Title: Crisis of confidence in God?
Theme: It was the worst of times?
Sermon date: 23rd June
Reading: 1 Kings 16 v.19 & 1 Kings 17 v.1
Learnings from Elijah
This week we begin a five-week series in the life of Elijah, 9th century BC prophet in Israel. You might find it helpful to read the whole Elijah story so that you are familiar with all that happens (1 Kings 16.29 – 1 Kings 19.21).
Brief background – Elijah comes on the scene some 50 years after the reign of Solomon, after which 10 of the tribes revolted against Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, due to the heavy demands he placed on the people. These 10 tribes became the Northern kingdom of Israel. The remaining 2 tribes became the Southern kingdom of Judah. Jeroboam, king of Israel, established new places of worship in an attempt to stop people going to the Temple in Jerusalem. There he set up golden calves and turned the nation to idolatry and pagan worship. This way of worship continued with subsequent kings until the reign of Ahab, which lasted 22 years. Influenced by his wife, Jezebel, he established the worship of BAAL as the official religion of Israel. Jezebel, daughter of the king of Sidon, actively sought to destroy any worship of YAHWEH and happily killed any prophets she came across. There is no hint that the people objected to the worship pf Baal (gods of fertility).
It was during this time that God sent Elijah (= “whose God is Yahweh”) to expose the sins of the nation. We know every little about his background and he appears on the scene, without warning, to speak to Ahab (1). See also James 5.17-18.
The story of Elijah can be seen as an encouragement to:
Those who feel their sphere of service is hard.
Those who feel they are lone-workers.
Those whose patience is sorely tried and see few results.
Those who feel there is little they can do at a time of apostasy.
Those who have failed in one way or another.
In other words – a story for everyone!
Elijah – a man just like ourselves. Sometimes we are tempted to see the great Old Testament characters as people whose faith is unattainable – but we need to see that they too had faults and failings.
Q.1 So if Elijah was a man like us – why are more Christians not like Elijah?
Elijah – little is known about his early life. He came from Tishbe in Gilead. However, God had been preparing him for a future work. Waiting on God is never wasted time.
Q.2 Do you believe God is preparing you for some future work? As you look back on your Christian life, can you see where God prepared you in your earlier life?
You may like to reflect on whether our time for doing God’s work is ever over.
Elijah – lived in a time of spiritual decline and apostasy. After the death of Solomon, 7 successive kings of Israel failed to worship Yahweh (Jeroboam, Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zimri, Omri and Ahab). Worship of Yahweh had almost ceased, although there were still 7,000 faithful people (19.18). A flood of idolatry had overtaken the nation. It was a time of spiritual and moral decline.
Q.3 Can you see any parallels in our own nation at this time?
Elijah – commissioned by God to perform difficult tasks. Beginning in 17.1 – more to follow.
Q. 4 Is there a need for such people to make a stand for God in public life today. Are you aware of any such figures?
Elijah – able to separate himself from the world around him.
Q.5 What do we mean when we say we are to be “in the world but not of the world”?
How easy/difficult is this in our society today?
Elijah – a man who performed many supernatural acts – as we shall see in later studies.
Elijah needed to take one step at a time. He felt called by God to leave his home and deliver a challenging message to King Ahab, a man he knew had no time for the worship of Yahweh.
Q.6 What are the sort of questions he might have been tempted to ask?
Among others …
How will I be received?
What will be the outcome of my visit?
What do I do after my visit?
What if Ahab refuses to meet with me?
If he had waited until all his questions had been answered then he would never have gone!
God leads us one step at a time – we are not to try and work out the whole journey in advance. All God asks of us is to TRUST HIM. Easier said than done!
God does not look for spiritual giants to use for his glory – rather for people who will obey and follow him where he leads. Elijah was a “nobody from nowhere” but he was handpicked by God for a special task.
Q.7 Would you agree that “God does not need the rich, the educated, the intellectual, the beautiful or the movers and shakers to get his work done?”
EXTRA … if you have time you might like to look at 2 Timothy 1.1-7 where Paul encourages Timothy to “keep the faith”.
The genuineness of this letter was almost universally accepted from the early days of the Church. We are to imagine Paul, languishing in some dark, dank dungeon in Rome, from which there is to be no escape from death. His apostolic labours are over. But he still has a concern that the Christian faith will be faithfully passed on to future generations so he sends Timothy – someone thrust into a position of Christian leadership far beyond his natural capacity - a most solemn charge.
Looking at verses 3-7:
He calls Timothy “my beloved child” and elsewhere “my beloved and faithful child in the Lord” (1 Cor 4.17). This suggests he was the human instrument of Timothy coming to faith in Jesus. It is highly likely that when Paul preached to gospel at Lystra (Acts 14.6-7) Timothy both heard and embraced the good news.
What do we learn about Paul’s relationship with Timothy?
Persistent prayer for individuals.
Can we discover any “secret ingredients” of discipleship?
Accepting that it was God who made Timothy who he was (3).
Never be ashamed or afraid to exercise our Christian calling.
Four major influences contributed to the shaping and making of Timothy:
His parental upbringing
His spiritual friendship with Paul
His special endowment from God (6)
His personal discipline
How does Paul affirm Timothy (5)? Do you think this would have been an encouragement to Timothy and, if so, is there a lesson for us?
Why do you think Paul urged Timothy to “kindle afresh the gift of God”? What does this say about the danger of complacency?
At what stage in your Christian life have you been the most passionate for Christ? Do you think that the best is yet to come?
For Christians who are leaders in politics, business, commerce and education.
For our own leaders here in Ashtead Church.
For confidence to stand up for Christ in today’s society. We are more sensitive to public opinion than we like to admit, and tend to bow down too readily before its pressure.
Malcolm Raby, 14/06/2019