Monthly Archives: September 2015

Modern-Day Elijahs II: Protected and Preserved

Elijah being fed by ravens. "Lanfranco Elie nourri par le corbeau" by Giovanni Lanfranco - Own work by user:Rvalette. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lanfranco_Elie_nourri_par_le_corbeau.jpg#/media/File:Lanfranco_Elie_nourri_par_le_corbeau.jpg

Elijah being fed by ravens. “Lanfranco Elie nourri par le corbeau” by Giovanni Lanfranco – Own work by user:Rvalette. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lanfranco_Elie_nourri_par_le_corbeau.jpg#/media/File:Lanfranco_Elie_nourri_par_le_corbeau.jpg

The word of the Lord came to him, saying, “Go away from here and turn eastward, and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. It shall be that you will drink of the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to provide for you there.” So he went and did according to the word of the Lord, for he went and lived by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he would drink from the brook. It happened after a while that the brook dried up, because there was no rain in the land.
Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and stay there; behold, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.” So he arose and went to Zarephath, and when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks; and he called to her and said, “Please get me a little water in a jar, that I may drink.” As she was going to get it, he called to her and said, “Please bring me a piece of bread in your hand.” But she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have no bread, only a handful of flour in the bowl and a little oil in the jar; and behold, I am gathering a few sticks that I may go in and prepare for me and my son, that we may eat it and die.” Then Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go, do as you have said, but make me a little bread cake from it first and bring it out to me, and afterward you may make one for yourself and for your son. For thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘The bowl of flour shall not be exhausted, nor shall the jar of oil be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain on the face of the earth.’” So she went and did according to the word of Elijah, and she and he and her household ate for many days. The bowl of flour was not exhausted nor did the jar of oil become empty, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke through Elijah. [1 Kings 17:2–16. Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.]

The most important lesson we can learn from the life of Elijah is this: God calls us to be obedient: not popular, wealthy, or successful. Success and provision are in the Lord’s hand, so we should always be eager to seek His blessings, not the things of the world.

The prophet had just taken a bold stand for God. As we saw in the first post in this series, the northern kingdom of Israel had rejected the One True God of Israel and was now “officially” worshiping the Canaanite fertility god, Baal. Elijah declared that HE, as God’s spokesman, would declared when it may rain again—not King Ahab, Queen Jezebel, not one of Baal’s prophets or priests, and not even Baal. Yahweh, the One True God of Israel, controlled the weather, and He would let Elijah know when rain will come again.

Let’s face it, this is not the way to win popularity contests. People do not want to hear that the God you serve is in control of everything (how narrow-minded and exclusive can you be?), and that we all will be held accountable to Him. If they do believe in God, they do not want to hear that His opinion is different from that of most of society, or conflicts with the power-brokers in your nation. If you stand with God, you may find yourself at odds with most of society.

Modern culture tempts American Christians to think that we can rely on the resources of the world for security and satisfaction. That is not true. The prophet Isaiah warned the Israelites of his day against trusting in a mighty empire (Egypt), with its military might, for protection, instead of seeking the strength of the Lord (Isaiah 31:1–3). However, many Christians have failed to learn this lesson. We trust a favorite political party, our education, our media, and a host of other “gods.” We expect our jobs to meet all of our needs. In many cases, our idols are turning against us. We need to return to total reliance upon God almighty.

God protected and preserved Elijah. For much of the biblical account of his life, he lives as fugitive, separated from his own nation who had turned their backs on God. Safety was not found among the Israelites, who had rejected their covenant with the Lord and decided to follow the gods of their pagan neighbors.

As we watch our nation turn our backs on God and reject its Judeo-Christian heritage, we can no longer assume that we can enjoy the security we had in the past. Previous generations of American Christians could trust that our laws had some consistency with, or at least respect for, biblical values. This is no longer the case. When the President of the United States invites the Pope to the White House, and then packs the guest list with homosexual-rights activists and others hostile to church teaching, America can be considered as apostate as King Ahab’s Israel was. Our nation deserves judgment as much as that nation did. Men and women of God cannot trust American values and institutions meet their needs.

It is time for change. Christians must learn to follow God whole-heartedly, as Elijah did. God called Elijah completely out of his comfort zone. His first stop was the brook Cherith, east of the Jordan. This place was “…one of the wildest ravines of the Fertile Crescent, and peculiarly fitted to afford a secure asylum to the persecuted.” Although a fugitive could hide safely there, food still posed a dilemma. God used an unusual way to feed Elijah: breakfast and dinner deliveries from ravens, which were unclean animals according to the Torah (Leviticus 11:13-16).

When the water dried up, God’s next source of protection and provision for Elijah was even more drastic: A widow in a pagan nation. She was at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder, in Queen Jezebel’s home country, in the midst of the drought. God appointed a woman who thought she and her son were going to starve soon to feed and protect the prophet.

The point is that Elijah could not rely on worldly common sense. He had to rely on God’s direction, even when it defied logic. Yet, God protected him, provided everything he needed, and preserved him so that he could complete his mission.

This is the challenge for the American Christian. Under Obamacare, government agencies have ordered Christian organizations to pay for “medical benefits” (abortion, birth control, etc.) that defy their religious beliefs. In the name of “tolerance” and “equal rights, some Christian businesses have been ordered to provide services that defy Scripture. We can no longer trust the United States Constitution to protect us, since the First Amendment rights to freedom of religion have been cast aside in favor of the right to sin and to live apart from God. Our neighbors, even many of our church members, have bowed to the god of the state instead of the God of Scripture.

Let us pray for the courage to follow God when He calls us out of our comfort zone, so that we may be faithful to Him. “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:15-17). The key to persevering with Christ, as a modern-day Elijah, is to choose to love God above all things, even when that seems drastic.

This post copyright © 2015 Michael E.
Lynch. All rights reserved.
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Categories: Bible meditations, Current events, Modern-Day Elijahs | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Modern-Day Elijahs I: The Person God Calls

In a chapter title in his classic book, Why Revival Tarries, Leonard Ravenhill asked, “Where are the Elijahs of God?” The question is a slight twist on the prophet Elisha’s question, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” (2 Kings 2:14). Ravenhill observed that, although God has not changed and is still on the throne, the church fails to have a powerful impact because there are few godly men of Elijah’s character:

To the question, “Where is the Lord God of Elijah?” we answer, “Where He has always been‒on the throne!” But where are the Elijahs of God? We know Elijah was “a man of like passions as we are,” but alas! we are not men of like prayer as he was. One praying man stands as a majority with God! Today God is bypassing men‒not because they are too ignorant, but because they are too self-sufficient. Brethren, our abilities are our handicaps, and our talents our stumbling blocks!

Ravenhill’s question is probably more relevant now than it was in 1959, when he first posed it. God raised up Elijah at a time when Israel had drifted far from Him‒so far that it could no longer be recognized as a nation in covenant with Him. It was a nation under godless rule.

As I write this post, it has been about two months since the United States Supreme Court ruled that homosexual marriage should be allowed throughout the nation. A county clerk, who is a Christian, is in jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples with her name on them. Freedom of religion, which is guaranteed by our Constitution, has been trashed in favor of a man-made right to sin. Thousands of babies continue to be slaughtered in the womb, and now we find that their body parts are sold for medical research.

Over the next few weeks, I will share a series of articles based on a Bible study series I taught when I was serving as assistant pastor. The series, inspired in part by Ravenhill’s insight, was entitled “Modern-Day Elijahs,” and was intended to challenge believers to emulate the life of Elijah. We need such men and women in 2015.

Let us begin with a brief introduction to the man, his times, and his ministry. Elijah first appears in 1 Kings 17:1:

Now Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the settlers of Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.”

The name Elijah means “Yahweh is my God,” pointing to his complete devotion to the one true God of Israel. He lived in troubled times. Ahab was ruling as king over the northern kingdom of Israel. The previous king, Ahab’s father Omri, was an evil man who “acted more wickedly than all {the kings} who were before him” (1 Kings 16:25). It is interesting that, beginning with Omri’s reign, the northern kingdom was less frequently referred to as “Israel” and more often referred to by other names. In secular sources from those times, the nation is often called the house or land of Omri, instead of Israel.

Ahab was not much better. According to 1 Kings 16:29-31, he started by following in his father’s footsteps. Then, things became worse after his wedding. His wife Jezebel, a daughter of the king of Sidon and worshipper of the false god Baal, brought massive change to Israel. She established Baal-worship as the state religion, appointed prophets and priests to serve her deity, and executed as many prophets of Yahweh as she could (only Elijah and a few who had been hidden and protected in caves survived her reign of terror).

Elijah rises up in these dark days. The Bible tells us little about his background: It tells us he is a settler of Gilead, which was a region populated by members of three Israelite tribes: Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh. We do not know if he was a member of any of these three tribes: while the word “Tishbite” may refer to his ancestral clan or his hometown, some scholars suggest it may mean “stranger.” If that is the case, Elijah could have been a non-Israelite who had converted to faith in Yahweh.

However, none of this is certain. Scripture is not too concerned about Elijah’s background or ancestry. It is concerned about his zealous faith in God. As Ravenhill said, “One praying man stands as a majority with God,” and Elijah was that one man! Because he knew the one true God and had spent time with him, he could say with certainty that he would say when it would rain. Even though Baal may have been viewed as a nature deity who controlled the rain and agriculture, Elijah would be so bold as to say he knew when the one true God would act.

Such are the people who God is looking for in America in 2015. He is looking for men who will stand before Him, not bowing to the false gods of American culture. Although Baal worshippers may have bowed before idols made of wood, gold, or silver, Americans often bow before other gods: our political elite, money, economic power-brokers, entertainers and other celebrities, false religions (atheism, New Age, watered-down versions of Christianity), media, etc. God is looking for committed believers who will stand before Him in prayer, instead of kneeling to our culture’s false gods for brainwashing.

The man who stands before God can stand against anything that the flesh, the world, or the devil may throw at him. We will see how God provides for and protects those who answer His call in our next study.

NOTE: Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
This post copyright © 2015 by Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.
Categories: Bible meditations, Current events, Modern-Day Elijahs | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

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