Dr. Ed Young - God Uses Unlikely People
I'm from Mississippi and I love the name of a little town there called Soso. S-O-S-O. It's interesting how that town got its name. It's still a little community of, I don't know, maybe a couple or three thousand people, and when they were building the railroad they sent a group ahead to find a place where they could make a camp. And they had certain things they looked for: water, grass areas, grassy areas they could feed their animals, forest, little mountain area that'd be shelter there. They looked for certain things, and when they sent this group back, they said, "Have you found the place"? And they said, "We found a place and it has some water, but not enough. It has some shelter, but not what we'd expect. It has some wonderful timber, but really there's not an expanse. This place we found to build the camp is just so-so".
Doesn't quite measure up, not totally inadequate, not totally adequate, but just so-so. Now, imagine if you were born and raised in Soso. I still have relatives, distant relatives who live there. If I were to try to understand your life, I'd have to go back and see your background, the community, your family, your education, your whole experience, the Soso experience, right? To understand you. By the same token, if you were born in New York, New York, let's say brought up in the Bronx, educated in the most cosmopolitan, erudite, affluent city perhaps on this earth, to understand you, I'd have to understand your background, your rearing there in New York, New York.
Now, what is the point? Somebody who's brought up in Soso, to understand them, you'd have to understand their history. Someone who was brought up in New York, to understand them, you'd have to understand their history. In other words, you cannot take anybody out of the context of their life and have any reading of what they're about and who they are. The old question, does history make the man or does the man make history? The answer to that is both, both, both. And so, we come to study Elijah, and a lot of us get confused when we study this book. And the reason we do, we read these chapters, you may have read them in 1 Kings and said, "What in the world is going on? I don't understand this. I don't understand that".
The many times we do not understand the Scripture is because we do not know the history, the context of that life or that event. You got it? You could not understand much of the Bible unless you know the context of what is going on. So, it's important that we understand the historical context of this man Elijah before we look at his life. Now, most of us know that Israel had three kings: Saul, David, Solomon. Each one had their own unique weaknesses, but the one who really brought the kingdom down was Solomon. His life story is a fabulous beginning and a tragic ending. That's the reason many times you hear people say, "You finish strong".
This is where you are with God, but finish strong. Solomon did not finish strong. Many things brought his downfall. Foremost would be the fact he, to engage in political alliances, he married all kinds of foreign women who brought all of their idols and all their Paganism into Israel. And Solomon tolerated that, and therefore when Solomon died, the kingdom divided. Now, by the way, to understand the Bible, the Old Testament, you have to understand what I'm saying and remember it, because suddenly things you didn't quite comprehend will fit perfectly. So, here we have the three kings. About a hundred years plus they ruled. Then you have the death of Solomon. The kingdom is divided into the northern kingdom, which is still called Israel, and the southern kingdom that is called Judah, and Jerusalem is a part of that.
Now, in the northern kingdom existed for about 200 years and they had 19 different rulers. And according to the Bible, every one of them did what was evil in the sight of God. Every one of them godless, pagan, demonic, profane, bottomed out. Nineteen rulers over 200 years, until finally in 722 B.C., the Assyrians came in and took out the northern kingdom, ceased to exist. The southern kingdom existed for about 300 years. They had 17 kings. Nine were bad, eight were good. And so, in the southern kingdom of Judah, it wasn't until 586 B.C. the Babylonians came down. Remember the Babylonian captivity? And they took most of the Israelites, at least the better part of the population, into exile into Babylon.
This lasted for 60 or 70 years, and then you have Ezra, Nehemiah, Zerubbabel coming back, bringing some Israelites with them, gathering the Jews who had remained, and they rebuilt the temple. It was sort of a one-horse temple compared to the Temple of Solomon. And they reestablished monotheism and worship of Jehovah, the true and living God. Now, you got that? That's very important. You can't understand Elijah until you understand that, bam, right in the middle of the divided kingdom, the southern kingdom and northern kingdom, when they'd had decades of godless people leading them further and further into Paganism. There was murder. There was incest. There was violence. There was revolution. There was deception.
I mean, you want to write down every kind of tragic, heinous thing going on, that would depict the northern and southern kingdom most of this period of time. And guess what? God says to Elijah, "Psst, hey, I want you to go and speak a Word for me". Elijah could've said, "You know, don't you have some other people"? God said, "Yeah, I have 7,000 of 'em and they're hiding in caves because they know if they show their face and speak of Jehovah, the true and living God, in the middle of all the Paganism and decadence, they would be instantly killed". Because who was on the throne of the northern kingdom now? You read in the 16th chapter there was a guy named Omri, O-M-R-I, and it says he was the worst king yet in the history of the northern kingdom.
And he had a boy by the name of Ahab, and it says he was worse than his daddy. I mean, it's like, man, here is Adolf Hitler, and gosh, Mao follows him, and then Idi Amin comes after him, then Osama comes after him. It's getting worse, and worse, and worse. And finally Ahab, he gets married and he marries a woman that we all know her name. There we have Jezebel. Anybody here named Jezebel? Oh, only two. No, no, no. Jezebel has come over into the 21st century and we know.
We say, "Boy, she's a Jezebel". Incidentally, this is the first time this far in all the kings that the wife's name is even mentioned. Jezebel's the first one. Why would that be? Jezebel was the daughter of the King of Sidon, and she worshiped Baal. And Baal's mother was Asherah in all the pagan mythology and lore, and therefore she brought Baal worship. She brought Asherah worship. And what happened, now Israel was involved in sexual promiscuity and idolatry. Let me tell you something. Any time there's sexual promiscuity, idolatry immediately comes. Has to, has to. I've never had anybody say to me, you say, "What's your problem"? "Well, I'm guilty of idolatry".
Never had that confessed to me. You ever heard that, he might have said, "I'm guilty, but we're guilty of idolatry. America's", anything we put in the place of the living God, any person, any thing ahead of God and give this thing or this person preeminence, that things becomes idolatrous. Football can become idolatrous. Your wife can become idolatrous. Your kids can become idolatrous. Your vocation can become, a lot of things can become idolatrous. And when we move into sexual promiscuity, we can't continue to worship a true and living God. We have to move in the place idols, pagan gods, not the purity of the living God. This is what happened to Israel.
And so, we have Ahab on the throne. We have Jezebel, his wife. We'll hear about her again. And she is mentioned because she dominated the kingdom. Ahab was a figurehead bad enough in his own right, but it was Jezebel. Man, she was tough, mean, vicious. The perfect mother-in-law. No, no, no. This is Jezebel. Now, onto this scene, we have a guy coming out of nowhere. I mean, you talk about with no background, look at it. 1 Kings 17, verse 1, "Now Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the settlers of Gilead". Now, Elijah, when he just barely appeared before King Ahab and he introduced himself, and said, "What is your name"? "I am Elijah," already there was, "Ooh, ooh, ooh," by the king because his name. "E-L" stands for Elohim, God. "Jah," J-A-H, Jehovah. An "I" in the middle meaning "my". He was saying simply "My God is Jehovah".
That was enough for Ahab, just his name. My God is Jehovah, the true God. Then he said Elijah is from a Tishbite. Nobody yet has found out where Tishba was. A Tishbite, who is that? I mean, nobody knows even to this day. Archeologists, scholars, they've tried to find where was Tishba. Nobody's found Tishba yet. So, I mean, and also he was from Gilead. We know where Gilead is. It was a barren, rocky, tough, desolate place. So Elijah appeared not with robes. He would have appeared with the skins of animal, with the stench of the outdoors about him, rough, rugged, mountain guy, tough as steel. So we know from his name where he comes from, what he believes. We know from his background what he's about.
And then we see something else about this man, Elijah, we pick up in studying his life, his personality. What kind of guy was he? He was an in-your-face kinda guy. I mean, pew. Elijah didn't mince around, and beat around, and sugar coat, and make it easy to, he just said, "Bam, this is it". And we see that immediately as we study this man, Elijah. We're going to see him as he speaks for God, as he hides with God, and as he depends on God. Watch this. Look as he speaks for God. He said, "He said to Ahab, 'As the Lord, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.'"
Anybody have trouble understanding that? He said to Ahab, "There's not gonna be any dew, there's not gonna be any rain until I say so". Clear, isn't it? Clear. And notice how he says, "As the Lord lives". He went to the king, he said, "I'm not talking about one of these dead idols. I'm talking about the living God". Let me ask you a question. Is God really alive in your life? Do you know God is living, God is moving, God is operating, God is real? That's where you begin. He said, "As the Lord lives". I'm worshiping a living God, not some grove, some tree, some idol, some temple, some element. I stand for the living God. Then he says, "And here I stand". What's he saying? "I'm God's representative. I'm God's spokesman". And then he goes and he pronounces upon them the Word of God. He knew the Word of God.
Where did he get the idea that it wasn't gonna rain? We know that it didn't rain for three and a half years. Where'd he get that idea? He found it right back, 'cause he knew the Scripture. In Deuteronomy chapter 11, listen, verse 16. Deuteronomy 11:16, "Beware that your hearts are not deceived, and that you do not turn away and serve other gods and worship them". That's what the people had done, hadn't they? "Or the anger of the Lord will be kindled against you, and he will shut up the heavens so that there will be no rain and the ground will not yield its fruit; and you will perish quickly from the good land which the Lord is giving you".
What is Elijah saying? He's saying, "That prophecy in Deuteronomy 11, it's coming true. It's not gonna rain, no dew, until I say so". How profound would that be if someone stood today and said, "I have a Word from God that there will be no oil coming out of the ground until I say so"? Let me tell you what would happen. We would know in a couple of days. You know, we have some oil, a little bit. We have some gas. And then about a week, about a month, and all of us would be living in primitive conditions just that quickly. Just that quickly. Don't misunderstand what I'm saying. If I stood, "There will be no more oil produced until I say so," and let that happen for three and a half years, the world would be closed.
The world would go back to a kind of lifestyle that we knew in the 1800s, literally. So, I'm telling you, this got the attention of the King Ahab as this man of God, this fearless prophet coming out of the boondocks, Soso, Mississippi, the backwoods. And he stood there and said, "This is what will take place as a judgment upon the godlessness of the land". So, we see Elijah speaking for God and then we see a strange verse here. It sorta jumps out at you. Verse number 2, "The Word of the Lord came to Elijah, saying, 'Go away from here and turn eastward, and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan.'"
Now, wait a minute. Elijah must've thought, "I'm a palace guy. I've been over there in nobody, nowhere long enough and I have spoke on behalf of God to the king of the land. Don't I need to go all over Israel and tell everybody what's gonna happen? There's not gonna be any rain because of all the evil the king and everybody's doing". He says, "I need to go on several crusades. I'm a palace spokesman". Listen, once you've been to Paris, it's hard to go back to the farm. "I'm a palace guy. I spoke for God. I looked the king right in the eye. I need to go tell the people what's going", and God says, "No, no, Elijah, go in hiding. Go hide yourself". Whew, it's tough. "Go to Cherith". The word "Cherith" means to be cut off.
Cut yourself off from everybody. He told Elijah to hide, why, for his protection? And because God wanted to do something with Elijah that he couldn't do as long as he was in the spotlight, in the forefront, fighting his own battles. Go hide yourself. We see Elijah hiding with God, and then we see Elijah depending on God. Look what happens while he's in this Cherith, cut off from everything and everybody. Tremendous things happen. Look what happens. Verse 4, "'And it shall be that you will drink of the brook, I have commanded the ravens to provide for you there.' And so he went and did according to the Word of God". He was obedient. "For he went and lived by the book Cherith, which is east of the Jordan". Verse 6: "The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he would drink from the brook".
Let me tell you something, that's something. Here's a bubbling brook, cool water, and the ravens, who were unclean birds, God used them supernaturally to bring to him sandwiches in the morning, meat and bread, and dip and sandwiches every afternoon, meat and bread. Bubbling brook, meat, and bread. You see the bubbling brook would be natural and the ravens bringing food would be supernatural. You see, God sent Elijah there to hide himself to teach him to be dependent on him. Bubbling brook, room service in the morning, room service in the evening, sleeping on grass, protected from the animals because he was in the will of God.
Boy, bubbling brook right there. Cool, clear water. What a wonderful setting, Elijah learning to depend on God. It's a beautiful story, isn't it? Hide yourself. Watch God provide for you. Watch God look after you. Watch God give this to you. How we like bubbling brooks? We all like bubbling brooks. I'd like to go to Cherith this afternoon if there'd be a bubbling brook and there would be, you know, the ravens bringing food and meat to me twice a day. You see, what happens to us though? In that kind of environment of blessing, suddenly we take that which is supernatural and we begin to treat it as if it were natural.
You see, believers, we see God and then we see his blessings, but so many people, we begin to see his blessings and we see God only through his blessings instead of seeing blessings through God. That which is supernatural in his blessings will just soon become hoi polloi. You know, natural. And so, we see the bubbling brook and then we run into an amazing verse. Whew, here he is, hiding with the Lord, God teaching him to depend on God, depend on him.
And look here at verse 7, "And it happened after awhile that the brook dried up". Hello! The bubbling brook, I like that, now the brook dried up. Elijah could've said, "Lord, I'm in your will. I've spoken before the king in confrontation and now I've gone in concealment and hiding. And boy, the bubbling brook and the ravens, it's been super. You've taught me some things, but now the brook's dried up". Why in the world, what is God doing when the brook dried up? I'm gonna tell you what he's doing. Look at it. Look at the rest of the verse. I left it out. Verse 7: "And it happened after awhile that the brook dried up, because there was no rain in the land".
Uh-oh, the brook dried up in answer to the prayer of Elijah. Ha ha ha, didn't it? He think he was gonna be exempt from the judgment of God? He was a part of the people. It was the answer to his prayer. What's this all about, ladies and gentlemen? God is teaching you and me, when brooks dry up, when we're forced into hiding, God is teaching you and me to be dependent on him. What's he saying? He wants us to understand there is nothing in this life that is nailed down. Do you think something's, "Well, that's gonna always be there. I've got this. I don't have..." There's nothing nailed down. Have to understand that.
Also, he was teaching us as he's teaching Elijah to set our affections on things that are above and not so much time, and energy, and affections on all this stuff that is below, because nothing here, no relationship, no security, no retirement, no job, no nothing, none of it's nailed down. He's teaching us with a bubbling brook and with a dried up brook to be dependent on him. If we're to become something like Jesus Christ wants us to be, there'll be some dried up brooks with the bubbling brooks to teach us to be totally reliant, dependent on God. That's what this is all about. Do you get it? You got it? I can guarantee you one thing, live a little while and you will need built in your life the principle of having to be dependent on him and him alone.