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 2 of 4: “How Long Will You Waver?”
This month we are talking in-depth about one of the greatest prophets of Israel, the prophet Elijah. This week’s message is called “HOW LONG WILL YOU WAVER?” —- If you are ready to hear what God has put on my heart to share with you, do me a favor and say or type: HIT ME WIT IT G! I’M READY! Awesome. Let’s get into it.
In the life of Elijah, many people in Israel were living idolatrous lives. Putting false gods in the place of the one true God, it is called the sin of idolatry. False gods PROMISE what only the true God PROVIDES! The people of Israel were worshipping and serving many false gods and they didn’t have much time for, or interest in, the one true God. You know, above anything else in our lives, God wants to have all of our hearts, all of our worship, all of our focus, and all of our adoration. He says that He is a jealous God. In other words, He doesn’t want to be one of many gods you serve, He wants to be your One and Only. God wants to be number one in your life and have your whole heart.
If you missed last week, let me review a little bit to give you some context for where we are going today. Elijah was called by God to confront a very evil king named King Ahab, who was married to the most wicked woman ever, Jezebel. Ahab was the nineteenth consecutive evil king in Elijah’s country. Okay? Evil rulers were just a fact of life for these people. Still, Scripture says that Ahab did even more evil in the eyes of God than anyone before him, so he was the worst of the worst. Of all of his long list of sins and wickedness, the worst thing that he did was, he continued turning the hearts of the people away from the one true God toward the false gods of Baal and Asherah.
Baal was worshipped as the sun god, and as the fire god. Asherah was kind of like Baal’s wife, and the people were no longer worshipping the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Instead, they were worshipping the false gods. The false gods promised, “If you worship me, we’ll make your crops grow. If you worship me, then you’ll have a better life.” False gods promise what only the true God provides. So God had enough of this and He raised up Elijah, who very courageously confronted King Ahab on God’s behalf and basically said, “Because of your idolatry, the one true God sent me here to tell you it’s not going to rain again until God tells me to pray and ask it to rain. This is His judgment against you and the nation for your idolatry.” Ahab wanted to kill Elijah for this so God sent Elijah into a period of hiding and development, turning him into the great prophet and man of God we know him to be.
Now, after all this time in hiding, God tells Elijah to go and confront the evil king, Ahab again and here’s where we pick up the story. This is again, a very courageous thing that Elijah is doing because Jezebel has been systematically hunting down the prophets of the one true God and she has been putting them to death. It is possible he will be killed on the spot that minute he approaches the palace grounds. But Elijah, the man of God, does as the Lord commands him to do. He goes for a meeting with Ahab. So, we are about three and a half years into the drought of God’s judgment. The economy has been obliterated. Many people have starved. Israel is a complete mess. In I Kings 18:17-18, we see Ahab and Elijah together again. Scripture says:
When he saw Elijah, he said to him, “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?” – 1 Kings 18:17
Now, the Hebrew word that’s translated as troubler can also be translated as snake, or viper, or asp. Okay? It’s a, “Hey, you no good, low down dirty rotten snake. It’s your fault all this is happening. All these people are dying with this huge draught, because of you, Elijah, the troubler, the snake of Israel. You are the one who pronounced this judgment on us. Look at Elijah’s response in verse 18.
“I have not made trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “But you and your father’s family have. You have abandoned the Lord’s commands and have followed the Baals.” – 1 Kings 18:18
Elijah says, “I’m not taking any of that from you. I’ve not made trouble for Israel! You are the problem here! You’ve abandoned the Lord’s command and you have followed the Baal’s, the false gods! You are committing the sin of idolatry. You are putting false gods ahead of the one true God!” Now, those of you who are fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ, you would say, “Well, we are monotheistic. We believe in one true God.” But even though we believe in one true God, many of us live what I would call polytheistic lives. We say we believe in one God, but in reality, we worship and serve many false gods. Now, most people I know aren’t worshipping the false gods of Baal or Asherah. In reality, the false gods today that people worship and serve are much more socially acceptable. Right? I mean, let’s be honest. A lot of people worship the false gods of money. Or, people worship the false gods of material possessions. Or people worship the false gods of prestige or fame or power. Your house or your car might be the most important thing in your life.
It could be your professional image or your standing in society or your looks. You may worship your favorite sports team or your politics or your favorite politician. You may worship your career. You may worship your hobby. Oddly enough, it could be your children or your significant other that you worship. You may say, “Well, how in the world could our children be a false god? How could my wife or my husband be a false god?” Whenever you elevate anything or anyone into the rightful place of the one true God and put anything on the throne of your life besides God, that is idolatry, even something as good and important as your children or your spouse.
So, that’s why I would ask this question to all of you today, what are the false gods that you serve? What or who are the false gods that you put ahead of the one true God? What are the greatest possible concerns in your life? What do you put above everything else in your life?” And, I’ll tell you a few in my life. I’m not proud of these, but one is, and it’s just very obvious, in so many different seasons of my life, I made the church, the ministry, what I do, the number one most important thing in my life. I’m in recovery from that here in Waikoloa. That’s changed for me here. It’s obvious that serving the church is my calling, it’s what I’m here to do; but yet, I have leaned to not make my pastoring of the church the number one thing in my life. It has been in the past. My job, my calling has been the most important thing in my life. Even above my relationships, even above my own health, even above my own mental health, even above God Himself. There were times in my life where I got so busy in the work of the Lord that I completely forgot the Lord of the work.
There were times I served my false gods of ministry and people-pleasing at the expense of time with my family and friends and even at the expense of my time and relationship with God. There is a tendency in me, a neurotic perfectionist tendency, to do that, that I have to guard against all the time. I can easily become a workaholic! Oh, I’ll do it all in the name of God, but the work itself actually becomes my god. Grow the church. Grow the church. Serve the church. Be loved by the church. And that’s become an idol in my life at various times. I’m asking you to be honest today as well. What are some of the false gods you’ve elevated and erected in the place of the one true God? Where have you committed the sin of idolatry? Sure, we’re monotheistic in our beliefs, but our practices are often very polytheistic.
So, Elijah, the prophet, steps into this polytheistic culture and he makes a very prophetic and very strong statement. God has told Elijah enough is enough! These people are trying to play both sides, they are trying to worship God but also worship the false gods too. Elijah says “Enough flip-flopping! It’s time for you to choose!” So he calls for a showdown. He directly challenges the 450 prophets of Baal. It’s going to be 1 versus 450! Let’s look at verse 19. Elijah tells Ahab:
Now summon the people from all over Israel to meet me on Mount Carmel. And bring the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table. – 1 Kings 18:19
Can we just pause for a second here and say that must have been one huge honking table yeah? I’m kidding. It’s a figure of speech. It basically just means she covered all their expenses. Verse 20:
So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel. – 1 Kings 18:20
They all meet on the top of Mount Carmel and a huge crowd turns out to watch this match between them. Elijah directly addresses all those assembled in verse 21.
Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” But the people said nothing. – 1 Kings 18:21
Look at that verse again and read part of it aloud for me. If the Lord is God, do what? FOLLOW HIM? But if Baal is God, do what? FOLLOW HIM! Who are you following? Who is your greatest possible concern? We can say we believe all we want, say we worship God all we want but the proof is in the following! You know, if Elijah were here today, he’d say the same thing to all of us. He would say to Christ-followers: “Quit wavering. It’s time for you to choose who you are really going to FOLLOW and SERVE!”
Here’s the way most Christians approach their relationship with God, “Yeah, well God, keep me out of Hell and get me into Heaven, amen, but I still want to do whatever I want, I want to follow my own heart. Oh, God, hear my prayer and bless me, but I don’t want to obey your commands. Oh, God, I want all of Your good things, all of your blessings, but I don’t want to stop doing my bad things. Oh, God, I want to keep playing both sides of the fence!” Elijah would tell us “Quit wavering! Quit being a Christian on Sunday and a heathen on Monday! Quit claiming to follow Christ and then living like you don’t even know him. Quit claiming the benefits while being unwilling to sacrifice! Just quit wavering.
Take a side once and for all and have the integrity to follow through. If Elijah were here today he would say, “You know what, if your false god, little ‘g’, whatever it is, really is God, then for crying out loud, sell out to it once and for all okay? Quit beating around the bush! If that’s the most important thing in your life, admit it and pursue it wholeheartedly!” In other words, if material possessions, if they’re really the most important thing to you, then quit just sort of accumulating them, really go for it, do WHATEVER it takes to get the stuff you love! I mean, get into massive debt. Steal, if you have to. Sell your body to pay for that house that car, that boat. It sounds absurd I know, but I’m not joking about this, because if the greatest thing in the universe is accumulation, then everything and anything should be justified in order to obtain it.
Don’t ever do anything generous, don’t give anything away because that would, then, diminish your ultimate goal of accumulating stuff! If material possessions, if that is truly God, then go for it. OR If it is your physical image, knowing that people find you attractive, desirable, if that’s truly God, then don’t just kind of do it. I mean, get in the gym six hours a day. Some people will hear this message and say, “Oh, yeah. I’m there, baby. I’m there.” You know it! Tan it, tweak it, tat it, puff it, tuck it, lift it, twist it, curl it, color it. I mean, whatever it is, do it. Make that body gorgeous, make it to die for, ignoring the fact that you’re eventually going to grow old and die anyway. Don’t even think about that. That would totally disqualify the god of your appearance.
If those things are your god, and I only hit on a couple of our gods, there are many more of course, but if those things are your god then quit playing around and go for it! Quit playing at church and playing at Christianity and just be honest about what is most important in your life. Decide what is your god and follow it! But! If Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the one true God, then quit your wavering! It’s time to serve Him with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength. Don’t just claim Him and then live as if He doesn’t exist.
Don’t say you follow Jesus and then engage in activities that Jesus would never support or condone. Actually serve Him, follow Him, worship Him! I can, I can feel the power of Elijah looking directly at me and saying, “Greg, quit wavering,” and here I’m saying to our church and everyone listening to me online, “Quit wavering. How long will you waver between two opinions?” So, Elijah is out to prove to all of them once and for all that there is a difference between all the gods they serve and the one true God of Israel. He’s ready for a a showdown!
Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only one of the Lord’s prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets. Get two bulls for us. Let Baal’s prophets choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by fire—he is God.” Then all the people said, “What you say is good.” 1 Kings 18:22-24
All the people said, What you say is good. Yeah, right, because here’s what they were thinking. They were thinking, “You idiot. Do you know who you are dealing with? We’re saying, we are going to call on Baal. Don’t you remember who Baal is? Baal is the god of fire! Baal is the sun god! The SUN god Elijah! Sun, hot, fire. You’re going to get smoked, you silly ignorant prophet.” That’s why they agree so easily to this contest. Let’s continue in verse 25
Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first, since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire.” So they took the bull given them and prepared it. Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. “Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made. – 1 Kings 18:25-26
This worship dance by the prophets of Baal was a full-body, jumping up and down, twisting around, shouts of and shrieks to their false god. They go at this for hours, all the way up until noon … and nothing happened. This is all cracking Elijah up because he knew this is what would happen. So Elijah starts messing with them. Look at what he does in verse 27:
At noon Elijah began to taunt them. “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.” – 1 Kings 18:27
Paraphrase versions of the Bible are not always incredibly accurate. You know, paraphrase means, I’ll take the original and try to put the same big ideas into my own vernacular and sometimes the original meaning of the scripture gets obscured, but in this case, the Living Bible translation gets it right. Here is the way this verse appears in that paraphrase version.
About noontime, Elijah began mocking them. “You’ll have to shout louder than that,” he scoffed, “to catch the attention of your god! Perhaps he is talking to someone, or is out sitting on the toilet, or maybe he is away on a trip, or is asleep and needs to be wakened!” – 1 Kings 18:27 (TLB)
I remember the first time I read that and I thought WHAT? Maybe your god is sitting on the toilet? That sounds like something I’d write! Then I got to seminary and found out that Hebrew word we would translate as “busy” – maybe your god is busy, actually means, going to the bathroom. Busy relieving himself. Isn’t that awesome! I’ve played my share of sports in my youth and I’ll tell you what, Elijah could have trash-talked with the best of them! “Yo! Where is your god? Where he at? Maybe he’s on vacation! Is he taking a nap? Maybe he is busy sitting on the toilet? Hysterical! Trash talkin’ Elijah! I love it! So let’s continue in verses 28-29.
So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention. – 1 Kings 18:28-29
They spend the whole day, cutting themselves and bleeding on their sacrifice, and dancing and praying and shouting. No response. Nothing. So now it is Elijah’s turn. Look at verse 30 and following.
Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come here to me.” They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the Lord, which had been torn down. Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, saying, “Your name shall be Israel.” With the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two seahs of seed. He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, “Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood.” “Do it again,” he said, and they did it again. “Do it a third time,” he ordered, and they did it the third time. The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench. – 1 Kings 18:30-35
Elijah is like, okay, I am going to prove to you that what is about to happen is no sleight of hand, no magic trick. So let’s soak this whole thing down with water just so you all know that tossing a match or a torch on here isn’t going to do anything. The only way this waterlogged wood is ever going to burn is with miraculous God-level fire okay? So they pour these huge multi-gallon water jugs on it again and again and again until water filled the trench he dig around it and is overflowing, running down the street and into the parking lot. Just seeing if you are paying attention. Then, what does he do? Does he dance, twirl, contort, shout, cut himself trying to get God’s attention? Let’s see. Verse 36:
At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.” – 1 Kings 18:36-37
There is no indication that he raised his voice or shouted in any way. He didn’t even go into Preacher Prayer voice. Oh, Lawd Jaaaeeezussuh! we humbly beseech thee in thy maginitudunal mercy to utter forth….no. He just speaks to God as you would speak to a good friend. He prays the way Jesus prays. Contrast Elijah with the frenzied actions of the false prophets. Elijah just speaks “God, I know you are real. I know you are the one, true God, the only real God. But I want all the people gathered here to know that I am not just trippin’ about this, that You really are who you say you are and you will always do what you have promised to do. You alone are God. Please show yourself to them today. Please turn their hearts back to you again. They used to walk with You. They used to serve You. They used to know you. They used to worship You, but all these false gods have taken Your place, Oh God. Turn their hearts back to you again.”
What a beautiful prayer. And as I read that, I feel such passion for so many of you hearing this message here in person and on the internet, because there are those of you, you walked with Him for a long time. And then you walked away. It happens to a lot of Christ-followers. Especially when they grow up and head off to college and the humanist professors make fun of their faith and fill their heads with half-truths and full-blown lies about life, the universe and everything and they convince you God is not real and Christianity is an ignorant myth. What is so odd is, you don’t stop believing in a god, you just moved your faith, you moved your allegiance to a new, false god or combination of any number of false gods. Now you follow them and their philosophies.
Today, if you are hearing this message today it is because God is trying to reveal Himself to you. Why? So you can turn your hearts back to Him again. Now, if you know anything about fire, fire is hot. Take it from me. Fire is hot. Like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, I stood in the middle of a huge gasoline explosion and miraculously lived to tell about it. If you have the desire to light up your life for Jesus, that is not the way to do it. Trust me. My giant fireball was nothing compared to what God did for Elijah though. Elijah prays, and watch what happens next in verse 38.
Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. – 1 Kings 18:38
FIRE just WHOOOOOOSH BOOM!!!!!! Fell from the sky and burned up the sacrificed bull meat but more than that, it also burned up all the wood! We expect fire to burn wood but then the fire also burned up the stones and the soil and instantly vaporized all the water in the trench into steam. Like heavenly napalm man! WHOOOOOOOOOSH!!! BOOOM!!!!!
It’s like God said, “Ummm. Do I have your attention now?” What is the reaction from the crowd when they see all this? Verse 39
When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—He is God! The Lord—he is God!” – 1 Kings 18:39
I think the Bible left a little bit out of this story. I think what really happened is, when all the people saw this, they pooped their pants and screamed “HOLY MOLEY!!!!!!” and THEN fell prostrate and cried out! What did they cry out with one giant voice? Let’s shout out that last part of verse 39 together church! “THE LORD! HE IS GOD! THE LORD! HE IS GOD! Yahweh, that’s the word translated The Lord here. The name God revealed to Moses at the burning bush! I am Yahweh! I am! I am the great I am! All of creation is contained within me! The people seem to finally get it! Now, I’ll be honest. The first time I read this story I thought to myself, “Well, duh, you send fireball from Heaven, of course, even the biggest skeptic is going to be impressed. Right? I mean like, okay, if I said, “God, if You are really there, blow up this cow! Whoosh, BOOM! Cow flying everywhere, medium-rare Tbone sitting on the rock! Ok! I am convinced ! You are definitely God! I can’t do that. You can.” We often question, why doesn’t God just do that all the time today? Why doesn’t God just show Himself like that to all the skeptics and all the people chasing false god?
I used to ask that all the time and then I came to realize in so much of an infinitely more beautiful way, God showed Himself to us two thousand years ago. He left Heaven, became one of us in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ, and lived a perfect and sinless life so that He, could die in our place on the cross to pay off all our sins, all our idolatry. Then He rose from the dead so we could know Him and follow Him to an abundant life now and an eternal life later. And when you do know Him through Christ, then all the false gods just seem to fall away don’t they. And you realize, like the people of Israel did that day on Mount Carmel…The Lord! He is God!” So, if Elijah were living today, I think he’d say, “Greg, quit wavering. If you make the commitment to daily get to know God better than the day before and to daily love God more than you loved Him yesterday, then you will know God for who He is,
If you truly know God for who He is you will never be tempted to serve those false gods of your world, because it is SO OBVIOUS, the one true God is so much greater.”AMEN! YAY GOD! The rest of the chapter tells us that Elijah had the false prophets of Baal all put to death and then Elijah tells wicked King Ahab, get ready, because there is a storm a coming. Heavy rains are on the way. Just to make sure Ahab doesn’t chalk any of this up to coincidence or trickery, Ahab makes sure both the fire and the rain are clearly attached to the miraculous power of Yahweh! Then the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain started falling and Ahab rode off to Jezreel. The draught was over! What happened next? That’s what we’re going to talk about next week. So you have to come back for part three. AMEN?