Saturday, July 14, 2012

Shhh ... I'm still listening! (2 of 3)

“As Obadiah was on the way, lo, Elijah met him. He recognized him and fell on his face, and said, ‘ Are you my lord Elijah?’ He answered him, ‘It is I; go tell your lord, Behold, Elijah is here.’ And he said, ‘What sin have I committed that you would deliver your servant into the hands of Ahab to be slain? As the Lord your God lives, there is no nation or kingdom, wherein my lord has not sent to seek you. And when they said, He is not here, he took an oath of the kingdom and nation that they had not found you! AND NOW YOU SAY, GO , TELL YOUR LORD, BEHOLD ELIJAH IS HERE! As soon as I have gone from you, the Spirit of the Lord will carry you I know not where; so when I come and tell Ahab, and he cannot find you, he will kill me! But I your servant have feared and revered the Lord from my youth. Was it not told my lord what I did when Jezebel slew the prophets of the Lord, how I hid a hundred men of the Lord’s prophets by fifties in a cave, and fed them with bread and water? AND NOW YOU SAY, GO TELL YOUR LORD, BEHOLD ELIJAH IS HERE; AND HE WILL KILL ME!!!’” - 1 Kings 18:7-14

I find this humorous. Oh, I admit; it would not be humorous if I were in Obadiah’s position. But since I am not, it stirs a little giggle. Allow me the opportunity to translate this passage in a manner whereby we might better relate:

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE? THEY’VE BEEN LOOKING ALL OVER THE WORLD FOR YOU! OH, WHY DID IT HAVE TO BE ME THAT FOUND YOU? WHY DO YOU WANT ME TO TELL AHAB THAT I HAVE FOUND YOU? OH SURE, I KNOW; DON’T TRY AND FOOL ME! IT WILL BE JUST MY LUCK; I’LL TELL AHAB. HE WILL COME. YOU’LL DISAPPEAR AGAIN, HE WILL KILL ME! THANKS A BUNDLE ELIJAH! THANKS A DAW-GONE BUNDLE! Uh; er ... What I meant to say was ... (pause) ... Ah, come on, Elijah! I’ve been hiding my true identity from “King A” and “Jezzy” all this time that you’ve been gone! I even protected one-hundred servants of God from them. I came up with the idea to hide them in a cave and bringing them bread and water to sustain them! Come on Elijah; didn’t you hear about that? Haven’t I already done enough?”

Haven’t I already done enough?

Have you ever thought that? Have you ever felt that you’d paid your dues. According to your tabulation, the ledger appeared balanced. Enough is enough! And then God says, “Okay; Let’s get started!” Excuse me? Haven’t I already ...?

Although he was feeling a bit defeated, Obadiah did as Elijah commanded. Obadiah returned to Ahab and announced that he had found Elijah. We read that Ahab then went to meet Elijah. It’s a pitiful meeting. The King; all powerful amongst the people, with armies and chariots ready to rise at his beckoned call, fearing only his wife, Queen Jezebel, sheepishly asks:

“... are you who troubles Israel?” - 1 Kings 18:17

Elijah replied:

“I have not troubled Israel; but you have, and your father’s house, by forsaking the commandments of the Lord and by following the Baals.” - 1 Kings 18:18

For a refresher on the Baal’s family, please refer back to PART ONE ...

Elijah then proposes a bar-b-cue. All 450 prophets of the non-existent god, Baal, and all 400 prophets of Baal’s non-existent mother, Asherah, were to provide the entertainment by way of a little contest. It would be the, “god’s VS God” contest.

What a spectacular marketing event! I can just imagine Jezebel dictating the look of the fliers. She was, after all after all, the “Bel of the Baal”. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist).

The rules of the contest were quite simple. Two fine bulls would be selected. The prophets of Baal and Asherah would be allowed to select which of the two they wanted. (This, obviously put Elijah at an advantage seeing that decision by committee never works!) The prophets would dress their bull and lay it on a wooden altar but they would put no fire under it. Elijah would do the same. The prophets would call upon their non- existent god, Baal, to provide fire from the heavens; Elijah would call upon the One True God to do the same.

Imagine the crowd of people in attendance! All of Israel was present. No doubt Queen Jezebel and King Ahab were in seats of honor so as to see all of their mighty prophets of the false-gods! No doubt these prophets were adorned in robes of splendor! There must have been music and dancing! Vendors provided appetizers to the throngs of spectators! IT WAS AN EVENT!

So, there you have it! Perhaps as many as eight hundred prophets stood on one side of the playing field with their personally chosen, fully dressed and prepared sacrifice, while on the other side of the playing field stood Elijah; one man standing alone - that is, except for the sacrifice that had been rejected.

Well, the prophets called upon their non-existent god from early morning until noon. The anticipation mounted! They leaped around their altar until they could only limp around their altar! They cried out with loud voices, but there was no voice in return; no one answered. (18:26)

On the other side of the playing field sat Elijah; I picture him filing his fingernails. The crowd was becoming restless. The fury of unbridled anticipation was now diminishing as were the vendor’s appetizers. And an emboldened Elijah just sat there, mocking them all ...

“At noon Elijah mocked them, saying, ‘Cry aloud, for he is a god; either he is musing, or he has gone aside, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.’” - 1 Kings 18:27

Morning passed to noon. Street vendors went back to their shops. The crowds dissipated. Embarrassment now replaced anticipation. No doubt Queen Jezebel slipped away from this disgraceful failure. Belief hung in the balance as the once honored prophets of the non-existent god lay exhausted on the ground having bloodied themselves with knives and lances. But still, there was no voice; no one answered.

It is at this point that Elijah said to the people:

“‘... Come near to me’. And all the people came near him. And he repaired the (old) altar of the Lord that had been broken down [by Jezebel]. Then Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob to whom the words of the Lord came saying ‘Israel shall be your name’. And with the stones Elijah built an altar in the name [and self-revelation] of the Lord. He made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two measures of seed. He put the wood in order, and cut the bull in pieces and laid it on the wood, and said, ‘Fill four jars with water, and pour it on the burnt offering and the wood’. And he said, ‘Do it a second time’. And they did it a second time. And he said, ‘Do it a third time’. And they did it a third time. And the water ran about the altar; and he filled the trench also with water.” - 1 Kings 18:30-35

The focus should not be upon Elijah and his preparation for the sacrifice. The focus should be upon God’s preparation of the peoples hearts! Think about it. Their only hope had been in a false-god and it now it was evident that their hope had been in vain. Their only sustenance was the precious water that they had been storing during the drought - and Elijah commanded them to pour it out upon the old altar of God; the altar they had long ago walked away from. Perhaps they felt like the poor widow who, having lost everything, prepared that last small loaf of bread for Elijah, and then prepared to die.

So, Elijah called the people together. He made no grandiose spectacle of himself. He simply 1. re-erected the altar to God and then 2. called upon His name. Elijah’s humble action was a testimony to those watching. It spoke to the heart of Israel. Those present needed to personally re-erect their spiritual altar, their communication, their praise to God, and once again call upon His name!

“‘Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that You, the Lord, are God, and have turned their hearts back [to You].’” - 1 Kings 18:37

“Then the fire of the Lord fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench! When the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, The Lord, He is God! And Elijah said, ‘Seize the prophets of Baal; let not one escape. They seized them, and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and [as God’s law required] slew them there.” - 1 Kings 18:38-40

This passage is rich in the completeness of God’s forever plan! Upon which message do we focus? There are so many truths being taught. Obadiah was clearly being used of God but he suffered from fear and exhaustion thinking he was doing so in his own strength. Obadiah did not falter because of God’s power, but because of his own pride. Perhaps it is the message that says, “Now that you are humbled by your own weakness, Let’s get started by My might and power!” Notice the comparison. Obadiah was stressed, tired, a beaten man who thought his luck had run out! He had been in hiding, living a double life, perhaps just waiting to be found out; daily living in fear! Elijah, on the other hand, stood in the very presence of those who sought to kill him. He stood, totally alone and vulnerable! The crowd pressed in, the King and Queen of evil watched expectantly, all the powers of darkness were called upon, and Elijah calmly stood, alone.

Ah, but wait, he was not totally alone. There with him was the rejected sacrifice. So is THIS the message we should focus upon? Is this a prophetic picture of Jesus, the sacrifice rejected by all and yet THE ONE TRUE SACRIFICE FOR ALL? Is this the message?

How about the fact that Elijah re-erected the old altar? Does this show a return to the One True God? Or are the components of the sacrifice, the detail by which Elijah placed the wood, the pouring out of the people’s precious, life-sustaining water in addition to the rejected sacrifice the message?

Is it the fact that although the false prophets put on a show, although they cried out to their false-gods (false-gods well known to the people, false-gods whom the people had become dependent upon) and after doing everything humanly possible to catch the attention of their false-gods to the point of bloodying themselves with knives and lances, STILL, no voice was heard; no answer was given. Is this the message?

What is the message to you? Is there one? Is there something in this passage that just seems to jump out at you? Perhaps there is something you never really took notice of before. Perhaps it is something that speaks directly to the circumstances of your life, today, right now.

And what about that still, small voice?

We’ll need to look further in the next writing!

God bless!

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