- Sermon Notes
Elijah’s Challenge: Waver No More
1 Kings 18:17-39
November 20-21, 2021
The back story of 1 Kings 18 is that Israel is in trouble. There is a famine in the land because God removed the blessing of rain because they had turned their back on God and followed after Baal, the god of fertility, produce, and rain.
Hard hearts brought hard times. It’s a spiritual principle. There was something in them that was drawn to the gods of the nations around them. It was the nature of man, their flesh. It’s also true today. There is something in many people that is drawn to the world.
Many have a conflict within their souls. There is in them something that draws them to the world but there is also in them that which draws them to the Lord. God is pursuing, God is speaking to their hearts, God is inviting them to draw near, but they have not fully committed. They’re in the middle. You could call it the miserable middle. They haven’t given themselves completely over to the world, but neither have they given their heart fully to God.
What does it take to be spiritually victorious? Especially in the times in which we are now living. The answer is to be all in, to be fully committed. That is the message of 1 Kings 18.
As the events in 1 Kings 18 unfold, the drought has lasted for 3 years and 6 months. The significance of that period of time cannot be lost on us. In fact, the Tribulation of God’s wrath poured out on the world in the latter days will be for 7 years. But the 7-year Tribulation will be in two divisions of 3 ½ years each.
The Great Tribulation in the latter days will begin with the Antichrist making a covenant of peace with Israel. Interestingly, today, several Arab nations have made normalization agreements with Israel in what have become known as the Abraham Accords. These things are setting the stage for a great covenant of peace the nations will make with Israel in the latter days.
However, the Antichrist will betray Israel after 3 ½ years of peace, will take possession of the newly rebuilt temple, and will set up an image of himself in the innermost holy place of the temple. Israel will respond with outrage, and literally all hell will break loose as the nations of the world come against Israel, culminating in the battle of Armageddon.
Israel would be destroyed in the battle of Armageddon except for the intervention of God when He sends Israel’s Messiah to defeat her enemies. We know his name. It is Yashua Hameshiach, Jesus the Messiah.
In 1 Kings 18, at the end of the 3 and half year drought, the word of the Lord came to Elijah, saying, “Go, show yourself to Ahab.” What then follows is a showdown of epic proportions.
Elijah instructs Ahab to call 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of the Asherah and all of Israel and meet him on Mount Carmel. There on the mountain Elijah will challenge the people of Israel who were divided in heart.
There are life lessons in the story. The challenge Elijah gives to Israel is the same Joshua gave as he drew Israel together and declared, “Now, therefore, fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and truth; put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. If it is disagreeable your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods in the land you are now living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
I. Know the True Source of Troubles
- When Ahab saw Elijah he said, “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?”
- Now that is a fascinating accusation. He blamed Elijah, and since Elijah was a prophet, he might as well be blaming God.
- Was Elijah to blame? Was God to blame? God did remove His hand of blessing by withholding the rain. But Ahab worshiped Baal. Wasn’t he the god of fertility and rain?hab put his hope and trust in the god of the world, Baal, to be the source of produce, fertility, and rain. Instead of help Ahab got troubles.
- Many look to cast blame instead of taking responsibility.
A. God knows the way of greatest blessing
- Elijah’s response gives a great summary of where trouble comes from.
- “I have not troubled Israel,” Elijah responded, “but you have.” And then he gives two clear reasons.
- First reason: Ahab had turned his back on the word of the Lord. God gives His Word and those who take hold of it and live according to it, will be saved from much trouble.
Luke 6:47-48, “Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and lives according to them, I will show you whom he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when the flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built.”
- In other words, God gives His word to keep you from the trouble of your own doing.
Illus – It’s like teaching teenagers to drive. In the course of my life I have taught five teenagers to drive. I gave instructions which would keep them safe. I insisted they listen because I knew terrible things can happen if they don’t take hold of my words.
I remember teaching my son and before we even started the car, I reviewed the most important rule of all rules. “You must do exactly what I say.”
- God gives us His Word so you will have a light for your feet to keep you from falling into a pit.
Jude 1:24, Now unto Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless and with great joy.
Psalm 119:103, 105, How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth! …Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
- Second reason for trouble: Ahab had followed Baal. Literally in Hebrew it means to walk behind them. In other words, who is leading who?
- Ahab had turned his back on the Word of God and followed after Baal.
- Today, it would be similar to this; there are those who neglect the things of the Lord, they’ve turned a deaf ear to God. And that is trouble enough, but there are still others who deliberately go after the things of the world.
- And that will bring more trouble than they bargained for.
Illus – If you were to write a book about all the times you did the wrong thing and it ended well, how many chapters would it have in it? But if you wrote chapters in that book about all the times you did the wrong thing or took the wrong turn and it ended badly, how many chapters would there be then?
And how many would say, “And before I made that wrong decision, before I made that wrong turn, God warned me not to do it.” God is trying to save people from that trouble.
Proverbs 14:12, There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.
B. If God brings trouble, it’s good
- The troubles of Israel were an opportunity to get back on the road which brings life.
Jeremiah 21:8, You shall say to this people, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death.’”
- Ahab was angry at the wrong person. He sent many men to hunt down Elijah because he was convinced that Elijah was the troubler of Israel when in fact the real troubler of Israel was Ahab.
- How many people get angry when what they should be — is humble?
Illus – People get angry with the police officer, or the referee, or the teacher for giving them a bad grade; or the parent for checking up on them. “Why are you troubling me?” we can almost hear them say. One of my favorite questions when I was raising teens was, “Why are you angry if I’m doing my job as a parent?”
- If God brings trouble, you can be sure that He’s completely loving us in the process.
Illus – I remember growing up and my mother would stir me up, which is another word for agitate, until I finally got out of bed. If God agitates, if God irritates, He’s doing something good.
Illus –that might remind us of when God said to Paul, “Why are you kicking against the goads?”
Hebrews 12:6, 11, For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives… All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
II. Don’t Waver Between; Commit Fully to God
- Elijah challenged Ahab to bring all Israel together at Mount Carmel, along with 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah.
- God has proven his power and might and He will do it again. The odds are against Elijah. It’s 850 to 1. But before the great showdown, Elijah challenges Israel, saying, “How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.”
- Interestingly, the people did not answer him a word. Why not? Because they were wavering, they were hesitating. They were going back and forth.
James 1:6, 8, The one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind… A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.
A. There comes a time for faith to be counted
- There comes a time to settle the question, for faith to stand up and be counted.
- There was one prophet of Jehovah – Elijah. His decision was made. His heart was on fire for God, and he served him with all his heart.
- But thousands of people from the 10 tribes of Israel were there and it was to them that Elijah called out, “How long will you waver between two opinions?”
- They were silent; the people did not answer a single word. They were the silent majority.
- They were wavering between two opinions. They didn’t want to have to make a decision. They wanted both the gods of this world and Jehovah.
- God calls this being lukewarm; the temperature when something is neither cold nor hot.
Revelation 3:15-16, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.”
- This was Solomon’s problem also. He didn’t want to turn his back on God; he wanted God and all the things the world had to offer.
- That is where a lot of people are today. They want both; they want a relationship to God and a relationship to the world.
2 Corinthians 6:15-17, What harmony has Christ with Belial… Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? …Therefore, “Come out from their midst and be separate,” says the Lord.
Joshua 24:23-24, “Now therefore, put away the foreign gods which are in your midst, and incline your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.” The people said to Joshua, “We will serve the Lord our God and we will obey His voice.”
- Notice what they didn’t say? They didn’t say they would put away the foreign gods in their midst. And it would be their undoing.
B. Don’t be functionally dysfunctional
- There are those who are functionally dysfunctional. There are functional alcoholics, or functional drug users, or functional adulterers.
App – It gives the impression that sin is quite manageable, you just have to find the right balance. But what others cannot see is that they are empty, blind, poor, and naked.
Revelation 3:17-18, You do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.
- The problem with the one who thinks he/she can somehow maintain a balance between God and the world is that they are stuck; they can’t move. They never grow in their relationship to the Lord and so they don’t experience the fullness of joy that God intended for them.
Psalm 16:11, You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.
- The challenge of the Elijah, “How long will you waver between two opinions?” How long before you make a full-hearted commitment?
C. God answers by fire; God proves Himself
- Elijah’s challenge was for each of them to make an altar. The prophets of Baal were to call on the name of their god and Elijah would call on the name of Jehovah. “The God who answers by fire, he is God,” Elijah said.
- The prophets of Baal called out from morning until noon and no one answered and so Elijah began to mock them, “Maybe he is occupied, or on a journey, or asleep.” So they cried out louder.
- Finally, at the end of the day, Elijah repaired the altar of the Lord there on Mount Carmel and called out in the name of Jehovah and God answered by fire and consumed the bullock that had been laid upon the altar.
- If fire represents the judgment of God, where should it have fallen that day? It should have fallen on those who had turned their backs on God, but it fell on the sacrifice instead.
App – does God demonstrate such a thing as this today? Absolutely. The fire of God’s judgment fell on Jesus Christ on the cross at Calvary, and Christ was raised from the dead as a demonstration and proof that he is the great God over all the earth.
Buddha, Mohammed, Joseph Smith, and all the others remain in the grave; but Christ was raised from the dead on the third day.
- This matter needs to be settled. What good do the gods of this world do? What does an atheist have to say to alcoholic? What does an atheist have a say to a person whose life is broken?
Jeremiah 2:28, But where are your gods which you made for yourself? Let them arise, if they can save you in the time of your trouble;
- God has taken so many lives out of the pit of despair and set their lives on solid ground and built their lives by love and peace and joy.
Psalm 32:7, You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble; You surround me with songs of deliverance.