1 Kings 18:40

Sermon preached on September 16, 2007 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2007. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

Have you ever been embarrassed about a friend or relative?
Has someone close to you ever said or did something so bad that for awhile you wish that you weren't associated with them? I remember the first time my dad came to visit me after I was at my first church and we had the Wednesday evening Prayer Meeting and Bible Study at our house. After it was over, during the refreshments, dad was talking to one of the farmers who was there and he asked him,

"How much money do you make in a year?"

I could have died. I wished I had a rock that I could crawl under. At that moment I wished that I wasn't related to my dad. It was extremely embarrassing.

Marg has a relative like that too. She's all right when you're alone with her, really super nice. But if Marg goes out to a store with her, it's embarrassment, big time. When she's in a store she'll make it known that she's related to Marg and she'll tell everyone who Marg is, and then she'll do something really bad—like very loudly complain that an article is too highly priced and make a big scene about it. You really don't want to be in the same store with her. There have been numerous times like that when Marg wishes that she wasn't related to her. It's always embarrassing to go out with her.

Do you ever feel like that about some of the things in the Bible? Are you
embarrassed by verse 40? We read,

"Then Elijah commanded them,
'Seize the prophets of Baal.
Don't let anyone get away!'
They seized them, and Elijah had them brought down
to the Kishon Valley and slaughtered there."

They killed all the prophets of Baal at Elijah's command. There is no doubt that God told Elijah to do that. Should we Christians be embarrassed by this? Do you wish that things like this weren't in the Bible?

Some people who claim to be Christians don't like this at all. They look at this passage and others like it and they don't want to be associated with a God who does things like this. Some of them make a distinction between the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament. They view the God of the Old Testament as a God of wrath and anger while the God of the New Testament they view as one of love and compassion.

One of the earliest to do so was the heretic
Marcion, who was born about 140 A.D. He made a distinction between the creator God of the Old Testament and the Redeemer God of the New Testament. Marcion viewed the Old Testament God as an inferior God, who was a God of judgment, anger and justice. The New Testament, God, on the other hand, was superior and a God of love, who sent Jesus to die for sinners.

C. H. Dodd, who has been described as the most influential British New Testament scholar of the last century, has followed Marcion's lead. He tells us that all passages that speak about the divine wrath are 'sub-Christian'. He told us that the whole idea of divine anger was a pagan idea, that really should not be applied to the Christian God at all.

It's passages like the one before us that people like Marcion and Dodd don't like. They don't like the God who said to King Saul in
1 Samuel 15:2-3,

"This is what the LORD Almighty says:
'I will punish the Amalekites
for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them
as they came up from Egypt.
Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy
everything that belongs to them.
Do not spare them; put to death men and women,
children and infants, cattle and sheep,
camels and donkeys."

That's what God said and in doing so God was very serious. King Saul lost his kingdom because he disobeyed God on this matter. King Saul spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle and so the kingdom was taken from his family and passed to David.

Another passage they don't like is
Deuteronomy 7:1-2 where Moses said to the people of Israel.

"When the LORD your God brings you
into the land you are entering to possess
and drives out before you many nations—
the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites,
Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites,
seven nations larger and stronger than you—
and when the LORD your God
has delivered them over to you
and you have defeated them,
then you must destroy them totally.
Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy."

That's what they did when they took Jericho. In Joshua 6:16-21 we read,

"The seventh time around,
when the priests sounded the trumpet blast,
Joshua commanded the people,
'Shout! For the LORD
has given you the city!
The city and all that is in it are to be devoted to the LORD.
Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her
in her house shall be spared,
because she hid the spies we sent…'
When the trumpets sounded,
the people shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet,
when the people gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed;
so every man charged straight in, and they took the city.
They devoted the city to the LORD
and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it—
men and women, young and old,
cattle, sheep and donkeys."

Regarding the land of Sihon, King of Heshbon, Moses said, (Deuteronomy 2:34)

"At that time we took all his towns
and completely destroyed them—
men, women and children. We left no survivors."

This was at God's command. In Deuteronomy 20:16-18 Moses said to the people of Israel,

"in the cities of the nations the LORD your God
is giving you as an inheritance,
do not leave alive anything that breathes.
Completely destroy them—
the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites,
Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—
as the LORD your God has commanded you.
Otherwise, they will teach you
to follow all the detestable things
they do in worshiping their gods,
and you will sin against the LORD your God."

I could go on but I think I've quoted enough to make my point—in the Old Testament God often commanded His people to totally destroy other peoples—men, women and children. He was adamant about it. Mercy was not an option. They were commanded to destroy them all.

What are we to say about all this? Is it something we Christians should be embarrassed about, something we should downplay?

The answer is: absolutely not. Passages like are text are exceedingly important because they have valuable lessons for both us and non-Christians. What I want to do this morning is to look at some of these lessons.

The prophets of Baal were killed. Why? It was because they had refused to repent, even in the face of incontrovertible evidence that the Lord was God. They didn't join the Israelites who were praising God after the fire from heaven fell and consumed the sacrifice. They continued to refuse to acknowledge God. They refused to turn to Him. So Elijah had them put to death. There is no doubt that Elijah was acting on orders from God. Thus

this incident shows us the wrath of God against sin.

One of the great messages of the Bible is that God hates sin. It's an outrage to Him. God's holiness, justice and righteousness demands that sin be dealt with. Sin is evil and it's right and just that sin be punished.

If God didn't hate sin and react with indignation against it He wouldn't be righteous. Herman Bavinck writes about God's righteousness, (The Doctrine of God, p. 215)

"His righteousness consists of the fact that he grants every man according to his work, that he treats the righteous and the wicked distinctly."

In saying that Bavinck draws our attention to Genesis 18 which records Abraham's wondering about God's plans to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah when Lot lived in Sodom. Abraham said to God, (Genesis 18:23-25)

"Will you sweep away
the righteous with the wicked?
What if there are fifty righteous people in the city?
Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place
for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it?
Far be it from you to do such a thing—
to kill the righteous with the wicked,
treating the righteous and the wicked alike.
Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?"

If God is righteous, He must act against sin with indignation.

To look on evil and sin without outrage is monstrous.

Consider the disappearance of 4 year old Madeleine MaCann in May. Many of you know the story. Her family was visiting Portugal and while they were having dinner at their resort restaurant when someone supposedly abducted Madeleine from their room. Her parents started a publicity campaign in the hopes that the publicity would turn up leads and lead to the safe return of Madeleine. But this past week the parents themselves have been named as suspects. Now I don't know the truth of the case. But my point is that if you did know the truth of the case and were not outraged by it—there would be something wrong with you.

For example, if a sexual pervert abducted, abused and killed Madeleine—how could you not be outraged by it? To be okay with that would be monstrous.

Not only that, but if that was the case and the police falsely named the parents as suspects, when in actual fact they had nothing to do with it—how horrible, how unjust, how despicable. How unfair to the parents. As if it's not bad enough to lose a daughter—but to be unfairly listed as a suspect, is outrageous. If they're innocent you need to be outraged at what the police are suggesting.

If the truth of the case is that one of the parents accidentally killed her, and then conspired to cover it up, to dispose of the body secretly and then wasted countless police hours by pointing them in the wrong direction, and stirred up sympathy and raised over $2 million by falsely saying that Madeleine was abducted—then that is monstrous and you need to be outraged at it.

The disappearance of Madeleine is an extreme case that illustrates how we are sometimes outraged at the evil that people do and that that outrage is right and proper. Not to be outraged would be sinful.

But the problem with us as human beings is that we're sinful and
we don't have an adequate conception of how horrible all sin is. We're not outraged by it like we should be.

It's like if we saw a spot on our face that was the beginning of a horrible, deadly skin cancer and we just shrugged it off and said,

"Oh, that's nothing to be concerned about,"

and did nothing about it.

That's how we usually view sin. We have no idea how horrible it is.

Nor do we have
an adequate conception of how all sin is ultimately against God. You'll remember that Joseph's reaction to Potiphar's wife's proposal was, (Genesis 39:9)

"How then could I do such a wicked thing
and sin against God?"

Sin is against God—against His very nature.

It is despicable to Him.
Habakkuk 1:13 says about God,

"Your eyes are too pure to look on evil;
you cannot tolerate wrong."

The Old Testament is full of passages which tells us that God detests wickedness. It is abhorrent to Him.

I think it's hard for us to form a good idea how abhorrent sin is to God but if you think of some of the things that are most abhorrent to you—that will give you glimpse into it. I remember in August I went running with Natalia and we left it a little too late and it got dark before we got halfway around the trail. As I was running in the dark I thought I ran right into a skunk. There was this black and white thing right on the edge of the trail and I didn't see it until I was right on it. Can you imagine the horror that went through me? But I was wrong, it wasn't a skunk. But you get the point—I just abhorred the thought of running into one.

That's the way that it is with God and sin. He abhors it. He is right to do so.

Perhaps the best place to see how God detests sin is in the work of Jesus.

Jesus came to take our sin upon Himself and die for it. As we read in 2 Corinthians 5:21,

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

It was absolutely horrible for Him to take our sin upon Himself. Recall what He said in Luke 12:50,

"But I have a baptism to undergo,
and how distressed I am
until it is completed!"

William Hendriksen writes, (Luke)

"he came in order to take upon himself the burden of God's wrath resulting from the sin of his people, and to suffer the agonies of hell—the hell of Calvary—in their stead. But when he now reflects on the agony that lies ahead, is it any wonder that he says, 'How overwhelmed with anguish I am until it is accomplished'?"

Or consider His words in the Garden of Gethsemane. He said to His disciples, (Matthew 26:38)

"My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow
to the point of death."

The Bible also tell us that He sweat became like great drops of blood. This was no normal trouble—but something that went exceedingly deep—to the point of death. Why? What would make Jesus feel that way? What would cause Him anguish that would threaten His very life? It was anguish that was the result of having our sins placed on His account. Hugh Martin writes, (Shadow of Calvary, p. 37)

"if such was the cup, what could his receiving or consenting to receive it imply, but his submitting to be made sin for us, submitting to be numbered with transgressors, submitting to have the iniquities of his people laid upon him? This is what Gethsemane beheld transacted between the Father and the Son. Finally and formally the Father proposes to Jesus the assumption of the guilt of his church unto himself. Finally and formally Jesus accepts and confirms what had been determined mutually in the counsel of peace from everlasting."

Can you imagine how hard it must have been for Jesus? It was so difficult that He fell with His face to the ground and asked, (Matthew 26:39

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

How the Father loved the Son. Can you imagine how the sorrow of the Son affected the Father? Can you imagine how much He wanted to grant His Son's request. But what was the Father's answer? It was, "No." It was not possible.

Why was that? Why did Jesus have to die? Why couldn't the Father just have said,

"Okay. That's enough. You don't have to actually die for sin."

Why couldn't the Father say that? John Murray writes about the necessity of the atonement. (Redemption, Accomplished and Applied, p. 12)

"God, having elected some to everlasting life out of his mere good pleasure, was under the necessity of accomplishing this purpose through the sacrifice of his own Son, a necessity arising from the perfections of his own nature. In a word, while it was not inherently necessary for God to save, yet, since salvation had been purposed, it was necessary to secure this salvation through a satisfaction that could be rendered only through substitutionary sacrifice and blood-bought redemption."

In other words, God could not just overlook sin. His perfections required that sin be dealt with. That's why Jesus death was necessary. Without it there could be no salvation.

On Mount Carmel the death of the prophets of Baal was necessary. They didn't repent when they saw that the Lord was the true God. Therefore, there could be no mercy for them. Their deaths prefigured the wrath of God that will fall on all who reject Jesus.

We see in many places how the New Testament speaks of God's wrath against those who do not repent.

2 Thessalonians 1: 5-10 the apostle Paul wrote,

"God is just:
He will pay back trouble to those
who trouble you and give relief
to you who are troubled, and to us as well.
This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven
in blazing fire with his powerful angels.
He will punish those who do not know God
and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
They will be punished with everlasting destruction
and shut out from the presence of the Lord
and from the majesty of his power
on the day he comes to be glorified
in his holy people and to be marveled at
among all those who have believed."

In Hebrews 10: 26-31 the apostle wrote,

"If we deliberately keep on sinning
after we have received the knowledge of the truth,
no sacrifice for sins is left,
but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire
that will consume the enemies of God.
Anyone who rejected the law of Moses
died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.
How much more severely do you think
a man deserves to be punished
who has trampled the Son of God under foot,
who has treated as an unholy thing
the blood of the covenant that sanctified him,
and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?
For we know him who said,
It is mine to avenge;
I will repay, and again,
The Lord will judge his people.
It is a dreadful thing to fall
into the hands of the living God."

In Hebrews 12: 25-29 we read,

"See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks.
If they did not escape when they refused him
who warned them on earth,
how much less will we, if we turn away from him
who warns us from heaven?
At that time his voice shook the earth,
but now he has promised,
Once more I will shake not only the earth
but also the heavens.
The words once more indicate the removing
of what can be shaken—that is, created things—
so that what cannot be shaken may remain.
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom
that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful,
and so worship God acceptably
with reverence and awe, for our
'God is a consuming fire.'

Who in the New Testament spoke about hell more than anyone else? It was Jesus. Time and again He warned people about it's reality and horror. In Matthew 13:40-43 He said.

"As the weeds are pulled up
and burned in the fire,
so it will be at the end of the age.
The Son of Man will send out his angels,
and they will weed out of his kingdom
everything that causes sin and all who do evil.
They will throw them into the fiery furnace,
where there will be weeping
and gnashing of teeth."

M.B. Van't Veer writes, (Elijah, p. 297)

"No, we do not find the heavy sounds of judgment in Elijah replaced by the song of love in Christ. In Elijah we find only a weak shadow of the great judgment that will be found more fully in Christ."

Thus there is no discontinuity between the Old and New Testaments as far as the wrath of God is concerned. Both testaments show us quite clearly that God hates sin and that if sinners don't repent and go to Christ they will be lost.

God hates sin. It must be punished. The only escape is in Jesus Christ.

Now what does this all mean for us?

First, for those of you who are not Christians,

it means that you need to believe on Jesus now. You need to give your life to Him.

The death of the prophets of Baal is a great warning to you that you need the God of Elijah to save you. They refused to repent. If you refuse to repent you too will face the horrible reality of punishment.

The wrath of God is coming to all who are not in Christ. Colossians 3 lists some of the sins of the earthly nature and says,

"Because of these,
the wrath of God is coming."

The book of Revelation speaks much of the wrath of God. Revelation 15:7-8 is typical. We read,

"Then one of the four living creatures
gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls
filled with the wrath of God,"

Don't let the wrath of God come upon you. Go to Jesus.

God is full of love and mercy- go to Him. He will accept you. As Jesus said in John 6:37,

"All that the Father gives me will come to me,
and whoever comes to me I will never drive away."

Donald Macleod writes, (Behold Your God, p. 95)

"the Bible makes it very clear that God is angry only reluctantly. He delights in mercy and loves forgiving. By contrast, judgment is a 'strange work'. He will resort to it if need be, but it is alien to His instincts. He is slow to wrath (Psalm 103:8) and unwilling to afflict (Lamentations 3:33). Even as He contemplates those who are steeped in guilt He hesitates to execute judgment: 'How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? How shall I deliver thee, Israel? My heart is turned within me. I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim' (Hosea 11:8). The salvation of His people fills the Lord with joy (Jude 24). But the destruction of the wicked gives Him no pleasure."

As we read in Ezekiel 18:31

"Why will you die, O house of Israel?
For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone,
declares the Sovereign LORD.
Repent and live!"

Secondly, for Christians,

this shows us the goal, the methodology and the urgency of our message.

What's our goal? It's the salvation of sinners.

Our message is not the message of the Koran, "Kill the infidels." It's not the message of Elijah— "Kill the prophets of Baal." No. Neither is it the desire that James and John requested when the Samaritans did not welcome Jesus. They said to Jesus, (Luke 9:54)

"Lord, do you want us to call
fire down from heaven to destroy them?"

That's not to be our goal or desire. Jesus rebuked them and said,

"You do not know what kind of spirit
you are of, for the Son of Man did not come
to destroy men's lives, but to save them."

Today is the day of salvation. Our goal is not the destruction of sinners, but their salvation. We are called to preach the gospel and make disciples of all nations.

methods are not to be those of Elijah when he ordered the Israelites to kill the prophets of Baal. No. When Jesus was arrested Peter resorted to that method. He drew his sword and started swinging. But Jesus rebuked him and said, (Matthew 26:52-53)

"Put your sword back in its place,
for all who draw the sword will die by the sword."

Our methods are quite different. As the apostle Paul said in 2 Corinthians 6, we are to go out in,

"patience and kindness;
in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love;
in truthful speech and in the power of God;
with weapons of righteousness
in the right hand and in the left;"

Jesus commands us in Luke 6:27f,

"Love your enemies,
do good to those who hate you,
bless those who curse you,
pray for those who mistreat you.
If someone strikes you on one cheek,
turn to him the other also.
If someone takes your cloak,
do not stop him from taking your tunic…
Do to others as you would have them do to you…
love your enemies, do good to them,"

In Romans 12:14f the apostle Paul wrote,

"Bless those who persecute you;
bless and do not curse…
Do not repay anyone evil for evil…
Do not take revenge, my friends,
but leave room for God's wrath,
for it is written:
'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord.
On the contrary:
If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink…
Do not be overcome by evil,
but overcome evil with good."

Our methodology is love.

Finally, we see from all this that there is an
urgency to our message. The prophets of Baal had an opportunity to repent. But it was only short. Then it was too late for them. They were doomed. That's what it is like today. People have an opportunity to repent, but soon it's going to be too late. As Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 6:2,

"I tell you, now is the time of God's favor,
now is the day of salvation."

The only hope for people is to turn to Jesus for salvation. They need to do it and they need to do it soon. For us this means urgency, as Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:11, (KJV)

"Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord,
we persuade men;"