Who Do You Want To Be?
1 Kings, Chapter 16 is where we’re gonna be. But I do wanna set this up because we’re in a new series together on the Book of 1 Kings. We’re gonna study the life of Elijah. A very important book I think, especially when you consider the time period in which Elijah exists.
But to set that backdrop, you can just hold your place there in 1 Kings. It’ll take me a few minutes to get there. But I do wanna just begin that by priming the pump with some thoughts on our own life. You know, last week we talked about how God has created us and who God has created us to be. The beauty of just humanity and in every soul in this world. How special, how precious that is. I think it would be wrong to just simply assume because of the way God makes us that, that would necessitate that that is who we all desire to be.
That’s really the question I wanna just pose for us, not simply who God created you to be, but what is it that you desire to be? Because who you desire to be can often be in conflict with who God created you to be. In fact, Jesus warned us of that throughout scripture. I would say and argue it’s even the reason you have the Bible, is because within the soul of every human being there is a war taking place of who will be Lord of your life. And if I’m being really honest, that battle really rests between God or you. You can start all the way back from the Book of Genesis, that’s where it began with Adam and Eve telling God that rather than He be God, they’re gonna become God and they’re gonna determine what’s right and wrong. You see that pronounced very prominently in the Book of Judges. The Book of Judges continues to remind us that everyone does what’s right in their own eyes. The pursuit of their life is to wake up every day and say, “I’m Lord, so what makes me happy?”
But in that pursuit, really, we find ourselves in lives never truly content. Who do you desire to be? I think that’s an important question, not only just for the moment, but really every day. To refine our hearts and the intentions for which we are created because God in designing us knows what’s best for us, and so aligning our heart with His plan for our destiny is significant, to live the fullness for which we have been created.
Who do you desire to be today? I think early in my marriage, my wife and I … It’s fun, those first years of marriage, you kind of just get to feel out who both of you together in that relationship and who’s gonna carry what forward in the home to make it run well. I think when we first got married we both recognized that neither of us had the ability to cook and so how that ended up anyone could guess. We could have been on peanut butter and jelly for the rest of our lives all we knew. But I’m good with anything. I can eat anything except for pronghorn, just don’t give me that. But anything else, I’m good with that. Right? My wife and I begin the venture of cooking and it turns out I’ve given her a nickname since then. She’s Betty Crocker gone wild. Anything the woman touches turns to gold. She makes this Mississippi Pot Roast that is so good. I don’t even have to have it in my mouth, I already know how it tastes, and I could just dream about it every night. Amazing.
I get my turn, and my turn is what led me to become permanent dishwasher in our family. I decide pre-Pinterest days, Pinterest can tell you how to make anything now, but if it’s good and you put it together, then it’s gonna make greatness. That was my philosophy. Right? You start with rice. I love rice. Where else can you go to have a million of something and it doesn’t really add a whole lot to your body? A million things of rice and then throw in some pineapple and some meat and some kind of sauce. Who cares, as long as it’s good sauce. And then when I got to the end of that thing, I just remember early in our marriage giving her a bite and just the gag reflex, it really kicks in and it’s like I have been banished from the kitchen. And I have worn this label that is so bad that even my kids … my kids have heard of this day and now they won’t even … I can’t even make them scrambled eggs. I’m like, “Come on, I promise, it’s good.” Like, “Dad, leave it at the sandwiches for you. Just go do the dishes.”
When you think about who you desire to be, I know that chef is not in the cards for me. But I can easily let that go because when … because my wife is way better … but when you ask the question, “Who do you desire to be,” it’s really not about what you desire to do. Who you desire to be is much deeper than that. Now, who you desire to be in the content of your character will reflect in the way you live your life. But the question of who you desire to be really rests more in your heart. I think it’s especially true when life gets difficult. When things are coming at you, what comes out? When you get cut, what do you bleed? Real blood, right? But what comes out of your heart? What’s the character that is possessed within your life? I think it’s when we’re under pressure that we oftentimes see what really rests in our lives.
Who do you desire to be? Who you desire to be is determined by where you surrender your life. Show me what you love, and I’ll show you who you’ll become. You have resources in life as a human being, your time, your energy, your money and what you give that towards really determines what is God of your life. The beauty of when God made us, God making us in his image to connect and Him, God made you a worship being. And you will worship something. And what you worship is determined by what you value, and the way that you see what you value is where you spend the resources that God’s given you, your time, talent, money. That reflects what you love.
Oftentimes you can meet people in this world that tell you they stand for something and then when you walk away their life doesn’t emulate it at all. Is that where their heart truly belongs? One of my favorite passages of scripture, which happens to be every time I throw up a verse, I say that I think, but in Acts 4:13 talking about Jesus’ followers, the early church by Acts, Chapter 4 not a whole lot of history has happened since the time of Jesus’ crucifixion. But this is where persecution really starts for the church. And Jesus’ 12 disciples are going around preaching the kingdom and the gospel which I think are one in the same but in Acts 4:13, they’re brought before the leaders of the day and this is what it says. “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and they realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note.” Look at this. “They took note that these men had been with Jesus.” The love of their life became a reflection of who they were. Spending time with Jesus began to modeled in their own world.
How does that happen in your life today? When I think about these individuals and pursuing after God, they weren’t pursuing after the popular movement of the day. They weren’t interested in popularity. It’s what brought them to this moment, but rather the desire their heart was to look like their savior. The one that they cared about. And so they had spent this time with Jesus and it begins to be remarkable in front of the others around them that they didn’t stand for Jesus. They saw these individuals reflecting Christ in the world to the point that a few chapters later the term, Christians starts to be used as a derogatory remark. These little Jesus people walking around.
Who do you desire to be? I think this is a beautiful passage of scripture, but maybe I ask the question for us. How do we get to this place? Where in our own lives, when someone looks at you that you just don’t have to tell them that you’re a Christian, that they look at your life and you reflect the beauty of who Jesus is. That when you read the gospels, Jesus is just so loving, caring, gracious and still honest. Truthful. What a beautiful life for people to say, when I’m next to them I feel like I’m walking with Jesus because their love of Jesus is so prevalent in their lives.
Who do you desire to be? I think that question is important for us because it expresses one of intentionality. It’s purposeful in its existence.
I read a meme the other day … I think it was actually, it might have been yesterday. Every day runs together for me now. But I read a meme the other day, and you know memes are always true, right? Everything on the internet is, don’t fact check this at all, this does not confirm fake news, I’m just kidding. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but it’s about Usain Bolt. It has to be pretty close to true so I’m gonna use it. All right? Usain Bolt, it’s said in his professional career, only ran 119 seconds. If you don’t know Usain Bolt, he’s the fastest man in the world. He has the records for the 100 meter, the 200 meter, the 4×100 meter with a team. He’s the fastest man in the world. But when you categorize his life, you just kinda summarize it. It’s 119 seconds. And in 119 seconds of running, he made $120 million. That’s incredible, right? That’s the best job … I wanna apply for his position. Until you see what it took to get there. 20 years. 20 years of training. For 119 seconds. What dedication.
Without even recognizing it or not, our hearts pursue loves because we’re worshipful beings. And what you love, you will become. Being intentional in that pursuit is important not just to say, “Look, I’m a Christian,” but how do you really meet with that Jesus to where people say about your life, “He’s been with Jesus.” Proverbs 4:23 says this, “Be diligent to guard your heart for from it flows the wellsprings of life.” That what God created in you can pursue all these loves, but guard your heart, be diligent to guard your heart. And it’s not just saying, “Look, live life on the defense. Be afraid of everything,” but rather what it’s saying is, “Look, there’s something in your life that you need to protect because what God has called you to, how God desires for you to live, how God desires for you to reflect His glory in this world, it is so important because this is the reason He has created you. So guard what’s significant so you can live the life that God has called you to live.”
How do you pursue this? Who do you wanna to be? How do you get this said of you, what’s said in Acts 4:13? I would say for us the answer’s pretty plain and easy. It’s the responsibility of walking in that, that I think we often wrestle with, and I believe the answer really is found in special revelation.
How do you meet with God? Well, the answer is special revelation. You want God to transform your life and begin to mold you in the image of Jesus so when people see you they see the goodness of who Christ is in your life. Well the answer special revelation, and when you study in theology these terms of how God gives us revelation, there’s this idea of general revelation, special revelation. General revelation is God’s creation. You look around the beauty of things in this world and you can see the evidence of a divine creator in the glory of who He is. But then God gives us special revelation. It’s not just this arbitrary idea of God but we see Him specifically, that God desires to make Himself known in our lives. And there’s two ways theologians have told us that this happens. One is in Jesus. He’s God incarnate. God in the flesh. To see Jesus is to see the Father because Jesus reflects the exact nature of the Father.
Jesus is God in the flesh. The disciples walked with Jesus. You don’t walk with physical Jesus on the earth today so what do we have for special revelation? The answer for us in God’s word. God gave us His word for a reason. I think it’s because He knows within our humanity, that there is a war within our souls of which we like to walk contrary to Him. Throughout scripture, you see the stories of individuals who war sometimes against God, sometimes in the conflict of both sides, sometimes a life devoted to the Lord. But even in devotion to the Lord, Paul himself referred to himself as a wretched man, the chief of sinners. He recognized in his life there is a war, but what God desires to do is something new in him that God desires to refine him and continue to focus him on who God has called him to be. And to grab his heart and that desire and who he wants to be so it matches who God has called him to be.
God’s word. Guard your heart. The place in which our heart is found to be guarded is in the content of His word. In fact, in Matthew, Chapter 4 when Jesus goes into the wilderness. Jesus, it tells us is tempted by Satan for 40 days and every temptation that Satan brings against Jesus, you know what Jesus does? He quotes the Bible. He quotes from the Book of Deuteronomy. He says this to Satan. “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
Peter was asked once in John, 6:68 his followers, Jesus’ followers had left him. He turns to the disciples and said, “Do you wanna leave me too?” And Peter says, “To where shall we go?” Because you have the words of eternal life. Peter understood the significance of who Christ was. In fact, you can just see that throughout all the Bible. Acts 17:11, “They received the word with readiness of mind. Search the scriptures to see if it was so.” Joshua 1:8, “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; Meditate on it night and day, so you may be careful to do everything written in it.” Deuteronomy 6:6, “These commandments that I give to you today are to be on your hearts.” Psalm 63:1, “You God, are my God. Earnestly I seek you. I thirst for you. My whole being longs for you. In a dry and parched land where there is no water.” God calls us to Him. To reflect His goodness in our lives, that it can be transformed to become all that He has called us to be.
When it comes to God’s word, especially if you’re starting to read it for the first time, it can be intimidating. It’s 66 books of what … I tell you to turn to 1 Kings, you’re like, “I didn’t even know there was a King.” Where is this book? I talked to someone this week that was mesmerized by the fact that Nahum was a book of the Bible. “Well, Nahum, huh?” There’s a lot of great names. Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zachariah. Name your kids. There are a lot of crazy books in the Bible. You’re like, “I didn’t even realize this is a book.”
But God’s word can be intimidating. So where do you start? How do you launch into that? And especially the Old Testament. When I say 1 Kings, context matters where we’re about to land in Chapter 16. How do you approach this? How do you even navigate through God’s word? If you read it, maybe you probably spend most of your time in the New Testament but what about the Old Testament? How does this fit in our lives? I think if we’re not careful and we’re not looking at context, we can come up with some crazy things. I remember years ago reading about this group in Canada. This type of thing can only happen in Canada. But these people read the Bible and read about something about being naked and something about setting things on fire and so they started a religious group where they run around naked and set things on fire. It’s like, “Ah, I kinda missed that one. Isn’t it cold in Canada? You guys should put some clothes on.”
Context matters. In fact, when you read God’s word, I would say the most important thing is before you understand the here and now, you need to understand the there and then. That when the authors wrote the Bible, they had the original audience is what they had in mind. God’s word is timeless and relevant for all of us but it begins with a particular people in a particular place for a particular reason. And when you go to read the Old Testament, I think it’s important to know the Bible’s not put together chronologically. It’s put together according to literary genre.
When you ask the question, “God who do you want me to be, and you’ve written your words to direct my heart to become what you’ve called me to be, understanding how your word is written becomes significant for me to walk in that path.” When you look at the Old Testament, the first 17 books are considered historical books. The first five books are really referred to as the Pentateuch. They’re what Moses wrote.
But by and large you can look at them as historical books. They lay out Israel’s history. For the most part they follow a fairly good timeline. Some cover a large span of time, some just a brief period of time. But they’re the historical books. When you get to a place like the Book of Kings, what we’re gonna read today, you’ll read in Samuel and Kings the story of how the Kings came about. And then when you get to Chronicles, it tells all the stories all over again. When you read that book you’re like, “Why in the world are they telling me the same story two times? I could have skipped this and went onto another book, but now I have to read all the stories again. Why is it like this?” Well, historically understanding the significance of First and Second Chronicles helps you put in place what’s happening here.
In 1 Samuel and 1 Kings, it starts to share with us how Israel goes from a theocracy to following after a King. The tone of 1 and 2 Kings especially is one of darkness. Because it’s showing to us the decline of Israel as a people. Further and further they move away from God. Where God ultimately sends the northern kingdoms into captivity under the Assyrians in 722 and the southern kingdom, which was made up of two tribes into captivity in Babylon in 586. I’ll tell you a little bit more about that in just a second. Kings into darkness. Into captivity.
But Chronicles is written after captivity. The focus of Chronicles isn’t so much on the northern kingdoms that were taken into Assyrian captivity. They were never heard from again. They were gone. But rather the Chronicles focus more on the southern kingdom. Judah. ‘Cause after the Babylonian captivity, 70 years passed and they returned to the land. The focus of Chronicles is one of promise. God promises people that through Abraham all nations would be blessed, that God would bring the Messiah to them in their promised land. They’re thinking about the Davidic covenant and all that is to come and God fulfilling his promises. While they were unfaithful in the Kings, God fulfills his promises in the Chronicles and so the tone of the book is different in what the pursuit is and why the author wrote what he wrote. It’s one of hope for his people and stuff.
When you approach God’s word, it’s important and looking at the first 17 books, it’s written historically. Much of it is in narrative form. Narrative form’s a little unique. When you study literary genre, it’s important to know the type of genre you’re reading and narratives are unique. Narratives are no prescriptive but descriptive. You know what that means, right? Prescriptive is telling us something to do. Descriptive is just telling you what happened.
When you go read the historical books, the first 17 books of the Bible, it’s not necessarily telling you to do those things. In fact, some of those things are crazy. You read it, you’re like, “Whoa. This happened?” I know God is powerful and God moves in unique ways, but God does this unique thing and doing this unique thing, that’s why it’s written. Not so you see it as prescriptive for everyone’s life but just descriptive because God wants to get darkened hearts’ attention. And sometimes to get the heart of dark, the life of darkened hearts, you gotta some wild things. When you read the narratives, that’s what’s happening. You’re showing the scene, this faithful God show up in the life of Israel to produce what God desires to produce.
So when you read the Bible, the incredible thing about the Bible. 40 plus authors. Three continents. Three languages. 1,500 years. One theme. When I write down my thought, I can barely hold it to the end. I just write one thing and I’m off [inaudible 00:20:24] a squirrel and I’m done. But to think that God’s word written over 1,500 years, one theme. What is it? The redemption of your soul. The pursuit of your life through Christ. In the midst of the darkness, the battle of my life where I say to God, “I wanna be king.” Jesus comes graciously as the king to redeem my soul. God is after my heart.
When I ask the question, who do you wanna be? I want you to know God’s not satisfied with half of you. I didn’t make you for half of you. God made you for all of you. And that’s the best place you could be. What does your heart long for? Who do you wanna be? Guys, when you get to the end of your life, people aren’t gonna care about your accolades. They’re not gonna care about your accomplishments. You know what they’re gonna care about? Did they love me? Were they gracious to me? Were they forgiving to me? Did they spend time with me? That’s what people care about. Who do you wanna be?
God’s words given to us to shape our lives in the image of Jesus. I should go faster. There’s historical books and there’s poetic books. There’s five poetic books after the 17 historical books. Poetry is written in parallelism. What that means is when poetry’s written, we write poetry today and you gotta rhyme. You gotta get a sick beat behind you. But rhyming. That’s what it’s about. In Israel’s day, that’s not what it was about. It was about parallelism, which means they would write one line, and then the second line would either agree with the first line or be directly opposed to the first line. It would highlight what the first line said by either being the opposite of it or directly connected to it. And then there’s proverbs. Proverbs aren’t always true, they’re just generally true. They’re just wise statements for living and life.
And the last is the prophetic books. Prophetic books are a little bit unique. They’re the last 17 books of the Bible and the prophetic books, about five percent of it deals with the New Covenant. But here’s what’s important to know about the prophetic books. These are definitely not in chronological order. Mid-700s to about mid-400s are the prophetic books, most of the prophetic books written. When you go to these prophetic books, they’re not in chronological order.
But to understand when they were written adds to the context of what’s taking place in really the story of the kings. And so understand the historical context. When you go to read the prophetic books, what makes them really unique is that they’re written in oracles. When you read the other books of the Bible, they’re written more like letters. You can just start in the beginning and read all the way to the end sort of in letter form.
But the prophetic books are oracles. What’s tricky about them is you can’t tell when one oracle ends and another one begins. If you read it like it’s a letter, here’s the prophet saying something to a people group at a certain time, and then six months later he gets another prophecy unrelated to the first one. And when you just try to sandwich them all together, you don’t have that type of understanding, so it’s good to know that about the prophetic books.
But all that to say this guys. The context of scripture matters. And understanding what’s taking place allows you to make the application to your own life and determining who it is that God desires for you to be. As your heart looks like Jesus. In the book of 1 Kings Chapter 16, what you see in the Israel’s heart is that this conflict taking place in their own life. And rather than pursue God, Israel continues down a path of wickedness. Further and further from God they go. Israel didn’t wake up and was like, “You know, we just,” they had right after these kings they had King Saul, King David, King Solomon. Three kings.
And then the civil war. And to the north goes 10 tribes and the King Jeroboam. To the south goes two tribes and the King Rehoboam. Rehoboam and Jeroboam. There’s lots of boams. And never in those 200 years, never did the northern kingdom ever have a Godly king. And they didn’t wake up one day and it was like, “You know what, we had a civil war. I just feel like today we should be all about wickedness.” And then just pursue a life of wickedness. What you see as you study the life of Israel, especially the northern tribes, is one king started encouraging ungodly living among his people. As a leader goes, so goes the people. And one king after another, they just continued down the trajectory where the king after the first king becomes more wicked than the first king. And then after the second king comes the third king. And third king’s more wicked than the second king. And down they went. And before long, they look back and they think, “How did we ever get here?”
Unintentional about their pursuit. They just woke up every day saying, “You know what, I wanna be God today. What does my own heart desire?” And into wickedness they continued. Could you imagine that for 19 kings in 200 years? Here in American man, we are lightweights. We’ll have an election and 50% of us hate the next four years and 50% of the other ones rub it in the other one’s face like, you would think that we’re stuck with someone for eternity. Like at most, eight years. The government’s shut down right now, and it’s done nothing to my life. But nonetheless, Bible encourages us to pray for your leaders guys. Not to be hateful. Pray for your leaders.
Now think about the life of Israel right now. 19 kings and they didn’t rule for four years. They ruled for as long as they lived. 200 years. Just wickedness. What would it be like to be in that kind of leadership? Under that kind of leadership? How difficult life could have been. When you read 1 Kings, Chapter 13, it says this, “The first king Jeroboam in the northern tribes, after this event Jeroboam did not return from his evil way.” But again, he made priests of the high places from all the people. The high places were ungodly worship of false deities. He didn’t return from evil. He continued down the path of evil. This is their first king of the north.
And you continue on to that when you get to 1 Kings 16 where we’re gonna be, it says this, which we’ll be here quickly but it say this 1 Kings 16 … that’s not it … yes it is. “It came about as though it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam.” This is talking about Ahab, the son of Nebat that he married Jezebel, the daughter of Ithobaal, king of Sidonians and went to Sir Baal and worshiped him. So he erected an altar from Baal and the House of Baal, which he built in Samaria. Ahab also made Ashara, thus Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel than all the kings of Israel who were before him.
Ahab’s only seventh in the list of 19 to come. And Ahab does more to provoke God than all the kings previous. Down the slope they go. Further from the Lord, further into wickedness. But you know what’s unique about this story is that when you read about the kings, it mentions the first six kings, who they are and how their hearts are wicked, some of the things they did, but one of the unique things here in Chapter 16 is rather than just talk about the king here, it talks about the king’s influencer. It mentions his wife. None of the other kings it talks about their wife. But here in this section is pauses and talks about the wife. And the reason it pauses, talks about the wife is that it wants us to recognize something significant about her own life. And her own life is as dark as it gets, and it begins to recognize where that darkness came from being influenced by her father and the deities in which they worshiped in life, which we talked about last week. Around Israel were people groups that worshiped these false Gods that would heat up these Gods that arms extended like this and upon those arms they would place their children. And they would sacrifice their children to these false Gods. Wickedness.
And Ahab comes in and he builds these statues to these false Gods and it goes on verse 34, “And in his day Hiel, the Bethelite built Jericho. He laid his foundations with the loss of Abiram, his firstborn and set up its gates with the loss of his youngest son Segub according to the word of the Lord, which he spoke by Joshua the son of Nun.”
The author wants us to get to this place and just let our hearts ache. That their lives are surrendering to the darkness. That this didn’t happen overnight.
Who do you wanna be? And then God responds. Chapter 17, verse 1. And what does God do ?You think Ahab, this powerful wicked king united now with another kingdom of wickedness, what’s God gonna do to stop this or how is God gonna present His grace to His people in the midst of this darkness? Like is He gonna send an army, a powerful people group, what’s God gonna do? And then all of a sudden you get to 1 Kings, 17:1 and it says about the land, “That now Elijah the Tishbite, who was the settler of Gilead said to Ahab,” and I wanna stop there.
Enter Elijah from Tishbite. Can I tell you what we know about Tishbite? Nothing. Nothing about the place. You know why? ‘Cause nobody cared about Tishbite then, and nobody cares about Tishbite now. It was the most insignificant place. It was on the east side of the Jordan River. This is where I would say for us maybe today like the modern day cowboy land. These are the guys that spent all day in the sun, they worked with their hands, they labored hard, they had the leather skin, they were tanned by being in the outdoors. They were known for their physicality. Tough dudes. Not known for their scholarship. Not known for their academics. So who does God send? Nobody from nowhere. But this all powerful king in the midst of this wicked dark place before Jezebel, who wouldn’t care just to cut your head off the minute you disagreed with her. That’s who God sends.
Elijah, in the stand throughout these chapters we’re gonna read, Elijah is heralded in Biblical history, especially among the Jewish people as a prominent figure. In fact, if you read about Jesus’ transfiguration in the gospels, when Jesus goes on the Mount of Transfiguration, he goes with three of his disciples. And his disciples are so amazed by this transfiguration on the mountain, they ask Jesus, “Can we erect some stones to remember this moment?” And when this transfiguration happens, it tells us two individuals come down from Heaven to meet with Jesus. Moses and Elijah. Moses represents the law, and Elijah becomes the representative of all the prophets of the Old Testament.
In fact, when the Jews celebrate Passover today, they still talk about waiting for Elijah to return. In the scripture you’ll see Elijah never died. Elijah’s considered the picture of all the prophets. He is the leader of leaders when it comes to the prophets. But Elijah didn’t start like that. Elijah was a nobody from nowhere. And then you see what Elijah does, Chapter 17, verse 1, the second half here and Elijah goes before Ahab and this is what he said. “As Lord the God of Israel lives before whom I stand surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years except by my word.”
Nobody from nowhere coming before somebody about something and saying this. This is an agricultural society where you depended on the day in order to live. And now you’re gonna tell them they’re not gonna have the water to produce the crops in order to have life? That’s like saying today, look, we’re gonna have this come and sweep across their land. There will be no more internet, so now you have to think again. No more credit cards. No more cash. No more grocery store. Nothing. No phones. No electricity. We’re back to the Stone Ages. Lives will be lost. A difficult place to live.
And Elijah goes before this king and before Jezebel and gives this pronouncement. How could such a nobody from nowhere do this? Where does he get the fortitude to even stand before this king and make such a statement? The seventh king out of 19 of all this ungodliness, how could he do this? Guys, I want you to know, Elijah wasn’t a superhero. In fact, when we see these chapters ahead of him, you’re gonna find that Elijah gets so depressed in his life he asks God just to take him out of this world. Elijah struggled. And in the midst of it all, Israel didn’t get better. They continued another dozen kings down the path of wickedness. How did Elijah do this?
I think the first indication the author gives us is really found in Elijah’s name. Elijah the Tishbite means something. This word, Elijah … names in the Bible are significant because it doesn’t just mean your Mom thought of a really cool name and spelled it in a really cool way and now you get to be cool. That’s not how they decided names. That might be how we do it today, but back in Biblical days they chose a name that reflected identity. When you think about Jesus, we call Jesus by his name but his name’s also an identity. It’s salvation. And the same is true with Elijah. L is short for the word Elohim, which is a generic word for God. The jah at the end is short for Jehovah, which is the specific name of God, the name that God gave to Moses. And the i in the middle means me or mine. Elijah’s name is a pronouncement in the midst of wickedness. My God is Jehovah. Or Jehovah is my God.
Who do you wanna be? Elijah’s name was a pronouncement of his identity. Where he shaped the character of who he was. To Elijah, his name shows us that he had a personal walk with God. His strength wasn’t in himself. He was a nobody from nowhere. Rather, his strength was found in the power and the promises of God and living in God’s promises he had all the strength he ever needed.
The author writes the story as if to pose the question in the midst of this wickedness. Who do you want to be? Your heart will surrender to something. God doesn’t want half of you. God wants all of you. The disciples had been with Jesus. And where do you go today? To the word that reflects the nature of who Jesus is. That we could know this Jesus and our lives begin to emulate him. ‘Cause when we come to God’s word. I know sometimes the temptation is to do this legalistically. I could tell you today, God wants you to read His word. He wrote it. It’s obvious that the reason He wrote it is so that we would read it. Right? And that we could treat it like this. That God wants me to know His word and therefore I’m supposed to know His word so tomorrow I’ll get up and read His word. But God doesn’t just simply want you to know His word for information. God wrote His word for transformation.
The Bible says lots of good things. Everything it says, but 1 Timothy, Chapter 2, it tells us to, “Study to shew thyself approve, a workman needs not be ashamed rightly dividing the word of truth.” Study. Our 1 Peter, Chapter 3 tells us to, “Sanctify Christ as Lord in your heart and to give an account for what you believe,” basically. But it says to do it in gentleness and reverence. There is some study. I want you to know it doesn’t end in study. It’s not about your intellect or knowledge. It’s about transformation of the heart. You can’t impart what you don’t possess. Right? When you see God’s words talked about throughout scripture, it doesn’t just end in study, information, academic. Oftentimes what’s stated in the scripture is meditate. Not just to get it in your mind, but to get it in your soul. Let it become who you are. So that when you’re cut, what you bleed is Jesus.
In fact, one of the most beautiful passages of scripture, Psalm 1:19. Love this passage of scripture. It’s what William Wilberforce used when he was on the British Parliament. When he would walk to work every day he would quote Psalm 1:19. And all it is, is a reflection on the beauty of God’s word. And in the reflection, the beauty of God’s word over eight times, it uses this word meditate on God’s word, meaning not just know it but to let it ingrain in the depth of who you are. In one of those verses it says it like this. Psalm 1:19:10, “I seek you with all my heart.” Look, God doesn’t want half your heart. “You are my treasure. You are what I love. When people see me they will say I have been with Jesus. I seek you with all my heart. Do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”
It’s about what God wants to do in you. That’s why you have His word. We don’t just study. It becomes us. The reality is none of us are where we should be. That’s the conflict of inscripture. The conflict within our own soul. None of us are where we should be. But this is exactly where God desires to intersect our lives and deliver to us His grace.
One of the things that frustrated me in studying the life of Elijah, which I in turn ended up loving, is that when I looked at Elijah I realized Israel didn’t change. Temporarily, there was some pursuit of God. But by and large it didn’t change. 19 wicked kings, Elijah steps in on Ahab, who’s seventh. And there’s 12 ungodly kings. Israel didn’t change. Why would you do that? Why call Elijah in those moments to know that the people were only gonna walk in darkness?
And then I find in the midst of that struggle, my heart also being relieved or I should say ending in relief. Because I think when it comes to ministry, ministry doesn’t begin based on what I produce. Ministry’s not about what I can produce. In fact, that’s I don’t think ever been God’s goal. It’s not about what I can do. It’s not about me. Serving the Lord in my life and in my life, it’s not about me and what I can produce. In fact, God can pick anybody to do what I do. God doesn’t need me. It’s not about what I can produce, but rather it’s about what God wants to produce within me.
That’s the beauty of Elijah’s story. In the midst of darkness rather than just end the story by saying, “And everyone followed God after that,” what God is showing us in this is that someone was still faithful despite what happened around them. Because ministry’s not about accomplishment. It’s not about accolade. It’s not about what I’ve done. It’s not about what you do. But rather the beauty of what ministry is, is what God wants to do in me. I could tell you it like this. In living for the Lord and serving the Lord, not done it perfect at all. But selfishly maybe it is to even say this, that my favorite thing God’s done … I’ve seen God do some great things … My favorite thing is what God has done in me. And just stepping out for the Lord and trusting His promises and seeing Him faithful, God’s done a work in me. It has been a delight. In that, I won’t stop doing ministry. Why? Because I wanna be close to my God and experiencing that way.
And that’s exactly what you’re gonna see in the life of Elijah. As he’s doing ministry, he starts off as a guy from Tishbe whatever. Who cares? But it’s what he becomes. As Jesus molds in him who he desires for him to be. Ministry’s not about what you produce. It’s never been about that. God doesn’t need you to do anything that He calls you to in this world. He could pick anybody. Rather, it’s about what God wants to do in you. And that is a beautiful thing. And God uses His opportunities in this world to shape our lives. What will you surrender to? And can your life say just like Elijah, that Yahweh is my God. And that’s who I desire to become like. Modeling him in the way I live.