God will always come where you are!
1 Kings 19:1-18
Ahab, the son of King Omri was one of Israel's most powerful rulers. He was the King of the Northern ten tribes of Israel from 874 to 853 B.C. Many consider him the worst ruler that ancient Israel ever had. His wife Jezebel was so evil that she has come to symbolize revengeful, malicious, immoral and cruel women throughout history. Persuaded by his wife, Ahab built an altar in Samaria (capital city of the northern ten tribes of Israel) dedicated to the false god Baal. Needless to say, God was not happy with him (1Kings 16:30-33).
“Now Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him. And it came to pass, as though it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took as wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians; and he went and served Baal and worshiped him. Then he set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal, which he had built in Samaria. And Ahab made a wooden image. Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before hi” (1 Kings 16:30-33).
When Ahab married Jezebel, he became the first Israelite king in the Bible who allied himself to heathenism through marriage. Jezebel was a pagan princess of a man from Tyre named Ethbaal, who was a priest of the god Astarte.
What Ahab wanted, he got, especially with the help of his evil wife Jezebel. One day he offered his neighbor, Naboth, a choice of either a better vineyard somewhere else or money for the land he owned. Naboth refused. When he could not buy Naboth's land from him he went home and pouted like a little child! When Jezebel found out what happened she “arranged” for her husband to own the land by having the land owner killed (1Kings 21:7-10, 15).
“This king of Israel was so evil that Elijah the prophet prophesied the extermination of him and his entire family. When he repented, however, God let him live and postponed the punishment on his posterity (1Kings 21:17- 29). Jezebel experienced no such repentance like her husband. The Eternal proclaimed that after her death the dogs would fight to eat her flesh by Jezreel's wall (1Kings 21:23).” (Biblestudy.org).
In his sermon, Payday Someday, R.G. Lee addresses Ahab as, “The vile human toad that squatted who on the throne of Israel.” And, Jezebel, as, “The beautiful adder who coiled beside the toad.”
First, consider Israel at this point in their history:
Their political status…divided. The Northern Kingdom was established by Jereboam. Ahab took the throne in 919 BC. These were stormy years: Baasha killed Nadab. Elah killed Zimri. Zimri committed suicide. Omni moved the capital to Samaria. Then Ahab came on the scene (1 Kings 16:28). Three of the first six kings were murdered. Do you think God was in this new government?
Their Commercial status…rich. At this time in their history Israel had made An alliance with the King of Tyre. Ahab built an ivory palace in Samaria (1 Kings 22:39), and made an alliance with the King of Phoenicia, when Ahab married the king's daughter, Jezebel, a priestess of Baal (1 Kings 16:31).
Their religious status…idols. There were two streams from Phoenicia and Egypt: Baal and Ashteroth (1 Kings 16:31-33). This included worship of the sun, moon, stars, the dome of the heavens, and rains and seasons. A Golden Calf was set up in Bethel and Dan (North and South). There were at least 450 prophets of Baal and 400 of the Groves. And there were 400 prophets of Jehovah, under Obadiah, hiding in caves.
How did Israel get in this condition? They sinned against the God who chose them. They rejected God's warnings through His messengers, the prophets! Never underestimate the place of preaching in God's plan for this world. They rejected God's word. They followed bad examples. Israel was filled with false shepherds leading God's people astray.
“Then this message came to me from the Lord: ‘Son of man, prophesy against the false prophets of Israel who are inventing their own prophecies. Say to them, ‘Listen to the word of the Lord. This is what the Sovereign Lord says: What sorrow awaits the false prophets who are following their own imaginations and have seen nothing at all!’ ‘O people of Israel, these prophets of yours are like jackals digging in the ruins. They have done nothing to repair the breaks in the walls around the nation. They have not helped it to stand firm in battle on the day of the Lord. Instead, they have told lies and made false predictions. They say, ‘This message is from the Lord,’ even though the Lord never sent them. And yet they expect him to fulfill their prophecies! Can your visions be anything but false if you claim, ‘This message is from the Lord,’ when I have not even spoken to you?’” (Ezekiel 13:1-7).
They sacrificed their children to heathen gods. The Bible contains heart-breaking stories of child sacrifice practiced in the name of Molech, a god of the Ammonites. Images of Molech were made of bronze, their outstretched arms were heated red-hot, then living children were then placed into the idol’s hands and they died there or were rolled into a fire pit below.” Adapted from, www.gotquestions.org. They were guilty of gross idolatry.
God plainly states to them:
“You must not have any other god but Me. You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those[a] who love me and obey my commands” (Exodus 20:3-6 NLT).
What made the difference for Israel? The Prophet Elijah! He comes on the scene like lightning. “And Elijah the Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead, said to Ahab, ‘As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word’” (1 Kings 17:1).
He was student of the Word of God. He quotes Deuteronomy 11:16,17. And he was a man of prayer (1 Kings 17:1; James 5:16).
He speaks three times:
1. 1 Kings 17:1: God is alive and present. There will be no rain or dew. He challenges Baal, “except at my word.”
2. 1 Kings 18:17-19: He made it plain who was troubling Israel. “When Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said to him, “Is that you, O troubler of Israel? And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father’s house have.”
3. 1 Kings 18:21: On Mount Carmel: “If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, then follow him.” No apology, no compromise, no conditions.
Then he repaired the altar of the Lord that was broken down (1 Kings 18:30). God never sends His fire to a broken down altar! Then it happened…one of the most dramatic scenes in all of Israel's history.
The people in the scene: Elijah, God's courageous Prophet, King Ahab, Queen Jezebel, and the royal household with all their servants, 850 false prophets, and the Children of Israel.
Elijah prays, and God sent the fire. “Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that You are the Lord God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again. Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and the stones and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench. Now when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, ‘The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God!” (1 Kings 18:37-39).
The conditions were right. The nation was a mess. (Revival always comes when God's people are at their lowest point.) The nation was politically divided, commercially rich, and God's people were worshiping idols.
So we have the right man in the right place at the right time, doing the right thing, and God sends the fire! Mount Carmel was a great experience for Elijah, and he was “a man with a nature like ours” (James 5:17).
He was just like us! He went from the mountain of victory to the valley of despair. It seems that in our Christian lives, every mountaintop experience is followed by a valley. Sometimes it is the Valley of Despair.
Now look at our hero: Where Was He? “He himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree (Juniper, a desert bush that grows to a height of about ten feet, slender branches, small leaves, with fragrant blossoms). And he prayed that he might die, and said, ‘It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!’” (1 Kings 19:4).
He as under the tree of fear: He ran for his life. “And when he saw that, he arose and ran for his life, and went to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there” (19:3). He ran! Why did he run? “Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, also how he had executed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, ‘So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time’” (19:1). It is incredible that a man, who has just withstood eight-hundred-fifty false prophets, called down fire from heaven, could be running from one woman.
He was under the tree of discouragement: He prayed that he might die, and said, “It is enough! Now Lord, take my life…” Like Jonah who said, “Throw me overboard.”
He was under the tree away from his responsibility: “Then as he lay and slept under a broom tree…” (Verse 5). There’s Jonah again, asleep in the midst of a storm.
He was under the tree of self-pity: In verse 4 he says, “I am no better than my fathers.” Now he is saying, “I alone am left; and they seek to take my life” (Verse 10). Poor Elijah, all he has left is the Lord! Like the preacher whose notes blew away one windy Sunday morning, he said, “Now all I have left is the Lord.”
He was under the tree of fault-finding: “The children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword” (Verse 10). Elijah is saying, “I'm OK, Lord! It's them!”
God was still there, even under the tree: “Then as he lay and slept under a broom tree, suddenly an angel touched him, and said to him, ‘Arise and eat.’ Then he looked, and there by his head was a cake baked on coals, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank, and lay down again. And the angel of the Lord came back the second time, and touched him, and said, ‘Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you.’ So he arose, and ate and drank; and he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights as far as Horeb, the mountain of God” (Verses 5-8). Even under the tree, God comes to him, and takes care of him. God provided food and drink, and an angel to minister to him.
How did he get out from under the tree?
What would the world say to Elijah? “You've got your priorities wrong!” “You're under too much stress. People are not supposed to be under that much pressure.” It is said that Christians are to be like a tea-kettle, up to our necks in hot water, but still able to whistle. “Elijah, you're just worn out. You need a rest, you're suffering from burnout.”
Really, how did he get out? 1 kings 19:5:8, God sent an angel to sustain him, and send him on his way again. After all, he was there because he took his eyes off of the Lord. In 19:3, we read, “When he saw that!” Whenever we take our eyes off of the Lord and get them on our circumstances, troubles, plans, pleasures, or priorities, we are in serious trouble. What happened when, Peter, walking on water took his eyes off of the Lord. “When he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. ‘Save me, Lord!’ he shouted. Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. ‘You have so little faith,’ Jesus said. ‘Why did you doubt Me?’” (Matthew 14:22-33 NLT).
Now God comes to Elijah saying, “What Are You Doing Here, Elijah?” (19:9,11). When Job was in the valley of despair he said, “Oh, that I might know where to find God, that I might come to His throne” (Job 3:3). It seems that Elijah was in the same frame of mind, but God came where he was! Do not despair, God always comes where you are!
When David was in a cave running from Saul, God came! (1 Samuel 24). When Isaac was on the altar of sacrifice, God came! (Genesis 22). Just listen to Jonah when he was in the gastric juices of a great fish, “Out the belly of hell I cried.” God came! (Jonah 2). When Shadrach, Meshech and Abed-nego were thrown alive into a fiery furnace, God came! (Daniel 3). When Daniel was in the lion's den, God came! (Daniel 6). When Paul was in great distress he wrote, “I bear in my body the marks [stigmata] of the Lord Jesus.” (Galatians 6:17). God always came! When Peter was in prison, God shook the jail until the doors opened, and He came where Peter was! (Acts 12).
God will always come where we are. “Is there anyplace I can go to avoid Your Spirit? to be out of Your sight? If I climb to the sky, You’re there! If I go underground, You’re there! If I flew on morning’s wings to the far western horizon, You’d find me in a minute—You’re already there waiting! Then I said to myself, ‘Oh, He even sees me in the dark! At night I’m immersed in the light! It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to You; night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to You’” (Psalm 139:7-12, MSG).
Oh listen Child of God, He will always come where you are. There is no valley so low, no hole so big, no pressure so great, no sorrow so deep, no mountain so high, no work so exhausting, no stress so debilitating, no responsibility so overwhelming, no depression so crippling that He will not come to you, if you only ask. May God never have to say to us, as He said to Elijah, “What are you doing here?”
Conclusion: In Psalm 137, we find God’s people in Babylonian captivity for seventy years. Just listen to them, “Beside the rivers of Babylon, we sat and wept as we thought of Jerusalem. We put away our harps, hanging them on the branches of poplar trees. For our captors demanded a song from us. Our tormentors insisted on a joyful hymn: ‘Sing us one of those songs of Jerusalem!’ But how can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a pagan land?” (Psalm 137:1-4 NLT).
How many of us have been to the point where we wept in despair. Sing? How can we sing the songs of the Lord in the pagan land of despair? How can we sing the songs of the Lord in the pagan land of depression? How can we sing the songs of the Lord in the pagan land of guilt? How can we sing the songs of the Lord in the pagan land of sin? How can we sing the songs of the Lord in the pagan land of fears, doubts and frustrations?
Oh, listen my friend, God says in Hebrews 13:5: “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (KJV).
And no matter which translation Hebrews 13:5 God says, “I AM always there!”
“I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (KJV).
“I will never fail you. I will never abandon you” (NLT).
“I will never leave you nor forsake you” (NKJV).
“(I will) not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let (you] down (relax My hold on you)! (Assuredly not!)” (AMP).
“I’ll never let you down, never walk off and leave you” (MSG).
“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (NIV).
“I will never, never fail you nor forsake you” (TLB).
“I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you” (NASB).
Did you get the message? God is always there! Hill always come where you are!
“Call on Me when you are in trouble, and I will rescue you, and you will give Me glory” (Psalm 50:15 NLT).
“Is anyone crying for help? God is listening, ready to rescue you. If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there; if you’re kicked in the gut, he’ll help you catch your breath.” (Psalm 34:17,18, MSG).
“I will lift up my eyes to the hills—From whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1-2).
“Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
And we are thrilled with Elijah’s last spectacular event! “As they (Elijah and Elisha) were walking along and talking, suddenly a chariot of fire appeared, drawn by horses of fire. It drove between the two men, separating them, and Elijah was carried by a whirlwind into heaven” (2 Kings 2:11 NLT).
What a way to go! Our going will be just as spectacular when Jesus cokmes for us: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16,17).
Unless otherwise noted the New King James Version of the Bible was used. Also: The New Living Translation (NLT); The Living Bible (TLB); The Amplified Bible (AMP); The New American Standard Bible (NASB); The Message (MSG); The New International Version (NIV); and the King James Version (KJV).