Passage: 1 Kings 18:17–18:39, 1 Kings 19:2–19:12, 1 Kings 19:14–19:16, 1 Kings 19:18
Back in January I got a new Bible. I wanted a new translation to wake up my Bible reading as I’ve been reading this Bible for 40 years now.
I found The Voice which tells the story of the Bible in narrative form. Look at the screen and you will see what I mean. (slide of this to be sent to media team) This is from Exodus3 and the great story of Moses at the Burning Bush.
Today’s periscope view of Scripture comes from two great Old Testament Bible stories. One is found in 1 Kings 18 and then we go to 1 Kings 19. And I think we should have a little script read-through for the first story reading from The Voice. This is already quite a dramatic story of power and awe. I’m looking for 3 volunteers, ones who might want to adlib and overact a bit.
Read through 1 Kings 18:17-39
Everyone join in again with the shout that those in the crowd learned that day. It will be on the screen.
The Eternal One is the True God! The Eternal One is the True God!
Last week I spoke to you about my interest and hunger for revival to happen. Like now. For all of these lost souls to find the true healing love of God. To find that this healing love is true. So you can see why I would be drawn to this story. In a messy messed up world with confusion as to which God is real, for this one moment the truth was very clear.
Truth sure isn’t clear lately, is it? People say too often, “What’s true for you isn’t true for me.” Or “You do you and I’ll do me.” We are living in a post truth culture.
A post truth person says yes there is objective truth but if that objective truth conflicts with my preferences then I don’t care. My preferences matter more. Post truth elevates feelings and preferences above truth and facts. So if my preferences matter more than truth and your preferences matter more than truth when we clash truth is not the deciding factor because truth doesn’t matter. Power then decides and that is chaos. In this post truth world we do have a lot of chaos, right? A lot of confusion.
Who’s tired of all this confusion?
Let’s go to 1 Kings 19. Because Elijah was tired too. Even after this great and amazing moment of truth. Not everyone wanted this truth to be so—mainly this woman in power named Jezebel. In response she used her power to enforce her truth.
Let’s start in v. 2 of 1 Kings 19.
2 So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.”
3 Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, 4 while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.
Who was here last week? Wasn’t that Jonah’s prayer too? After God did a great thing? Who’s had enough? Maybe you’ve not been in Elijah’s life situations but you’ve prayed “I’ve had enough.” Many of the Bible greats have prayed this prayer so why not you?
All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” 6 He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.
So you’ve had enough, but have you ever had an angel personally strengthen you? I’m a bit jealous here.
7 The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” 8 So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. 9 There he went into a cave and spent the night.
Note how God sent Elijah on a journey that would be too much for him. Remember that as we read further.
And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.
That’s where God was. In the gentle whisper.
When we are tired, when we are done, when life feels like too much, we want God to be so obvious that the drenched altar miraculously lights on fire and drinks up all of the water.
Years ago I got a letter from a grown teen of mine. Because it is a letter you can surmise how many years ago. Tragedy hit Chad and his family in a big way. His family was blown up in the aftermath. He wrote:
“Let God prove Himself to me in a manner that will leave me no doubt as to His existence. To God this would be such a little nothing--to me it would be everything.”
Yet God hasn’t 30+ years later. Chad is angry and away from God. But his anger has turned to “I’m over that part of my life.” I know this because I still see him occasionally when I’m back in Minnesota. I know Chad’s heart cry so our conversations are stilted.
When you are angry and exhausted you want God to make himself very very clear with that big wind or the earthquake. Something that leads you no doubt to his existence. Yet God chooses the still small voice time and time again. Right? Who else has found this out?
I wish living a life of faith was so clean. So certain. That we know God is close to us because of an earthquake or other happenstance that can leave us no doubt. This is not what I’ve experienced in my life. My faith has been one of wrestling, heartbreak, disappointment and vulnerability. There have been moments when I’ve known God to be personal. And there have been moments when my faith has been smashed.
If we are afraid to live in our vulnerability, we try to make everything that is uncertain to be certain. This includes our faith.
Some faith people really struggle with such uncertainty. Such vulnerability. It is important to them to make God certain. A certain faith is one we create so we feel safe and secure. A certain faith is all about your image and striving—which too often involves judging others--because deep down there is a fear you are covering up. A certain faith seeks authoritarian personalities or becomes authoritarian so they can know that their faith is certain.
What I’ve also learned from this 40-year adventure of faith is that God is for me. For me! Through the certain, through the doubts, through the disappointment I’ve leaned in and learned that God is for me. Even when my life doesn’t make sense.
This is not a blind faith. This is not a stupid faith. I’ve gutted it out to get this faith, to know this deep in my soul.
I have a statement I use quite often over on my website. “A vulnerable heart full of Truth can navigate the broken road of faith.” (slide coming) It references Psalm 119:71-73 which says “My suffering was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees. Your instructions are more valuable to me than millions in gold and silver. You made me; you created me. Now give me the sense to follow your commands.”
Now give me the sense to follow your commands. Which are often spoken to me in a still small voice. What does hearing that still small voice require of us? This is a question for our summer extension. Let me start you off with stopping the noise in your life, stopping trying to control the outcome, stopping those numbing behaviors so quiet can’t settle in on you.
Do you know what Elijah got to find out when he heard that still small voice? Let’s go to vv. 14 to 16:
14 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
15 The Lord said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. 16 Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet.
First he got to whine to God again. Yes, that does feel good to do that doesn’t it? Those with certain faiths don’t feel the freedom to whine to God. God and I talk a lot and sometimes it is whining because I’m mad and I just want God to hear me. Because I know he is for me.
Then he got the plan of what to do next. That next included a new king which would lead to the end of Jezebel—which it did. And a partner to do the work God had called him to by inviting Elisha in. He would no longer be alone.
Loneliness is hard. And real. And makes us think of crazy things. Elijah was tired and lonely. From this point on he travels with Elisha until the end of his life.
Do you know why you can guess these people of the Bible to be real? Who would name these two heroes with nearly the same name? A better storyteller would use names that could be differentiated. You can remember who was first because the J of Elijah comes before the S of Elisha.
Loneliness also lies about the truth. God also revealed a truth that Elijah did not know. V. 18 - Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.Elijah was never alone. God knows the big picture. We don’t.
I don’t know what the big picture is for Chad’s life. I do know that 30 years of anger has caused wear and tear on Chad’s soul. The original issues have multiplied. But God is still calling, pursuing Chad. Otherwise why would he still be seeing me, right?
We began today with this crazy show of force of God declaring that he is the real deal truth. We are closing with how God is still calling and pursuing us. The truth of God is after us.
- Would you rather have a certain faith or uncertain faith?
- What times in your life have you wanted a certain faith?
- What is required of you to hear that still small voice?
- What times in your life have you wanted a certain faith?
- When we are lonely we are more susceptible to lies. What are some of those lies?
- Describe what a broken road of faith may look like?
Supplies: poster board, markers, scotch tape, extra paper
We love an uncertain God who is undefined by borders. Who also knows the big picture for us? A poster board has borders. A poster board is not big enough for the big picture.
Take the pieces of paper and write all of the names of God you can think of on each one. Using the tape, tape those names of God over the borders of the poster board.
We are living in a post-truth culture where one’s preferences are more important than the truth. Intercede for us.
We love people who desire to make God certain because of a fear in their lives. Even if it is a fear of vulnerability. Intercede for them.
People who are overwhelmed with loneliness are more susceptible to lies. Intercede for them to hear the truth.