The Story, Chapter 15. “God’s Messengers”

May 7, 2017

The Story, Chapter 15. “God’s Messengers”

1 Kings 17:16-21


Children’s Sermon: Elijah and the Prophets of Baal

Drought.  Things were dying (show my plant).  King Ahab was mad at Elijah who had predicted this drought.  He wanted Elijah to come back and make it rain.  Elijah was obeying God and he was trying to get the people to reject the false god, Baal and return to the true God.  


The people weren’t listening so Elijah set up a contest between Baal and God.  Ellie on one platform, everyone else in front of pews.  Which God would send down fire?


Prophets of Baal set up their altar and pray, dance, sing, shout.  Nothing. Elijah taunts.


Elijah sets up his altar.  Stones, bull, and . . . water?  Drenched everything.  In a loud voice he prayed:  O Lord . . . God of Abraham . . . Isaac . . . and Jacob . . . prove today . . . that you are God . . . in Israel . . . and that I . . . am your servant . . . O Lord . . . answer me . . . so these people will know . . . that you, O Lord . . . are God . . . and that you . . . have brought them back . . . to yourself.  


Fire happens.  Everything is burned up.  The stones, the bull, the wood.  And the people saw it.  And fell face down - go on! and shouted out, “The Lord - he is God! Yes, the Lord is God!”


And Elijah ordered the prophets of Baal to be captured and they did not have a happy ending.  


You know.  God means business.  He wants us to love him and obey him.  Let’s pray.


READ 1 KINGS 17:16-21


Intro:  A friend of mine posted on FB yesterday: “273 days later and I'm finished reading the Old Testament. Phew!” It can be a daunting task!  We have been rolling along through The Story which is arranged in a way that we can digest what is going on and focus on the upper story of God’s work of redeeming the world and the lower story of how we respond to what God is doing.  But it is about at this point when people are reading through the OT (if they make it past the third book - Leviticus) that they enter “the black hole” of the Bible.  You see the OT books are arranged as history, poetry, and prophecy.  But this is not the order in which they all happened in time.  


As we have read some of David’s psalms while we were reading about David’s reign and we read some of Solomon’s proverbs as we went through his life.  There are many other parts of Scripture that are not chronologically lined up if you read straight through.  So if you’ve ever become frustrated reading from page one to the end - know that you are in good company.


And I must confess that reading through The Story is really helping me to get a handle on the order of the OT people and times and helping to put the timeline together and I am getting a better picture of the map in my head.  I hope you are enjoying this process!


So last week we talked about tug of war between Israel (northern kingdom) and Judah (southern kingdom).  Between Jeroboam and Rehoboam. Between God and humanity. As we enter deeper into the time of the prophets we continue this tug of war and though we will see it expressed in the battle of Elijah and the prophets of Baal, it is really a battle of God trying to win back the hearts of his people.  And that battle continues today.


We ended last week asking the question about if we could wait on God and not turn to other “gods” or taking matters into our own hands to get what we need.  There is a continuation of this theme in this week’s chapter but we leave the battle between the kingdoms and see the prophet Elijah working hard to win back the hearts of the people of God and the chapter concludes with words from the prophets Amos and Hosea revealing God’s wrath and frustration with his people.  


Another confession.  This has been a hard chapter to figure out how to preach. This compounded with the fact that I have been immersed this week in how God is moving in the life of the church in ECO.  I came home from presbytery with my face hurting from all the smiling!  But we will look at this particular question this morning.  It was raised on the second page of this week’s chapter in The Story and can also be found in 1 Kings 18:20-21.  And that question is this:  Elijah asks the people, “How long will you waiver between two opinions?  If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.”


And we the people of the resurrection could be asked a similar question:  “How long will you waiver between two opinions?  If Jesus Christ is Lord, follow him; but if you have chosen something else to rule your life, follow it.”  Perhaps Jesus says it better in Matthew 6:24,  “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” 


Prophets of God did not have an easy job.  They never have nor do they today.  In fact in today’s church prophets are barely even acknowledged!  They don’t say nice things to people.  They call people out by telling the truth and they are not charged with being diplomatic.  I really want to just tell you the story of Elijah, the prophets of Baal, Ahab and Jezebel.  It is one of my favorite scenes in the OT.  But as I was writing this, I got the feeling that God wanted to take is in another direction, so that’s what we are doing.


God set apart Israel to be his own people.  They walked away.

God has called us and set us apart to be his people.  What are we doing with that? What master are we serving?  How are we living for God?  What does that look like?

How are we speaking God’s truth to our community? Our families? Our colleagues? Our peers? Our neighbors?  When does being nice/tolerant/respectful get in the way of sharing God’s truth, love, grace, and mercy?  When does our silence keep someone from knowing who God is?


What has God set as our task? Is it not to follow Jesus? Not just to the cross for salvation but into the life of the resurrection?  Are we not charged but he great commission - by Jesus himself to go and tell the gospel to everyone?  That’s how the church grew in the beginning - as we read in Acts.  Jesus’ disciples went to tell others about what God had done and how they had come to know God through Christ.  They shared the message of forgiveness and grace and the power they saw at work through Christ.


The church does not grow through programs or events or even outreach.  Those things are ministry and we should absolutely be doing them but the church grows when we invite others to follow Jesus and then walk together as disciples of Jesus Christ.  When each of us is doing that, the kingdom of God will expand.  


It will be a difficult task if we don’t realize what Christ has done for us.  If we take for granted what is represented in the meal we share today of his body broken and blood shed.  If we fail to embrace and enter into what Jesus preached - that he came to save the lost and redeem the sinner - then we are not using our time wisely.  It’s not enough for us to be good examples.  There is a war going on for the souls of people and we are in the front line of the battle.  We will not take this seriously if we do not take what Jesus did for us seriously.


The people of Israel failed to follow God and obey him because they forgot about God saving them from Egypt.  They forgot his provision in the desert.  They forgot his care for them during seasons of famine.  They forgot his power and his might. And when asked by Elijah to choose God or Baal, they were silent.  Have you forgotten?  Have you forgotten that you once were lost and now are found?  Have you forgotten the answered prayers?  In your silence are you withholding the opportunity from someone else to know God?


Could you think through this as we come to the table this morning?  No music to distract and comfort.  No sidebar conversations as you wait for the elements to be passed.  Can you approach God and ask him what he wants you to do?  Can we lay down our ideas of self preservation and ask God who he is sending us to?


Listen for God to speak to you.


(Right to the table)