The title of this message is: “Faith for the Storm,” which is something quite different from faith in the storm. We may eventually come to that lesson, but not tonight. In this scripture Elijah put his faith in God in order to receive a much needed storm.
And right here we could begin to make a practical application or two. Without a doubt, spring rains and summer showers can do so much for our farmers and our gardens. And despite what liberal politicians might say or promise, science has no real control over whether or not we are going to get a soaking rain or global warming. Such things are in God’s hands. Therefore it is not unbiblical, or unspiritual, to actually pray for rain, leaving it, of course, in God’s hands.
In addition to this, allegorically we could look at rain as emblematic of any or all of God’s blessings. Hosea said to Israel, “Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till HE come and rain righteousness upon you” – (Hosea 10:12). And earlier Hosea said – “Come, and let us return unto the LORD: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up. After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight. Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the LORD: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth” – (Hosea 6:1-3). Metaphorically, rain can be used to speak of God’s gifts descending from Heaven. And we need those gifts.
This is the basic purpose behind this series of lessons. Like so many others, our church has been torn and smitten by the Devil over the years. We have been almost lifeless for a long time. We have seen few people saved and little growth. We need to be healed. The seed of the Word of God has been scattered in various ways, but the ground is hard and dry. It is in desperate need of moisture, the blessing of the Spirit of God. It is true, “If we follow on to know the LORD (as we should)… he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth.” Ezekiel is the prophet who made the famous statement: “There shall be showers of blessings” (Ezekiel 34:26), and he was talking about those special blessings of God. This is what we need, and this is why we are looking at this subject. In what took place on Mount Carmel we have an illustration of God’s blessings on His needy people.
As we saw in our last lesson, Elijah commanded the king of Israel to bring his false prophets to Mount Carmel, and those idolatrous priests of his heathen wife as well. There he challenged Satan’s ambassadors to a dual. “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.” Of course, the Lord put chains on the hands and a muzzle over the mouth of the Devil. The gods of the idolaters were silent. But Jehovah shouted down from heaven. “The fire of the Lord fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice (of Elijah), and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.” After the false prophets were executed, Elijah told Ahab that the 3½ year drought was soon to be over. “King Ahab, get thee up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of abundance of rain.” And after your meal, “prepare thy chariot, and get thee down (to Jezreel), that the rain stop thee not.”
What can we glean about practical faith from these six verses?
First we see that faith can hear the unheard; it can see what can’t yet be seen.
Verse 41 – “And Elijah said unto Ahab, Get thee up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of abundance of rain.” Keep Heb. 11:1 in mind – “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” A few moments ago, we read from I Kings, so you already know the rest of the Mount Carmel story. After the execution of the false prophets, there wasn’t a single cloud in the sky, but Elijiah, by faith, could see a storm coming. And just as it had been for more than 40 months, there hadn’t been a drop of rain or a skim of dew on the dead grass of Israel, but Elijah, by faith, could feel the humidity rising. It may take another couple of hours, but Elijah heard the sound of a storm coming, because he had his faith-powered hearing aides in place.
Someone might say, “Since no one else could hear, this obviously has nothing to do with practical faith. This is only theoretical faith like that of Hebrew 11:1.” No, this is very practical, because it is based on the Word of the Lord, and there is nothing more substantial or real than that. The chapter began with God’s commission: Elijah, “Go, shew thyself unto Ahab, and I WILL send rain upon the earth.” That was good enough for the man of God. This man of faith did as he was told. “If God said it, that settles it.” When we were first introduced to him, Elijah said to Ahab, “there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.” How could he be so confident? It was the confidence of a God-given commission accepted by faith.
It does, but at the same time it doesn’t, take great faith to declare “thus saith the Lord.” I hope you understand what I mean. Would you like the Lord’s direction in some major decision? “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given.” The Lord won’t be angry with you; He won’t upbraid you or judge you, for asking His direction in things. He has promised to hear you. In fact, He loves to hear you express your dependence on Him. “Show me your will, Lord. I am ready to listen and I promise to do whatever You direct.”
Are you in the middle of a trial which is beyond your physical strength to endure? “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to men, but God will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” If you listen carefully, you can hear the sound of the reinforcements which the Lord has sent in your direction. Acts 12:11 – “And when Peter was come to himself, he said, Now I know of a surety, that the Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews.” Are you unsure how you are going to survive the current drought in your life? “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things hall be added unto you.” “Get thee up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of abundance of rain.” It is unlikely we’ll be able to hear the sound of the Lord’s blessings until we have the ears of faith. We need practical faith in the omnipotent God. We can’t settle for faith in our faith.
Victorious faith is dependent on the Lord.
Elijah had been given God’s word – the Lord’s promise was in place. He had every reason to believe there was rain coming. Nevertheless, look at him. We have been given a vivid picture of what he did. “Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he cast himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees.” Is this the posture of faith? Why not? What is the proper posture of faith? Elijah almost violently plopped down, sitting in the dust, and then he buried his face in the robe that was draped over his legs. He separated himself from the world. He entered into his portable prayer closet. And what did he do in that prayer closet? I believe he poured out his heart in a prayer of faith.
Despite the promise which God had given to him, his bodily eye and physical ear couldn’t see or hear any rain. Despite the promise of God, perhaps this wasn’t the day in which God ordained the rains to return. Elijah couldn’t be absolutely sure, so he began to beseech the Lord to keep His promise – today. There is nothing wrong with expressing to the Lord the time-table we think we need. But we must be willing to step back and let the Lord provide in what is the best time – His time.
Remember that as Christians, you and I have a filial relationship to God: He is our Father and we are His children. And “if a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit (or the gifts of the Holy Spirit) to them that ask him?” Therefore, said the Lord Jesus, “Ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Luke 11). Elijah was knocking on the windows of heaven asking the Lord to open them up and pour out His blessing so abundantly that there wouldn’t be room enough to receive it. “Lord, drench this mountain in rain, fill this auditorium with your blessing; give your servants more power than they have ever imagined.”
It is not unbelief to pour out your heart in prayer, anticipating the completion of the promise the Lord has given. God doesn’t look with disgust on His servant who is pleading for divine blessings. In fact, this greatly pleases the Lord, because it declares our true relationship – servant and Master. And once again, for the seventh time, we are taught to wait on God and His timing.
Faith must be patient.
“And (Elijah) said to his servant, Go up now, look toward the sea. And he went up, and looked, and said, There is nothing. And he said, Go again seven times. And it came to pass at the seventh time…” that there was an answer to Elijah’s prayer. Who is this servant, and from where did he come? For that matter what became of him? And why is this part of the story even shared with us? What if verse 43 wasn’t included here, would it hurt the rest of the general lesson? Perhaps it wouldn’t, but there are additional lessons because of the inclusion of this verse and this man.
Was this servant with Elijah at the brook Cherith? It certainly doesn’t appear so. Nor does it appear that he was with Elijah and the widow at Zeraphath. Perhaps Elijah hired this young man off the street. Perhaps he was a day laborer employed to help build the altar and slaughter the bullock. Who knows? But like a good Christian employer, Elijah was endeavoring to share his faith with him.
Seven times he was sent to look out over the Mediterranean. How many minutes separated each look? How late into the evening was there enough light to see? To be honest, I am unsure about the time of day all this took place. Was it the same day as the sacrifice? Remember, it was the time of evening sacrifice – sun down – that God sent His heavenly fire. So maybe this was the next day. Whatever it was I’m not going to worry about the timing. It all took place, and that is the most important thing.
Elijah had no doubts about the coming rain, but his helper most likely was filled with doubt. Each visit to the top of the mountain might have weakened his hope, but it should have been otherwise. For Elijah, every visit brought the storm a few minutes closer. It was guaranteed. The storm was inevitable, because God had promised it. And for us, every day that our prayers are left “unanswered,” we are closer to receiving that answer, what every it might be. Jesus said, “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you” – John 15:7. Abiding in Christ, suggests a fellowship so intimate that God’s words and promises will abide in us. Elijah did exactly that, so there was no doubt in his mind or in his faith that rain was on its way.
Elijah shows us that faith trusts even the small things, when they are sent by our enormous God.
On his 7th trip to the top the servant said, “Behold, there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea, like a man’s hand. And he (Elijah) said, Go up, say unto Ahab, Prepare thy chariot, and get thee down, that the rain stop thee not.” The scripture says that the cloud was “like a man’s hand.” What does that mean? I’ve always assumed that it meant that it was as small as a man’s hand. But how do you measure such a thing when hung in midair, miles out to sea? Not that it’s important, but perhaps this young man was only saying, “I see a cloud. It is not in the shape of a lamb, and it doesn’t look like the face of a bear. If you look closely it appears like a human hand with four fingers and a thumb.” The shape of the cloud isn’t as important as the fact that it was “a little cloud” away out over the sea.
“Who hath despised the day of small things?” It should not be the Christian. How much water was seeping out of the hillside, forming the brook Cherith? It was small but it was enough How much meal was in the bottom of the meal barrel in Zeraphath? And how much oil was therein the vat? It was enough to feed a family of three for months and months, because that was the will of God.
Small is not important to the Lord. It’s like human instrumentality itself. Size is not important. Age, education, wealth are not important. In fact, when God wants something done, He usually selects the foolish things of the world to confound the wise. When God wants to glorify His name, He calls the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty. “That no flesh should glory in his presence.” “According as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” As I have said before, Calvary Baptist church is a perfect size – a perfect strength – to bring glory to God. “God hath chosen… base things for the world, that things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things at are.”
Do you remember where we began this series a few weeks ago? Wasn’t it Mark 9? After the transfiguration, Jesus and three of His disciples returned to the others, who were struggling with an unruly crowd and a man who had brought his son to be delivered from the clutches of a demon. “And they brought (the boy) unto him: and when he saw him, straightway the spirit tare him; and he fell on the ground, and wallowed foaming. And he (Jesus) asked his father, How long is it ago since this came unto him? And he said, Of a child. And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us. Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” And do you know what? The Lord did bless. The child was healed and the father’s faith was strengthened. The Lord blessed the weak faith of that father.
Yes, we desperately need the blessing of the Lord, and we need the Lord even to strengthen our weak faith. Don’t think that God won’t help because your faith is insufficient for your big problem. He is great, whether or not your faith is small. Lay it on him. “Yes Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” Faith is all about trusting Him. “And it came to pass in the mean while, that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode, and went to Jezreel. And the hand of the LORD was on Elijah; and he girded up his loins, and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.”
Once again, I need to point out that faith is willing to risk things for the glory of the Lord.
I am told that Jezreel, the capital city of Samaria, was about sixteen miles from Carmel, depending on what part of the mountain you are considering. Ahab descended from the spot where he had lunch, mounted his chariot started trotting down the road. But then, as I picture it, he felt a cool wind at his back, and turning around he saw the black clouds. At that point he told his driver to put the pedal to the metal. He probably got home to his dear wife, just as the storm swept over the city.
In the mean time, Elijah left his servant, tied his robe around his waist, and wasting no time, he ran down to Jezreel. The hand of the Lord was upon the man, and he ran sixteen miles from Carmel to Jezreel. How old was Elijah? I have no idea. What sort of physical shape was he in? I have no idea. But I am reasonably sure that he didn’t have a membership at the gym, working every day on the treadmill so that he’d be ready for the Boston Marathon or the Jezreel Run. “The hand of the Lord on Elijah,” and the Lord empowered him to run to the city. That is for what I pray: that God would enable me – us – to do the unthinkable for His glory. I don’t want to win a marathon, but to win the smile of the Lord. “ I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
My question in regard to Elijah is: why? For what purpose did the Lord send or carry him to Jezreel? If I am reading verse 46 properly, Elijah got to the city before Ahab. It doesn’t matter if he cut across country not using the winding road. He got there first. And what did his presence at Jezreel suggest? Perhaps in this visit he honored the king. But perhaps more importantly, the Lord wanted to share a message with Jezebel: “You may be queen of Israel, but I am the King of queens, and Elijah is my servant. Woman, you will never lay a finger on Elijah.” When Ahab got home, he told his wife what had taken place on the mountain. He told her that all their false doctrines, and all false prophets, were dead.
Of course, Jezebel flew into a rage and declared that Elijah was a dead man walking. At this point he wasn’t hiding by the brook, or in some foreign city, or even in a cave on Mount Sinai. He was standing – invincible and untouchable – at the gate of Jezreel under the very nose of the queen. God is not intimidated by the wicked, and God’s servant shouldn’t be either. Faith doesn’t make us undefeatable, but it does link us to the God who will never be defeated.
The lessons here are these: Faith can hear the fulfillment of God’s promises when the natural man and the unspiritual man cannot. Nevertheless, the blessing still rests in the hand of the Lord, and faith will plead with Him for those blessings. Another lesson is that faith doesn’t have to be huge in order to accomplish really large things. Go for the impossible; plead for the unthinkable. Also the man of faith doesn’t need to fear what man – or woman – might threaten to do. “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding” – Proverbs 3:5.