In today’s scripture, the power of God has been put on full display in the contest between the prophets of Baal and the God of Israel. Elijah prayed for God to reveal himself, and the scripture says in 1 Kings 18:38 READ. Always, always, always when you see a miracle of God, somebody who is healed, an accident that did not happen, an answer to prayer, what is the point if there is not a transformation of the heart. As exciting as 1 Kings 18:38 is, the more exciting verse is 1 Kings 18:39 READ. This is the verse that should cause your bones to quake. There is nothing more exciting to God than for his people to turn back to him.
Two powerful lessons of faith:
- Don’t compete with your enemies, but seek to build them up.
- When you are in the wilderness, knowing God’s promises (i.e. Vision) will sustain you.
Elijah honors Ahab. I thought Elijah just won the contest and defeated Ahab, but Elijah instructs Ahab to go and eat and celebrate because the drought is as good as over! Elijah does not see Ahab as the enemy. Those who disagree with me are not my enemy. Going back perhaps five years in the Sumas RV Park when there was more activity and Denny and I were in and out a lot more, one man always glared at me and cursed me whenever I came into the park… I rarely spoke to the man because I was not welcome. He thought Christianity was nonsense and helping people was wrong. I never took it personally. I was only the messenger. If people have complaints about me, rather than defending myself, I hold my head high and remind myself I am only the messenger and the real problem is with God, not me….Elijah does not treat Ahab as his enemy, but he seeks to bless him.
Elijah does not give up on Ahab. You may have family, friends or people in your life who seem far away from the things of God, but don’t give up… maybe you are called to pray for them at a distance, but as long as there is breath, bless those whom you don’t understand. There is no indication Ahab’s heart was permanently transformed, but that is not the responsibility of Elijah. Elijah did his part in that he gave Ahab opportunity to repent. He showed respect and honor. Ultimately Ahab’s commitment to the Lord is between him and God, but like Elijah, we are called to love our enemies and pray for those who seek to do us harm. Bless the difficult people in your life, bless those who seek to diminish you, because it is not really about you.
You know how else Elijah honors Ahab? I learned as I studied this scripture is that in those days, powerful kings often had servants who were strong runners. These servants would run alongside the king’s horses whenever he went out as a display of majesty. No doubt Elijah is supernaturally empowered by God to run ahead of the galloping horse for about 14-15 miles, pulling Ahab’s chariot, but it is a way of honoring the king.
As Christians we are here to serve the world/community, including those who seek to undermine us. I like to think of our calling to be like the game of Red Rover…we invite people join us in our walk of faith, to walk beside us as we seek to grow in Christ…. Better yet, I will go to the other side asking God to use me as a witness in the world.
Elijah did not see Ahab as a loser, but he honored him. It says in 1 Kings 18:45-46 READ. It has only taken me 50 years to see that Elijah is not competing with Ahab, he is complimenting/serving the man by honoring his role as King.
You can get rid of a lot of enemies in your life by seeing them as people to serve. Make your enemies look good. Run just ahead of their chariots to pave the way for their success. It’s up to them what they do with it.
Elijah is a remarkable man. How does he keep a positive attitude towards the King? He “won” the contest on Mt. Carmel when the prophets of Baal failed to gain the ear of their god and their dancing, hollering and slashing was met with silence (last week’s message). Then when Elijah prayed the alter of the Lord burned up. Elijah could have declared victory and demanded the head of Ahab, or at least the crown. Elijah had momentum, he had the people on his side, but the goal was not power. The goal was for the people, including Ahab, to return to God. The people recognized the true God of Israel, “The Lord he is God, the Lord he is God.” Amazingly, Elijah does not give up on Ahab.
What enables Elijah to remain steadfast in his desire to see people, including Ahab, turn to the Lord. In a word ~~ VISION. Elijah sees what God has promised but is not yet here. VISION.
A parable of three fish:
Once up on a time there lived 3 fish in a pond. One was named “Plan Ahead”, another was “Think Fast”, and the third was named “Wait and See”. One day they heard a fisherman say that he was going to cast his net in their pond the next day.
Plan Ahead said, “I’m swimming down the river tonight!” and so he did.
Think Fast said, “I’m sure I’ll come up with a plan.”
Wait and See lazily said, “I just can’t think about it now!”
When the fisherman cast his nets, Plan Ahead was long gone. But “Think Fast” and “Wait and See” were caught!
Think Fast quickly rolled his belly up and pretended to be dead. “Oh, this fish is no good!” said the fisherman, and threw him safely back into the water. But, Wait and See ended up in the fish market.
That is why they say, “In times of danger, when the net is cast, plan ahead or plan to think fast!”
Moral: One should have vision in their life. Having a vision helps to plan ahead to avoid.
Vision is a gift of God to sustain us in the wilderness. When Elijah instructs Ahab to go and eat/celebrate for the drought is about to end he says in 1 Kings 18:41, “There is the sound of heavy rain.” Did anyone else besides Elijah “hear” the “sound”. Elijah has the ability to hear and see the promised rain of God. Ahab complies. Astounding. The King “lost” but he feasts! God is wild. Isn’t that amazing. When you have a vision of God even people who don’t get you will appreciate you, they will be intrigued by you, because they are really intrigued by God.
While Ahab celebrates, Elijah prays… he puts his head between his knees in 1 Kings 18:42. This is similar to Mrs. Wesley who was surrounded by a gaggle of kids including the later minister John Wesley and his brother Charles the great hymn writer. It is said that often when Mrs. Wesley wanted time alone with God she would stand in the middle of the kitchen surrounded by all these active children and throw the apron over her head. Elijah, a man of prayer, puts his head between his knees, time for him and God…He undoubtedly prays about the promised rain God has lodged in his head and heart. I don’t think Elijah prayed to convince God, the greater truth is that prayer is a reminder to us of what God has promised as we center ourselves in Him and ask Him to open our heart so we don’t miss his promised showers of blessings.
Elijah has been told by God the drought is about to end, he has heard the sound of rain, and now he prays giving God his full heart. Elijah tells his servant to check the horizon… the servant returns and says in 1 Kings 18:43, “There is nothing there.” This is why we need vision, because the here and now is not always encouraging. Yet God has promised his blessings, even when it looks like a lot of nothing. We need vision, we need to be able to see, we need to be able to hang on to God’s promises. Seven times Elijah sends the servant back to scan the horizon, and at last on the seventh time, the servant reports READ 1 Kings 18:43b.
The day of salvation is coming to our land. It is God’s promise. The day of restoration. May we be a people who hang on to God’s promises to take care of us, to shoulder our burdens, to know that at the end of the day all will be well. This is what allows us to never give up on people because we know what is coming. Elijah wasn’t looking to defeat an enemy when he challenged Ahab in the Baal vs. God contest on Carmel, he was looking to reintroduce the people and the King to God. Vision, hanging onto God’s promises, knowing where we are going and why we are hear, continuously centering ourselves in God through prayer, is what enable us to stay positive and focused in a negative and chaotic world.
I do not know the exact details of how God will transform this old world, but I do know God’s promises are true and he is coming to redeem this old world. There is still time for people to change. There is still time to go back to the Lord Jesus Christ and return to a life of peace and redemption.
All looks desolate right now, as the servant of Elijah reported, “There is nothing.” This is why we need vision. As we scan the horizon of our nation, as you scan the horizon of your life, what appears is a whole lot of nothing… On the other side of nothing is the promise of God, the blessings of God. Rain is on the horizon. For six days the servant saw nothing… but then on the seventh day he saw a cloud the size of a hand.
Keep scanning the horizon… You are not competing with the world, but God has you here to bless the world. Draw your energy from what is coming rather than be discouraged by the present wilderness. Vision means to trust in God’s promises even when there is nothing to see. The day is coming when a fresh wind of God’s blessing will blow. The day is coming when it will rain upon the earth. The day is coming when God’s promises of life and abundance will unfold. There shall be showers of blessings. Keep looking. Keep believing. Keep the faith. Amen.