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O for a Thousand Tongues . . . for an Audience of One
Scripture: 1 Kings 18:1-46
Track 47 of 52 in the Sermons from 2003 series
Running time: 15 minutes, 40 seconds.
Speech by character portraying Obadiah.

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

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Sermon for Sunday, November 23, 2003
"O for a Thousand Tongues. . . for an Audience of One"
(1Kings 18:1-46)
Copyright 2003 G. Charles Sackett

Good Morning! "Good Morning" Obadiah's the name. That was me you just heard about. Your preacher asked if I'd come in his place this morning and do some reflecting on that story since I was there.

I decided I probably ought to go back and look and see if I couldn't recapture some of my feelings from that very first experience so I went and found a journal that I recorded my thoughts in. I just thought maybe today I would share with some of you what I was thinking about on that incredible day on Mount Carmel. Three and a half years . . . .long time to go without rain. Long enough you'd think that a man would begin to wonder if maybe the prophet hadn't been right in the first place. He said there would be no rain. Nobody knew where he came from. Nobody knew where he went. He appeared one day in a mystery and disappeared just as mysteriously. He walked up to the King, looked him in the face and said as the Lord lives, there will be no rain. Three and a half years. . . .

Elijah showed up out of nowhere. Disappeared the same way making this claim as the Lord lives, there will be no rain. Now I know he could have meant that, well, God had just revealed that to him and he was simply telling us what God had told him but I wondered if it didn't have something to do with Deuteronomy.

Our ancestors, you know, had been on Mount Sinai when the law was given. God had told us those ten words and then had told us about the curses and the blessings and we had all agreed down in that valley. We said AMEN when he said if your obedient it will rain. We said AMEN when he said if your disobedient, there'll be drought. Three and a half years . . . .long time.

But apparently not long enough for Ahab. The only thing he could do. . .the only thing that he could even think to do it seemed was to kill the prophets. Maybe he could find Elijah, as if finding Elijah might cause it to rain again. I could have told him that wasn't what was going to happen. I recognized the hand of God. Even though I was in charge of Ahab's palace, I'd been a believer of Yahweh all of my life. I even thought about it once, saying something, to Ahab. All he'd have to do is acknowledge God and get rid of the Baal. If he would remove those poles of Asherah up on those hill tops, God surely would have sent rain on his people again. But I admit it-- I was afraid. By the time I was ready to speak, Jezebel had convinced him to kill all the prophets. If I had spoken, he would have killed me too. I did what I could. I hid all the prophets I could find, a hundred of them. Two caves full of wanted men. I would sneak food out of the palace, water when no one was looking. I kept wondering when I was gonna get caught, when they were going to ask me what I was doing with all of that extra ration. It's a lot of food you know, during a time of famine, to feed a hundred people, but I succeeded.

Then the day came. Wasn't really any different than any other day. Same kind of thing happened that had happened before. Obadiah go look for water. Ahab insisted. I'd gone before, we both had. Today we were going again. He went in one direction. I went in the other. And every time we went, we found less and less water and fewer and fewer pastures. We were beginning to lose the animals. It was getting desperate.

Today we went again. Only this time it was different. Just as suddenly as he had appeared the first time three and a half years ago, there he was standing in the middle of the road. . . .Elijah, the prophet of God, as if he were no longer in hiding. I really wanted to tell him. . . . . wanted to tell him about all those good things I had done, about all those prophets I had saved. Before I could even get those words out of my mouth he wanted me to go find Ahab. Ask him to meet with him. I resisted. I knew that if I'd found Elijah and even mentioned his name, Ahab might well take my life. He did that you know. Took the lives of those who brought bad news and there was no assurance that Elijah would still be there. Somehow Ahab had it in his head that if he killed Elijah, God would somehow relent. We all knew that was not true. Elijah insisted. Gonna have to have a meeting and so I went and I found him.

Ahab shocked me. All he wanted to do was just meet Elijah. First thing he said when he saw him, you troubler of Israel. Huh! Can you believe that? Ahab actually blamed the problem of the drought on Elijah. It's as if because Elijah had announced the drought, it was his fault that it happened. Elijah didn't cause the drought. We did! For years, we had ignored the law of God. For years we had been worshiping that grove of trees in honor of Baal and Asherah. It came about because of Jezebel. Jezebel was an idolatress. She married Ahab and convinced him that the fertility gods were stronger and more powerful than Yahweh and Ahab succumbed, so the whole nation got led into idolatry. God told us. We knew better. Our forefathers heard that law. If you're unfaithful, I'll send drought. That was the word from God. It was right there in the law and when the drought came, Ahab wanted to blame Elijah. Must be the common nature of us all. Look for someone else to blame. Even then I should have said something. Even then all Ahab would have had to have done was call Israel back to God. God had always been faithful to forgive us when we were repentant. I'm sure he would have forgiven us and sent rain right away if we'd a just told him we were sorry.

All we had to do was to return worship to Jerusalem where it belonged. Instead they agreed to a contest. They headed to Mount Carmel, the prophets of Baal and the prophets of Asherah and Yahweh. Now I knew Yahweh was going to win. There wasn't any doubt about that. The prophets of Baal and Asherah didn't stand a chance and yet, I have to confess, I was skeptical when they said Mount Carmel. I mean, after all, that was the heart of Baal worship. It was the only place left in all of the territory where there was still water. The one place you could look after three and a half years and you would see a mountain that was green and of course all of the people said that it was because of Baal, the fertility god. They looked at Mount Carmel like Israel should have looked at Jerusalem.

Ahab and Elijah decided on the contest. It's really quite simple. They would both build altars but they wouldn't light fires. Whichever god lit the fire, he was considered the winner. It was my job to gather the materials, as the one in charge of the palace and so I did. Two bulls and up to Mount Carmel we went. The next morning everything was sent. First, the prophets of Baal. They built an altar, slaughtered the bull, put them up on the altar and began to pray. Oh my how they did pray. They danced and they shouted and they prayed. They did it hour after hour. They even began to cut themselves with knives in hopes that their seriousness would convince Baal to light the fire. He didn't, you know. Huh! I knew he wouldn't. He couldn't.

The gods will never win in a contest with God. I wonder if the people will ever understand that? I wonder if they'll ever realize that when it comes to being God, there is only ONE REAL GOD. Apparently not today, because they tried. I mean they prayed their hearts out and yet there was no action. No action at all, except of course, for Elijah, my friend the prophet, Elijah, who decided to get in on the action. Huh! He taunted them. Called out, maybe Baal's asleep. You should shout a little louder and wake him up. Maybe he's on a trip. Maybe he's in the little room out back, the one with the moon shape in the door. Where is he? I kept thinking to myself, Elijah, huh, don't ya know you are in enough trouble already? Then it was Elijah's turn. He went to the Lord's altar. It was in disrepair. After all, when Israel began to worship the Baal's, they let all of the altars fall apart. Some of the people began to help Elijah rearrange the stones and rebuild the altar. Must have seemed strange to rebuild an altar to a God they didn't even trust, but they did it and then they watched. First the wood, then the bull. Then Elijah did the strangest thing, he called for water. He soaked the altar.

I knew God was going to win this contest but why press your luck? Why make it more difficult than it already is. Wasn't it enough that Ahab already hated Elijah in the first place? Water--lots of water--four large jars full of water and then he said, do it again. Then he said, do it again until water ran deep in the troth that he built around the altar. Then he stepped back.

It was the hour of the evening offering and he prayed. I wrote the prayer down because I didn't ever want to forget it. "O Lord, 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 these things at your command. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God and that you are turning their hearts back again."

Wow! People hadn't heard a prayer like that in generations. It wasn't just a prayer. It was a call. It was a call from Yahweh to come back to God. I don't how anybody could not have been convicted right there on the spot of their own need for a relationship with Yahweh. If God lit that fire, then there should surely be an outpouring of worship in his name.

Elijah stepped back. The next thing I knew--whoosh!--I don't know where it came from. But all of a sudden the wood burst into flame. Soon that bull began to sizzle and burn and then the oddest thing began to happen. It appeared as if even the rocks and the dirt were on fire. Pretty soon, no bull, no wood, no rock, no water. Even the dust on the ground, it seemed, was gone. People must have listened. There was an outcry in Israel, the kind that hasn't been heard in years. God must have wept for joy in heaven. I know Ahab wept on earth. All the people cried out, "The Lord--he is God! The Lord--he is God." and soon the entire group of prophets were chased down and put to death.

Ahab was told to go home and eat. The drought was over. Elijah could hear rain. Ahab was sent back to the palace, where I guess Elijah hoped that he would rule with a different perspective. I don't know why he didn't go ahead and have him killed. He sent him home. And then the servant of Ahab went to the side of the hill facing the sea. Seven times he went and on the seventh trip there was a cloud. Soon there was rain, just like Elijah said.

I wondered why it took so much to get the peoples' attention. Why would they have to suffer so before they would listen to God? Why not just obey Yahweh all the time and avoid the judgement of God? Why listen to the false teachers of Ahab and Jezebel? Why be drawn away by their sin? Didn't they know? Didn't they see? Maybe today they understood. There is no god but Yahweh. He alone is worthy of our worship.

Obadiah was right you know. There is no god but Yahweh and he alone is worthy of our worship.

I find it fascinating when I look at 1King, Chapter 18, the text you heard read before you. The text in which Obadiah has reflected. It comes immediately on the heels of Elijah's story in Chapter 17 where the closing words come from a Zarephonician (???) woman's mouth. "Now I know the word of the Lord is true."

We come here Sunday after Sunday with one basic message. The word of the Lord is true. The word that says, there is no other name under heaven whereby man can be saved except the name of Jesus. The word that says, I came to give you life and that more abundantly. The word that says, I go to prepare a place for you that where I go, you may come and be there with me. A word that comes from the Lord that says, believe in me and place your faith in me and I'll give you life.

Or you can go after the gods of Baal and Asherah or any contemporary god you choose, but when you get right down to it, there is only one God in Israel. There is only one God that is real and he alone is worthy of our worship.

And so we invite you to worship him. If you don't know how to have. . . . . . . . . . .come and talk to us. If you don't know what's going on in this place Sunday after Sunday, we invite you to just hang around until God finally reaches down in your soul and you begin to sense his presence and his work. But in every case, we do for you, what we hope the writer of Kings has done, and that is to elevate the God of all the universe, the only God worthy of our worship.

Let's stand and worship, shall we?