Preached by Dr. Gene Scott on January 22, 1989
And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the
inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab,
as the LORD God of Israel liveth, before
whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor
rain these years, but according to my word.
1st Kings 17:1
Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Turn ye
unto me, saith the LORD of hosts, and I
will turn unto you, saith the LORD of hosts.
I AM RETURNING TO THE SUBJECT OF ELIJAH. I will begin with some review because I believe we cannot hear these basic messages about faith enough times. But today, I have a different focus. My prayer is that this message will bring forth a renewed recognition of God’s ways, especially if you have ever felt you were not being treated very well by God.
We read at the beginning of 1st Kings 17, “And Elijah the Tishbite…” That is how Elijah is introduced. Elijah is one of God’s choicest servants in Old Testament times. Even to this day, the Jewish people recognize his importance. Every year at Passover, they pour an extra cup of wine for Elijah with the expectation that this will be the year he will join them and herald the coming of the Messiah. But that is only because they did not recognize Christ in His first coming.
Elijah is one of God’s greatest saints. In the New Testament, God could give no higher commendation to John the Baptist than to say he would go before the Messiah in the spirit and power or Elijah. When Jesus’ closest disciples failed Him on the Mount of Transfiguration, God sent Elijah and Moses. Out of all the heroes in the Old Testament, God chose those two to encourage Christ as He was preparing to face His greatest test.
I preach on Elijah because if one so favored by God was treated the way he was treated, then why should we expect anything different? If you think your boss is hard on you, wait until you find out how Elijah’s Boss treated him! But when we see how God treated him, it might help us to accept from His hand the things He allows to happen to us.
There is another reason I preach about Elijah. When we see how his spiritual life developed, we can discover why God came to appreciate him the way He did. Contrast the simplicity of Elijah’s faith with the flamboyance of modern evangelists. Elijah did not have any great visions of Jehovah. In fact, the most spectacular thing God ever did for Elijah happened at the end of his ministry, when he was taken up into heaven by a whirlwind and a chariot of fire. Elijah could not even come back to boast about his experience in a magazine article or as a guest on a Christian talk show. He was already gone!
Now, in my view, Elijah’s ministry should have begun with the whirlwind and the chariot of fire. What a crowd you could have drawn with such a display of power! Someone could have advertised it in advance: “Come see Elijah the prophet. He was caught up in Gilead in a whirlwind and a fiery chariot and is expected to land right in front of Ahab!” I would at least have leaked the news to someone. Imagine how much more dramatic Elijah’s entry into Ahab’s court would have been. The “Palestine Broadcasting System” could have set up their cameras on the front steps of Ahab’s palace. If God wanted to get a message across to Ahab, why did He waste the chariot ride at the end of Elijah’s ministry when there was no one there to witness it other than his servant? For all we skeptics know, the event never happened.
Everyone who wants to do great things for God would prefer to have a super spiritual introduction from God Himself. I have heard people say, “If God would speak to me, I would start giving.” But God has already spoken to you through His word! Learn from the way God treated Elijah, and see why God thought so highly of him.
We read in 1st Kings 17:1, “And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the LORD God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.” The first word, “And,” tells us that something came before these events. We learn what happened by turning to the Epistle of James in the New Testament. James said, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” And then, as one example, he said that “Elijah prayed earnestly that it might not rain.” Why would Elijah pray that it would not rain when he was from Gilead, a drought-ridden, quasi-desert territory east of Jordan? If you were from Gilead, you would pray for rain. No one would pray for it not to rain unless there was a good reason. What was the good reason? It was given centuries earlier, before Israel even had a king. It was given before Jericho fell, before Joshua led the children of Israel into the Promised Land, and before Moses died. God had declared in Deuteronomy 11:16-17, “Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them; and then the LORD’S wrath be kindled against you, and he shut up the heaven, and there be no rain…”
Elijah was a prophet to the northern kingdom, the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel. This kingdom had been intensively worshiping idols since the days of its first king, Jeroboam. Jeroboam was afraid that if his people went south to Jerusalem to worship, the northern and southern kingdoms would reunite and he would lose his new kingdom. So he made two golden calves, and he told the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.” He placed one golden calf at Dan and the other at Bethel, and he led the nation into idolatry. The northern kingdom continued to worship idols, king after king, until idolatry reached its worst expression under King Ahab and his evil wife, Jezebel; yet God still had not acted.
God’s word was forever settled in heaven. Idol worship had started years earlier, but the rains kept on falling. The conflict continued until Elijah came on the scene and saw that God’s word was being defied by the circumstances. Elijah decided that God’s word, forever settled in heaven, had better have an impact on the things of time. This can only be accomplished when a man of faith seizes God’s word and pulls it down. So Elijah began to pray earnestly that God would stop the rain. Elijah’s first act was simply to hang his body on God’s word already spoken.
This giant spiritual leader would become one of the very few in history who would be taken from this earth by God. It happened to Enoch and to Elijah: they did not die; they were caught away. But Elijah’s ministry did not have a spectacular beginning. He started with a simple, gutsy hanging of his body on God’s word that had already been declared.
You might wonder, “What does any of this have to do with me?” Everything! Anyone in Israel could have read the prophecies that were recorded in Deuteronomy. The Pentateuch was their basic Scripture: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. These are all credited to the pen of Moses and were available to be read in the scrolls. Everyone knew that God’s word was being defied and that idol worship carried the consequence of God’s curse: He would shut up the heavens and not let it rain anymore.
Elijah’s ministry did not begin with a special revelation. There is no evidence to suggest that God or any angel spoke to Elijah first. The evidence is that he decided he could no longer live with the circumstances defying God’s word. Elijah decided to put himself at the collision point. He reached up his hand in prayer, figuratively speaking, and prayed earnestly that God would do what He had already committed to do in His word.
That means Elijah started where every one of us can start. Let me give you an example. God said in Malachi 3, “Ye have robbed me.” The people asked, “Wherein have we robbed thee?” And God answered, “In tithes and offerings. . . Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, said the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”
The message of giving might be the most needful message in the church today, but we can apply this lesson of faith to any of God’s promises. I did not feel well this morning and could have chosen not to preach. But God has promised in His word that it is His nature to heal. I do not need to see some kind of magic glow or hear a voice from heaven say “Dear son of Mine, I the Lord can heal thee! Get thee up and go thou to preach this morning!” I do not need any special word from God. I know that God said centuries ago, “I am the LORD that healeth thee.” I know that in the New Testament there were some people who were healed instantly, while others were healed as they went on their way. So I did not need any special revelation this morning to motivate me to act in faith and preach. My opportunity was simply to act on God’s word already spoken.
The same is true regarding God’s promises of provision. We get into a panic and cry out, “Oh, I’m not going to make it through this year!” For some people, there is a reason they cannot make ends meet. God said through the prophet Haggai, “Consider your ways. Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes. . . Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? Saith the LORD of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house. Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is stayed from her fruit.” God has been punching holes in your bags and blowing away the little you bring home! Why? Because you have put “you and yours” first.
God has laid down a law that always was and always will be. It is not a law given on Mount Sinai but a never-changing law of relating to Him, which is clearly stated in Zechariah 1:3: “Turn ye unto me, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will turn unto you, saith the Lord of hosts.” Most people think, “Okay, God. You turn first!” That is what is wrong with some people: they have been saying to God, “Turn to me, and then I will turn to You.” They have it backwards. Look at the illustration of Elijah. If most people had been in Elijah’s situation, they would have thought, “If I knew in advance that God was going to give me a ride in a whirlwind and a chariot of fire, I would get more excited about marching into Ahab’s court at risk of death. Give me some incentive first!”
I can apply this to any of God’s promises. Christians say, “I’ve heard about all those things for the longest time: ‘Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse . . . and prove me now herewith.’ I have heard, ‘I am the LORD that healeth thee.’ I have heard, ‘The Lord will provide.’ I have heard, ‘Turn to Me and I will turn to you.’ So I have been waiting for God to do all those things.” You might die still waiting. I am reminded of the story of a man who prayed every day, “Oh, Lord, let me win the lottery!” After several weeks of this, he heard a voice from heaven saying, “Give Me a break, man. Go buy a lottery ticket!” Your act of faith must come before God’s action.
I am talking about how Elijah started with God. The events in the opening of 1st Kings 17 happened years before a fiery chariot took him into heaven. He began as one seemingly insignificant man alone in the desert. No one even knew he was there and was praying that God would do what He had already said He would do. Elijah let God know that someone down here on earth remembered what He had spoken. He hung his body on God’s word, marched into Ahab’s court at risk of death, and said, “It is not going to rain anymore until I say so.” Again, there is no indication that God spoke to him at all. All he needed was the word of God already revealed. He decided to fight the battle of faith as though the whole war depended upon him.
Many modern evangelists teach about the power of the tongue in relation to God. They are right in one respect, but most erroneous teaching is built on an element of truth. God’s word does say there is power in the tongue. Romans 10:10 says, “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made until salvation.” More literally, “profession is made unto salvation.” Simple-minded Christians take that verse out of context and believe they can have whatever they speak in God’s name. They say things like, “If you want a fancy sports car, just speak it, and you will receive it!” I’m telling you, that won’t even get you a gold cart!
It is true that the tongue is an important instrument of faith throughout God’s book. One New Testament writer said the tongue is like a bridle of the soul, the hardest member of our body to control, and one that leads us wherever we go. We are what we speak. We will fight harder for something we have said than we would for the same thing if we had not said it.
The tongue needs to be brought under God’s control. This is a positive argument for the Pentecostal and Charismatic teaching that there are some things God wills to do but will not do until a speaking voice connects in faith and claims what He has promised. But this concept has been exploited by those who exaggerate the power to speak “the word of faith.” The flaw in their reasoning is they neglect what the Bible actually teaches: God gives you the power to connect through faith and accomplish something by your word, only when your word is in conformity with what He has already spoken. The only thing you have the authority to declare with your mouth is what God has already declared and is thus forever settled in heaven. You can believe with your heart, declare with your mouth, and secure your salvation because God has already said you could do that. But nowhere did God say “Speak a new car and you will receive one.”
We have the authority to speak and “bind on earth” and “release on earth” what has already been uttered by God in heaven. Then you are not contradicting God’s will. You are not guilty of what is condemned in the New Testament, where it says that many do not receive what they ask for because they only want to heap what they receive on their own desires. You can, however, in conformity with God’s will, speak what He has already spoken, because you are bringing down to earth what is already settled in heaven.
That is what Elijah did. He prayed to God that He would do what He already said, and then Elijah activated his prayer by walking into the king’s court and declaring what God had spoken. Elijah “plugged in” on earth what was settled in heaven by putting himself at the point of conflict. There was no equivocation in God’s word. He did not say “maybe.” God had simply said, “If you worship idols, I will shut up the heavens.” Elijah walked into a royal court that was filled with idols. God’s word was at stake. Elijah cared more about God’s word and His honor than he did about his own well-being. He knew that if it stopped raining, he would be one of those who would suffer the most. There was nothing pragmatic about his action.
I have preached many messages on the subject of giving. You must come to a point where you are willing to hang your body on God’s word regardless of the consequences. That is what made Elijah different. He would rather have died, and was willing to run that risk, than have God’s word be witnessed as a lie any longer. Yet people still equivocate about tithing. They think, “I’m not sure about it. Maybe I’ll try it for a week or two to see if I receive a blessing!” But if you have heard anything I have taught, you will come to a point where you would rather die than have God’s word be made a lie. The only way God’s word will be witnessed to down here on earth is when we give witness to it!
The traditional church teaches that “witnessing” means something like roaming the streets, accosting people, and demanding an answer to the question, “Do you know Jesus?” The English word “witness” is a translation of the Greek word from which we get the word “martyr.” If you understand the importance of faith, then you would rather be dead than have God’s word be made a lie. That is a stage beyond the attitude of someone who says they will try tithing for a week or two to see if they receive a blessing. Whether you receive any blessing in this life in response to your obedience to God’s word is almost incidental. In Hebrews 11, God commends those who responded to His word only because He said it, and who were willing to die not having obtained the promise. They were not willing to live without acting on the promise.
Notice that when Elijah arrived in Ahab’s court, nothing dramatic happened. God did not come down from heaven and shake Jezebel or knock Ahab flat. Sometimes it seems to me that God does not know what He is doing. He must “luck out,” because things work out right in the end, but I am not always happy with the way He goes about doing things. In my view, God should have immediately rewarded Elijah for his faithfulness. Do you realize how long it had been since anyone had paid attention to God? King after king had refused to obey Him. God’s word, which is forever settled in heaven, was not being carried out. Someone might have thought that God did not even see that His people were worshiping idols, because He had allowed the rain to keep falling. Elijah rescued God’s reputation!
I can imagine a ludicrous scene where the angels are telling God, “You finally have someone standing up for You! You finally have a man who takes You at Your word and acts on it! He is in Ahab’s court right now, telling him, ‘I will not let it rain anymore.’” So God says, “Okay, let’s turn off the rain.” “But God,” one angel says, “don’t You want to do anything special for Elijah to take advantage of the opportunity? After all, You would have lost the battle if he had not taken a stand.” So God says, “Elijah has earned a response from Me. He reached up and grabbed My word that I declared hundreds of years ago, and he put himself at risk. Okay, I will speak to him.” And God finally speaks to Elijah.
Think about it: what would you say to a man who had come through for you like that? Maybe we could call the mayor and ask him to dedicate a day to Elijah. We could call it “Elijah Day!” The city could throw a banquet in his honor and invite all the important people in town. We should do something to seize the opportunity and build upon what Elijah accomplished for God!
I cannot tell you how many times I have told God that if He would act now, we could seize an opportunity that will never come again. There is a time when you should build on a breakthrough. There is a time to turn God’s power loose, after we have set the stage for Him. If nothing else, such a display would motivate people to act on God’s word when they see how He rewards people who step out in faith. Surely, God has enough sense to see that. There are times when He seems awfully ungrateful!
If I had my way, the fiery chariot would have landed right in front of Ahab. God could have told Elijah, “Put on your asbestos pants, because I am about to take you for a ride in My fiery chariot!” But God said no such thing. We read in verses 2-3, “And the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan.” God finally spoke to Elijah and sent him to a place with no prominence.
Of course, we have the record of God’s whole book. We can read about Elijah’s miracles, his victory on Mount Carmel, his appointing of his successor, and his fiery departure. What do these things teach us about the way God sometimes leads His choicest servants? Maybe you have landed in a place that is not very glamorous, as others might view it. Maybe it looks like you have been temporarily cut off from opportunities to be of greater service to God. Friend, your circumstances will never separate you from His care. His hand is still leading you. You started walking by faith; now, keep walking by faith, whether you see any blessing or not. That is the kind of faith that gets God’s attention. God has promised, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.” Hold on to His promises, and don’t let go!
Reprinted with permission from Pastor Melissa Scott
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