************ Sermon on 1 Kings 17:1-6 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on July 27, 2003
1 Kings 17:1-6
"The Power of God's Word"
Children have a little ditty which we all know is totally false: sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." This is not true for all we all know how much the taunting words of another child can hurt. And, if a child asks for a cookie or reaches out to touch something the words "no" or "yes" can cause either tears or smiles. Words have power.
There is a delightful children's story in Arabian Nights entitled "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves." The thieves kept all their stolen loot in a secret cave. To get in the cave you had to say the password, "Open Sesame," and the cave would open. Words have power.
By saying only one word to 3000 subscribers of his news bulletin, Joe Granville caused panic in the stock market one day. The one word: SELL. Some of you might remember this stock market analyst of the early 80s. Words have power.
There is power in the written and spoken word. Governments have collapsed, dictatorships have been overthrown, monarchies have been replaced, and presidents have resigned all because of the power in words.
Some of the leading figures of world history have known the power of words. Adolf Hitler was able to whip crowds into a frenzy. His counterpart in England, Winston Churchill, was able to rally the English time and again against Nazi attacks. John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr used the power of words to mobilize legions of followers.
Elijah was another man who knew the power of words. For Elijah, though, there was only one word that had power, there was only one word that counted – the Word of God.
Before us in 1 Kings 17 we see both the appearance and the disappearance of Elijah. In both his presence and his absence Elijah testified to the power of God's Word.
I Power Shown in Drought
A Elijah appeared in Israel one day with a message from the Lord for Ahab and the people of Israel:
(1 Ki 17) "As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word."
The power of this Word was apparent from the destruction it caused. The Word of the Lord spoken by Elijah in the presence of the king made the crops in the field wither, dried out the earth so much that cracks started to appear in the ground, and caused the streams and springs of Israel to go dry. Prosperity fled Israel's borders. Poverty and hunger reigned throughout the land. People, animals, and even creation suffered under the drought caused by the Word.
Yes, Israel felt and experienced the power of God's Word, a Word spoken by Elijah. That Word could not be undone or suppressed or removed from Israel's life. Its power was greater than the power of the king. It was above the cries and prayers and offerings of the priests of Baal. Its power was above the groans of the people.
Why this display of the Word's power? The sovereignty of the Word of the Lord had to be impressed upon the people's minds. The people had to realize the power of the Word. So, above Israel's dry fields was written this testimony:
(1 Ki 17:1) "As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word."
God used the drought, then, to show the power of the Word spoken through His servant Elijah. By announcing the judgment in advance, God showed the strength, the power, and the truth of His Word. Everyday it did not rain, and everyday the dew did not form, reminded the people of the power of the Word of God. Everyday the sun shone mercilessly upon the land, and everyday the dry wind sucked life sustaining moisture out of the people and the land, was a reminder of the power of the Word of God.
God's Word – it has power. It shut the heavens. And, at the appropriate time, it will open the heavens.
B Why did the drought come about in the first place? The drought came about, the curse of the Word was spoken, because Israel ignored God's Word. Israel broke God's command to serve no other gods and to have no idol images – remember, she served Baal and bowed down to the golden calves at Dan and Bethel. Because Israel and her king ignored the Word of the Lord, the Word put a curse on the land.
This was a message, then, for Israel to return to the Word of the Lord. Israel was being called upon to obey the Word.
II Power Shown in Elijah's Disappearance
A When we look at verses 2 & 3 we see that God's Word commanded Elijah to disappear from Israel:
(1 Ki 17:2-3) Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah: (3) "Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan."God sent Elijah out of the country into the heathen lands on the other side of the Jordan.
Why did Elijah disappear? Why did he have to hide himself? Why did the Lord send him away? Some scholars say it was to save the prophet's life. Scripture tells us that Jezebel persecuted and killed the prophets of the Lord and swore to kill Elijah; so it was for Elijah's protection that he was sent away. But this cannot be the case because Elijah was sent out of Israel into enemy territory. There were many places in Israel where Elijah would have been safer and there were many homes that would gladly have provided for his needs. For instance, God could have used Obadiah who hid and fed and looked after 100 prophets of the Lord. God could have used any of the 7,000 in Israel who refused to bow down to Baal. Instead, the Lord chose to send Elijah out of Israel and to keep him alive with the help of ravens.
So why was Elijah sent out of Israel? What is the message of the Lord through Elijah's absence here?
B To understand the point that God is making we must take a closer look at the role of Elijah. Elijah is more than an Israelite in our portion of Scripture. He is more than a representative of the true believers left in Israel. Elijah's role in our portion of Scripture is that of a prophet – a prophet who brings the Word of God; a prophets who declares, "This is what the Lord says."
When God tells Elijah to leave Israel, then, we do not see an Israelite or a true believer leaving his country. What we are to see is a prophet leaving. What we are to see is the bearer and bringer of God's Word leaving the land. What we are to see is a proclaimer, the proclaimer, of the Word of the Lord leaving the country. When Elijah leaves the land the service of the Word and the preaching of the Word leaves the country.
C The Word of the Lord was the life-blood, the life-line of Israel. It was the Word of the Lord spoken first to Abraham and then to Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, and Pharaoh which established Israel in the Promised Land. But now that Word was gone. Israel became the covenant people and received the covenant promises by the Word of the Lord. But now that Word was gone. The Gospel of salvation was no longer being preached in Israel. As Paul asks, how can people hear if there is no preacher? How can people respond to the Word if they cannot hear the Word? Israel was now like a man lost at sea without a lifeboat, it was like a bleeding patient in surgery without blood transfusions. Without the Word, Israel sank to the level of the heathen nations.
Do you see, congregation, how terrible it is to be without the Word of the Lord? Do you see what a calamity it is? That is why Christians in persecuted lands prize their Bibles so much. That is why many Christians around the world make it a point to memorize Scripture. That way, regardless of what happens, they still have the Word.
The disappearance of Elijah, then, is as powerful a Word from the Lord as the announcement of the drought. God's Word not only declares a drought, it even leaves the land. This is God's way of telling Israel to return to His Word and to listen to it and to obey it.
III Power Shown in Miracle of Ravens
A We see the power of the Word in another way as well. When God commanded Elijah to go and hide by the brook Cherith on the other side of the Jordan, He also told Elijah what would be done for food and drink. Notice the remarkable statement of the Lord here:
(1 Ki 17:4) You will drink from the brook, and I have ordered the ravens to feed you there.So Elijah went to the Kerith Ravine and stayed there.
(1 Ki 17:6) The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.
This is simply amazing – that birds fed Elijah and that it was ravens that God used to do the feeding! A raven is what we know as a crow. These birds greedily gulp down any food that comes their way. They steal and eat the eggs or young of other birds. They are scavengers and fight over the last scrap of food. They also are very shy and careful and take flight at the first sight of man. Yet, when God speaks the ravens listen and obey and give meat and bread to Elijah twice each day.
What power there is in the Word of God. Even the scavenging and thieving ravens listen and obey.
B Why does God feed Elijah in such a marvelous and miraculous way? Once again we must remind ourselves that Elijah is no ordinary believer. He was a prophet, a mouth piece of God.
In the miracle of the ravens we are to see the Lord protecting and preserving the servant of the Word. The Lord is protecting and preserving His Word.
Even though the Word is now outside of Israel, God does not want to silence it forever. God has not abandoned His people. He has not removed the Word from them for all time. He preserves and protects the servant of the Word so that Elijah can someday go back into Israel and once again proclaim, "This is what the Lord says."
My brothers and sisters, what we see in 1 Kings 17 is the triumph of the Word of God. No king, no people, not even creation can triumph over God's Word. All comes under the sway of God's powerful Word. The creation listens to God's Word and the heavens are shut. The prophet listens and the people are left without the Word of life. The ravens listen and the prophet is fed.
My brothers and sisters, we see that God's Word is a powerful Word. It cannot be resisted. Instead, it must be obeyed.
For us in the New Testament God's Word is especially powerful. For, we live in the age when the Word has become flesh and lived among us full of grace and truth. If we believe this Word, ours is eternal life. If we reject or resist or neglect this Word, ours is eternal condemnation and punishment. The Word, then, has power over souls.
As in the day of Elijah, so now too God protects and preserves His Word. The Word continues to triumph. Its power continues to be felt. In Communist China, for instance, the authorities have tried to root out the Word. Yet, thousands upon millions have embraced Christ and His glory. The same thing is happening in Muslim lands. The Word cannot be rooted out. It continues to be proclaimed and calls all people to repentance, faith, and obedience. In our own land, as you well know, some try to silence the Word and remove all mention of it in public places; yet, the church continues to grow, the Gospel continues to be preached, and lives continue to be transformed by the power of the Word.
Let us, my brothers and sisters, not neglect or reject the Word. Let us be guided, molded, and directed by the Word of God – a Word that has power, a Word that triumphs, a Word that cannot be resisted, a Word that gives life to all Who listen and obey.
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