1 Kings 18:27-29

Sermon preached on July 08, 2007 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2007. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

When Mohammed Ali was Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the world he was a very egotistical guy. There's a story that told about him how he got on an airplane one time and he didn't put on his seat belt. So the stewardess said to him,

"Please fasten your seat belt,"

He refused and said,

"Supermen don't need seat-beats."

She replied,

"Supermen don't need airplanes either."

That was a very good reply and after it Ali put on his seatbelt. She used humor to show him his folly.

That's what Elijah did on Mount Carmel. He used humor, actually scathing sarcasm to show the people of Israel that the prophets of Baal were deluded and that Baal was no god at all. That's what we're going to look at this morning—the role of humor, sarcasm and laughter in defending the gospel.

But before I go any further, I want to make it clear that I'm not suggesting we become part of the '
Toronto Blessing' or the "Toronto Laughing Movement', or the "Toronto Airport Movement" or whatever it was called. Most of you know what I'm talking about. It was a movement that originated at the Toronto Vineyard Airport Church. It was characterized by people engaging in fits of continuous laughter or guttural utterances—like animal noises. This laughter or noise was consider to be a manifestation of the Spirit being poured out on the person. The phenomenon happened mostly during church services and would sometimes continue even during the preaching of the Word.

So, to be clear—I'm not advocating that or anything like it. Many people have used 1 Corinthians 14 to criticize the Toronto Blessing and I believe their criticism is valid. 1 Corinthians 14:33 says,

"For God is not a God of disorder
but of peace."

And verse 40 reads,

"But everything should be done
in a fitting and orderly way."

So if any of you start laughing uncontrollably while I'm preaching I want you to know that I'll have the church officers escort you out of the building.

But seriously, there are two great lessons for us here.

First, the passage before us teaches us that

Christians should sometimes point out the foolishness of what the world does.

Sometimes the errors of the world are laughable and we should expose them as such. In doing so it's not inappropriate to use sarcasm and humor in doing so.

We see this in Elijah on Mount Carmel. After the prophets of Baal had spent all morning been praying to Baal for fire from heaven—Elijah began to taunt them. We read,

"At noon Elijah began to taunt them.
'Shout louder!' he said.
'Surely he is a god!
Perhaps he is deep in thought,
or busy, or traveling.
Maybe he is sleeping
and must be awakened.'"

The sarcasm there! They had been jumping around Baal's altar to no avail. Elijah mocks them. Now this may sound a little crass, but some have suggested that the word that the NIV translates as 'busy' may mean to be busy in a particular way. Dr. Ron Allen suggests that Elijah is suggesting that Baal has,

"stepped into the celestial men's room."

The Living Bible is a little less sensitive and renders it,

"Perhaps he is talking to someone,
or is out sitting on the toilet,"

But whether that is an accurate translation or not, there is no doubt that Elijah is plying it on thick. The sarcasm is unmistakable and pointed. He is mocking Baal and his prophets.

What Elijah does here reminds me of
what the apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 5:12 about the Judaizers who were insisting that the male Gentile Christians had to circumcised in order for them to be saved. Paul said about them,

"As for those agitators,
I wish they would go the whole way
and emasculate themselves!"

Such sarcasm! Paul made his point forcefully so that there could be no come back. He was giving no place to his opponents. They had distorted the gospel and Paul was refuting their errors as strongly as he could. Paul didn't want anyone listening to those Judaizers—their teaching was heretical and needed to be stopped.

We see sarcasm in
John 9 as well. I absolutely love the sarcasm that the man who was born blind used with the Pharisees. Jesus had healed him and restored his sight. The Pharisees were investigating the healing and said to him, (John 9:24f)

"Give glory to God."

Then they said about Jesus,

"We know this man is a sinner."

The man replied,

"Whether he is a sinner or not,
I don't know.
One thing I do know.
I was blind but now I see!"

Then they asked him about how Jesus had opened his eyes, to which the man who was healed replied,

"I have told you already
and you did not listen.
Why do you want to hear it again?
Do you want to become his disciples, too?"

Don't you love it? I do. Then they hurled insults at him and said that they were disciples of Moses and they didn't know where Jesus had come from. The man replied,

"Now that is remarkable!
You don't know where he comes from,
yet he opened my eyes.
We know that God does not listen to sinners.
He listens to the godly man who does his will.
Nobody has ever heard
of opening the eyes of a man born blind.
If this man were not from God,
he could do nothing."

That guy was remarkable. He knew that they should have believed in Jesus, that they had irrefutable proof—yet they were refusing to believe. He called them on it and was very sarcastic to them—and rightly so!

These passages show us that it is sometimes okay for Christians to use sarcasm in battling for the truth of the gospel. When the opponents of the gospel close their eyes to the truth that is made clear to them—and instead insist on believing the lie—then sarcasm should be used against them.

The prophets of Baal were being foolish and the Holy Spirit shows us that Elijah had no qualms about taunting them, about being sarcastic to them. So too, in some of our dealings with the world, we should be sarcastic. Sometimes it's all right to laugh at the world for it's foolishness ideas. That's what Elijah did.

Some of the ideas that unbelieving people hold today are ludicrous.

For example, many in the world today insist that

there are no absolutes.

But that's laughable. People holding to postmodern relativism will say to you,

"Well, that may be true for you, but it's not true for me."

They somehow believe that truth can vary from person to person. They may say something like,

"It may be true for you that there's a God, but it's not true for me."

That's nonsense. I'm sorry, but truth is objective. If 2 + 2 = 4, for me, it's true for you, for everyone.

People today will tell you that there's no right and wrong, no absolutes. But their very premise involves a logical contradiction. If the statement, 'There are no absolutes,' is true, then there is at least one absolute—that there are no absolutes. But that's logically contradictory. That's laughable.

I read about someone saying that there were no absolutes and the person they were talking to suggested that then it wouldn't be wrong for him to kill him. He stammered a bit and said he wouldn't like it but that it wouldn't be wrong. That's laughable.

Some people also say that

all religions are true.

George Lucas, of Star Wars fame, holds to that view. He said, (Time, April 26, 1999)

"I remember when I was 10 years old, I asked my mother, 'If there's only one God, why are there so many religions?' I've been pondering that question ever since, and the conclusion I've come to is that all the religions are true."

But that can't be. Many religions are contradictory. Christianity claims to be the exclusive way to God. In John 14:6 Jesus said,

"I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me."

If Christianity is true, all other religions are false. All religions can't be true. The notion that all religions are true is laughable.

Some people will also tell you that you can't know the supernatural.

Some of you will remember the famous opening statement from the popular 1980's PBS TV series Cosmos, Carl Sagan said,

"The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be."

That's an incredibly arrogant statement. He's totally discounting God and other spiritual beings or realities. Of course Sagan was merely following in the footsteps of the philosopher Immanuel Kant. Kant taught that even if there was a God, he would not be able to reveal himself to us. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, writes, (Historical Theology, p. 361)

"Behind Kant's whole presentation lurks the impossibility of any knowledge of God which comes from outside of man… In his epistemology God cannot be known by man. He cannot even make himself known. He is no less imprisoned by epistemological impossibility than man."

Now I'm not sure we should laugh at Sagan or Kant's ideas—but I think it should cause us to smile and perhaps smirk. They're making very audacious claims.

They're denying the truth of Psalm 19,

"The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language
where their voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world."

Kant and Sagan are also denying what Jesus said in John 14. When Philip asked Him to show them the Father, Jesus said,

"Don't you know me, Philip,
even after I have been among you
such a long time?
Anyone who has seen me
has seen the Father.
How can you say,
'Show us the Father'?
Don't you believe that I am in the Father,
and that the Father is in me?
The words I say to you are not just my own.
Rather, it is the Father, living in me,
who is doing his work."

So Kant and Sagan are calling Jesus a liar. Their claims are audacious and preposterous. You can laugh at something like that. God does. As we read in Psalm 2 about those who rebel against God,

"The kings of the earth take their stand
and the rulers gather together
against the LORD and against his Anointed One.
'Let us break their chains,' they say,
'and throw off their fetters.'
The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
the Lord scoffs at them."

Some people today say that death is good.

Steve Jobs, head of Apple, Inc., which makes Macs, iPods, and the iPhone, gave the commencement address at Stanford University in 2005. In it he stated,

"Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new."

He implied that death is good. He said that it's life's best invention. That's preposterous. How deluded can you get? Try telling that to a little boy or girl who just lost a mother. Tell them that,

"Oh, honey, death is good. It's good your mother died. It makes room for others."

Try telling that to parents who just lost a young son or daughter—they know it's nonsense.

If death is good, life's best invention—what's wrong with killing people? What was wrong with
Hitler's policies? What was wrong with the holocaust? What was wrong with Stalin's mass murders? If death is good, you can't say those things were wrong.

Man was created in the image of God and was meant to live forever, with God, to bring glory to God by loving Him and obeying Him. Man was put in the Garden to exercise dominion over it to rule and subdue it to God's glory—in perfect happiness and blessedness. It was paradise.

Sin ruined all that and brought death. Death is a horrible and dreadful reality. There is nothing good about physical death. When you look at someone's lifeless body and know that they were meant to live forever, in glory with God and know that sin put an end to that—you know that death is not good. When you know that physical death does not exhaust that dreadful reality, but that the Bible speaks of the second death, which consists of being thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 21:8)—then you know that death is not good but one of the most horrible realities imaginable.

Your soul is worth more than the whole world. (Matthew 16:26) Don't lose it to the lake of fire.

Steve Job's ideas on death are nonsense. Don't buy into them. They're laughable. Death is a horrible reality. The only thing that gives us real hope in the face of death is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Some people today say that there are no bad people.

That's laughable. But that's what we are told. You hear it mostly about children, but many extend the idea to everyone. We are told,

"There is bad behavior, but there are no bad kids."

We are told that just because people do bad things, it doesn't mean that they are bad people.

Really? There was a story in the news this week about a
twelve year old girl from Alberta, Canada. She was involved in the murder of her father, mother and her younger brother. It all started when she called her 23 year old boyfriend and told him that she wanted to kill her parents because they were mean to her. (They were upset with her because she had a 23 year old boyfriend. What parents wouldn't be?) So he came over and he slaughter her mother and father, and then she stabbed her younger brother. Her younger brother pleaded with her not to kill him. He said,

"I'm scared. I'm too young to die."

But she stabbed him anyway.

There are no bad kids? That's laughable.

Recently Bobbie Cuts, Jr., was arrested and charged with the murder of his pregnant 26 year old girlfriend, Jessie Davis. One of Bobby's relatives, I think it was his aunt, said about Bobby, (Fox News)

"It's very hard to accept. A lot of people are looking at him like a bad person, but he's not, he really isn't."


Where does bad behavior come from? Is there a huge divide between people and their behavior? We'd have to change our whole vocabulary if there were. If someone murders someone, it would be wrong to refer to them as a murderer because there's a disjunction between the person and his behavior. Rather than call him a murderer, we should call him a 'good person'. The same would be true with rape, child molesting or child abuse, etc. It would be wrong to put those labels on such people and call them rapists and pedophiles— because they are 'good people'. That's nonsense. That's laughable.

According to
Deuteronomy 18:12, if what you do is an abomination to the Lord, you yourself are an abomination to the Lord. There is no disjunction between character and behavior. In Matthew 7:17-19 Jesus said,

"Likewise every good tree bears good fruit,
but a bad tree bears bad fruit.
A good tree cannot bear bad fruit,
and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit."

And in Matthew 12:33 He said,

"Make a tree good and its fruit will be good,
or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad,
for a tree is recognized by its fruit."

In Mark 7 we read that the Pharisees and the teachers of the law criticized Him because His disciples didn't follow their cleanliness rules. Jesus replied, (Mark 7:14-23)

"'Listen to me, everyone,
and understand this.
Nothing outside a man
can make him 'unclean' by going into him.
Rather, it is what comes out of a man
that makes him 'unclean.
Don't you see that
nothing that enters a man
from the outside can make him 'unclean'?
For it doesn't go into his heart
but into his stomach,
and then out of his body.'
He went on:
'What comes out of a man
is what makes him 'unclean.
For from within, out of men's hearts,
come evil thoughts, sexual immorality,
theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit,
lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.
All these evils come from inside
and make a man 'unclean.'"

What Jesus is saying is that if someone exhibits bad behavior, it's because he's a bad person, it's because his heart is evil.

So, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, that 12 year old girl that killed her parents and brother, Bobby Cuts, Jr. (if he is guilty) —are all bad people. It's that simple. Bad behavior doesn't come from good people. It comes from bad people. Jesus said, you'll know a tree by its fruit.

If you see me do something bad, it's not because I'm a good person—it's because I'm a bad person. It's that simple. I'm sinful. You're sinful. We're all bad. That's what the Bible teaches.
Romans 3:23 says,

"for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God"

Psalm 14:2-3 says,

"The LORD looks down
from heaven on the sons of men
to see if there are any who understand,
any who seek God.
All have turned aside,
they have together become corrupt;
there is no one who does good, not even one."

When the world says there are no bad people—it's denying that mankind needs saving. It's denying that it needs Jesus. That's ludicrous. Look at the world around you. Look at the hatred, the inhumanity that people inflict upon each other, look at the crimes that are committed—all that does not come from good people. It comes from bad people, sinners who need to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ in order to turn from those deeds and do righteous deeds. To deny that there are bad people in the world is ludicrous. It's laughable.

So what we see from all this is that there are many foolish ideas and philosophies that people today, smart people, hold on to. You as Christians are called by God to point out how foolish some of these things are. You should do it—because without seeing the foolishness of their ideas people won't turn to Christ.

But of course we have exercise caution here.

Sarcasm can be dangerous.

Arthur Pink writes, (Elijah, p. 137)

"Sarcasm is a dangerous weapon to employ…"

It's dangerous for many reasons, but one of them is that it can backfire. We need to be very careful in using it because if we aren't careful the joke can turn out to be on us and we'll look very bad and make the gospel look very bad.

For example, 500 years ago some Christians scoffed when astronomers started telling them that the earth revolved around the sun. They put Galileo in jail. They quoted from Psalm 93:1 and said it proved their point.

"The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved."

But they were wrong.

We need to make sure we're not wrong. We need to make sure that we don't hold to and advocate foolish and mistaken notions. If we do, we'll be seen as fools.

Remember all that
Y2K nonsense? In the months leading up to January 1, 2000 some people were making outrageous statements and painting doomsday scenarios. I heard one guy say that he could absolutely guarantee that we wouldn't have telephone service on January 1, 2000. People were warning that your computerized car wouldn't work in the new millennium either—that your anti-lock brakes wouldn't work, that airplanes would fall out of the sky and all kinds of ridiculous ideas. They were telling people to take their money out of banks and convert it to gold, to move from the cities to the countries, and to buy at least a six month supply of toilet paper. Y2K. I used to joke that the "K" in Y2K stood for 'kooks' They were nuts. They were exposed as kooks.

Oftentimes some Christians are like that and you'll hear them spouting off about shear nonsense. They will predict that the world is going to end at a certain time, or that God will take them if they don't raise a certain amount of money—or they will pontificate on some tragedy and draw a direct link between it and some sin of the people who were involved. The world is appalled at that and laughs at them and mocks them for their foolishness, and rightly so.

So you and I need to be careful that we interpret God's Word correctly and that the statements that we make are correct applications of God's Word. We have to be careful. Before you use humor, sarcasm before unbelievers—be absolutely sure that you have your facts in order. Elijah did.

Nevertheless, we should recognize that sarcasm can be a useful tool.

The reason we are warranted in using sarcasm is because it can be an effective weapon.

Arthur Pink refers to sarcasm, and says, (Elijah, p. 137)

"its use is fully warranted in exposing the ridiculous pretensions of error, and is often quite effective in convincing men of the folly and unreasonableness of their ways."

God can use our sarcasm to open the eyes of unbelievers. Or He can use it to render them inexcusable. God did both things through Elijah's taunts.

You who are not Christians should understand is that the sarcasm in the Bible should pierce your heart. It should show you that you're mistaken, that you're on thin ice, that you need to turn and accept Jesus. The world may consider the gospel foolishness, but that's only because they're foolish.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is the only thing that deals with the curse of sin—which is death. Jesus came and died in the place of sinners. Whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. Only that deals with the curse of sin. There's nothing more reasonable that that. Trust in Jesus. Trust today.

The last thing I want you to note here is that
there was a method to Elijah's taunting.

Elijah's taunts to the prophets of Baal brought out points of contrast between Baal the real God.

Elijah said,

"Shout louder!
Surely he is a god!
Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling.
Maybe he is sleeping
and must be awakened."

Our God is not hard of hearing. He is never too far away to help us. He is never too busy for us. He does not grow tired or weary. He does not sleep.

Elijah didn't taunt the prophets of Baal merely for the sake of humor, for the sake of a good laugh. No, he was trying to open everyone's eyes to the glory of the true God. He was showing everyone that Baal was a fake, that those who served Him did so in vain, that their hope was totally misplaced.

Christians, the God that you serve is infinite, all powerful, all glorious, omnipresent, all knowing—His perfections are endless.

The world today is deluded. They are chasing after all the meaningless things of this life. Sometimes they grasp at straws, thinking that they find meaning in something that is insignificant in comparison to knowing God. At the end of his book, Hyperspace, theoretical physicist, Michio Kaku, writes about how we can know the deepest secrets of nature. He writes,

"Does this give meaning to life? … it seems to me that being blessed with the intellect to divine the ultimate secrets of nature gives meaning enough to life."

He's wrong. Knowing nature, knowing the cosmos is just the beginning—for God made those things and those things are but a reflection of His glory. What people really need is to know God through His Son Jesus. It's our job to point them to Him. Do it and do it well.