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Sermon – 8/26/01
Bad Circumstances-1 Kings 19:18

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Bad Circumstances

"Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him" (1 Kings 19:18)

I thoroughly enjoyed the Oswald Chambers devotional given to me by Steve Wack, a brother-in-Christ, and it has blessed me many times. Oswald Chambers made many excellent points in "My Utmost for His Highest" and one of his ideas was that the test of a person is not when he is on the "mountaintop" but when he is in the "valleys" of life.

God spoke the words "Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him" (1 Kings 19:18), to Elijah the Tishbite (the prophet), at a time when he felt very lonely and thought he was about to die. Jezebel, the queen, the wife of Ahab the king, had sent Elijah word by a messenger, "So may the gods do to me and even more, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time" (1 Kings 19:2). Jezebel intended to kill him that very day (or tomorrow at the latest).

I like Elijah’s response, for even though he ran away on foot, and kept on running for more than a month (he was an outdoor guy and had been all his life, much like John the Baptist) he did not run for the reasons we would expect. He honestly thought he was the last person in the country who loved and honored God, and if he was killed, there would be no one else! --- "I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Thy covenant, torn down Thine altars and killed Thy prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away" (1 Kings 19:14).

Elijah was in bad circumstances and was upset about it. He was in what we might call a "valley" of life, because of his people and out of love for his God. Paul the apostle had similar concerns (he loved his people and his God), observing "For they are not all Israel who are of Israel" (Romans 9:6). To be "of Israel" is partly a matter of birth, and as Elijah and Paul understood, it also is a matter of the heart. And the "heart" must be true of the Church, as well.

If the visible Church ever becomes illegal in America, as it has been in China, God would still have His "seven thousand" (or whatever number) who will love Him and honor Him in the worst of circumstances. That’s the way it has been in China, and that’s the way it is in other places also – God has His "remnant" where you would least expect them.

When Israel did fall as a nation, those "seven thousand" were conquered also. When captivity happened, they went into captivity, too. Bad things do happen to good people, but when they do, God uses the circumstances to bring us even closer to the Christ who died for you and me. The "bad" times change us and draw us closer to Him.

I’ve been looking through a book entitled "Life on the Edge" by Dr. James Dobson. I wish I could have read it during the time I was in school, and I have been remembering what it was like to be a serious college student.

The "rule of thumb" at the time was "three hours of study outside of class, for every hour in class;" but I did more. I had a family and had placed them into jeopardy by leaving a steady civil service job, for what I thought was the call of God. I felt alone and isolated in what I had done and became a sort of "workaholic" – insisting on perfection in my studies. If this was God’s call, I would give it – everything!

I worked on campus, and kept up a fevered round of work/class/library, as I studied every minute the day would allow. Sometimes I felt like the only one, for the teachers and textbooks seemed more interested in "Biblical Criticism" (a critical approach to the study of Scripture) than they were in the Bible. And no one seemed to care. I went to the President of the college, and he didn’t seem to care, either.

The Bible had changed my life – the Word of God brought me to Christ. How could it be handled so lightly? How could this, this – TREASURE be treated as though it was a thing being attacked by a movie critic? Through this Book I had come to God, and where it says "faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God" (Romans 10:17) it was not only true for me, but I knew it is true for others also. This Book, this Bible, this Word of God, really "is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword" (Hebrews 4:12) and it can change you into someone – wonderful.

The Bible can change you, bring you to Christ, fill you with His Holy Spirit, and make you the kind of person you always should have wanted to be. As to the college students of today, some do care to the extent we would hope, for there are always those who eat, drink, love, and cover with tears the Word of God, as you let it change and shape your very life.

Elijah ached for his people and loved His God. He grieved they had turned from Him, and God blessed him, for as he departed, he found Elisha (1 Kings 19:19-21), who was to be his student, his friend, and eventually, his successor. God’s people are all around, but so often we do not recognize them for what they are. Elijah’s eyes were opened and he immediately saw someone just like himself. They may be different than we expect, just like the Bible is different from other books, but it is full of the Holy Spirit and so are God’s people.

You know who they are. They eventually learn to laugh when things go wrong. "Bad" circumstances bring them closer to God. They find love and forgiveness for those who harm them. They trust in God when everything goes wrong. They can praise God – in everything!

"Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him" (1 Kings 19:18) is not only true for Israel, but it is also for America, China, Iran, and every nation that has ever been. In the midst of every kind of religious and/or political oppression, the prayers of God’s people are going forth. You may not see them, but God hears their prayers, and they are praying for people like you and me.

Thank you, God, that your people are – everywhere! Thank You that we are never alone, and that we are being prayed for by people we often don’t even know exist. Thank You for the Bible, the written Word, that changes us, fills us with the living Christ, and gives us the Holy Spirit of God. Let us trust in You, Lord, and be a part of that people. In Jesus Name. Amen.

 

Ron Beckham, Pastor
Friday Study Ministries
www.fridaystudy.org
Ron@fridaystudy.org

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