When Challenging A Nation To Make The Godly Choice!
An Undeniable Experience with God
When God Shows Up!
When Challenging A Nation To Make The Godly Choice!
1 Kings 18:20-40
The entire first message of this series was an introduction to this series of messages on “An Undeniable Experience with God,” or “When God Shows Up!” In that message, I discussed God’s leading for this series, how I struggled with naming this series and some of the differences between Mediterranean culture and American culture—particularly as it relates to dealing with experiences.
Remember that first-century circum-Mediterranean culture is the time and culture in which Jesus, the Christ, was born, lived, died, buried, and rose again and all of the books of the New Testament were written. We cannot accurately interpret God’s original message to the original people of the Bible without some understanding of the culture in which the texts were written and the contexts were lived out.
In the second message, we began to look at six (6) stories that deal with undeniable experiences with God or six times when God shows up.
The encounter that we explored in the second message was when God showed up in the life of Abraham. He showed up in the life of Abraham when he passed God’s test, through obedience!
In the third message, we explored the encounter that Moses had with Jehovah, through a burning bush. God showed up to call Moses to a mission.
Today we move to God showing up at a particular point in the life of the Elijah.
(Please notice with me Exodus 1 Kings 18:20-40. I’ll read this aloud for us, as you follow along silently. Let’s talk first about:)
I. The Expectation.
First-century circum-Mediterranean people believed that every event was attributable to some being. They almost always ask, “Who did this to me,” not “What happened?” They believed there was a pantheon or a collective or gods, angels, demons, spirits, ancestors, ghosts, spirits, dead saints, animals, plants, etc. that interjected themselves in the people’s lives.
This can be seen in the present story. We see that even the false prophets of Baal and Asherah had an expectation that these false deities or demons were going to show up! They were open to and expected someone from the spirit world to intercede in this situation!
Consequently, the point is, the people of the Bible had an expectation of beings from the spirit world showing up, including God, which we simply do not have!
We have reduced the world to a mechanistic, scientific system. We believe in luck, fate, and genetic determinism!
Luck or chance is the randomness of activity or events that come into being with no cause.
Fate is the necessity inherent in the nature of things to which we are all subject!
Genetic determinism is the idea that genes determine our physical and behavioral appearance and constitution.
Please understand that, as a Saint of God, I don’t believe in luck, fate, or simple genetic determinism! The Bible tells me that the steps of the godly are ordered, appointed, or directed by the Lord! I’m not lucky; I’m blessed!
· I didn’t just happen to get saved; I was chosen!
· I don’t just happen to be a pastor; it is a part of my destiny!
· I didn’t just happen into these blessing; God was and is bent on blessing me!
I am not going to attribute the direct blessings of God to impersonal luck, fate, or determinism! Paul wrote in
Romans 8:28 (NASB), “28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (bold type added).
(That brings us to:)
II. The Environment (Circumstance).
Elijah was one of the preeminent Old Testament prophets of God, while Ahab was one of the most wicked kings of Israel. Ahab was married to the infamous Jezebel. Jezebel was a wicked woman that manipulated and controlled both Ahab and Israel towards pagan worship. This is the backdrop for Elijah’s dramatic appearance upon the prophetic stage. His appearance is seen in
1 Kings 17:1 (NASB-U), “Now Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the settlers of Gilead, said to Ahab, ‘As the Lord, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.’”
Well, God sent Elijah to confront Ahab and Jezebel, because of their apostasy and its impact upon the Northern Kingdom of Israel!
We see here another circumstance which contributes to God showing up! It appears that God shows up when He has sent you to prophetically confront apostate political leaders.
The word “apostate” means
“someone who has renounced religious belief” (Microsoft Encarta Computer Dictionary).
Consequently, if we want God to show up, we need to heed God’s call to speak prophetically to professional politicians and to our nation!
God has had to reorient all of my thinking on this subject. I reacted into a form of conservatism, where people tend not to bother with politicians and politics. This is possible in American, because politics is a separate institution. However, it was not possible in the Bible, because politics was not a separate institution. Rather, politics was embedded in the two main institutions of family and religion.
So, when Elijah confronted Ahab about his apostasy or falling away from God, he was automatically having an impact upon the politics of his time.
Therefore, I have come to understand that it is my duty to speak prophetically to things that impact our city, state, and national conditions. When I do this, I may not be doing so as a professional politician, but my speech is still necessarily political, because it deals with the art and science of government.
When I talk about speaking prophetically to politicians and to our nation, I mean to speak a fresh application of the Word of the Lord that at least does the following four things:
1. Points towards the future;
We have to help politicians and the nation point towards the future, from a godly perspective. What would God want for us in the future?
2. Reveals the present priorities of the Lord for someone’s life; or
We need to allow God to use us to reveal the present priorities of the Lord in the lives of professional politicians and our city, county, state, and nation.
3. Sheds light on the mysteries of life;
We need to shed light on the mysteries of life so that politicians and others around us can get a godly perspective. And,
4. Makes sense out of pain.
We need to speak into the lives of politicians and our nation so that they can make sense out of pain!
(All right, back to Elijah.)
Evidently, God determined that enough time has passed for Ahab and Jezebel to know that He was sovereign, because He gave Elijah another assignment. That assignment is seen in
1 Kings 18:1 (NASB-U), “Now it happened after many days that the word of the Lord came to Elijah in the third year, saying, ‘Go, show yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the face of the earth.’”
If I had time and it was within the purview of my subject, I would explore what the author means when he writes,
“…the word of the Lord came to Elijah.”
· How did the word of the Lord come to Elijah?
· Did a hand write on the wall in front of him?
· Did he see it in a dream or vision?
· Did the word just pop into his spirit?
I believe it suggests some kind of supernatural revelation of God through an alternate state of consciousness!
Nevertheless, God was about to lift His hand of discipline and send the blessing of rain!
Now, when Elijah showed himself to Ahab, he challenged Ahab to a contest to determine the true God! Either Jehovah God was God or the 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah who ate at Jezebel’s table was God. The challenge is going to take place on Mount Carmel.
(This is where we pick up the story. We have seen the expectation and the environment or circumstance of this undeniable encounter with God. Now, let’s look at:)
III. The Experience.
Even though the perpetrators of the apostasy are Jezebel and Ahab, the impact had definitely been felt in the Northern Kingdom of Israel. So, Elijah challenges the people of Israel with these famous words:
1 Kings 18:21 (NASB), “21…‘How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.’ But the people did not answer him a word.”
Elijah proposed that he and the prophets of Baal each prepare a sacrifice, call upon their god, and the god that answered by fire would be seen and declared to be God! I’m so glad that Elijah understood that there was only one way to determine the real God: He would be the one who would show up through fire!
When will we come to understand that the God that we serve demonstrates His deity by showing up in supernatural encounters? He doesn’t do it all the time, at every juncture. However, I am pointing out critical junctures where God desires to show up!
Now, there is a small piece of information that acts as a foil here. A foil is literally something that ‘sets off’ or heightens the importance of something else. The foil in this challenge is that fire was an element over which Baal was supposed to reside. So, it should be real easy for Baal to show up through fire!
By way of contrast, since God was not necessarily the God of fire, the prophets of Baal and Asherah probably thought that answering by fire would be difficult for Yahweh. Evidently, they were not aware of what the writer of the Hebrews would write centuries later in
Hebrews 12:29 (NASB), “29 for our God is a consuming fire.”
Well, the prophets of Baal jumped around and even shed their own blood, as they called upon their dead, senseless deity, but there was no answer!
Elijah berates the prophets of Baal with biting satire. He suggests that maybe their God had gone to the bathroom or was taking a nap.
Then, Elijah repaired the altar of the Lord!
He placed the sacrifice on the altar.
He saturated the sacrifice and the altar with water, until this water filled a trench that Elijah had dug around the altar.
At the time of the evening sacrifice, Elijah prayed a simple, but powerful prayer! In his prayer, he states what He wants God to accomplish by showing up. He prayed, “Let it be known that:
1) You are God in Israel;
2) I am your servant;
3) I have taken all of these actions in obedience to your word; and
4) You have turned their hearts back to You again.
(And what happens?)
God shows up in a dramatic encounter with Elijah, Ahab, Jezebel, the prophets of Baal and Asherah, and Israel!
· The fire of the Lord fell and licked up the offering, the wood, the stones of the altar, the dust, and the water in the trench!
· This is a miraculous demonstration of the presence and power of God!
· Water usually puts fire out, but this fire overwhelmed water!
· Have you ever had God show up for your challenge?
· Have you ever had God demonstrate His reality, presence, and power through a divine encounter?
· Have you ever had God alter the laws of nature, which is the definition of a miracle, to show up on your behalf?
(What are we to learn from Elijah’s example?)
IV. The Example (Principle).
Our country is in the same condition as the Nation of Israel. We are a long way from the God of our religious beginning and we need to make a choice. However, this country will never make that choice, until it is confronted in such a way that it cannot avoid the confrontation.
Therefore, it is a good likelihood that God will show up, when we accept His call to confront the apostasy of this country!
I, as your pastor, we as the church, and you as individuals need to challenge this nation to a contest!
q Saints, how long will we hesitate between two opinions?
q Church, how long will we hesitate between two opinions?
q Akron, how long will we hesitate between two opinions?
q Ohio, how long will we hesitate between two opinions?
q America, how long will we hesitate between two opinions?
· A godly choice needs to be made about justice.
This country use to stand for freedom and justice!
· A godly choice needs to be made about the poor.
I don’t believe that a country that can put people into space can’t do more to deal with the poor in our country.
· A godly choice needs to be made about pornography and our media.
Day-by-day all of the media, particularly TV and movies, are become more and more blatant with respect to pornography. We cannot stand around and watch this erosion.
· A godly choice needs to be made about same-sex marriage.
No thinking people want to discriminate against or hate homosexuals. However, we cannot legalize homosexuality and expect God to stand by and do nothing.
· A godly choice needs to be made about the Middle East.
Can we continue to try to be the police officers of the world and insinuate ourselves into foreign situations that we don’t understand and where many don’t want us?
· A godly choice needs to be made about God.
The Declaration of Independence, the Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights, etc., etc., etc. are all based upon the Bible, Judeo/Christian ethics, and trust in God! America was good, because America was godly! Yet, we are rapidly become atheistic.
There can only be one true and living God! So, let’s begin to challenge the people of this nation to put our gods to a test. Let them call upon any god that they trust in, whether that god is material, monetary, emotional or psychological. Then we will ask God to show up in a miracle and demonstrate to this country that He is God.
Not only do we need to accept God’s call to confront the apostate culture of America, but we need to have the same motives that Elijah had! Let me review those motives for you, as I see them. They were stated in Elijah’s prayer. Let’s me restate them for us.
“O Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Israel, and Jesus, today, let it be known that:
1. You are God in Akron.
God, show up so evidently at THOTL, until it is evident that You and You alone are God in Akron! Let the fire of the baptism in the Holy Ghost fall upon this church and accept the altar of our hearts, the sacrifice, and even the water of our unbelief!
2. I am your servant.
God, show up dynamically at THOTL and let it be known that I am your servant! I’m ultimately not a pastor, Bishop, leader, professional politician, or anything else! I am ultimately your servant! I live to serve you and do your will!
3. I have done all these things at your word.
God, show up prominently at THOTL and affirm that I have done all these things at your word:
· I have established this church, at Your word.
· I established these ministries, at Your word.
· I have built these buildings, at Your word.
· I have changed the doctrine of this church, at Your word.
· I have become more involved in the community, at Your word.
· I have helped other pastors, leaders, and churches, at Your word.
· I have put in new theater seats, at Your word.
4. You have turned theirs back to you again through blessings and hearing their repentance.
God show up so powerfully at THOTL, until everyone knows that you have turned our hearts back to you and you are once again open to hearing our prayers of repentance and pouring out divine blessings upon us!
Then God will show up!
(Although this is not the subject of my sermon, please allow me to consider—for one moment—what happened after God showed up.)
After God showed up, His encounter accomplished exactly what Elijah had prayed. This is seen in the people’s response in
1 Kings 18:39 (NASB), “When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, ‘The Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is God.’”
It was now evident that God was God in Israel, that Elijah was His servant, that Elijah had done all of the things that He had done in obedience to God, and that God was turning the hearts of the fathers back to their children and the hearts of the children back to the fathers, because that was Malachi’s metaphor for repentance!
Elijah now takes this new found influence from God’s manifest presence and uses it to slay the prophets of Baal and Asherah.
When God shows up by fire, all will know that Jesus is God! Then, we shall use any influence of God’s manifest presence to rid our community of evil!
All of this suggests to me that God shows up when we accept His call to challenge the nation to a godly choice!
(Now is the Day of Salvation. Come to Jesus, now!)
Call to Discipleship