1 Kings 17:1-6

Sermon preached on April 30, 2007 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2007. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.newlifeop.org/.

One day not long after we got our new Camry Marg came home and told me that when she came out of a store she couldn't get the ignition key to turn in the car. I'm sorry to say that I wasn't very nice about it and I dismissed her by saying that all you had to do was turn the steering wheel a little and she would be able to turn the key. She said that she had done that but I was thinking that she just hadn't done it enough. But a few days later I got into the car and went to turn it on but the key wouldn't turn in the ignition. I turned the steering wheel a little but the ignition key still wouldn't turn. I turned it as much as I could but that didn't help either. I tried everything but for about 10 minutes there was nothing I could do to get the ignition key to turn. But then it suddenly worked even though I didn't do anything different. The problem would only happen every once in awhile, most of the time the ignition key worked like it should. So I took it out to the Toyota dealer and they were just as dismissive of me as I was of Marg. They basically told me that Camrys didn't have that problem and the guy got in the car and tried it and sure enough it worked normally. Even though I had been driving cars for over 30 years he looked at me like there was something wrong with me. So they didn't fix it. But the car kept doing it every once in awhile. I kept complaining to Toyota but they kept telling me there was nothing wrong with the car. But eventually I complained enough that they said to bring it out when a district representative was there. I met with him and told him the problem and he got in and tried it and it worked normally. He told me that he had never heard of a Camry having that problem and that he didn't think anything was wrong with the car. I kept telling him that if he did it long enough, or if he drove the car for a few days—that eventually it would happen and he would know I was right. He kept telling me that Camrys don't have that problem and to prove it, he tried to turn the ignition key and it would work.

That story almost exactly illustrates the way the world is toward the teaching of the Bible that God punishes sin. They don't believe it. You tell people that sin brings suffering and misery and they will insist that you're wrong. And they will try to prove it to you by telling you to look around and see that people live a certain way and nothing bad is happening to them. Indeed, they will tell you that just about everything is perfectly acceptable and that the one thing you really have to be wary of is any feeling of guilt. Just do what you want and don't feel guilty about it. It's all about personal freedom—being able to do what you want.

Partying, drinking to great excess and sexual immorality among college students at
spring break is not something that is bad—but is presented as something that kids need to do to let off steam and to find who they are. It's not sin, it's not drunkenness, it's not public lewdness, it's not sexual immorality—it's a rite of passage, something good that they need to do. Living together before marriage is accepted and maybe even presented as being good, as the couple will get to know if they're compatible. Marrying a non-Christian is not looked upon as a sin, but as 'following your heart'. Adultery and divorce are not looked upon as being bad—but as good as long as it means being with your soul mate. They will tell you that it's horribly wrong to stay in an unhappy marriage and that you are justified in getting out of it. Abortion is not murder—but a woman's right. After a motion to outlaw abortion was defeated in Congress a member who supported abortion said,

"Now we can move on to important things."

He's basically said that the murder of millions of babies is not wrong, what's wrong is to waste time debating it and trying to stop it. Homosexuality is not evil, but good. It's those who are against it who are evil. Greed and self-centeredness are not bad as we have the World Poker Tour on TV and the gamblers are looked upon as people who should be imitated. Fortune telling, astrology and dabbling in the occult is looked upon as 'entertainment'. Assisted suicide is not bad, but good, as it is showing compassion on those who are suffering. Not attending church on Sunday is not a sin—as there are school, social and sports activities that are being to encroach on it. Many Christians neglect church attendance in violation of Hebrews 10:25 and yet think that they're not harming themselves and others.

I could go on—but you get my point. The world encourages people to sin and tells them that they're not doing anything wrong and that things won't be worse for them for doing so. The world tells them just the opposite—that things will be better for them if they follow their hearts. The world emphatically insists that negative consequences will not follow behavior that the Bible condemns.

But our text presents quite a different message. It clearly shows that

sin results in punishment.

The end of the previous chapter in 1 Kings tells us about the great wickedness that existed in Israel during the reign of King Ahab and how he did more to provoke God to anger than did all the kings of Israel before him. He encouraged the people not to go to Jerusalem to worship, he married a foreign princess, Jezebel, he began to worship Baal and set up an Asherah pole. His people followed him in his sin with Hiel rebuilding the walls of Jericho—the people had left off trusting in God. Their sin was not like any before. Even King Jereboam's building of the altars at Dan and Bethel was not like this. He was afraid that if the people went up to Jerusalem the hearts of his ten northern tribes would return to the king of Judah. So he built the altars in Dan and Bethel and ordered the people to worship there. But he still intended for the people to worship the God of Israel. But now it was different. The people had descended into full blown idolatry. They were not worshiping God, but this false god Baal.

What was the result? God sent the prophet Elijah to King Ahab. Elijah said,

"As the LORD, the God of Israel,
lives, whom I serve,
there will be neither dew nor rain
in the next few years except at my word."

Ahab was a great sinner. Under him the people of Israel committed terrible sins. Therefore God stopped the heavens from giving rain and this resulted in a great famine on the land. There was a direct connection between the two—the people sinned, they were punished.

But what's interesting to note here is that

God's punishment was fitted to show the folly of their sin.

Baal was considered a god of nature. He was responsible for the weather and the growth of vegetation. He was the sun god. Baal worship was often accompanied by the worship of Astarte, the moon goddess, or the sex-goddess. Fertility rites, sexual immorality and sexual debauchery characterized this religion.

But note the connection between the sin and the punishment. The people had turned their back on God. They chose to worship and pagan deity who was no god at all. They attributed great powers to this Baal, stating that he was in control of nature, the weather, the growth of the crops. So what did God do? He declared that there would not be rain or dew except at Elijah's word. God was showing the people the folly of their sin—that He alone was supreme and that there was no god except Him.

We see this all through the Bible. One of the clearest and most repeated examples of this teaching is in the book of Judges. In
Judges 4:1-2 we read,

"After Ehud died,
the Israelites once again
did evil in the eyes of the LORD.
So the LORD sold them into the hands of Jabin,
a king of Canaan,
who reigned in Hazor."

Then it relates how Sisera cruelly oppressed the Israelites for twenty years.

Then in
Judges 6 we read,

"Again the Israelites did evil
in the eyes of the LORD,
and for seven years
he gave them into the hands of the Midianites."

In chapter 10 we have the same thing. We read, (verses 6-8)

"Again the Israelites did evil
in the eyes of the LORD.
They served the Baals and the Ashtoreths,
and the gods of Aram,
the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab,
the gods of the Ammonites
and the gods of the Philistines.
And because the Israelites forsook the LORD
and no longer served him,
he became angry with them.
He sold them into the hands
of the Philistines and the Ammonites,
who that year shattered and crushed them.
For eighteen years they oppressed
all the Israelites on the east side
of the Jordan in Gilead,
the land of the Amorites."

In chapter 13 we read, (verse 1)

"Again the Israelites did evil
in the eyes of the LORD,
so the LORD delivered them into the hands
of the Philistines for forty years."

The people sinned—punishment resulted. It's as clear as day in Judges. Judges then goes on to show the pain and suffering that results from when,

"every man does
what is right in his own eyes."

Judges hammers the point home—suffering and misery result when people forsake the Lord and His commands. Very often God's punishments were so fitting to show the folly the particular sin.

We see it in
Eve in the Garden. She wanted to be free and she thought that her way, (the way suggested by Satan) was better. But instead of freedom and happiness she got bondage and misery. He way was not better. God knew best.

We see it in
King Herod in Acts 12. The people called him a god. He did not give glory to God. He was no god. What happened to him showed that. Because he did not give glory to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down and he was eaten by worms and died.

The great lesson from this is that

you need to make every effort to be holy. But even more than that, you are to learn from God's punishments and see from them not only that our God is the true God, but that His way is best.

Christians, make every effort to be holy. Get sin out of your life. If you're playing with sin in your life it's going to jump up and bite you. Sin has consequences.

Christians, learn lessons from God's punishment of sin. For example, even though the world will tell you that AIDS is not a moral problem but a medical problem you should realize that it has spread primarily through sexual immorality. It's not primarily a medical problem.

Not long ago there were many headlines that declared that teaching teens about abstinence with regard to sex didn't work. The implication was that it's a waste of time to follow that approach. But abstinence is the proper approach. Many, many people have followed it. It's a method that absolutely works. All sexually transmitted diseases are a warning to us that God's way is right.

Make every effort to be holy. God's ways are right. His commandments are our life.

Secondly, for Christians, one of the messages that the world needs to hear is that God punishes sin. In your dealings with other people,

tell them that sin has consequences.

The world denies this. But it's true. God punishes sin. We need to tell them,

"Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand."

They need to repent, turn from their sin and turn to Jesus to save them. If they don't, they're going to be lost.

Those of you who are not Christians—

God's punishment of sin ought to make you sit up and take notice.

You need to go to Jesus and ask Him to save you. You need to trust in Him. Only He can save you. Do not think that the curse upon your sin can be overlooked. Sin has consequences—unless you go to Jesus for salvation—you will have to suffer the consequences yourself. Go to Him and ask Him to save you.

There is only deliverance from the curse of sin by the word of the Lord. Elijah said,

"As the LORD, the God of Israel,
lives, whom I serve,
there will be neither dew nor rain
in the next few years except at my word."

Elijah was God's representative and it was only at his word would the curse be lifted.

It's noteworthy that
Jesus, the Word Himself, lifted the great curse against sin for His people. How did He do it? By suffering and dying in their stead and by rising from the dead. What's important to note is that He had to suffer and die in their place. In the Garden of Gethsemane He prayed, (Matthew 26:39)

"My Father,
if it is possible,
may this cup be taken from me."

But the cup was not taken away. Sin had to be punished. God's justice demanded it. God punishes sin. The fact that Jesus suffered and dies shows us that sin must be punished. Unless you go to Jesus for salvation you will be lost.

God punishes sin. He doesn't just punish it in His covenant people, Israel. You may think that the time of the Old Testament was different and that Israel was a
theocracy then, and that those warnings don't apply to countries like the United States or to us as individuals.

The Bible makes clear that he not only punishes the sins of the people of Israel—but that He punishes the sins of all nations and also the sins of individuals. Why were the Canaanites driven out of the land when Israel came up out of Egypt? It was because their sin had reached it's full measure. (Genesis 15:16) Why were Sodom and Gomorrah destroyed? Because their sin was so great and grievous that God could stand it no longer. (Genesis 18:20-21) Why did God threaten to destroy Nineveh unless they repented? It was because it's wickedness was so great. (Jonah 1:1)

Why did the writing appear on the wall for
King Belshazzar in the book of Daniel? It was because of his sin. God said to him, (Daniel 5:27)

"You have been weighed
on the scales and found wanting."

That very night he lost his life.

But King Belshazzar wasn't unique. God watches all of us.
Proverbs 5:21 says, (REB)

"The Lord watches a man's ways,
marking every course he takes."

God watches our ways. Sin has consequences. You cannot sin with impunity. Sin brings punishment. Proverbs 5:5 speaks of the adulteress and says,

"Her feet go down to death;
her steps lead straight to the grave."

Proverbs 6:26 warns,

"the adulteress preys upon your very life."

Proverbs 6:27-29 asks,

"Can a man scoop fire into his lap
without his clothes being burned?
Can a man walk on hot coals
without his feet being scorched?
So is he who sleeps with another man's wife;
no one who touches her will go unpunished."

You cannot sin with impunity.

But the world will point to those who sin and who seemingly get away with it. They will try to prove to you that sinning is okay, that you can sin and not suffer for it by giving you examples and showing you particular cases.

But what does that prove? It merely proves that God doesn't always punish sin right away. When the world points to some specific instance of someone sinning and there seemingly being no consequences for it—that's like someone trying to convince you that you can play
Russian Roulette and never get shot. Saying that God doesn't punish sin is like saying that you'll never get killed if you play Russian Roulette. To have someone put one bullet in a revolver and spinning it and then putting it to their head and pulling the trigger and have nothing happen—that doesn't prove that Russian Roulette is safe.

Again, saying that you can sin with impunity and not get punished for it is like a joke I once heard. It was about a guy who jumped off a 100 story skyscraper. As he passed the 40
th floor on the way down was heard to say,

"So far, so good."

That's correct—so far so good—but it does not take away from the fact that he's heading for absolute disaster. It's inevitable.

The lie that the world tries to foster today is the same one that
Satan put to Eve in the Garden when he tempted her. He urged her to disobey God and told her that good things would come from it—not bad things. But he lied. She believed him and she suffered horrible consequences.

You need to repent or you will perish. God punishes sin. That is the message. Sin brings misery and death. Righteousness brings life and happiness. Paul wrote in
1 Timothy 4:8,

"For physical training is of some value,
but godliness has value for all things,
holding promise
for both the present life
and the life to come."

It pays to be righteous, it pays to resist temptation—it pays to say, 'no', to sin. As we read in Psalm 1:1-6,

"Blessed is the man
who does not walk
in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners
or sit in the seat of mockers.
But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.
Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked
will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
For the LORD watches over
the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish."