Pastor G spends four weeks covering a few of the highlights of the prophet Elijah. He pulls out examples of how we can live our faith lives based on the experiences of Elijah.
This is week 1 of 4: “Becoming a Man or Woman of God.”
Tonight we are beginning a four-week study on one of the greatest men of God recorded in all of Scripture. The Life and Lessons of the Prophet Elijah. I’m calling Week one: “Becoming a Man or Woman Of God!” Let me give you the context of the time period that we are studying because C.I.E. – Context Is Everything! When Elijah was alive, the Northern Kingdom had experienced nineteen consecutive evil kings, spanning about a two hundred-year time period. Now, just let this sink in for a minute. Nothing but profound EVIL for 200 years. This was a time in which Elijah lived. It was not a good time to be a holy man of God.
In fact, there was a VERY evil king named Ahab, who was married to an INCREDIBLY wicked woman named Jezebel, some say the most evil woman who has ever lived. And under their reign, the Bible says that Ahab did more evil in the eyes of God than ANY of those before him. THAT is saying A LOT! He led the people of Israel away from Yahweh and encouraged them to worship the false gods of Baal and Asherah, and people would often sacrifice their children’s lives to these false gods. They would go into the temples and engage with prostitutes and call it worship. So, this is a very dark, dark time of corruption. Incredible spiritual darkness is the rule. We’re talking about major scandals, tremendous idolatry, and God finally said, “Enough is enough! I am going to do something about this!” Interestingly, though, God didn’t raise up an army to take a stand against the evil king. Instead, God does what God often does, and that is, He raised up one person to take a stand. He raised up one man of God. One faithful person plus God is always a majority! And I would argue that in today’s world, God may want to do something very similar where you live.
God may raise up one teenage girl to take a stand in her class against all others for sexual purity. God may raise up a young business leader to take a stand for integrity in a business that’s lacking ethics or morals. God may raise up one person to go into politics to take a stand for that which is true. God often raises up one person to make a big difference. That is who Elijah is! Elijah was born for this very purpose! In fact, his name reveals that this is his purpose in life. So, let’s start with an understanding of the name Elijah. To pronounce it in Hebrew it is Eliyyahu It comes from three root words, El – Iy – Yahu; “El” is a name of God, short for Elohim. Elohim is a plural noun referring to ONE God. One of many clear indications that our God is a Trinity. In Hebrew, “iy” is the personal pronoun for my or mine. “Yahu” comes from Yahweh, the primary name of God. So put it together, if you are taking notes, very literally, the name Elijah (Eliyyahu) means “My God is Yahweh or The Lord is my God.” That’s what his name means! Gregory, my name, means watchful one. So when Elijah and I meet in heaven I’ll be like “Aloha! My name is Watchful One!” and He will be like “Shalom! My name is My God is Yahweh!” and I’ll be like “You win.”
Immediately, when God raises up Elijah to stand against the wicked king Ahab and his even more wicked wife, Jezebel, by his very name alone, he’s making a statement against their evil actions. His name gives the testimony, “The Lord God of Israel, Elohim, Yahweh, is the one true God!” Elijah stands up against the king, who had turned so many against the one true God and caused them to worship false gods, all demonic spirits masquerading as gods. So that’s your context of who this man of God is. Let’s pick up the story of Elijah in 1 Kings, Chapter 17. This is the first time we see Elijah in all of Scripture. At the very beginning of this story, we have very little background on this great prophet. Let’s look at 1 Kings 17:1 Verse 1:
“Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead,” – 1 Kings 17:1a
Let’s stop right there. Elijah, the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead. We simply know him as where he’s from. That’s how he is identified. That’s how we first learn about Elijah. Again, it’s like saying “Now, Greg Scott, the Newarkite from Newark in Ohio.” Elijah is solely identified by his name and where he’s from. That will change soon enough. Let’s read on in verse one.
“Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.” – 1 Kings 17:1
This English translation doesn’t really do it justice. Literally, in Hebrew, Elijah says, “As Yahweh Elohim, the El of Israel lives, whom I serve….” You can see he’s going straight at Ahab about the worship of these false gods. “Yahweh, Elohim, the one and only true Lord and God of Israel who is not dead, He lives, He is the one whom I serve and He sent me here today to tell you, “there will be neither be dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.” If this was a movie, the music would just go, “BUM BUM BUM,” Because what Elijah just said was one of the most strategic, prophetic judgments against the land that you could imagine. Now, to put that into context, we have a lot of people talking today about our global economic slowdown because of the pandemic okay? This would have been a total economic Shutdown. As bad as things got in America the past 14 months it was nothing compared to this judgment against Ahab and the Northern Kingdom of Israel. No rain, at all, FOR YEARS! In this agriculturally driven economy, no rain at all, not even dew, shut EVERYTHING down! In our world, it would mean you can’t get gas at the gas stations.
The banks are not only no longer lending money, but you can’t even get your own money out. You won’t have electricity at your home. You can’t buy food or water. Life as you know it just ended. There will be people starving death, dying of thirst, unemployment will reach ninety percent or more. People are going to be dying all over the place, and so this man of God stares down this evil king and says, “No more rain for YOU evil King Ahab or for your evil followers! God has had enough of you!” Obviously, this takes tremendous faith to do this. Ahab can easily have Elijah killed instantly for speaking to him this way. As we read that for the first time, you wonder, “What’s going to happen next?” Again, if it were a modern day movie, there would be this massive martial arts fighting sequence between Elijah and Ahab and Elijah would end up breaking Ahab’s neck or something in true Bruce Lee fashion. God and Elijah handle it differently. Instead, God immediately takes Elijah into a season of hiding and protection for quite a long period of time. God is showing Elijah that before bringing about transformation THROUGH Elijah, first God has to bring about deep transformation IN Elijah.
As we study Elijah’s transformation into a Man of God, we will see that God actually leads Elijah through three seasons of preparation that God takes all leaders, all men and women of of through. The first one is a SEASON OF ISOLATED PAIN, where Elijah feels very alone. Let’s take a look at that in 1 Kings 17:2. Right after Elijah confronts Ahab and says “No more rain for you!” this happens.
“Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah: “Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan.” – 1 Kings 17:2
On three, can I get all of you to say Kerith Ravine? One, two, three … Kerith Ravine. Now, this word in the Hebrew, Kerith, it means, if you are taking notes, it means “cut off.” It means “cut down.” It means to be cut off from the source, to be cut off from the blessings, to cut down like you would chop down a tree. It’s as if God saying, “I’m going to take you through a season of breaking. I’m going to completely cut you down, break you down. I’m going to humble you. I’m going to teach you to be totally dependent on Me, and I’m going to humble you privately before I use you publicly. I’m going to do something in you that’s very, very deep, so later on, you can do more than you ever thought possible. I’m going to take you down privately, so I can use you publicly.” This is Elijah’s Boot Camp experience. A lot of times, people are in what I call the Kerith Ravine. Life doesn’t make a lot of sense. They’re in a season of isolated pain. They’re going, “Where is God? Where is God?” and the reality is, God is right there doing a deep work in you. Some of you right now, you would say, “Man, Pastor G, I’m living in the Kerith Ravine right now. I’m being broken. I am being humbled. It’s like I’m being cut down. All those things that I used to depend on, I no longer can depend on. I’m in the Kerith Ravine, and I feel like God has abandoned me.”
I want you to hear God saying to you today, “No, you’ve got to understand. I’m doing something in you. There’s a preparatory work going on. I’m teaching you something that you couldn’t learn any other way. I’m doing this work in you, so I can do more through you.” I never will forget when I took over leadership of a church plant in North Carolina back in 1998. The founding pastor had left his wife and kids to move in with his new boyfriend, just two years into the church plant and the church was devastated. There were a lot more details to that situation that had not been explained to me before we moved our whole family there to lead this church and it was really a mess. In the Methodist system there is no arguing about it or turning down the assignment. So we went.
Annette and I spent almost two years pouring every ounce of our life, energy, blood, sweat, tears into that church, trying to turn things around, trying to change the perception of the community about us, trying to help the congregation heal. I went months without a full paycheck, we went months without insurance, because there was not enough money to pay all the bills. We paid for our groceries on our credit cards for months because my kids had to eat, paid for our rent on credit cards because we had very little cash. That began the downward financial spiral that we were still recovering from 20 years later when we finally had to declare bankruptcy. Nothing I did helped. Nothing I tried worked. I have never felt more like a failure than I did there. Eventually, we closed the church down – helped the last few people transition into other churches in the area – and God called us to New Bern, NC. I went to a Men’s Promise Keeper’s conference during that time.
During an altar call for all the pastors who were hurting, I resisted the urge to go forward for prayer because, as I told my wife, “I am afraid if I go down there, I will start crying and once I start crying, I am not sure I will be able to stop.” I eventually did go forward and, true to my prophetic prediction, I collapsed on the floor and cried like I have never cried before or since. There was literally a large puddle of tears beneath my face on the concrete floor and I was completely humbled and broken before God. Over my almost 30 years of pastoral ministry, there have been several extended seasons of very intense isolated pain. You’ve heard me talk about some of those struggles many times. Many times I’d be hurting and I would think, “Okay, God. I get it. You are breaking me again, molding me again, shaping me again. I’m okay with it. I trust you. You are prepping me for something big.”But, Lord, to be honest, I feel like I am pretty broken already.
Am I broken enough now? Surely, this qualifies as broken enough now? How about now?” Like all of you, I’ve been through the Kerith Ravine numerous times, where God was cutting and chopping and humbling and breaking. He did something in me in that isolated pain, when no one else really understood or knew what it was like to be me.” Some of you, you’re there right now. You know what I am talking about. You’re in the Kerith Ravine. Elijah was there for months, all alone, nobody to talk to. A.W. Tozer, the great Christian pastor and writer, once said:
“It’s doubtful that God can bless a man greatly until He’s hurt him deeply.” ~ A.W. Tozer
The more that God breaks you, that means the more God is preparing you for something great. [PASTOR G SINGS] though the sorrow may last for the night, His joy comes in the morning.
There is a second season in Elijah’s life that God takes him through as He is shaping him, molding him into the man of God He wants him to become. This is the SEASON OF TOTAL DEPENDENCE. Elijah finds that he has nothing in his life except God and God alone. He cannot depend on anything except God. Let’s go back to 1 Kings 17:4-6 where God says:
“You will drink from the brook, and I have directed the ravens to supply you with food there.” So he did what the Lord had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.” – 1 Kings 17:4-6
So, here we see Elijah’s all by himself, and God does this kind of cooky miracle. In the middle of a drought, there’s no water at all, except for this one little brook that God has protected from the drought, probably trickling up from an underground aquifer. Then, we’ve got God’s Heavenly catering service. Okay? These birds, the ravens, go out and find bread and meat, and every morning and every evening, they deliver them straight to the prophet. Now, as a rabid Pittsburgh Steeler’s fan, I’ve got to tell you, I would have had a really difficult time being fed by Ravens. I don’t want any dirty rat birds touching my food you know? But Elijah was starving so he was okay with it. God was very clearly and very distinctly saying that no matter what, and for always, “I will be faithful to you Elijah. You can always count on Me to provide for you. I will never leave you nor forsake you.”Some of you right now, you are in a season where there was something you used to trust in for your security, and it’s been taken away. And you don’t have anything else to trust in, you don’t have anyone else to lean on, depend on. Know that the Giver of life and the Giver of all good things is still here and near and you can still depend on Him. AMEN? YAY GOD?
And you are having to learn that when everything else that you used to believe in fades away, God will still forever and always be faithful to you. So God is teaching Elijah, I am Yahweh-Jireh, God the Provider, “Forever and always, I will be your provider Elijah. When you can’t depend on what you used to be able to depend on, I will deliver what you need.” Now, here’s the cool thing about it: God didn’t give Elijah a three-month supply of food. Not even a month at a time or a week’s worth of groceries. What did God give him? Just enough for the day. Like the Israelites during the Exodus, dependent upon God for their daily portion of manna, Elijah had to learn to depend on God one day at a time. Some of you, you are going to learn that right now. You are in a season where you’re hurting and you’re alone and you’re afraid, and you want visual proof that the next 10-20-30-40 years are all going to be taken care of, but guess what? God’s system is to deliver enough for one day, today.
So that you recognize you are always dependent upon Him. You may feel afraid and uneasy. God says, “I will be your comfort for today.” You may not have much, but God says, “I will be your provision for today. You may feel very weak, but God says, “I will be your strength for today.” Your friends may leave you, but God says, “I will be your friend for the day. I may not bring MORE than you need, but I promise will bring EXACTLY what you need. I will be your daily bread.” We are worried about whether we will have enough! But God is showing us that He is always More Than Enough. Elijah learns to depend on God one day at a time. God is teaching him. He’s breaking him. He’s cutting him. He’s humbling him. He’s teaching him total dependence. When he has no ability to provide for himself, God is teaching him, “I will always be your provider.”
There’s a Season of Isolated Pain. There’s a Season of Total Dependence, and then, there’s a Season of Unconditional Obedience. Let’s look at verses 7, 8, and 9, and we see the story starts to break down. “What is God doing? He told me to go do this, and now, it’s all changing. What’s going on, God?” Look at 1 Kings 17:7-9
“Some time later,” what happened? Say those next three words aloud with me. What happened? The brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land. Then the word of the Lord came to him: “Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.” – 1 Kings 17:7-9
Now, let’s put ourselves in the Elijah’s place. It’s been months that he’s been by this ravine, and the brook has been providing him daily water. And God told him to go there, and then the brook dries up, and now God says it’s time to move on. Don’t cry over the dried-up brook. I am still the God who provides and I will provide for you somewhere else. Some of you right now, you may be going, “My brook is drying up. I used to be able to trust in my job, but I’m not so sure I can trust in my job, anymore. I used to have this nest egg. I had a 401K. Now, it’s just a 101K. Okay? My brook’s drying up. I don’t have enough income coming in. I don’t have enough retirement saved up. My financial brook is drying up.” Some of you are saying “I used to be able to trust people! I used to have all of these good friends and then, boom, they all turned on me, abandoned me, don’t care about me. My friendship brook is drying up.” Some of you are saying “I used to believe that I had a good marriage, a marriage that would last a lifetime, but oh my gosh, everything feels wrong now. It seems like my marriage brook is drying up.” Some of you are saying “I used to be really close to God. I prayed all the time, read my Bible and could sense His presence around me but now, it’s like that brook is drying up.”
Listen, don’t miss this! Listen! Maybe you have heard the old adage, “Where God guides, God provides?” That’s absolutely true. I like to say “Where God gives the vision He also gives the PROvision.” That’s absolutely true as well. But, I also believe with all my heart, God sometimes chooses to guide by what He does NOT provide. The same God who GIVES water, may also TAKE that water away. He may cause the brook to dry up to give us the courage to take a step of total obedience. Staying put with a dried up brook is no longer an option. God shoves us out of the nest in search of a new brook. When Elijah’s brook dried up it gave Elijah the incentive and the courage to be obedient to God and move on, away from that provision, even when it didn’t make sense.
So God said, “Go, go to Zerephath and a widow is going to provide you food.” Well, that seems like a step up from being served by ravens but this still had to be a challenge for Elijah. I can’t read the whole story tonight so I’ll just hit the high points. You need to read it all sometime, all the way through to the end of 1 Kings 17. So, Elijah moves, and then he travels to this place, maybe a hundred miles or so, across a barren land. And he goes to see this widow, who God says is going to provide for him. And so he humbles himself, and he says, “Madam, I’m really thirsty. Could, could you give me some water to drink and maybe a little snack, ‘cause I’m kind of hungry?” And the widow looks at him and goes, “No offense but my son and I don’t have any to spare. I just came out here to get some sticks for a fire because I’m going to go make our very last meal. I’ve got a tiny little bit of flour left, and I’ve got a tiny little bit of oil in the jug. That’s all I’ve got left, enough for one last tiny meal for me and my son. We are going to eat it, and then we are going to die.”
And because of what God is doing in Elijah’s life, he looks at an impossible situation and he speaks his newly developed faith into that situation. He tells her, “No, you’re not going to die. Don’t be afraid. The Lord God of Israel sent me here to tell you that the oil and flour will not run out until the rain returns to the land. Trust me. You won’t run out. Go home and prepare your meal but first, as a faith offering to the Lord, make me a small loaf of bread, just some biscuits.” She does as he says, showing incredible faith on her part as well. Elijah eats his biscuits, and the three of them continue to eat for many days. The flour did not run out and the oil did not run dry. And that is the back story of the doxology that goes, [PASTOR GREG SINGS] “Praise God from whom all biscuits flow.” They ate for months on that little bit of flour and little bit of oil that miraculously never ran out.
God again, supernaturally provided for Elijah in his unconditional obedience to God. Then one day, tragedy struck, and the widow’s son died mysteriously. Momma freaked out, as you would expect, and she asks Elijah, look at verse 18 with me:
“She said to Elijah, “What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?” – 1 Kings 17:18
By the way, that title she assigns to him, is the greatest title anyone on this earth can have. Man of God. Woman of God. It’s a greater title that CEO, President, King, Queen. To be known as a man of God or as a woman of God is to reach the pinnacle of what it means to be a person of faith. This widow recognized this in Elijah because of the transformation that he went through in the Kerith Ravine. She asks this man of God for some insight into God’s purposes, God’s ways: “Is this God’s judgment on me because of some sin in my life? Elijah, did you come here just so this would happen to me? Did God send you here to punish me? What do you have against me man of God?” She may also mean it somewhat sarcastically. She welcomed him into her home expecting the blessings of God and yet her son has died. What kind of man of God is this?
And again, Elijah, because of all that had happened in his recent history of transformation, because God was shaping him into a mighty prophet, Elijah did something that to our knowledge had never happened before in history. He takes the dead boy, carries him up to the upper room, and three times, covers the boy’s body with his own as he cried out: “Lord my God, let this boy’s life return to him!” Yahweh, my Elohim, let this boy’s life return to him! And God raises the boy back to life. Why did this happen? Because God had taken Elijah to the Kerith Ravine, where he was cut down, broken, humbled, reduced to his bare minimum so that God could build him back up from scratch into a true man of God.
Elijah was a man who was all about God, God’s ways, God’s purposes, God’s designs, God’s character. God took him to a season of total dependence, where he couldn’t depend on anything at all but God, and God alone. Then, God dried up the brook, so that he would leave where he was, to go to where God wanted him next, so once again, He could be used by God and perform a miracle, this time, raising the dead back to life and solidifying his place in Israel’s history of one of their mightiest prophets. God used the horrible things to shape him into a true man of God. God shaped Elijah in to the kind of man of of God who could look at a seemingly impossible situation and say: “God, I believe you have the power to bring this boy back to life so I’m just going to ask You, in faith, to do it.” And God does it! YAY GOD!
We think, “What if God didn’t do it? How foolish, how ridiculous Elijah would have looked in that situation! How could he ask God to raise a boy from the dead and expect it to actually happen?” Because God had taken Elijah through the Kerith Ravine, a time of incredible transformation, faith building, and dependence upon God. A season of incredible relationship building with God. Elijah had been through a season of isolated pain, a season of total dependence and a season of unconditional obedience and he has been transformed into a different man, a better man, a man of God. Some of you right now, you are in a season of deep pain, and God may just be saying to you through me today, “Don’t be afraid. I’m just taking you to the Kerith Ravine right not. I know it is painful, but I’m doing something necessary in you right now! This difficult season will transform you into something better. One day, I’m going to do even more through you, something miraculous through you!
On that future day, you will only be able to accomplish what I want you to accomplish, because of this painful transformation you are undergoing now.” Do you remember in verse 1, Elijah was described simply as Elijah the Tishbite? He was only known by the town and people that he was from. He wasn’t even a footnote in history. Twenty-three verses later, he’s no longer known for where he’s from, but instead, for Whom he’s from. Elijah is known as a prophet of God! Elijah is known as a man of God. Let’s jump to verse 24, the end of this particular chapter of Elijah’s life. The widow sees that Elijah has just raised her son and she says in verse 24:
Then the woman said to Elijah, [read those next three words aloud with me] “Now I know [NOW I KNOW!] that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth.” – 1 Kings 17:24
Remember, back in verse 18, she called him “Man of God” as well, but there was some attitude attached to it. In the emotional state of losing her son when we read between the lines what she was really saying was: “What is going on? I thought you were SUPPOSED TO BE a man of God! I trusted you! I let you into my household and risked my last bits of flour and oil on you because you promised me we wouldn’t die but now look, my son died anyway! What are you trying to pull! Man of God my eye! If you were really a man of God this horrible thing would not have happened.” Right? That’s what was going on in her mind. This time, in verse 24, after Elijah returns her son to her, she says the title again, but there is no doubt, no sarcasm, no accusation, no grumbling in her voice. She says “NOW I KNOW that you ARE a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth.” I hoped it was before, but honestly, I had my doubts, but now I KNOW that it is true. You ARE a man of God!”
In the SAME WAY, God may allow you to go through the Kerith Ravine, so that one day, someone could look at you, say, “Ohhhh OKAY! NOW! NOW, I know. NOW I see it. NOW I believe it. Wow! You really ARE a man of God. ] You really are a woman of God.” I’ll tell you right now, I praise God for all the pain and all the shaping experiences, and all the hurt, and all the brokenness, and all the supernatural provision, and all the unconditional obedience, I’ve been through in my life. Because I pray that when people look at me today they wouldn’t say, “Oh, yeah, there’s Greg Scott, that guy from Newark, Ohio.” Instead, my greatest desire in life is that when people get to know me that would say, “Oh, hey, that guy? He’s certainly not perfect, but we know he is a man of God.” Is that the deepest desire of your heart as well? The making of a man or a woman of God, often requires that we go through the Kerith Ravine, so God can do IN us what He wants to do before He does even more THROUGH us.