Welcome to Christ’s Community Church. Today we’re beginning a new series entitled “The Called” as we look at one of the greatest men of God recorded in all the pages of Scripture, a man named Elijah. To give you a little bit of context, we’re actually going to begin reading in first Kings chapter 16, at verse 29, because at the time when Elijah was living in the Northern Kingdom of Israel the people were far from God. And it’s really no surprise because now for almost 2 centuries they had been ruled by one wicked king after another. And so, the Bible tells us at verse 29,
“In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah (King of the Southern Kingdom), Ahab son of Omri became king of Israel (or the Northern Kingdom), and he reigned in Samaria over Israel twenty-two years. Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him. He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, but he also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him. He set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he built in Samaria. Ahab also made an Asherah pole and did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger than did all the kings of Israel before him” (1 Kings 16:29-33).
This was the time in which Elijah lived. And if you’re familiar with the Old Testament, you know that when God’s people sin, when they move into idolatry, when they worship Baal, when they worship Asherah, God responds by sending a prophet to preach to the people. And so, the Bible tells us that Ahab did more to provoke the Lord to anger than did all the kings of Israel before him. So God sends Elijah, because it’s only the Word of God proclaimed by the servants of God that can call the people back, that would lead them to repentance, and save them from destruction. You know, it’s just as Proverbs chapter 14 says,
“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people” (Proverbs 14:34).
It was during this period of idolatry, this period of one scandal after another, and one evil king after another; where they would take the throne, and turn the people’s hearts away from God. Until finally God said, “Enough is enough!” And so, He does what he often does, he raised up one person to take a stand, one person to make a difference, and that was Elijah the Tishbite, a prophet from the town of Tishbe, “a man” whom James says is “just like us” (James 5:17). And so, this morning, as we begin this series, we’re going to look at the making of a man or woman of God, and this is so important, because just as Mark Twain said,
“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”
As we begin this series, “The Called” we’re going to look at the process, the making of Elijah, “The Servant of God”. Now, interestingly enough, God raises up this prophet, a man named Elijah, a man whose name means, “My God is Jehovah” to stand up to the King and to tell him “The Lord God is the one true God.” And so, this is where we begin, this is the first time we encounter Elijah in the Word of God, in verse one of first Kings chapter 17. Verse one says,
“Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, "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" (1 Kings 17:1).
Now I hope you can feel the tension here and you can imagine the courage that it took Elijah to stand before King Ahab and to speak judgment over the kingdom. “No rain for the next few years except at my word.” You can just imagine the expression on the king’s face. And you’ve got to wonder, what’s God going to do, is it going to be some kind of supernatural battle or simply another execution? You know, those were not words that would be well received, because it already had not rained for many months, and now was the time when the early rains should have begun, but Elijah stands up to King Ahab and says, “No more rain.”
We think there’s going to be a conflict, the servant of God had stood up to the King, but instead God does something unusual. He takes Elijah into a season of preparation, literally a season of hiding, because there’s so much more that God wants to do through him. And so, before anything else could happen, listen to what God says in verse two,
“Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah: "Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan” (1 Kings 17:2-3).
“Leave here” God said to Elijah, and we’re going to see God forming his servant, making this man of God, as he calls him through three seasons of preparation. And my prayer this morning, is that you can identify in this story, in these three seasons of preparation, and the first one begins with a simple command to “Leave”.
I’m reminded of God’s command to Abram in Genesis chapter 12, the Lord said,
“The Lord had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you” (Genesis 12:1).
And so, the Lord said, “Leave here, Elijah.” As he calls him to a season of isolation and of hiding. God takes him down into Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, “Kerith” meaning to cut down or cut off. And God was very literally taking Elijah to a place of pain, isolation, and separation; he was cutting him down. He is teaching him humility in private so that he could use him powerfully in public. He was doing something in that season of breaking that was so deep, so painful, that it would leave Elijah wondering “Where is God?” And yet the reality is, that’s exactly the place where God wants you to be, where you’re totally dependent upon him, because God is right there doing a deep work in you.
You see, I believe a lot of times in life, we too find ourselves there at Kerith Ravine. We’re in that season of isolation wondering, “Where is God?” Some of you might be there right now, you’re being broken, you feel like you’re being cut down, and maybe those things that you used to depend on, those things that you used to lean on are gone and you’re in the Kerith Ravine.
This morning, you’ve got to understand, that this could simply be a season of preparation, that God is doing something in you. And maybe he’s teaching you something that you couldn’t learn any other way. He’s doing a work in you so that he can do more through you. And I know that doesn’t make it any easier, because I’ve been there where God was breaking me, where he was cutting, chipping, and humbling me. I’ve experienced that pain that no one else knew and no one really would have understood anyway. The Kerith Ravine is a lonely place, it’s a painful place, but when you’re in that place, you could be there on purpose. Elijah was there for months, all alone, with nobody talk to, but God was doing a great work in him.
And so, for those of you who are in that season of preparation, you’re in the Kerith Ravine, I want you to be encouraged, because the more that God breaks you, the more that God is preparing to do through you. And then the next season we see God taking Elijah through begins with the call to “Drink”.
This was a season of complete and total dependence on God. You see, as The Called, God was shaping Elijah and molding him into a powerful man of God. This was a season where Elijah couldn’t depend on anything but God and God alone. He was alone, he was isolated, every resource had been cut off, and God said,
“You will drink from the brook, and I have ordered the ravens to feed you there." So he did what the Lord had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook. (1 Kings 17:4-6).
And so, here’s Elijah in the middle of the drought, there’s no rain, there’s no water anywhere, but there’s this brook flowing through Kerith Ravine. And God leads him one step at a time. He didn’t give Elijah a schedule to follow, but instead he directed his servant along the way. First, he said “Leave” and then he said “Drink.”
You could say this was a heavenly catering service; like God dropped manna into the camp of Israel during their wilderness journey, in the same way he sent the necessary food to Elijah as he waited for the next directive. At the Kerith Ravine, God provided a brook for Elijah to drink from and he provided bread and meat daily delivered by the ravens. And God was showing Elijah that he was always faithful and that he could count on him to provide his daily bread.
Today, there may be some of you who right now are in a season where there was something that you used to trust, something that gave you a sense of security, that now has been taken away. And now you’re having to learn that when everything that you used to trust is cut off, when everything dries up, that God will always be faithful to you. You see, when you don’t have anything else to trust in, that’s when God shows himself to be faithful. He is our provider, and just like he fed the Israelites in the wilderness, he had the ravens bring Elijah bread and meat in the morning and in the evening. And so, day by day, God was teaching Elijah to depend on him. He didn’t give him a week’s worth of food, he didn’t give him a three-month supply, but God gave him enough for today.
Some of you right now are learning how God provides. When you can’t depend on what you used to be able to depend on, God will deliver what you need just as the psalmist said,
“He supplies the earth with rain and makes grass grow on the hills. He provides food for the cattle and for the young ravens when they call” (Psalms 147:8-9).
Some of you, are in a season where you’re lonely, you’re hurting, and you’re afraid, but God delivers enough for each day. When you’re afraid, God is your comfort. When you don’t have enough, God is your provision. When you are weak, God is your strength. When you’re alone, God is with you, and he said,
"Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5).
God wants to be your friend for the day, he wants to provide exactly what you need, and Elijah learned to depend on God for each day.
God called him to “Leave” and hide in the Kerith Ravine where he was cut off, where he was broken, and where he was humbled. God called him to “Drink” and when he had no ability to provide for himself God taught him total dependence. And the third season that God called Elijah to was one of obedience. God simply told him to “Go.”
As we get to verse seven, everything starts to fall apart for Elijah; the drought got worse, the brook dried up leaving Elijah without water, and he had to wonder what was going on? You know, “God told me to do this and now suddenly everything is breaking down.” “God told me to do this, but now I don’t even have enough.” And yet, I love how he never made a move until God told him what to do. Look with me at verse seven,
“Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land. Then the Word of the Lord came to him: "Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food" (1 Kings 17:7-9).
Now remember, it’s been many days, even months, that he’s been at the Kerith Ravine. God told him to go there and day by day God had provided food and water, but some time later the brook dries up and God says to “Go”. I wonder, if Elijah wasn’t standing there scratching his head and thinking, “God, where are you? Did I miss something? Did I do something wrong? Am I hearing you right? God, why would my provision dry up?” And yet, what we learn from Elijah is that the same God who gives can also take away; the same God who causes the brook to dry up will also give us the courage to leave where we are and go where we’re supposed to go; and so, God will often guide us by his provision, but he may also guide us by causing the brook to dry up, giving us the courage to take a step of obedience and “Go”.
In verse seven, the brook dried up, and Elijah had the courage to go even when it didn’t make sense. God said, "Go at once to Zarephath...” And verse 10 tells us, “So he went…” He goes, he moves, he travels to this place, about 100 miles across the wilderness…
“So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, "Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?" As she was going to get it, he called, "And bring me, please, a piece of bread." (1 Kings 17:10-11)
Verse 12, "As surely as the Lord your God lives," she replied, "I don't have any bread — only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it — and die” (1 Kings 17:12).
Now notice this, because of what God had done in Elijah’s life, because of this season of preparation, Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid…” He looks at what seems to be an impossible situation and speaks hope and life into it.
Elijah said to her, "Don't be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: 'The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord gives rain on the land.’” (1 Kings 17:13-14).
And so, verse 15 says, “She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family.” (1 Kings 17:15).
They ate, for weeks and months, as once again God supernaturally provided for Elijah. But then one day the widow’s son mysteriously died. Verse 17 says,
“Some time later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing. She said to Elijah, "What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?" (1 Kings 17:17-18).
And Elijah, because God had been preparing him, shaping him, taking him through this season of life, did something that had never happened before in history. Verse 19 tells us,
"Give me your son," Elijah replied. He took him from her arms, carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his bed. Then he cried out to the Lord, "O Lord my God, have you brought tragedy also upon this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?" Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried to the Lord, "O Lord my God, let this boy's life return to him!" (1 Kings 17:19-21).
Verse 22, “The Lord heard Elijah's cry, and the boy's life returned to him, and he lived. Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house. He gave him to his mother and said, "Look, your son is alive!" (1 Kings 17:22-23).
And so, what’s the point of all this? God called Elijah to leave, to drink, and to go. He took Elijah to the Kerith Ravine where he was broken, where he learned to depend on God, and where he learned to obey God so that he would leave where he was and go where God ultimately wanted him so that he could perform a miracle and raise the dead back to life. God used a lot of bad things, things Elijah never would’ve chosen if he had given him choice, but all those things shaped him into a true man of God.
This morning as we close, I want you to know that as “The Called” of God, the Bible tells us,
“We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
There are some of you here this morning that are in a season of great difficulty and yet God is doing something in you, because one day he’s going do something greater through you. In verse one, we saw Elijah described as “Elijah the Tishbite” but just 23 verses later, he’s not known for where he’s from, but instead he is known for who he’s from. And I love how the story changes. Verse 24, tells us.
“Then the woman said to Elijah, "Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth." (1 Kings 17:24).
Today, God may allow you to go through the Kerith Ravine, so that one day, someone could look at you and say, “I know that you are a man or a woman of God. I know that you are child of God.” And, I’ll tell you, you may not embrace it right now, but I praise God for all the pain, all the shaping, and all the brokenness, because even though we may not be perfect, we know that God is working. We know that when God is shaping a man or a woman of God, they often go through the Kerith Ravine, so God can do in them what He needs to do before He does even greater things through them.
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
June 25, 2017
Graphics, notes, and commentary from LifeChurch, Ministry Pass, Preaching Library, and PC Study Bible.
Scripture from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.