1 Kings 19:1-9

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

Sometimes it's tough being a man. It's true. Sometimes men find themselves in a situation where they just can't win. About fifteen years ago one of Marg's sisters was going through a divorce and to relieve the stress she was under she wanted to go hiking in the Adirondacks. She wanted to come to our place and for us to go on some day hikes. I didn't really mind but the problem was that even though she was just one man was the source of her anger and frustration—she took it out on any man that was available. That was often me. The first day we did a fairly easy hike the first day but the next day she wanted to do a high peak. It was in the fall of the year and rather than getting up early she slept in. It wasn't until well after 10 o'clock that we got on the road. We got to Adirondack Lodge around one. A ranger there told us that we didn't have time to do Marcy or Algonquin, but that we'd be able to do Phelps. But even that was iffy as I had to get back for Prayer Meeting that at 8 that night. So we decided that we'd try to get to the top of Phelps but that at 3 o'clock we'd turn around. That would get us back to the car by 6 and I'd be home in time Prayer Meeting. Phelps is a fairly steep climb and what's interesting about it is that you couldn't tell when you were getting near the top. About 40 minutes before we actually got to the top we thought that it was just over the next rise. We could see a little bit ahead and we thought—that's the top. But when we'd get to that point—we'd see that it was a false summit—that there was still another way to go. And when we'd got to that point—we'd see that there was still more climbing to do. And that happened a few times. By this time I was getting a little exasperated because three o'clock had come and gone and Lois wouldn't turn around. We had driven up in her car and when at one point I stopped and insisted that we turn around she said,

"I've got the car keys and I'm going to the top."

I had no choice but to follow. But that wasn't the worst of it. When we finally got to the top rather than turn around right away she took off her boots and laid out in the sun for awhile. But that wasn't the worst of it. Because we were so late we had to really rush back to the car, and then when we got there I had to rush home and we got home at 10 to eight, with 10 minutes to spare before Prayer Meeting. But that wasn't the worst of it. The worst part of it was that when we got home Marg met me at the door and said,

"Where were you? Why didn't you call?"

She was really angry with me for being so late. She was worried about us and by 10 to eight that worry had turned to anger.

What a horrible day it was for me. I thought I had done so well. I gave my sister-in-law the whole day. I did everything she asked and more—and rather than being rewarded with a nice hot supper when we got home—I was met with, "Where were you?"

Sometimes you can go above and beyond the call of duty and rather than being rewarded for it—something bad happens to you.

Elijah knew all about that. In the previous two chapters we see that he was a great hero of the faith. He had been faithful in carrying out the very difficult tasks that the Lord gave him. He had gone to King Ahab and told him that there wouldn't be rain except at his word. He has spend months at the Kerith Ravine, being fed by ravens. He had spent months with the widow of Zarephath, with the oil and flour not being used up—and had her turn on him when her son died. He raised the son back to life and then followed God's command to go back to Israel and face King Ahab. He had faced the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah on Mount Carmel and proved to Israel that Yahweh was God. He had done all these things fearlessly with great courage. He then prayed for rain and God sent rain on the land. What faithfulness to the Lord! What obedience! What courage! But what is Elijah's reward? We read,

"Now Ahab told Jezebel
everything Elijah had done
and how he had killed
all the prophets with the sword.
So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say,
'May the gods deal with me,
be it ever so severely,
if by this time tomorrow
I do not make your life
like that of one of them.'"

This passage is very valuable for us because it has much to teach us about the Christian life—about what kind of reaction we will often face when we do well, about how it's not enough to do well two, three or four times—but how we have to persevere in doing good, about how what a great enemy fear is, and lastly, about how close we have to stay close to our Savior, and rely on His strength.

The first thing we see here is that

if you live in a secular society and you're faithful to God, you will often arouse the enmity of people of the world.

Elijah was faithful to God and because of that Queen Jezebel hated him and wanted to kill him. Elijah was doing exactly what God wanted him to do—showing the people of Israel that Yahweh was the real God and that they had a duty to honor and exalt Him. Elijah had a duty to expose the prophets of Baal as frauds and to rid the land of them. In doing so he was obeying the commands of the Torah. Because of that Jezebel hated him and sought to kill him.

This happened to Jesus as well. The encounter between Elijah and Jezebel was merely a prelude of what we read about in
John 3:19-21.

"This is the verdict:
Light has come into the world,
but men loved darkness instead of light
because their deeds were evil.
Everyone who does evil hates the light,
and will not come into the light
for fear that his deeds will be exposed.
But whoever lives by the truth
comes into the light,
so that it may be seen plainly
that what he has done
has been done through God."

Jesus came into the world and did good, teaching people about God and Himself. But many people hated Him for it. They hated Him so much that they put Him to death.

Jesus warned His disciples that if they hated Him, they would hate His followers. In Matthew 10 He said,

"All men will hate you because of me…
A student is not above his teacher,
nor a servant above his master.
It is enough for the student to be like his teacher,
and the servant like his master.
If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub,
how much more the members of his household!"

We are on Jesus' side. We must realize that we are in the involved in a great spiritual war that is taking place between God and Satan. The book of Revelation tells us about this and chapter 12 tells how there was war in heaven and how Michael and his angels fought against the dragon and how the dragon and his angels were fought back but were not strong enough and lost their place in heaven. We read, (Revelation 12:9)

"The great dragon was hurled down—
that ancient serpent
called the devil, or Satan,
who leads the whole world astray.
He was hurled to the earth,
and his angels with him…
He is filled with fury,
because he knows that his time is short.
When the dragon saw that
he had been hurled to the earth,
he pursued the woman
who had given birth to the male child.
The woman was given
the two wings of a great eagle,
so that she might fly to the place
prepared for her in the desert,
where she would be taken care of for a time,
times and half a time,
out of the serpent's reach.
Then from his mouth the serpent
spewed water like a river,
to overtake the woman
and sweep her away with the torrent.
But the earth helped the woman
by opening its mouth and swallowing the river
that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth.
Then the dragon was enraged at the woman
and went off to make war
against the rest of her offspring—
those who obey God's commandments
and hold to the testimony of Jesus."

The dragon is making war against the church of Jesus Christ. That means that those who are faithful to Jesus should expect opposition from the world, just as Elijah experienced opposition from Jezebel.

Now in a certain sense we want to have a good reputation in Canton. We want people to know about us and think well of us. Some of the things that we do have that as part of their purpose. I think our
Soccer VBS is wonderful PR for our church. It shows many people in our town what a community of believers is like and how we cooperate, serve others and have fun enjoying some of the good things of this life. I think it gives unbelievers a good idea what a healthy Christian community is like. And that's wonderful and is part of our job. We have had some partial success in doing that. In a certain sense it would be good if the world's opposition to the church was muted—like it has been in our country for much of our countries history.

But we must never forget that our message to the world is to repent and believe in Jesus. With some that is not going to meet with acceptance—but with opposition. That's how Jezebel reacted to Elijah's ministry. M.B. Van't Veer writes, (My God is Yahweh, p. 320)

"The church forgets all too often that it is bound to stir up hatred when it preaches Christ… there can be no peace between the church and the world because there can be no peace between Christ and the world. We have to make it known that Christ was also sent to this world for purposes of judgment. We have to tell the world that it lives in darkness, that it lives for the lie, and we must make it clear that we can have no more fellowship with the world since we are children of light and are called to the truth of God." "This message will unleash a reaction among the godless. Hatred will be the world's answer to the sharp antithesis posited by the church. And the world is right when it says that the church can't abide the world. Woe to the church if she glories in her tolerance!"

The great lesson from this is that

the church must never give the world what it wants.

It wants us to stop giving the pure message of the gospel. It wants us to stop preaching repentance. It wants us to stop preaching that Jesus is the only way of salvation.

That's what's wrong with some Christian books that are bestsellers today. They leave out repentance from sin. They give the world what they want.

The second great truth we see from our text is that

you must be prepared to persevere even in the face of great danger.

It's not enough to be fearless, once, twice, three, four times. It's not enough to be faithful and fearless for three and a half years.

Here we see Elijah at his worst. Previously he had done so well. He had boldly gone to wicked King Ahab with the message of no rain. Three and a half years later he boldly followed God's command and presented himself before Ahab. When Ahab said to him,

"Is that you, you troubler of Israel?"

Elijah bolding replied,

"I have not made trouble for Israel.
But you and your father's family have."

Elijah boldly stood up to the 450 prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. He even mocked them when God showed everyone that they were frauds. But here, faced with a threat from Queen Jezebel, he is filled with fear and he flees.

Arthur Pink, (Elijah, p. 190)- on the contrast between Elijah in chapters 18 and 19.

"In the former we behold the prophet at his best: in the latter we see him at his worst. There he was strong in faith and the helper of his people: here he is filled with fear and is the deserter of his nation."

M.B. Van't Veer, p. 321,

"The deepest defeat of his soul follows right on the heels of his greatest triumph."

Faced with the death message from Jezebel Elijah becomes afraid and flees. This was no ordinary sin. Elijah had a very special prophetic function at that time. He was central in the struggle between the two realms- the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. That's what was exemplified in the relationship between Elijah and Jezebel. In Elijah the Lord revealed the divine powers of His kingdom. The word of the Lord was so interwoven with Elijah's life that his victory over Jezebel and the worshippers of Baal was a victory of the Lord's kingdom over Satan's kingdom.

Because the Word of the Lord was interwoven with his life, because he was the bearer of the Word in Israel in a special sense, his flight meant that the Kingdom of God gave way to the kingdom of Satan in the mind of Israel. The honor of the Lord was bound up with that flight in a special sense, then, for the Lord had tied His honor to the life and victory of His servant Elijah. By fleeing he was confessing before Jezebel and Israel that the power of the kingdom opposed to God is greater than the might of Israel's God.

Elijah snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

Elijah shouldn't have been afraid. In
2 Kings 1 we see that when wicked King Ahaziah sent 50 soldiers to arrest Elijah, he called down fire from heaven that consumed them. God had determined that Elijah was not going to die. He was going to be taken up into heaven in a whirlwind. Elijah did not have to be afraid of Jezebel.

So how did this come about? How could Elijah be so afraid of a woman? How could he suddenly become so fearful?

We can speculate.

Perhaps he saw betrayal in all the people around him.

Later he would tell the Lord that he was the only one left, the only one who was faithful to Him. So it's possible that after he had done so much for the people, he saw that they would betray him to Jezebel, just like the people of Keilah would have betrayed David to King Saul. Elijah, like Jesus, knew what men were like. In John 2:24-25 we read about Jesus' reaction to many of the people who believed in Him,

"But Jesus would not entrust himself to them,
for he knew all men.
He did not need man's testimony about man,
for he knew what was in a man."

It certainly couldn't be that Elijah underestimated the evil in Queen Jezebel. Before this he knew that she had killed as many of the prophets of the Lord as she could. So I don't think that Elijah fell for the Sally Field's propaganda that women are less sinful than men. At the recent Emmy's, in accepting an award, Sally Field said,

"And, let's face it, if the mothers ruled the (world), there would be no… wars in the first place,"

If women ruled the world, there would probably be fewer wars, but considering that there have been queens like Jezebel—there would be wars, and they would be quite vicious. You remember the old saying,

"Hell hath no fury like a woman…"

If you buy into the false teachings of the world you certainly can become discouraged and sin when you find that you were mistaken. But Elijah wasn't surprised by Jezebel's fury.

Perhaps Elijah was disappointed in how God worked things out.

Perhaps Elijah was expecting that God would consolidate the great victory that He had won on Mount Carmel. He had shown King Ahab and the people the way to blessing. But it seemed that he was the only one who was zealous for the Lord.

Thinking that you know what God ought to do is a sure way to discouragement and sin. When Jesus was arrested, Peter took out his sword and started swinging. He didn't think that Jesus should go to the cross. Soon after he became fearful and denied Jesus three times.

Let God be God. Let Him rule according to His wisdom. So many Christians today think that they know what's best, what God should do—who He should heal, what He should allow. They think that they have the book of Revelation all figured out and know the exact sequence of how things are going to happen. They're setting themselves up for a fall.

Rather than speculate any further on why Elijah may have become fearful, it's best if we note that

Elijah points us to how wonderful Jesus is!

When Jesus faced opposition and hatred—did not fear like Elijah, but won the complete victory for us.

Elijah wasn't up to the task. He failed. He let God down. He let the people of Israel down. But there was one who never failed. One greater than Elijah came. Unlike Elijah, he did not run when His life was threatened.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus faced the prospect of the most horrible death. Yet He did not fear. He did not shrink back like Elijah.

John 18:11 Jesus commanded Peter,

"Put your sword away!
Shall I not drink the cup
the Father has given me?"

Earlier He had said to His disciples, (John 12:27-28)

"Now my heart is troubled,
and what shall I say?
'Father, save me from this hour'?
No, it was for this very reason
I came to this hour.
Father, glorify your name!
Then a voice came from heaven,
'I have glorified it,
and will glorify it again.'"

What a wonderful work Jesus did! He did not fear. He completed our salvation. Jesus Christ stood firm and laid down His life for us. By so doing He sealed Satan's defeat. He was the good shepherd who gave His life for the sheep. He was the one who pressed his victory, who thoroughly defeated Satan.

Christians, love Jesus. Rejoice in Him. In ourselves we are inadequate. We cannot stand. But in His power we can.

Hebrews 12:4,

"In your struggle against sin,
you have not yet resisted
to the point of shedding your blood."

It's not enough to be faithful once, twice, or three times. We need to be faithful to death. There's only one way to do that. Hebrews 12:1-4

"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus,
the author and perfecter of our faith,
who for the joy set before him
endured the cross, scorning its shame,
and sat down at the right hand
of the throne of God.
Consider him who endured
such opposition from sinful men,
so that you will not grow weary
and lose heart."

Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians,

you should see from this that the purposes of Jezebel came to nothing.

She said,

"May the gods deal with me,
be it ever so severely,
if by this time tomorrow
I do not make your life
like that of one of them."

She failed. She was not able to kill Elijah. She wouldn't have been able to even if Elijah had stayed. God had plans for Elijah not to die and he did not. Jezebel's plans were thwarted.

Thus great God of the universe did deal with her ever so severely. She was killed. Dogs ate her. She's in hell today.

Jezebel rejected God's messenger. She rejected God's way. She rejected God's grace. She perished. Don't let that happen to you. Go to Jesus. Accept Him.