April 21, 2003
LifeWay Explore the Bible Series for May 4
Trust in God demands appropriate action
___ 1 Kings 16:29-17:24
___By Jim Perkins
___Madison Hills Baptist Church, San Antonio
___The old adage "Seeing is believing!" might apply in certain areas of life, but that attitude will not suffice as a response to God's challenge to believe his promises. The text this week demonstrates this truth about God's promises: "Believe and God will show you!"
___Follow the Lord's
___The great prophet Elijah (his name means "the Lord is my God") storms onto the scene of Israel's history in the first verse of chapter 17. We must look back at 16:29-34, however, in order to grasp the significance of his sudden appearance.
___Ahab, son of Omri, was king of Israel for 22 years (874-853 B.C.). His marriage to Jezebel--daughte
r of Ethbaal, king of Tyre and Sidon--probably occurred during the reign of his father. As Solomon had done before them, this marriage was intended to engender an advantageous political and financial alliance with the Sidonians. Faced with the perceived threat of the growing influence of Syria, Israel's neighbor to the north, Ahab's action seemed necessary to strengthen Israel's position.
___The net result of this politically advantageous marriage was an enhanced, and therefore extremely hazardous connection between Baal worship and the government of Israel. It became obvious very early on that Jezebel would not be content just to worship Baal privately in the temple Ahab had built for her god. Instead, she instituted a program designed to aggrandize the worship of Baal and minimize or eradicate the worship of the Lord God in Israel (18:2-4).
___It was into this political and religious milieu that God sent his prophet Elijah. Elijah challenged the Baal worshippers concerning a central tenet of their worship: Baal was thought to be the fertility or storm god who brought the rains in season. The prophecy that no rain would fall for "the next few years" (that is, across several seasons) would prove the veracity of the claim that "the Lord, the God of Israel, lives" (17:1), and Baal does not exist.
___Two elements of Elijah's life and ministry are noteworthy here. First, he evidenced an exemplary obedience to the Lord as the prophet delivered God's message of judgment before an extremely hostile audience. Second, Elijah trusted the Lord implicitly when the prophet obeyed God's command to travel east of the Jordan River and hide by a brook. There God would feed him and protect him from Ahab while Israel suffered the punishment brought on by their egregious sins.
___Believe the Lord's
___As the drought progressed, even the brook in the Trans-jordan dried up, providing the opportunity for God to sustain his prophet in a different manner. In 17:7-14, the "word of the Lord" came to the prophet twice, and both instances demanded confidence or trust in God's promises.
___First, the Lord told Elijah to move to Zarephath and stay with a certain widow in the city (17:9-10). Remember, Zarephath was located between Tyre and Sidon, in the center of the region ruled by Jezebel's father and dedicated to the worship of Baal. Here in the land of Elijah's enemy, then, the Lord would demonstrate his providential care. Here also the Lord would prove he exists and Baal does not--the storm god is a fraud! For all this to happen, however, Elijah had to act on his faith in the Lord: The prophet had to get up and move.
___Second, the word of the Lord called upon the widow to believe the promises of God. God promised to provide food resources to care for her needs for the duration of the drought, but he also required her to give the last of her resources to feed God's prophet (17:13-14). This was a decision the widow would have to make: She had to trust the Lord with all her resources, believing that he would be faithful to his promise to care for and feed her. Please remember that in essence this was God's challenge to Israel, yet she turned to Baal and Asherah instead.
___Act on the Lord's
___The actors on the stage of this biblical drama demonstrate this undeniable truth: A confident trust in the Lord's promises always demands appropriate actions. As was noted above, God challenged Elijah to move to Zarephath, and the prophet demonstrated his trust in God's promises by acting on his faith--he packed up and moved!
___Now the widow faced a window of opportunity to act on her trust in God, and she did just that. God had promised through his prophet that "the jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry" (17:14). Choosing to act on her faith, we read in 17:15 that the widow "went away and did as Elijah had told her." Even as she demonstrated her faith in her actions, God proved himself faithful to keep his word: "There was food every day. ... in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah" (17:16).
___Questions for discussion
___ What promises in God's word apply to your life today? Read Psalm 46:1-3; Proverbs 3:5-6; Romans 8:28, 10:11-13; James 1:5; 1 John 1:9, 5:13-15 and then write a short statement of their application to your life.
___ What areas of life challenge you most to hear, believe and act on God's promises? What about forgiveness, giving and loving others?
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