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Elijah - Part 1

Scripture: Malachi 4:5, 1 Kings 18:1-46, Jeremiah 29:13
Elijah was a voice against false worship in the days of King Ahab. The Baal teachers of sun worship faced a drought that could not be changed. A showdown took place on Mt. Carmel where the true God was made known.
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The smoke of the altar on Mount Carmel curled up into the heavens under the pretense of sincere worship, but it called forth from God one of the most fearless messages of reproof ever found in the Word of God. Elijah was the messenger chosen by God to bear that stern message of reproof. The Bible declares that before the end of time the message of Elijah will be heard again, ringing through the world in condemnation of man-made systems of worship. Here is the text, in Malachi 4:5: "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord." This is a text which has perplexed people for many years. They have wondered, What does it all mean? Is Elijah, the prophet, going to return to the world before Jesus comes again? Is he going to come back in person with his flowing robes, his long, white beard? Are we actually going to see him standing before multitudes, preaching, in the last days?

We are going to talk about Elijah today, and his return to the world. We may have to continue it another day. We might not get through in this one broadcast, but it is something very urgent for all of us. When I think of all the fiery individuals in the Bible, Elijah stands among the foremost. He was the reprover of sin, a fearless man of God. His message was straight and clear, but at the same time, it carried with it the balm of Gilead to those who were willing to listen and to receive the words of God. We find Elijah in the first book of Kings 1:1. "And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab" (you know Ahab, that wicked king of Israel), "As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word."

Idolatry had crept into Israel. Ahab was a wicked king who had turned his back on God and contrary to the commandment of God, had married the idolatrous Jezebel. Jezebel, a princess of Phoenicia, brought her priests with her, her preachers of sun worship. Israel at this time had turned to idolatry and were worshiping the sun. So God said, "If that is the way they want it, I will take away my protection and the sun will burn and there will be a great drought in the land." And so it was, blistering, relentless rays of the sun penetrated, drying up the leaves of the trees, drying up the foliage and the herbs, drying up the water brooks and the springs. There was a great famine. And these individuals wanted to honor the sun rather than the Creator of the sun, and so God allowed this to happen. Elijah revealed that there would not be dew nor rain in the land except by his word.

After three years of terrible drought, sun worship was brought to a showdown in Israel. It was time for individuals to stand up and be counted, to see whether they were going to stand for God or whether they were going to continue with tradition and the teachings of Baal. Elijah has now come before the King. The King points a finger of scorn at Elijah and says, "Are you the one who is troubling Israel?" Notice Elijah's answer: "I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father's house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and thou hast followed Baalim. Now therefore send, and gather to me all Israel unto mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the groves four hundred, which eat at Jezebel's table." 1 Kings 18:18, 19.

Picture Elijah standing there on the top of Mount Carmel, all alone so far as the commandments of God were concerned. On one side were 850 priests of Baal; on the other side was Elijah with the truth of God. The people were standing with the priests of Baal on the other side. All alone, Elijah stood. There was only one thing in his favor, and that was that he preached by the authority of the Eternal One. His message was backed by the decree of Heaven. He knew the pitch of hatred; he knew the fury of the people that would be directed against him; and yet fearlessly he stood. The only fear Elijah knew was the fear of God, and so alone he challenged the people of his day. Here it is in verse 21: "And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, "How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word."

I tell you, friends, Elijah drew a line of demarcation. He said, "How long do you halt between two opinions? How long are you going to go limping along here? I want you to make a decision. Are you going to be for God, or are you going to be for Baal?" We can't mingle the two, friends; just a little bit of tradition and just a little bit of Sun day, a little bit of tradition, along with the things of the true religion of God. And on Mount Carmel God called for a decision. It was all or nothing at all as far as he was concerned. The lesson for us today is that God hates half-hearted, compromising worship. We read in Jeremiah 29:13, "And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart." And that is exactly what it is going to take for us to get through to the kingdom of God. We must search for God with all our hearts. He must have wholehearted service. We can't go limping along with a little bit of error and a little bit of what God says. Christ must be Lord of all or He is not Lord at all.

And so the test was drawn. Elijah proposes a test to prove who is the true God. "Let them therefore give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under it and I will dress the other bullock and lay it on wood and put no fire under: ...And call ye on the name of your gods and I will call on the name of the Lord: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God. And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken." That is in verse 23. So the sacrifice was prepared. There were 850 teachers of religion on one side and one man of God on the other. Now let me ask you, Where did the majority stand in that day? They stood over on the side of the priests of Baal. I want you to notice something. These priests, these prophets, these false teachers, ate at Jezebel's table. Why did they teach and preach the way they did? Because Jezabel paid their salaries, of course. They preached the way Jezebel told them to preach, and I'm afraid today too many preachers preach according to where the money comes from.

There is a preacher of a large church down in Texas, I won't mention its name because it is a good denomination, but in a ministerial association meeting where there was discussion about fighting the liquor interests, this man said, "I wouldn't dare preach against liquor in my congregation." They asked him, "Why not?" "Because," he said, "some of the biggest supporters of the liquor industry are members of my church." He was afraid to stand out against evil because he was worried about his pay check. Eating at Jezebel's table. A preacher will never preach it straight and preach it clear when he preaches to please the people, because he is afraid it might shut off his source of income.

Well, the call is given here, "If the Lord be God, then follow Him; but if Baal, then follow him." The priests of Baal prepared their sacrifices, you remember. They laid them on the altar. Remember that they couldn't light a fire, of course, so they began their prayers and their shouting. Some people think that if there is a lot of shouting, surely the Lord must be in it. But this is not necessarily the case. There was a lot of shouting around that altar of sacrifice on Mount Carmel. They were an earnest group; a higher pitch of enthusiasm you have never witnessed. But they were wrong, completely wrong. All day long they danced around their altar. About noon, when no fire had descended on the sacrifice and they were becoming weary with their incantations, Elijah began to mock them a little. I don't know just why he gave in to this temptation. A preacher does have the temptation to be sarcastic once in a while, and he has to watch himself all the time lest he give way to it. But Elijah began to mock. He said, "What is the matter with your god? He must be on a hunting trip. You're going to have to shout a little louder." So they raised the pitch, "Oh, Baal, hear us!" They shouted a little louder but nothing happened. Elijah said, "Well, he must be on a long journey. Shout a little louder so he can hear you and return an answer." Louder and louder they shouted and still Baal didn't answer. Elijah said, "He must be asleep. Maybe that is the trouble."

Well, you can read it all there in the Word of God in 1 Kings 18. So they shouted again, even louder, and began to dance and prance around the altar in great fury. They cut themselves with knives and the blood began to flow. It was a terrible ordeal. Still, no fire. At last, about the time of the evening sacrifice, Elijah said, "Now it is my turn." There had been at one time an altar of the Lord on Mount Carmel. Elijah took these twelve stones and built up the altar again and prepared the sacrifice. He laid it on the altar. To make sure that there would be no doubt, he asked them to bring four barrels of water. The water was poured over the altar. Elijah said, "Do it again." They went down and got the water and brought it back and poured it over the sacrifice again, and on the wood; and he said for the third time, "Do it once more." And they filled four barrels and poured it again and the water completely soaked the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, and all. Elijah then asked the people to come near. He prayed a very humble prayer, asking God to reveal the truth. And I can just picture God looking down over the battlements of heaven. He sees Elijah and hears that humble prayer of faith. Suddenly the skies are split in two as down the corridors of heaven comes that bolt of heavenly lightning kindled by the glory of God. Striking the altar it burns the sacrifice and the rocks, and even the very water was licked up out of the trench around that altar.

Now notice how the people swing over. They say, "The Lord, he is the God; the Lord, he is the God." Verse 39. The fickle crowd swings over on Elijah's side now. The death sentence was passed against those preachers of Baal. They were taken down from the mountain and slain, all 850 of them. Why? lt was a type of judgment to fall in the last days upon those who refuse to preach the truth of God, those who preach error and teach the people to sin in so doing. It is a terrible thing, my friends, to teach error and tell the people that they don't have to do something that God commands them to do. Jesus said, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law till all be fulfilled." Then notice this: "Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 5:17-19.

Yet today, my friends, men dare to stand in the pulpits of the land and tell people they don't have to keep the commandments of God. I have mentioned many times here about some of the modern pronouncements of these twentieth-century theologians. They think that the commandments are not necessary. They don't believe that commandment keeping is necessary. They don't think that works will have anything to do at all with a person's going to heaven. Works will not save us, friends, but without obeying the commandments of God, who do you think will enter into God's great, heavenly kingdom? The commandments of God have not been destroyed. They have not been nailed to the cross. They are still with us today, and the man who dares teach that those commandments have been altered or weakened is simply laying up for himself a judgment of God such as came upon those prophets of Baal. The very lowest that a man can go is to preach that the commandments of God are no longer binding on Christians today.

We are going to have to close our lesson for today, but we will continue in our next broadcast and find out just how this great message of Elijah is going to be repeated in the last days just before Jesus comes again. This is not an ordinary message, and we are not on the air just to entertain people. We have a vital message, of life or death, for everybody.

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