Wavering Between Two Opinions (Part Two)

1 Kings 18:16-24

We have considered the need for this confrontation between the Lord’s prophet, Elijah, on one side, and the prophets of the false god and goddess, Baal and Asherah, on the other. God acted to call his people Israel back to himself when they were far away. Let us give thanks to our God that he seeks people!

Next, let’s look at the terms of the confrontation. We should notice the fairness of the terms.

  • Elijah allowed himself to be opposed by a greater number of pagan priests (18:22). Baal had four hundred fifty priests against the lone prophet of the Lord The odds of “strength in numbers” were decidedly on the side of the Baal’s priests.
  • The test should have been something that Baal could have done if he was a god. Why worship someone who can’t demonstrate his power and defend his own honor?
  • The results would be highly visible. Anyone could “Go and touch the smoldering remains.” This was not a debate about philosophical and religious systems. People love to sit back and assume that they are capable of making such evaluations. No, this would furnish indisputable evidence in the real world.

The specifications for the confrontation were identical (18:23-24).

  • There was the same sacrifice: One bull. Elijah allowed his opponents to choose which one they wanted. This would prevent charges about him choosing the best for the Lord and the worst for Baal.
  • They were to use the same method: Sacrifice the bull and pray for fire.
  • Both sides were forbidden to “help” their God or god win. Neither could use fire.

The test clarified. Why can’t we have the same contest today? First, we have no right to demand such a contest. The Lord has already given ample evidence. After he had suffered, he also presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3 CSB). Someone might wish, “If only the resurrection of Christ had happened today! All could have been photographed and videotaped.” I answer, “Would you then believe? Or would you object that it all was a computer-generated deceit?” Second, this miracle was given for the confirmation of the word of God. God acted at this time to prepare Israel for the coming of his Son through them. So then, the principle holds true that was written about the appearance of the Messiah. How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will (Hebrews 2:3-4 ESV). At times of giving new revelation, the Lord testified to its reality by signs, wonders and various miracles. Elijah stood for the Lord at the time when the prophets began their ministry.

Grace and peace, David

The Return to Galilee

Luke 4:14-15

Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him (NIV).

Up to this point of Luke’s account about Jesus, he had not written about Jesus’ ministry. We know that our Lord grew up in Nazareth and that he went to the Jordan to be baptized by John the Baptist, but Luke has not told us about his ministry in Judea, which we read about in the early chapters of the Gospel of John. Instead, we suddenly read of Jesus returning to Galilee. We might ask why.

Part of the answer is simply that Luke wrote what the Holy Spirit wanted him to. None of the writers provide a biography or life of Christ. They are sacred writings that tell God’s story in Jesus from God’s viewpoint. The Spirit wanted Luke to emphasize some matters and pass by others. In regard to his purpose in the Third Gospel, Luke gives a summary of Jesus’ early ministry in Galilee, since he wants to lead up to the turning point of his book (Luke 9:31, 51). Luke points to the Ascension, which is important in his teaching about all that Jesus accomplished. What can we learn about our Lord? Note well: If we are merely reading the Bible as a self-improvement manual or to have an emotional therapy session, we have been misled about the purpose of the Holy Scriptures. They proclaim the story of God’s glory, they tell us about the Triune God, and they make known how we can know him, who is God over all. For these sufficient reasons, we ought to pay close attention to summary statements like these two verses.

Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit (4:14). The Spirit had led him into the desert to be tempted by the devil, and Jesus triumphed there, being full of the Spirit and using the sword of the Spirit, the word of God (Ephesians 6:17). Luke wants us to learn that he acted by the power of the Holy Spirit throughout his ministry. In Acts, the Spirit will work through the apostles in the same way. We also are to be filled with the Spirit to serve God submissively in a godly way of life (Ephesians 5:18-21).

As Jesus lived in the power of the Spirit, news about him spread through the whole countryside (4:14). His ministry in Galilee began as other ministries do: from small things. Jesus was not instantly well-known. People had to tell people about his marvelous words and mighty works. God enjoys working with people in his works. He wants us to tell others. Are you telling others about the Lord Jesus whom you’ve met and know?

Jesus was teaching in their synagogues (4:15). The tense indicates that Jesus constantly taught in the synagogues throughout Galilee. Part of his mission was to teach about God’s kingdom (saving reign), and he took advantage of every opportunity to do so. In Colossians 4:5, the Spirit instructs us to make the most of every opportunity. Certainly, everyone needs time to relax, to recover one’s strength, to prepare, to invest time in our family, friends, and brothers and sisters in Christ. And there are only so many hours in a day at last count! However, how much of your time is it wise to expend on television and social media? Here, we often lack self-control, which is part of the fruit of the Spirit.

Everyone praised him (4:15). The start of his ministry in Galilee was a time of great popularity. It would not last, as the next section makes clear. People like to hear skillful public speakers. We were made to listen, learn, and think. We enjoy words! Human’s love communication! However, once people started to process what Jesus said, they began to dislike it and him. Sinful people suppress the truth and exchange it for foolishness (Romans 1:18-25). If people come to dislike you, it might be because they’ve come to understand what you’re saying (cf. Isaiah 6:9-13)!

Grace and peace, David

Wavering Between Two Opinions (Part One)

1 Kings 18:16-24

It is easy for Christians to frustrate themselves as they view world conditions and the response of non-Christians to those conditions. If the times are good, then we think that they should give thanks to the Lord for his goodness, because we know that it is meant to lead people to repentance. Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? (Romans 2:4 NIV) And if God’s judgments are present, we think that they will surely turn to God for help. My soul yearns for you in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks you. For when your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness (Isaiah 26:9 ESV).

The difficulty in both cases is that we underestimate the power of sin over unbelievers. Examine the context in both of those cases. Sin is not something external to man. It is not a slight problem that can be removed by some external pressure (whether mercy or judgment.) But the unsaved are slaves of sin and captives of the devil. Jesus responded, “Truly I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin” (John 8:34 CSB); Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will (2 Timothy 2:25-26 NIV). It takes more than good or bad times to change a person; instead, you must be born again!

Elijah had been sent by the Lord to confront a people who had turned away from him. We need to learn from Elijah’s boldness for the faith. Such a stand requires a firm trust in the living God. Let us learn to stand for God boldly as we consider these verses.

Let’s begin with the need for the confrontation between the Lord’s prophet and the false prophets in the presence of the people of Israel. In general, we might think it was strange that such an event was needed at all.

  • Since they were the visible people of God (Romans 3:1-2; 9:4-5). There lack of positive response to the Lord would be like my children demanding that I produce their birth certificates or DNA testing that they might know that I am their father.
  • Since God had done so much for them in the past (Psalm 78). God had blessed his people through many generations. They ought to have sought the one who had made them his own and provided for them.
  • Since God was fulfilling the “curses of the covenant” upon them (Deuteronomy 28:15, 22-24). It was time to seek the Lord.

All these were intended to define how they looked at themselves and the world.

God had other particular reasons for this public clash between Elijah and the false prophets.

The Lord desired to vindicate Elijah (18:17). God desired to make known that Elijah was God’s prophet and that he was right in withholding rain. Don’t be surprised, Christian, if you are called a trouble maker (cf. Matthew 5:11-12).

It would serve as a public condemnation of Ahab and his ways (18:18). His sin would specifically be pointed out. Ahab had turned from God to idols. He was involved in both apostasy and idolatry. Blame was placed on him. The Bible teaches human responsibility. If you violate God’s laws, you are guilty.

It would display the condition of the people (18:21). Indifference sets in the hearts of people during a time of religious declension. Various explanations could be given for the people’s silence: They were guilty and didn’t care or want to change. They were guilty but afraid of Ahab. They were guilty and didn’t know how to respond. But in any case, they did not repent.

Let us learn this lesson. We should know the danger of spiritual indifference, which in one way is to be swayed by the visible and sensational rather than the word of God. Let the Scriptures influence your mind, heart, and the choices you make.

Grace and peace, David

Where Sin Increased (Part Two)

1 Kings 18:1-15

But where sin increased, grace increased all the more… (Romans 5:20 NIV).

Sin had greatly increased in Israel, and it seemed like there was no hope. The Lord, their covenant God, had sent his prophet Elijah to announce a horrible drought, which was one of the curses, if Israel disregarded God’s covenant with him. The sky above you will be bronze, and the earth beneath you iron. The Lord will turn the rain of your land into falling dust; it will descend on you from the sky until you are destroyed (Deuteronomy 28:23-24). Yet, at this terrible time, the Lord showed his grrace. We see three evidences of his grace.

First, God preserved Elijah for further service to him. God had fed him at the brook and at Zarephath. The Lord also kept Ahab and Jezebel from killing his prophet. He also had taught Elijah valuable lessons about faith that he needed to know in service to God. Elijah was now prepared for the coming contest of God versus Baal on Carmel.

Second, the Lord placed Obadiah in Ahab’s court to protect other of his prophets. When we think all is lost, we can fail to see faithful people whom the Lord has placed near us to help us. Consider Obadiah’s character. He was a godly man (18:3). Like Joseph, Nehemiah and Daniel, Obadiah was faithful to God in a pagan palace. “There is nothing wrong in a child of God holding a position of influence if he can do so without the sacrifice of principle” (Pink). The Lord often has his saints in unlikely places, as in Caesar’s household (Philippians 4:22). We can be in the world and not of the world. Obadiah was consistent over a long period of time, for he had worshipped God since his youth (18:12). I am glad to see girls and boys in attendance, when their parents gather to worship the Lord. It is good to begin to serve God when you are young. Don’t let sin ruin you for years! Seek the Lord before the chains of sin harden around you and your mind is polluted with a great deal of sin. Think also of Obadiah’s accomplishments (8:4, 13). He hid the prophets and provided for them. He had bold faith. We thank God for those who have risked their lives to protect God’s persecuted people.

Third, God purposed to send rain again on the land. This was an act of sovereign mercy, for the people still had not called on him in repentance for their idolatry. If we need to wait for any nation to repent before God would act, there would be no hope for any people group. If we even had to wait for the professing church to return to him, we might despair. But God will have mercy on whom he will have mercy (Romans 9:15)! Our hope is in the Sovereign God, not in people! Remember this when you gather with others to pray. This was also an act of faithfulness to Elijah. The prophet had said that there would only be rain at his word (see 17:1), and so the Lord sent Elijah to announce the coming of rain. Here is a principle: God will honor those who honor him (cf. 1 Samuel 2:30).

Let us thank God for the godly who still remain in the nations of the world! Every follower of Christ is a witness to the power of God’s saving grace! If God could save you, my friends, he can save anyone. The salvation of the righteous comes from the LORD (Psalm 37:39 NIV). Let us pray fervently for God to send a new great awakening. Greed, self-love and sexual immorality bind the wills of people. They will not come to him and have life (John 5:40). But King Jesus is able to break those chains, for he is the Great God and Savior! Now is the time to seek the Lord!

Grace and peace, David

Where Sin Increased (Part One)

1 Kings 18:1-15

There are times when the followers of Christ can feel as though there is little hope for the cause of God and truth in their land. They want to cry out, as David did, Help, Lord, for the godly are no more; the faithful have vanished from among men (Psalm 12:1 NIV). Indeed, it seems like the godly will be wiped from the face of the earth. Who would have thought that Luther could survive when both the Holy Roman Empire and the Roman Church were seeking his death? What hope was there for evangelicalism in England when Mary I (“Bloody Mary”) was putting to death its leaders?

The Bible instructs us to trust in the sovereign God, for nothing can hinder the LORD from saving, whether by many or by few (1 Samuel 14:6). Where sin is on the rise and the triumph of evil seems certain, even there the Lord God is able to carry out his purposes. Our text is another example of God’s all-ability.

Sin was hard at work in the Northern Kingdom of Israel at that time. There was no public place where people could gather to worship the living God. From the time of Jeroboam I, the officially sanctioned religion was an idolatrous substitute for God and the covenant he had made with Israel (cf. 1 Kings 12:26-33). As we have observed, Ahab and Jezebel had forced Israel into deeper idolatry (cf. 1 Kings 1629-34). Without public worship and teaching, it became very difficult to maintain faithfulness to the God of Israel. It was a horrible time. Let’s think about this more.

There was no apparent concern for the glory of God or the good of men in Israel at that time. King Ahab was chiefly concerned about his property—that none of his animals would have to be killed because of the famine. 18:2b, 5. Now, there is nothing at all wrong with caring for animals. Proverbs 12:10 tells us A righteous man cares for the needs of his animal… (NIV). The problem was Ahab’s lack of a deeper concern—the glory of God and the good of his subjects. Contrast wicked Ahab with godly David (cf. 2 Samuel 24:17). Scripture teaches this principle: When you reject God, you eventually lose concern for the worth of people. Study, for example, Romans 1:18-19, 28-31.

There was no national repentance in Israel for their sins. National repentance was essential for the old covenant nation. Today in the new covenant, the church is God’s people, and not any of the nations of the world. What does the church need to repent of today? For some ideas, read Revelation 2-3. The physical suffering during the famine, a covenant curse (Leviticus 26:18-20), had not induced them to repent. Ahab was intent on ridding the earth of Elijah, not on confessing and forsaking his own sins (18:9-10). Unless the Lord gives heart changing grace along with the trial, people will not have a change of mind. At first, they might consider the trouble as a freak of nature. But later, if they think of God at all, they probably will grow bitter against him (cf. Revelation 16:9). However, people are sure to perish, unless they repent. No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as well (Luke 13:3 CSB).

There was a policy of persecution against God’s prophets. This is seen in Ahab’s fanatical desire to find Elijah (18:10), and in Jezebel’s murder of the Lord’s prophets (18:4, 13). How could the godly survive an onslaught driven by fanatical hatred?

God has not placed believers in “heaven on earth”. No, we live in a world filled with rejection of God, refusal to love God, and rebellion against God and his ways. We must rid our minds of the deceptive notion that life here will be easy and that we will lack spiritual opposition. Oh, I know that Christians will agree with this in theory, but there is far too much hand-wringing and moaning in churches today. The Lord never told us that it would be easy. In fact, listen to what the apostles Paul and Barnabas told the churches they had started. “It is necessary to go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22 CSB).

Grace and peace, David

The Temptation of Jesus

Luke 4:1-13

Jesus answered, “It is written…” (Luke 4:4, 8 NIV)

Many have written about temptation in general and this temptation of the Lord Jesus by Satan specifically. The typical approach is either that it is an important part of the doctrines of sin and temptation, or that we can learn “practical lessons” about how to overcome temptation. Usually, Christians are drawn to the second approach, because too often Christianity is reduced to a “do it yourself” (DIY) method that concentrates on “practical” 3 to 12 step plans that usually neglect the Triune God. But that is a topic for another time. Yet, I purposefully mentioned this matter, because few are aware of how their reading, interpretation, and ideas of the nature of the Christian life are skewed by a demand for what is “practical”, so that they fail to see God’s glory in Christ. Their approach to the word becomes human-centered rather than Christ-focused.

In this article, I want to present what is far less considered; that is, the importance of this section to Biblical theology, which wants to know and to tell the story of God’s glory in Jesus Christ. When we know this, then the passage can enrich our systematic and practical theologies.

  • Jesus came as God’s new man, the last Adam. The first Adam yielded to the temptation by the devil against the word of God. Adam the first fell in the Garden of Eden, where he was richly provided for by the Lord. He had all the food he could eat in the lush vegetation of the Garden nearby him. However, the first Adam disobeyed God, and we all sinned in him, and the reign of death began (Romans 5:12-14). Jesus Christ, the last Adam, went into the wilderness to do the will of God. Adam was told not to eat the fruit of one tree; Jesus was led by the Spirit not to eat any food, while in the desert. He would have to conquer a temptation about food to show that he was the obedient Son who could provide salvation to his people (Hebrews 5:8-9). That obedience required living according to the word of God.
  • Jesus came as the new Israel, the Servant of the Lord. God had brought Israel out of Egypt to serve his holy will to bring blessing to the nations. However, Israel was quickly side-tracked. Though God provided them with food every week, in the wilderness they complained against the Lord and his rich provision. For this reason, Jesus went into the wilderness where he lived in submission to God’s directives, without food. In the wilderness, Israel fell into idolatry (Psalm 106:19-22, 28-29). In the desert, Jesus refused to worship anyone but God alone. Israel forgot God’s miracles for their benefit. Christ did not put God to the test as they did (Psalm 78:40-41). (You can study this out more, by carefully reading Psalms 78 and 106, as you meditate on this passage from Luke.)
  • Jesus came to establish God’s kingdom, which involves the power of the Spirit (Matthew 12:28). Therefore, when the evil one tried to mislead him with the kingdoms of the world, he had no interest. His mission was to proclaim God’s kingdom, to tell people how to enter God’s kingdom, to describe the people in God’s kingdom, and to show the superiority of God’s kingdom to anything on earth (Matthew 13:44-46). He could hear the temptation about the kingdoms of the world and their authority and splendor and see all that as an enticement away from God and what is best… to idolatry. The new age of the Spirit, the kingdom of God, and the new covenant are of far greater value than any trifles of worldly authority and splendor. Jesus made the choice for the glory of God’s heaven, and so was prepared to preach the kingdom of God to others. From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matthew 4:17 NIV). To follow Jesus requires repentance from the pursuit of worldly splendor, in order to live for the glory of God.

So then, let’s us understand that this account of Jesus overcoming temptation is more than a manual on resisting temptation. It shows his glory as God’s obedient, trusting new man, servant, and preacher of the kingdom. And as we behold his glory, we reflect it and are transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory.

Grace and peace, David

Elijah’s Greatest Challenge (Part Three)

1 Kings 17:17-24

Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth” (17:24 NIV).

Elijah found himself in a situation that no one had previously confronted. God had promised to provide for him through a widow and her flour and oil. But the widow’s son died unexpectedly. She blamed him for her son’s death, and it appeared that God’s promise had miscarried. Did the true God only give the Gentile woman an illusion of hope? How could he demonstrate that God was worthy of her trust? What could Elijah do or even say? Could the dead be raised? His response provides a helpful pattern for us. Elijah prayed effectively.

  • It was a fervent prayer, for “he cried out to the Lord”. The typical “church prayers” (Sunday service or small group) very rarely are spoken passionately. They are lukewarm, boring, and impersonal. People get more excited about junk mail or telemarketer calls than praying to the true and living God!
  • It was a personal prayer. He addressed his God—“O Lord my God”. He knew God, for he had waited on the Lord for daily provision. He knew that God understood his condition and believed that God cared about the widow and him. In contrast, “church prayers” seem like a phone call to some unknown person at a utility company. “With whom am I speaking?”
  • It was a bold prayer—“have you brought tragedy…?” Elijah didn’t whitewash the tragedy to appear reverent. He talked with the Lord in the hideous pain of the loss of the widow’s son. Why pray this way? Because God wants us to be real with him.
  • It was importunate prayer: “three times”. Some mistakenly suppose that prayer is a once spoken request, like the less they pray the more faith they’re supposed to have. Such wrong ideas come from a misunderstanding of Matthew 6:7, which they suppose “excuses” them from wrestling with God in prayer (cf. Colossians 4:12). Yet Jesus himself prayed repeatedly!
  • It was a specific prayer: “let this boy’s life return to him!” He didn’t pray glib, trite, vague requests. He asked for something precise. God wants us to pray this way.

Elijah received a miraculous answer. The means was the prayer of faith. By faith… Women received their dead, raised to life again (Hebrews 11:33-35). Elijah had the same faith Abraham did—that God could raise the dead (cf. Hebrews 11:17-19). This is the same faith that every believer has—faith that God can and will raise the dead. He had the great faith to trust God for what had never happened before. Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know (Jeremiah 33:3 NASB). Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen (Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV).

The cause was solely the power of God. Elijah’s faith by itself did nothing, but he had faith in the One who was, is and always will be All-powerful (cf. Acts 26:6-8). This exercise of faith showed the truth of God’s word (17:24). It showed he was really God’s prophet. It led the widow to a greater faith in the Lord.

With an ending like the one in this passage, it is easy to see the truth of Romans 8:28. But we must remember what the all things are which Paul includes in that reference. Read Romans 8:31-39 very carefully. Is your confidence in the living God who has all things under his control?

Are you worshipping the Sovereign God? Are you giving glory to him? “The whole life of a Christian should be nothing but praises and thanks to God; we should neither eat nor drink nor sleep, but eat to God and sleep to God and work to God and talk to God, do all to his glory and praise” (Sibbes).

Grace and peace, David

Elijah’s Greatest Challenge (Part Three)

1 Kings 17:17-24

Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth” (17:24 NIV).

Elijah found himself in a situation that no one had previously confronted. God had promised to provide for him through a widow and her flour and oil. But the widow’s son died unexpectedly. She blamed him for her son’s death, and it appeared that God’s promise had miscarried. Did the true God only give the Gentile woman an illusion of hope? How could he demonstrate that God was worthy of her trust? What could Elijah do or even say? Could the dead be raised? His response provides a helpful pattern for us. Elijah prayed effectively.

  • It was a fervent prayer, for “he cried out to the Lord”. The typical “church prayers” (Sunday service or small group) very rarely are spoken passionately. They are lukewarm, boring, and impersonal. People get more excited about junk mail or telemarketer calls than praying to the true and living God!
  • It was a personal prayer. He addressed his God—“O Lord my God”. He knew God, for he had waited on the Lord for daily provision. He knew that God understood his condition and believed that God cared about the widow and him. In contrast, “church prayers” seem like a phone call to some unknown person at a utility company. “With whom am I speaking?”
  • It was a bold prayer—“have you brought tragedy…?” Elijah didn’t whitewash the tragedy to appear reverent. He talked with the Lord in the hideous pain of the loss of the widow’s son. Why pray this way? Because God wants us to be real with him.
  • It was importunate prayer: “three times”. Some mistakenly suppose that prayer is a once spoken request, like the less they pray the more faith they’re supposed to have. Such wrong ideas come from a misunderstanding of Matthew 6:7, which they suppose “excuses” them from wrestling with God in prayer (cf. Colossians 4:12). Yet Jesus himself prayed repeatedly!
  • It was a specific prayer: “let this boy’s life return to him!” He didn’t pray glib, trite, vague requests. He asked for something precise. God wants us to pray this way.

Elijah received a miraculous answer. The means was the prayer of faith. By faith… Women received their dead, raised to life again (Hebrews 11:33-35). Elijah had the same faith Abraham did—that God could raise the dead (cf. Hebrews 11:17-19). This is the same faith that every believer has—faith that God can and will raise the dead. He had the great faith to trust God for what had never happened before. Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know (Jeremiah 33:3 NASB). Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen (Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV).

The cause was solely the power of God. Elijah’s faith by itself did nothing, but he had faith in the One who was, is and always will be All-powerful (cf. Acts 26:6-8). This exercise of faith showed the truth of God’s word (17:24). It showed he was really God’s prophet. It led the widow to a greater faith in the Lord.

With an ending like the one in this passage, it is easy to see the truth of Romans 8:28. But we must remember what the all things are which Paul includes in that reference. Read Romans 8:31-39 very carefully. Is your confidence in the living God who has all things under his control?

Are you worshipping the Sovereign God? Are you giving glory to him? “The whole life of a Christian should be nothing but praises and thanks to God; we should neither eat nor drink nor sleep, but eat to God and sleep to God and work to God and talk to God, do all to his glory and praise” (Sibbes).

Grace and peace, David

Elijah’s Greatest Challenge (Part Two)

1 Kings 17:17-24

We can know God, trust God fervently, and yet come into situations where our faith in God is incredibly tested. We may even know that God has done miracles in response to our faith in him, but we wonder, “Can God provide the help I need now?” Faced with the death of the widow’s son, Elijah knew that  he must trust the living God for a greater miracle. So, Elijah said a powerful prayer. He believed that prayer was more worthwhile than the other actions he could have engaged in. We need to rid ourselves of the saying, “All we can do now is pray.” Stop it. Ideas like that corrupt our minds. Prayer is the best thing we can do.

  • Elijah prayed instead of argued. We need to follow Christ when we cannot understand the ways of God. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly (1 Peter 2:23 ESV). It’s a good rule not to take offense at the words of a grieving person. Not every saint is able to bow before the Lord as meekly as Job was able to (cf. Job 1:21; 2:10). Love should cover sorrowful, bitter words that occur at a time of grief.
  • He prayed instead of debated. Some are under the totally misguided notion that all times are opportunities for theological debate. As he was passing by, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:1-2 CSB) Sadly, I have observed this attitude. Don’t dispute in the face of suffering. Show mercy! Humbly, let us remember people need compassion rather than our knowledge. Some think they are being “bold for the Lord” when they are merely being brash for themselves. Christ was compassionate; imitate him.
  • He prayed instead of complained. Some would complain, “Now I’m in such a mess! She’s blaming all this on me, and I didn’t do anything. Poor me!” Does it really matter what someone thinks about you, when they need your help?
  • He prayed instead of questioned. “Why did this happen Lord?” It’s very natural to ask, “Why?” But it may be better to invest the greater part of our energies in asking, “What do you want me to do now, Lord?” Or better, “What will You do now, Lord?”

Elijah refused to look at second causes. Then Elijah cried out to the Lord, “O Lord my God, why have you brought tragedy to this widow who has opened her home to me, causing her son to die?” (17:20 NLT) Elijah believed that God is in control, even including the hard events of life. We need to have a larger view of the sovereign God in our thoughts and viewpoints. Think on what the Spirit has written in the Word.

  • [Job] said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing (Job 1:21-22 NIV).
  • I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the Lord, do all these things (Isaiah 45:7 NIV).
  • When a trumpet sounds in a city, do not the people tremble? When disaster comes to a city, has not the Lord caused it? (Amos 3:6 NIV).

The time of trouble and trials is the time to worship the Lord as God over all, and to call upon him as the Ruler of all.

“Whatsoever is good for God’s children they shall have it, for all is theirs to further them to heaven; therefore, if poverty be good, they shall have it; if disgrace be good, they shall have it; if crosses be good, they shall have them; if misery be good, they shall have it; for all is ours, to serve for our greatest good” (Sibbes).

Grace and peace, David

Elijah’s Greatest Challenge (Part One)

1 Kings 17:17-24

Some time later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing. She said to Elijah, “What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?” (17:17-18 NIV)

The Scripture passage referenced above presents us with perhaps the greatest challenge to Elijah’s faith. What he had to face is with us today. The worldly-minded person still scoffs at us and what we believe. Is there a factual and historical reality to the resurrection of the dead? Does the Christian truly have a reason for hope in this otherwise hopeless world? Every unbeliever assumes that a Christian is a fool. “Why waste your life on following Jesus Christ? The dead can never live again,” they think. But they never consider what the Maker of heaven and earth can do!

We have already seen Elijah trust God for some great things. But now his faith faces its greatest challenge. Can God raise the dead? And consider this. Never before in human history, as far as we know, had a resurrection from the dead occurred. Neither Noah nor Abraham nor Moses nor Joshua nor Samuel nor David had performed or witnessed someone raised from the dead.

Many times people, including God’s people, find themselves in horrible situations. We might call these events a “dark providence”. Here are three puzzling aspects of the situation in which they found themselves (17:17-18).

  • The widow and her son had earlier been rescued from death by the Lord’s mercy (17:8-16). Was all that God had done for them now to be undone? It didn’t make sense. You and I are able to acknowledge that there is an incalculable amount of trouble and sorrow in the world. But it is hard to accept when it comes near us, isn’t it? It is harder when blessing is replaced by misery.
  • She was doing God’s will at that time by feeding Elijah (17:9). She had believed the word of the Lord to her. If she trusted and obeyed the Lord, why was she having such sorrow? Do not think it unusual if you encounter sharp and painful difficulties in the service of God. Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you (1 Peter 4:12 ESV).
  • All had seemed to be going right. Wouldn’t God want her to keep on being happy? When I was secure, I said, “I will never be shaken.” Lord, when you showed your favor, you made me stand like a strong mountain; when you hid your face, I was terrified (Psalm 30:6-7. CSB).

Remember that we live in a world that is filled with sin and under the curse because of sin. Our immediate happiness is not the ultimate purpose in the universe. God has a greater goal — the display of his own glory. For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen (Romans 11:36 NIV; cf. Ephesians 1:6, 12, 14).

To make matters worse for Elijah, he was blamed for all this (17:18). Regardless of who you are and what you do, people won’t always approve of you. Perhaps you, too, will be blamed for things you had no connection with. For example, many coaches and managers have been blamed for the failure of their teams, when the actual reasons are the injuries of key players, disgruntled players, or the actions of the owner or upper level management. Elijah wasn’t to blame. Life and death are in the hands of God. God’s people can receive criticism because we are looked on as his representatives (cf. Matthew 10:24-25).

Estimate the cost before you join Christ’s team! A large crowd was following Jesus. He turned around and said to them, “If you want to be my disciple, you must, by comparison, hate everyone else—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple (Luke 14:25-27 NLT).

Grace and peace, David