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Archive for Elijah


Staying Put

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Now Elijah, who was from Tishbe in Gilead, told King Ahab, “As surely as the LORD, the God of Israel, lives—the God I serve—there will be no dew or rain during the next few years until I give the word!” Then the LORD said to Elijah, “Go to the east and hide by Kerith Brook, near where it enters the Jordan River. Drink from the brook and eat what the ravens bring you, for I have commanded them to bring you food.” So Elijah did as the LORD told him and camped beside Kerith Brook, east of the Jordan. The ravens brought him bread and meat each morning and evening, and he drank from the brook. But after a while the brook dried up, for there was no rainfall anywhere in the land (1 Kings 17:1-7, NLT).

God sent Elijah to Ahab’s palace to deliver a prophetic word: God’s not happy and its not going to rain. Perhaps Elijah anticipated that his next step would be to take the message to the people in the streets. But God sent him to the Kerith Brook to hide. There, Elijah would be fed by scavenger birds and drink from the brook. His assignment? Wait for further instructions. The Bible doesn’t tell us how long he waited there at the brook. Scholars estimate that he remained there between six months and a year. The remarkable thing is not that Elijah went to the Kerith Brook. Its that he stayed there until God gave him his next move.

Brooks don’t dry up all at once. They dry up little by little. With each passing day, Elijah watched his water supply gradually diminish. The Jordan River was just over the hill, and while it certainly experienced the devastation of the drought as well, it would have certainly have provided a more ample and fresher water source than the brook. But Elijah didn’t pull up the anchor and go to the Jordan. He stayed put and waited for God’s next word. I wonder if I would have done the same thing.

Each of us face circumstances in life when we’re tempted to pull up the anchor and strike out on our own. Heaven is silent to our prayers and we see no visible evidence that God is doing anything about our challenges. When we find ourselves waiting for further instructions we often wrestle with the Jordan River that is just over the hill side. If Elijah modeled anything for us in the early stages of his biography, it was his willingness to stay put and continue to trust God. When God plants us somewhere and tells us to wait, he hasn’t forgotten us. He’s preparing us for the next stage of our lives.

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Why God Uses Unlikely People

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Now Elijah, who was from Tishbe in Gilead, told King Ahab, “As surely as the LORD, the God of Israel, lives—the God I serve—there will be no dew or rain during the next few years until I give the word!” (1 Kings 17:1, NLT)

Elijah was a remarkable man. So remarkable, that many thought him to be superhuman. There is some evidence for that. He did not experience death; rather he was “translated.” Elijah appeared 1,000 years later at the transfiguration of Jesus. And some believe Elijah will appear again as one of the two witnesses prior to the return of Christ (cf. Revelation 11:1-12). All of that is impressive, yet James 5:17 says that Elijah was a man “as human as we are.”

Crisis may build our character, but even more crisis reveals our character. When crisis comes into your life it will reveal greatness or smallness. Elijah came on the scene at Israel’s darkest hour. After the kingdom divided after the death of Solomon, Israel had 19 kings. Each king was a little worse than the king before. The timing was right. The greatest OT prophet came at the hour of Israel’s greatest need. Elijah was the right man at the right time.

1 Kings reports that Elijah was from a small village called Tishbe. We don’t really know anything about its location, but we do know that Gilead was a rough, rugged, mountainous region. By geography, Elijah was a country boy. He was probably a shepherd, spending the vast majority of his time alone. He would have only the smallest villages. Ironically, God called this unvarnished, uncultured man to deal with the most sophisticated culture and the most powerful people of his day.

The point I want you to see is that Elijah was an unlikely choice. What were his credentials? Did he have education or experience? There was nothing about him that would cause the nation to observe that he was the likely choice to leave his small community and step onto a very large platform as God’s spokesperson. That’s fairly consistent with others we see God use in the Bible. Think about David, who wasn’t even regarded by his father enough to be presented to Samuel. Think about the prophets, many of whom were uneducated farmers and shepherd. Think about the disciples who were day laborers or fishermen. Think about Paul, though highly education was a Christian killer and persecutor of churches. He was the one selected to begin the gospel movement beyond the borders of Israel to the known world.

As a pastor, the number one reason I get for a negative response to an opportunity to serve is not “I won’t,” but “I can’t.” Whenever I hear someone say, “I can’t do that,” I am reminded that God’s preference is always the unlikely person. God uses unlikely people and places in them in large spaces so his glory can be displayed.

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A Word to those Who are Empty

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Have you ever been thirsty? When I was in high school I spent many a summer day working for farmers in the hay fields putting up hay. My fellow workers and I would trudge up and down the pastures with our hay hooks, throwing as many bales of hay as possible onto the wagon. When the wagon was finally loaded we’d climb on top and ride to the barn. After all of the hay was unloaded and stacked in the hay loft, we’d pause for a drink before heading back to the pasture to repeat the process. I remember drinking long and deep from those plastic milk jugs, listening to the farmer’s warning to not over do it. The promise of water somehow made the journey bearable.

At the conclusion of the longest six hours any person has ever endured, Jesus said, “I thirst.” Christ has been on the cross nearly 6 hours. The work has been completed. The end is near. Jesus had, in every possible way, given everything he had to give. He is exhausted and physically depleted. One can only imagine the sense of thirst. As he exclaims that he’s thirsty, a solder takes a hysso, a javelin, and extends a sponge filled with “sour wine.” Sour wine was a Roman forerunner to our modern day Gatorade. It’s not to be confused with the drink offered in Mark 15:23, a wine drugged with myrrh, which was sometimes offered to those crucified. Jesus refused that drink, opting to experience the depths of suffering to its fullest.

Jesus was parched. Famished. Empty.

As I thought about Jesus total and complete gift, I thought of another Bible character that extended himself in ministry to the point of emptiness and depletion: Elijah.

Elijah, who was Israel’s most celebrated prophet, reached a point during his career that left him totally exhausted. You can read his story in the Old Testament beginning in 1 Kings 17:1. After his famous “Mt. Carmel Showdown,” (1 Kings 18:1-46) Elijah experienced the “Mt. Carmel Meltdown” (1 Kings 19:1-4). Racked with fear and paranoia, he runs and hides from the threats of Queen Jezebel.

What does God prescribe when we are empty? What does God provide when we’ve given until there’s no more left to give? What do we do when we teeter on the brink of burnout?

1. God prescribed rest and food (1 Kings 19:5-8)
2. He led Elijah back to his spiritual roots (1 Kings 19:8b)
3. God allowed Elijah to express his feelings. (1 Kings 19:9-10)
4. God revealed himself to Elijah in a new way (1 Kings 19:11-13)
5. God told Elijah to get back to work. (1 Kings 19:15-18)
6. God provided a partner to minister to Elijah. (1 Kings 19:19-21)

Why do we run ourselves to the point of exhaustion? Perhaps we need to refocus on Jesus words in Matthew 11:28-30. Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light” (NLT).

Sometimes we’re exhausted because we carry the right things. But more often than not, we’re exhausted because we carry the right things the wrong way. Or we carry too many things. Sometimes we pick up things to carry that are not for us to carry. Or we try to carry them alone. Before you pick up that next burden, pray and ask God if its yours to carry. If it is, ask God to help you, and look for a partner to handle the other end of the load.