1 Kings 19:10a

Sermon preached on November 04, 2007 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2007. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

When we were traveling in Northern Ireland many years ago I noticed in some of the villages that they had a line—I'm not sure if it was on the road next to the curb or if it was on the curb right next to the road. I had no idea what the line meant so when we were visiting our friends Stafford and Patricia, I asked Stafford what the line was all about. He said it meant, "No Parking". But I also remembered that there were other places where there were two lines on the side of the road, so I continued and asked him what the two lines meant. He laughed and said,

"Really no parking."

It's interesting that in the text before us we have something like that. The writer tells us that Elijah was,

"very zealous
for the Lord God Almighty."

The Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew and in it there's no word 'very' like we have in the English translation—but rather the same Hebrew word is repeated twice for emphasis. That's one of the ways that Hebrews writers showed emphasis. For example, in Genesis 2:17, God told Adam and Eve that on the day that they ate of the forbidden fruit they would 'die'. The Hebrew has the word 'die' and follows it with the same word, only in a slightly different form, 'dying'. There's real emphasis there and it's translated by the NIV as, you will 'surely die'. The point is that when God told them not to eat the forbidden fruit He emphasized the penalty and thus emphatically warned them. Adam and Eve could not plead ignorance and say that they must have missed that because they weren't paying attention. No. God put emphasis on the punishment. They were duly warned.

We see this again in
Genesis 37:33 where Joseph's brothers brought Joseph's bloody cloak to their father Jacob and he said, (literally) 'cutting to pieces cut to pieces'. The KJV has Jacob saying,

"Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces."

And the NASB has,

"Joseph has surely been torn to pieces!"

The point is that Jacob was recognizing that without a doubt his son had been killed by a wild animal. There was so much blood that there was no doubt that Joseph was dead. Jacob was emphasizing the fact that Joseph had surely been cut to pieces.

We have the same type of construction in our text. Zeal and zealous are put together for emphasis and the NIV translates it, 'very zealous'. Elijah said,

"I have been very zealous
for the LORD God Almighty."

The point is that it was not an ordinary zeal—great emphasis is put on Elijah's zeal. He has been exceedingly passionate about the Lord receiving the glory that was His due. His zeal was not an ordinary zeal. Elijah was on fire for the Lord. He was exceedingly zealous for the Lord.

The great lesson that we learn here is that

you are to be exceedingly zealous for God.

God's honor is one of the most important things in this world. Elijah here is a great example to us. He was one of the great heroes of the faith in the Old Testament and part of the reason for that was because he was extremely zealous for God's honor.

The second thing we should note from our text is that the word that is translated '
zeal' in the NIV could also be translated 'jealous'. The underlying Hebrew word could be translated either way. Either translation is good and they are both closely related and it really doesn't make much difference what one you pick—zeal or jealously.

But I think the context shows us that there's value in considering 'jealously' as the most appropriate translation. Looking at Elijah's action in this history one of the things that you can say about Elijah was that he was jealous of God's honor. The whole context is about the people going after Baal rather than serving God and Elijah trying to bring them back. Elijah wanted the people of Israel to know and serve Yahweh—the one true God. He didn't want God's honor being given to another. It grieved Elijah when glory and honor that belonged to God went to Baal. Elijah was exceedingly jealous for God and His honor. We see this when he returned to Israel after the three and a half years of drought. When King Ahab met him, Ahab said, (1 Kings 18:16)

"Is that you, you troubler of Israel?"

Elijah responded,

"I have not made trouble for Israel,
but you and your father's family have.
You have abandoned the LORD'S commands
and have followed the Baals."

He was greatly grieved that the Israelites had stopped following God and had gone after Baal. We see the same thing in his prayer on Mount Carmel, during the great contest with the prophets of Baal. Again, he was very jealous about God's honor. He prayed and said, (1 Kings 18:36-37)

"O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel,
let it be known today that you are God in Israel
and that I am your servant and have done
all these things at your command.
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."

That prayer shows his jealously for God. He wanted the Lord to show that He was God so that the people of Israel would turn to Him and give God the honor that was His due.

So we see that

you are to be exceedingly jealous for God and His honor.

Don't think that this was something that was okay for Elijah but is not something that you and I don't have to strive for.

Consider how Jesus taught us to pray—the first petitions. When His disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, He replied,

Matthew 6:9-10

"This, then, is how you should pray:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done on earth
as it is in heaven."

What does that mean—Father, hallowed be your name? John Calvin writes,

"For God's Name to be hallowed means exactly that that God's Name is to be held in the honor which is deserved, that men may never speak or think of Him without the highest reverence."

That is to be one of your greatest desires. Jesus tells you that when you pray, that's normally the first thing you should ask for. Calvin continues,

"we must lay aside thought of ourselves and seek the glory of God… God's Majesty deserves to be exalted far above all other concerns. It is of unspeakable advantage to us that God reigns, and that he receives the honor which is due to him: but no-one has enough of a burning passion for the divine glory unless (so to speak) he forgets himself, and raises his mind to seek God's exalted greatness."

Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes, (Sermon on the Mount)

"We lack even a due sense of the greatness and the might and the majesty of God… how little do we appreciate the goodness of God, the kindness and the providence of God. How the Psalmist delighted in celebrating God as our rock, God as our peace, God as our Shepherd who leads us, God as our righteousness, and God as the ever present One who will never leave us nor forsake us.""We should all have a consuming passion that the whole world might come to know God like that… That is the meaning of the petition. It means a burning desire that the whole world may bow before God in adoration, in reverence, in praise, in worship, in honor and in thanksgiving."

Christians, realize this, your greatest desire should be that God would be known throughout all the earth and that people everywhere would praise His great name. You are to be very jealous of God's honor.

We see this so often in the Bible. There is no one like God. The Biblical writers were consumed with getting the people to recognize the majesty and greatness of God and praise Him for it. In Exodus 15:11 says,

"Who among the gods is like you, O LORD?
Who is like you— majestic in holiness,
awesome in glory, working wonders?"

Psalm 113:5 adds,

"Who is like the LORD our God,
the One who sits enthroned on high,"

Psalm 145:3 says,

"Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
his greatness no one can fathom."

Psalm 48:1 declares,

"Great is the LORD, and most worthy of praise,
in the city of our God, his holy mountain."

I could go on and on. God is so wonderful. The greatest injustice in the world is that people do not recognize and serve Him.

In Elijah's day the people of Israel abandoned the true God—who had been so good to them—and started serving Baal. This was a sin of epic proportions.

It greatly grieved Elijah and he wanted nothing more for this great wrong to be righted. He was exceedingly jealous for God's honor.

You should be like that—and more. You ought to be even more jealous for God's honor than Elijah was. That's because you know more about the Great Messiah—Jesus, who came to earth to save sinners. You know about Him and His work on the cross. Because of that you should be like those that we read about in Revelation 5:8-14. When Jesus, the lamb looking like it has been slain, takes the scroll from the right hand of Him who sat on the throne, we read,

"And when he had taken it, the four living creatures
and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb.
Each one had a harp and
they were holding golden bowls full of incense,
which are the prayers of the saints.
And they sang a new song:
You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals,
because you were slain,
and with your blood you purchased men
for God from every tribe
and language and people and nation.
You have made them to be a kingdom
and priests to serve our God,
and they will reign on the earth.
Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels,
numbering thousands upon thousands,
and ten thousand times ten thousand.
They encircled the throne
and the living creatures and the elders.
In a loud voice they sang:
Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom
and strength and honor and glory and praise!'
Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing:
'To him who sits on the throne
and to the Lamb be praise
and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!'
The four living creatures said, 'Amen',
and the elders fell down and worshiped."

There is no one like our God. A God who loves sinners. A God who gave Himself for sinners. A God who came, suffered and died, rose again so that we might be saved.

Christians, always keep this in mind. Keep it close to your heart. You need to do that. It's the truth. There's nothing like it.

The reason you need to keep it close to your heart is because the world thinks it has a powerful argument against it. That argument comes from all the suffering and pain in the world. Just this morning I was listening to a radio broadcast where a survivor of the Holocaust was telling of the horrors of the camp and the last few months of the war and how horrible it was. At the end he asked why he had survived. He said that 98 percent of it was pure luck, being at the right place at the right time, and that 2 percent of it was from his own strength and stamina. He did not give any of the credit to God. The reason for that was because he doubted the existence of God because of the horrors he had gone through. How could a good God allow the deaths of millions of people like that? How could he allow them to suffer so much?

How do we answer that? The answer is not that we don't recognize that argument. The Old Testament prophet
Habakkuk knew all about it. He had seen the ruthless Babylonians come and invade Judah—inflicting such suffering on the Jewish people. Habakkuk said of the Babylonians, (1:11-13)

"Then they sweep past like the wind
and go on— guilty men,
whose own strength is their god…
O LORD, you have appointed them to execute judgment;
O Rock, you have ordained them to punish.
Your eyes are too pure to look on evil;
you cannot tolerate wrong.
Why then do you tolerate the treacherous?
Why are you silent while the wicked
swallow up those more righteous than themselves?"

Habakkuk held to the truth that God was pure and holy. Habakkuk would not let go of that. He then wrote, (Habakkuk 2:4)

"but the righteous will live by his faith—"

Habakkuk told us that God had a purpose in the terrorizing conquests of the Babylonians. God told him that the terrible Babylonians, who were drunk with blood, would in turn be destroyed and that God's people would, in the end, fill the earth.

You see, sin, suffering, evil and the horrors that they bring should not cause us to lose our faith in God. Those things are real and in saying that you should be thanking God and praising Him—we are not denying those horrible realities. What we are saying is that God is so wonderful, that He loves sinners so much—that He did the one thing that could save us, the one thing that could give us hope—He sent His Son Jesus—to single-handedly take our sins upon Himself and die for them. Jesus died for our sins and paid the price. He rose from the dead triumphantly, defeating Satan and death and sealing their fate. Yes, there is darkness and evil all around us—but the one ray of hope—the bright ray of the grace of God in Jesus Christ—is the only hope of mankind. Sin and evil and Satan are trying to snuff out that light.

Don't let them do it. Don't be ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Don't be complacent when people all around you mock God and our Lord Jesus. Don't be complacent when they ignore Him and go on their way to sure destruction.

Be jealous for God and His honor.

We care enough for our honor. One of the ways to really insult people and perhaps make them angry with you is to fail to recognize their contributions. It's sort of the opposite of, "How to Win Friends and Influence People" and could be called, "How to Lose Friends and Disgust People".

For example, if I mentioned everyone who helped and contributed to making our summer
Soccer VBS such a great success and yet left out one of the greatest contributors—it would be a great oversight. Then if someone pointed out to me their contribution and I minimized it, saying that they really didn't do that much—that person might think himself ill used. And rightly so.

But does it bother you that God is so ill used by billions of people on the earth? Today is His day—yet so few are in churches across the land. Many more will be at sporting events. Many today will receive such gracious benefits from God—life, wealth, health and success—and not think about God or acknowledge His hand in giving them these things.

Do such things bother you? God says, (Isaiah 1:2-4)

"Hear, O heavens!
Listen, O earth!
For the LORD has spoken:
I reared children and brought them up,
but they have rebelled against me.
The ox knows his master,
the donkey his owner's manger,
but Israel does not know,
my people do not understand.
Ah, sinful nation, a people loaded with guilt,
a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption!
They have forsaken the LORD;
they have spurned the Holy One of Israel
and turned their backs on him."

Other Old Testament prophets likened Israel's defection from God as adultery. It's so horrible—such an insult and affront to God.

Jesus created the world for His glory. Just about all have turned their back on Him. False religions abound. People don't know Jesus. What a tragedy.

Have it as your greatest desire that all people come to know Him and praise and serve Him like they should. He is worthy! Who is like Jesus!

Psalm 67 reads,

"May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face shine upon us,
Selah that your ways may be known on earth,
your salvation among all nations.
May the peoples praise you, O God;
may all the peoples praise you.
May the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you rule the peoples justly
and guide the nations of the earth.
Selah May the peoples praise you,
O God; may all the peoples praise you.
Then the land will yield its harvest,
and God, our God, will bless us. God will bless us,
and all the ends of the earth will fear him."

May it be so.

Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians. You are not jealous for God's honor. You life and actions are a denial of that. Don't let that stand. Your only hope in this dark world is Jesus. He invites you with open arms. Go to Him today.