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With the change in the weather, my girls have enjoyed playing outside again. What they enjoy most at the ages of 4 & 9 is the way the ground is saturated with water. No matter where you walk, the sound of squishing mud and drowning earthworms is undeniable. It won’t be long though and we will be praying for rain. Living in Southern Indiana, this is to be expected. It is hot or cold, wet or dry.
Our lives and relationships can seem the same way, swinging from one extreme to the other in a matter of minutes, especially when we place our faith in someone or something other than God. One day our marriages seem saturated with happiness and joy. The sound of the stock market bell closing at an all-time high leaves our confidence soaring. The discovery of “another earth like planet” by scientists leads us to believe that we might not be alone after all in this universe. But then the stock market bottoms out. The person we have given our life to walks away with another man. That second earth? It’s just another planet in a solar system that is endless with discoveries… Then where is our hope?
We aren’t the first to experience this journey and neither will we be the last. But there is a discovery awaiting us all. And that discovery is faith in the God of the bible. This is the journey we’ve been on the last 4 weeks and this week we come to the stand-off between faith and hope placed in people and things, and faith placed in the God of the Bible.
There are three discoveries that we make in 1 Kings Chapter 18:
First, Every false god when put to the test will be proven just that, a false god. Think of your life. Ever rely on someone other than God to give you comfort, help you with a problem, and develop you into the person you want to be? Did they ever give you more than a temporary fix? How did they leave you when the fix wore off? Ever find yourself in a never-ending cycle of ups and downs depending on how much you poured into the relationship, the house, the job, and the vacations?
In 1 Kings chapter 18, Elijah tells the people – Let’s put your god Baal to the test. Whichever god answers with fire, He is the God of the Bible.
Verse 26 says the challenge was on. “The people called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. “O Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered… So they started dancing around the altar they had made… They shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. They continued all the way into the evening. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.”
We see the scars, don’t we, sometimes even visible scars on our lives, from trying to get gods like Baal to answer us and fulfill us.
And the truth is, there isn’t a Baal out there that will answer the way God will. Scripture says that the pleasures of sin will pass, self- confidence will always answer with doubt. Other people will answer with what other people want you to hear. But God says, “Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear (Isaiah 65:24 NIV). “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds, to him who knocks the door will be opened” (Luke 11:9-10 NIV). God is saying… “I’m right here. I always have been. All creation testifies to my existence. I created you and I know exactly what you need… But I’m not going to force myself on you. It’s up to you to ask… and just like the prodigal son, when you do know I’m already hearing you, I’m already engaging you.”
Some of you are thinking, “but He hasn’t answered me.” I say to you He has, you just aren’t willing to accept the answer He has given you, the answer that lines up with who He says that He is and what He says He will do. Remember, God is the God of the Bible, not the Baal we’ve created.
In verse 30, after these prophets of Baal had failed to get an answer from this object of their attention and worship. Verse 30 says, “Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come here to me.” They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the Lord, which was in ruins (and listen, when we have given our lives over to other things, there is a lot of destruction, there is a lot of lost opportunity). Elijah took twelve stones, one of each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, saying, “Your name shall be Israel.” With the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two seahs of seed. He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, “Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood.”
Elijah led the people to do 3 things. Up until this point – Elijah had been the bold one. Now, it was the people’s turn. And listen, now it is your turn and my turn. You want to discover faith in the God of the bible; you have to take the next step. I can’t take it for you; Elijah couldn’t take it for them. And so Elijah gives them three directives that are essential to resolving the stand-off that we come to in our own faith discovery journey. Let’s write them down together
First he said:
1) “Come here to me.” What he was really saying is return to
God. Come home to God. Remember, Elijah was God’s prophet, his spokesman. When Elijah said “Come here to me, it was God saying to the people. “Come here to me… Come home. No matter how far you have wandered, no matter how long you have denied God’s existence, God is calling you to himself in the middle of this stand-off you are in. Go stand by God. But don’t just stand by him, give him your heart, give him your questions, give him your desires. Are you single – let him be your husband, your wife, until he gives you a person on earth. Are you married? Love your spouse the way God loves you even when you feel like you are standing alone in that relationship.
Sometimes that first step takes some boldness. To stand for what is right and true. To stand with God even when it feels like you are the only one standing there. There were 850 people representing Baal, the world. And then there was Elijah. But with Elijah was God.
2) Restore the connection between God and me. The altar was broken. The altar represented the connection between God and the people. As Elijah put each stone back in place, these stones held significance, they were reminders of the brokenness the people experienced as they lived outside of God’s will and direction. But they were also reminders of the promises of God. That they were chosen, just as the 12 tribes of Israel were chosen and had a heritage, you and I we have a heritage, we were chosen by God to be the recipients of His love and grace. “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God” (1 John 3:1a NIV).
3) The third thing Elijah does is he tells the people to bring what’s most valuable and pour it on the altar. Verse 33 says, “He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood.” But it is in the second half of the verse we see the real offering, when he tells the people to bring 4 large jars of water to pour on the altar. Three times Elijah instructed them to fill these large jars of with water and pour it on the wood and offering.
I believe these 4 jars of water, that became 12 jars of water, represented something more than a challenge for God to light water soaked wood. Remember, these people were in year 4 of a drought. Not even a drop of dew had fallen for over 3 years. Water was valuable, probably the most valuable thing they had at the time to offer God.
In the New Testament book of Romans, Paul, a man who was all-in, writes to the people he cares about and he says, “Bring what’s most valuable and offer it only to God alone. Offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God” (Romans 12:1 NIV).
I challenge you to find a Bible and read the rest of the account for yourself. I will tell you this though, the rain that had disappeared for over 3 years returned as the people discovered that there is only one true and living God. But more important than the rain, is the fulfillment we find only in complete faith and surrender to God.
Join us this weekend on Saturday at 5:30 and Sunday at 10:30 and take your next step toward discovering faith.
I look forward to sharing the journey with you.