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Author:Rev. W.B. Slomp
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Congregation:Immanuel Canadian Reformed Church
 Edmonton, Alberta
 www.edmontonimmanuel.ca
 
Title:The Lord Miraculously Protects and Provides for Elijah and for All Who Trust in Him.
Text:1 Kings 17:2-6 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God's Providence
 
Preached:2010-03-21
Added:2010-08-27
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Sing:  Psalm 104: 1, 3, 7,

Sing: Psalm 37: 2, 12, 13

Read: Luke 4: 16-30; 12: 22-34;

Sing: Psalm 27: 1, 2, 6

Text: 1 Kings 17: 2-6

Sing: Psalm 147: 3, 5, 6

Sing: Psalm 56: 1, 4, 5

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. W.B. Slomp, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, brothers and sisters,

 

There is an e-mail going around these days – even one translated from the English into Dutch -- that asks the question “Would you run?” You are asked to imagine that on a Sunday morning during a church service two men enter who are both covered from head to toe in black and they are carrying submachine guns. Then one of the men announces, “Anyone willing to take a bullet for Christ remain where you are”, whereupon the majority of the congregation leaves. Out of 2000 people in that church building only 20 people are left. After those people leave the men take off their hoods and say to the pastor, “Okay pastor, I got rid of all the hypocrites… now you may begin your service. Have a nice day.” And then the two men turn and walk out of the church building. The e-mail then goes on to give us examples of hypocritical things we do and say, implying that most of us pretend to be Christians, and that really we’re all hypocrites. We don’t trust enough in the Lord. We are all cowards.

 

Let me ask you; is that also what you think? That those people who ran were cowards? Do you think that in order to prove your loyalty to the Lord your God you have to take a bullet if somebody asks you to? That otherwise you are a hypocrite?

 

These are some of the questions that the story about Elijah confronts us with. Elijah’s life is in grave danger. He has provoked the king of Israel and his cruel wife Jezebel by bringing upon them the punishment of the Lord because of their apostasy. And now Elijah has to face the consequences. He has declared war on King Ahab.

 

King Ahab is a ruthless man. If you go against him, you put your own life at risk. Elijah can now expect to experience Ahab’s and Jezebel’s full fury. If he were to stick around he would surely be put to death. You could be sure that Ahab would have spies all over the country looking for Elijah for he had predicted a severe drought and only at his word would the drought be over. Ahab’s supporters would hound Elijah until he brought an end to the drought. And if that didn’t happen, they would surely kill him.

 

What is Elijah to do? Should he flee? Well, whatever the case, we do know that Elijah has to trust in the Lord. This text shows us what that means. In this sermon we will see that:

The Lord Miraculously Protects and Provides for Elijah and for All Who Trust in Him. We will see:

1. Elijah’s flight;

2. Elijah’s faith;

3. Elijah’s fate.

 

Elijah is in a very lonely position. We do not read about any support group around him. We don’t read anywhere in Scripture that Elijah has a family, or that he has friends that he can rely on. We do not hear either that God commanded him to go to Ahab and to confront him. He did it, as it were, on his own. He appears upon the scene, it would seem, out of nowhere.

 

To be sure, Elijah did see what was going on around him. He saw what Ahab and Jezebel were doing, and how they drew the people away from serving the Lord God Almighty; how they served the heathen Baal. The signs of such worship were all around him. It showed in the way the people conducted themselves, in their festivities, in their sacrifices, in the way that they indulged in the flesh, in all the things they said and did. They lived like pagans. The people served Baal because they wanted to get as much out of this life as they could. They wanted to serve a god of their own making.

 

Elijah was a man of God. And what he saw around him bothered him to no end. He knew what it meant to serve the Lord God, the God of Israel. He knew the will of God. It is for that reason that he had no choice but to confront Ahab. And so, even though he appeared to go on his own initiative, ultimately it was God who sent him. That’s clear from what we can read in the rest of this account.

 

We see throughout that the Lord God is with him all the way. The Lord did exactly what Elijah said he would do. The people immediately felt the glaring heat of the sun and the dry winds that sucked the moisture from the ground. The crops soon began to wither. The brooks and the watering holes for the animals began to dry up. Ahab could see and experience God’s curse proclaimed upon him and the people. He could observe that the God of Israel is alive. And the people knew it as well. For no doubt the news of Elijah going to Ahab quickly spread through the land and the curse upon the land was felt by all.

 

What was Elijah to do now? The Lord God makes that clear to him. He spoke to Elijah and told him to leave Samaria and to hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. Elijah is told to flee. The Kerith Ravine is a lonely and isolated place, not very far from Tishbe his hometown. By having to go to that isolated place, Elijah is taken out of the picture. No one will visit him there or know that he is hiding there.

 

And yet the priests and the prophets of Baal are allowed to continue to function. They can continue to make propaganda for their idol. They can even ridicule Elijah and say, “Where is that Elijah? Where is that coward? He opened his mouth in defiance to Ahab, and then did not have the guts to stick around.”

 

And so, it would have been difficult for Elijah to leave. But he had to. The Lord God wanted him to wait. He has to be patient. His time, or better said God’s time would come. The Lord has great things in mind for him later. Therefore Elijah is not allowed to put himself in danger. His leaving is not an act of cowardice. Elijah knew that the Lord God still had many plans for him, and that he had an important role to play in making God’s name known.

 

Brothers and sisters, that is how the Lord God works. We can also see that with the Lord Jesus. As we read, the Lord Jesus went into his own hometown and there he announced that he was the Messiah they had been waiting for. He quoted from the prophet Isaiah and explained that those words point to him, and that that prophecy was now fulfilled in him. The people were furious and wanted to kill him. But the Lord Jesus did not allow that to happen. He fled in a miraculous way. He went elsewhere. The time was not yet right. Many things still had to happen before his work on earth was completed.

 

Think also about the apostle Paul. We read in Acts 9 that after his conversion the Jews in Damascus conspired to kill him. They kept a close watch on the city gates so that he could not escape. But Paul learned of their plan. And so he had others help him escape by having him lowered outside of the city walls in a basket. Paul fled, not because he was a coward, but because he wanted the opportunity to continue to glorify God by his words and actions. He did not want to get killed. He had just been converted. There was so much to live for yet. There were so many things to do and to say.

 

Brothers and sisters, the same thing is true for you and for me. Sometimes we too have to flee. We do not have to put ourselves unnecessarily in danger. We do not have to allow ourselves to be killed by evil men. It is true that you should not be afraid to give your life for the Lord your God. Elijah wasn’t, Paul wasn’t, and certainly the Lord Jesus wasn’t. But, these men knew that it wasn’t their time yet. Sometimes the right thing for you to do at that moment is to flee.

 

That is also, for example, what the first Christians did in Jerusalem. After the stoning of Stephen the persecution in Jerusalem became unbearable. Because of that most of those converts left. In this way the gospel was spread all over the world. They left, not because they were afraid to confess their Saviour, but because they were eager to do so.

 

Think also about the Huguenots in France after the Reformation. Because they confessed the reformed faith, their lives were constantly in danger. Many of them even lost their lives. When it became clear that they were no longer able to serve the Lord their God in freedom in their home country, they fled. They fled to countries such as Switzerland and the Netherlands. Even today in the reformed churches we still have many amongst us who have French names. Those names date back to the time of the Reformation. One of our sister churches in the Netherlands is even known today as the French church. It was originally made up of refugees from France.

 

And what about Guido de Bres, the author of the Belgic confession? Time and again he fled when his life was in danger. He knew that the authorities were looking for him because he preached the gospel in accordance with the Word of God, and not in accordance with the prevailing doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church. He was being sought all the time and was on the run most of his life. He became a fugitive. Many a time he had to clamber over city walls in the middle of the night in order to escape the authorities. In the end the Roman Catholic authorities finally caught up with him and hung him as a heretic. When he was finally caught he did not deny his Lord and Saviour. Had he done so he would have saved his own life. But instead he continued to proclaim the Gospel to anyone who came to visit, even in prison.

 

To flee to a safe place is not necessarily an act of cowardice. Elijah was not afraid. On the contrary. As he himself said in 1 Kings 19:14, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty.” Elijah made himself available as an instrument of God to bring glory to his name. As David says in Psalm 6:5, “Who praises God from the grave?” We are created to praise God, and to magnify his name. And it is that goal that drove Elijah. He wanted to do nothing less than that. For that is why he went to King Ahab in the first place. He saw how the name of the God of Israel was being blasphemed and that grieved him. Elijah was obedient. He was a man of faith. We come to the second point.

 

2. The Lord tells Elijah to go to the Kerith Ravine. He obeys. There he will be safe. He trusts the word of the Lord that he will be more than adequately taken care of there. For the Lord tells him that he will drink from the brook and that the ravens will feed him. He will not lack anything.

 

He will be more comfortable there than King Ahab in his opulent palace. For Elijah knows that everything is well between the Lord God and him. Elijah has a clear conscience. And he does not expect more from the Lord than he provides. Elijah is satisfied with what God gives him. He does not bewail his lot and think about all those people who live in much more luxurious surroundings than he. He does not envy them. He accepts his austere circumstances. He is satisfied. And therefore he is a man at peace.

 

The Lord miraculously provides for him. He brings him to a place where he can observe God at work; to a place where he can see and experience how he looks after his creation. There Elijah can observe firsthand how the Lord God refreshes the animals from the flowing water of the brook, and how he feeds the birds with the fruit of the land, how he gives them shelter among the trees and the clefts in the rocks. Everywhere he sees the hands of God. The Lord God reveals his greatness in nature.

 

Isn’t that what we also confess, brothers and sisters? Think about article 2 of the Belgic Confession. It says there that we know him “First, by the creation, preservation and government of the universe; which is before our eyes as a most beautiful book, wherein all creatures, great and small, are so many letters leading us to perceive clearly the invisible things of God, namely, his eternal power and deity.” Great and small creatures are like letters from God to us, love letters.

 

And if he looks after the animals as well as he does, will he not much more take care of us, who are much more valuable to him? It’s a rhetorical question that the Lord Jesus himself also asks. The answer is obvious. Of course he will.

 

How do you think this is possible? For we know this creation lies under a curse. That is what the Lord God himself said in Genesis 3:17 “cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.”

 

But at the same time that the Lord God gave his curse, he also promised a Redeemer. He said that the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent. In other words, the seed of the woman, pointing to Christ, will destroy Satan and restore creation to its former glory.

 

It is because of that promise that the world can experience some of the glory creation had before the fall into sin. To the Old Testament believer, God’s benevolence toward his creation was a sign of the coming Messiah. And to us born after the birth of Christ, it is a sign that the Messiah was born and that he walked here on this earth and defeated the evil one, and that he is coming again to restore his creation to the fullest.

 

Elijah believed the promises of God and therefore he also believed in the Messiah, the anointed one, the Lord Jesus Christ. And because of his faith the Lord God takes care of him there in the wilderness. For not only does he feed the animals, but he miraculously takes care of Elijah as well. Like clockwork, twice a day, a raven comes to bring him food. In the morning he receives bread and meat; in the evening the same.

 

It is remarkable that the Lord God sends the ravens to do that. Ravens are audacious thieves with a loud screech. They are also ugly animals. But that’s not all. For the Old Testament believers, ravens were considered to be unclean animals. The raven was one of the animals the Israelites were not allowed to eat. Ravens were considered to belong to the kingdom of darkness. In Isaiah 34, the prophet proclaims the judgement against the nations. He says about Edom that the streams will be turned into pitch and that the land will lie desolate. And then he goes on in verse 11 by stating that the great owl and the raven will nest there.

 

In the book of Proverbs, the raven is seen as an instrument in God’s hand to bring his punishment. For it says in Proverbs 30:17 that “The eye that mocks a father, that scorns obedience to a mother, will be pecked out by the ravens of the valley.” The raven is pictured here as an instrument of death.

 

But here again God shows that he will use any creature for his purposes. Even a creature of darkness. It is only by his grace that such creatures exist. He is the one who gives them life and sustains them. As it says in Psalm 147:9, the Lord God “provides food for the cattle and for the young ravens when they call.”

 

The Lord Jesus himself also tells his disciples who are anxious about their material well-being to consider the ravens. He says to them that they do not sow or reap and have no storeroom or barn, and yet God feeds them. The Lord God provides for all creatures, but especially for those who are the crown of his creation, mankind with whom he has made a covenant.

 

The Lord uses many means to take care of us. We live in the midst of an evil world. We cannot escape this world. We also earn our bread from those who are engaged in works of darkness. Think about the greedy corporations and the obnoxious militant unions. In our enterprise we cannot escape contact with them. We have to make our living in the midst of a world full of evil. In one way or the other we have to do business with all kinds of forces of darkness. It is impossible not to do so.

 

3. But why did the Lord God put you and me here on this earth? He put us here to glorify his name. That is Elijah’s fate, and also our fate. We come to the third point. We are here for God’s glory alone. And therefore we may not partake of the evil deeds of those around us. That means that sometimes we have to flee. That means that sometimes we have to say no to a certain business deal, or to the evil demands of a militant union. And that means that you, young people, sometimes have to flee from friends who want you to partake in some evil activity. If you stay with them, and do as they do, then in the end you may end up dead, dead to the Lord God.

 

A believer has to stand up for the Lord God, and know that when he does, the Lord God will not abandon him or her, just as it happened with Elijah. No, the Lord God will look after you and me in one way or the other. He will refresh you with living water and nourish you with wholesome food. In Matthew 4:4, the Lord Jesus said to Satan, when he tried to tempt him, “It is written:’ Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

 

Ultimately Elijah lived on every word that came out of the mouth of the Lord his God. The Lord God took care of him, as he said he would. Elijah trusted him. Elijah chose life. Elijah had to make himself an instrument in God’s hand to bring glory to God’s name. That was his wonderful fate.

 

Brothers and sisters, boys and girls, that is why we also have been put here on this earth. We have been put here on earth to bring glory to his name, in the midst of this evil world. And how do you do that? You do that by trusting him. You do that by walking away from evil if you can. Even if that means that you have to be in a lonely place for a while.

 

Elijah was not afraid to let the Lord God lead him and to dwell for a while in a remote place. Elijah chose to be alive so that the Lord God could use him for his purposes. And that is why he also gives us life, brothers and sisters. Let us honour our heavenly Father with our lives. For he is a wonderful God who protects us and takes care of us from the cradle to the grave, into eternity. Amen

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. W.B. Slomp, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was: www.edmontonimmanuel.ca

(c) Copyright 2010, Rev. W.B. Slomp

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