that they would bring famine, disease and war.

God’s people had broken covenant with God (Jer. 11:10). They had forsaken God by worshipping the false gods called Baals (Jer. 2:8; 11:13) and they even built altars to Baal so they could burn their children as offerings (Jer. 19:4-5). So Jeremiah warned the people and exposed their sins; he pointed out their idolatry (Jer. 44:1-10), their adultery (Jer. 5:7-9), how they oppressed the refugees, orphans and widows (Jer. 7:5-6). He begged them to turn from their lies and how they spoke evil of each other (Jer. 9:4-6). Jeremiah told them that God had withdrawn his blessings (Jer. 16:5-10), that famine and starvation were on their way (Jer.15:1-4), that the Babylonians would plunder them and take them captive to a far away land (Jer. 14:12; 25:8-9).

That is when the beatings began (Jer. 20:1-10). Pashhur the priest (chief officer of the house of the Lord) ordered the first one. Jeremiah flinched as he remembered the rod striking him over and over and over. All Jeremiah had done was warn the people of the coming destruction (Jer. 19:15) but they called him a traitor and a false prophet. When the Babylonians finally arrived at the gates of the city and the people began starving as the siege went longer and longer, did the people listen then? Not one.

A cloud passes across the tiny bit of sky Jeremiah can see from the bottom of the well. The little water that remains has a rancid musty smell. Jeremiah begins to think of people who might come to his rescue. He has no wife or children. God specifically forbid him from marrying anyone (Jer. 16:1-2). God had said the diseases and the destruction would be too horrible for family. Who would come to rescue a prophet who only gives bad news? 

It was the leaders of the city and the king himself that had thrown Jeremiah in the well. “How can it be treason,” Jeremiah thought, “when all I am doing is telling the people how to survive the coming massacre?” “Leave the city,” he told anyone who would listen. “Surrender to the Babylonians and God will protect you and your family.” (Jer. 38:2-3). But when the men came for him they all shouted, “Treason!” and tied him up with ropes. Before he knew it, Jeremiah was at the bottom of a well—alone, cold, and desperately hungry (Jer. 38:9).

For 40 years Jeremiah had preached. He had no wife, no children, no retirement account, no success to show for his sacrifices. Just the constant drip coming from the stone walls of the well. As Jeremiah began drifting off to sleep, he remembered, “It’s not been all gloom and doom. I’ve always proclaimed the good things that are coming too.” From memory Jeremiah began quoting one of his favorite messages:  

This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor… saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”        Jeremiah 31:33–34

As his words echoed in the well, Jeremiah drifted into a deep sleep, dreaming once again of the righteous and soon coming King who would set all the world right (Jer.23:5; 33:15).

Jeremiah would eventually be rescued from the well.

What do we learn from the life of Jeremiah?

1. Every believer, even “Powerful Prophets of God,” experiences rejection, failure, and discouragement in their walk with the Lord. This is a normal part of growing spiritually. We live in a fallen, sin-filled world and until Christ returns every believer will face hardship. This is why discipling one another is so important; this is why we train ourselves in godliness, so that we are prepared when we find ourselves at the bottom of a well. When the apostle Paul was discipling young Timothy he exhorted him, “You must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” 2 Timothy 2:3–4 (NKJV) The Greek word for “hardship” literally means “evil, suffering and even condemnation.” The idea is that there comes a time in a battle where a soldier knows that to be faithful in their duties means they might die. To endure in that moment is faithfulness. 

2. As a church, we measure success by faithfulness to God and his word. How should we be measuring the successfulness of Calvary or the Church @ Hamilton? Number of baptisms? If we like the sermon or worship package? If the church serves coffee or not? You can take a look at all of those things, but let us not kid ourselves, God measures success in terms of obedience and faithfulness—obedience to the mission and faithfulness to endure hardship.

3. Families and spouses are important, but the number one relationship in your life must be God. Jeremiah never married, he never had children and he was 100% in the will of God. If you are single, do not compromise your relationship with God in order to be married. Follow God with all of your heart, and if someone comes along and can keep up with you? Marry them. I hear someone thinking, “But what about love? Isn’t love what matters most?” Why, yes it is. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. Deuteronomy 6:5 Finding a good wife is important and having a strong family is important. But children grow up and leave, and marriage is only until death. Your relationship with God is eternal. Put him first.

[1] Francis Brown, Samuel Rolles Driver, and Charles Augustus Briggs, Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977), 612.

[2] All Scripture quotations are taken from the ESV unless otherwise noted.

God's Powerful Prophets: Elisha

Elisha Sermon Notes

Elisha

Sunday August 14th, 2016

Pastor Paul L. Davis

2 Kings 5:1-27

Key Goals: (Know) Understand the danger of pride and greed. (Feel) Love, humility and grace.  (Do) Repent of the pride and greed in our lives.

Introduction: We are in the midst of exploring four key men in God’s plan for redeeming mankind; they were all prophets. Our first two prophets are Elijah and Elisha, and we looked at Elijah last week. Our second two will be Jeremiah and Ezekiel. God used each of these men in powerful and unique ways.

What is a prophet? He was a man chosen by God to bring repentance and change. He did that by:

1.          Revealing to the world who God was and what he was like. (Deut. 5:4-10)

2.          Calling God’s people to love and obey him. (2 Chr. 24:19)

3.          Warning of divine judgment upon sin both on a personal and national level. (Jer. 36:30-31)

4.          Foretelling certain future events, especially as related to the coming of the Messiah. (Jer. 30:1-3, Is. 9:6)

A prophet’s job was to tell God’s people the truth about God and their sin, to clearly reveal the sins needing to be repented of and the truths that needed to be remembered. Sometimes, a prophetic word is exactly what we need to hear. People can become forgetful, rebellious, complacent, preoccupied, stubborn, busy and just plain disobedient. A prophet’s job was to wake people up and turn their hearts away from sin towards God. The Hebrew word for prophet is “naw-bi.” The root of that word means “to be open or hollow” and was used to describe the hollow part of a flute[1]. The idea is that a prophet’s mouth was to be hollow so that it would speak God’s words into the world.

Background Review: This morning we will be looking at Elisha (approx. 892–832 BCE). Turn in your Bible to 2 Kings 5:1-27. While you are turning, let’s set the table for where we are in time. King David followed Yahweh and handed the kingdom to Solomon. Solomon’s son Rehoboam oppressed the people and the kingdom split into two: Judah and Benjamin to the south and the other 10 tribes to the north. Elijah showed up on the scene 58 years later. Seven kings had reigned in Israel and all of them were evil, worshipping idols. As we saw last week, God used Elijah to change that. This week we are going to look at Elijah’s successor Elisha.

Elisha shows up not long after our story last week. Elijah is hiding in a cave from the wrath of Queen Jezebel after defeating all of her Baal false-prophets. He expresses his loneliness as a servant of the Lord, and God responds by telling him to get up, anoint several kings, and call Elisha as his successor. Elisha, completely unaware of this plan, was plowing his field one day when Elijah passed by and threw his cloak on his shoulders (1 Kgs 19:19).[2] From that day on, Elisha followed Elijah until the Lord took him. The Bible tells us that Elisha had a “double portion” of the Spirit of God that Elijah had on him. Read 1-2 Kings sometime and see some of the great things that he did. We are going to see how God’s Powerful Prophet’s worked this morning by taking a close look at Elisha’s interaction with an army commander named Naaman.

2 Kings 5:1–27 (NLT)

The king of Aram (modern day Syria) had great admiration for Naaman, the commander of his army, because through him the Lord had given Aram great victories. But though Naaman was a mighty warrior, he suffered from leprosy.

The biblical word “leprosy” was used to describe many incurable, contagious skin diseases. The book of Leviticus actually gives detailed instructions on how Israel was to deal with these diseases, some of which were highly contagious. Before antibiotics and anti-fungal medicines, it was important to quarantine people with skin infections. Think about some of the diseases that show skin symptoms. Of course there is leprosy, but also small pox, measles, plague, herpes, gangrene. All of these are dangerous and in biblical times often meant a lonely, slow, and painful death. Naaman had one of these diseases.

2 At this time Aramean raiders had invaded the land of Israel, and among their captives was a young girl who had been given to Naaman’s wife as a maid. (This young girl, we will find out later, was an Israelite.) 3 One day the girl said to her mistress, “I wish my master would go to see the prophet in Samaria. He would heal him of his leprosy.”  

Notice the graciousness of this little girl. She was a “captive.” You know what that is a nice way of saying? She was ripped away from her family and she was now a slave. Yet she was still gracious to her captor.

4 So Naaman told the king what the young girl from Israel had said. 5 “Go and visit the prophet,” the king of Aram told him. “I will send a letter of introduction for you to take to the king of Israel.” So Naaman started out, carrying as gifts 750 pounds of silver ($245,000), 150 pounds of gold ($3,250,000), and ten sets of clothing.

Naaman was not holding back; this was an extraordinary amount of money. If anyone could buy their health, it was Naaman. What he did not know was that prophets did not work for money. 

 6 The letter to the king of Israel said: “With this letter I present my servant Naaman. I want you to heal him of his leprosy.” 7 When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes in dismay and said, “This man sends me a leper to heal! Am I God, that I can give life and take it away? I can see that he’s just trying to pick a fight with me.”

This was a legitimate thought—Israel and Aram had fought many battles against each other. 

 8 But when Elisha, the man of God, heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes in dismay, he sent this message to him: “Why are you so upset? Send Naaman to me, and he will learn that there is a true prophet here in Israel.”

What the king saw as a problem, Elisha saw as an opportunity to witness to an important leader of another nation.

 9 So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and waited at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 But Elisha sent a messenger out to him with this message: “Go and wash yourself seven times in the Jordan River. Then your skin will be restored, and you will be healed of your leprosy.”

So Naaman is probably the wealthiest man anyone in Israel had ever seen and he is standing with millions of dollars worth of gifts at Elisha’s door, and Elisha won’t even talk with him. This would be rude today, but in the Eastern world if someone showed up to your door, you would feed and welcome them. Elisha sends a messenger.

Naaman’s Pride

11 But Naaman became angry and went away. “I thought he would certainly come out to meet me!” he said. “I expected him to wave his hand over the leprosy and call on the name of the Lord (YHWH) his God and heal me! 12 Aren’t the rivers of Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar, better than any of the rivers of Israel? Why shouldn’t I wash in them and be healed?” So Naaman turned and went away in a rage.  

Elisha was not being rude; he was being like Jesus and getting straight to Naaman’s spiritual issue: pride. Naaman thought his power, wealth, and position could buy him his health from a prophet of God. But God and his prophet were not as concerned about Naaman’s health as they were his heart. He needed humility as much as he needed healing.

13 …His officers tried to reason with him and said, “Sir, if the prophet had told you to do something very difficult, wouldn’t you have done it? So you should certainly obey him when he says simply, ‘Go and wash and be cured!’ ”

What happens next is one of the greatest Gentile conversions in the entire Bible![3]

14 So Naaman went down to the Jordan River and dipped himself seven times, as the man of God had instructed him. And his skin became as healthy as the skin of a young child, and he was healed! 15 Then Naaman and his entire party went back to find the man of God. They stood before him, and Naaman said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. So please accept a gift from your servant.” 16 But Elisha replied, “As surely as the Lord (YHWH) lives, whom I serve, I will not accept any gifts.” And though Naaman urged him to take the gift, Elisha refused.

No longer proud, Naaman proclaims his faith in Yahweh and wants to show his appreciation through a gift. Elisha refuses the gift, not because it was inappropriate, but because of Naaman’s pride. Elisha wants Naaman to understand the grace of God. Naaman asked and obeyed in faith and by faith he was healed and accepted by God—Elisha did not want Naaman to miss that. We too are accepted by God by faith. We don’t have to earn it, pay for it or even work hard for it. When we lose our pride and turn and seek the Lord by faith, we will be healed and accepted just like Naaman. But unfortunately that is not the end of the story.

Gehazi’s Greed

So Naaman started home again. 20 But Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, the man of God, said to himself, “My master should not have let this Aramean get away without accepting any of his gifts. As surely as the Lord lives, I will chase after him and get something from him.”

We get a glimpse into Gehazi’s thoughts, and what we hear is a mind filled with greed. 

21 So Gehazi set off after Naaman. When Naaman saw Gehazi running after him, he climbed down from his chariot and went to meet him. “Is everything all right?” Naaman asked. 22 “Yes,” Gehazi said, “but my master has sent me to tell you that two young prophets from the hill country of Ephraim have just arrived. He would like 75 pounds of silver and two sets of clothing to give to them.”  

Gehazi is asking for about $25,000 worth of goods, a small amount compared to what Naaman was willing to give. But his greed is more than just covetousness, it has turned to lying and manipulation. Gehazi boldly creates a story to manipulate Naaman in his generosity. Naaman’s newly redeemed heart is glad to pay it.

23 “By all means, take twice as much silver,” Naaman insisted. He gave him two sets of clothing, tied up the money in two bags, and sent two of his servants to carry the gifts for Gehazi. 24 But when they arrived at the citadel, Gehazi took the gifts from the servants and sent the men back. Then he went and hid the gifts inside the house.

Gehazi ends up with over $50,000 worth of goods and 150 pounds of silver that he has to hide. This had to have been a lot of work.

25 When he went in to his master, Elisha asked him, “Where have you been, Gehazi?” “I haven’t been anywhere,” he replied. (should be “he lied.”) 26 But Elisha asked him, “Don’t you realize that I was there in spirit when Naaman stepped down from his chariot to meet you? Is this the time to receive money and clothing, olive groves and vineyards, sheep and cattle, and male and female servants? 27 Because you have done this, you and your descendants will suffer from Naaman’s leprosy forever.” When Gehazi left the room, he was covered with leprosy; his skin was white as snow.

Namaan gave up his pride, by faith following YHWH, and he leaves blessed. Gehazi, on the other hand, gave up YHWH and followed his greed. So what do we take from this?

1.          The grace of God cannot be bought with gold, power or position. We must come to God by faith and faith alone.

2.          Power or position or silver and gold can actually be a hindrance to following God.

3.          Two of the easiest ways for people to miss God’s blessing are:

(a) Pride—Naaman almost rejected God because of his pride

(b) Covetousness—Gehazi’s covetous heart wanted gold more than he wanted God. We have to ask ourselves: Are we unwilling to do easy things that God is asking us to do? Well, that’s pride. Are we chasing after money and stuff—is our life a marathon of getting more? That’s covetousness.

 

[1] Francis Brown, Samuel Rolles Driver, and Charles Augustus Briggs, Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977), 612.

[2] Amy Balogh, “Elisha the Prophet,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).

[3] Some others would be Rahabin Josh 2:9–13, Ruth in Ruth 1:16–18, The sailors in Jonah 1:16; 3:6–10

God's Powerful Prophets: Elijah

God's Powerful Prophets: Elijah Sermon Notes

Elijah

Pastor Paul L. Davis

1 Kings 18:20–46, Luke 16:13

Key Goals: (Know) Know God in a way that we will display strength and take action. (Feel) Feel confident in God’s ability to overwhelm his foes.  (Do) Attempt great things for God.

Introduction: God’s Powerful Prophets. Over the next four weeks we are going to be exploring four key men in God’s plan for redeeming mankind. They were all prophets. Our first two prophets will be Elijah and Elisha, and our second two will be Jeremiah and Ezekiel. God used each of these men in powerful and unique ways. 

What is a prophet? He was a man chosen by God to bring repentance and change. He did that in four ways:

1.          Revealing to the world who God was and what he was like. (Deut. 5:4-10)

2.          Calling God’s people to love and obey him. (2 Chr. 24:19)

3.          Warning of divine judgment upon sin both on a personal and national level. (Jer. 36:30-31)

4.          Foretelling certain future events, especially as related to the coming of the Messiah. (Jer. 30:1-3, Is. 9:6)

So a prophet was not simply a “fortune teller” or even just a “truth teller.” A prophet’s job was to reveal or tell the difficult truth that God wanted something to change. The Hebrew word for prophet is “naw-bi.” The root of that word means “to be open or hollow” and it described the hollow part of a flute[1]. The idea is that a prophet’s mouth was to be hollow so that it would speak God’s words into the world. A prophet’s job was to tell God’s people the truth about God and their sin: to clearly reveal the sins that needed to be repented of and truths that needed to be remembered. Sometimes, a prophetic word is exactly what we need to hear. People can get forgetful, rebellious, complacent, preoccupied, stubborn, busy, and just plain disobedient. A prophet’s job was to wake people up and turn their hearts away from sin towards God. 

Background Review: This morning we will be looking at Elijah (approx. 875-850 BCE). Turn in your Bible to 1 Kings 18:20–40. While you are turning, let’s set the table for where we are in time. Creation: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth and everything was perfect until…The Fall: Where Adam & Eve rebelled against God and sinned by eating of the forbidden fruit… From that original sin, sin grew so evil and violent that God eventually brought a…Great Flood: To destroy all the violence on the earth. But in that flood he saved one family by building a great ark. Noah: was spared because of his righteousness. God told Noah after the flood to spread out over all the earth and replenish the earth… But once again man rebelled and tried to build a tower to heaven…The tower of Babel: Because of man’s refusal to obey, God confused the languages and man spread over the face of the earth.

Then from a city in what is now Iraq, God called a certain man to follow him, Abraham & Sarah: By faith Abraham becomes the seed of God’s chosen people and even though his wife is barren they give birth to…Ishmael & Isaac: Isaac was the promised son through whom Messiah would come. Isaac has two sons…Esau & Jacob: The Messiah will come through one of Jacob’s 12 sons who become the 12 tribes of Israel. One of those sons is Joseph who protects the Israelites in Egypt during a famine. But the people become captives for 400 years, until…Moses leads the people to the Promised Land and introduces God’s law… God’s people live in the Promised Land led by The Judges. Like Sampson, Gideon, Deborah, the last judge being Samuel, because the people wanted a king. So Samuel anointed…

King Saul and after his disobedience then King David. David followed Yahweh, and handed the kingdom to Solomon who did the same for most of his life. But Solomon’s son Rehoboam oppressed the people and the kingdom split into two. Judah and Benjamin to the south and the other 10 tribes to the north. By the time we get to the prophet Elijah, the Northern Kingdom had reached an all time spiritual low. Fifty-eight years had passed since the division. Seven kings had reigned in Israel and all of them were evil. All worshipped idols. The eighth king of Israel was Ahab and under him idolatry reached its lowest, most evil point. All the priests of Yahweh were killed and the altars destroyed. Why? Because Ahab had married Jezebel, a princess of Tyre of the Phoenicians.  It was Jezebel who introduced the idolatrous cult of “Baal-Melqart” into Israel.

Baal Melqart was the god of the Phoenicians and was the focus of a festival of resurrection each year in the months of February-March where a sacrifice was made by fire. This annual sacrifice is where Baal earned his nickname the ‘fire of heaven’.[2] The Phoenicians seem not to have created large sculptural likenesses of Baal, the practice may even have been prohibited. Instead, at his temples Melqart was represented by an eternal fire and during times of war or natural disaster, children—often multiple siblings at a time—were sacrificed in the fire to appease him. [3] (Archeologists have found “tophets”—the places of sacrifice to Baal—with thousands of infant skeletons.[4]) This became the religion of the Northern Kingdom. So God sent Elijah to change all this, to call the people away from Baal-Marqart and back to him. Elijah did this first by praying for a drought. So by the time of our story this morning it had not rained for three years. There is a great famine and King Ahab believes it is all Elijah’s fault.

1 Kings 18:20–40 (ESV)

So Ahab sent to all the people of Israel and gathered the prophets together at Mount Carmel. 21 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. Elijah uses the word “limping.” The word carries the idea of wavering or weaving back and forth. This tells you a lot about where the people’s hearts were. They did not know what to believe. They had forgotten God, so Elijah comes up with a plan to remind them.

 

 22 Then Elijah said to the people, “I, even I only, am left a prophet of the Lord, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men. 23 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. 24 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.”

 

This is a test that plays right into Baal’s strengths. The test is fire and Baal’s nickname was “fire of heaven.” He was remembered with an “eternal fire,” so if any god could do this, it must be Baal.

 25 Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first, for you are many, and call upon the name of your god, but put no fire to it.” 26 And they took the bull that was given them, and they prepared it and called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped (weaved back and forth) around the altar that they had made.

 

For four hours the people watched them cry out to Baal. 27 And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” Elijah did not just make up these three taunts.[5] These represent three well known stories about Baal: Baal could die and resurrect, he was said to go on journeys, and he was known to fall asleep, awakened only by the best sacrifices.[6] But Baal did not answer. 28 And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them.

The self-laceration of this verse is part of a mourning ritual. In Ugaritic literature the gods are portrayed as practicing this when they hear of the death of Baal.[7] Notice the blood “gushed” out. These were not scratches, these priests were giving their lives for this contest. 29 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. The evening oblation was to be done at twilight, so conservatively the prophets of Baal have been at this for 12 hours, all day long. So at twilight as the sun is setting…

 30 …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. 31 Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord came, saying, “Israel shall be your name,” 32 and with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord. And he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two seahs of seed.

Two seahs is about the size of a two liter bottle of pop. The idea here was it was that deep all the way around the altar. 33 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.” 34 And he said, “Do it a second time.” And they did it a second time. And he said, “Do it a third time.” And they did it a third time. 35 And the water ran around the altar and filled the trench also with water. Elijah had four kad (or pails) of water poured three times in succession on the burnt-offering until the trench was filled with water. I am sure Elijah did this to remove even the hint of the possibility of fraud in the burning of the sacrifice. Idolaters were famous for deceiving people with tricks like setting fire to the wood of the sacrifice from hollow spaces hidden beneath altars, so that people would believe that the sacrifice was miraculously set on fire.[8] Elijah wanted everyone to know if fire came, it was Yahweh at work.

 36 And at the time of the offering of the oblation, 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. 37 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.”

Elijah wanted the people to grasp four truths from this miracle:

1. That Yahweh is the one and only God of Israel

2. That Elijah was his servant

3. That Elijah did this miracle at the Lord’s command.

4. That God wanted their hearts back. 

That was why Elijah was there. To turn the hearts of the people back to God. The fire and the showmanship are not the key to this story. It is God’s desire for people to know him, to remember him. 38 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. 39 And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.”

 

Powerful life lessons from Elijah:

1. If God is the Lord, then follow him. Elijah’s challenge to God’s people 2900 years ago is just as needed today. If God is the Lord, follow him. Let’s not be forgetful, rebellious, complacent, preoccupied, stubborn, or too busy for God. If he is the Lord, follow him, serve him, live for him, give to his work, join his church, live his mission!

2. There are people in this world who knowingly or unknowingly will go to great lengths to draw you away from God. The prophets of Baal literally poured out their lives to deceive the people into worshipping a false God. Don’t you believe for a moment that doesn’t happen today. Jesus himself warned us in Matthew 24:4–5 (ESV) “See that no one leads you astray. 5 For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray.” 2 Peter 2:1–3 (NLT) says …there will be false teachers among you. They will cleverly teach destructive heresies…2 Many will follow their evil teaching and shameful immorality… 3 In their greed they will make up clever lies to get hold of your money.”

2 Peter 2:12–14 (NLT) These false teachers are like unthinking animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed. They scoff at things they do not understand, and like animals, they will be destroyed. 13 Their destruction is their reward for the harm they have done. They love to indulge in evil pleasures in broad daylight…They delight in deception even as they eat with you in your fellowship meals. 14 They commit adultery with their eyes, and their desire for sin is never satisfied. They lure unstable people into sin, and they are well trained in greed….”

Greed, power, lust, wealth…there are many reasons why people will steer you away from the Lord. Be wary.

3. The Lord still wants people to know he is God. This message is even found in Elijah’s name. His name is translated “Jah is El” or “Yahweh is God.” Elijah was God‘s messenger. He was the one guy left who knew the truth of who God was and his power to transform lives. You may be the “one guy” someone knows, the only person in their life that can speak the truth. God calls all of us to be his prophets. We are all told to “go into all the world and preach the gospel.” People forget, they are preoccupied; it is up to us who know the transforming power of a relationship with Jesus Christ to share this with the lost!

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul L. Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland.

[1] Francis Brown, Samuel Rolles Driver, and Charles Augustus Briggs, Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977), 612.

[2] Cartwright, Mark “Melqart” The Ancient History Encyclopedia published on 06 May 2016. http://www.ancient.eu/Melqart/

[3] Miles, Richard Carthage Must Be Destroyed: The Rise and Fall of an Ancient Civilization Viking Press 2011. Pg 72.

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_Carthage

[5] The mythology of the ancient world understood the gods to be involved in a variety of activities similar to those that engage human beings. Though Elijah’s words are meant to be taunts, they are not unrealistic depictions of Canaanite beliefs.

[6] Paul R. House, 1, 2 Kings, vol. 8, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1995), 220.

[7] Victor Harold Matthews, Mark W. Chavalas, and John H. Walton, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, electronic ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 1 Ki 18:29.

[8] Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, vol. 3 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996), 175.