Expositional commentary on Scripture using an inductive exegetical methodology intent upon confronting the lives of Christians with the dogmatic Truths of God's inspired Words opposing Calvinism and Arminianism, Biblical commentary, doctrine of grace enablement, understanding holiness and wisdom and selfishness, in-depth Bible studies, adult Bible Study books and Sunday School materials Dr. Lance T. Ketchum Line Upon Line: What If God Decided To Show Himself Real?

Sunday, July 28, 2013

What If God Decided To Show Himself Real?

What If God Decided To Show Himself Real?
     Ahab became king of the ten northern tribes, known as Israel, in 919 B.C. (according to Fausset) and reigned for twenty-eight years.  Ahab professed to believe in Jehovah but surrounded himself with four-hundred paid false prophets who told him what he wanted to hear.  He married Jezebel, the daughter of Ethbaal the king of Tyre.  Ethbaal was both king and a priest of Baal.  Jezebel led Ahab in the worship of “Baalim” (the plural of Baal).  Baalism was a sexual fertility cult in worshipping the sun-god.  This pornographic focus is what appealed to people and what drew then into the cultus wherein they were willing to sacrifice infants and children to their worship in fornication.  Sensual Baalistic worship is what we find described in Exodus chapter thirty-two where the children of Israel danced naked before the golden calf (sensual music that stirred the emotions, immodesty in dress, pagan worship was intent upon manipulating and appeasing the gods for man’s benefits).  This is the environment into which God sends Elijah to speak for Him.

17 And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel? 18 And he answered, 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. 19 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. 20 So Ahab sent unto all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together unto mount Carmel. 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 Kings 18:17-21).

          This text ends with a group of professing believers standing before a prophet of God in indecision.  I find the words “And the people answered him not a word” amazing in light of the history of Israel within a little more than five-hundred years of the miraculous events recorded in the book of Joshua.  These so called believers in Jehovah had integrated the worldly worship of Baal into their lives.  Jehovah would not, and could not, bless them because of their worldliness so they began to seek out Baal and the priest of Baal for their blessings.  Elijah has just challenged these professed believers about the reality of their faith in Jehovah.  The reason for the challenge and ultimatum is that there is only one true God.  The one True God will only accept worship in the accuracy of Who He is.  “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).  Everything that is involved in the worship of God must be about Him and directed towards Him.  Even our music and preaching must direct our hearts and souls towards God.


          Elijah was obviously a man who had the power of God on his life.  I wonder what some of our churches would do if their pastor was a man with the power of God in his life like Elijah.  What if such a man were to stand up before his congregation and say, “How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him.”
          After saying that, he would than tell them that he was going to begin a season of prayer and fasting.  He was going to begin to pray that God would make Himself known by extreme chastisement on the lives of any member of his church that was not being faithful, not tithing, not seeking to win souls, or who might be living in any other manner of carnality.  I wonder what might happen in that preacher’s life.  I wonder what would happen if the first week the church had a Ananias and Sapphira experience (Acts 5:1-11).  I wonder what would happen if during the next week two more members of the church died unexpectedly.  How many weeks would it take for people to realize that God is real and that they better start getting serious about living for Him?  As we look at these kinds of events in the Bible, we certainly should be grateful to God for His longsuffering in our numerous inconsistencies and carnality. 
          Sometimes people are so hard to the truth that they stiffen their necks and harden their hearts to God in such a manner that leaves God no other alternative but to take drastic action in their lives.  God must take that kind of action because He cannot bless a local church if individuals in that church are living in carnality and hardness to His commands.
          The historical backdrop of I Kings 18:17-21 is very similar to the present situation in the United States of America.  Ahab was a king of Israel who was so out of touch with God that he had lost the reality of Who God was (18:17).  Like the liberal who blames our nation’s problems on the religious right, Ahab viewed Elijah’s prophecy of a three year drought as originating with Elijah.  It did not.  The three year drought was brought about by the touch of the chastising hand of God.

“And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, 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” (I Kings 17:1).

          Ahab saw the condemnation of his ungodly lifestyle originating in the mind of an overzealous preacher (a religious nut).  However, Scripture tells us it was Ahab’s lifestyle that provoked the anger of the Lord. 

31 And it came to pass, as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took to wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Zidonians, and went and served Baal, and worshipped him. 32 And he reared up an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he had built in Samaria. 33 And Ahab made a grove; and Ahab did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him” (I Kings 16:31-33).

          The truth of the situation was that king Ahab had been seduced away from living for and serving the real God by his relationship with the wrong person, a person he had chosen.  We need to be very careful about the alliances we make in life and the people to which we join ourselves.  Ahab had allowed his selfish desires and carnal interests to involve himself with someone who then became the idol of his heart.  The only reason this happened was because the true God was not real to him.  His faith was not real.  Ahab needed a sensual god because of his own sensual focus.   He wanted a god who would serve him. 
          When any person lives like God is not real, God begins to show Himself real (Romans 1:21-32).  Before this would all be over, Ahab would know without a shadow of doubt that the God of Israel and the God of Elijah was the real God.  However, until that time (as is usually common when a preacher says something sinners do not want to hear) Ahab simply tried to eradicate the preacher (you know how that works, i.e. silence the voice of condemnation and the problem will go away).  Or, find a preacher who will tell you what you want to hear. 

7 And as Obadiah was in the way, behold, Elijah met him: and he knew him, and fell on his face, and said, Art thou that my lord Elijah? 8 And he answered him, I am: go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here. 9 And he said, What have I sinned, that thou wouldest deliver thy servant into the hand of Ahab, to slay me? 10 As the LORD thy God liveth, there is no nation or kingdom, whither my lord hath not sent to seek thee: and when they said, He is not there; he took an oath of the kingdom and nation, that they found thee not. 11 And now thou sayest, Go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here” (I Kings 18:7-11).

          Remember in I Kings 18:17, Ahab tried to blame Elijah for the famine and drought in Israel.  In I Kings 18:18, Elijah sets the record straight.  The famine and drought were not due to Elijah’s prophecy, but to Ahab’s failure to follow the path of life laid out for him by the Scriptures.  Instead he had become a worshipper of Baalim.  It is in this name we find the depths to which his degeneration had fallen.  Baalim is a synonym for Ba`al (bah'-al) who was the supreme male divinity of the Phoenicians or Canaanites.  It is also the same pagan god commonly known as Ra in the pagan religion of Egypt.  This same pagan idol was worshipped as Baalzebub (bah'-al zeb-oob', lord of the fly) by the Philistines.  Jesus used a derivative of this name for Satan.

22 Then was brought unto him one possessed with a devil, blind, and dumb: and he healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw. 23 And all the people were amazed, and said, Is not this the son of David? 24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils. 25 And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand: 26 And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand” (Matthew 12:22-26).

          Ahab had become a Satan worshipper.  This is where sensuality always leads us when we allow it to become the focus of worship.   Whenever a person fails to follow God’s direction, he in fact chooses to follow another direction.  If it is not God’s direction, it is the wrong direction.  Satan’s direction is the direction of deception and its end is destruction.  Understand this, if you get yourself on that pathway it will ultimately end in destruction.  That is where Satan’s pathways always lead.  Satan’s pathway of deception is any pathway outside of God’s commandments.

“There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 14:12).

          God had established some perimeters for life that Ahab completely ignored.  When he began to reap the consequences, he began to blame the resulting calamity on the man of God.  Ahab not only married a wicked woman, he allowed that wicked woman to introduce her Satan worship into the nation of Israel.  Ahab was supporting four-hundred and fifty false prophets of Baal and another four-hundred prophets of the groves (Druids, tree worshippers).
          In I King 18:19, Elijah gathers all the people of Israel and all of these eight-hundred and fifty false prophets together at Mt. Carmel.  It is at this time Elijah asks this question of I Kings 18:21, “How long halt ye between two opinions?” 
          The question might be phrased - How long are you people going to set on the fence on not make a decision?  How long do you want God’s blessing withheld?  How long can you last without food and water?  The fact that it had not rained for three years (I Kings 18:1) was directly due to the pathway that Ahab chose for himself and the pathway that the people followed. 
          This was not the result of disobedience.  This resulted because of unbelief.  So often we confuse disobedience and carnality as rebellion when in fact it is just unbelief.  If we really believed God is Who He says He is, we certainly would not do the wicked things we do or refuse to do the works of righteousness we are supposed to do. 
          Elijah is going to give the pagan gods and the pagan prophets a reality check.  He is not testing God.  He knows what God can do.  Elijah knew and believed in the one true God.  Elijah is putting the pagans and their false god to the test of fire.  Let me ask you, how many of us would like the reality of our faith tested as to its authenticity?  How many of us would be willing to stand before God accepting His consuming fire to fall on us if there is anything in our lives that we refuse to get right with Him? 
          If the LORD (Jehovah) is God, follow Him (with your whole heart).  But if Baal is god, than follow him with your whole heart (18:21).  That is an excellent invitation to a congregation.  However, like most invitations given to sinners by God, “the people answered him not a word.”  There was no response.  They were indecisive.  They were unwilling to commit.
          The question really goes to the point, is God really who He says He is.  If He is who He says He is does He mean what He says?  In I Kings 18:23-24, Elijah defines the rules of the test.  Two bullocks would be killed and prepared to be offered as a burnt offering, one to the pagan gods and another to Jehovah.  The people answered, “it is well spoken.”  In other words, “Let’s do it!” We might look at this as a good thing, but it is blatant unbelief. 
          The prophets of Baal put their bullock on their altar to their pagan god and for the next six hours called on their god to consume the sacrifice (I Kings 18:25-26).  Elijah begins to mock them and their god.  He tells them to shout loader.  Gods get pretty busy sometimes, he probably has not heard you, maybe he is talking to someone, maybe he is away on a trip, or maybe he is sleeping and you will need to wake him up. 
          Baal does not answer.  So the false prophets begin to cut themselves (as was their normal practice) to get Baal’s attention until blood was gushing out all over the place (that is the kind of thing Satan deceives people into doing.  It happens in different forms all over the world today even under the banner of Christianity).  This goes on for another four or five hours (I Kings 18:29).  Yet there was “neither voice, nor any answer, nor any that regarded.”  False gods never answer.  They take and take and take, but they never give. 
          False gods are not real gods.  They are only make-believe gods.  If a person allows a made up god to establish his standards for living, that person will end up the same way these false prophets ended up.  That person will end up shouting into the air.  However, the great problem is not that the false, made up gods do not hear.  The problem is that the real God does hear and He is a jealous God Who hates idolatry.  This is why right doctrine is so important. 

“Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me” (Exodus 20:5).

“For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God:” (Exodus 34:14).

          After watching this ridiculous charade for almost ten hours, Elijah calls out to the people of Israel, “Come near to me” (v. 30).  Elijah begins to build an altar by taking “twelve stones” (v. 31) reminding the people of Israel that they existed as a nation solely because of a covenant making God Who was not the figment of someone’s imagination.  He is real!
          Then, just to prove that what was about to happen would be no accident, Elijah has four barrels of water hauled up to the top of the hill three times and has them dumped on the sacrifice and the wood, even filling the trench dug around the altar (and just in case you miss the point, water is a major hindrance to getting something started on fire).  Twelve stones, one for each tribe of Israel.  Twelve barrels of water, one for each tribe of Israel (I Kings 18:32-34).
          Elijah is about to show these people what a real God can do all by Himself.  In a quiet, calm voice he lifts his head to heavens and prays, “Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again” (I Kings 18:36-37)  He wasn’t doing this for himself.  He was doing this to turn the people’s hearts back to one true God, the real God. 
          Yes, this would be a great spectacle.  Yes, God would show Himself real, but the great tragedy is that after all God had already done for Israel, why was this necessary?  It was because generation after generation had allowed their knowledge of God to slip away until the true God was forgotten and make believe gods took His place. 
          As soon as the words got passed Elijah’s lips, “the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench” (v. 38).  There was no shouting, no pleading, nor begging.  Elijah did not have to run around like some fool cutting himself.  Elijah did not involve himself in any ritual incantations or any other such nonsense.  He simply asked God to do it.  God did it.  That’s the way the real God does things!  That’s the way my God does things!
          The consuming fire of God fell and in a split second the whole bullock was gone.  The wood was gone (wood burns and bullocks burn).  The stones (representing the twelve tribes of Israel) were gone (that was a warning).  The twelve barrels of water were gone (another warning).  Even the dust on the ground around the Altar was consumed.  All that was left was a blackened hole in the ground.  This was a reminder of what might have happened to them - “23 Take heed unto yourselves, lest ye forget the covenant of the LORD your God, which he made with you, and make you a graven image, or the likeness of any thing, which the LORD thy God hath forbidden thee. 24 For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God” (Deuteronomy 4:23-24).  These Jews had all memorized these verses of Scripture. 
          The next thing God tells us is that the people of Israel standing around that Altar fell on their faces to the ground shouting, “The LORD, He is God; The LORD, He is God.”  They did not do that because of the great miracle they had just seen.  They did it because the only thing around that Altar that was not consumed was them!  That is the reality of Who God is.  He is a God of grace and mercy.  The only reason why many professing Christians (who live in carnality and disregard for Who God is) are allowed to live is because:

“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (II Peter 3:9).

          When professing Christians live like God does not exist, it is probably because they do not believe He is real.  If they really believed in the God of the Bible they would know enough to fear Him.  If they really believed in the God of the Bible, they would know that one day they will stand before Him and give account for every idle word, for every neglected opportunity of ministry, and for anything and everything they have done in this body of flesh whether good or bad. 
          However, if that is not a major concern of your life, your problem is not with rebellion.  Your problem is one of unbelief.  I have only one warning for you friend.

30 For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:30-31).

          What will it take to get you serious about the work of the Lord?  Perhaps the real issue is not one of apathy.  Perhaps the real issue is one of unbelief.  Perhaps the real issue is the lack of faith in the one real God.  What will it take in your life for Him to prove Himself real?  What catastrophe must happen?  How deep into sin will God allow you to get so you will finally see your own degeneracy?  Indifference to God and His commands is only the first step down the pathway of destruction.  We all know where that pathway ends. 

Anonymous comments will not be allowed. 
Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.


Dennis Sampson said...

I always liked how that even thought it hadn't rained in 3 1/2 years and water was so hard to find they had 12 barrels to use, not to spare but to use. Their last hope was in that water but God had a greater use for it.

Anonymous said...

Here's a thought I took away from your message: Yes...first step downward! There are usually STEPS downward. Few people/groups "fall" from top to bottom in one movement. There are increments: A little compromise here, a little self-deception there. Most of the time its the accumulation of "small" or "moderate" concessions that lead to blatant heresy. Even seemingly small "imbalances", if not corrected early, eventually ruin lives and ministries.

For example, God is Love...but He is also a CONSUMING FIRE! Praise the Lord He gives us mercy and grace when we need course-correction.

Dana Everson

pcoovert said...

Thanks for your good post. We need to start preaching like Elijah and giving real warnings. We have lost our vision of who our God is and until we are willing to seek His face we will not see real revival. Where I live, in North Carolina, revival is thought to be people making a lot of noise and shouting amen and praise God. Real revival is people realizing who God is and falling on their faces with repentant hearts and crying out for mercy.