1 Kings 19:1-18 (Part 3 of 3)

Elijah Flees to Sinai

In our culture today, we have become like high school. The pressure to accept the religion of tolerance that we now worship in our culture is great. Remember high school? It is a time where the pressure for conformity is at its highest in our lives. Things are said about people and that “truth” becomes the accepted reality about that person. Regardless of whether it is true or not, that is the prevailing belief about a kid in school. With simple words, kids in school can become a persona non grata in school – those who are shunned and ridiculed. If you get on the wrong side of a person of influence in high school, you can become a social leper, a person who does not exist. Thus, the pressure to be like the high school culture is insurmountable. Opinions become reality. Truth is often a casualty of opinions. To go against the tide, to be different from the accepted norms of high school culture can lead to social death, to bullying, to making high school the worst time of a person’s life.

Most of us navigated the world of high school by not standing against the tide. Most of us went along to get along. A lot of times, we survived by not rocking the boat, not standing up for people who had been on the wrong end of social wrath. We conformed to get along. Guess what? We are living in the age of high school in the real world now. We live in a world now where we are supposed go along with the prevailing views of anything goes. If you go against the prevailing views of anything goes, you are labeled backwards, out of step with the new way of thinking, intolerant. The new age of tolerance is what we worship. We define for ourselves as a culture as to what we like and don’t like. The pressure to conform to the anything goes mentality is enormous just like when we were in high school. To go against the tide, can result in social death, public ridicule, social media evisceration, and news media spin. Just look at how certain public figures like television stars who have said things that were out of step with the accepted norms of the age of tolerance who have ended up losing their star status in rapid fashion. Again, the pressure to remain silent and just go along with the prevailing beliefs of today’s culture are as great or greater in the general culture at large as they were when we were high schoolers.

That idea of joining in with the flow and not standing out was what I thought of this morning as I read 1 Kings 19:1-18 a third time. Let’s read the passage again this morning with that thought in mind:

Chapter 19

When Ahab got home, he told Jezebel everything Elijah had done, including the way he had killed all the prophets of Baal. 2 So Jezebel sent this message to Elijah: “May the gods strike me and even kill me if by this time tomorrow I have not killed you just as you killed them.”

3 Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there. 4 Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.”

5 Then he lay down and slept under the broom tree. But as he was sleeping, an angel touched him and told him, “Get up and eat!” 6 He looked around and there beside his head was some bread baked on hot stones and a jar of water! So he ate and drank and lay down again.

7 Then the angel of the Lord came again and touched him and said, “Get up and eat some more, or the journey ahead will be too much for you.”

8 So he got up and ate and drank, and the food gave him enough strength to travel forty days and forty nights to Mount Sinai,[a] the mountain of God. 9 There he came to a cave, where he spent the night.

But the Lord said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

10 Elijah replied, “I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.”

11 “Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.

And a voice said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

14 He replied again, “I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.”

15 Then the Lord told him, “Go back the same way you came, and travel to the wilderness of Damascus. When you arrive there, anoint Hazael to be king of Aram. 16 Then anoint Jehu grandson of Nimshi[b] to be king of Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from the town of Abel-meholah to replace you as my prophet. 17 Anyone who escapes from Hazael will be killed by Jehu, and those who escape Jehu will be killed by Elisha! 18 Yet I will preserve 7,000 others in Israel who have never bowed down to Baal or kissed him!”

In this passage, we see that God told Elijah to anoint three different people:

  1. Hazael – as king of Aram. God was going to use Aram as an external instrument to punish Israel for its sins.
  2. Jehu – as the king of Israel. Jehu would destroy those who worshiped the false god of Baal.
  3. Elisha – as the prophet who would succeed him. Elisha’s job was to work in Israel, the northern kingdom, to help point the people back to God.

So here, we see that God also says that those who have not bowed down to or kissed Baal will be preserved. The lesson here for us in the 21st century is that we now live in a culture similar to the northern kingdom of Israel. We must remain true to God even in the face of cultural pressures to stray from him. There may not be images of Baal to worship today or Asherah poles to worship today, but we have our false gods. The commonality between then and now is that worshiping false gods and images of them is that we, like them, are worshiping ourselves. In today’s world, our culture worships itself. Instead of God, we call it the universe. Instead of God of the Bible, we morph him into our self-improvement coach. Instead of Jesus as the only way, we make him one of many options. In the end, it is about developing a menu of spiritual guides that allow us to live in the manner we see fit. The pressure to be like the culture in our time is no different than in ancient Israel. However, as the Bible tells us, God will preserve those who worship Him and Him alone.

Just as when we were in high school, we must decide if we are going to go against the tide or join in with the culture. No longer, in our culture, are Christian beliefs the prevailing belief system of the culture. Our Christian beliefs at some point are going to run us counter to the culture. There will come a time in each of our lives as Christians where we must choose between fitting in or standing against that which is not of God but considered acceptable by the culture. Elijah life became difficult because he stood against the tide. The people that God had him anoint were going to have to stand against the prevailing tide of the culture. Elijah’s job was not easy. It was difficult. As we progress through the coming years, the decision to walk with God vs. walking with the culture will be an increasingly difficult one. We will run the risk of being singled out, ridiculed, discarded, and marginalized. Being a Christian going forward in our culture will be increasingly difficult. It’s going to be like high school times a thousand. But as God said here in this passage, He will preserve those who have not bowed down to the culture back then. He will do it now for us. He will preserve us. His Word tells us that timeless message in this passage. We must live in His truth and live for Him and not for the culture (because it’s easier to do that). He will preserve us. It may not be in the comfortable manner that we want, but He will preserve us.

Amen and Amen.

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1 Kings 19:1-18 (Part 2 of 3)

Elijah Flees to Sinai

Sometimes, we expect God to act in big ways and want Him to give us big bold signs with a giant pointing finger with blinking lights that says, “This is it!” And, yes, still does these big bold things. Anytime, you see a cute pregnant mom. God speaks boldly about the origins of life in Him. Just think of that miracle of conception that sparks life as we know it. Anytime, you see someone in a hospital that makes an unexplainable recovery from an aggressive cancer as the direct result of many people praying for a cure. Anytime, you sit on a turnout on the Pacific Coast Highway and see majestic mountains behind you that sharply give way to the mighty Pacific Ocean. Anytime, we see lives radically changed by accepting of Jesus Christ as their Savior and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We see, in these things, the mighty miracles of God. We all want all of life to be as bold and beautiful as these things. We all want to see God’s mighty hand in obvious ways.

Most likely, each Christ follower, you and me included, can point to particular moments in time where God has made Himself boldly known to each of us. You know, those watershed moments in our Christian walk where it was what we like to say in Christianese “it was a God thing!” There are moments that we each have, no doubt, where we can see the hand of God in it. I know I do. I don’t want to go into a biography here but one of the most obvious things is how my wife and me even met each other.

The short story of it is that I had lived in the Greenville, SC area for 29 years (age 14 to 43) until I accepted a job in Charlotte, NC. But in order for my daughter to maintain her funding from one of her scholarships from the State of South Carolina as she attended Clemson University, I needed to live on the South Carolina side of the Charlotte, NC area when I moved. So I settled on this apartment community in Rock Hill, SC (just across the NC-SC border from Charlotte). At the same time, Elena for her own reasons ends up moving to Rock Hill from Clover, SC, another Charlotte suburb. She ends up not only in the same apartment complex but in the same building that I was a resident of. We finally meet and begin to talk a couple of months after she moved in. And the rest, as they say, is history. The fact that we met and what all we have been able to do together in Christ since that time, it was a God-orchestrated thing that is one of the “big pointing finger” evidences of God’s providence in our lives. How else do you explain it? It was a God thing. Obvious and evident!

But there are times more often in our lives that we have to keep our eyes open and our ears peeled to see and hear God speak to us. There is more of that than there are the big pointing finger moments. That was what I thought of this morning as I read 1 Kings 19:1-18 a second time. Let’s read the passage again this morning with that thought in mind:

Chapter 19

When Ahab got home, he told Jezebel everything Elijah had done, including the way he had killed all the prophets of Baal. 2 So Jezebel sent this message to Elijah: “May the gods strike me and even kill me if by this time tomorrow I have not killed you just as you killed them.”

3 Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there. 4 Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.”

5 Then he lay down and slept under the broom tree. But as he was sleeping, an angel touched him and told him, “Get up and eat!” 6 He looked around and there beside his head was some bread baked on hot stones and a jar of water! So he ate and drank and lay down again.

7 Then the angel of the Lord came again and touched him and said, “Get up and eat some more, or the journey ahead will be too much for you.”

8 So he got up and ate and drank, and the food gave him enough strength to travel forty days and forty nights to Mount Sinai,[a] the mountain of God. 9 There he came to a cave, where he spent the night.

But the Lord said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

10 Elijah replied, “I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.”

11 “Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.

And a voice said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

14 He replied again, “I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.”

15 Then the Lord told him, “Go back the same way you came, and travel to the wilderness of Damascus. When you arrive there, anoint Hazael to be king of Aram. 16 Then anoint Jehu grandson of Nimshi[b] to be king of Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from the town of Abel-meholah to replace you as my prophet. 17 Anyone who escapes from Hazael will be killed by Jehu, and those who escape Jehu will be killed by Elisha! 18 Yet I will preserve 7,000 others in Israel who have never bowed down to Baal or kissed him!”

In this passage, we see that that God was not in the loud wind. He was not in the earthquake. He was not in the fire. But he was in the gentle, small whisper. That’s the thing that I want us to take away this morning. Sure, there are obvious times in our lives that we can discern God’s presence in our lives. In those cases, you can look at the situation and go, “Yep, that was a God thing!” However, those are the obvious things. We must learn to see God in the everyday small things. We get so wrapped up in what’s wrong in our lives. We get so wrapped up in seeking those obvious, mountaintop experiences with God. We get so wrapped up in the details of life and the struggles around that. We often forget to listen for the still, small voice of God speaking to us. We often forget to see the action of God in our daily lives.

For me that was no more evident than yesterday. There were to simple acts of kindness shown to Elena and me by two different church members. One dropping by the church to give us something unexpected. Another was a perfectly timed text message of encouragement. Each of these people are dear friends that we have made since we have been here in Illinois. They care deeply about us and we about them. Sometimes when we need it most, God gives us encouragement in little ways that we could shrug over and forget in a moment. But God is in the small things that lead to big things.

God is watching over His people each and every day. We need to look up sometimes and realize that He is there all the time not just in the big pointing finger moments of life. Take stock of how God lets you know each day that He is there. Take stock of those little perfectly timed intersections with people each day or each week that happen when you need it the most. God is there in the small stuff just as much as He is in the big pointing finger moments.

Amen and Amen.

1 Kings 19:1-18

Elijah Flees to Sinai

In the previous chapter, things are looking pretty good for Elijah. Let’s recap. In the confrontation with the prophets of Baal, he was so confident that God would deliver that Elijah doused the altar and the wood with water. Then God shows up and a great fire burns up the sacrifice, the altar, and all the water! Then Elijah takes all the prophets of Baal and destroys them and then he prays all afternoon and God finally delivers rain. A huge rain storm appears and the three-year drought is broken! If this were a movie it would be the grand climax where the hero goes against all odds and defeats the enemy. Cue the victory music. We all cheer! Elijah is like the Rambo of biblical prophets! He defeats 450 men and has victory!

At this point Elijah is feeling pretty good. The victory is his. God is avenged. Life makes sense. He’s done everything he was supposed to do. Then it happens. A messenger comes to him. “Excuse me, Elijah, sir. Um, Jezebel sends a message. Well, she’s really mad, and she has vowed to kill you, at all costs.” What?! That was not how it was supposed to go. This was the point where the nation was supposed to turn back to God and the wicked queen overthrown. Elijah becomes fearful and takes off, running for his life.

Have you ever followed God’s call and then things did not turn out like you thought they would? Although we are not talking physical issues but rather spiritual ones, I think there is a personal experience with a physical ailment that kind of helps get us to the point for today. About 7 or 8 years ago, Elena and I went on our first international mission trip. It was to Jacmel, Haiti. Our previous church in South Carolina had a connection with a church down there (through our association with Restore Haiti). So we go on our first mission trip. It was such an amazing trip. Not because we made such an impact on the families associated with the local church there but because they made such an impact on us. It was that mission trip that changed everything for us. After that trip, we grew so much in our relationships with Jesus and in our service to Him.

The following summer we were ready to go again. The first trip to Haiti had made such a monumental impression upon us that we wanted to go back. But this second time, we were there for only two days before we contracted this stomach virus that knocked us completely down for three days. We missed half the mission trip basically. We did not leave our rooms at the local hotel at all for those three days. When we were not sleeping from weakness, we were in the bathroom evacuating whatever was in our colons. Add to that, during the day, the power would go off in Jacmel so the temperature in our room would reach well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Puking, diarrhea, sweating, and being so weak just drained us to the core. It was a horrible experience. Nothing like our first trip to Jacmel at all. We were able to recover somewhat and get out with the team for the tail end of the mission trip, but we will forever remember that second mission trip for the stomach virus rather than any spiritual growth that occurred while we were there. We searched for meaning for that trip for a long time.

I thought of that second mission trip to Haiti when I read about Elijah running for his life. In both instances, you are doing what God called you to do, but things seemed to take a turn for the worse. I am sure Elijah was now wondering what the whole point of his ministry was now that he was running for his life. Let’s read about it now in 1 Kings 19:1-18:

Chapter 19

When Ahab got home, he told Jezebel everything Elijah had done, including the way he had killed all the prophets of Baal. 2 So Jezebel sent this message to Elijah: “May the gods strike me and even kill me if by this time tomorrow I have not killed you just as you killed them.”

3 Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there. 4 Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.”

5 Then he lay down and slept under the broom tree. But as he was sleeping, an angel touched him and told him, “Get up and eat!” 6 He looked around and there beside his head was some bread baked on hot stones and a jar of water! So he ate and drank and lay down again.

7 Then the angel of the Lord came again and touched him and said, “Get up and eat some more, or the journey ahead will be too much for you.”

8 So he got up and ate and drank, and the food gave him enough strength to travel forty days and forty nights to Mount Sinai,[a] the mountain of God. 9 There he came to a cave, where he spent the night.

But the Lord said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

10 Elijah replied, “I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.”

11 “Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.

And a voice said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

14 He replied again, “I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.”

15 Then the Lord told him, “Go back the same way you came, and travel to the wilderness of Damascus. When you arrive there, anoint Hazael to be king of Aram. 16 Then anoint Jehu grandson of Nimshi[b] to be king of Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from the town of Abel-meholah to replace you as my prophet. 17 Anyone who escapes from Hazael will be killed by Jehu, and those who escape Jehu will be killed by Elisha! 18 Yet I will preserve 7,000 others in Israel who have never bowed down to Baal or kissed him!”

In this passage, we see that Elijah had done what God called him to do. But yet, things seemed to take a turn for the worse because he had. Nothing changed in Israel and he was on the run for his life. That’s the thing that we must learn is that when we follow God and his call on our lives, it may not turn out like we planned it. It may actually make our lives tougher. He never, ever told us that following Him would make our lives easier. It is in these times that we must grow more dependent on Him. It is in these times that we must learn that our service to Him is not contingent on our circumstances. No matter what we are going through, we must trust that God has a purpose in it and that it will prepare us for what is next in his plan.

If you have followed God’s call on your life, you can anticipate that you will have some hardship at some point. There are going to be instances where you are not successful. There are going to be instances where you fail. There are going to be instances where you are simply not going to be situations where you are not going to be the cat’s meow. There are going to be situations where you wonder what the point of the whole deal is. That’s where we must overcome fear and doubt and trust in the Lord.

I think that was the ultimate lesson of that second mission trip to Haiti for us. It was in that hotel room where we were just laid out from a stomach virus where nothing went as planned and things actually were worse than anticipated on the front end of the trip that we learned something. It was that hardships will come. Not every experience with God is going to be a mountaintop experience. Sometimes, what we do for God will turn out to be a mighty endeavor just to survive. It is in these times, we learn to lean into God. We learn to make God a part of our total life experience. Some of us only see God when we need something. Some of us only see God in the good times. We must learn that he has a purpose for everything under heaven. It was in that hotel room in Haiti that I began to learn that. At the time, it was about survival but it was a lesson nonetheless.

So many of us want our spiritual life to be all mountaintop experiences. We want “that feeling”. What we must learn is that we will have hard times and it is in those hard times that we must make the mental choice to trust God with the purpose of it and pray that He will reveal that purpose to us. We must trust that He is preparing us for what’s next by what we go through now.

Amen and Amen.

1 Kings 18:41-48 (Part 2 of 2)

Elijah Prays for Rain

Do you remember in school where there were times that people made judgments about you, whether true or not, that you could never change? I am sure that we have all experienced situations like this in adult life too. People label you a certain way and regardless of how much effort you put into changing that perception, their perception will never change.

Sometimes, it’s in your personal life. An ex-wife or ex-husband never softens their stance on you. Other personal life examples can be the dating scene. It has been proven that people make up their minds about a person they date for the first time within the first five minutes of meeting them (and as to whether there will be a second date). That’s pretty powerful stuff – deciding whether a person that can be your potential long-term relationship within five minutes. Sometimes, it happens in the retail world where businesses can be destroyed by the perception of just a few customers. Just think of the stores or businesses that you and I have written off because of a poor initial experience with that business. Regardless of whether others find the business a great one, we will never use them again.  

Sometimes, it is evident in our politics today. People define you by whether you are a Trump supporter or not. Anti-Trump folks simply write-off Trump supporters as brutish and ignorant and not worthy of entering into conversations with. The reverse is also true. Trump supporters see all anti-Trump folks as bleeding heart liberals who want to live in a socialist America. Thus, they refuse to engage in debate with the anti-Trump camp. Sometimes, along these lines, in today’s America, your view of the news events of the day depends on which media outlet you listen to or read. Social media can be the same way, Facebook, for example, has been known to delete posts that people make that are against the liberal political agenda of that social media giant.

That was the idea that stuck in my heart this morning – why did God empower Elijah to run at supernatural speed for the 17 miles from Mt. Carmel to Jezreel at a rate faster than trained chariot horses and then it came to nothing. Let’s read today’s passage, 1 Kings 18:41-48, with that in mind:

41 Then Elijah said to Ahab, “Go get something to eat and drink, for I hear a mighty rainstorm coming!”

42 So Ahab went to eat and drink. But Elijah climbed to the top of Mount Carmel and bowed low to the ground and prayed with his face between his knees.

43 Then he said to his servant, “Go and look out toward the sea.”

The servant went and looked, then returned to Elijah and said, “I didn’t see anything.”

Seven times Elijah told him to go and look. 44 Finally the seventh time, his servant told him, “I saw a little cloud about the size of a man’s hand rising from the sea.”

Then Elijah shouted, “Hurry to Ahab and tell him, ‘Climb into your chariot and go back home. If you don’t hurry, the rain will stop you!’”

45 And soon the sky was black with clouds. A heavy wind brought a terrific rainstorm, and Ahab left quickly for Jezreel. 46 Then the Lord gave special strength to Elijah. He tucked his cloak into his belt[a] and ran ahead of Ahab’s chariot all the way to the entrance of Jezreel.

In this passage, we see that Elijah ran the seventeen miles back to the city in order to give Ahab a last chance to turn from sin before joining his wife, Jezebel, in Jezreel. His run also was an attempt to give Jezebel the opportunity to hear the correct version of the story of what happened at Mt. Carmel. As we shall see later in the next passage, the effort to dispense his side of the story was, in the end, unnecessary as Jezebel continued to believe what she wanted to believe about Elijah and his actions. There are times, even when we are doing what the Lord asks us or empowers us to do, that it will not change hearts no matter what we do. There are times that hearts are hardened toward us and nothing we can do, no matter how miraculous, or say, no matter how wise, that can change the hardened heart.

Maybe that’s the takeaway here today. Sometimes, there are perceptions that we cannot change about us, about earthly situations, and about following Jesus Christ. Sometimes, we are going to encounter people with the message of the gospel that simply are not going to listen to it because their hearts are hardened. Even in earthly matters, there are people that are just not going to like us or what we have to say or how we do things. All we can do is care about what the Lord thinks of us. All we can do is pray that He will allow others’ hearts to be softened toward the gospel message or even just to be softened toward us. All we can do is try our best to please God in the process. All we can do is to seek after Him and let Him worry about the rest through our prayers. And we must leave it at the cross in prayer and not go back and pick it up later. We must simply and truly trust God in prayer about the hearts of other people whether it be about the gospel message or about their perceptions of us as human beings.

I guess that is the thing to me that makes Elijah so likable is that it is he is so human. He has situations where he trusts God so seemingly easily – praying all afternoon for rain, trusting that God will consume the wood at the altar, laying on the lifeless boy to bring him back to life. But yet at the same time, he has his moments where he is so concerned about perceptions like in this situation. He becomes disheartened after speeding to Jezreel under God’s power but nothing changes in Israel. He becomes so despondent that he sulks in cave. He is a reminder of ourselves. We must remember, like Elijah should have, that there are times where hearts are just hard to us or to our message. Does that mean we grow despondent and run away? No. We keep praying for hearts to be soften and for the Lord to give us an opening, a way to be heard. We keep plugging away and we keep seeking after the Lord and leave the hearts of others to the Lord in our prayers.

Amen and Amen.

1 Kings 18:41-48 (Part 1 of 2)

Elijah Prays for Rain

Bible texts come to our minds, such as Matthew 7:7, “Ask, and it will be given to you”…  Will He really answer when we call? Isaiah 65:24 says “Before you call I will answer, while you are still speaking, I will hear.” In this passage, we see Elijah pray the same prayer seven (7) times. Yes, that’s right. This man of God has to pray to God 7 times for the same thing. Why would God wait to answer our prayers?  Wouldn’t we expect that since God is all-powerful that He would answer immediately?  What is the purpose for God’s delaying our prayer requests?

You hear stories of Christian parents praying for their unsaved children to come to salvation in Jesus Christ for years and years and sometimes decades. I once read an article about the mother of Terry Williams. Year after year her son was rebellious.  He abused drugs, was in and out of jail, and showed no signs of ever knowing Christ.  The days and years dragged on with absolutely no indication that there was anything different in the man‘s life.  Then one day, 28 years after his mother first prayed for him, this man came to a saving faith in Christ.  Today this man, Terry Williams, uses his testimony to help other prison inmates find their way to a relationship with the only One Who can save: Jesus Christ.  What if this mother had given up?  What if she decided it was not important enough to keep praying each and every day?  What a difference this mother made in her steadfast prayers due to her undying love for her son.   Today her son is making an eternal difference for others in prison.  This was all due to prayer.  Even though she had to wait. I know many parents who have prayed for years and years for their kids to come to know Jesus Christ as their Savior. I am sure that my own mother and father did the same thing when it came to me.

I understand that when we pray for the salvation of unsaved friends or family members that it may take a mighty long time for their hearts to be open to the gospel message because of the rebellion in their souls. But what about those who are faithful servants of God. Why does God often take so long to answer the prayers of the saved, of those who are humble servants of the Lord? We see Elijah here. He has to pray 7 times for the same thing. Why? At least, though, his prayer was answered the same day. What about those that suffered for long periods of time in the Bible before their prayers were answered.

Look at Joseph. He was in prison for a long time for a crime that he did not commit against Potiphar’s wife. Some scholars believe that it was as long as twelve (12) years. Though the Bible does not specifically tell us how long, these scholars can deduce how old he was when he was sold into slavery and so on. Regardless, the biblical evidence was that he was in prison for a long, long time, especially in the light that it was a crime that he did not commit. As we know, the biblical record does not record the happenings of every minute of every day of the central characters. It gives us important events in their lives and how the biblical characters reacted to them and how these events demonstrated God’s grace and God’s glory. We do not see every minute of every day of Joseph’s 12 years in prison. From the biblical record in Genesis we see that Joseph was faithful and became so trusted by his jailors that he became the head trustee of the inmates. That’s the part that we read. I am sure though that during those 12 years that Joseph had his days of wondering why God was not answering his prayers for deliverance. I am sure that he had days where he was internally just angry at the lack of response. I am sure that he set alone in his cell at night at times and wondered if this nightmare was ever going to end. But the reason the story is in the Bible is the fact that Joseph kept at it regardless of circumstance or surroundings. He remained faithful even when his bones ached and his heart was dull from the sameness and the lack of change.

Think of Jacob. Laban offered his nephew Jacob a place to stay. Jacob soon fell in love with Laban’s younger daughter, Rachel, and agreed to work for Laban seven years in exchange for marriage to her (Genesis 29:16–20). Laban agreed, but after seven years, he deceived Jacob. On the night that Jacob and Rachel were to be married, Laban gave Rachel’s older sister, Leah, to him as a wife instead. Jacob protested, but Laban argued that it wasn’t the custom to give the younger daughter in marriage first. So it was official: Jacob and Leah were to stay married. Laban then said Jacob could still have Rachel in exchange for another seven years of work (Genesis 29:21–30). So, Jacob worked for 7 years to receive his promise and when it is done, he finds out that he is only half way there. He had to work another 7 years. Have you ever been in a situation where you put in all the work and make sacrifices and then when you get there, you find out that the waiting is only partially complete? I am sure that Jacob wondered what God was doing when he did what he had to do but then pushed the target out again. Jacob remained faithful though and did another 7 years labor and he finally received his promise. I bet though during the first year or so after the first 7 years, he was dismayed and heavy hearted. But the reason the story is in the biblical record is that he did not give up on his prayers while waiting on God to deliver the promise.

That was the idea that stuck in my heart this morning. You know how you read a Bible passage and it raises a question in your mind that you just can’t get past. A question that ruminates through your soul as you read the passage and you can’t focus on anything else that the passage says. That is where I am at this morning as I read this passage for the first time of two readings of it that I have planned. Why is it that God makes even his devoted followers wait on the answers to prayer at times? Let’s read today’s passage, 1 Kings 18:41-48, with that in mind before we do anything else with this passage:

41 Then Elijah said to Ahab, “Go get something to eat and drink, for I hear a mighty rainstorm coming!”

42 So Ahab went to eat and drink. But Elijah climbed to the top of Mount Carmel and bowed low to the ground and prayed with his face between his knees.

43 Then he said to his servant, “Go and look out toward the sea.”

The servant went and looked, then returned to Elijah and said, “I didn’t see anything.”

Seven times Elijah told him to go and look. 44 Finally the seventh time, his servant told him, “I saw a little cloud about the size of a man’s hand rising from the sea.”

Then Elijah shouted, “Hurry to Ahab and tell him, ‘Climb into your chariot and go back home. If you don’t hurry, the rain will stop you!’”

45 And soon the sky was black with clouds. A heavy wind brought a terrific rainstorm, and Ahab left quickly for Jezreel. 46 Then the Lord gave special strength to Elijah. He tucked his cloak into his belt[a] and ran ahead of Ahab’s chariot all the way to the entrance of Jezreel.

In the website, All About Prayer, I found the following commentary on our subject this morning:

Growing up, I often asked myself impatiently, “How can I keep faith while waiting on God to answer prayers?” As I have grown older (and hopefully wiser), God has shown me through His Word how to wait on His timing. Only God can see the big picture. He has planned out everything to intertwine perfectly in the end. Part of His plan includes working through our prayers. We pray, yet we doubt He hears us. He has promised, however, to hear His children. Although He hears us, He doesn’t always give the response we expect or the answer on our timetable. In God’s eyes, it is a breath (2 Peter 3:8). His time is not our time.

When waiting on God to answer prayers, we must believe God will answer. Unbelief is the biggest obstacle to overcome in praying and waiting. “But when you ask him, be sure that you really expect him to answer, for a doubtful mind is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. People like that should not expect to receive anything from the Lord” (James 1:6-7).

While waiting on God to answer prayers, take stock of your blessings. Are you breathing? Then, rejoice in life! Do you see the blue sky or even a cloudy one? Thank God for the ability to see. Can you hear the sound of the wind blowing through the trees or a child laughing? Praise God for hearing! Turn the wait into a treasure hunt for the blessings that we often take for granted. For remembrance, keep a prayer journal, listing all your prayers with the date of request. Frequently lift up the requests to God, and record the date you received an answer.

Never forget that answers come in God’s time — not ours. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” God has promised His own a hopeful future. Rest in God’s faithfulness. He will answer you.

Taking stock of your blessings was exactly what my wife said to me this morning. We had just woke up and were laying bed just talking before we got up on our first day of our weekend (for us, we have our weekend on Friday and Saturday since we work at a church). We were just laying there talking about how sometimes we get so focused on other things that we forget the accumulation of small blessings that we do have – a roof over our head, a good marriage, good friends, people that love and care about you and what happens to you, people that are praying for you. So no matter what we are going through and ever how long it takes for God to answer prayers that there are so many things to be truly thankful for.

Sure, we can have doubts and even anger. Sometimes, the prayer takes a while to be worked out so that answer CAN be given, like in Joseph’s case. Sometimes, the finish line, like in Jacob’s case, is not where you thought it was going to be and it is yet still further away. Sometimes, the waiting is God’s way of allowing us to align our persistent prayers into His perfect and good will. Sometimes, it is a test of faithfulness. The reason that Elijah prayers were offered up repeatedly seven times was a testament to his faithfulness in God. He simply knew that God was going to answer his prayer. He was doing God’s will so he knew that the answer would come. He had faith and trust in God.

That’s the thing that I want us to take away this morning is that we must trust God with our earnest prayers. We must have faith that He will answer – even if it takes a lot longer than we want it to in this microwave, instant potatoes world in which we live. We must have patience. We must be like Elijah, Joseph and Jacob. You just keep plowing the field in front of you as you offer up your persistent prayers to the Lord. You keep being faithful. Even if your circumstances are less than ideal, you still have much to be thankful for – our salvation, our relationship with Jesus, our friends, our family, and God’s provision for the moment. We must trust that God will provide for us as He is working out the answer to our earnest prayers for His deliverance.

The reason that the story of Elijah’s seven prayers for the same thing all afternoon is in the Bible is that He remained faithful, he trusted God would answer no matter how many times he had to pray the same prayer. His faithfulness in prayer was answered in God’s timing. The proof is in the pudding. Elijah gained additional proof this day that faithfulness and persistence in prayer reflects our trust in the Lord. Even when we grow impatient, we keep plugging away in prayer and we trust in the Lord.

The same is true of Joseph with his long-term incarceration. He kept honoring God with what was placed in front of him. Sure, there were times I bet that Joseph wondered about the state of his life. But he kept plugging away. He kept praying. He kept honoring God. He kept trusting that God would eventually deliver him. There was always that hope, bolstered through prayer, that God will answer. We trust Him with our persistent prayers and do our best to leave it with Him and trust Him with it.

The same is true of Jacob. He had done all the things that he was supposed to do for seven years and then he finds out that the work is only half way there. The finish line of receiving the promise was farther away than he had originally suspected. Sometimes, God lets us see only the steps in front of us so that we will move forward. Sometimes, if we know the true time table we might get dismayed and give up. Sometimes, we just have to keep being faithful with what God has revealed so far. Keep plowing the field in front of you until God reveals the answer. Jacob kept plugging away. Jacob did not give up and walk away. He kept moving forward in trust in the Lord that the promise would be delivered. He firmly believed that even though the finish line was further away than he had originally thought, that God would answer his prayers. Just like Dory on Finding Nemo, we must “just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming” and trust that God will answer your earnest and godly prayers.

Like Elijah’s seven times, we just keep praying. Just keep praying. Just keep praying. Just keep praying. Just keep praying. Just keep praying. Just keep praying. Whether its 7 times in an afternoon. Whether it takes 7 days or 7 weeks or 7 years or 7 decades. Just keep praying. Trust God. Be faithful. Keep plowing. He hears you. He will answer in His timing and in the way that gives glory to His Kingdom. In the meantime, be thankful and see your blessings and keep walking with the Lord.

Amen and Amen.

1 Kings 18:1-40 (Part 3 of 3)

The Contest on Mount Carmel

God will provide. It is a saying that you here us Christians bandy about to one another quite often. Sometimes, it is our fallback response when we can’t think of anything else to say. If you have a friend who is going through a crisis of need and you can’t really help them, we sometimes throw out this saying, “God will provide” but how often, when we say it, do we really believe that it is true.

In today’s text, we see God provide miraculous help to Elijah as evidence that God is the real God and that He is the one who controls the universe and all that is in it. Elijah, maybe had doubts, but he had faith to proceed with what God commanded him to do. How often do we have that kind of faith? How often do we have that kind of faith when people we know are going through uncertain times? Do we tell them that “God will provide” as a cop-out because we don’t know what else to say or do we have faith that God, indeed, will provide?

Have you lost your job or are you going through a seemingly insurmountable financial crisis or anything that seems too big to overcome? That’s where we encounter real faith ourselves. That’s where we encounter real faith when we intercede in prayer for others who are going through some insurmountable thing. Do we really believe that saying, “God will provide!”

I think that there are four things that we need to learn about God’s provision. First, God may provide differently than we expect. The Israelites escaped captivity in Egypt only to face the challenges of the desert. One of the biggest challenges for such a large group of nomads was enough food to eat. Over and over again God provided supernaturally for his people. If God could provide for many thousands of Israelites in the middle of a desert, he can surely provide for you and your family’s needs. Sometimes, though, we do not recognize how God is providing for us because it is not in the manner that we expected. Just think about the Israelites in the desert. They grumbled and complained about have to eat miraculously provided food because it was the same thing every day. God was literally providing bread from heaven — enough for each day — but they wanted his provision a different way. They wanted it their own way.

Second, God provides more of Himself to us in times of distress. It is during times of distress and hardship when we need provision that we find ourselves at the foot of the Creator. It is in times of distress that we often grow the most in our learning to be dependent on the Lord. Sure, we worry. We are human. We’re just going to do that. However, when your worry becomes all-consuming and it becomes your god instead of resting in the arms of God then that’s when we falter. It’s OK to have that tension between worry and dependence. However, it is our faith in God that gives us even that smallest flicker of hope that He will provide a way, a path, a solution. We learn this most in times of distress.

Third, we ask God for many things, but the greatest thing we could ever receive from him has already been given. What God has given us in the gospel is light-years ahead of every other provision and care we could ever seek from him. When we trust in Christ, we have decisively secured for us every ultimately good thing from him. It’s just a matter of time. James 1:17 reminds us, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” Every truly good thing in our lives comes straight from the Father. The ultimate good he provided us, through whom much of the other good things come to us, is Jesus. Jesus is the ultimate treasure. Thus, whatever we are going through, even when it is the hardest thing ever in our lives, we have assurance that this is just temporary. We have peace in knowing that God has us covered in Jesus’ arms. That is assurance that we can rely on no matter what we face. We are not failures. We are not defeated. We are a child of God and He will bring us through the valley and set us on a high place.

Fourth, God provides for us ultimately in eternity. No matter what you are going through, you can be assured that your ultimate victory awaits us in heaven. Life on earth is just a mist, a vapor, a flash in the pan. It sounds trite to say that if you are reading this and you are not a believer. However, for those who have assurance through their salvation in Jesus Christ, heaven is the ultimate reward. No matter what we are going through we can cling to the fact that God will richly reward us in heaven. You are not a loser. You are not in the valley forever. You are a child of God. He will provide richly for you in heaven. So, keep pushing, keep struggling, keep climbing, God loves you so much that He has a rich storehouse awaiting you in heaven. While you are here on earth, though, know that God is with you and He will provide a way out of your current troubles. If He loved you enough to send His Son to die for your sins and assure you of an eternity in heaven with Him, He will provide a way out of your current situation – it may not be exactly the way you had planned it yourself, but He will provide.

That’s what I thought of this morning when I read 1 Kings 18:1-40 – about how God will provide. I thought about how much faith Elijah had to have to do what He did. He fully believed in God’s provision. That got me to thinking about how often we forget to have the faith that Elijah had:

Chapter 18

1 Later on, in the third year of the drought, the Lord said to Elijah, “Go and present yourself to King Ahab. Tell him that I will soon send rain!” 2 So Elijah went to appear before Ahab.

Meanwhile, the famine had become very severe in Samaria. 3 So Ahab summoned Obadiah, who was in charge of the palace. (Obadiah was a devoted follower of the Lord. 4 Once when Jezebel had tried to kill all the Lord’s prophets, Obadiah had hidden 100 of them in two caves. He put fifty prophets in each cave and supplied them with food and water.) 5 Ahab said to Obadiah, “We must check every spring and valley in the land to see if we can find enough grass to save at least some of my horses and mules.” 6 So they divided the land between them. Ahab went one way by himself, and Obadiah went another way by himself.

7 As Obadiah was walking along, he suddenly saw Elijah coming toward him. Obadiah recognized him at once and bowed low to the ground before him. “Is it really you, my lord Elijah?” he asked.

8 “Yes, it is,” Elijah replied. “Now go and tell your master, ‘Elijah is here.’”

9 “Oh, sir,” Obadiah protested, “what harm have I done to you that you are sending me to my death at the hands of Ahab? 10 For I swear by the Lord your God that the king has searched every nation and kingdom on earth from end to end to find you. And each time he was told, ‘Elijah isn’t here,’ King Ahab forced the king of that nation to swear to the truth of his claim. 11 And now you say, ‘Go and tell your master, “Elijah is here.”’ 12 But as soon as I leave you, the Spirit of the Lord will carry you away to who knows where. When Ahab comes and cannot find you, he will kill me. Yet I have been a true servant of the Lord all my life. 13 Has no one told you, my lord, about the time when Jezebel was trying to kill the Lord’s prophets? I hid 100 of them in two caves and supplied them with food and water. 14 And now you say, ‘Go and tell your master, “Elijah is here.”’ Sir, if I do that, Ahab will certainly kill me.”

15 But Elijah said, “I swear by the Lord Almighty, in whose presence I stand, that I will present myself to Ahab this very day.”

16 So Obadiah went to tell Ahab that Elijah had come, and Ahab went out to meet Elijah. 17 When Ahab saw him, he exclaimed, “So, is it really you, you troublemaker of Israel?”

18 “I have made no trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “You and your family are the troublemakers, for you have refused to obey the commands of the Lord and have worshiped the images of Baal instead. 19 Now summon all Israel to join me at Mount Carmel, along with the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah who are supported by Jezebel.[a]”

20 So Ahab summoned all the people of Israel and the prophets to Mount Carmel. 21 Then Elijah stood in front of them and said, “How much longer will you waver, hobbling between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him! But if Baal is God, then follow him!” But the people were completely silent.

22 Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only prophet of the Lord who is left, but Baal has 450 prophets. 23 Now bring two bulls. The prophets of Baal may choose whichever one they wish and cut it into pieces and lay it on the wood of their altar, but without setting fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood on the altar, but not set fire to it. 24 Then call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by setting fire to the wood is the true God!” And all the people agreed.

25 Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “You go first, for there are many of you. Choose one of the bulls, and prepare it and call on the name of your god. But do not set fire to the wood.”

26 So they prepared one of the bulls and placed it on the altar. Then they called on the name of Baal from morning until noontime, shouting, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no reply of any kind. Then they danced, hobbling around the altar they had made.

27 About noontime Elijah began mocking them. “You’ll have to shout louder,” he scoffed, “for surely he is a god! Perhaps he is daydreaming, or is relieving himself.[b] Or maybe he is away on a trip, or is asleep and needs to be wakened!”

28 So they shouted louder, and following their normal custom, they cut themselves with knives and swords until the blood gushed out. 29 They raved all afternoon until the time of the evening sacrifice, but still there was no sound, no reply, no response.

30 Then Elijah called to the people, “Come over here!” They all crowded around him as he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been torn down. 31 He took twelve stones, one to represent each of the tribes of Israel,[c] 32 and he used the stones to rebuild the altar in the name of the Lord. Then he dug a trench around the altar large enough to hold about three gallons.[d] 33 He piled wood on the altar, cut the bull into pieces, and laid the pieces on the wood.[e]

Then he said, “Fill four large jars with water, and pour the water over the offering and the wood.”

34 After they had done this, he said, “Do the same thing again!” And when they were finished, he said, “Now do it a third time!” So they did as he said, 35 and the water ran around the altar and even filled the trench.

36 At the usual time for offering the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet walked up to the altar and prayed, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,[f] prove today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant. Prove that I have done all this at your command. 37 O Lord, answer me! Answer me so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God and that you have brought them back to yourself.”

38 Immediately the fire of the Lord flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up all the water in the trench! 39 And when all the people saw it, they fell face down on the ground and cried out, “The Lord—he is God! Yes, the Lord is God!”

40 Then Elijah commanded, “Seize all the prophets of Baal. Don’t let a single one escape!” So the people seized them all, and Elijah took them down to the Kishon Valley and killed them there.

In this passage, we see that God flashed fire from heaven for Elijah. He will also help us accomplish what He commands us to do. The proof may not be as dramatic in our lives as in Elijah’s life, but God will make provision available to us in creative ways to accomplish His purposes. Like Elijah, we can have faith that whatever God commands us to do, He will provide what we need to carry it through.

How often do we doubt God? How often do we say God will provide but not really believe it and go back to wallowing in worry to the point that we can’t eat, can’t sleep, can’t really function. Are we so like the Israelites after leaving Egypt? Time after time, God provided miracle after miracle to provide for them. However, in very short order, they would forget about God’s miraculous provisions in the past and begin to grumble and rail against God. How often do you and I do that?

When I look at Elijah here, I think of how many of us would NOT step out in faith as He did. However, Elijah had the faith. He stepped out and did what God directed Him to do. There was no visual evidence that He should trust God. He heard from God and followed. He had faith. He had faith in God’s provision to Him as He stepped into the unknown future. He really did believe that God would provide. That’s the thing that you and I must take away this morning – really believing, really trusting that God will provide. Let us have the faith to believe that God will make a way for us – no matter how bleak a situation may be.

We must have the faith to see the provision too. We must not say God did not provide a way because we wanted the provision to come from the west, so to speak, and not see the path that God provided to the east or north or south, figuratively speaking. Sometimes, we miss God’s miracles because we are looking for what we want the provision to look like or where we wanted it to come from. Let us be aware of God’s provision and not demand that He do it a certain way.

Father, help to really believe it when we say, “God will provide!” Let this no longer be a default response, an empty saying, a saying with no guts to it. Let us fully believe and be aware of how you provide for us daily and in eternity. Let us live our lives trusting that you have got this. Let us live our lives in full dependence on you and grow in boldness as a result. Let us be an example to the world of the joy that you can have even in the toughest situations because “God will provide!”

Amen and Amen.

1 Kings 18:1-40 (Part 2 of 3)

The Contest on Mount Carmel

For the last few weeks, we have had a group of friends/couples over to our house that we have grown to love deeply over the past year. These are couples that we have forged some deep connections with because we have been part of significant events in their lives over the past year. In these first three weeks we have gotten together, we have shared our journeys to the cross with one another. Since we were the common bond among these couples that we were bringing together and the other couples did not know each other beyond knowing that we all go to church together, I felt the best way for us to get to know each other was to share our salvation stories with one another as we shared meals and conversation.

What a better way to get to know one another than to share your life story of how to got to the cross, how Jesus saved you, and what life has been like since! We have shed tears together over the last three weeks that we have been together. We have shared laughter. We have seen each person let down the masks that we often put up to the outside world. As a result, the bond that was through getting connected with one another through God’s local church has grown deeper. The couples that did not know each other have forged instant bonds with one another because the honesty required by sharing your road to the cross with another person. The common thread in each salvation story shared among the four couples in these three meetings is a term that probably someone else coined but true nonetheless is “the God-sized hole”.

We all have the “the God-sized hole” in our soul. Some people are lucky and get it filled with the right thing at an early age and I thank God for those people. They don’t have to go through the struggles that most of us do. Many people are not so fortunate. Many, including myself, have lived a large portion of our lives seeking to fill our God-sized hole with other things that do not fit. All the stories shared during our first three meetings of these couples are individual stories and sometimes couple stories of trying to fill our God-sized hole with other gods. In the 21st century, we may not worship Asherah poles or images of Baal like they did in the Old Testament but we are often no different that ancient people. We stray from the one true God to find and fulfill our desires of the flesh and hope that those desires fulfilled will fill the God-sized hole. It may be our jobs. It may be our relationships, even bad ones. We may use drugs or alcohol to attempt to fill the God-sized hole. It may be defining our self-worth through approval of others. It may be defining our self-worth through sexual conquests. It may be trying to fill the hole with money and property. It can be so many things. But as God’s Word tells us in so many ways and so many times, that worshiping something other than God always leads to destruction.

We always come up empty in the God-sized hole when we try to fill it with gods that are man-made. It may not be an elaborate religion such as we see here in this text from the Old Testament but our gods are no less elaborate and man-made and ultimately useless in today’s world. That’s the come thread to all the stories shared so beautifully over the last three meetings is coming up empty in the God-sized hole.

That’s what I thought of this morning when I read 1 Kings 18:1-40 about how the elaborate but false religion of the people of the northern kingdom failed when it counted. It reminded me of the common thread of the salvation stories of many, many people is that when it comes down to it we come up empty when we try to fill our God-sized hole with something other than God:

Chapter 18

1 Later on, in the third year of the drought, the Lord said to Elijah, “Go and present yourself to King Ahab. Tell him that I will soon send rain!” 2 So Elijah went to appear before Ahab.

Meanwhile, the famine had become very severe in Samaria. 3 So Ahab summoned Obadiah, who was in charge of the palace. (Obadiah was a devoted follower of the Lord. 4 Once when Jezebel had tried to kill all the Lord’s prophets, Obadiah had hidden 100 of them in two caves. He put fifty prophets in each cave and supplied them with food and water.) 5 Ahab said to Obadiah, “We must check every spring and valley in the land to see if we can find enough grass to save at least some of my horses and mules.” 6 So they divided the land between them. Ahab went one way by himself, and Obadiah went another way by himself.

7 As Obadiah was walking along, he suddenly saw Elijah coming toward him. Obadiah recognized him at once and bowed low to the ground before him. “Is it really you, my lord Elijah?” he asked.

8 “Yes, it is,” Elijah replied. “Now go and tell your master, ‘Elijah is here.’”

9 “Oh, sir,” Obadiah protested, “what harm have I done to you that you are sending me to my death at the hands of Ahab? 10 For I swear by the Lord your God that the king has searched every nation and kingdom on earth from end to end to find you. And each time he was told, ‘Elijah isn’t here,’ King Ahab forced the king of that nation to swear to the truth of his claim. 11 And now you say, ‘Go and tell your master, “Elijah is here.”’ 12 But as soon as I leave you, the Spirit of the Lord will carry you away to who knows where. When Ahab comes and cannot find you, he will kill me. Yet I have been a true servant of the Lord all my life. 13 Has no one told you, my lord, about the time when Jezebel was trying to kill the Lord’s prophets? I hid 100 of them in two caves and supplied them with food and water. 14 And now you say, ‘Go and tell your master, “Elijah is here.”’ Sir, if I do that, Ahab will certainly kill me.”

15 But Elijah said, “I swear by the Lord Almighty, in whose presence I stand, that I will present myself to Ahab this very day.”

16 So Obadiah went to tell Ahab that Elijah had come, and Ahab went out to meet Elijah. 17 When Ahab saw him, he exclaimed, “So, is it really you, you troublemaker of Israel?”

18 “I have made no trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “You and your family are the troublemakers, for you have refused to obey the commands of the Lord and have worshiped the images of Baal instead. 19 Now summon all Israel to join me at Mount Carmel, along with the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah who are supported by Jezebel.[a]”

20 So Ahab summoned all the people of Israel and the prophets to Mount Carmel. 21 Then Elijah stood in front of them and said, “How much longer will you waver, hobbling between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him! But if Baal is God, then follow him!” But the people were completely silent.

22 Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only prophet of the Lord who is left, but Baal has 450 prophets. 23 Now bring two bulls. The prophets of Baal may choose whichever one they wish and cut it into pieces and lay it on the wood of their altar, but without setting fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood on the altar, but not set fire to it. 24 Then call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by setting fire to the wood is the true God!” And all the people agreed.

25 Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “You go first, for there are many of you. Choose one of the bulls, and prepare it and call on the name of your god. But do not set fire to the wood.”

26 So they prepared one of the bulls and placed it on the altar. Then they called on the name of Baal from morning until noontime, shouting, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no reply of any kind. Then they danced, hobbling around the altar they had made.

27 About noontime Elijah began mocking them. “You’ll have to shout louder,” he scoffed, “for surely he is a god! Perhaps he is daydreaming, or is relieving himself.[b] Or maybe he is away on a trip, or is asleep and needs to be wakened!”

28 So they shouted louder, and following their normal custom, they cut themselves with knives and swords until the blood gushed out. 29 They raved all afternoon until the time of the evening sacrifice, but still there was no sound, no reply, no response.

30 Then Elijah called to the people, “Come over here!” They all crowded around him as he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been torn down. 31 He took twelve stones, one to represent each of the tribes of Israel,[c] 32 and he used the stones to rebuild the altar in the name of the Lord. Then he dug a trench around the altar large enough to hold about three gallons.[d] 33 He piled wood on the altar, cut the bull into pieces, and laid the pieces on the wood.[e]

Then he said, “Fill four large jars with water, and pour the water over the offering and the wood.”

34 After they had done this, he said, “Do the same thing again!” And when they were finished, he said, “Now do it a third time!” So they did as he said, 35 and the water ran around the altar and even filled the trench.

36 At the usual time for offering the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet walked up to the altar and prayed, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,[f] prove today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant. Prove that I have done all this at your command. 37 O Lord, answer me! Answer me so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God and that you have brought them back to yourself.”

38 Immediately the fire of the Lord flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up all the water in the trench! 39 And when all the people saw it, they fell face down on the ground and cried out, “The Lord—he is God! Yes, the Lord is God!”

40 Then Elijah commanded, “Seize all the prophets of Baal. Don’t let a single one escape!” So the people seized them all, and Elijah took them down to the Kishon Valley and killed them there.

In this passage, we see that, although the prophets of Baal “raved all afternoon” no one answered. Their god was silent because he was not real. Baal was a man-made creation. It may have had all the trappings of something supernatural with trinkets and physical representations of what this “god” looked like, but it was fully unreal. The gods of our day may not have idols in the same sense as ancient man-made religions but they are just as false and dangerous because they cause to depend on something other than God. Power, status, appearance, material possessions, drugs, alcohol, sexual validation, all of these things can become our gods if we devote our lives to pleasing those desires in our lives. However, in times of crisis, and we desperately call out to our gods, they will only be silence. We are all built with a God-sized hole in our soul than only God can fill. Our gods of our mind and flesh can offer no true answers, no guidance and no wisdom.

Whether we believe it or not (and if you do not believe in God that belief does NOT make Him NOT exist), we are born to seek after and worship God. He, the Creator of All Things, designed us to worship Him. He wired us that way, plain and simple. Satan may deceive us into believing that God does not exist or that we have evolved beyond the myth of religion and God. We may pride ourselves in our “evolution” and may even ridicule those who still believe in all that God stuff. However, convincing yourself that God does not exist and that you have evolved beyond “the myth of God” does not make Him stop existing. It does not make Him not exist. God designed us to be worshipful creatures toward Him. However, in Sovereignty as God, He chose to give us free will. He wanted us to worship Him not as robots but rather as free will beings who worship Him from the heart, soul and mind.

In that free will and because of the sin of Adam and Eve that we have inherited through the generations since, we choose to sin and walk away from God. We try to fill the God-sized hole with things that give us pleasure. We worship our own pleasure. We try to fill the God-sized hole with the things that we like and that we begin to worship. We worship money, power, position, drugs, alcohol, sex, and all sorts of pleasure giving activities instead of God. The path that these gods lead us down is one that leads to destruction. Why are we so hard-headed? Why does it take being brought down to our knees by the emptiness of the pursuits of the flesh before we cry out to God? Why is it that we try to fill the God-sized hole in our soul with something other than the one true God? We come up empty in the God-sized hole because our gods do not fit and are not intended to fill the God-sized hole.

Just that hundreds of priest of a false and empty religion came up empty when it came to bringing the rain so, too, do we come up empty when it’s crunch time in our lives and our gods of our own making fail us. Only God can fill the God-sized hole. Only God can bring the rain we cry out for. Only God is real. We are programmed by Him to worship Him and Him alone. Stop trying to seek the gaping hole in your soul with false gods of your own making and come to the Lord. Only He is designed to fully fit the hole in your soul. He will bring the rain which you seek. When you seek after Him you will begin to see the promise that you seek. You will see deliverance from the drought of your life. You will see a cloud coming that brings the promise.

The cloud is coming with promise to fill the hole in your soul. I think Elevation Worship says it best when they penned the song, There is A Cloud, and it goes like this:

Hear the Word, roaring as thunder

With a new, future to tell

For the dry, season is over

There is a cloud, beginning to swell

To the skies, heavy with blessing

Lift your eyes, offer your heart

Jesus Christ, opened the Heavens

Now we receive, the Spirit of God

We receive Your rain

We receive Your rain

Every seed, buried in sorrow

You will call, forth in its time

You are Lord, Lord of the harvest

Calling our hope, now to arise

We receive Your rain

We receive Your rain

We receive Your rain

We receive Your rain

Like a flood; like a flood

We receive Your love

When You come

Like a flood; like a flood

We receive Your love

When You come

Like a flood; like a flood

We receive Your love

When You come

Like a flood; like a flood

We receive Your love!

And with great, anticipation

We await, the Promise to come

Everything, that You have spoken

Will come to pass, let it be done!

We receive Your rain

We receive Your rain

We receive Your rain

We receive Your rain

Amen and Amen.