1 Kings 18:39

Sermon preached on August 26, 2007 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2007. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

The highlight of my vacation last month was the sailboat ride that I had on the Bras D'Or Lake. My friend Danny has what must be a thirty foot sailboat and he kindly offered to take Marg and me sailing. Marg is a little nervous on boats but I've always promised that I would take good care of her so she agreed to it. I decided that I was going to watch her very closely and make sure she didn't fall into the water. But the day we went there was hardly any wind. For the first half hour or so we had to use the motor to get underway. When we turned it off there was barely enough wind to keep us going—it was a gorgeous day. Every once in awhile we'd get a little puff of wind and we'd be able to make a little headway, but then it would die away and for most of the day we moved very slowly. But I loved it. Almost right from the beginning Danny gave me the helm and I was having a great time looking for the little puffs of wind and steering the boat. After awhile Marg went up front and even though there was no seat there she used a lifejacket as a pillow and was reading near the bow of the boat. Everything was going great and after about two hours one of the guys went below to prepare a little snack, he cut up some cheese and salami to have with some crackers.

But all of a sudden everything changed. In the space of what I would say was about two seconds, a huge puff of wind hit us and the boat went right over on its side and took off. It was totally unexpected and I had no idea what was happening. Before that day if you had told me that the wind could go from being almost perfectly calm to two seconds later having had the boat over at a 45 degree angle I wouldn't have believed you. I always thought that the wind built somewhat gradually. But it happened so fast that at first I thought that the boat was going to tip right over—she went from being totally upright to an angle so severe that I thought she was going to keep going. But it didn't tip it stayed at that 45 degree angle and shot through the water with a speed that seemed it would match a jet-ski. It was pure chaos. One side of the boat was only an inch or two above the water and it looked like the water was going to swamp the boat. Water was splashing everywhere and I had no idea how to make it better—my main concern was to hold and try to keep it steady and not do anything that would make it tip over. I think I should have steered into the wind to slow it down but everything happened so quickly I held on to the tiller and kept it as steady as I could. I desperately looked at Danny for some indication of what I should do, but Danny had been taken by surprise too and he was just trying to hold on and not fall overboard. Down below the deck Roddie was shouting and hollering. When the wind hit and the boat tipped he was thrown against the lower wall and all the food that he had prepared slid off the counter and went all over the floor. It was unbelievable that it could happen so fast.

Fortunately Danny soon made his way toward me and took the tiller and assured me that we weren't going to tip because most of the weight of the boat was in the keel, and that it would be impossible to overturn. After a few minutes we got used to the situation and saw that we were going to be okay. After that I thought that it was actually fun going that fast. Then someone said,

"Where's Marg?"

I hadn't even thought about her because there was so much other stuff going on but then I realized that I hadn't seen her floating by and Danny hadn't either- so at that point one of us called up to Marg to see if she was still there. She was holding on for dear life and wondering why no one had come to help or rescue her. She was not impressed with us nor our explanations of why we had not immediately come to her rescue. I'm not sure that she's going to come sailing with us next time.

I should have been watching out for her safety—not just when we first got on the boat, but all the time—especially when the huge gust of wind hit us. It's sort of like when you're watching your child at the beach when she doesn't know how to swim. You don't watch her 90% of the time. You don't watch her 95% of the time, or even 99% of the time. You watch her all the time. You don't take your eyes off of her even for a second.

In our text we have something like that. It's about an attitude that we should have all the time. Its about our duty to worship, glorify and praise God. After Elijah brought down fire from heaven the Israelites praised God. In
verse 39 we read,

"When all the people saw this,
they fell prostrate and cried,
'The LORD—he is God!
The LORD—he is God!'"

At that moment they showed us what we ought to be doing—and not just for brief periods here and there during our lives—but what the whole thrust of our lives ought to be like. The main thing we see from our text is

how appropriate it is when people praise God and give Him the glory that is due to His name.

The context shows us that we ought to be doing that. Over the past few weeks I've mentioned how the bull on the altar being killed and consumed by the fire represents the curse against human sin—death.

In the Old Testament the animal sacrifices were pointing to the future work of the Messiah and His work to take away the curse of sin. Hebrews 10 tells us that the fact that the Old Testament sacrifices had to be repeated showed that they could not really take away sin.
Hebrews 10:3-4 says that

"those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins,
because it is impossible
for the blood of bulls and goats
to take away sins."

The people of the Old Testament knew that the sacrifices point to the Messiah and His work. In the Old Testament bulls were used as sin offerings. The priests would lay their hands on the head of the bull and then slaughter it in front of the Tent of Meeting. (Exodus 29:10f) The fat and the inner parts were to be burned on the altar and the bull's flesh and hide outside the came.

Thus when the fire came down from heaven and consumed the bull and not the sinful people it pointed to the future work of Jesus on the cross—how He would be smitten by God, afflicted by Him, so that we might live. (Isaiah 53:4) As the apostle Paul wrote in
2 Corinthians 5:21,

"God made him who had no sin
to be sin for us"

Jesus took our place. He took the curse that was due to our sin. He took the wrath of God that was due to our sin and endured it. As the apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 3:13,

"Christ redeemed us
from the curse of the law
by becoming a curse for us,
for it is written:
'Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.'"

Thus on Mount Carmel many of the people realized many of the people realized that they were spared because of God's grace. They knew that they had had sinned when Elijah challenged them about whether the Lord or Baal was God. Elijah had said, (1 Kings 18:21)

"'How long will you waver
between two opinions?
If the LORD is God, follow him;
but if Baal is God, follow him.'
But the people said nothing."

How sinful of them. The more astute among them knew about the fire from heaven that had come and consumed the 250 men who rebelled against Moses and the Lord in Numbers 16. (verse 35) Thus when they saw the fire consume the bull and not them—how appropriate to fall prostrate and cry,

"The LORD—he is God!
The LORD—he is God!"

They deserved death—death by a consuming fire. But instead of that God sent grace their way.

It's the same with us. You and I deserve death.
Lamentations 3:22 says,

"Because of the LORD'S great love
we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail."

In Psalm 130:3,

"If you, O LORD,
kept a record of sins,
O Lord, who could stand?"

The answer is that no one could stand. Romans 3:23 says that,

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

In Psalm 53:2-3 we read,

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

For you who are Christians, we know the truth of what we read in our Responsive Reading (Psalm 103:10-12)

"he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed
our transgressions from us."

Christians, how you should be praising Him. Christ has become a curse instead of you. He took God's wrath that was against your sin and satisfied it. He endured the fire of God's wrath so that you could be spared. The fact that you are not receiving the due punishment for your sins right now should compel you to praise God and lift His name high.

This is also true for those of you who are not Christians. You should be praising Him for the very fact that right now, this very minute you are not experiencing the torments of hell. That's what your sins deserve. But God is not doing that. He is being patient with you, giving you opportunities to repent—to turn from your sins and to turn to Jesus for salvation.

But the great question is: why is God not treating us as our sins deserve? The answer to that question shows us the second great reason we all ought to be praising and magnifying the name of the Lord.

What was really going on on Mount Carmel? The answer is in Elijah's prayer in verse 37. Elijah said,

"Answer me, O LORD, answer me,
so these people will know that you,
O LORD, are God,
and that you are turning
their hearts back again."

God was turning their hearts back. The great truth that we see is that

the Lord was the one who initiated grace on Mount Carmel.

Elijah had told the people of Israel to stop wavering between two opinions, if the Lord was God to worship Him, if Baal was God to worship him. Yet the people had remained silent.

But then what happened? Was there a slight murmur in the crowd that started and spread? Did one person start saying,

"The Lord is God. He brought our forefathers out of Egypt. We should be serving Him."?

And then did that notion spread to all the people so that they were taken up with the Lord's glory?

No. That didn't happen. There was not the slightest hint of that. The people didn't do anything to draw close to the Lord. Indeed, they waited to see what would happen in the contest between Elijah and the prophets of Baal.

We see the same thing in the wider context. The people had been very sinful and had forsaken the Lord. So God sent them three and a half years of drought. In spite of the great famine that resulted—the people hadn't repented. There was no great movement to repent, to get rid of Baal worship and return to God. What Daniel said about the people of Israel in his day also applied to the people in Elijah's day. In
Daniel 9:13, Daniel said,

"Just as it is written in the Law of Moses,
all this disaster has come upon us,
yet we have not sought the favor
of the LORD our God
by turning from our sins
and giving attention to your truth."

Disaster came upon the people—but they didn't repent.

Nevertheless—and this is the remarkable thing—God told Elijah to return to Israel with grace. In spite of their rebellion against Him God arranged to show the people of Israel that Baal was a false God and that He was the true God of the universe. God was seeking out people who had gone astray. He sent Elijah to them with grace.

It wasn't just external grace. God was also working inwardly in the people of Israel. He was working on their hearts.

Many people today think that they are the ones that are in control of their hearts, their wills, their minds. They believe that in order for our wills to be free, in order for us to have
free will—that we have to have total control of those things.

But that's not the way it works.
Fallen man is a slave to sin. He's not free in the sense that he can know the good and pursue it and overcome the evil in him. On his own, sinful man is a rebel against God and he can't change that.

As we read in John 1:12-13 when it talks about Jesus' coming,

"Yet to all who received him,
to those who believed in his name,
he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent,
nor of human decision or a husband's will,
but born of God."

Each of us went astray but God did something about it. He laid on Jesus our iniquities. It was all on God's initiative. It was all of God's grace. God was seeking out a sinful and rebellious people. We see this theme in many places in Scripture. In Isaiah 53:6 the prophet declared.

"We all, like sheep,
have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all."

The idea there is that is that when we were doing nothing but going astray—God took the initiative and did something about it. Paul said something the same in Romans 5:10,

"For if, when we were
God's enemies,
we were reconciled to him
through the death of his Son,"

And in Isaiah 65:1 God said,

"I revealed myself
to those who did not ask for me;
I was found by those who did not seek me.
To a nation that did not call on my name,
I said,
'Here am I, here am I.'"

God seeks out those who were not seeking Him. As Jesus said in John 6:44,

"No one can come to me
unless the Father who sent me draws him,"

If someone is a Christian, it's not because they sought God, but because God sought them out. As the KJV renders 1 John 4:19,

"We love him,
because he first loved us."

If you're a Christian there's only one reason that you are—it's because God took the initiative and saved you. You ought to be praising God for it. As the apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 1:3-6,

"Praise be to the God and Father
of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who has blessed us in the heavenly realms
with every spiritual blessing in Christ.
For he chose us in him
before the creation of the world
to be holy and blameless in his sight.
In love he predestined us
to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ,
in accordance with his pleasure and will—
to the praise of his glorious grace,
which he has freely given us
in the One he loves."

Paul shows us that the only proper response to this is to praise and glorify God.

Christians, the great truth I want to leave with you is that this desire to praise and glorify God

should be, and must be, deep-seated and integrated into your being.

It should not be something that is superficial and temporary. God has done such great things for you that seeking His glory should be the most prominent thing in your life.

Christians, the Father sent the Son. He gave Him up to the cross, to endure the wrath due to your sins there. Jesus loved you so much that He died for you. He sent His Spirit into your life- guaranteeing the glory that is to come. (2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5) What glory and happiness is going to be yours! As the apostle John wrote in 1 John 3:1-2,

"How great is the love
the Father has lavished on us,
that we should be called children of God!
And that is what we are! …
Dear friends, now we are children of God,
and what we will be
has not yet been made known.
But we know that when he appears,
we shall be like him,
for we shall see him as he is."

You are headed for glory. He is now preparing a place for you. You are going to reign with Christ. What is the only appropriate response to that?

1 Corinthians 10:31,

"So whether you eat or drink
or whatever you do,
do it all for the glory of God."

Colossians 3:17,

"And whatever you do,
whether in word or deed,
do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through him."

Unfortunately, although the Israelites praised the Lord and gave Him the glory here—it didn't last. Did they rally to protect Elijah from wicked Queen Jezebel? No. Elijah felt he had to flee. The people wouldn't have saved him from Jezebel. They acknowledged God with there lips- but it wasn't deep seated in their being. (Like the people of Keilah toward David. 1 Samuel 23)

It was the same way with the people of Israel after they crossed the Red Sea. They praised God, but it wasn't deep-seated in their being. It didn't last. We read, (Exodus 14:29f)

"But the Israelites went
through the sea on dry ground,
with a wall of water on their right
and on their left.
That day the LORD saved Israel
from the hands of the Egyptians,
and Israel saw the Egyptians
lying dead on the shore.
And when the Israelites saw the great power
the LORD displayed against the Egyptians,
the people feared the LORD
and put their trust in him
and in Moses his servant."

But in a matter of three days they were grumbling against Moses and against the Lord. (Exodus 15:24) They didn't keep the praise of God on their lips. They didn't trust His leading. We read about their attitude in Exodus 16:2f,

"In the desert the whole community
grumbled against Moses and Aaron.
The Israelites said to them,
'If only we had died by the LORD'S hand in Egypt!
There we sat around pots of meat
and ate all the food we wanted,
but you have brought us out into this desert
to starve this entire assembly to death.'"

The point is that this attitude of praise to God, of brining glory to His name, needs to be so deep-rooted in you, that, through faith, it should transcend any earthly trouble that you encounter.

Someone may say,

"If everything were good with me, I'd praise God and lift His name high. But things haven't been going so well for me. I'm sick. I'm poor. I've had a lot of bad things happen to me lately. Do you mean to tell me that I ought to be excited about praising God even in my circumstances?"

Yes. That's exactly what I'm saying.

Consider Elijah. Elijah, everything was not good with him. For months he had been in the wilderness, his food brought to him by ravens. Then the Lord led him to the widow of Zarephath and her son died and she blamed Elijah. Now that he was back in Israel, Elijah was in great danger. Wicked King Ahab had been searching everyone for him—and not with good intent. Wicked Queen Jezebel still wielded considerable power and she hated Elijah.

Yet, in spite of all that, Elijah led the Israelites to praise God.

Isn't that what Jesus did? Do you remember what He did while He was on the cross? You'll remember while He was suffering He quoted from
Psalm 22:1. He said,

"My God, my God,
why have you forsaken me?"

It could very well be that Jesus quoted not just the first verse of that Psalm, but the whole of it, for much of it pointed to Him and His suffering on the cross. But even if He didn't quote it all—it should have reminded the Jews of the entire Psalm and brought it to their minds. Verses 3-5 have Jesus praising God for His power and faithfulness. It reads,

"Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
you are the praise of Israel.
In you our fathers put their trust;
they trusted and you delivered them.
They cried to you and were saved;
in you they trusted and were not disappointed."

Verses 22-31 are all about praise to God and encourage others to lift His name high. These are the words of the Messiah. It reads,

"I will declare your name to my brothers;
in the congregation I will praise you.
You who fear the LORD, praise him!
All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
For he has not despised
or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
but has listened to his cry for help.
From you comes the theme of my praise
in the great assembly;
before those who fear you
will I fulfill my vows.
The poor will eat and be satisfied;
they who seek the LORD will praise him—
may your hearts live forever!
All the ends of the earth will remember
and turn to the LORD,
and all the families of the nations
will bow down before him,
for dominion belongs to the LORD
and he rules over the nations.
All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
all who go down to the dust will kneel before him— those who cannot keep themselves alive.
Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord.
They will proclaim his righteousness
to a people yet unborn—
for he has done it."

Psalm 69 is another Messianic Psalm and describes in some detail the suffering of our Lord on the cross. Verses 19-21 read,

"You know how I am scorned,
disgraced and shamed;
all my enemies are before you.
Scorn has broken my heart
and has left me helpless;
I looked for sympathy, but there was none,
for comforters, but I found none.
They put gall in my food
and gave me vinegar for my thirst."

How does that Psalm end? We read (Psalm 69:29-36)

"I am in pain and distress;
may your salvation,
O God, protect me.
I will praise God's name in song
and glorify him with thanksgiving.
This will please the LORD more than an ox,
more than a bull with its horns and hoofs.
The poor will see and be glad—
you who seek God,
may your hearts live!
The LORD hears the needy
and does not despise his captive people.
Let heaven and earth praise him,
the seas and all that move in them,
for God will save Zion and rebuild the cities of Judah.
Then people will settle there and possess it;
the children of his servants will inherit it,
and those who love his name will dwell there."

Christians, your whole being is to be dedicated to God's glory. Your focus on His glory and worth ought to be so great that it should enable you to praise Him even when you are at your lowest. Even then, be like David in Psalm 103 and stir yourself up to praise and glorify God. Your attitude ought to be lie the apostle Paul in Philippians 1:20-21,

"I eagerly expect and hope
that I will in no way be ashamed,
but will have sufficient courage
so that now as always
Christ will be exalted in my body,
whether by life or by death."

Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians. Does all this about God sending His mercy to the rebellious Israelites move you to praise God? Does the fact that the fire consumed the bull and not the sinful Israelites make an impression on your heart? Does all this about God and His love for sinners stir you? Does all this about Jesus dying for sinners cause you to see how wonderful He is and how much you need Him? Does all this compel you to go to Christ? If it doesn't, you're in great danger. Ask God to take out your heart of stone and to give you a heart of flesh. It needs to be done and only He can do it. Ask Jesus to save you. He's your only hope.