Listen to audio above while reading along with transcript below (also available for download in Word from www.biblestudyministriesinc.com)
I want to share a little passage from Song of Solomon 2:16, “My beloved is mine, and I am his; he pastures his flock among the lilies.” That expression has really touched my heart because Jesus said in Matthew 6:26, “Observe the lilies of the field, how they grow. They do not toil and do not spin, and even Solomon in all of his glory was not arrayed like one of those.” One way you can prove that is if you could take a piece of the most royal robe that Solomon ever had, and put it under a lens under a microscope, it would look like burlap compared to a petal of a lily – a lily, that’s the glory. So, God is going to feed His sheep among the remnant, among the lilies, among those who have learned lily-life. I thank the Lord that’s us.
Heavenly Father, we thank You for who you are, and we thank You for gathering us together, and we just trust the indwelling Holy Spirit to focus our hearts once again squarely on our Lord Jesus Christ. We thank You that we can trust You to unveil Him to our hearts. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Let me review the great theme of our little study of Elijah and Elisha. The great thrust of the portion of scripture that covers the life of these two servants of the Lord, God puts the spotlight on the heart of God, and takes the light off of these men, and puts the light on the heart of God. His people, at that time, had turned away from the Lord. These were the wicked days of the reign of Ahab and Jezebel. I just want to read these verses to give you the flavor of those times. 1 Kings 16:30,
“Ahab, the son of Omri, did evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him. It came about, as though it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, that he married Jezebel, the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians, and went to serve Baal and worshipped him. Se, he erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal which he built in Samaria. Ahab also made the Asherah. Thus, Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel than all the kings of Israel who were before him.”
Then in 1 Kings 21:25-26, “Surely, there was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do evil in the sight of the Lord, because Jezebel his wife incited him. He acted very abominably in following idols, according to all that the Amorites had done, whom the Lord cast out before the sons of Israel.” 1 Kings 21:20, “Ahab said to Elijah, ‘Have you found me, O my enemy?’ And he answered, ‘I have found you, because you have sold yourself to evil in the sight of the Lord.’” 2 Kings 9:7, the Lord is speaking to Jehu, his servant, “You shall strike the house of Ahab your master, that I may avenge the blood of my servants the prophets, and the blood of all the servants of the Lord, at the hand of Jezebel.” You see that at that time Israel had turned from the Lord, and Ahab was wicked more than anyone, and Jezebel incited him, and she was even more wicked, and Israel had turned from God.
The theme of this section of scripture, this portion, is that God had not turned from His people. His people threw God out, but God did not throw them out. Hosea 11:8 is an expression in one of the prophets of the heart of God, “How can I give you up, oh Eprhaim? How can I surrender you, oh Israel? How can I make you like Admah,” that was a judge that God judged, “How can I treat you like Zebolim? My heat is turned over within me. All my compassions are kindled.” We don’t usually think of the Lord that way, but God said, “I’ve loved My people. They’ve cast Me out, but how can I give them up? I love them so much. My heart is turned over within Me. I don’t know what to do.” There’s another place where when they were in fellowship, God said that He looked at them and His heart skipped a beat. Lovers look at one another and their hearts skip a beat, and that’s how God feels about you. He not only loves you, but He’s in love with you.
How does Elijah and Elisha fit into this awesome picture? God’s heart is a heart of recovery. He wants to recover His people. Elijah and Elisha picture the kind of an instrument God is going to use in order to recover His people. That’s why we have stories like Elijah and Elisha. The main message is that God has a heart beating hot in love for His people, and He wants to recover them. How will He do it, and who will He use? The answer is people like Elijah and Elisha.
Listen to 1 Kings 17:1, “Elijah, the Tishbite, who was of the settlers of Gilead, said to Ahab, ‘As the Lord God of Israel lives,’ that’s his direction, God loves Israel and you threw them out, because you’re serving dead gods, now, but our God is the living God, ‘before whom I stand,’ Elijah stood in the presence of the Lord, ‘surely, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years except by my word,’” I am now delivering, fearlessly and faithfully the message of the Lord. What is the direction of the heart of the man that God will use? The answer is that he’s one that knows that God loves His people and wants them restored, one that knows that God is the One and only true and living God, the one who stands in His presence, and listens to Him, and then faithfully and fearlessly delivers that message at any cost. That’s the direction the Lord works in His servant in order to recover His people. But as we’ve seen, the direction is not the goal. That’s the starting point, and it’s not the goal. We don’t work for that direction. That’s where we begin, knowing that God loves His people and He’s alive and I’m in His presence and I want to do His bidding. That’s where you start.
I referred to Paul’s heart burden for the Christians, and especially of Galatia, Galatians 4:19, “My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you…” I have to have that direction toward the Lord, but that’s the beginning. Then God takes me through experiences where He conforms me to Christ, and by conforming me, Christ is formed in me. My vision of Christ gets larger and larger and larger. So, at the brook, at the widow’s house, at Mt. Carmel, under the Juniper tree, on Mt. Sinai, in each experience Elijah goes to, he’s going to get a new revelation of the Lord, and God is going to increase in his vision. He needs to be trained.
I’m not going to develop it at this time, but I told you at the beginning how Elisha fits in. Elijah is the man God uses, and Elisha pictures the fruit of his ministry. He’s the one in the Old Testament that looks like Jesus. If you go through his life, you’ll be amazed at how many ways he does. He fed the multitudes, he cleansed the leper, he raised the dead, and in all of these different things he looks like Jesus. Elijah is a man that produces the fruit that looks like Jesus.
How is God going to recover His people? He has to find a man or woman or Christian whose heart is toward Him and has been conformed to Christ in such a way that the outworking of his life produces people that look like Jesus. That’s why we’re studying Elijah and Elisha. If I’m ever going to have a ministry that honors the Lord, in other words, that produces fruit that looks like Jesus, then I’m going to have to have it in my life first, and that’s why He said, “I’ve got to take you through these experiences, and I’ve got to form Christ in you, so that you can produce someone who looks like Christ.
I want to make one explanation about that, because when I say, “Produces someone who looks like Jesus,” that can be misleading. In other words, I can be communicating that idea that you should look like Jesus and you should copy Him, and imitate His life, and study what He would do, and then you do the same thing. I’m not saying that, because the Christian life is not copying Jesus, which is an impossible task, anyway, and it’s not imitating Christ. The Christian life is not my ability to copy Him. It’s His ability to reproduce Himself in me and manifest Himself through me. The reason Elijah looks like Jesus is because it is Jesus living in him and through him. When Stephen said, “Into Thy hands I commit my spirit,” that sounded like Jesus. When Stephen said, “Forgive them, for they know not what they are doing,” that sounded like Jesus. It sounded like Jesus because it was Jesus, Jesus living in Stephen. So, I don’t want you to get the idea that we’re going to produce people who are going to copy Jesus. We’re going to produce people who have an indwelling Christ and manifest that Christ.
Elijah and Elisha together, they aren’t two pictures: They’re one. This is the kind of person God is going to raise up, because His heart wants to recover His people. When I say that God raises up that kind of a person, so that God can recover, what I’m really saying is that it’s the best hope to recover. The reason I say that’s the best hope is because God can put a person like Elijah and Elisha in Israel, and they can say, “No,” but that’s their best hope. They said, “No,” to the best hope. I just want you to know that God is never going to force a will. In fact, after Elijah, we don’t see Israel turning back to the Lord. In fact, they get swallowed up many years later by Assyria. But that was their best hope, and God raises up people that are conformed to Jesus and produce people that look like Jesus in order to give His people the best hope at coming back to Christ. That’s pretty much what we’ve looked at so far.
Let me quickly review what we touched don before the Thanksgiving break. The Lord who took His servant to the place where he had the right direction, and He began discovering Christ to him, I showed you the chief revelation that God gave Elijah in his early experience, and that was El Shaddai, the God who is more than enough. 1 Kings 17:2, “The word of the Lord came to him saying, ‘Go away from here, and turn eastward, and hide yourself by the Brook Cherith, which is east of Jordan, and it shall be that you will drink of the brook. I have commanded the ravens to provide for you there.’” At the brook, although he was alone for a long period of time, and although God used very unusual means to provide for him, and although the brook dried up, he discovered El Shaddai, “My brook dried up, but my God did not dry up,” and he learned that God is the One who never dries up. In the hidden place he began to discover El Shaddai.
1 Kings 17:8&9, I’ll tell you the record. At the brook he discovered that the Lord is enough for me. 1 Kings 17:16, at the widow’s house he discovered that the Lord is enough for me and for others. And then finally, when God raised the dead through him, 1 Kings 17:17, “It came about after these things that the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became sick, and his sickness was so severe that there was no breath left in him.” Verse 21, “He stretched himself upon the child three times, and called to the Lord and said, ‘O Lord, my God, I pray You, let this child’s life return to him.’ The Lord heard the voice of Elijah, and the life of the child returned to him, and he revived.”
At the brook He was El Shaddai, enough for me. At the widow’s house, He’s El Shaddai, He’s more than enough for me and others in an inexhaustible supply, and when he used him to raise the dead, he said that God is not only enough for me, not only enough for me and others, but He’s also enough through me. Through contact with those who had no life, the life of God was able to flow through him. We looked at that last time and developed it some. I won’t do that again. All of that, the brook and the widow’s house, all the way through the resurrection, were designed to teach him to depend upon the Lord and to walk by faith and not by sight. He was sort of forced to depend upon the Lord. Everything he experienced was a miracle. Don’t think for a moment any part of your Christian life is natural. The Christian life is a miracle from start to finish. It’s all what He does. The whole thing is a miracle. He needed God’s miracle in every step, and he discovered El Shaddai.
That’s where we left off. Before we leave these early experiences, the brook and the widow’s house, we just tried to follow the flow, in other words, the message of God’s heart in Elijah and Elisha, but we didn’t cover everything in chapter 17. No matter how long we spent there, we aren’t going to cover everything, because there is no bottom to any part of scripture. You’ll study it forever. You’re going to be in heaven a billion years and you’re still going to be amazed at the depth of John 3:16. We’re never going to come to the end of it. But we looked at the main flow of Elijah’s spiritual education at the brook and at the widow’s house, and where he discovered El Shaddai, but we stepped over some very precious truths. It’s sort of a tributary; we’re following the brook, but then there was a tributary. There are rich things that we stepped over, and I just hate leaving chapter 17 with all those precious gems on the ground. So, what I’d like to do is sort of retrace again, we’re still at the widow’s house, but actually the brook and the widow’s house, and I want to call attention to three things that we mentioned, but we did not expound upon, and I’d like to elaborate a little more because they are very, very precious truths.
Here is a little outline of what I’d like to do, God assisting. I’d like to retrace chapter 17, and pick up a few principles, a few truths, but I want you to know that Truth is a Person, and it’s not academic, and a principle is not Jesus. We want to see Jesus, but these principles lead us to see Jesus. So, I want to pick up a few of those that we stepped over, and then Elijah is about to have new experiences where he is going to be conformed more fully to Jesus, and I want to give you an overview of the next block of scripture. In the first block we saw the brook and the widow’s house, and in this block, we’re going to pick three experiences, and he’s going to discover a marvelous revelation of Christ, and I’ll show you what that is, God helping us. So, that’s what we’ll do.
My first observation comes from 1 Kings 17:1, “Elijah, the Tishbite, who was of the settlers of Gilead, said to Ahab, ‘As the Lord, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand….” I’d like to extract that expression, “The Lord God of Israel before whom I stand…,” and I want to ask, “What does that mean to stand before the Lord God of Israel?” The way I’m going to show you this is that the Old Testament is the truth in the seed. The New Testament is the same truth fully developed. So, I want to show you what it means to stand before the presence of the Lord in the seed, and then I want to show you what it means in the fully developed, and then we’ll go to the next gem.
It had a special meaning in the Old Testament in seed form that would be developed later in the New Testament. Standing in the presence of God in the Old Testament, not just here, but throughout the Old Testament, refers to a servant of the Lord, or an ambassador of the Lord who has made a vow. When he says, “As the Lord God of Israel lives,” that’s a form of an oath. “I swear to this.” It’s not just somebody who stands before God. It’s someone who has made an oath to stand before the Living God. It’s a voluntary stand, and he’s pledged to be His servant. He stands in the presence of the One he’s chosen to be his master, and he just stands there, and he’s waiting for the next command. He’s waiting for the next order. He’s waiting for the next commission. He’s standing in an attitude of attention, in an attitude of expectancy, in an attitude of readiness, “I’m standing in front of my chosen King, and I’m waiting, whatever He wants me to do, and I do it willingly, and I’ve made an oath to do it, and I’m ready to obey with electric heat. As soon as He speaks, I’m going to obey. My loins are girded, my ears are perked, I want to hear His voice, my eyes are intent, I’m ready to deliver at any cost whatever He tells me to deliver.
In this connection I love Psalm 32:8, “I will instruct thee and teach three in the way in which thou shall go; I will guide thee with My eye.” Sometimes, as the servant stood willingly in the presence of his chosen Master, he didn’t get a verbal command. They were so close, he knew the Master so well, sometimes he just got a nod of the head, and the servant knew what to do. Sometimes it was just His eyes, “I’ll guide you with My eye.” I think Lillian perfected that with our kids as they were growing up. I would see her sometimes in church and the kids would be acting up, and she’d give that old eye, or she’d give them a nod of the head. I learned several things. “Leave the room; I’ll deal with you later.” But that’s how the servant was with his Master.
There’s an illustration of this when the Queen of Sheba came to see the wisdom of Solomon. Actually, the Hebrew inclines to say that she actually fainted when she saw the glory, especially the access to the temple. Here’s one thing that impressed her. 1 Kings 10:8, “How blessed are your men, how blessed are these your servants who stand before you continually and hear your wisdom.” The servants stood before the Lord, and the Queen of Sheba was just amazed at that. That’s how the expression is used in the Old Testament.
In this case it was Elijah standing in the presence of the Lord. That was his Master, and he announced to King Ahab a very strong and negative message, “You are going to have a famine for years.” He didn’t tell him 3 ½ years, but he discovered that. I say that’s the Old Testament. In the Old Testament there are two people, the servant and the master, and they’re facing each other, and the servant is very alert to what the master is going to communicate. In the New Testament there are not two people, a servant and a master. You see, in the Old Testament I stand in the presence of the Lord. In the New Testament the presence of the Lord stands in me. It’s in Christ Jesus. That’s the New Testament expression of what Elijah had when he said, “I’m standing in the presence of the Living God, “In Christ Jesus,” and that’s a forward step in that wonderful truth. Both are in His presence, one is seed form, but now the presence of the Lord is in me. When Paul wrote His epistles, he was very careful to make that distinction. He didn’t write to those in Galatia; he wrote to those in Christ in Galatia, and in Christ in Philippi, and in Christ in Colossae, and in Christ in Thessalonica. Paul never looked at his circumstances, “I am in prison.” It doesn’t say that. He said, “I’m in Christ in prison,” and everywhere he went he was first of all in Christ. You’ve got that in seed form, Elijah says as he stands in the presence of King Ahab, “I’m in the presence of the living God in the presence of King Ahab.” He declares first that he’s in the presence of the Lord, and he’s also in the presence of King Ahab.
I wanted to put that out because it is so practical in our lives. Don’t ever cease seeing yourself in Christ and Christ is in you. You say, “Boy, I’m going to have to face my boss, and this is thorny.” No, you are not. I mean, yes you are, but you are in Christ, and Christ is facing your boss, and you’re in Christ Jesus facing your teacher, and you’re in Christ facing your coach, and you’re in Christ facing the elders and you’re in Christ facing your husband and your wife and your children. We’re always first in Christ Jesus. I just wanted you to see, standing in the presence of the Lord and the Lord in your presence. He’s in your life.
Before we look at the next historical event, I want to call attention to another detail that took place at the house of the widow. I’m referring to the statement she made after her son was raised from the dead. 1 Kings 17:24, “Then the woman said to Elijah, ‘Now I know you’re a man of God, and the truth of the Lord that is in your mouth is true.” The question is, why didn’t she know that before this? She’s almost implying, “I didn’t know before.” In chapter 17:14 she had a word before, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘The bowl of flour shall not be exhausted, nor the jar of oil be empty until the day the Lord sends rain on the face of the earth.” She heard that word, and then she experienced it. Look at 1 Kings 17:16, “The bowl of flour was not exhausted nor did the jar of oil become empty, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke through Elijah.” After seeing that miracle, why didn’t she say, “Now I know that you’re a man of God, and the word of truth is in your mouth.”
We don’t know exactly how long she experienced that wonderful miracle. Chapter 18:1 said, “After many days,” but it doesn’t tell us how many days. Some commentators say it was six months, and they go through some math. I’m not good at math. They go through some math to prove it was six months. Other commentators say that it was a year and a half, and they go through math in order to prove it. Even Lillian couldn’t help me follow in their math, and she’s good at math. I’ll just say this, that I know it was for many days. I don’t know how many.
When you’re eating miraculously from the bottom of the barrel for many days, wouldn’t you be convinced, “That’s a man of God that just said that, and this is the word of truth in his mouth.” After such spiritual experience I think she would be convinced, and yet it wasn’t until her son was raised from the dead that she said, “Now I know.” I want to give you a possible explanation for that. It doesn’t mean it’s so. It’s just a possible explanation, but it’s a truth I see in the balance of scripture, and I didn’t want to leave this chapter until I called attention to this.
When Elijah first came before the woman and her son, they were prepared to die. 1 Kings 17:12, “She said, ‘As the Lord your God lives, I have no bread, and only a handful of flour in the bowl, and a little oil in the jar. Behold, I’m gathering a few sticks, that I may go in and prepare it for me and my son, that we may eat it and die.’” She was prepared to die, but God had other ideas. So, He did a miracle and prevented her from dying, and her son from dying. The famine was severe. She and her son for many days were prevented from dying from starvation or lack of water. God prevented that. Verse 17, “It came about after these things that the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became sick; and his sickness was so severe that there was no breath left in him.” The Lord had prevented death, but now it’s too late to prevent death. That’s an important fact. It’s too late to prevent that.
When God prevented for her, she was not convinced. I can’t read her mind; she might have thought that God is working a miracle because His servant Elijah is here. What if he leaves? Is He going to continue that miracle? Maybe she thought that. Maybe she thought, “He said it’s going to continue to provide until the rain comes, but I’m just a poor widow. I’ve got to wait for the harvest, and I might be at the back of the bread line.” I don’t know what went through her mind. I know the situation she was in, it was too late to prevent. The only thing He could do now is overcome. There is a difference between knowing God as the One who prevents and knowing God as the One who overcomes. The boy died, and God did a new thing on the earth. This had not been done before. So, now the Lord is going to reveal Himself, not only as the One who prevents, but El Shaddai, more than enough to overcome. This is a marvelous advance, knowing God who is One who prevents is one thing. Knowing God as One who overcomes is another.
Let me give you a New Testament fully developed form of the same thing. Mary and Martha at the grave of Lazarus, John 11:21, “Martha then said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” That’s another way of saying, “This could have been prevented.” “If you had been here, this could have been prevented, but you weren’t here. In John 11:32 Mary said exactly the same thing, “If you had been here, it could have been prevented, but because You weren’t here, we’re going through this heartache and tragedy.” It’s too late, Lord, that’s what they thought, it’s too late because You can’t prevent anymore. It was too late to prevent, but it wasn’t too late to overcome, as we see the wonderful record. It’s one thing to know El Shaddai as the One who prevents, and another thing as One who overcomes.
So many times, especially in our early Christian life, but even through our Christian life, we just expect God to always prevent stuff. We’re constantly asking Him. Students say, “Prevent me from flunking out,” “Prevent me from losing my job.” “I’m your child, Lord; prevent me from being poor from not having a place to live.” “Deliver me from sickness; prevent me from getting sick.” “Don’t let my loved die; prevent that person from dying.” “Prevent temptation.” “Prevent me from living by myself as a single person all the days of my life,” prevent me from this or that. We’re always asking God to prevent. “Save my reputation,” “Save my marriage,” “Save my ministry,” “Deliver me from, I’m facing a dark future and I want You to change it and save me.” That’s what Hosannah means. Remember that they cried Hosannah to the Son of David? That just means save now, prevent it, “Set up Your kingdom.” But God gets great glory when you know Him as the One who overcomes.
The widow of Zarephath didn’t have full assurance until she had the manifestation of the life of Christ. It’s life that gives assurance. The heart really can’t draw a lot of assurance from prevention. Even if I give you orthodox truth, it can only be theory and doctrine. You don’t want doctrine. You want Him. You want His life. You want to experience the Lord Himself. God hasn’t called us to be theorists, but to be witnesses of His life. And when God gives life, your heart says, “Now I know,” because it’s not just doctrine, it’s not a teaching, it’s not a principle, “I have experienced the life of God, and that fills me with assurance and confidence.” I didn’t want to leave that blessed truth. I hope you’re blessed by anything I say or teach, but you are not going to have assurance of anything if the Lord doesn’t manifest His life to you. No man, no teacher, no woman, no woman teacher is going to give you a thing unless it’s life.
I think I told you the story before. There’s a precious brother, Dale King, who came to my home, and we were fellowshipping, and I was about to go on a conference, and I said to Dale, “Would you do me a favor and pray for me. I have a conference coming up. And Dale said, “What would you have me pray?” I said, “Just pray that I can communicate light.” He said, “Ed, I can’t pray that.” I said, “Why?” He said, “Nobody needs your light.” I said, “How can you say nobody needs my light?” He said, “They don’t need light. They need life. I will pray that you will communicate life.” That was a turning point in my ministry. Praise God for Dale King who pointed me to the Truth. It’s Life that gives assurance, it’s Life that gives life. So, we can know God as One who prevents, and praise God for everything He has prevented in your life but trust Him to overcome. Trust Him to overcome in your life. That’s what He wants to do.
So, that woman is an illustration of all that God brings into your life. For Elijah, it wasn’t only depending on God for a miracle, raising the dead, but I want you to notice that this was a new thing on the earth. When Elijah shows up, the earth is about three thousand years old and never before had anybody come back from the dead. Don’t be afraid to trust God for a miracle, and don’t be afraid to trust God for a new thing, something that He has never done before. Does He still do new things? He manifests Christ, He gives Life, and it might be in a way that no one else has experienced it. I’m not saying to go out and ask God for a new thing. Don’t go on a new thing hunt. I don’t want you to do that, but don’t be afraid of it, either. If the Lord wants to do a new thing through you, let Him. If He wants to do something new through me, I’ve got to let Him.
Those other things, He dried up other brooks before; He dried up the Red Sea. There were famines before, in the days of Joseph, and so on. He provided supernaturally through the wilderness and kept the shoes from going old and their feet from swelling, but this was a new thing. I wanted us to see the difference between El Shaddai preventing, and El Shaddai overcoming. It’s still El Shaddai. We praise Him for whatever is His pleasure.
After she said, “Now I know,” after He manifested life, his ministry at her house was over. The next thing you read is 1 Kings 18:1, “Go show yourself to Ahab,” and he leaves the house. Once God used you to manifest life to someone, He’ll probably just call you onto somebody else. We see that here.
I want to make one other observation about Elijah and the widow. This widow is not just mentioned in the Old Testament, the widow is also mentioned in the New Testament in Luke 4. What does God emphasize when He mentions the widow in the Old Testament? The answer is in 1 King 17:9, “Arise and go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and stay there. I’ve commanded a widow to provide for you.” In the Old Testament the widow was to provide Elijah’s needs. We know it wasn’t her that provided. It was the Lord. She didn’t have a crumb in the natural. It was the Lord. What does the New Testament emphasize when it mentioned the widow? Luke 4:25, “I tell you a truth. Many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout the land, but unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Zarephath, a city of Sidon, unto a woman who was a widow.” Elijah was sent to this woman.
What was Jesus doing? He was talking to the Jews, and they were a proud group of Jews, and He was explaining to them that God is not a respecter of persons. He’s not looking for Jews and He’s not looking for gentiles. He’s looking for seekers, and He uses two illustrations. In Luke 4 He said, “This widow, even though she is a gentile, she’s a seeker,” and then He used Nahum and the leper, and He said, “Nahum was a gentile, and he was a seeker.” God is always on the lookout for seekers. He seeks such to worship. The gentile woman had a responsive heart. And the gentile Syrian had a responsive heart. After this He said, “The leper is a seeker.” You know the record. They grabbed hold of Him and forced Him and dragged Him out of the city, and they were ready to throw Him over the cliff, because they were filled with Jewish pride. “Don’t tell us gentiles are seekers; we are Your people.”
Here’s the point. In the Old Testament the widow was sent to meet Elijah’s need. In the New Testament Elijah was sent to meet her need. She had a spiritual need. God always works on both ends. It’s not just one. It’s both ends. When God brings someone into your life, dear friend of God, know that He wants to minister Christ through you. Be open; you don’t have anything to give, but Christ is in you and you have Life to give, you have Christ to give. When somebody is brought into your life, it is not an accident. When your path crosses anybody, it is not an accident. God is saying, “I want you to minister to that person, and I want that person to minister to you.” God always works on both ends. It doesn’t only go one way. Sometimes we can get the idea that I’m spiritual and that person doesn’t know beans from buttons, so I can minister to them, but they have nothing to give to me. Don’t be so proud. Don’t think that. What they have, or what you have, is incidental because you are just the instrument, and I’m just the instrument. It’s not us; we don’t have anything, and they don’t have anything, but we have the Lord, and they have the Lord, and so, that person that comes into your life, you minister to them and be open to have them minister to you.
I love 2 Corinthians 9:8 in this regard. I don’t think I know another verse with more superlatives piled up in it than this verse. “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always, having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed. As it is written, ‘He scattered abroad, He gave to the poor. His righteousness endures forever.’ He who supplies seed to the sower, bread for food, will supply and multiply your seed for sowing increase the harvest of your righteousness.” You don’t have anything to give, so He multiplies your seed for sowing. They don’t have anything to give. Yes, they do, and we need to understand that.
God have mercy on us for thinking that it’s only one way, that, “I’m so glad God brought so and so into my life. He really needs me, and I can help him, and I’ll give him counsel and I’ll give him this and that.” That is arrogance and pride. It’s not the instrument. It’s the Lord in the instrument. This truth has special application, especially to caregivers, to those who are called by the Lord, maybe it’s a disabled child, maybe it’s an elderly parent, a mother or father, or maybe a grandparent, even a spouse, because they’re helpless, and in many cases they’re just open for ministry. You need to dress them, to feed them, to bathe them, need to take care of them, need to maker sure they get their meds. In some cases, when you’re called to minister like that, it almost feels like a burden, rather than a commission and calling, and you have the attitude, “Well, I really don’t have a choice because I’m related to them and there is no one else to step up, and so I’m going to bite the bullet and I’m just going to do it, and I’m going to trust the Lord to give me the grace to do it,” especially when they don’t appreciate it.
My wife and I had to take of my stepdad. We didn’t have to. God told us to take care of my stepdad, and he was rather hard and insensitive and said some cruel things and did some rather cruel things, and it’s difficult caring for somebody like that who is unthankful and onery, but I’m going to give the facts right now. I needed him as much as he needed me. We needed each other, and I had to trust the Lord. God gave me a six-word prayer. I told you about that, “Thy life for mine in this,” and when I would go into his room, if I went in by myself, I’d come out pulling my hair and wanting to choke him, but if I gave, “Thy Life for mine in this,” I went in, and it made a qualitative difference on how I came out. I didn’t realize I prayed it out loud, I know it was my heart. The reason I know I prayed it out loud is because my kids started praying this, because they heard my prayer. If they had a situation, they would say, “Thy Life for mine in this, Thy Life for mine in this.” That’s exactly the point.
In Elijah’s case, ministry was a mighty miracle of God. No Christian can be joyous as a caregiver, for example, without a mighty miracle of God. The whole Christian life is a miracle of God. How can they minister to me? Well, let me give a testimony. How did my stepdad minister to me? He tried my patience and crowded me to Christ. That was ministry. I needed that. He drained my resources, so I had to trust the Lord. That was ministry unto me. He revealed some deep emotions, deep rooted attitudes I had in my heart that needed to be repented of. He ministered to me. He forced me to trust the Lord, and the Life of the indwelling God. All I’m trying to say is that God always works on both ends. If somebody comes into your life, bow your head and thank the Lord. He’s giving you an opportunity to touch their lives but keep open because they are going to minister to you, as well, if you allow the Lord to do that. Those three things I didn’t want to leave; living in His presence, His presence living in you, and the Lord not only prevents but He overcomes, and then God always works on both ends.
What I’d like to do now is give you that first block and an overview of what we’re going to look at. Elijah still needs to be conformed to Christ, and there are other experiences that he needs to go through. Praise God that he learned, “God is enough for me, for others and through me,” but now he begins in chapter 18, “Go show yourself to Ahab.” We’re going to cover in these next experiences his meeting with Obadiah, the contest on Mt. Ebele, his running from Jezebel, his going under the juniper tree, his running to the mountain of the law, Mt. Sinai, hearing the still, small voice; that’s a big block of scripture. It ends on Mt. Sinai, chapter 19:12&13, “After the earthquake, a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing (KJV A still, small voice),” but to make it simple I’m going to take all of those experiences and just divide it into three: Mt. Carmel, under the juniper tree and Mt. Sinai. That’s what we’re going to look at.
His whole life is really divided up by three commands. In chapter 17:2 He said, “Go hide yourself.” In chapter 18:1 He said, “Go show yourself.” Finally, in chapter 19:11 He said, “Go stand in the presence of the Lord.” He started off in the presence of the Lord. He got out of the presence of the Lord, and he finally has to come back to the presence of the Lord.
Over all of that you can write the word “El Shaddai,” because El Shaddai is enough when you need food, when you need water, when you need to see God using you, but He’s also enough when you get discouraged, and when you take your eyes off Him, and when you run back to the Law. He’s El Shaddai over the whole thing. I’m not going to replace the title “El Shaddai” with another title, but I’m going to dive into the name “El Shaddai,” so we can look a little deeper at what El Shaddai means.
I’ve chosen an expression from Hebrews 12:2, “Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith,” KJV, “Author and finisher of our faith.” At the brook, at the widow’s house, to teach dependence and faith, Jesus, El Shaddai, was the author of faith, and now Elijah is going to blow it, and He’s going to be the perfecter of faith. So, I’m going to take that idea, it’s still Ed Shaddai, more than enough, and He’s the author of faith and now we’re going to look at when he goes down into the dumps and becomes confused, departs from the Lord, gets desperate. I expressed surprise when even after all the evidence the widow had, that she didn’t say, “Now, I know.” And I expressed a little more surprise when I look at all the evidence Elijah had; he fed from the brook, he saw God do miracles, he raised the dead, and then he got out of fellowship with God. I’ll tell you, don’t presume, and I’ll tell you, don’t despair. Both are true. God gives us this so we will not presume, and we will not despair.
I say that I was surprised at the widow and surprised at Elijah, when I get to the New Testament, I’m a little shocked by John the Baptizer, that he ended up doubting. I say, “What in the world! Look what he experienced. He heard a voice out of heaven, and he saw the dove, and so on, but I’m more shocked at my Lillian and me, after all these years of His faithfulness, how can we still doubt? When we go through a situation, what are we going to do? Shame, shame on me; shame, shame on her to think of all that the Lord has done for the last sixty-four years in our life, and still we will come to this place. So, what we’re about to study is very important, that the Lord is the Perfecter of faith. We say that the Lord is my Shepherd, and I shall not want, I like verse 3, He restores my soul. I wouldn’t give anything, if all the stars were laid in silver ten times over and offered to me, I wouldn’t trade it for the truth that He restores my soul. I’ve been restored; I’ve looked away. There’s hope in this section that we’re going to be looking at, wonderful, wonderful hope.
I want to close with an illustration from the New Testament. Luke 22:32, “Simon, Simon, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail.” That expression is Hebrews, the Perfecter of your faith, “I pray that your faith will not fail.” You know the story of Peter. His flesh failed. That has to fail. His pride failed. That had to fail. Self-confidence has to fail. That has to fail, but your faith is not going to fail. He’s the Author of faith, and the Perfecter of faith.
I don’t know if you’ve heard of that Presbyterian turned Baptist, A. T. Pierson. A. T. Person took over Spurgeon’s church, and he was discussing this verse, “I’ve prayed for you that your faith fail not,” and he pictured Peter more self-confident, and he was backing up and getting into it deeper and deeper, and there is a great precipice, and as he backed up, finally the cock crowed and he fell over, and A. T. Person in his inimitable way described him, and said, “He fell, and fell, and fell until he hit the prayers of Jesus.” That acted as a great net. Brothers and sisters in Christ, we’re about to look at a glorious section of scripture. He’s the author of our faith; He’s the perfecter of our faith. You may fall, but you will never fall further than the prayers of Christ. Let’s pray.
Father, thank You for Your word, for Your Holy Spirit. Make these things so alive and real in our hearts. Prepare us as we get ready to see these next experiences where You faithfully conform Elijah to Christ, and form Christ in him. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.