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Standing in the Gap
Scripture: 1 Kings 16:29-33; 1 Kings 17:1; John 1:1...
Track 1 of 10 in the Elijah: The Humble Hero series
Running time: 56 minutes, 05 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.

Heroes, we long for heroes no matter how old we are. Everyone has or had a hero once in their lives. These are the people who stand out, those who we admire and try to be like. They are the people we dream about and the reason they are heroes differ depending upon who we are and who they were. Most heroes, once we examine them closely are better than we actually imagined. I know that is true with mine.

My two biggest heroes were Abraham Lincoln and Vince Lombardi. Both were men of integrity and both believed that you can’t do great things without great sacrifice. Hard work pays the dividends of victory and winning sometimes takes a long time but in the end, it will come if you are willing to do what it takes to win.

All of us have heroes or had heroes at one time. Who are your heroes and why are they the kind of people you look up to? What makes them so special?

The life of Elijah is very interesting. Out of nowhere Elijah shows up. He didn’t come on the scene with any flash or flair. He was just a simple, humble man who ended up playing a huge role for God during a time when Israel needed true leadership. Elijah is first introduced to us as Elijah the Tishbite in 1 Kings 17. Out of nowhere he shows up to confront Ahab. Elijah lives in a time that is after Solomon, during the decline of Israel. Ahab is king over the northern tribes. He is a very evil man who was married to Jezebel.

The scene of most of Elijah’s work is in northern Israel, along the Jezreel Valley, and in the land of Samaria and Galilee. After David, Solomon became king and by the end of his 40 year reign, Israel had begun to worship other gods in addition to the Lord God. Through his many wives, pagan worship crept into Israel’s way of life and shortly after Solomon died, the nation suffered a civil war and split into two kingdoms, each with their own kings. There were 10 tribes to the north (Israel) and 2 tribes to the south (Judah).

For 200 years after Solomon and before they were taken into captivity by the Assyrians, the northern 10 tribes had 19 kings and all of them were evil, they did evil things in the eyes of the Lord. For over 300 years the southern kingdom had 17 kings, 8 were good kings while 9 were evil. They too were taken into captivity by the Babylonians but 70 years later they were allowed to return to Israel. The northern 10 tribes were lost forever and never returned.

Israel had a real problem with paganism. The many times God punished them it was due to their embracing pagan gods. When Israel moved into the Promised Land God commanded them to destroy all the nations that were living in the land. The reason for that was so the influence of pagan gods would not impact Israel. But Israel decided to enslave the nations instead and for centuries struggled with pagan influences.

The Book of Judges was that period in time before the kings where Israel was in and out of pagan worship and God punished and saved Israel by raising up judges to bring the people back to God. The years following Solomon, Israel did the same thing. There were years when the king was right before God and lead Israel to embrace righteous living. There were also many kings like Ahab who did just the opposite. Elijah was the prophet who lived during the time of King Ahab and his wife Jezebel.

What do you know about Ahab and Jezebel? What images come to mind when you hear their names?

King Ahab was the 7th king of the northern kingdom of Israel who reigned for twenty-two years, from 876 to 854. He inherited with his kingdom the same enemies previous kings had to deal with but his reign was plagued with misfortune, drought and famine. But Ahab was a very smart king and through his craftiness, was able to keep the people happy and made important friends along the way. He was a very good politician but was very weak when it came to being a religious leader. To shore up his strength with foreign powers, he married a Phoenician woman named Jezebel. She was a woman who was herself a great leader but she was also vindictive and unscrupulous. She was the patron of the prophets of Baal and of the devotees of Asherab.

At her instigation the altars of Yahweh were torn down. She inaugurated the first great religious persecution of the Jews, killing off the prophets of Yahweh with the sword. In all this she aimed at more than a coexistence of the two religions; she planned to destroy the religion of Yahweh root and branch and put that of Baal in its place. Ahab did not oppose her and in many ways helped her become successful. It was against these two powerful people that Elijah comes onto the scene in Israel’s history.

Of all the great heroes in history, what is the one common thread that made them who they were? What was it that made them famous or heroes? In everyone, each had to face the heat of the fire, the tough times that made them tough, times that made them powerful in their example and able to do the things they did.

Elijah was no different. He came into history facing some very tough times and tough challenges. We have to realize that facing and opposing Ahab with his wife Jezebel at his side was not only tough, but also very dangerous. She was someone you didn’t want to mess with and you especially didn’t want to do something that was going to make her look bad or oppose her.

Do you face persecution today for being a Christian? Are there things you can’t do today because of your belief in Jesus? Are you strong enough to stand against those forces and do things anyway, even if it would cost you your job, your reputation or maybe even your life?

What about your kids? Do you help them to stand against the crowd? Are your kids influencers or are they followers? If they are the influencers, are they standing for what is right?

Most of the prophets in the Old Testament lived during the 300 year period when Israel was divided and heavily practiced the worship of other gods. These prophets came to stand against what was done by these evil kings. It was a dangerous business being a prophet and many prophets suffered greatly because of their message. But they stood their ground and God performed some great miracles through them to show that He was superior to the pagan gods Israel desired to worship.

Before Ahab became king, there was 60 years, 6 kings who did very evil things. Each king died by the hand of the next king. Bloodshed and assassinations, murder and malice, intrigue and immorality, conspiracy and deception, hatred and idolatry all led up to the 7th king, Ahab. But if that wasn’t bad enough, then came Jezebel.

1 Kings 16:29-33 In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab son of Omri became king of Israel, and he reigned in Samaria 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.

What about our country today. Do you think God is happy with what is going on in our country? What about the church in America? Do you think God is happy with the church overall and the impact we are having on the unbelievers today?

Thus enters Elijah. Out of nowhere God sends a messenger to Ahab from a little known town of Tishbe. Elijah was sent by God to confront Ahab, and especially Jezebel. God hated the idol worship that was going on by the people. Elijah confronted Ahab with his demon wife, Jezebel. You can imagine the hatred she had for Elijah as he worked to make Baal out to be a nothing god.

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.”

Notice the very first point that God makes to Ahab through Elijah, what is the overall message that Ahab better quickly understand?

Look at Elijah’s name.

“Elohim” is the Hebrew word for God, most commonly abbreviated “El”
The word “Jah” is the word for Jehovah
El Jay: In the name of Elijah is the word God and Jehovah. In between the two names is “I” which in Hebrew has reference to the personal pronoun “my” or “mine”. Putting them together, the name Elijah means “My God is Jehovah”.

It is significant that when Elijah appears before the two idol worshipers of Baal, God immediately makes a statement; “My God is Jehovah” is knocking and has a message from the one true God, “The Almighty God”.

What is also fascinating about this first verse is where Elijah is from. Tishbe is a no nothing place. In fact, we don’t know exactly where it is located nor was it a place of any significance. We know only that it was in Gilead. Yet Gilead does tell us some important things.

John 1:19-20 Now this was John’s testimony when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Christ.” They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.”

Why do they think John the Baptist is Elijah? What was significant about John and Elijah?

Gilead was a place of solitude and outdoor life, a place where people would be rugged and tanned from the sun, muscular and leathery. It was not a place of polish and sophistication. It was a rugged land and the people from Gilead were rough, outdoors men. His looks probably bordered on coarse and crude, rough and rugged. Guys like Elijah may not win many friends but one thing is certain, they could not be ignored and would not be ignored.

Fast forward to John the Baptist, what was he like and was he anything like Elijah? Do you see why the people related John and Elijah together?

Here stands a man named “My God is Jehovah” who is tough, rugged and not at all afraid of Ahab. His style of communicating is sort of like “In Your Face” type of style. There is no mention that Elijah was properly introduced to Ahab and Jezebel, there was no protocol nor is he impressed by the royal presence of Ahab. He has no sophistication, no polish, training or courtly manners. He just simply announces his presence. And quickly gives his message.

“No rain-not even dew-for years, unless I say so”

That’s it. He said it in such a matter of fact way but don’t miss the point, he is saying it as he shakes his fist, so to speak, in the face of the devil. He is setting the record straight, Baal or no Baal, you aren’t getting any rain until I say so. Call on your gods all you want, they won’t nor can they help you.

Elijah was a man who had to stand alone. There was no one else who dared do what God wanted him to do. Several times in the Bible we saw God raise up people who had the courage to be the person to stand in the gap and deliver the message God wanted the world to hear. These were the authentic heroes of the Bible, heroes for God.

Ezekiel 22:30-31 “I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none. So I will pour out my wrath on them and consume them with my fiery anger, bringing down on their own heads all they have done, declares the Sovereign LORD.”

What about you? The world sits out there living a life that is not pleasing to God. Are you willing to be the person who will stand in the gap for God on behalf of the land so God doesn’t have to destroy it? Are you a person willing to make a difference? Do you have the courage to stand alone if necessary for God? If so, Elijah’s life will show us what the Lord requires.

Lessons from Elijah’s life:

1) God looks for special people at difficult times. God needed a special man to do a very special work. Notice he didn’t find him in palace or the court, he didn’t find him in the realm of the educated, he didn’t even find him in the homes of the ordinary people, he found him in Tishbe, a no nothing place. He found a man who was tough, not weak.

2) God’s methods are often surprising. God didn’t raise up an army to defeat and destroy Ahab and Jezebel, he just sent Elijah. God doesn’t need an army to accomplish great things. God doesn’t need the talented either, he just needs the faithful and those who are willing to follow God’s plan. Remember David against Goliath?

3) We Stand Before God. When we think we stand alone in the gap, actually we are standing before God. When the call comes, will God find you ready and willing to stand for him? Will he find hearts in us that are ready to do his will? Will he find in us a spine of steel?

Are you a 4 or an 8?

Matthew 4:18-22 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him. Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

Matthew 8:18-22 Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”