Title: Crisis of confidence in God?
Theme: Presence and provision in times of drought
Sermon date: 30th June
Reading: 1 Kings 17
Provide a piece of paper and a pen for everyone and ask them to think of a time when they were in a difficult or drought period in their life when they felt that God spoke to them and gave them direction or provided for them. Ask them to write a mini testimony by answering the following questions:
What was the situation (just a couple of sentences!)?
How did God speak/provide?
How did it affect their faith and that of others?
Ask a few people to volunteer to share their testimony with the group. Encourage brevity.
As always, the questions below are intended to prompt so please be selective as you think best for your group. Do try and cover the whole passage in the study though.
Please read 1 Kings 17 v1 - 18 v. 4
Elijah enters the distressing story of the Kings of Israel with the simple introduction that he is “Elijah the Tishbite from Tishbe in Gilead”. Gilead is on the East bank of the Jordan River and is covered by the hills rising up from the Jordan River valley – it is now in the Kingdom of Jordan. The region would have been part of the Kingdom of Israel at that time – Ahab’s Kingdom. Elijah was the first in a long line of important prophets God sent to Israel and Judah.
At the time, the southern kingdom of Judah was enjoying a relatively long and peaceful period under the godly king Asa – he had been on the throne 38 years when Ahab came to power. But Israel had been through a succession of evil and cruel kings – in fact none of Israel’s kings had been godly people. Now Israel was saddled with King Ahab who “…did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him” (1 Kings 16 v29) and his equally unpleasant wife Jezebel from Tyre; at the time a major city in Phoenicia (now the fourth largest city in Lebanon). She was a worshipper of Baal.
Q.1 Why was God’s message to Ahab so stark in v1? How do you think Elijah felt delivering it?
Look back at 1 Kings 18 v 29-33 and consider Ahab’s lifestyle, choice of wife and spiritual life. Delivering such a message to Ahab would have been a serious risk. It is interesting to note that Baal who Ahab and his wife were worshiping was supposed to be the bringer of rain and good harvests so this would have been a head-on challenge to Ahab.
Q.2 Why does God send Elijah out into the Kerith Ravine to hide?
Look at 1 Kings 18 v 1-4. Jezebel was systematically slaughtering the prophets of the Lord and God had plans for Elijah. God had plans for Elijah in the future.
Q.3 What indicated to Elijah that it was time to move on to Zarephath in Sidon?
Our heavenly Father speaks to us in many ways and we are called to discern his voice through His word, circumstances, prophesy and direct words from God amongst other things. We need to be discerning and learn to recognise God’s hand in things.
Q.4 How do we discern and test God’s word and his commands to us in our own circumstances? How brave are we in acting on His prompts? What might stop us or encourage us to act?
It is odd that God calls Elijah to go north to the region of Sidon, the area which Jezebel was from. It seems as though Elijah is being sent into the lion’s den. God’s promptings do not always lead us to the place of greatest comfort. However, there is a safe place prepared for him in Zarephath.
Q.5 Elijah had some very specific instructions from God which resulted in him going to Jezebel’s home territory of Sidon. Should we expect to get such clear guidance from God in our lives? Why?
Encourage the group to discuss openly and honestly their expectations of hearing from God – as far as possible get personal rather than discussing it in the abstract. There are lots of good accounts of God inspiring and directing ordinary people e.g. God’s Smuggler (Brother Andrew), The Cross and the Switchblade (David Wilkerson) – do include others you know about in the discussion.
Q.6 How could we be more like Elijah and more open to God’s prompting and direction in our lives?
Q.7 If we take a chance on God can we be assured of a smooth ride? Can we be sure God will provide?
There are no guarantees of our personal safety and there are many examples of people following God’s will for them and experiencing hardship or even death. However, God promises to be with us through thick and thin and to provide for our needs. Consider looking at one or more of these verses together:
Mark 4: 35-41, Matthew 28: 18-20; Isaiah 26: 3-4, Psalm 139: 7-10, Psalm 23
Q.8 How can we encourage and support one another as Christian brothers and sisters in discerning God’s will in our lives and responding to God’s call?
Prayer (These are just some prompts and ideas):
Pray for the Church that the leadership would be attuned to God’s voice and would know His will for the people of God – at a local, national and international level.
Pray for one another that we may discover and recognise God’s voice and prompting in our everyday lives.
Maybe there are some in the group who do have particular decision to make – raise them up in prayer and consider how you can support them through the uncertainty.
Phil Marlow, 14/06/2019