Living Courageously – Week 7

A Contemporary Service Talk by

The Rev. James P. Cooper

I.       Review Previous weeks.

A.   A drought throughout Samaria caused by Ahab and Jezebel’s idolatry – Elijah was miraculously fed by ravens

1.     Idolatry is not just worshipping statues of made-up gods, something that happened a long time ago. We have idols too:  money, success (in sports or business), expensive toys (for grown-ups and children), bossing other people around – and so forth.

2.     When your mind is focussed on these kinds of things, things from the Lord and the Word are blocked out. These truths are represented by water, so our selfish idolatrous states are represented by a drought.

a.     But even then, the Lord loves us and sustains us with little truths, small blessings:  the morsels of food brought to Elijah by ravens.

B.   Famine that results from the drought – and the Widow’s obedience that provides her with oil and flour that do not run out.

1.     When you turn away from the Lord’s truth, you don’t know how to do what is good, how to be charitable. This is represented by a famine.

2.     But, when the Widow obeys Elijah’s request to give him bread, when she is obedient to the Word in the small way that she is able, she is rewarded with a never-ending supply of flour and oil, representing the Lord’s nourishing love and care.

C.   When the Widow’s son dies – Elijah restores him with the breath of life.

1.     As we move through our life there are struggles; things that we love may even seem to die, but when we turn to the Lord in His Word, He will breath new life into our activities and uses.

D.   Elijah versus the prophets of Baal.

1.     A contest to prove once and for all that Jehovah was God, and that the various idols were nothing and had no power.

2.     There will always be challenges, questions. Our faith in the Lord will be tested because there are so many other people out there who want us to do things their way.

3.     But who really knows what is best for us? A person who worships idols (wealth, power, his own intelligence) or the Creator God who made us to live forever with Him in heaven?

a.     There’s no contest, is there.

E.    Finding Courage – out of the cave.

1.     Frightened by Jezebel’s promise to kill him, Elijah flees into the wilderness where he hides in a cave until the Lord can calm him and draw him out.

2.     Again, the Lord reminds us that the road to spiritual life can be bumpy with surprising turns. Just when we think we’ve accomplished something great, the evil spirits attack and we feel weak again.

3.     And in the story the Lord shows us that what draws us out, what brings us back into spiritual health, is being useful to others.

F.    Convicted by Conscience – Ahab and Naboth.

1.     In this part of the story, Ahab represents our spiritual state, and how we sometime want things that we should not have. When Elijah confronts him, it shows us how we need to constantly evaluate the things we do, to look at them from the Lord’s point of view, to be guided by a conscience that is built up of truths that we know from the Word.

G.   This week we come to the end of the series as Elijah goes to heaven in a whirlwind after passing his mantle to Elisha.

1.     (Picture:  Lesson 7, Level A or B, page 4)

II.    (2 KI 2:1-18)

A.    On the day that Elijah was to enter heaven, it was well known among the prophets. As Elijah and Elisha travelled to Bethel, the sons of the prophets kept asking Elisha if he knew that Elijah was leaving; and he repeatedly refused to stay behind but stayed with Elijah until they reached the banks of the Jordan River.

B.    {8} Now Elijah took his mantle, rolled it up, and struck the water; and it was divided this way and that, so that the two of them crossed over on dry ground. {9} And so it was, when they had crossed over, that Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask! What may I do for you, before I am taken away from you?” Elisha said, “Please let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.” {10} So he said, “You have asked a hard thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be so.” {11} Then it happened, as they continued on and talked, that suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. {12} And Elisha saw it, and he cried out, “My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and its horsemen!” So he saw him no more. And he took hold of his own clothes and tore them into two pieces. {13} He also took up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood by the bank of the Jordan. {14} Then he took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, and said, “Where is the LORD God of Elijah?” And when he also had struck the water, it was divided this way and that; and Elisha crossed over. {15} Now when the sons of the prophets who were from Jericho saw him, they said, “The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha.” And they came to meet him, and bowed to the ground before him.

1.     The mantle is an important element of the story, a sign of Divine power and authority.

a.     And it is important to understand that the power is in the mantle, not the person who holds it.

b.     You can see this represented in the fact that our ministers wear a “mantle” when conducting worship. We call it a “stole” but it is given and worn as a reminder of the Lord’s presence in this work.

c.      But we don’t need to have a piece of cloth to have the power.

i.       Each one of us who reads the Lord’s Word with affection and delight is covered with a mantle of truth that connects us with the Lord and at the same time protects us from the evil spirits.

ii.     As we go through life and learn more things from the Word, the mantle grows in its power to protect us and guide us not just when things are going well, but in the difficult times as well.

III. There will be times when we think and feel that things are not going so well for us, when we are not sure about what to do. But that is when the Lord is closest.

A.   We are never more free than when we are using our own rational minds to make choices, and the most important choices are made in temptation.

B.   We can also learn from the story of Elijah’s temptation that our Heavenly Father has infinite patience with us. He never gives up. He leads us gently, constantly by giving us just those things that we genuinely need, and when we need and ask for them. He sent an angel, a messenger, to feed and care for Elijah in the wilderness, and then, when Elijah was ready, called him to the cave in Horeb, and then from the cave to the entrance. Little by little, giving exactly what Elijah needed, and only when he was ready to receive it in freedom, the Lord led him out of his states of despair.

C.   Let us then remember to ask ourselves, when we struggle in temptation and feel like we are totally alone, to ask ourselves, as the Lord asked Elijah, “What are you doing?”

D.   When we hear those words in our head, let’s remember Elijah in the cave, and how the Lord drew him out and back into a life of use through His tender care.

1.     And remember that this story is His promise to each one of us that He will care for us in the same way. Amen.

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