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Standing in the Shadow of God
Scripture: Hebrews 11:35; Jeremiah 32:17,27; Luke 1...
Track 3 of 10 in the Elijah: The Humble Hero series
Running time: 56 minutes, 10 seconds.

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Mike Nobis Speaker: Mike Nobis
Sunday School Teacher, Former Elder at Madison Park Christian Church. Mike is President of JK Creative Printers & Mailing in Quincy, IL. He is married to Pam and has three children, Tom, Tyler and Jennifer. Mike has three grandchildren: Ryne, Ivy and Alicia.

View all sermons by this speaker.

In today’s society, how important is it to be famous? Is fame something that people aspire to today? What does it mean to “be famous”?

I heard on Fox news this week that a survey was taken and people from the ages of 16 to 25 were asked what were the two things they desired the most from life. The number one desire was to be famous and the second desire was to be rich. Basically they desired to be rich and famous. That shouldn’t surprise us because almost everything we see on TV today has something to do with being famous and the wealth the fame can get you.

Paris Hilton; can someone tell me what is so special about her? Why is she so famous?

It is better to be a nobody who accomplishes something than a somebody who accomplishes nothing.

Men think highly of those who rise rapidly in the world; whereas nothing rises quicker than dust, straw, and feathers. August W. Hare (1792-1834)

Fame is important to our society. The famous are those who we look up to. People become famous for many different reasons. Some reasons are good and some are not so good. There are even societies of the famous, we call them Hall of Fames. Why do we have them and what purpose do they play in society?

I had the world, and it wasn't nothin'. Muhammad Ali (1942- )

The Bible also has a Hall of Fame. In Hebrews 11 there is a list of all those who had extraordinary faith in God. When you turn to it there are all kinds of people listed there. Some are even surprising such as Sampson and Rahab. Sampson wasn’t an icon of faith during his life and Rahab was a prostitute who really doesn’t have much written about her in scripture. But there is an interesting statement in verse 35 I want you to turn to and remember.
Hebrews 11:35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again.

Here is one of those versus again that we read through and don’t really catch the significance of it. This verse brings to my mind the times when Jesus raised the dead son of the widow or when Jesus healed Peter’s mother in-law. I am surprised by who is missing from the Hall of Fame of Faith. Elijah is missing. The man whose whole life was an example of what faith should be like is not even mentioned, at least by name. Verse 35 records one of the events in Elijah’s life that we will study today. He is one of those people in the Bible that through faith raised someone from the dead.

Last week we talked about the two kinds of people who exist in life. I hope this week was a test to you as to the type of person you are. There are those who only see the impossibilities in life and then there are those who only see the possibilities.

The Hall of Fame of faith is a place you can go and see and learn that our God specializes in the impossibilities. Nothing is impossible to God. God can do what we can not do.

Jeremiah 32:17 Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.

Jeremiah 32:27 “I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?

Luke 1:37 For nothing is impossible with God.

Luke 18:27 Jesus replied, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.”

There are times when God completely acts on His own to accomplish the impossible. When He created the world, there was only God. He acted alone. When He raised Christ from the dead, there was no one but God. He acted alone. But more often than not, God uses others in the process. In Hebrews 11 we read about the many people who God worked through to accomplish the impossible. He could have easily done those things on His own but He deliberately worked through people much like you and me to accomplish the impossible. He used us (people who can’t do impossible things) to do the miraculous.

I call this Standing in the Shadow of God. While these frail, normal people stood in God’s shadow, they became instruments of His miraculous power. When we pick up the events in Elijah’s life (1 Kings 17) this is where we find Elijah, standing in God’s shadow.

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.

Let’s review quickly what has taken place. God sent Elijah to Zarephath to meet a woman who would provide for his needs. Ahab is looking for Elijah so in this time of hiding and testing, God gets a widow and Elijah together. Through faith, the both of them along with her son live day to day together depending upon God to multiply the meager amounts of food the woman had. The little jar of oil nor the flour bin ever went empty. In the midst of these events, the son of the widow dies.

We are not told what was wrong with the widow’s son but the illness was severe enough to cause his death. For a widow to lose her son was a real tragedy. The provider is the husband and once a woman lost her husband, it was the responsibility of the sons to provide and care for the mother. With no sons or other children to rely upon, this widow was now alone and without anyone to care for her. When Jesus was confronted by the widow who lost her only son, he was moved with compassion to raise her son knowing what the loss of that son meant to her.

1 Kings 17:18 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?”

The response here by the woman is typical many times when a loved one dies. It is human nature to blame someone for bad things that happened in life. This is often true when sudden death takes a loved one. Sometimes we even blame those who have helped us the most.

Not only is she blaming Elijah for the death of her son, but who else is she blaming? Why is she also blaming God? Think about this a minute, who has helped her the most and all during this time, how had her, her son and Elijah survived? So why is this God’s fault?

We can’t judge this woman for what she said because it only shows the grief she went through. We all have experienced the pain of losing a loved one and for those who lost a spouse or a child, the grief is deep and intense. Elijah is a changed man by this time. He is no longer a man learning the ways of God, by now he is a man who knows God can do the impossible and no longer depends on his own strength.

When you are confronted by situations like this, if you are Elijah, what do you say to the woman? What words can be uttered that will heal the pain of the widow?

This is what impresses me about Elijah. He really doesn’t say anything to explain the situation to the mother. He doesn’t argue with her. He doesn’t rebuke her. He doesn’t try to reason with her or remind her of all the things that he and God did for her. He just simply asks her to place her burdens in his arms.

1 Kings 17:19 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.

Pause for a moment to realize that Elijah is again in a situation that, at least from a human point of view, he doesn’t deserve. He has done everything God asked and had been faithful throughout all of it. Now he is being blamed for the death of this widow’s son. God sometimes seems to put us in the vise of life doesn’t He? It feels at times that he squeezes and squeezes and when we think things are so tight, the tests just keep on coming. That is where Elijah is at this moment in his life.

What is your normal tendency to act when you find yourself in the tight squeeze of life? When things are tense, when the heat is put upon you, when you are blamed for something you didn’t do, what are your normal reactions?

Elijah was gentle. Though he deserved none of the blame, he stood silent until her blast was over. Then he gently picked her son up and took him upstairs to his bed. But, what is more impressive is how the woman then reacted; she without question, or hesitation, places her precious son into the arms of the very man she blamed for her son’s death. Maybe it was the gentleness of his spirit that allowed her to once again, trust him.

Where would you go with the body if you were Elijah? Why take the boy to your room, to your bed? How many of you would like to have a dead person lying in your bed?

I think the reason Elijah takes the boy there is because this is where Elijah normally prayed. We will notice that immediately once going there, Elijah prayed to God for help. What do you do when tragedy strikes? What is your first response? Is it to complain? Is it to blame someone? Or is it your habit of doing what Elijah did? Do you go to your special place and get alone with God? Do you even have a special place? Elijah provides us with the wonderful example of how to handle serious, tragic situations.

1 Kings 17:20 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?

The psalmist puts it this way:

Psalms 91:1-2 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

Elijah was silent before the woman but he wasn’t before God. In his room where he and God met many times, Elijah is very candid with God. He asks, “What in the world is going on here?” Why would you break this poor widow’s heart? I’ve done everything you ask. I have waited upon you. I asked the widow to wait upon you and now this? Alone in the shadow of God, a place where we fight the battles God gives us everyday, Elijah is completely candid with God because he had developed a close and personal relationship with God and they know each other well.

1 Kings 17:21 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!”

Wait a minute, what is going on here? Never before, no where in scripture up to this point has there ever been an account of someone being raised from the dead. So what is Elijah thinking here? How does he dare ask God to do such an unprecedented thing? Elijah couldn’t refer back to some time when this was done before. It hadn’t ever been done before. No one ever thought to ask this before because it was impossible. Instead, Elijah totally relied on one thing: faith.

We see in this verse that three times Elijah stretches himself over the boy. Now we have to realize that for a Jew, especially a man of God to touch a dead person was an unclean act. But can you imagine what it was like to be body to body, leg to leg, arm to arm, face to face with this dead boy.

Why do you think Elijah used this unusual method and why do it three times? That was some prayer to pray. He couldn’t say, please Lord, let this boy’s life come back to him like when you did it with…because there was no other time it ever happened. So what made him think this was possible?

Dr. Raymond Edman, in his book, In Quietness and Confidence, writes about a godly man who faced his own tough times and trials and how he dealt with them:

This is how he met it: he was first quiet for a while with the Lord, then he wrote these words for himself:

First: He brought me here, it is by his will I am in this strait place: in that fact I will rest
Next: He will keep me here in His love, and give me grace to behave as His child
Then, He will make the trial a blessing, teaching me true lessons He intends me to learn, and working in me the grace He means to bestow.
Last, in His time He can bring me out again – how and when He knows.

This is exactly what Elijah is thinking. Lord, I am here by your appointment. This is no accident. I am standing under your shadow. This is your call. And in your time, I ask You to do not only the incredible but the impossible. I ask you to do something that has never been done before.

1 Kings 17: 22-23 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!”

What about you, what about me, have we come to a place where we can ask God with confidence to do the impossible in the kingdom here in Quincy? I personally have to say no. I totally believe in the impossible but I do not have the relationship with God like the one Elijah had. I can have it, God calls us to it and invites us, but too often other priorities are more important than to spend the quiet times in our quiet place to develop the relationship needed to ask God the impossible. That is our challenge today, know God!