HOPE CHAPEL - Sunday, October 31, 2021
HOPE CHAPEL - Sunday, October 31, 2021
Teaching Series - “Our Family Tree–Through the Bible in 2021"
Weekly Topic - “Corrupt Kings & Courageous Prophets” – Communion & Sharing Sunday
Texts – 1 Kings 16:19-22:40
The nation of Israel is now a divided kingdom—the tribe of Judah primarily making up the nation of Judah to the south and ten of the tribes making up the nation of Israel to the north. While the southern kingdom of Judah was ruled at times by some very good kings, most were a disappointment. In the northern territory of Israel, not a single one was ‘good’ according to the scriptures…and one of the worst makes it into our study today—Ahab. During the time of the kings, God continued to provide directions, but as most of the kings were too busy worshipping the false gods of Baal and Ashtoreth, to name just two, God chose to speak through prophets to these wayward kings, including Ahab. His reign sees a number of prophets speaking God’s corrective measures and it is during this time that we are introduced to one of the greatest prophets that ever lived—Elijah.
One of the best-known stories found in the Old Testament involves King Ahab and Elijah the prophet. For three years it had not rained in Israel and things were getting desperate. Elijah had announced the coming drought to King Ahab as directed by God, but had then had to go into hiding. King Ahab had spent the ensuing years trying to track Elijah down in order to kill him. This consequence for disloyalty to God had not caused the king or nation to repent, but rather to seek vengeance on God’s messenger. At the end of the three years, God directs Elijah to come out of hiding—it is time to arrange a showdown with this idolatrous king.
1 Kings 18:17-24 – “17 When Ahab saw him, he exclaimed, “So, is it really you, you troublemaker of Israel?”
18 “I have made no trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “You and your family are the troublemakers, for you have refused to obey the commands of the Lord and have worshiped the images of Baal instead. 19 Now summon all Israel to join me at Mount Carmel, along with the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah who are supported by Jezebel.”
20 So Ahab summoned all the people of Israel and the prophets to Mount Carmel. 21 Then Elijah stood in front of them and said, “How much longer will you waver, hobbling between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him! But if Baal is God, then follow him!” But the people were completely silent.
22 Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only prophet of the Lord who is left, but Baal has 450 prophets. 23 Now bring two bulls. The prophets of Baal may choose whichever one they wish and cut it into pieces and lay it on the wood of their altar, but without setting fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood on the altar, but not set fire to it. 24 Then call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by setting fire to the wood is the true God!” And all the people agreed.”
The stage is set for one of the greatest contests in recorded history—450 prophets of Baal against one prophet of God. The rules of the contest are simple—make a sacrifice on an altar, but do not light a fire to burn it up. Instead, the god who provides the fire to burn up the offering is the one true God. The people agree to Elijah’s terms and the prophets of Baal are forced to participate...whether they want to or not. Elijah allows the large group of prophets to go first, permitting them first pick. They choose a bull, sacrifice it, lay it on the altar then begin praying to Baal—from morning to noon. Nothing happened. Elijah begins mocking them—maybe they need to speak up, “You’ll have to shout louder,” he scoffed, “for surely he is a god! Perhaps he is daydreaming, or is relieving himself. Or maybe he is away on a trip, or is asleep and needs to be wakened” (v.27).
In addition to making more noise, they also begin to cut themselves with knives and swords, a part of their usual worship of Baal, but their increased frenzy throughout the afternoon was met with silence. Still, nothing happened. So, just before the usual time for offering the evening sacrifice, Elijah calls for the people to turn their attention to him—the prophets of Baal have taken up enough time. It’s Elijah’s turn.
He rebuilds the altar to God which had been torn down, using twelve stones to represent the tribes of the Israelite people. He then dug a trench around the altar, piled on wood, then sacrificed the remaining bull and arranged it on top. Then he did something extraordinary. In a time of drought, he called for water and not just a little, but four large jars filled full to be emptied over the sacrifice and the wood…not just once…not twice…but three times. There was so much water that the Bible says the trench around the altar was overflowing! When all was ready, the Bible tells us that, “Elijah the prophet walked up to the altar and prayed, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, prove today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant. Prove that I have done all this at your command. 37 O Lord, answer me! Answer me so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God and that you have brought them back to yourself” (v.36-37).
God’s response was immediate. Fire blazed downward burning up everything—sacrifice, wood, stone, water and even the dust. The people’s response was just as immediate—throwing themselves prostrate to the ground, proclaiming that Elijah’s God was the only god. When Elijah ordered that all the prophets of Baal be seized and killed, the people did not hesitate. God had done the impossible and His prophet, Elijah, was the man of the hour!
After such an incredible act of God, you might think that Elijah was riding a bit of a spiritual high. However, almost immediately, Elijah once again finds himself running for his life. Despite the incredible miracles God performed through Elijah, we would be incorrect to assume that the prophet’s life was all glamourous, prestigious and profitable…or even that his messages direct from God had any real lasting impact. It’s beneficial to hear from this man of God himself to gain a better appreciation of what it was like to serve God as one of His prophets during this often-idolatrous time of the kings of Israel and Judah.
“THE LIFE OF THE PROPHET”
1 Kings 19:14 – “I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.”
When we read the stories of the biblical prophets, today’s believers might feel a twinge of envy—imagine speaking directly with God and having Him respond audibly or in visions? Receiving messages to present before royalty? Or being given the power to do miracles? God still very much works in these ways, but it seems less so than what happened in the days of the prophets. In fact, it might even sound too good to be true…until we realize that the life of many of the prophets concluded with martyrdom! Being chosen by God to be a prophet did not come with insurance for a life of ease or longevity.
The life of the prophets was often lonely, filled with deprivation and danger. After the contest with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, Elijah is emotionally and physically spent; he asks to be done. “Elijah went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died” (v.4).
He feels alone and, having just completed what could be considered his final great act for God, he asks God to end his life. But God isn’t finished with him yet. He causes Elijah to take a forty-day trek to Mount Sinai, the mountain of God, and there provides him with some needed perspective. Elijah may have felt alone, but God had 7,000 people in idolatrous Israel who had remained entirely faithful to Him. He gives Elijah three final tasks—the last of which is to appoint his successor. God is going to grant Elijah his wish, but not here—once Elisha has been trained and is ready to take over for Elijah, God sends a fiery chariot to take his faithful prophet to his final destination and reward. After years of loneliness, faithful service, courageous obedience, deprivation and threats to his life, Elijah receives his “well done good and faithful servant.”
But what of the king who was the recipient of God’s messages through the prophet Elijah? The Bible tells us that there was no king who rivaled Ahab in the department of wickedness; he and his Sidonian wife, Jezebel, have become synonymous with evil still to this day. And yet, even this man experienced the grace of God to whom he had shown such disloyalty.
One of the stories of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel that is often taught in children’s Sunday school involves a vineyard owned by a fellow Israelite named Naboth. It was located near to the palace and Ahab wanted it for a vegetable garden. Naboth refused to part with his ancestral land…and Ahab put on a king-sized pout. When Jezebel learned the reason for her husband’s unhappiness, she simply directed their subjects to do away with Naboth—throw a party, have two men falsely accuse him of slandering God and the king, then drag him out of town and stone him. When the deed was done, Jezebel informed Ahab that the land was now up for grabs. However, as he was on his way to make his claim Elijah showed up.
Through Elijah, God pronounced judgement on Ahab. All of his descendants, slave and free alike, would be wiped out just as the family of Jeroboam had been. Ahab’s dynasty was going to come to a screeching halt—all would die and be consumed by dogs or vultures, including his wife, Jezebel. Unlike with past warnings, this one was personal and the king does something he had never done before…
1 Kings 21:27-29 – 27 But when Ahab heard this message, he tore his clothing, dressed in burlap, and fasted. He even slept in burlap and went about in deep mourning.
28 Then another message from the Lord came to Elijah: 29 “Do you see how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has done this, I will not do what I promised during his lifetime. It will happen to his sons; I will destroy his dynasty.”
God withholds his judgement on Ahab—He has made His pronouncement concerning the demise of Ahab’s dynasty, but because of Ahab’s repentance (and we should assume that it was genuine because God doesn’t respond to alligator tears), God promises to hold off the promised judgment during Ahab’s lifetime.
Those of us who know Ahab’s story well, might be tempted to think that God’s grace was unwarranted…that God was not acting fairly by holding off deserved retribution. If this is our response, we need to ask ourselves this question, “If God was in the wrong by showing grace to Ahab when he repented…as short-lived as it might have been…what right do we have to expect to be the recipients of God’s grace when we similarly repent of our disobedience?” “Yes, but look at how bad he was!” might be the retort. But the truth of the matter is that, if we think we’re any better from God’s perspective, we really don’t have a complete understanding of how repugnant all sin is to God or of His incredible love that He is so willing to lavish on every single one of us.
God created humanity as His loved children and no amount of sin will ever cause Him to love us less. However, as much as He loves us, He will not force a relationship or obedience to Him on us…we are free to make bad choices and suffer the natural consequence of eternal separation from Him. However, don’t ever think that God wants people to suffer in hell. He Himself, in the form of Jesus, made a way for us to receive His grace. All we need do is repent, grow in a restored relationship with the Father and allow the Holy Spirit to transform us from being naturally disobedient to gratefully obedient…and we have much to be grateful for!
Sunday, November 7, 2021- “Judah’s Last Great King” (1 Kings 16-22) - In-person and Online [Don’t forget Ontario’s time change…back one hour this week. That means service will begin one hour later for those living in Saskatchewan and Barbados…so enjoy the extra sleep!]
Pastor Jane Peck, Hope Chapel
(Collingwood EMCC Church)
"Learning and Living the Way of Jesus!"
First licensed for pastoral ministry in 1994, Pastor Jane Peck has served in camp and church ministries in three denominations, five provinces and in a variety of roles. Her most recent position is that of Pastor at Hope Chapel which she began in 2020. She is excited to see what God can and will do in the days to come!