Elijah Part 3 - A Man of Personal Obedience - 1 Kings 1:1-17.
"We have been looking at this story, realising that Elijah lived at a season similar to our own in a "post-Christian era". The people's identity was wrapped up with God but they had turned their back on God and Elijah was living in his culture but in touch with God. Although he was already a man out of step with his culture by his stance and a man unthrown inwardly by the confusion taking place in the nation - he had to live out his life in the real situation that was there. It wasn't enough for him to be simply a man of prayer. He also had to live in the world and to have an obedience expressed in action. His walk with God wasn't simply a stance - a static thing - an attitude. It was a life lived out before others and before God in stark contrast to the generation in which he lived.
He was a prophet but he wasn't just a voice deploring the situation - complaining and criticising. He was called to live a different kind of lifestyle - not just morally correct but by faith in which God was calling him to do. He was no longer to be hidden away but would live before people in what God called him to do and be. He was in that sense like Abraham. Abraham was also not just a moral character saying what was right and wrong. It says about Abraham that he went out "not knowing where he was going to go". Elijah begins to obey God and was told to go and face the king but he didn't know what would happen next. He didn't know the full picture. He isn't just avoiding Baal worship but he is living a life in response to a personal invitation from God to live by faith. He is going to encounter the king not knowing what the exit strategy after meeting the king would be. He doesn't know how things would go after he delivered his message. It was a life that said; "Whatever God says - this I will do". That is the heart of what it is to be a Christian.
It isn't about relating to rules and regulations but a response to a personal invitation.
Jesus called men to leave their nets and follow Him. He said "Follow Me". Come to Me. It says they left their nets and followed Him - they had to completely trust Him and abandon what seemed like common sense. They said "Okay we will do that". He started to live a life expressing confidence in what God says. Thus they began to lay the foundations of a totally new community on the planet. We are told in Hebrews 11 that these heroes of faith who are set forth as models - we don't read so much about their morality - as their faith in God.
They weren't taken up so much with speaking against the culture but saying "Yes" to God.
It says of them that the world was not worthy of them. A wealthy man came to Jesus and said he had lived by commandments and rules and regulations but Jesus invited him to a completely different approach. The man was sorrowful and went away. He didn't make a good choice but he could say he has always tried to be moral. "I am happy to obey objective rules but to commit my life and leave everything in Your control!? I can't do that". That is what faith is all about. That is what Abraham - the father of all faith - started with. He left everything that made sense and he went out not knowing where he would go. Jesus said to guys; "Commit yourselves to Me".
That's the root of who we are! We are not just rule-keepers but followers of a personal invitation.
So ... 1. It's a life of obedience in action.
2. It's an obedience that left choices with God.
It was an obedience that left him very vulnerable. He didn't say "Well you guarantee my safety and I will go". Jesus trained His disciples exactly like that. He led them into dangerous situations and into vulnerable circumstances. When Jesus said "Follow Me" they may have said, "Well let me go and deal with this". Jesus said, "Let the dead bury their own dead". It sounds harsh! Is that a ruthlessness under His exterior?
Jesus out of His love knows there are times when whole-hearted commitment to priorities is the only way. A revelation of a loving Saviour who knows that things only get solved when you deal with them ruthlessly and put priorities first.
After he had confronted the king then what? Ravens would feed him and a brook bring him water. This comes out of personal trust in God!
Normally I wouldn't encourage prophecy when they are just two of you. Prophetic words should come in the context of a wider circle that can weigh and judge with all the safety factors that are in that.
The way forward wasn't knowing all the answers. He doesn't show you the complete programme all the time. "And ... ?". "Just go. I am calling you to an adventure of relationship. I am calling you to trust Me". Israel was meant to be a people that walked with God. That means not knowing the complete picture but it's a faith that leaves the choices with God.
We love the church - we love one another - but at root walking with God is a matter of personal commitment when He speaks.
Ultimately the church is made up of scores and thousands of millions of people who are saying; "Yes Lord - what do you want me to do?". It's not a value simply rooted in a system but in trust. It is the way God leads us step by step. Elijah was involved in what we may call reckless obedience and God wants us to be the same. (Luke 6:48) - to be religious isn't simply to take on the expected level of morality and how you tend to live as a Christian. Beloved - that isn't digging deep down into a foundation. That isn't "Whatever He says to you - do it". That makes us all living by another value system altogether.
One day Jesus said some will say "Lord - Lord!" and He must say "Depart from Me - I never knew you".
We need to take care then that we are hearing and doing the Word of God - not just hearing it.
Just to hear and not do is to not receive the blessing. It's the digging down and the saying; "Whatever You say to me". What is needed in our generation was not just a word deploring the sad state of the nation but a people who lived by another value system related to what God was saying - even when it looked foolish.
3. It was an obedience based on humility.
"Go hide yourself by the brook where the ravens will feed you". He had just addressed the king and declared it will not rain! What will happen next? A tour from Dan to Beersheba? I may make it rain! Turn up - I will be there! I am holding history in my hands! It's my moment! Instead of it being his moment, he had to go and "hide himself". That's not what I had in mind! Hide yourself. It's not an easy word to hear.
Hidden times can be very difficult times. Faith that leads to courageous breakthrough and obedience that marches down Goliath or says "Let the fire come" is exciting obedience. But obedience that says "Now go and hide yourself" isn't very appealing.
No. "Hide yourself". Go and be hidden away. It requires real humility. It's hard for us especially in a generation about knowing your rights and knowing who's in authority. Often Christian teaching can get on the back of "knowing your rights" and "being forceful". First of all - be hidden away.
Are you any good at hiding away? How is it for you when your voice is not heard? How do you feel when no one seeks your opinion? How is it for you when you don't even know what's happening? No one will ask what his assessment is. He won't influence anything - he will be hidden away. The ravens will bring him food but not much information! Am I being blogged? Nothing!
Losing our influence can come in seasons in our lives. You can go through a time when you are not making the choices or shining. It can come in all sorts of ways and it can be costly. Somehow we feel that we value ourselves by the choices we are making. Sometimes it is hard domestically - a son or daughter looked to you for guidance but now they are married! It is hard not to be needed! Your wisdom is not being drawn on! It doesn't need to be the platform of a guy who has got a nation! It can be domestic and small.
"Hide myself?". Yes that is the word. Jesus had just been announced by John the Baptist and a voice from heaven had come! Now go to the wilderness - go hide yourself. Even Jesus went that way. What about this anointing of the Spirit that came on me? It says in the Bible we are like arrows in His quiver and an arrow must go through much preparation! Then we get stuck in a tube! A quiver just looks like a black hole. Sometimes that is how it is. Surely God wants more for me than being hidden away? But there are seasons when we must be hidden away.
God gave me this gift and there must be a reason for use of it! You may be in a church and your gift isn't recognised and it's not always right to go to another church. Recognise a season of hiding and allow it to happen. It's not easy to cultivate humility alone - that's why we need one another. We need people to correct and lovingly point out things. Is it hard to bring a correction to you? When you get criticised, do you defend yourself angrily? Go and take a lower place - go and be hidden away. You are not needed at the moment. You have been dropped. How do you handle that?
Last of all; 4. It was an obedience that gets you "there".
"The ravens will feed you "there".
Some of us fail to experience the supernatural because we don't get "there".
Sometimes we are unwilling to break out of rationalisation and logic. Maybe fear and pride - maybe straight disobedience means we never get to see the supernatural. God told me! I just went to Brighton station! Some of us apply all kinds of logic so we never get "there". We don't get close enough to hear Him.
God could say this; "The ravens will turn up - will you?".
The Christian life can be a life of extraordinary excitement but "there" wasn't just a display of the supernatural but a place where revelation came next.
Obedience brings revelation of God's faithfulness.
Some say "I never hear God speak to me". Well what about general guidance?
God loves speaking to people who take Him seriously. God loves speaking to people who say yes to basic revelation!
"Blockage"?? How about simply reading your Bible and doing what God says and you may start hearing more intimately. Get used to hearing God on His basic revelation. God loves to speak to those who take Him seriously. Obedience begins to make things work for you in terms of relating to God. I find the whole computer world a bit strange and terminology can be odd. "Plugged in?!". Well have you "plugged into" hearing God yet?
Faith grows in the context of obedience and in that context your faith begins to put on muscle.
Some say "You must have great faith". No - its just a case of doing what I was told! He said "Do it" and so "I did it" and the ravens turned up! Now God is saying to us as a church; "Go for a big thing!". When you are there - He will feed you. As we keep obeying and following His leading, He will be faithful. What do you know about ravens? Nil! But God said "Go!". Go there - get there - and God commanded! It is as you obey you get the revelation of His miracle faithfulness.
You find that the brook dried up! And faith is really tested. True faith looks and doesnt think about the alternative plan. True faith thinks "How did I get here?". I got here by following God and God will see me through! The day the brook dried up, God said, "Now go!". He didn't speak into that the day before the brook dried up! The day it dried up, God spoke. That is refusing to be independent! After many days God said to Elijah, "Go and show yourself to Ahab". God had an ultimate plan - and that was "Show yourself". His intermediate plan was "Go and hide yourself". It was like that for David in Adullum's cave. It was like that for Joseph in prison. A season of low profile and a season of being apparantly irrelevant.
Later he will call down fire from heaven. His faith was such that he said "Pour water on it - soak it!". He got faith like that because he got used to doing what God said. He only applied for this job because God said. He let God make the choices for him. God was not giving me permission so I refuse to go to Plan B! That is the Christian walk! The Pharisees did rules and regulations! "In the law blameless" but I didn't know God at all!
You cannot explain us away apart from a supernatural God demonstrating His faithfulness.
"You never will prove the delights of His love, until all on the altar you lay ... What He says we will do - where He sends we will go. Never fear, only trust and obey".