1 Kings 17:1-7 (Part 1) – Kind of Like Springsteen’s “Dancing In the Dark” Video…

Posted: February 13, 2019 in 11-1 Kings

1 Kings 17:1-7 (Part 1 of 2)

Elijah Fed By Ravens

Back in the day when I was in college and for several years after that, I was a huge Bruce Springsteen fan. His edgy, realistic about life lyrics and good ol’ rock and roll music to back up those lyrics just spoke to me at the soul level. The Boss was awesome. His concerts were legendary because the band sounded just as good live as they did in studio and the concerts were three hour long of just plain out fun. I was a Springsteen fan before being a Springsteen fan was cool. But by 1984, the whole world caught on to Springsteen with his landmark album, Born in The USA. And during that time, MTV was just beginning to be a force in the music industry. It was back in those days that MTV actually played music videos 24/7/365. Springsteen was never one of those guys that would use MTV to make an artsy-fartsy video to support a song – like many artists of the time period. His videos where just about the music. It was usually just the band playing the songs in concert.

One of the videos that everybody around my age remembers was the one Springsteen did for one of the #1 singles off the Born in the USA album was the one for the song, Dancing In the Dark. It was a concert video. The single introduced Bruce into the MTV crowd, and made him a mega star, joining the ranks of Michael Jackson, Prince, and Madonna. Even though, Bruce’s career had been going since in 1973. In that video, toward the end of the song, Bruce seems to randomly pick a girl out of the audience’s first row and brings the on stage to dance with him during the fade out of the song. That random girl was Courtney Cox (you know her – she went on to become Monica in the megahit show, Friends). The only thing is that picking Courtney out of the crowd was not random. It was planned as part of the filming of the video. Director Brian DePalma filmed the song over two nights at two different concerts. And he decided to go with an unknown actress (at the time) to play the part of the girl that Springsteen picks out of the audience. It was planned. There was preparation for it by where Courtney was to be in the front of the stage, the point in the song that Springsteen would pick her out, and how they would dance during the fade out portion of the song. What we saw in the video gave the appearance of randomness but there had been planning for that moment on film.

Why do I mention a Springsteen video from 30+ years ago (when MTV actually played music videos all the time)? It is because it relates to our Bible passage for today. Today, we meet Elijah the prophet for the first time. In this passage for today, 1 Kings 17:1-7, Elijah bursts on to the biblical scene for the first time. There is no mention of him in the biblical text before now. He is all of a sudden here in the progression of 1 Kings now a prophet standing before the king of Israel. No mention of him before, but he comes a seminal figure among biblical prophets sent to awaken Israel. It makes you wonder though what was going on with Elijah before this first moment that he walks on to the biblical stage.

It reminds me of my own journey into full-time ministry. It began quietly a decade ago long before I accepted my current position as the director of business services/staff pastor at Calvary Church of The Quad Cities. You could say that it really began 17 years ago when I accepted Christ as my Savior, but it was not until I ran into Pastor Luke Brower while Elena and I were living in Livermore, CA and began attending Livermore Alive Community Church that the call began. A decade ago, Luke challenged me to make Jesus not just my Savior but also my Lord. It was there that we were faithful to our local church. It was there that we did whatever was necessary to help set up for church and break down afterwards (as we held church in the gymnasium of a former elementary school now turned into a community center). It was there that we caught fire for making the Lord ruler over every aspect of our lives. It was there that Luke challenged us to no longer pick and choose what we wanted to submit ourselves to when it came to God’s Word. It was there that we simply began to obey the Lord and humbly do whatever it took to help make our church successful. It was there that the statement, “my church”, really meant something to us.

Then, there were the 7 ½ years that followed at LifeSong Church while we were living in the Lyman/Duncan, SC. Wow! What can we say about our time at LifeSong Church? We learned so much there and grew so much in the Lord. The impact of Lead (& Founding) Pastor Jeff Hickman, Pastor Mike Blackwood, and Pastor Tim Lyda on our spiritual growth is immeasurable. It was there that we learned that we are responsible for our relationship with Jesus Christ, not our pastors. If God leads you to do something for Him, you should prayerfully consider it and if it is of God you should do it. You don’t need to be tapped on the shoulder to do ministry in the name of the church by a pastor. You are as the church motto says, “missionaries where we live, work and play!” We were trained up to be ministers to God’s Word in our everyday life, everywhere we go. It was also there that God saw fit to nudge us into leadership positions within the church. For a while, Elena and I were co-directors of the church’s local outreach programs. Wow, the things we learned together during that process. Later, when the church needed to better formalize its accounting systems, the church looked to me to establish that. What an arduous process that was. It was during that process that I learned that we serve the Lord sometimes in quiet, unseen, unheralded ways.

It was during that process of leadership growth at LifeSong that the call to be a full-time pastor became a burden that I could not shake. It was during that time that every last excuse I had for not going in the ministry had finally been washed away by God. It was during that time at LifeSong that Elena and I began preparing financially for the reduced resources that we knew we would have if the call to full-time ministry ever came. It was during that time too that I went to seminary, a process that challenged and deepened my faith and my commitment to go into full-time ministry. It was during that time that I began teaching series on books of the Bible at LifeSong. It was such a time of growth spiritually.

It was also a time of patience as well. Although God had called me to full-time ministry, no opportunities presented themselves right away. That was a tough time after graduation from seminary and before the first job in full-time ministry came. It was time in which faithfulness was put to the test. It was time where the flesh screamed out “where is it Lord?” or “when are you going to allow me to be in full-time ministry?” That’s when you really have to have faith in what God is leading you to do. That’s when you have to trust in the Lord. That’s when you have to be faithful and do what God has in front of you. That’s the real preparation time – when there is no evidence to support that God has something in store for you. That’s the real trust time – believing in the unseen in full confidence that it will come true in God’s timing. He taught both Elena and me to always be faithful to what the Lord has called us to do and trust Him with the rest of it. There was a purpose in that three years after I graduated from seminary. It was a time of creating patience and trust in us.

So, when we burst on to the scene of full-time ministry at Calvary Church one year ago in February 2018, it was not as if God had yanked us out of the crowd and thrust us into ministry, it was only after years of learning, preparation, faithfulness, and patience. It was part of God’s plan that there be a decade of preparation before you see Pastor Mark and his wife, Elena, before you today and this past year.

That was the thing that I thought of this morning as we read about Elijah the prophet for the first time. It is the first time we read of him in the Bible, but the only way that he gets there, in my opinion, was the unseen and unwritten about preparation for this moment – that may have taken decades or a lifetime to get him ready for the moment where he appears on the biblical stage. Let’s read now about his first appearance in biblical texts:

Chapter 17

1 Now Elijah, who was from Tishbe in Gilead, told King Ahab, “As surely as the Lord, the God of Israel, lives—the God I serve—there will be no dew or rain during the next few years until I give the word!”

2 Then the Lord said to Elijah, 3 “Go to the east and hide by Kerith Brook, near where it enters the Jordan River. 4 Drink from the brook and eat what the ravens bring you, for I have commanded them to bring you food.”

5 So Elijah did as the Lord told him and camped beside Kerith Brook, east of the Jordan. 6 The ravens brought him bread and meat each morning and evening, and he drank from the brook. 7 But after a while the brook dried up, for there was no rainfall anywhere in the land.

In this passage, we see that Elijah is introduced. He was the first in a long line of important prophets sent to Israel and Judah. Israel, the northern kingdom, had no faithful kings throughout its history. Each king was wicked to the point of leading the people toward worshiping pagan gods. Few priests were left from the tribe of Levi (most had fled to Judah), and the priests appointed by Israel’s kings were corrupt and ineffective. With no king or priests to bring God’s Word to the people, God called prophets to try to rescue Israel from its moral and spiritual decline. For the next 300 years, these men and women would play vital roles in both nations, encouraging and challenging the people and their leaders to turn back to God.

Specifically, in this passage, we know from research that those who worshiped Baal believed he was the god who brought rains and bountiful harvests. So, when Elijah walked into the presence of his Baal-worshiping king and told him there would be no rain for several years, Ahab was shocked. Ahab had built a strong military but it would be no help against a drought. He had many priests of Baal but they could not bring rain. Elijah bravely confronted the man who led his people into evil and he told of a power grater than any pagan, man-made god – the Lord God of Israel. When rebellion and heresy were at an all-time high in Israel, God responded not only with words but also with actions. That Elijah was willing to be God’s spokesman demonstrates his growing faith in the Lord. That he stayed faithful to the Lord in a society that was openly rebelling against God is a testament to his faith. That he was so faithful to the Lord that he was called out to be a prophet is a testament to his willing to follow God regardless of what was going on around him.

Elijah bursts onto the scene here but I bet the only reason that God has him here in this text is that he had already proven himself faithful to God over the previous years before he appears here. That’s the thing that I want us to take away this morning. Be faithful to the Lord no matter what is going on around you. Be faithful to the Lord even when you see no earthly reward for it. Be faithful to the Lord because you love Him. Be faithful to the Lord because it’s about Him and not about what even other Christians think. Be faithful to the Lord because He has called you to be a minister right where you are right now. Be faithful to the Lord even when your own pride tells you that you should be doing so much more for the Lord. Trust the Lord with where He has you right now. One of my favorite sayings from my former senior pastor, Jeff Hickman, was “God is preparing us for what He has prepared for us!” That is something that we need to remember as we go about doing the Lord’s work. We must trust Him with what comes after right now. We must be faithful to Him with what He has entrusted to us at this moment and do it with all our heart and trust Him with what comes next. We need to trust Him that what we are going through right now and what we are doing for Him right now is preparation for what He has prepared for us.

That’s what I deduce from Elijah’s appearance on the biblical scene here. It was not some random plucking of a person out of the audience. God had been preparing Elijah for years and years. Elijah had proved himself faithful for years and years. The takeaway – be faithful now, be faithful tomorrow and trust the Lord with what comes after that!

Amen and Amen.

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