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The Word of the Lord Is True
03/26/2006
Scripture: 1 Kings 17
Track 13 of 27 in the Transforming Story As God Gave It series
Running time: 32 minutes, 30 seconds.


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Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

View all sermons by this speaker.


Sermon for Sunday, March 26, 2006
13th sermon in a 27 part series
"The Word of the Lord is True"
The Transforming Story As God Gave It
(1 Kings 17)
Copyright 2006 G. Charles Sackett


You wonder where in the world God is and why it's taking Him so long to act in any particular situation. One of my favorite sermons from a hundred years ago or so was a sermon written by a preacher named Arthur Gossip. The name of the sermon is "When Life Tumbles in. . . .What Then?" It was written shortly after the unexpected death of his spouse. It's based on a text, rather obscure text, in the book of Job that talks about what happens to a person who can't walk in normal times when they have to run with horsemen.

What happens to a person who can't cross a river when it's at its regular stage and all of a sudden they discover that it's at flood stage at that point in their life. "When life tumbles in. . . .What then?" In that sermon he says this. "You people in the sunshine may believe in faith, but we in the shadows must believe it. We don't have anything else." You who are in the sunshine may believe in faith, but those of us who are in the shadows must believe it. Because we don't have anything else.

I'm quite certain Israel felt that way. I just have, absolutely no doubt, that in the life of Israel, there were times when they found themselves wondering "what in the world was going on?" Where was God? Why was He silent? What was going on in their life that would cause God to be so remote, so removed?

We've watched them cross the river. We've seen them take over the territory. We watched them go through the period of the judges when they all did everything they ever wanted.

We came to the story of Ruth where we were introduced to the fact that God is going to be faithful to His promise and we got introduced to the king. Well, at least, the potential king, David.

Last week we saw that David was, well, he was human just like the rest of us and struggled and suffered among the rest of us. It wasn't long after David that Israel began to experience a divided kingdom. As the story goes, Samuel comes along. Anoints Saul as king. Saul doesn't do his job well and so God anoints David to be king. David reigns for about forty years, a tumultuous kind of reign in which we see some of the things that we saw last week. His son (Bathsheba's son, by the way) Solomon takes the throne and reigns for another forty years. It's at that point that Israel is at its peak. They are the wealthiest nation in the world. They are the most powerful nation in the world. They are respected by all. There are people who come to Jerusalem just to see Solomon and to hear his wisdom. It is a marvelous time in the life of the kingdom.

When Solomon is ready to hand on the throne, his son, Rehoboam, is the logical person to take it. Rehoboam, however, doesn't have much common sense. Whatever Solomon had, he didn't seem to pass on to his son. When it came time for Rehoboam to take over the kingdom, he wanted to know. "What should I do? How should I reign? What will allow these people to follow me?" And the response of his advisors was "Let up on the taxes. Let up on the pressure. These people have been building buildings and paying taxes and doing things to enhance the kingdom. It's time for them to be given some relief." But instead of listening to those advisors, he went to some other friends, some young friends and they said, "No! Put your thumb down on them. Make it even worse." And so he did. And it split the kingdom.

The ten northern tribes went with Jereboam and the two southern tribes stayed with Rehoboam and suddenly you have this history now of north and south, Israel and Judah, king after king after king and every king, as you read through the book of 1 Kings, is identified with the north or the south. But they are also always identified with David. They either did the things that David did or they did the things that David didn't do, but they were always evaluated in the light of King David.

The story that we engage today is the story of the worst of the bunch. His name is Ahab. We find him introduced in 1 Kings 16 and will be moving then into 1 Kings 17 for our primary text.

We have passed, oh, about a hundred and fifty years or so, a hundred seventy-five years into Israel's history. The kingdom is divided. Israel to the north. Judah to the south. And if you were a reader of this story, if you were a Jewish person stepping back looking at your history, you're reading the story of 1 Kings trying to figure out what in the world happened to the glory days of Israel. If you can read this text in that light, it will help you, I think, understand what the author was trying to communicate.

He introduces us in 1 Kings 16:29 to King Ahab.

In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab son of Omri became king of Israel, (the northern tribe) and he reigned in Samaria (that's the capital city) over Israel twenty-two years. Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him. He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, but he also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him. . . . . . . . . .He set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he built in Samaria. Ahab also made an Asherah pole and did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger than did all the kings of Israel before him.

That's not exactly the kind of legacy that you'd like to leave. That's not the kind of evaluative statement that you'd like to have written about you. That you did more evil than all the kings before you.

It's at that moment that we get introduced to our text in 1 Kings 17. So lets move to that story. It starts out rather fascinating. 1 Kings 17:1. 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."

Do you notice something here? First time you've ever seen Elijah. Oh you know his name well because you live on the other side of the story. But, out of nowhere, this guy just shows up. Walks up to the king and says, "By the way, it's not going to rain until I tell you otherwise." And then, we're going to watch him just disappear for three and a half years.

Now Elijah has a very unusual name. If you take it apart it consists of two words. Eli and jah. You should, by now, begin to recognize at least one if not both of those words.

Genesis 1 In the beginning God (Elohim) the plural form of Eli. The first part of Elijah's name means "My God". Jah (Yah) you should recognize quickly because we've spent time talking about Yahweh. Some of your translations call Him, Jehovah. Jah is the abbreviated form for the name of God that was not allowed to be pronounced in Israel. Elijah's name literally means "My God is Yahweh". And fourteen times in this little short chapter the name of God is going to show up in its most pristine form, Yahweh. It's going to show up in other forms as well, but fourteen times, Yahweh, is going to be mentioned in this brief text.

No rain. It's just going to stop raining. Now you may remember from two or three or four weeks ago we talked about that. That the presence of rain was an automatic sign in Israel that God was blessing. And when there was no rain, it was a sign that God was angry and He was somehow punishing people.

Drought was a sign of God's anger. In fact, in a couple of the places where it talks about the oncoming drought or the lack of rain, it uses this kind of language. "The sky will be like iron to you." No rain!

But don't miss this connection. Because if you miss this, you miss something really significant. The challenge here is from Baal or you may pronounce it (b a i l). Baal happens to be the god of fertility and rain. And the Asherah pole that is raised up, she is the goddess of fertility. You put that pole on a mountain top with prostitutes. So here is this worshiper of Baal, who believes that he controls the weather and Elijah comes along and says, "By the way, unless I tell you otherwise, it's not going to rain." Do you hear the challenge?

1 Kings 17:2. Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah: "Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. You will drink from the brook, and I have ordered the ravens to feed you there."

So he did what the Lord had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.

"The word of the Lord came to Elijah saying." You're going to hear that phrase multiple times in 1 Kings 17, "The word of the Lord came to Elijah saying." "The word of the Lord came to Elijah saying." In fact, if you pay any attention at all reading your Old Testament, prophetic literature particularly, you're going to recognize that phrase. "The word of the Lord came to me saying." "The word of the Lord came to. . . . ." In fact, you'll find that phrase 242 times in your Old Testament, 225 of which are representative of places where God Himself says, "Listen to me because I am speaking."

The word of the Lord came to Elijah and he said, "by the way, what I want you to do is go east of Jordan and I will take care of you." And some of you are saying, "Okay. That's nice." Thank about that just for a minute.

East of Jordan. For those of you who are the geography buffs among us, that means he is in Gentile territory. He has left Israel. Don't miss that because it's critical. What this author is telling you is that the one who just spoke for God, Elijah, whose name is, "My God is God", this one who represents God in the scene, God has just left. He has abandoned Israel. He's gone east of Jordan.

And a raven is going to feed him. Huh! This is my favorite part of this part of the story. You know what a raven is right? Those big black birds that fly around. You know where you see them most of the time? I-72. You know what they're sitting on? The deer that you hit the night before. I see lots of them. Big black birds. They wait until the very last minute before they get off the road, you know. Because the "roadkill" is so good I guess.

Now let me run that by you one more time. You go east of Jordan. Drink from the brook and the ravens will feed you. You getting the picture? It's not overly pleasant, by the way. "Roadkill Cafe" and the menu is, whatever's out there. But, boy does it paint a picture. Unclean birds, unclean animals, dead carcases and God has left the territory.

Well, Some time later, 1 Kings 17:7, the brook dried up. . . . Well, of course. It's a famine. There's no rain. Hadn't rained for three and a half years. Of course the brook dried up, probably a little bit every day. You can almost see Elijah, can't you? Going out there after a few weeks or few months, however long it took and he's beginning to think. "Man! There's not much water." In fact, I can see Elijah out there one morning finally pushing the sand back in order to get a little water to surface in here.

Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land. Then the word of the Lord came to him: (There it is.) "Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food." So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, "Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?" As she was going to get it, he called, "And bring me, please, a piece of bread."

"As surely as the Lord your God lives," she replied, "I don't have any bread - only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it - and die."

Elijah said to her, "Don't be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: 'The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord gives rain on the land.'"

She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.

Zarephath - it's everybody's favorite vacation place I'm sure. All right, you've got the mental map. You know exactly where we are. We've got the Mediterranean Sea and we've got Israel and right down the middle of Israel runs the Jordan River. And over here in the south (whatever direction that is) south, right side, is (well, it has to be east cause of east of Jordan). Now he's going to travel to Zarephath which happens to be all the way across Israel, up on the upper left hand corner of your map. Not too far from the Mediterranean Sea, near where Mount Carmel would be, the only green place left in the land. Zarephath.

We'll get into this later, or if we ever talk some time in the hallway, we'll talk about that more. That happens, by the way, to be Jezebel's hometown. That's another story for another day.

He goes there again, outside of Israel and he speaks to a Gentile woman. And the Gentile woman says something about the Lord God of Israel. Sounds familiar, doesn't it? It's almost an identical phrase to the phrase that was used by Rahab the harlot when the spies came to Jericho a few years before. "As surely as the Lord God lives,"

Here is this Gentile woman who is now going to take care of the Prophet Elijah and again, we're outside the boundaries of Israel. We're being taken care of by a widow. Are you sensing? Are you beginning to feel that this is all about God abandoning the people?

Elton John's song would have fit well in Israel in this day. "If there is a God in heaven, what's He waiting for?" Where is He?

But did you notice something about what happened in the first story that is now beginning to happen in the second story? See, in the first story, in 1 Kings 17:2 God says and in 1 Kings 17:5 Elijah does. And then in 1 Kings 17:4 God promises and in 1 Kings 17:6 God does what he promises.

And the same thing occurs in this particular part of the story. 1 Kings 17:8 God says. 1 Kings 17:10 Elijah does. 1 Kings 17:14 God promises. 1 Kings 17:16 God provides. And it's so reminiscent of other stories.

Some of you immediately remembered the story of the Prophet Elisha and the woman who ran out of oil and God filled all of the jugs - jug after jug after jug after jug. In fact this becomes such a fascinating story that Jesus even uses it in the New Testament when He preaches His sermon in the Synagogue in Luke 4:24-26. Everybody's all excited until He says, Oh by the way, God is going to use Gentiles and then they want to throw Him over the cliff. And you know what story He refers to? The problem with you people, is you're just like those folks back there and what you didn't understand was that God used a Gentile widow to take care of Elijah. God's telling us a tremendous story.

Well, there's one more move in this story. There's one more little paragraph. It starts at 1 Kings 17:17. Some time later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing. She said to Elijah, "What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?"

And I'm sitting here thinking like an Israelite reader and I'm thinking that's exactly what Israel is thinking. "God, what have you done? Did you just want to punish us?" It's not the first time you've heard that. They aren't five minutes on the other side of the Red Sea and what did you hear them say? "O God, what have you done? We should have stayed in Egypt."

It's what you hear in Isaiah 40 just before the captivity. "O God where are you? What have you done to us?"

Here she is, voicing Israel's words, speaking for a whole nation. "God where are you? Did you just bring us out here and put us in this Promise Land so that you could turn around and abandon us and leave us?"

"Give me your son," Elijah replied. He took him from her arms, carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his bed. Then he cried out to the Lord, "O Lord my God, have you brought tragedy also upon this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?" Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried to the Lord, "O Lord my God, let this boy's life return to him!"

The Lord heard Elijah's cry, and the boy's life returned to him, and he lived. Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house. He gave him to his mother and said, "Look, your son is alive!"

And what is so fascinating is her response. And it's so interesting that the writer decided to put it at the very end of the story.

Then the woman said to Elijah, "Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth."

Huh! . . . .the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth. The word of the Lord is the truth. How did she know? How did she know that the word of the Lord was true? It wasn't because of all the evidence, even though there might be evidence of the word of the Lord being true. In fact, in your bulletin you found a sheet of paper stuffed in it with just come evidence about the reliability of Scripture. I put that there just to let you know, yeah, you can trust your Bibles. It's there! There's some reasonable evidence for it, but that's not how she knew.

She knew because of her experience. She experienced God's faithfulness. He said to her, "You feed Elijah. I'll feed you." And He did! She did and He did. She watched God raise her son from the dead. She saw God in action because she trusted Him. She tried Him.

What do you think the readers of this book learned? Where was God and why was Israel divided? And why were they having so much trouble? I'll tell you why. Because they disobeyed the Word. The law had already spoken. If you obey me instead of the gods, I will be faithful to you if you obey the gods. If you worship Baal, if you turn yourself to idols, I will send famine. I will send drought. The word of the Lord is true. See, God keeps His word.

So what do you learn from the story? God keeps His word.

That's the story. I mean that's the whole story, isn't it? Creation, fall, promise, Christ, new creation. What's God doing? Keeping His word.

We're getting ready to celebrate Easter and you know what we're going to do? We're going to notice that God keeps His word.

What's the application to your story? God keeps, His word. You can trust Him. But you need to notice this in the story. When God spoke, people responded and God was faithful.

The word of the Lord came to Elijah and he did. The word of the Lord came to Elijah and he did. The word of the Lord came to the woman and she did. Because the word of the Lord is true and you can trust it.

Let's stand and sing together.