This has been an incredible week for all of us in Vacation Bible School. We’ve been on an expedition to Mt. Everest and have learned that on the long journey of life God is faithful to provide everything we need for the journey. Our very first memory verse of the week was from 2 Corinthians 9:8 where Paul wrote, “And God will generously provide all you need.,,” We need that assurance on the journey of life because sometimes the unexpected can happen, oftentimes the unexpected is certain to happen. Sometimes things don’t go according to plan on this journey of life. Sometimes terrifying times can come about in our lives, scary times when we need to be reassured that God will provide for us everything we need for the journey. This isn’t just a truth that our children have learned in Vacation Bible School, it is a reality that happens in people’s lives each and every day.
Less than three months ago Garrett Madison and a group of fourteen men and women who had been training for a year set out to climb the 29,000 behemoth, Mt. Everest, in April of this year. Those who were with Garrett were strong, they had trained hard, they were confident, not only in their abilities, but in the ability of Garrett, their guide who had climbed Mt. Everest six times in the past. On April 22, just before the group headed out, someone posted:
We have had a fantastic week of training in the lower Khumbu glacier! After our Puja ceremony we spent 6 days reviewing fixed line techniques, climbing vertical ice, climbing ladders, rappelling, and we climbed about 1/3 of the way up the Khumbu Icefall route to Camp 1. The route seems easier than the last few years; however we are looking forward to the vertical ladder sections.
Everything was ready. Supplies had been checked and rechecked. Everyone was excited to make the 29,000 foot climb. Just three days later, on April 25, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal and shook Mt. Everest to the bedrock. Garrett and his group had almost made it to Camp Two, located at 21,000 feet, when the earthquake hit. They knew something had happened, but they didn’t realize the severity of the situation until they made contact with Base Camp, located at 17,500 feet. The earthquake had caused an avalanche on the lower Khumba Icefall that unleashed a wall of wind, ice, and rock that blew through Base Camp with a devastating force. The cook’s tent was blown 150 meters from where it was located just seconds earlier. Many were injured and Garrett’s fiancée, Physician’s Assistant, Eve Girawong, the 29 year old medic for the expedition had been killed.
Garrett decided that he needed to turn his group around and get them down the mountain as soon as possible. After two days of strategizing while at Camp Two they began their journey back to Camp One. The route had been altered, but they made it back to Camp One. That would be as far as they could go—there was no route back to Base Camp. They tried to figure out a new route, but none was available. They were stuck. The weather was bad so helicopters weren’t available like they normally are on Mt. Everest when they are needed. Their food and water supplies were running low.
The next day the weather and the altitude were still not favorable, but three helicopter pilots decided they needed to do something to try and rescue those who were stranded. Because of the high altitude, the helicopters were only able to bring two people down the mountain at a time. By the time they finished 180 people had been airlifted from Base Camp to safety.
Garrett Madison had done everything humanly possible to prepare himself and the fourteen men and women who had trained for the ascent up Mt. Everest. They had done everything right and yet the unexpected happened. You can’t prepare for the unexpected, but you can trust God in all situations.
The unexpected doesn’t just happen for mountain climbers, it happens for everyone. Sometimes life can be scary. Sometimes we can prepare, plan, and pray and yet things just don’t go the way we envisioned them taking place on this journey of life. In those times we can know God’s promise to provide for us what we need in those scary, unsettling times is—He is able.
One of the people in God’s Word that we spent some time with on our journey this week was the prophet Elijah. Elijah was a great prophet of God. In 1 Kings 17:1-5, we read where God told him to go to king Ahab and tell him the bad news of what was going to happen because Ahab and the people of Israel had turned away from God. Read along with me.
1 Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.” 2 Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah: 3 “Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. 4 You will drink from the brook, and I have directed the ravens to supply you with food there.” 5 So he did what the LORD had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. (1 Kings 17:1-5 NIV)
Elijah did exactly what the Lord had told him to do. It didn’t rain in Israel for three years. Three years! King Ahab and the people of Israel were feeling the effects of the drought, but instead of turning from their sin they were turning on the prophets of God. We read in 1 Kings 18:4 that “Jezebel was killing off the Lord’s prophets.” Jezebel was King Ahab’s wife. She was busy killing off the prophets of God and installing her own brand of prophets in their place. Jezebel had at least 850 false prophets. Some of them were worshipers of Baal and others were worshipers of Asherah, none were worshipers of the One True and Living God.
There was a lot going on in Jerusalem wasn’t there? There’s no doubt that it wasn’t popular to be a follower of God during the reign of Ahab and Jezebel. For those who were followers of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—they probably weren’t looking for homes in Jerusalem. Yet, in 1 Kings 18, we read that God told Elijah to go see Ahab once again. This time God wanted Elijah to challenge the false prophets of Jezebel to a showdown on Mount Carmel. When Ahab saw Elijah he said, “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?” Turn with me to 1 Kings 18:18-19 and let’s read together.
18 “I have not made trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “But you and your father’s family have. You have abandoned the LORD’s commands and have followed the Baals. 19 Now summon the people from all over Israel to meet me on Mount Carmel. And bring the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.” (1Ki 18:18-19 NIV)
Did you notice where the false prophets were getting their meals? At the table of the Queen. Are you kidding me?! It’s a long story, too long for us to read this morning, but the Queen’s prophets met Elijah, just Elijah, the prophet of God at Mount Carmel. Elijah told them to sacrifice a bull and put it on the altar—he would do the same. The God that answered by fire would be declared to be the real God, the one true God. The prophets of Baal and Asherah would go first. Of course nothing happened. False prophets serve a false god, an imagery god that is really no god at all so nothing happened. When it was time for Elijah to lay his sacrifice on the altar he was so confident of what God had called him to do that he had some of the people pour water over the sacrifice. We can read about it in 1 Kings 18:32-35.
32 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. 33 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.” 34 “Do it again,” he said, and they did it again. “Do it a third time,” he ordered, and they did it the third time. 35 The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench. (1 Kings 18:32-35 NIV)
That’s confidence. Fire and water don’t go together, but Elijah wanted there to be no doubt in anyone’s mind about the power of his God. Elijah wasn’t cocky, he wasn’t brash, he wasn’t arrogant—he had been told what to do and Elijah was going to be obedient to God even if it made no sense at all. After the water had been poured on the sacrifice Elijah raised his voice and prayed. Look at 1 Kings 18:36-37 with me.
36 At the time of 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 that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 37 Answer me, LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.” (1 Kings 18:36-37 NIV)
Elijah wasn’t on Mount Carmel to win a popularity contest or to impress the people with his power to do what the false prophets couldn’t do—He was there to bring glory to God and to turn the wayward hearts of the people back to God once again. We read that immediately God answered Elijah’s prayer, fire came down from heaven, consumed the sacrifice, and the people cried out, “The Lord—He is God! The Lord—He is God!” Elijah had the false prophets seized and killed.
Word got back to Jezebel about what had happened and she was livid! She had a messenger track down Elijah and let him know that she was going to kill him before the sun set the next day. That’s not the way the story is supposed to go is it? Stop and think about it. Elijah had been perfectly obedient. He had done everything the Lord had told him to do. Elijah had risked his life by going back to see Ahab while his wife was killing all of the Lord’s prophets. Ahab and Jezebel were supposed to repent of their sins and make Elijah the Bishop of Jerusalem, not put a bounty on his head! When Jezebel’s messenger found Elijah and delivered her message, Elijah was scared to death. In 1 Kings 19:3-10 we read,
3 Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, 4 while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” 5 Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” 6 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 then lay down again. 7 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.” 8 So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. 9 There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the LORD came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 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.” (1 Kings 19:3-10 NIV)
Elijah was exhausted. He was fearful. He had had enough and he asked the Lord to just take his life. Let’s end this now! That’s what Elijah meant when he prayed, “I have had enough Lord!” I can’t do this anymore. Have you ever felt that way with the trials you’ve gone through in life?
The journey of life can be exhausting can’t it? They told us that if we would just give our life to Christ, stop living for ourselves, and live to please God that our life would get better and better. They may have even given you a book by a big name preacher called something like, “Your Best Life Now!” Or, maybe you’ve heard testimonies of other people who were down in the depths of despair, teetering on the brink of death when they gave their life to Christ, and then everything changed for the better. I’m not disputing those people’s testimonies at all. I praise God for their testimony, but I want you to know that most of us who have surrendered our lives to Christ go through various trials and troubles, we’ve cried over struggles that have worn us out, and we’ve had our hearts broken on numerous occasions. We’ve prayed and prayed and things didn’t work out. I want you to know that it has nothing to do with a lack of faith on your part. The heartache and sorrow that we will go through doesn’t mean that God doesn’t love us or care for us. If you ever question that then look back to Elijah and remember how faithful he had been to God’s call on his life, remember how bold he was in carrying out everything God told him to do, and also remember the depth of despair he experienced while he fell to sleep under the broom bush and prayed to die.
I also want you to remember one more thing when you find yourself going through the painful times of life—remember how God came to comfort Elijah. The Lord didn’t say, “Elijah, what are you doing! Where is your faith? You are pathetic!” Most Bible teachers believe the “angel of the Lord” was really God Himself who had come down to minister to the needs of His faithful, but discouraged servant. Did you notice what the angel of the Lord did when He came to Elijah? He gave him some food and water and let him rest. Sometime after Elijah fell back to sleep the angel of the Lord came to him again and gave him some more food and water and said, “Get up and eat for the journey is too much for you.” Elijah drew strength from the rest, food and water, and he traveled for forty days and nights until he got to a cave where he fell to sleep. The Lord came to him and asked, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Do you think the Lord was on a fact finding mission trying to figure out what was going on with Elijah? No way. No one knew better than the Lord what Elijah was going through. He had been with him all along the way. He was there on Mt. Carmel. He was there when Elijah was running for his life. He was there as he slept under the broom bush. He brought Elijah food, water, and gave him rest. He was with him every step of the way as Elijah traveled for forty days and forty nights. Elijah needed to talk and the Lord listened as Elijah talked. Sometimes when we are in the crucible of tough times a talk with God can do us a great amount of good.
Paul told the people in Corinth that He is the God who “comforts us in all of our troubles.” He comforted Elijah and He is able to comfort you and me. What it is that you are facing today that has you troubled? What is it that keeps you up at night? I want to invite you to turn your heart to the Lord, share with Him what’s going on in your heart and mind, and know that He cares for you and is able to provide for you exactly what you need in your time of need.
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
July 12, 2015
1 Kings 17-19