************ Sermon on 1 Kings 19:3 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on November 16, 2003
1 Kings 19:1-9
"Elijah Flees from Jezebel"
(Mt 10:34) "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword." These words of Christ Jesus tell us that any struggle between the church and the world is not abnormal but to be expected. In fact, this opposition, this struggle, this antithesis, is even part of the Gospel message.
Faithful preaching and witness on the part of the church intensifies the struggle. Whenever the church preaches Christ and His demands in accordance with the Scriptures, hatred and enmity are often unleashed look at how the liberals today hate us when we dare to speak the truth about abortion and homosexual practice. This is the fruit of faithful and true preaching. If we do not find such fruit, we know that the Christ of the Scriptures and His demands probably are not being preached.
All too often, I am afraid, there are those in the church who wish for peace at all costs. They wish the church to live at peace with the world, to be all things to all men, to be politically correct, to be contemporary and relevant, to not say or do anything that rocks the boat, to not hold any position that others might find offensive.
Topic: FaithPeople don't like to hear that that we are all God's children in Christ. Because that means if you are not in Christ you are not one of God's children. This sounds so intolerant, so unloving and ungracious and unkind. Liberals, especially, hate us for taking the Bible literally here.
Subtopic: Justification by
For instance, there is a church in northern California that has portraits of famous people hanging in its vestibule. There is a portrait of Socrates and another of Eleanor Roosevelt. There is a portrait of Abraham Lincoln and Gandhi and Jesus. Above these portraits in beautiful gold letters are written these words, "And we are all children of God." I am sure people pass by those portraits every day and marvel at the universal brotherhood of man. There is only one problem: the universal brotherhood of man (and the universal fatherhood of God) is an inclusive, benevolent, politically correct, loving lie. The quote in gold letters is even a quote from the Bible -- but it is incomplete. "We are all children of God," the Scripture says,"through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ" (Gal. 3:26).
-- Ed Young, "Been There, Done That, Now What?", Broadman, p. 161
I The Struggle Continues
A As a true prophet of the Lord, Elijah faced a reaction of hatred and enmity on the part of Jezebel. When the Lord's revelation through fire and death on Mount Carmel was made known to her, she reacted instantly. But she gave a different answer from that of the people. The people, if you remember, were moved by the Lord's fire to confess, "The Lord--he is God! The Lordhe is God!" (1 Ki 18;39).
Jezebel's answer, like that of the people, was in response to the Lord's revelation. Scripture tells us that "Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword" (1 Ki 19:1). The news of one event in particular propelled Jezebel into action that of the slaughter of the priests of Baal. This news touched a sensitive nerve in Jezebel. They were her prophets, the prophets of her gods. Therefore the judgment of the Lord on those prophets was at the same time a judgment on her.
B The slaughter of the priests of Baal was a revelation from the Lord a revelation of His wrath. Elijah did not order that slaughter on his own authority; the law of God required it. So, Elijah had no choice but to act as he did. Jezebel's answer, then, was a reaction to this revelation of God's justice. The holy wrath of the Lord caused an unholy hatred to flare up in her heart. That hatred she directed toward the one who was called to carry out the judgment of the Lord the prophet Elijah.
The rule of hardening was at work here. It was the Word of the Lord that called forth Jezebel's response. Here we see that the Word of God is never dead; it always demands a response; it never returns empty. It either causes a response of faith and belief as was the case with the people or it hardens the heart in unbelief and hatred.
C In this light we see that the conflict between Jezebel and Elijah was more than a battle between two powerful personalities, two people with unyielding wills and minds. If we view the battle only in such a light we miss the heart of the matter.
This conflict was just one episode in the age-long battle between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent (Gen 3:15), between light and darkness, between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. In and through Jezebel, Satan was striking at the gracious revelation of God, and thereby at the coming Messianic salvation. Thus it should not surprise us that the false prophetess in the church of Thyatira is called "Jezebel" (Rev 2:20) or that there is a great similarity between Jezebel the fierce opponent of Elijah and the prostitute of Revelation 17 the great power opposed to Christ and His body, the church.
D God's revelation not only provoked a response from Jezebel. It also set boundaries to that response. Notice what Jezebel did or rather, what she did not do. Because Elijah had her prophets killed she wanted to kill Elijah. Yet, she sent a servant to Elijah with a message instead of a sword: "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" (vs 2). This messenger announced that the executioner would be along within 24 hours. The prophet was being forewarned so he had a chance to escape. However severe a threat this might have been, it showed Jezebel's impotence: Jezebel was not able to do what she, in her hatred, wanted to do; she was not able to kill the prophet.
We need to ask what kept Jezebel from killing the Lord's prophet right away to avenge the slaughter of the 450 prophets of Baal? We know from the servant Obadiah that she certainly was not hesitant about killing a prophet (1 Ki 18:13). The only explanation is that the revelation of God held her back. Because of the revelation of fire and rain Jezebel knew she could not expect any cooperation or assistance from Ahab in her action against Elijah. Because of the revelation of God, Jezebel knew that the people supported Elijah; they were rejoicing in the rain and talking about the victory of the Lord's prophet.
E Jezebel and her empty threat are proof of the irresistible power and majesty of God's Word. In her empty threat we see that the Lord is Almighty and is more than able to protect His servant. This means that the power of the seed of the serpent was held back and limited by the power of God. The full unfolding of hell's fury would have to wait for another day.
That day happened on a Friday we call "Good." On that day it was Christ, not Elijah, Who faced the full fury of the powers of darkness. What Elijah was spared, the Christ was not spared. It was against Him, the Word of God become flesh, that the powers of darkness unleashed all their fury. Against Him all the swords were drawn. And, once again, it was the powers of darkness that lost. In fact, they more than lost; against Christ the powers of darkness were broken.
II The Prophet Flees
A When we look at the struggle between Elijah and Jezebel we have to see it against this background of the struggle between Christ and Satan.
If we only look at Jezebel with her threats we too would run away. But if we recognize Christ's victory over all the powers of darkness we will tremble and confess that we may not give in.
In the light of Christ's victory, any fear on our part is an indication of unbelief! Anyone who is afraid is confessing they are not sure that the ultimate victory already is Christ's!
B How easily such fear can arise in the hearts of God's people was shown in Elijah's response to Jezebel's threat: "Elijah was afraid and ran for his life" (vs 3).
One needs to ask whether Elijah really was scared. This hardly seems to fit in with what we read about him in earlier chapters. Would the man who stood alone against the 450 prophets of Baal fear a solitary woman? Would the prophet who called down God's fire from heaven and had the powers of God at His disposal flee from an angry lady? Did he no longer believe in the Lord of hosts and His power?
In light of this it hardly seems possible that Elijah was scared and fled from Jezebel. Yet, Scripture tells us that "Elijah was afraid and ran for his life."
Topic: DiscouragementIt often happens that a Christian who has withstood the onslaughts of Satan in severe trails and temptations, comes to discouragement because of a minor difficulty. That certainly was the case with Elijah.
Sir Francis Drake, the great explorer, upon returning from one of his globe encircling voyages, anchored his ship in the little river Thames. A dangerous storm arose and it seemed that his ship would flounder. Someone standing near the old weather-beaten seaman heard him say through gritted teeth, "Must I who have escaped the rage of the ocean be drowned in a ditch?"
-- James A. Chapman, Chapman's Choice Outlines & Illustrations, Zondervan, 1947, p. 49.
C It is important that we do not learn the wrong lesson from this. There are those who look at Elijah in our Scripture reading and wrongly conclude that to flee in a time of persecution is to indicate unbelief and unfaithfulness. There are those who would go even a step further and say that Christians should welcome persecution and martyrdom.
So that you understand me properly, let me ask, "Is it always wrong for believers to flee persecution? Is it always wrong to save yourself?" We know we cannot say this when we think of the one hundred prophets Obadiah hid when Jezebel wanted to put them to death (1 Kings 18:4). Those one hundred prophets fled when they had the opportunity. No believer would or could denounce either Obadiah or the prophets; in fact, Scripture presents this as something good and praiseworthy that Obadiah did. In the New Testament we read about Paul's flight from Damascus (Acts 9:25). Martin Luther hid for a year at Wartburg Castle when his life was threatened. Guido de Bres, the author of the Belgic Confession of Faith, often had to flee to keep from falling into the hands of his enemies. During times of persecution many faithful believers have gone into hiding and often had to disguise themselves as they traveled from one place to another.
D Having said this, I still have to say that Elijah's flight was sinful. Elijah's motive in running was straight forward to save his life. But this may never be a prophet's prime motive. A prophet's flight or the flight of any believer must be a deed of faith and part of his or her calling to office. In other words, the believer seeks to preserve his or her life in order to continue his or her God-appointed task in this world. Those prophets of God that Obadiah hid they must have had a sense that God still had a plan and a use for them on this earth.
But that is not why Elijah fled even though we know God still had a plan and use for him. Elijah fled simply because he feared for his life.
E We can better see Elijah's sin of unbelief if we recognize the special place the prophet occupied in God's kingdom. In Elijah the Lord revealed the divine power of His rule. In Elijah the majesty of God's revelation shone forth. The Word of the Lord was so interwoven with Elijah's life that his victory over Jezebel and the worshipers of Baal was a victory of the Lord's kingdom over Satan's kingdom.
No one had such power at his disposal as Elijah. The forces of God's kingdom were bound to and with Elijah for a time. That's why Elijah could call for a drought and there was drought. That's why Elijah could pray for life and a dead boy was raised from the dead. That's why Elijah could appear unafraid before the king who had looked all over the world for him. That's why Elijah could call for fire from heaven and the Lord answered with consuming flames. That's why Elijah could pray for rain and showers fell in abundance. That's why Elijah could later call down fire from heaven to strike down those soldiers who came to arrest him (2 Kings 1:10-12).
It is because the Word of the Lord and the power of God's kingdom was so interwoven with his life that Elijah's flight was sinful. For, Elijah's fearful flight symbolized that the kingdom of God was giving way to the kingdom of Satan. By fleeing, Elijah was confessing before Jezebel and Israel that the power of the kingdom of darkness was, in his mind anyways, greater than the might of Israel's God.
If Elijah had only believed, he could have used God's power the power that called down drought, fire, and rain against Jezebel. If Elijah had only believed, he would have seen there was no reason to flee.
Together with Moses, Elijah was one of the greatest figures of the Old Testament (cf Jesus' transfiguration). Yet, at the moment of testing he faltered and failed and fled. He was like the hired man who abandons the sheep and runs away to save his own skin when he sees the wolf coming (Jn 10:12-13).
Thank God that One stronger and greater than Elijah has come. Thank God that this One did not flee to save His own life in fact, He willingly gave up His life. Thank God that He is the Good Shepherd Who gave His life for the sheep (Jn 10:11).
This One greater and stronger than Elijah says to you and me: (Mk 8:35) "For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it" (cf Mt 16:25; Lk 9:24; 17:33).
Do we believe this? Or, do we falter and fail at the first sign of opposition?
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