The God Who Speaks
The God Who Speaks
1 Kings 19
Turn with me to the book of 1 Kings. I know we’ve been in 1 Peter for the past several months, and we’re coming up on the end of it, but the sermon I had scheduled for today should really be done in person, so we’ll get to that another time. Today we’re jumping 1 Kings 19 for a story that actually fits very well what we’ve been talking about in 1 Peter.
In 1 Kings, the nation of Israel, God’s chosen people out of all the nations of the earth, are not doing so hot. They have become spiritually lazy in the Promised Land, and are worshiping other gods, making a mockery of the name of God. In chapter 17, we meet a prophet of God named Elijah. Elijah is a man of God, who has seen God perform miracles through him, from multiplying food to bringing a little girl back to life, and he has developed quite a reputation.
One side of his reputation is that he’s hard to catch. King Ahab was king over Israel at this time, and he was not a fan of Elijah. Here are Ahab’s credentials listed 1 Kings 16:
- Did more evil in the Lord’s sight than all the kings before him.
- Married Jezebel (a foreign wife, something they weren’t supposed to do), who killed all the prophets of God she could get her hands on
- Served and worshiped the god Baal; made altars to him, etc.
In summary: 16:33 Ahab did more to anger the Lord God of Israel than all the kings of Israel who were before him.
So if that’s the king’s reputation, and the prophet of God is there to tell you what God is saying and thinking about you, what do you think Elijah’s going to say? Ahab didn’t like Elijah, because he was always hard on him. Telling him about his sin. Telling him that God is angry. Telling him punishment is coming. So the King had hunted Elijah down multiple times, and had never been able to catch him. To the point where the king’s palace manager was convinced that the Spirit of God was just moving Elijah around anytime someone got close. So Elijah would have always lived on the alert. Not sure who was coming around the next corner.
In chapter 17, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Elijah that God was going to send a famine in the land of Israel for three years. And he did. Rivers and streams dried up. People died. It was severe, and it was God’s discipline on his people for their idolatry.
At the end of the three years, God instructed Elijah to go talk to the king again. They meet up and the conversation gets heated, doesn’t go very well, and Elijah says gather up all of the prophets of your gods Baal and Asherah, and meet me on Mount Carmel.
So Ahab does. He brings his 450 prophets of Baal plus a bunch of Israelites to watch, and since Jezebel had killed most of the prophets of God, Elijah is the only prophet of God on the mountain. He throws down a challenge and says, today you choose. If Yahweh is God, then follow him. If Baal is god, then follow him. But quit pretending to serve God while you serve Baal at the same time.
So they built two altars, one for Baal and one for Yahweh (that’s the Hebrew name for God). Elijah said, choose a bull to sacrifice, put it on the altar, and get ready to sacrifice it. The only catch is you can’t light the fire. I’ll choose a bull, I’ll put it on my altar, and I won’t light my fire. We’ll both pray to our gods, and the God who answers with the fire to light the altar is the one true God. And everyone agreed.
Long story short, the prophets of Baal tried as hard as they could to conjure up their god to send fire, and from morning until evening they prayed. They danced and sang and performed the customs of cutting themselves and their god did not reply.
God on the other hand did. When Elijah prayed, fire came from heaven and burned up the entire altar, rocks and all. You really have to read this for yourselves this afternoon. It’s pretty cool.
But then things got ugly. Elijah instructed the Israelites who had come to watch to capture the 450 prophets of Baal, then he marched them down to the river that was dried up and slaughtered them all. God saw the purge of wickedness, and responded by sending rain for the first time in three years.
That sets the stage for what happens next.
King Ahab wasn’t too excited about losing all those prophets, so he went home and told his wife Jezebel what had happened. She was even more wicked than he, so she sent a note to Elijah that said – By this time tomorrow, you’re dead. I’ll make sure you end up just like the prophets of Baal.
And look at chapter 19:3, Elijah became afraid and immediately ran for his life.
This is exactly what 1 Peter has been talking about – being treated badly for doing good. Elijah was honoring God by purging the evil prophets from Israel, and no one thanked him for it. Instead they threatened his life.
Maybe you’ve had moments like that too in your life. You feel like you’ve gone all out to do good for someone, and instead of thanking you, they jump on your back and ride you about something you didn’t do.
So we often do exactly what Elijah did – we self-protect. Elijah took off running. And of all the places he could have gone, he ran straight into the wilderness. Verse 4. He sat down under a broom tree and prayed that he would die. He prayed, “Lord I’ve had enough! Take my life right now.” Then he lay down and slept under the broom tree.
A broom tree is a desert tree with deep roots referred to in Genesis, Psalms, Job, and here in 1 Kings. And like the wilderness throughout scripture is a place of testing, temptation and death, the broom tree is often a place of mourning and despair. Maybe you’ve been suicidal at some point like Elijah is, and you know just how deep that despair can be. Maybe you haven’t been suicidal necessarily, but you felt like you wanted to just give up and quit. Run away. Change up your life. Get as far away from this person or a certain situation as possible.
Here’s a small scale example: I told you I coach basketball, and after a particularly hard loss, the most natural thing we do is run. We run to our phones. We text people, we watch videos, we scroll socials – anything to distract ourselves from the pain of losing the game. It’s self-medication. But in reality, it’s running into the wilderness. It’s running to temptations, and ultimately death.
That’s a small scale example. Next level running might be you run to shopping, eating, sleeping, giving someone the cold-shoulder, etc. Larger scale wilderness running would include pornography, affairs, addictions, self-pleasure, working long hours, and so on.
We’re not any different than Elijah. Obviously, God created food. He designed us for work and sex, we need food and community to live. But when we run to those things for comfort, it’s a wilderness of temptation and death that only leads to more guilt, shame and regret.
Elijah ran for the desert. Maybe he thought no one would find him there. Maybe he thought the idea of dying by dehydration and starvation would be better than getting killed by the Queen. Scripture doesn’t tell us what he was thinking. Other than that he wanted out.
But here’s the good news.
Point #1: God meets us in the wilderness. Verse 5 – Suddenly an angel touched him. The angel told him, “get up and eat.” And the same God who provided fire from heaven the day before to torch the altar and show himself to the prophets of Baal as the one true living God, provides fire again, this time to bake bread. Verse 6. There at his head was a loaf of bread baked over hot stones, and a jug of water. In that wilderness, Elijah was as good as dead. And the angel of God showed up, and met him in his state of death with bread and water.
Jesus himself was led into the wilderness to face temptation and trial, and he came out without sinning, so that you and I would know a) he understands your wilderness, b) he was victorious over the tempter, and c) he isn’t afraid to join you in your suffering. He finds us under the broom trees of our despair and weeping and comes close to forgive and restore.
This is exactly what 1 Peter has been talking about! If you are in Christ, you have been born again, Peter writes, brought from death to life, born into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. You’ve been given an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you.
I was 18 when God met me in my wilderness. I was in high school as a senior, trying to figure out what to do with my life, riding the fence of being a good church kid who did and said all the right things, led my own youth group, was in ministry with my family, and yet I was still playing the game. At school I was whatever person the people I was with wanted me to be. And at 18, halfway through my senior year, God met me like Elijah met Ahab, and said to me: Choose whom you will serve.
Will you serve me, the one true God? Or will you serve yourself? Today this game stops.
And like Elijah, God came to me in my self-righteousness, my fickle-mindedness, and offered me the Bread of Life, and the Living Water that is the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Verse 7, The angel told Elijah, get up. You have a journey ahead of you.
Here’s point number two: God doesn’t leave us in the wilderness. He meets us there, and calls us to a journey. Abraham was called to journey to a place he didn’t know. Israel was called out of Egypt to a Promised Land they hadn’t seen. Elijah was called to a journey.
If I were to stop right here, and ask what journey of life have you been called to, how would you answer that? What journey is God calling you on?
Here’s what God had for Elijah. Verse 8. So he got up, ate, and drank. Then on the strength from that food, he walked 40 days and 40 nights to Horeb, the mountain of God. He entered a cave there, and spent the night.
I don’t want to spend much time on this, but most scholars agree that Mount Horeb is the same mountain as Mount Sinai, where God met Moses to give him the 10 commandments. For Elijah to go there would be a solid reminder that the God who has called him on this journey is the God of the covenant. The God who has called Israel out as a people for his own possession. A holy nation. A royal priesthood.
And after that long journey, after walking according to God’s direction for 6 ½ weeks, Elijah climbs the mountain of God, and God asks him a question, verse 9: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
You would think Elijah would know exactly what to say, right? “Uh, you told me to come here, God. You tell me.” But instead, Elijah launches into a whining tirade: “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of Armies, but the Israelites have abandoned your covenant, torn down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are looking for me to take my life.”
Instead of berating Elijah for whining, God says in effect, “I want to show you something.”
And he showed him himself. Verse 11-13a
What journey was God taking Elijah on? A journey to know him! To see him for who he really is! To see that he is the promise-making and promise-keeping God! That he is good enough to give you bread in the wilderness, good enough to sustain you for the journey, good enough to bring you to his mountain, good enough to show you himself without killing you in the process! That he is powerful enough to produce a wind that can shatter rocks, and yet close enough to whisper in your ear!
The world will sell you a sack of self-help junk that life is a journey to know yourself, that you have to spend some time in the mountains alone or kick out a bunch of personality tests to find yourself, when the truth is that in Christ you’ve already been found! You’ve been found by the God of the wilderness, the God of the mountains, the God of heaven and earth who created the galaxies, who breathed the sun into existence, who has come close enough to whisper in your ear, “I choose you! Follow me.”
Point #3, last one: The journey of a Christian is the journey to knowing God!
Knowing his power, knowing his nearness, knowing his provision, his care, his heart for you! My question for you today, River City is not how much did you read your Bible this week, or how much did you pray, or what are you doing for the kingdom of God. Those are good questions, and ones that deserve an answer, but the question I have for you today is how well do you know God’s heart for you? How well do you know God’s heart for you?
If your answer is “Not very well”, take your Bibles this afternoon and read the book of Luke. God has shown us his heart for us in the person and the work of Jesus, meeting under the broom trees of despair the people the world has decided aren’t good enough, aren’t pretty enough, aren’t strong enough, aren’t capable enough, aren’t healthy enough, aren’t rich enough.
And then he willingly became the sacrifice on the altar, carrying our sin, our shame, our guilt, our punishment on himself and the fire from heaven that should have consumed us in our sin fell on him instead, so that you could go free!
If the Son of God has set you free, John 8:36, then you are really free!
So church – the reality is everyone one of us has run to the wilderness of sin and death for hope. We’ve all turned to ourselves for rescue – pulled ourselves up by our own bootstraps – only to find more wilderness, more death. Let’s take the words of 1 Peter seriously – abstain from sinful desires. Rid yourselves of sin. You’ve been redeemed! Stop going back to the broom tree.
Let this story in 1 Kings 19 remind you:
- God meets us in our wilderness
- God doesn’t leave us the way he found us
- The journey of a Christian is to know the heart of God.
And the fuel for that journey is the Bread of Life, the Living Water, Jesus Christ. He’s the beginning and the end and everything in between.