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Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stone and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord -- he is God! The Lord -- he is God! - 1 Kings 18:38-39 (NIV)
Elijah gets into an epic battle. An all-time showdown. If this were a movie, it’d be the work of a very creative fiction writer--except it happened. God’s power is displayed in one of the most vivid ways imaginable. In 1 Kings 18 Elijah calls down fire from heaven and it consumes a very wet and very large altar in an instant. Elijah picked the rules of engagement and his life was on the line. If God didn’t show up he would have been done for.
Elijah learned in this victorious moment that God always wins, but he also had some prior experiences to back that up. We’re first introduced to Elijah in 1 Kings 17. He is serving as a prophet, a truth-telling mouthpiece of God, who confronts the leader of Israel’s divided northern kingdom. He tells Ahab that because they were worshipping a god called Baal there wouldn’t be any rain for the next few years. And so there was no rain for years.
Back before grocery stores, most people relied directly on rain in their immediate area to survive. Barges and trucks didn’t deliver grain from region to region so without rain you were in real trouble. Full on famine sets in. Elijah represented God to his people and at Elijah’s word the rain had stopped.
This week we will review some of the other miraculous events that Elijah was part of and reflect on how God has worked in our life and the world around us. Let’s ask God today to make us aware this coming week of how He is working in our lives.
Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah: “Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. You will drink from the brook, and I have ordered the ravens to feed you there.” - 1 Kings 17:2-4 (NIV)
Before Elijah took on the 450 prophets of Baal in the showdown discussed yesterday he was struggling to make ends meet. There was a famine in the land and he was as vulnerable as everyone else. In need of sustenance, God sends him to fresh water and miraculously has birds feed him. That worked for a time until the brook dried up from the drought. God then sends him to a widow and her son. She is down to her last meal, but miraculously God provides enough to sustain the three of them. (The story is kind of nuts. Check it out here.)
I’ve never faced a famine or wondered if I’d have enough to eat, but I did find myself in need of God’s direction. In front of me was the decision to pursue a year-long internship between my sophomore and junior years of college. I talked it out with my dad and we didn’t have peace about me doing it since a guy I wanted to learn from was planning to leave. It was an exciting opportunity, but it just didn’t seem wise.
About a day after I had released the opportunity I got a call. He was staying put and the year-long internship was still available. I chose to pursue the internship and, looking back, it was clearly God’s hand at work in my life. God uses pivotal circumstances to grow our faith in Him.
So what about you? What memories do you have of something that can’t really be explained except God is in it? This week we’re learning that God always wins. Today let’s reflect on pivotal circumstances God used to shape us.
The Lord heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived. - 1 Kings 17:22 (NIV)
Tuesday we talked about Elijah’s connection to a struggling widow and her only son. Later in the story, the kid passes away. There is nothing more devastating than when a parent has to bury their child. As a pastor, I’ve witnessed it firsthand and it is absolutely gut-wrenching. Except the widow doesn’t get to bury her son because Elijah steps in and brings the kid back to life.
Earlier in our Neon series, if you caught this message, you heard about God doing things that can’t be explained by science. For Elijah and this poor single mom, God won. He did a miracle that became part of the foundation of Elijah’s great faith. In the verses that followed Elijah’s miracle, the story wraps with the boy’s mom saying it’s clear to her that Elijah is a man of God and what he says is the truth.
The actions of our lives, though rarely (if ever) miraculous, reflect what we believe to be true about God and His Word. The challenge is that the world around us fights against how God desires to use us. Today let’s finish our time by meditating on The Message paraphrase of Paul’s powerful words from Romans 12:1-2.
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life -- your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life -- and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.Share Tweet
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. - 1 Timothy 2:6 (NIV)
Around the time of this writing, I was complimented on being organized. It’s true, I can keep a few things sorted out and going. I don’t like to brag, but it’s hard to be humble when you are able to leap so many tall buildings in such well orchestrated and strategic ways. While I remove my tongue from my cheek, let’s recap some ways God had gifted Elijah.
Elijah brought the message that predicted a massive drought and famine. He was fed miraculously by ravens. He brought the word that a family would have their meals provided by a miracle that defies logic. He brought a child that stopped breathing back to life. He then called down fire from heaven that consumed a soaking wet altar. God clearly gifted him as a prophet to bring the miraculous to fruition. We could say that he was good at it.
Most of us aren’t gifted in the same way Elijah was, but we all have ways God uses us. Maybe you have the gift of encouragement. It comes natural to you to lift others up. Maybe you are great with numbers. They make sense to you and you can help keep things balanced and strong financially. It might be that you are great with kids. You have what it takes to help them stay on track and develop as they should. Whatever your gifts are it’s a good idea to realize that when we see God winning, it’s often because He’s using someone to demonstrate His active care for the world today.
Take some time to consider this. Have you stopped using a God-given gift because you downplay its value? Are you comparing your gifts to others in a way that holds back your God-given abilities? Is how God gifted you being ignored right now in any way?
And Elijah was afraid and arose and ran for his life, and he came to Beersheba which belongs to Judah, and he left his servant there. - 1 Kings 19:3 (NIV)
My youngest son has never met a stranger and yet is afraid of his own shadow. He’s a walking contradiction to me. He will walk up to just about any person he sees and chat ‘em up. But when he gets home he won’t go upstairs to his room by himself. He’s afraid of his own shadow. I can’t figure it out.
Our good friend Elijah was kinda the same way. Elijah saw God do miracle after miracle. As a matter of fact, Elijah picked a fight with a crowd of rival prophets. He sees God do things that can’t be explained, but after his epic miracle recorded in 1 Kings 18 his life is threatened, so he tucks tail and runs for the hills. I can’t figure it out.
The truth is we’ve all got some “walking contradiction” in us. We all find ways to ignore what we know to be true about God and, in fear, run and hide. I’ve done it before. What I love is that as the story unfolds God pursues His mighty prophet. God pursues Elijah and calls out his fear, but He does it in a really special way. God’s voice comes in a gentle breeze. Elijah had exercised great faith in his life and, though he ran, God still pursued.
Whether we are running from God or not, we can all experience God’s gentle voice in our lives. Author E.M. Bounds says it this way:
“Faith is increased by exercise, by being put into use. It is nourished by sore trials. Faith grows by reading and meditating upon the Word of God. Most, and best of all, faith thrives in an atmosphere of prayer.”