Sermon November 8, 2015: Come out of the cave

Posted in Sermons
[Susan Combs]
  • Presenter: Susan Combs
  • Date: November 8, 2015
  • Location: Congregación León de Judá, Boston MA

First Kings 18, you may be familiar with the story. It deals with the prophet Elijah challenging the prophets of Baal during a time when the people of Israel had left worshiping Jahweh and where worshiping idols instead. So Elijah sets up a competition, a challenge to the prophets of Baal. He says, now we’ll see who is the true God, and you can set up your own altar for Baal and cry to him for fire to be sent from your Baal god on this altar, and I’ll build an altar to the Lord, to Jahweh and I’ll call on his name and we’ll see who answers with fire. And that’s exactly what happens, the prophets of Baal build their altar and they stand all morning and all day, crying out to their god to answer with fire. And then we see Elijah starting to mess with them a little bit, he starts teasing them, he says, “Maybe your god is taking a little nap.”

And then Elijah says, “Okay, enough of that, now it’s my turn.” So he commands them to build the altar to the Lord and we know he cries out to the Lord. So, we will be in First Kings, chapter 18 beginning in verse 36.

“… At the time of the sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, Lord, answer, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God and that you are turning their hearts back again.” Then fire from the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord, he is God! The Lord, he is God !” Then Elijah commanded them, “Seize the prophets of Baal. Don’t let anyone get away.” They seized them, and Elijah had them brought down to the Kishon Valley and slaughtered there.”

Here in this passage we see the longing of Elijah and the purpose for which he did all this. He was crying out for a national revival. How many people here want to see a national revival? Pastor Roberto was talking about earlier. We want to see a revival at a national level. He states his purpose, “Lord, that they know that you are the Lord and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, so these people know that you are God and that you’re turning their hearts back again.” So that the nation would know who is God. So that the nation would see who is God.

And God responded not just in any way. He sent fire not just to consume the sacrifice but the stones upon which the sacrifice was placed, the wood and also the water that had been poured over the sacrifice and filled the trench around it. The fire consumed it all. The Lord did exactly what Elijah asked him to do. Everything was ready now, the scene was set for a national revival. Now God does another miracle, starting with verse 41, part two of the story.

“…And Elijah said to Ahab, “Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound of heavy rain.” – There had been a famine – So Ahab went off to eat and drink, but Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel, bent down to the grown and put his face between his knees. “Go and look toward the sea,” he told the servant. He went up and looked, “There is nothing there,” he said. Seven times Elijah said, “Go back.” The seventh time the servant reported, “A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea.” So, Elijah said, “Go and tell Ahab, ‘Hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.” Meanwhile the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain started falling and Ahab rode off to Jezreel.”

And here we see a great man of God, a man of faith, a man who didn’t move without consulting the Lord first, a man of integrity, who loved the Lord with his whole heart. And he prays twice and God does two great miracles. First the fire, and then after 3 and a half years of drought Elijah prayed and there was rain.

Now we’re going to see the human side of Elijah. In verse 46, let’s read this together in English and Spanish out loud.

“…The power of the Lord came on Elijah and, tucking his cloak into his belt, he ran ahead of Ahab all the way to Jezreel.”

What was a holy prophet of God doing running alongside of the chariot of a pagan king? Why did he join with him in this time? And when we look at the lives of the prophets and then we look to the way it is nowadays, why is it that everyone wants to be a prophet or an Apostle? Because when we really look at the lives of the prophets in the Bible or the Apostle in the New Testament, things were not too easy for them, it was hard. They would live for extended periods of time isolated. We see Elijah over and over again in the desert, completely alone, fed by the crows, the ravens. He had a precious relationship with God but I think maybe he was lacking a little bit of human inter personal relating as well. And maybe he needed and lacked the feeling of approval from other human beings.

So, in this case before he runs he doesn’t consult with the Lord first. And that stands out because when you look at the life of Elijah you see, every time before he does something he prays first, he consults the Lord first. The Lord would speak to him and then he would take action. But not here. and I wonder if just knowing human nature, I wonder if in this case he was just thinking to himself, now I’m going to prove it. fire impressively had fallen. It had rained after 3 and a half years. Impressive. Maybe he thought, now people are going to have to accept me. So he’s running with Ahab all the way to the city of Jezreel, but maybe he’s not going to find anything good there.

Chapter 19, 1 and 2.

“Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.”

Now he’s in a tough spot but not impossible. Just saw fire from heaven fall, he just saw rain from heaven come, and now Jezebel threatens him, how will our hero of faith respond to this threat? Verse 3, let’s have everyone read it, English and Spanish out loud together.

“…Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there.”

What about the revival? And what about the miracle God had done through him? What about the position that God had assigned to him in the nation? If we put ourselves in the position of the people of Isarel at that moment, just imagine they’ve seen this hero of the faith cry out they say fire from heaven fall, they same him cry out again, they saw rain from heaven fall, people cried out together, “This is the true God, the Lord.” There it said this is the true God.

And now this great hero of the faith gets up and runs away. The Lord has assigned us a position, assignments, like the circle you move in, God has assigned you to certain places, certain situations, certain positions in life, in society. God’s purpose of putting you there is that you would shine, but those spots are not always so easy and sometimes we may want to be like Elijah and run away.

How many are in tough jobs? How many are in a very secular environment surrounded by darkness? How many are studying in schools where there is a lot of darkness? How many might be in families when every now and then you might want to run away? It can happen. How are we going to react? For how many here has God done great miracles in your life? For him too but he apparently he forgot the fire and the water. With the words of Jezebel threatened him, all those victories just went away. Before a great challenge he wasn’t afraid but before a smaller challenge he fell apart.

How many people if we put all our religiosity aside and we’re honest, would say, you know that happens to me too? He goes running away. Verse 4.

“…while he himself Elijah went away a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I’ve had enough, Lord,” he said, “Take my life, I am no better than my ancestors.”

If he really wanted to die then what’s he doing running away from Jezebel? She would have taken care of business for him, right? so, obviously he doesn’t really want that. he was emotionally out of control at this point. I think maybe here he was really realizing the gravity of his error, his mistake, because he had abandoned a position in which God had placed him to bring a national revival. That’s why he’s saying, “That’s enough, Lord, I’m no better than my ancestors. I just want to die.”

He was broken down. Now, being broken can be a good position because when we are broken down that’s when God stoops down and raises us up and he restores us. down in verse 5 through 7, we’re going to read this again together.

“…Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and they lay down again. The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.”

So, here is Elijah, he has failed the Lord in a great way. And God comes and doesn’t rebuke him or scold him. God’s dealing with Elijah just melts my heart when I see the tenderness of God with Elijah. A great failure, he had abandoned his post, and in three verses he goes over and over saying that God helps him go to sleep, sends an angel to cook food for him and restores his soul. He physically takes care of him, he was exhausted. He had run in the desert in his own strength, he was emotionally and physically drained.

Sometimes when we are exhausted we rebuke demons of exhaustion. It won’t happen to you like it happened to me. In my apartment years ago we had an old piano and I was sitting at the dining table maybe a few feet from the piano and I was alone in the house, and the piano started playing and I’m watching the piano and the piano was playing. And I thought, it’s a demon that is trying to scare me, but I’m not going to let him scare me, I’m going to ignore him. I continued studying and preparing my message and the piano kept playing and I got tired so I stood up to rebuke this piano playing demon, but before I rebuked I thought, I’ll just take a look under the hood here, I opened up the cover, and there was a mouse in the piano. He was eating these different things and he would pull and he was making the sounds with those chords. I was about to rebuke a demon and it was just a little revival rat trying to play music, praising the Lord with the piano. Say, Look, there are demons but not everything is a demon.

So, the Lord in a beautiful way ministers physically to Elijah. Say to someone around you, we have to take care of this temple of the Holy Spirit. In verse 8 it says;

“…So he up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food he traveled 40 days and 40 nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.”

So, that was a food that really nourished. 40 days and 40 nights of walking. In verse 9:

“…There he went into a cave and spent the night. And then the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Now, when he responds to this question it almost seems like that those 40 days and nights he had been memorizing this religious response he was going to give when he had the chance. Under the tree he was broken, he recognized his error, his mistake, but now he seems to have prepared a defense for himself before the Lord. Verse 10 demonstrates this:

“…He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

God says, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” And he says, “It’s everyone else’s fault why I am here. I haven’t failed, everyone else has failed.” How many people here might have the tendency to blame everyone else? Okay, let’s get that hand up nice and high. It’s confession time here.

He’s hiding in a cave with the mentality of a victim, saying, I’m a victim of everyone else. If we have that mentality we’re never going to go anywhere. The Lord asks him, what are you doing here, Elijah? “It’s not my fault, it’s everyone else’s fault.” If he would just have said, “Lord, I’ve failed. I am guilty. Lord, I ran away out of fear, I was afraid even after seeing you sent fire and rain, even then I was afraid and I abandoned the post to which you had assigned me.” And I think God would have moved heaven and earth to restore him to that position and the history of Israel would have been different. But he didn’t do that, he said, it’s everyone else’s fault and I am innocent.

Careful. we have that tendency to lock ourselves up in a cave, to lock ourselves up in depression, in discouragement, in anger, feeling that we are victimized by everything around us. but the word says that we are more than conquerors. We need to break that mentality of the cave. We need to be honest with the Lord and before others, take off that mask, take away that mask of religiosity pretending that I’m perfect and I’ve got all the answers. We all fail and say to someone, I fail sometimes. I sometimes commit errors. Say to someone, I’m not perfect. And if you’re with a family member, they can tell you that. Sometimes I’m not so easy. Sometimes I can be a little difficult. For how many this is true? Thank you for that honestly. The Lord can change us all.

And we see that Elijah had his memorized, he’s going to repeat it later. We pick up again in verse 11.

“…The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.”

Three strong manifestations: powerful wind, an earthquake, fire, but the Lord wasn’t in any of those manifestations. In other parts of the word, we read that the Lord does reveal himself in those specific manifestations in other moments. Powerful wind, Acts, chapter 2, Pentecost. An earthquake we read it in Ezekiel 37 and again Acts chapter 4. And we read about fire just in the chapter before when the Lord sent fire to consume the sacrifice. But this time when Elijah was so emotionally down the Lord didn’t speak to him in a strong voice this time, the word says:

“…And after the fire came a gentle whisper.” A little whistle.

That’s how Elijah was called right here. He didn’t speak to him in a strong voice here, he did the following: Elijah! He called him with tenderness. He called him with a soft voice because he loved Elijah, he wanted to restore Elijah. It was a situation when the Lord could have been very angry with Elijah but no.

And if you have failed the Lord and you’ve been afraid to come back to him again, he calls you this morning. Come out of the cave. He’s calling you with tenderness, with tenderness. It could be that you have failed in significant ways, but his desire is to restore you.

“…When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went and stood at the mouth of the cave. And then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

He gives his memorized religious response. He hadn’t been broken by the tenderness of the Lord. How do we respond to the tenderness of the Lord? How is your relationship with God? The relation with God should be something beautiful and marvelous, that we wake up every day just longing for a new day with God, that we go to sleep at night feeling the gentle presence of the Lord over us.

He wants that kind of intimate, close relationship with his people. It’s the longing of God for you. And so often it’s us, we put up religious walls between ourselves and the Lord instead of lowering those barriers that we’ve set up in our hearts, to say, “Yeah, God, you’re right, this is the way I am. I have failed. Please have mercy on me, Lord. Forgive me.

God has great purposed for everyone of us here in this place today. He longs to have you in that place where he can minister to you directly without any barriers, because his love for you cannot be expressed in words, Spanish and English combined don’t do it justice. It’s not possible. His love is too great.

In this morning I would like to pray for various things. First, if you have failed the Lord in some way, you have hidden yourself in the cave and maybe you’ve been blaming others, this could be something that happened a long time ago, but you remember it and you rehearse it and go over about who is really responsible. You feel like a victim, you’ve made yourself a victim. If now you want to leave out of that place, stand up right where you are because God wants to do something in your life today.

And maybe you’re done just blaming others, you say, “God I want to take responsibility for my errors before you and before others. I want to be courageous to face my errors. Stand up wherever you are and raise up your hands to the Lord. This is a decision that is personal, that’s yours, only you can do this. This kind of change can’t happen by someone else praying for you, it’s your decision. I’m not going to stay the same, I’m not going to continue like this.

Raise up your hands and recognize in your own words, talk to the Lord just quietly, right where you are. Tell him, tell him. Look honestly your own responsibility and ask forgiveness. And ask forgiveness for blaming others. And you say, Lord, I want to change today. Say it out loud in your own voice. I renounce the tendency to blame others. Help me to be transparent, to be honest, to take responsibility of my own decisions and my own actions. Forgive me, God. Change me, God. I am more than a conqueror in Christ Jesus and I can do all things in Christ Jesus who strengthens me. I am not a victim of anyone else, I belong to the Kingdom of God, I am the son or daughter of God. Thank you Lord. Thank you Lord.

Thank you God. And I’d like to pray for one more thing. The calling of God is not fulfilled automatically, we need to participate, it requires our confident yes to the Lord. Elijah had left away from the calling of God for revival, he had been running away. And if you are in a difficult position, it could be a marriage, a hard job, it could be a difficult study and God hasn’t told you to leave but again and again there is that desire in your heart to just leave everything behind, and this morning you will say, God, I want to be courageous, I want to stay persevering till you tell me to leave.

I want to fulfill your purposes in that place through my life, and if this morning you want to say yes Lord, use me right there, just raise your hands say, God, I want you to use me right there in that situation. Lord I made the decision this morning to be courageous, to stay put in a tough place. I don’t want to leave running away, help me, God. Strengthen me, God. Lord, give me your spirit, give me your word, Lord, please strengthen me in that place. Prepare me in that place to conquer that land in your name, in the name of Jesus. Amen.

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