Allen Jackson - Intercession and Intervention - Part 1
The Bible is a presentation of spiritual conflict, spiritual warfare. But there are some unique attributes that are a part of the story as we approach the end of the age. And there's a good bit of information around that in scripture, and I think it's appropriate for us. I'm not prepared to say that we're in the final whatever. It isn't clear to me whether it's the end of the age or it's just the end of the empire. But I can tell you the current trajectory left unchecked is the end. There is disruption before us.
Now, I believe that can be changed or altered or revisited, but what we are doing is unsustainable. No fear intended in that, just awareness and preparation. So in this session, I wanna talk a little bit about intercession and intervention. I keep getting interrupted. A bit of a disclaimer on the front end of this. The Bible reading that we do together sometimes interrupts my schedule. You know, I'll sketch out the outlines for a series like this, and then I get into the Bible reading and then it's like, oh no, that's on point. And I'll think, oh no, just hush. And then the next day we get it back out and I'm like, oh.
So I interrupted my schedule a little bit. It's on point, but if I were gonna lay out this series in chapters of a book, I probably wouldn'a put this session in this spot. But I think it's very coherent with what we're talking about, about spiritual warfare. Last weekend, I told you a little bit about Neville Chamberlain, prime minister of Britain, who is remembered in history because of his commitment to appeasement. He thought he could avoid conflict in Europe in the years leading up to World War II by appeasing evil. Didn't work out real well, even with the help of the media and the censorship they were able to put in place. It led them to the brink of war, and Winston Churchill followed Neville Chamberlain as the British prime minister.
Chamberlain is remembered for something else. He led the country to victory, the end of World War II. He was an interesting character. I don't know how much history you know. I mean he was a person of excess. This is, they didn't really particularly like him, but the circumstances got so dark and difficult that they were grateful for him. He's noted, he was a very quotable fellow. I brought a few of them, they just make me smile, some of 'em. Churchill said, "Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm". Works for me. He said, "Success is not final. Failure is not fatal. It's the courage to continue that counts". This one's appropriate. He said, "For a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself by the handle".
If you don't understand, go home and try. "Continuous effort, not strength or intelligence, is the key to unlocking our potential". This one's good. He said, "The price of greatness is responsibility". Now, the list goes on and on. He was a very quotable fellow. But in the darkest hours, really, of the British empire when it looked like maybe all was lost, his determination, his perseverance, and his presentation of courage to the people sustained them. Maybe his most famous quote, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself". Well, we live in a time where there's tremendous fear, and where there are powerful voices saying that the best pathway forward is appeasement.
I don't agree. In fact, I would submit to you that for the church, for God's people, it's time to move from appeasement to advocacy for the truth. It truly is. I believe in ways that we've never been asked before, we're going to have to say no to ungodliness. In our homes, we have to begin there. We have to stop excusing it. We have to stop accommodating it. We have to stop all the things we have done. We've winked at it, we've nodded at it, we've re-labeled it. We have struggled with this, but we're gonna have to do it in our churches as well, and there's not a great deal of appetite for it there either. Then we'll have to say no to ungodliness in our schools.
How long will we continue to advocate for wickedness in our schools and be passive? The fact that someone raises their hand and says that he wants to... they choose to be wicked does not mean that position should be encouraged, defended, and protected. It's still evil. If they're preying on our children with destructive things, if they're sexualizing our small children, it's not a position that should be respected and defended. It's wrong. And the church is addled and confused. I believe wherever the Lord provides us with the opportunity, it's time for us to begin to tell the truth. Our reality, at least in my lifetime, is we've spent decades accommodating evil. We've even developed a culture and a language of capitulation. You recognize it when you hear it. We don't, in polite company, we don't talk about faith or politics. We're to separate the church and the state.
Well, that argument only works on one side of the equation, 'cause the state has no problem meddling with the church. We don't want to offend unbelievers. We wanna build bridges of understanding. We don't wanna be judgmental. I mean, after all, aren't we all sinners just saved by grace? I mean, we have a whole vocabulary of capitulation. Our cowardice combined with very little fear of God has resulted in a church that is anemic and for the most part feckless. So, I have some questions. Actually, we're gonna try to answer 'em from scripture tonight, so they're not just rhetorical to me. Does our faith belong in the public square? Should our faith affect how we do business? How we select leaders? And if so, how? Should we discuss our beliefs at work? Should churches engage in discussions regarding current events?
I promise you those questions would've seemed absurd to the church throughout history, even to the church in the book of Acts. Now, I mentioned in our Bible reading, we're workin' through the historical books, 1 Kings and 2 Kings, and I just couldn't get past some of this, so we're gonna step into it for a minute. I think it's on point with our topic. If you don't agree, sorry. 1 Kings 16. By this point in Israelite history, I know, I'm sure you know, there's been a civil war and the nation of Israel is divided and there's actually two nations. It's the same geographic footprint that was Israel of King David and King Solomon, but after Solomon's death there's civil war, and the nation is divided. The northern kingdom is Israel, and the southern kingdom is Judah.
If you need a historical parallel, just imagine for the American Civil War, it ended with two nations. Well, that's what happened in Israel, and so the historical books give you the history of both nations simultaneously. They tell you who's king in Israel by comparing who's king in Judah and how long they've been on the throne, or vice versa. If you don't know that, it's a really confusing part of the book. So, in 1 Kings 15 and verse 29 it says, "In the thirty-eighth year of Asa, the king of Judah," the southern kingdom, "Ahab, the son of Omri, became king of Israel, and he reigned in Samaria," Samaria is the capitol city over the northern kingdom of Israel. What's the capitol city of the southern kingdom of Judah? Jerusalem. This really is a smart group.
"He reigned in Samaria over Israel for twenty-two years. Ahab did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him". Well, there you go. How many of you'd like to make the book for being the gold standard of evil? I mean, there've been some scandalous characters before him. Verse 31, it says, "He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat". Up until Ahab, Jeroboam was the gold standard. He's the one that implemented idol worship in the northern kingdom. He's the one that told the people not to go to Jerusalem any longer to worship the Lord where they were commanded to go. He had been the standard that when Ahab came along, the language that the author uses in Kings intrigues me. He said he considered it trivial to be as wicked as Jeroboam.
He said Jeroboam was in the shallow end of the pool of evil. Ahab got out in the deep water. "He also married Jezebel, the daughter of somebody from somewhere, and began to serve Baal and to worship him. And he set up an altar for Baal in the temple and he built, he built in Samaria. He also made an Asherah pole and did more to arouse the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, than did all the kings of Israel before him". So, you know, in summary, and it's an important note because he's an important character, Abraham is... Ahab, I'm sorry, he's uniquely evil, establishing new standards for dishonoring God. We're watching some of that. I mean, they're not new of the course of human civilization, but in our lifetime, in our culture, we are walking out new ways of dishonoring God, mocking God with a brazenness we're not accustomed to. Ahab institutionalized wickedness. He expanded opportunities for others.
By the time we get to Mount Carmel where there's this confrontation between the prophets of Ahab and the gods that he's led the people into because of the temples he built and the altars he set up, on Mount Carmel there's 450 prophets of Baal, and another 400 prophets of Ashara, so he is supporting and institutionalizing wickedness that is leading the nation in a destructive place. Who leads makes a difference. Now, in the very next chapter, God raises up a voice to stand in opposition to Ahab. Some of you know this story really well. "Elijah the Tishbite," you'd have to be called by God if you had that name, there's a lot to overcome. "From Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab," Elijah goes and finds Ahab, and this is his message, "As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word".
Wow. This is an agricultural society, so they depend on the rain for their crops, for their economic wellbeing, as well as their food, for their livelihood. If there's no rain and there are no crops, it will devastate the economy, the people will be starving, and Elijah said because of your choices, it won't rain again until I say so. Lemme ask you a question. Do you think Elijah thought it was okay to talk about current events? What if Elijah had just gathered the people together and said, I wanna read to you the books of Moses and remind you about the Red Sea crossing. Let's talk about Joshua and the walls of Jericho falling. He had a wealth of information that he coulda directed the people's attention towards. But he understood the Spirit of God saying to him, go speak to the king and say if you continue to practice evil, it will bring devastation.
I'm telling you, if you have the confidence in the Lord to make a declaration that it won't rain until I tell you it's going to rain, in my mind I'm thinking you're better than Superman. You're faster than a speeding bullet. You can leap a building in a single bound. I don't remember the whole thing, but right? Look at the next sentence. Says, "The word of the Lord came to Elijah: 'Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan.'" Excuse me? Go tell the king that the economy's gonna be devastated and the people are gonna starve, and now go hide. Cross the Jordan River. I mean, he's gonna have to make quite a difficult journey. Go cross the Jordan River, hide in a ravine. "'You'll drink from the brook; I've directed the ravens to supply you with food there.'"
So he did what the Lord told him, and he went to the ravine east of the Jordan and he stayed there, and "The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook". I'm taking a minute with it 'cause it's difficult for me to reconcile. Hearing from the Lord with an authority that would speak to the direction of a nation, and then the Lord saying to you, you go hide and I'm gonna have the ravens feed you.
You see, I have either been coached towards or I fabricated it myself, a sense of what it means to hear from the Lord, and it would not include hiding. I think it's an important point for us because there are times when speaking the truth will bring things to you other than applause. It will limit some invitations, and so much of our courage has been balanced against what would the consequence be? Would everybody love me more if I spoke the truth? What if I said to someone that I cared about, "It seems to me the pathway you're on is destructive. Have you considered it carefully? I don't really think I can support you in that". We wouldn't wanna do that, 'cause it might disrupt the relationship. See, I think we've been coached towards a whole set of behaviors and choices that lead us away from a lot of things we're invited towards in scripture.
I'm watching, and again, this isn't about pagan, and this isn't godly and ungodly. These are the covenant people of God. If we used a New Testament analogy, this is everybody under the covenant. These are behaviors amongst the folk. This isn't an us and them discussion. Very next verse, it says, "Some time later the brook dried up because there'd been no rain in the land". Well, it hasn't rained now for months and months. The brook dried; it didn't dry up overnight. It dried up incrementally. Elijah's watching the brook dry up. He's watching the water flow diminish day after day after day, and the brook dried up. He has no water supply. That's not a problem that you can meditate on for four or five weeks. And after the brook dried up, in verse 8 it said, "Then," then's a timing word. Then when? Then after the brook dried up, "the word of the Lord came to him," he wants him to go someplace else.
I'm reading that and I'm thinking, you know, Lord, it would've been better if three weeks ago when the water flow was beginning to dwindle, you'd have given me next steps. Do you ever complain to God about his timing? I do enough for both of us. It's okay. It's been my most persistent complaint to the Lord. It doesn't move him to change, but it's been a portion of our relationship. After the brook dries up, the Lord gives Elijah his next directions, and this one's perhaps even more humbling than going to hide in a ravine and being fed by the ravens. He sends him to a town to a widow. He said, "There's a widow in this town of Zarephath, and I've directed her to supply you with food".
Well, that's an uplifting assignment. I mean, the bigger picture of scripture says that we're to care for the widows and the orphans, and God sends the prophet Elijah to be cared for by the widow. Are you catchin' up yet? God's rewriting the script. See, I think it couldn't he have just organized an intercessors group and prayed for King Ahab? I mean, did you really have to raise your hand and say, "You can't do this. I won't be quiet". So he gets to the widow's. You know the story. She doesn't have any food, and Elijah gives her some counsel that's awkward to read it. He said, "Go home and do as you've said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself".
Before you feed yourself and your child, feed me. I know you're out of food, but before you eat, feed me. If you're not uncomfortable yet, I am. "For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: 'The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.'" God sent me here, and we're all gonna eat well. And it's better than what the ravens were bringing, I guess. Now, this leads us in to this relationship in this household. There really is a point to this. In 1 Kings, it's the same chapter, verse 17, "Some time later the son of the woman w ho owned the house became ill. And he grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing". He died with Elijah in the house.
How come everybody's sittin' so smug and quiet. If you had a prophet in your house who could make the rain stop, how many of you think you probably wouldn't need the pharmacy? That's my assumption, right? I mean, Elijah's kinda connected. He can see things. He can see the hills filled with the... I mean, he's aware. He knows there's a God. God sends him to challenge kings. And your kid's got the sniffles. You're like, this is not a problem. Elijah's gonna pray. I'm not alone in this, right? You do this Bible reading? It made me uncomfortable, and I know the story. The boy stops breathing and the mother reacts in the way I would expect.
She said to Elijah, "'What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?' And Elijah said, 'Give me your son.' And he took him from her arms, carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and he laid him on the bed. And then Elijah cried out to the Lord, 'Have you brought tragedy even on this widow I'm staying with by causing her son to die?'" Elijah basically says to God what the woman said to him. "Are you kidding me? You sent me to a widow to be cared for, and her son died"? Now, what's absent is the word of the Lord saying to Elijah, "Have him stand on his feet and clap your hands over his head". There's no answer. "So Elijah stretched himself out on the boy three times and he cried to the Lord, 'Lord my God, let this boy's life return to him.'"
And then there's this little kind of obscure phrase in verse 22. "The Lord heard Elijah's cry, and the boy's life returned to him, and he lived. And Elijah picked up the child and he carried him down from the room into the house, and he gave him to his mother and said, 'Look,'" the Bible's so understated. "'Hey look, your kid's alive.'" It's the best snapshot I have seen in a while of what real intercession is. God didn't tell Elijah to pray for that boy. If Elijah hadn't prayed, that child's destiny would've been different.
See, when we talk about intercession, we talk about convening a prayer group. We talk about maybe having a theme. We might even extend the time a little bit from 15 minutes to 20, but the Bible invites us toward something a bit different. Intercession is something that requires persistence and perseverance. If we're praying a prayer that doesn't get answered immediately, it's possible that it's not the reason for that is not because our prayer isn't in the will of God. There is significant biblical information to suggest that it could be because there's a satanic prince in the heavenlies standing in the way. And it will require a response from us. We have to pray him outta the way.
Hey, before we go today, I wanna give you an invitation towards intercession. Intercession's not just another fancy word for prayer. It's a different kinda prayer altogether. It's about persistence, it's about determination. Intercession is about outcomes that would not be a reality if we didn't take our place as intercessors. Don't be content just to give God a list. Make a determination for an outcome. Let's pray:
Father, I thank you that you have given us permission to pray, to seek your face and to cry out to you, and I pray now that by your spirit, you would lead us to become intercessors. In Jesus's name, amen.