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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Dr. David Jeremiah » David Jeremiah - One-on-One With God

David Jeremiah - One-on-One With God

David Jeremiah - One-on-One With God
David Jeremiah - One-on-One With God
TOPICS: Someone Like You, Elijah, Intimacy with God, God's Voice

Elijah was an extraordinary man, one of the greatest men in all of the Bible, and we've stood with him in this series on Mount Carmel, when in one 30-second prayer, he called down fire from heaven and proved, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that his God was the true and living God. Elijah was also a patient man, as we've discovered. He quietly stayed at the Brook Cherith as God preserved his life from drought and famine. Alexander White, one of the great bibliographers on biblical characters, has described Elijah as a man who was always in a passion about something; a passion of anger against Ahab and Jezebel, a passion of fury against idolatry, a passion of scorn and contempt for the priests of Baal, a passion of prayer, intercession, a passion for the glory of God. And yet, as we know, the Bible tells us he was a man of like passions to us.

In the book of James, we're told that Elijah prayed, and his prayer was answered. And then it reminds us that while he was an extraordinary man, and he prayed with great power, we're just like him, he's just like us; because, you see, Elijah wasn't just an extraordinary man. Elijah was also an ordinary man. We've seen him not only in his good times, but we've also seen him in his bad times. We've watched him tremble in fear before Queen Jezebel, the Lady Macbeth of the Bible. And we've seen him discouraged, so discouraged that he was ready to give up on life and requested that he might die. When we last left Elijah, he was worn out, discouraged by all that had happened in his life and ministry. He was running on empty. But one day, as he lay sleeping under a broom tree in the desert, in the wilderness, an angel appeared to him and ministered to his needs.

As you remember the story, the angel told Elijah to eat a cake, drink a jar of water, and then sent him on a journey of 40 days and 40 nights. And the Bible says for 40 days and 40 nights, Elijah wandered around in the wilderness and he lived off of that one meal. And I've been doing all the research I can find to figure out what was in that meal, but I haven't been able to find anything at all about it. Forty days and forty nights. Isn't that interesting? A significant period of time in the Bible. Did you know that when God destroyed the earth with water, he caused it to rain 40 days, 40 nights. When Moses interceded on Israel's behalf, it was for 40 days and 40 nights. The Israelite spies took 40 days to spy out the land of Canaan. Goliath taunted Saul's army for 40 days before David arrived to take care of business. In the New Testament, Jesus was tempted for 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness, and there were 40 days between his resurrection and his ascension.

I don't know exactly why the number 40 is so significant, but maybe from God's perspective that's how long it takes for us to get the message he's trying to get into our hearts. Elijah wandered around in the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights, and finally he arrived at his next God-appointed destination. We call this "A New Mountain," and we read about it in 1 Kings 19, verse 8. "So Elijah arose and ate and drank; and he went in the strength of that food for forty days and forty nights as far as Horeb, the mountain of God". In the Bible, Mount Horeb is a very special place, especially for Moses, because on this mountain Moses saw the burning bush. There he was called to serve the Lord.

On this mountain, the mountain of Horeb, Moses struck the rock and water flowed out to provide the people of Israel with water as they walked through the wilderness. This is the mountain where God's glory passed by Moses as he stood in the cleft of the rock. But most importantly, Mount Horeb is called Mount Sinai. Horeb and Sinai are the same place. Did you realize that, as you studied your Bible? It's the place where Moses twice received the law and the commandments. Mount Horeb is the most important geographical location in Israel's history, and it was here that God was going to address his prophet, Elijah. On the very mountain that God gave Moses information for the formation of Israel, he will give information to Elijah for the reformation of Israel, in that very same place, on that very same mountain.

Have you ever noticed how God has a special place for so many people in the Bible? For Abraham, it was the oak of Mamre. For Isaac, it was the well outside of Nahor. For Jacob, it was Bethel. For Joshua, it was Gilgal. For David, it was the cave of Adullam. For Daniel, it was the upstairs window facing toward Jerusalem. And for Jonah, it was the belly of a whale. Make no mistake about it. God can speak to us anywhere, anytime, and any way. No place is devoid of God's presence, but God often chooses special places to convey his purposes and his plans. I'm tempted to ask you, but I won't, how many of you have such a special place? A place where you hear God speak, a place where you are quiet and listen.

I don't know if you've noticed, but we live in a noisy world, noise everywhere. You're tempted to acquiesce to that. You're tempted to cooperate with that. For instance, what is the first thing you do when you get in the car? You turn on the radio. I'm trying to teach myself not to do that, not only because what I get when I get on the radio isn't very encouraging, but we need some periods of silence in our life, and God is about to teach this man that he loves so much and is useful to him what it means to have a special place.

As I was studying, I read about Dr. J. Edwin Orr, who in 1940 took a group of Wheaton College students to study abroad in England. One of their stops included the Epworth Rectory. The Epworth Rectory now serves as a Methodist museum, but it was the home of John Wesley, the founder of Methodist movement, the Methodist church. In one of the bedrooms, there are two impressions in the floor where it is believed that John Wesley regularly knelt in prayer; in other words, in the floorboards, there's some indentations where his knees fit just from wear. As the students were getting back on the bus, Dr. Orr noticed that one of his students was missing. Going back upstairs, he found a young Billy Graham kneeling in those knee holes and praying. "Oh, Lord, do it again, do it again". For many of us, there's a special place that God has used over and over again to bring blessing to our lives.

Hey, let me tell you something I believe. So many good things happen when God's people come to church. God is at church even though we know he's also in our lives. I believe the Bible teaches that when we come together and worship the Lord, the manifest presence of God is there. Sometimes I hear people say, "I was in church this morning, and I could feel God's presence". It's at church where people are baptized. It's at church where people get married. It's at church where their children grow up to learn about Jesus. It's at church where often we say goodbye to our dearest loved ones. There's a significance in the Word of God to special places, and God brought Elijah to a special place, a mountain of great significance, and he brought him to Mount Horeb, a holy place in the Old Testament. When he got to the mountain, God had a new meeting with Elijah, and the meeting began with the Word of the Lord. It says in verse 9, "And at Mount Horeb, Elijah went into a cave, and he spent the night in that place; and behold, the Word of the Lord came to him".

Now throughout his life, as we have been discovering, Elijah has been guided by the Word of the Lord. At the very beginning of his story, the Word of the Lord came to Elijah and said, "Go tell Ahab that it's not going to rain". And then the Word of the Lord came to Elijah and told him to go and dwell by the brook, and Elijah obeyed. And when the brook dried up, the Word of the Lord came to Elijah and told him to go to the widow at Zarephath. But if you'll go back in your Bibles to 1 Kings 19:3, you'll notice that Elijah was not guided by the Word of the Lord when he ran away from Queen Jezebel. Instead, he was guided by his own fear.

What would've happened if Elijah had stayed and waited on the Lord's provision? He'd already watched the Lord provide for him in so many incredible ways. Why would he not think that God, after protecting him from 450 wild-eyed radical Baal priests, why would he think that God couldn't preserve him from one crazy woman? But Elijah was afraid. He found himself in the wilderness because of his fear and because of his concern for his own safety. He wasn't directed there by the Lord. The Word of the Lord didn't come unto Elijah and say, "Run from Jezebel". In the midst of all of this, even when he was not following the Word of the Lord, he finally, because of the grace of God, ends up where God wants him to be. The Word of the Lord now comes to him again.

Now notice the wisdom of the Lord in verses 9 and 10. Throughout the Bible, you will notice, if you read carefully, that God is a master question asker. That may not be good grammar. It just happens to be true. In his wisdom, God uses questions to get people to stop and think and evaluate their lives. And Elijah huddled in the cave, and the Lord asked him this question, verse 9. "What are you doing here, Elijah"? And I have to tell you, that's one question I hope God never asks me. It would mean that I have ended up in the wrong place. If God Almighty ever has occasion to ask why we are where we are, then we must not be where we ought to be. If Elijah was completely honest, he would've answered the Lord's question by saying, "Lord, I heard what Jezebel was up to, and I've run for the last 40 days, and I'm scared out of my skin".

Elijah had every reason to be scared 'cause Jezebel was a formidable enemy. Oswald Sanders said she was a woman with a face of flint and a heart of steel. Brought up a zealous worshiper of Baal, she slew the prophets of Jehovah and 450 prophets of Baal ate at her table in the capital building every night. Notice how Elijah responded to God's question. This guy is really in a learning curve. I've gotta tell you that. Just, you know, you're gonna feel so much better when you get done with today's lesson. Maybe you think you're hardheaded and God's been working on you for a long time, but Elijah, man, I'm telling you, God had to work overtime with this boy. Notice how he responded to the question when God said to Elijah, "What are you doing here, Elijah"? Verse 10, he said, "I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel forsaken your covenant, torn down your altars, killed your prophets with the sword, and I alone am left, and they're trying to kill me".

Here's something I learned that's very helpful to me, because one of the things that Satan can use in my life, I'm sure he does it for you, is once in a while he can get me discouraged. And in his discouragement, Elijah answered God's question selectively. He answered it selectively and therefore he answered it untruthfully. Anything other than the total truth is untruth. So, Elijah is sorta lyin' to God here. He carefully included the facts that made his situation look worse than it actually was. As I studied this passage, I wrote down in my Bible this phrase; you might want to write this down for the next time you get discouraged. Discouragement selects its own facts. Discouragement selects its own facts. Notice how Elijah's words reveal his heart. He chose to focus on four facts that really weren't facts, they were half-truths. First he said, "I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts".

And there was a time when the prophet could've gotten away with saying that. I mean, who could've been more zealous for God than Elijah? By means of his own prayer, he shut off the rain from Israel for three years. He courageously called out Ahab and allowed God to feed him by means of a bubbling brook and meat-delivering ravens. He publicly taunted Baal, killed 450 of Baal's prophets. He raised a widow's son from the dead in obedience to the Lord. He reappeared to Ahab to announce that the drought was over. I think you would have to qualify all of this as being jealous or zealous for the Lord. But sadly, Elijah was no longer zealous as he had been. It's kind of like God is saying to Elijah, "What have you done for me lately"? Not much: he had panicked under the threats of Queen Jezebel, had run away from his calling; he had prayed to God for death; and the only thing that he currently was zealous about was saving his own life.

Secondly, Elijah declared that "the children of Israel had forsaken your covenant, torn down your altars, killed your prophets with the sword," and he seemed to have forgotten about the apparent revival that broke out in Israel after his victory on Mount Carmel, for in verse 39 of chapter 18 it says, "When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces, and they said, 'The Lord, he is God. The Lord, he is God.'" Those are revival words. Next, Elijah said, "Lord, I'm the only one left". Apparently, Elijah had convinced himself that he was the only prophet left in Israel, but that wasn't true. Go back again in your Bibles to chapter 18 and verse 4. It says, "When Jezebel massacred the prophets of the Lord, that Obadiah had taken one hundred prophets and hidden them, fifty to a cave, and had fed them with bread and water".

If Elijah had not been selecting the facts in his answer to his situation, he would've said, "Lord, there are only 102 of us left". That would have been closer to the truth, and we learn later that it wasn't even that bad. But he made his situation look as difficult as he could. These are the thoughts that he has been self-telling himself, entertaining in his mind. Running around for all those days in the desert, he has been talking himself into a deep depression, based on selectively using the truth. And here's the one that gets me. This is the coup d'état of the whole deal. Finally, Elijah thought it was him against the whole world. Now, this is the profundity of a pronoun; watch. He said, "They seek to take my life". Notice the pronoun that Elijah uses. "They seek my life, to take it away". Jezebel was the only one trying to kill him, not the whole nation of Israel. Elijah had turned "she" into "they".

What a difference a pronoun can make. By turning the queen into an entire kingdom, the prophet was magnifying his troubles and nursing his own sense of self-pity. Oh, I want to tell you how easy it is to turn a he into a they. Case in point. You get upset about something in your church, and you send a letter to your pastor. And in the letter you say, "Everybody is upset about," and then you put your complaint in the letter. Several years ago, I decided to check that out, and I went to see the person 'cause that one had enough courage to sign their name. So, I said, "So, everybody, man, that's a lot of folks. There's 8,000 people at Shadow Mountain. Everybody, whoa". "Well, not really everybody". "Well, how many"? And, of course, then, when you start talking about specifics, nobody wants to answer your question. I finally got down to the fact it was him and his wife. So, us became everybody.

Finally, we have to understand that in the backdrop of all this pessimism and negativism in Elijah's life, he actually had a lot that he could've been excited about. One hundred prophets were safely hidden by Obadiah. Four hundred and fifty false prophets would no longer terrorize him 'cause they were buried six feet in the earth, and a revival was breaking out in Israel as the result of the miracle that took place on the mountain. But when you read Elijah's statement, you discover that discouragement has turned Elijah into a professional pessimist. God isn't gonna leave him there. Thank the Lord that he understands that we are dust, we are human. And he often sees us in our problems and the struggles that we have. And, you know, have you ever thought, "God, if I were you, I would've left me alone a long time ago"? I would've said, "Jeremiah, that's enough. I've given you enough problem-solving techniques, and you're still"... But God never gives up on us. Hallelujah.

I want to stand up and have a worship service when I think about that. God didn't give up on Elijah, and he's going to deal with his prophet, and you're going to be reminded of this story again and again in the days ahead. We've listened to the Word of the Lord. We've seen the wisdom of the Lord. I want you to listen carefully to the whisper of the Lord, verses 11 through 14. "And the Lord said to Elijah, 'Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord.' And behold the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord; and the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire, a still small voice".

In the Old Testament, storms, earthquakes, fire usually announced the presence of God. For example, listen to what happened when God met Moses on Mount Horeb, Mount Sinai, and gave him the law. Exodus 19:16 says when that happened, "There were thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain; and the sound of the trumpet was very loud, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled". And verse 18 of chapter 19, "Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly". When God appeared to Elijah on Mount Horeb, the Lord gave Elijah his own private fireworks demonstration. It must've been an overwhelming experience. At first, it was a great and strong wind that broke the rocks in pieces. Many scholars believe this was a tornado, but the Lord was not in the tornado. After the wind, there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.

If there was anything that was close to the heart of the prophet Elijah, it was fire. Elijah was the prophet of fire. He called down fire on Mount Carmel. As we'll see later, he'll call down fire on the servants of Ahaziah. And do you know how Elijah got to heaven? He got to heaven in a chariot of fire. If anything should've spoken to Elijah about God, surely, it would be the fire. He was a fiery prophet. But the fire came, and the fire left, and the Lord was not in the fire. If you read the text carefully, you will realize that Elijah went back into the cave at some point. And while he was sitting in the cave, he heard, verse 12, chapter 19, "a still small voice". The ESV calls it a low whisper. The NASB calls it a gentle blowing. Our translation is the one I like the best, "a still small voice," a whisper. Elijah didn't see God in the fire. He didn't see God in the earthquake. He didn't see God in the tornado. But then God whispered. He whispered.

In that cave, Elijah was probably trying to sort out all that had just happened. He'd seen the wind, the earthquake, and the fire. And then he heard a small voice, a gentle whisper, and there was something special about that whisper. So it was, verse 13, "When Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and he went out, and he stood in the entrance of the cave". Elijah obviously realized that he had heard the voice of God, and he knew that he could not look upon God's face, so he took his mantle, the mantle that he had, and he wrapped it around his face and he walked out to the opening of the cave, and the picture I have is there's this cave, and there's kind of, like, a little platform out in front. And when Elijah heard the voice, he knew it was God, and he was so impressed that it was God that he took his mantle and he went out and stood at the entrance of the cave, waiting to see what was going to happen next. Maybe he thought a part two of the fireworks show was coming. And once again, the Lord spoke to him directly, and he asked Elijah, get this, the same question that he asked him before. "Suddenly a voice came to him and said, 'What are you doing here, Elijah?'"

You would think that after Elijah saw the wind, and felt the earthquake, and saw the fire, that he'd have a new answer to that question, but his answer is word-for-word the same as it was before. That's why if you look into your Bibles, you will notice that chapter 19, verse 14, and chapter 19, verse 10 look like they have been copied accidentally into the text. They're the same verse. He said, "Lord, I have been zealous. The children of Israel have forsaken your covenant, have torn down your altars, killed your prophets with the sword. Alone I am left; and they seek to take my life". What does that tell us? It tells us he didn't get one thing out of the fire. He didn't get one thing out of the wind. He didn't get one thing out of the earthquake, not one blessed thing, just like some of my sermons, right?

My friend Warren Wiersbe said, "It's difficult for some people to understand that God rarely works by means of the dramatic and the colossal". When he wanted to start the Jewish nation, he sent a baby, Isaac. When he wanted to deliver that nation from bondage, he sent another baby, Moses. He sent a teenager named David to kill the Philistine giant, and the boy used a slingshot and a stone. When God wanted to save the whole world, he sent his Son as a weak and helpless baby, and today God seeks to reach this world through the ministry of earthen vessels like you and me. The wind, and the earthquake, and the fire did not change Elijah's life. He's still where he was before, but God is going to do two things to bring him out of his discouragement. First of all, this new mission that he gives him includes a new assignment. Sometimes, when you're feeling discouraged and sorry for yourself, you just need to get going again.

How many of you are thankful that God's given you a job, that you have work? Sometimes when I'm feeling a little blue about something, I don't have time to do it for very long because Sunday's coming, you know? And so you just get back to work. And when you get back to work, all of a sudden, in the process, you begin to sense some equilibrium coming back into your life. So, here's what God said to Elijah in verse 15. He said, "Go return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. When you arrive, anoint Hazael as king over Syria. And you shall anoint Jehu the son of Nimshi as king over Israel. And Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel Meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place, and it shall be that whoever escapes the sword of Hazael, Jehu will kill; and whoever escapes the sword of Jehu, Elisha will kill".

Now, Elijah is probably, I'm trying to figure out what he would feel like at this moment in time. He's till kind of spaced out, trying to figure out all that's going on. And he may have felt defeated. He may have felt like, you know, I thought I knocked Baalism out, but it's still alive. But the Lord was determined to wipe out this disease from the land of Israel, and he had three secret weapons: the king of Syria, a budding prophet named Elisha, and a king named Jehu. And Elijah was the one who would light the fuse on all three of these guys. And the Lord wasn't finished with Elijah, and he isn't finished with you or with me. As long as we are on this earth, God will have a work for us to do in extending his kingdom. You and I have a purpose. You and I have a calling.

And I wonder if Elijah was disappointed. Maybe he thought God had more spectacular assignments for him, more people to raise from the dead, more mountains on which to call down fire. But God said, "Elijah, it's time to stop weeping over the past and running away from the present, and start preparing for the future". And from that moment on, that was Elijah's ministry. Then he gave him a new assurance, and this is kind of a "PS, I love you" from God to his prophet. And he said, verse 18, "Elijah, I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him". God assured Elijah that his ministry hadn't been a failure; there were 7000 people in the land of Israel who were still faithful to Jehovah God. Whenever you get discouraged, let me tell you something to watch out for, two things you will be tempted to do: you will magnify the bad and minimize the good. And Elijah did both. He overestimated the strength of the enemy and he underestimated the strength of God. But God ministered to Elijah through the demonstration of his glory, through the still small voice, through the new assignment, and through the assurance that there were still many just like him in Israel.

So, we come to the end of this section of this story. I want for us to focus on one main takeaway from this episode in the life of Elijah. It's an important one for this day and age. It's one that I need to hear. It's one that you need to hear. So often we think that God's work is in the big things that we do, in the big demonstrations that we create, but the real effectiveness of what we do is not in the big demonstrations. That's just the catalyst. That's how God gets our attention. Instead, the real power is found in the one-on-one personal involvement that we have with each other and with God. As much as we thank God for all of the big evangelistic outreaches, they probably, with eternity's values and view, aren't any more effective at reaching people for Christ than the one-on-one opportunities that God gives us every day.

Donna and I had a brief experience with that. We went back to the church that we had started in 1969 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. That church started with seven families, believe it or not, in four mobile home buildings. That was our church facility. One of the things that happened to me during those early days was the realization that I did not know personally how to lead people to Christ 'cause nobody'd ever taught me. Well, all of a sudden, I'm in a moment of crisis 'cause I'm pastoring a church with seven families, and I promise you there wasn't going to be any transfer growth to that church. If I was going to get any new people, I had to go get them myself and teach them about Jesus. And through the providence of God, I came in contact with an evangelism explosion method of sharing your faith, learned how to do it, taught others how to do it.

During the time I was in Fort Wayne for those 12 years, that's pretty much what I did. I preached on Sunday, and I visited homes all during the week. I went back for our celebration, and some people threw a party, and they asked all the people that had come to Blackhawk Baptist Church to come to that party. And Donna and I stood up in front and waited while they all came through and talked to us, and it was about an hour and 20 minutes of hearing from people. I remember telling Donna on the way back, the most important thing to me was listening. They weren't saying, "You remember when we had that great service at Blackhawk"? None of that. "Pastor, do you remember when you came to our home, led my wife to Christ"? "Do you remember when the children wanted to see you, and you came, and all of our children came to Jesus"? Over and over, through that whole time was the testimony of the still small voice, that looking at it in light of all the big things that happen these days, you would probably say, "Well, what's that"?

We need the wind, and we need the earthquake, and we need the fire. We need all of those, but we also need to listen to the voice of God. How many of you know when somebody whispers, if you really want to hear, you have to lean into it? When was the last time you leaned into the whisper of God to hear what he says? Perhaps we need to get reacquainted with his gentleness. Our God is a gentle God. If we want to see his gentleness, we need only to look into the face of Jesus Christ. Jesus was gentle in the manger, lying on a bed of straw. He was gentle with the sick, touching their wounds to heal them. He was gentle with the grieving, weeping with those who wept. He was gentle with little children, gathering them up in his arms. He was gentle with women caught in adultery, forgiving their sins. He was gentle on the donkey, riding into Jerusalem with kingly humility. He was gentle with his disciples, restoring them to fellowship after they had denied and forsaken him.

Christ will be gentle with us, as well. He will be gentle with the wounds of our souls and the sins of our hearts. He will even be gentle with us in our spiritual depressions. Listen to the still small voice of the gentle Jesus and listen carefully, and this is what you will hear. Are you listening? "Come to Me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls". You say, "Pastor, I don't know how to listen to God". I have to admit it's one of the subjects that we talk very little about in our churches, how to hear the voice of God, but here's what I do know. In order to hear the voice of God, you have to proactively want to. And in order to hear the voice of God, you're probably going to have to get some of the noise out of your life. Turn off some things and turn down some things.

I frankly worry about the generation that's coming up after us, who look like they were born with earbuds in their head. Where do they find any peace and quiet for the Lord to speak? Here's what I know. I can't explain it. There's a sense of mystery in this. And frankly, if I could explain to God that I love and worship, he wouldn't be worth my love or my worship. His ways are so far beyond my ways, but here's what I do know. God loves us, he loves you, and if you want to hear his voice, you can hear it. If you want to hear his voice, his whisper in your heart, God is too good not to respond. And then here's the secret. When he whispers to you, whatever he says, do it. Do it. Lean into his voice, listen to what he says, and then do it. Hallelujah.
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