Not A Word

Young Adult Sunday School Lesson – May 27, 2012

And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, ‘How long halt ye between two opinions? If the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him’. And the people answered him not a word.”  I Kings 18:21

The would-be emperor of Rome, Mark Antony, had a flair for the outrageous even before he went down in the annals of history as Cleopatra’s ill-fated sire. It appears as though in his extravagance, at one point he drove a chariot pulled by two lions. Not horses mind you, or even mules, but harnessed lions—roaring and bellowing in rage as he drove them through the streets of Rome with his whip.

Many Christians try and perform the same feat today. They follow the ‘Lion of the Tribe of Judah’ on Sundays, and then follow another lion the rest of the week; one who’s only goal is to be ‘seeking whom he may devour’. Lions weren’t meant to be harnessed together and driven from the seat of a chariot, no matter how experienced or brave the operator.

This week we continue with our prequel to the showdown on Mount Carmel between Elijah and the prophets of Baal. At this point in our study, Ahab has assembled ‘all of Israel’ on the slopes, and Elijah steps forward to address the people. Notice that he has nothing to say to the prophets of Baal. He also has nothing further to say to wicked King Ahab. Instead he addresses the Children of Israel directly with a challenge. This challenge screams down through the ages to those of us living in our own sinful and wicked, modern and so-called enlightened world today: make a choice because you cannot have it both ways in your Spiritual life.

I see three classes of people on that mountain, and their stereotypes are still with us in our present day and age. One group ignores G_d completely, confident in following the wicked ways of their leader, Satan, who is in himself as much a false god in every design of the word as Baal was in Elijah’s day. This group sees no reason at all to change. Sadly, there is no hope for them as nothing will turn their hearts until they find themselves facing the Great White Throne judgment.

Then we see Elijah, and though he states that he is alone in following Jehovah, the truth is G_d had set aside seven thousand followers who had not bowed their knees to Baal. We also have the timid but erstwhile faith we saw in Obadiah from last week’s lesson. The faithful were still out there; maybe hidden from view with the exception of Elijah—yet there will always be those men and women of faith that hold fast to the things of G_d without wavering despite the circumstances of the day and age they find themselves in.

However, I believe that Elijah’s focus here is on the third and largest group present upon the bleak summit of Carmel that day. It was on those same ‘undecideds’ that still inhabit our churches today, as unable then as they are now to even verbalize a reply. Maybe you know a few of them, or just maybe you find yourself filling their shoes when you honestly examine your own heart. Many would like to ‘enter at the straight gate’ if only it did not cost them anything. If only they could still pursue the things of the world, while peacefully coexisting in the Spiritual realm—if only they could keep Christ on a shelf! You know, take him out on Sunday morning, dust Him off, follow Him that entire day, then replace Him on the self-same shelf that night and go about their business. By Monday morning it’s back to the rat race; to get gain and live life for all it’s worth, with merely an occasional pause to remember the things of G_d when and if merit calls for it. In far too many ways this is similar to those stoic Children of Israel back in their day; keeping an altar to Jehovah in their houses along with an altar to Baal placed next to it.

In the end, when we live our life in this manner, we'll find we cannot be truly happy as we try and serve both masters. We will not get the blessings and peace that comes only through following Christ, but at the same time, we can never totally fall into the worldly things of Baal that keeps that first group I mentioned above satisfied in some manner or another. At best, we will merely lose the respect of the other groups in sum and total. The Christians will see us for what we are as hypocrites, and the world will see us as merely wannabe-Spiritual-church-goers, all the while laughing at us behind our back. At the very worst, the Bible warns that we’ll become double-minded and end up unstable in all of our ways.

If we are truly committed to our salvation, then we need to go all out with it and follow Jesus seven days a week. We must bravely stand up and face the trials and temptations that are surely going to come our way. We have an eternal reward promised and waiting for us that will truly be worth it all. On the other hand, if we are not going to commit to Jesus, and instead merely pay Him lip-service for a couple of hours on Sunday, we may as well not waste His and our time at all. We should go ahead and live life to its sin-filled fullest, chase vainly after those things that tempt us most, and when the end finally comes, at least we will be able to proudly stand and sing, “I did it my way”.

Elijah admonished those conflicted citizens to make a choice: If the Lord be G_d, then follow Him as such. Believe in Him. Trust in Him. Serve Him. Love Him. Worship Him. If Baal (The World) is your god, then follow him. A choice must be made now/here in our same day and age because it should be easy to understand by all of us that we are rapidly running out of time.

Besides, you realistically cannot hitch your chariot to both.

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” Mathew 6:24

Many Days and Spiritual Leadership

Young Adult Sunday School Lesson – May 13, 2012

And it came to pass after many days, that the word of the LORD came to Elijah...” I Kings 18:1

We ended our class last week with Elijah living in Zarephath with a widow and her son. At the close of the lesson, the widow dramatically pronounced her trust in the prophet (and G_d) following the miracle of her son being restored to life.

Chapter 18 begins with the phrase “after many days”. Later in the very same verse, the writer tells us that it was “‘in the third year” when the next events recorded in this chapter occurred. This may seem like a redundant description of time-measurement to us as we study this chapter, but I believe that every word in the Bible, every phrase, every jot and tittle (Matthew 5:18) is important. If you used a newer, more modern version of the Bible, you probably would not see this redundancy—yet it is very important. In Elijah’s life (as in ours) we may measure the time we spend in our lives by the passing of years, but our true desire and focus should remain on walking with G_d in a daily fashion. You see, that is the way He deals with us and desires for us to deal with Him. (Matthew 6:34) Furthermore, through what we have studied so far, isn’t it obvious that Elijah truly entertained a daily walk with G_d throughout his life? After many days, indeed!

The story of Elijah certainly has its high and low points, and flows throughout a span of several chapters. We can easily see the miracles and the power of G_d recorded within the narrative of Elijah’s life, but if you pay close attention, there are smaller details not as readily apparent to the casual observer as they should be. This week we will ponder on one of those scenarios as recorded in this chapter. I’ll warn you, it will not seem like very much when we read it for the first time. If anything, it appears to be nothing more than a prequel to the penultimate show down on Mount Carmel—which will take place by the end of the chapter. I’m specifically talking about Elijah’s meeting with Obadiah, and what we can garner from this meeting that just might help us out in our modern, twenty-first century daily walk with G_d.

One note here before we start: there is no evidence that this Obadiah is the prophet that penned the small book later on in the Old Testament. What we do know is that he was the governor (or overseer) of Ahab’s house. As a testimony, the writer tells us that he “feared the Lord greatly”. Obviously, he was a righteous man of faith, and an example is given of his taking the initiative of hiding one hundred prophets of G_d from Jezebel during one of her political purges, while also taking care of them.

A comparison of Elijah and Obadiah would be a good place for us to start. Elijah has been safely tucked away in Zarephath for the last three years. G_d has taken care of him and performed many fascinating miracles in his life. Obadiah, meanwhile, has been on the front lines in the Spiritual battle of his life! He’s witnessed the drought that has utterly destroyed Israel’s agrarian society. He’s watched from inside the King’s house as Jezebel and Ahab, instead of turning to G_d, relentlessly pursue the false god of “rain and thunder” (Baal) are actively persecuting the Lord’s prophets—at a time when those prophets have the very truths their nation needs to hear the most. Man, that sounds familiar!

It is easy for us to feel close to G_d on Sunday mornings when we visit His house; the prayers and worship songs, the preaching from His Word, and the visitation of the Holy Spirit. We can get comfortable sitting in our padded pews and air conditioning during those times. But it is a different story when we are out in the world the rest of the week—a world that seems to merely become exponentially more wicked as each day passes by. We are called to be separate from the world, (I John 2:15) and yet we have also been chosen to ‘go out into the world’ (Matt: 28:19) at the same time. It can get confusing to us, and Satan will take advantage of it at every opportunity when we allow our Spiritual guard to slip.

Take Obadiah as an example here. He’s working—doing what Ahab the King commanded him to do and fulfilling his job requirements out in the world on a day just like any other day. Then he meets the man of G_d alongside the road. Immediately he begins pleading his case and making excuses, although Elijah only asked him to do a simple thing. Apparently, in Obadiah’s mind, the appearance of Elijah somehow meant he was going to get into trouble by the time the dust settled. Check out his words as they are recorded here: “What have I sinned, that thou wouldest deliver thy servant into the hand of Ahab, to slay me?” And: “and so when I come and tell Ahab, and he cannot find thee, he shall slay me: but I thy servant fear the LORD from my youth.” Finally: “Was it not told my lord what I did when Jezebel slew the prophets of the LORD”

I’m a good person. I’ve always done what I was supposed to do. Why is this happening to me? Have you ever felt this way in your own life? Have you ever questioned G_d? Wrapping up our study for this week, isn’t Obadiah’s questions closely related to the widow’s questions from the previous chapter? Again, throughout the Bible, when someone has a question for G_d, He always provides an answer.

Elijah does not get angry and chide Obadiah for his lack of faith. Instead, notice how he answers him:

1. Elijah affirms his credentials: "As the LORD of hosts liveth...

2. Elijah affirms his calling: ...before whom I stand...

3. Elijah affirms his mission: ...I will surely shew myself unto him to day."

Finally, notice Obadiah’s response: “So Obadiah went to meet Ahab, and told him:” Or, if you need a Shannonism to make it easier to understand, Obadiah said, “Gee, now I understand, I’ll go do what you asked me to do in the first place!”

Obadiah’s earlier attitude could have been because he was not sure of God’s will for his life, or possibly he was so busy with his daily responsibilities he could not see what was going on at this moment. Elijah changed his heart through his Spiritual leadership and by his example.

Whether we know it or not, we all have leadership roles to fulfill in the lives of others, and we should use both our testimony and our influence to help others in their daily Spiritual walks. Jesus reminds us that we are to function as salt and light, therefore we should be an encouragement to our Christian brothers and sisters. As we see in this week’s study, God wants us be sensitive to the needs of others and to set an example by demonstrating the reality of Christ by living an authentic Christian life in everything we do. “Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.” (1 Thess. 5:11).