1 Kings 19:9-18 (2)

Sermon preached on November 25, 2007 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2007. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

Marg got her haircut on Wednesday. When she came home I saw that it was the worst haircut she had ever gotten. You don't have to take my word for it, did you see her this morning? Seriously, though, she thought it was the worst haircut she had ever had. When she got home it looked like someone had put a bowl over her head and had fluffed up the hair below the bowl, and then took the bowl off and put hair spray on it so that it was all flat, reflecting the imprint of the bowl. Marg has spent the better part of the last three days trying to fix her hair.

Now one thing I know is that Marg is never going to let that guy anywhere near her hair again. She's had it with him. You've all heard of the expression,

"Three strikes and you're out."

That's not always the case. When Patricia was young she was on a softball team and one during one game one of her teammates was up and the count was one strike and I think it was two balls. The next pitch was over the plate and the batter never swung at it. The umpire said,

"Strike three. You're out."

He made a mistake. But it was only strike two. But no amount of arguing would convince him that he was wrong. The girl had to sit down. She was out with just two strikes.

But with Marg and her hairdresser, it's one strike and you're out. He really messed up and she's never going to give him another chance.

Now in this regard it's important that we look at Elijah and see how God treated him after he sinned. One thing that is clear from the context was that Elijah had sinned greatly. His was not a small sin—for he abandoned the people of Israel. He feared for his life when Jezebel threatened him and like a coward he fled for his life, going out into the desert. His fear then led to him being discouraged and downcast and wanting to die. At this point Elijah was no shining light in Israel. He was a disgrace to the office of prophet. Nor was his sin of short duration. He persisted in it. He spent forty days traveling to Horeb and at the end of it he was still in a state of despondency.

Now the way that God handled Elijah here has application for our lives. Knowing this can give us hope when we feel that we've let God down. It can show us how we should treat others who have sinned. And it shows us some of the depth of the grace that God shows to sinners.

The main thing I want you to see here is that

God was teaching Elijah.

This whole section is about God giving Elijah knowledge about Him. He showed him His power—in the wind, earthquake and the fire. He showed Him His kindness and gentleness in the gentle whisper. He showed him His plan of judgment in anointing Hazael, Jehu and Elisha. He showed him that he had others to carry on the task after he was gone.

God didn't give up on Elijah. God's method in bringing Elijah back to the right way involved teaching Elijah about Himself. (God) After this revelation to Elijah, he took up his task with renewed vigor.

This means there is hope for you.

When you sin and you come to your senses and repent of it, Satan will sometimes come to you and tell you that God is finished with you—that what you've done is so bad, that you've let God down so much that you couldn't possibly be any further use to God.

Nothing could be further from the truth. God's Word is powerful and effective. It tells about God and what He is like. It gives hope to sinners because it tells about God's love for sinners in sending Jesus. It gives hope to those who have sinned greatly because it shows the power of God's Word, the power of His revelation—after this God continued to greatly use Elijah. After Jonah sinned and tried to run away from the job that God sent him to do—God still had work for Jonah. After Nineveh repented and Jonah was so angry that he wanted to die—God was still not finished with him. He gave him an object lesson—remember how the vine grew up and gave Jonah shelter, and how a worm ate it and Jonah was so disappointed? God pointed out to him how he was so concerned about the vine even though he did not tend it or make it grow. God then asked him if God should not be concerned about a great city of over 120,000 people? God did not give up on Jonah.

It was the same with Peter. After Peter sinned and denied Him, Jesus took him aside and asked him three times if he loved him and told him to feed His sheep and take care of His lambs.

This means that there is also hope for other people after they sin.

When other Christians sin it's a great disappointment to us. We may feel like giving up on them and feeling that there's no way that we would ever work with them again. We feel about them like Marg does about her hairdresser.

But because of God's Word, because God's Spirit works through His Word—there is hope for those who sin. Elijah greatly disappointed God. But after he repented God continued to use him. Jonah greatly disappointed God, but God continued to work with him, teach him, and use him. Peter greatly disappointed God, but after he repented, God used him to bring glory to His Name. Peter was a great witness for Jesus. He wrote letters to churches. He gave his life for the Lord.

So we must not give up on other Christians even after they sin. God revealed Himself to Elijah and showed him His will. So that means that we are not to give up on other people. We are to seek to teach them more about God and His will so that they will be useful to God in the future.

The thing we should realize is that

sin is often related to incorrect or inadequate knowledge of God and His Word.

In the OT there were instructions about sins of ignorance. For example, in Leviticus 5:17 we read,

"If a person sins and does what is forbidden
in any of the LORD'S commands,
even though he does not know it,
he is guilty and will be held responsible."

You'll remember that when David was brining the ark to Jerusalem, they neglected to follow the instructions in the law. Instead of the Levites carrying it, they put it on a cart. When the oxen stumbled Uzzah reached out and touched the ark, to prevent it from falling off the cart. God struck him down because of that. (2 Samuel 6:6) You'll remember that when Abraham was in Gerar he told the people there that his wife Sarah was his sister. So Abimelech, King of Gerar sent and took Sarah. God appeared to him and said,

"You are as good as dead
because of the woman you have taken;
she is a married woman."

Abimelech didn't know that but nevertheless it was a great sin on his part.

The reason that people didn't have greater faith in Jesus is because they didn't know the Scriptures enough. You'll remember that when the disciples were in the boat with Jesus and a storm came up, they were afraid that they were going to die. Jesus was asleep in the back of the boat and they said to Him, (Mark 4:38)

"Teacher, don't you care if we drown?"

They wouldn't have asked that if they knew that Isaiah 53 was about Jesus and that He had come to die in their place and that they were going to be His witnesses. They knew so little of His love or His power. When He rebuked the wind and made it calm, the disciples said to one another, (Mark 4:41)

"Who is this?
Even the wind and the waves obey him!"

After Jesus' resurrection, the two disciples on the road to Emmaus were downcast. They said to the stranger on the road about Jesus, (Luke 24:21)

"we had hoped that he was the one
who was going to redeem Israel."

Jesus said to them, (Luke 24:25-27)

"'How foolish you are,
and how slow of heart to believe
all that the prophets have spoken!
Did not the Christ have to suffer
these things and then enter his glory?'
And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets,
he explained to them what was said
in all the Scriptures concerning himself."

Doesn't the first part of that describe all of us? How foolish we are and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.

Throughout the Scripture God the Holy Spirit urges us to study the Scriptures and apply that knowledge to our lives.

In Psalm 119:11 David said,

"I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you."

In verse 72 of that same Psalm he wrote,

"The law from your mouth
is more precious to me than
thousands of pieces of silver and gold."

Then in verse 105 he said,

"Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light for my path."

And in verses 110-111 he wrote,

"The wicked have set a snare for me,
but I have not strayed from your precepts.
Your statutes are my heritage forever;
they are the joy of my heart."

Verses 129-130,

"Your statutes are wonderful;
therefore I obey them.
The unfolding of your words gives light;
it gives understanding to the simple."

Then in verses 137-140 we read,

"Righteous are you, O LORD,
and your laws are right.
The statutes you have laid down are righteous;
they are fully trustworthy…
Your promises have been thoroughly tested,
and your servant loves them."

That's how you should love the Scripture and love applying it to your life.

You'll remember how Jesus met every temptation that Satan put before Him?

Satan said, (Matthew 4:3-10)

"If you are the Son of God,
tell these stones to become bread."

Jesus answered,

"It is written:
'Man does not live on bread alone,
but on every word
that comes from the mouth of God.'"

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written: " 'He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.''" Jesus answered him, "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.''" Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me." Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.''"

What knowledge of Scripture Jesus had! What trust in it! How He stood firm!

What an example to us! Christians, study the Scriptures. Know it! As Paul wrote to Timothy, his son in the faith, (2 Timothy 2:15)

"Do your best to present yourself
to God as one approved,
a workman who does not need
to be ashamed and who correctly
handles the word of truth."

But of course, we have to be careful. Knowledge of Scripture doesn't itself save. Knowledge of Scripture doesn't always translate into holiness of life.

The Pharisees and teachers of the law knew a lot about the Scriptures but they hated Jesus.

I've known people who have a great knowledge of Scripture, yet they didn't apply it to their lives. With others, they became proud. As we read in 1 Corinthians 8:1

"Knowledge puffs up,"

Christians, what I'm arguing for here isn't knowledge for knowledge's sake. I want you to have knowledge of God and His will that you apply to your life. Otherwise it won't do you any good.

So, Christians, as you study God's Word, ask that God would not only help you to understand it correctly, but that He would apply it to your life and transform you through it.

The second great truth we see from our text is that

God came to Elijah in a gentle whisper.

Elijah is sinning—and what does God do? God comes to him in grace, revealing Himself to him in a gentle whisper. God's special presence was not in the wind, the earthquake or the fire. But it was in the gentle whisper.

This is remarkable. God comes in such gentleness to a prophet who is sinning.

What grace God bestows on sinners. Can you believe that God came to Elijah that way? Can you believe that He will reveal Himself to us in glory—that we will see His face. (Revelation 22:4) We read, (Revelation 22:5)

"There will be no more night.
They will not need the light of a lamp
or the light of the sun,
for the Lord God will give them light.
And they will reign for ever and ever."

We are going to reign with Christ. Imagine sitting on Jesus' throne! As Jesus said in Revelation 3:21,

"To him who overcomes,
I will give the right
to sit with me on my throne."

As John said in 1 John 3:1f,

"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."

Elijah himself was taken into God's presence in a whirlwind. How glorious it must have been. When Elijah appeared with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, he was clothed in Jesus' glory. He was so much like Jesus that Peter didn't make a distinction between Moses, Elijah and Jesus when he suggested making three shelters.

Christians, that's what God is going to do for you. Rejoice in Him. Give Him thanks. Have great faith in Him. Don't fear. Don't lose heart. The God that we serve is wonderful.

Secondly, again, realize that God is going to do this for people who have sinned, who have let Him down, who have messed up.

Christians, don't give up on Christians who have sinned, who have let you down. As the apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 6:1,

"Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin,
you who are spiritual should restore him gently."

Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians, I ask you,

How do you want God coming to you—in a gentle whisper or in terrible vengeance?

It's only through Jesus that you can receive grace. God could forgive Elijah and treat him with such love because of the work of Jesus. Jesus died for sinners and took their punishment. Woe to Elijah without Jesus. But because of Jesus, God came to Him in grace. You need Jesus. Go to Him now.