Matt Hagee - A Nation On Its Knees
Israel, for generations, recognized that it was God who had created them: that it was God who had sustained them: that it was God who delivered them from Egypt: that it was God who brought them through the wilderness: that it was God that gave them Jericho and the Promised Land: that it was God who stood with David when he went to face the giant: that it was God who had done all of these things. But suddenly something changes when there's a shift in leadership. When you read the book of 1 Kings, you'll find there these words written that Ahab, the king of Israel, had done more evil in the sight of God than any other king that had ever served. When you looked at the kings of Israel from David to Solomon, to Jeroboam, to Rehoboam, you begin to recognize that they weren't all stand-up characters.
And once again, it proves that there are no perfect people: that only God is perfect, working in the lives of imperfect men. But when we come to Ahab, God makes this distinction. He says that guy did worse than everybody combined. Take up all of the evil and all of the wrong that everyone else did, and I still think Ahab's worse than the rest of them. And so the question has to be asked: why did God feel this way about Ahab? I am so glad you asked, because inquiring minds want to know. Ahab did something that was absolutely evil in the sight of God. He married Jezebel. Oh, y'all heard about her? Jezebel was the daughter of a foreign king. He was the priest of Baal. And her very name means that she is the priestess of Baal.
Now what is the big deal about being a priestess of Baal? In order to be a priestess of Baal, you have to worship at the altar of Baal. Who is Baal? Baal is a pagan god. And as a pagan god, it was described and defined that Baal was the one who made all things grow. He was the one that made everything fertile. He was the one that when you sat down to eat, you thanked Baal, because he made the wheat grow that became the flour that you're eating as bread. Whenever you had a new calf in the barn, you thanked Baal, because he was the one that made the cow fertile that enabled you to have a new calf. When your wife got pregnant and you had children, you thanked Baal, because he was the one who created that life inside the womb of your wife. And if it wasn't for Baal, you wouldn't have kids. When it rained, you thanked Baal, because there was water that came from the clouds that grew on the ground all of the things that you got to eat. And Baal, Baal, Baal, Baal, Baal, Baal, Baal, he's the best.
The problem with this is that when Jezebel comes to Israel, if you don't believe in Baal, she kills you. The Bible says that she killed all of the priests in the temple who were faithful to God. So through force, she pushes her false religion on an entire nation. And when a nation knew that there was no Baal: that it was God who had created the heavens and the earth: that it was God who made all things: that it was God, "In him we live, and move, and have our being". When they knew this, they became more afraid of Jezebel than they were afraid of God. Rather than resist her lie, they bowed down to it. And now three and a half years later, they are a nation on their knees. Why? Not because of Jezebel's doing, but because of their willingness to follow her deceptions.
You see you cannot walk away from God and not suffer the consequence. You cannot walk away from the source of light and not embrace darkness. You cannot turn away from the rock of ages that is unshakable and not see everything in your world begin to tremble. You cannot ignore the Prince of Peace and not face chaos. You cannot walk away from a God, who is a provider, and not see needs begin to grow. You cannot walk away from the one, who has love for all, and not see hate.
So what happens whenever a nation, what happens whenever a people willingly chooses to walk away from God? The only thing that you can do is turn back to God. It is not God's responsibility to come towards us. It is our responsibility to turn back to him. Our responsibility to turn back to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: to turn back to the God who gave himself for us: to turn back to the God who created the heavens and the earth, holds the mountains in a scale and the hills in a balance. He is the one who has the name that is above every name. He is the king above kings and the Lord above Lords. It is in his presence where there is the fullness of joy. It is in his presence where the pain of the past is canceled by the hope of tomorrow. It is in his presence where burdens are lifted and yokes are destroyed. It is in his presence where the lame leap, and the dumb speak, where the blind can see, and the dead can live again.
Do you want to know where relief is coming from? Relief doesn't come from the promises of men on earth! Relief comes from the God who has promised you the end from the very beginning, who can make a way where there seems to be no way! And when you walk away from him, church, it is time to turn back to the God who loved you and calls you his own! Because it's not a matter of if you bow: it's a matter of when you bow. Here you see an entire nation, in 1 Kings 18, on their knees. Why? Because they have bowed to the false God of Baal. And because of their idol worship, their economy is crushed. Because of their idol worship, they have nothing to put their faith in. Rather than kneeling before a God, who can answer and make a way, they're kneeling before an attitude and a cultural idea. And they chose it.
It's not a matter of if you bow: it's a matter of when you bow. Because Philippians 2:10 and 11 tells us very clearly that Jesus Christ has risen from the grave: that he is seated at the right hand of God the Father: and that God has given him the name that is above every name. And at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow, and every tongue should confess that he is Lord to the glory of God the Father. So you will either make a decision in this life to bow before him as a humble servant. Or you will make a decision before his judgment seat to bow and confess that he is Lord to the glory of God the Father. It's not a matter of if you bow: it's a matter of when you bow. The children of Israel made a decision that they would appease Jezebel by worshiping Baal. But the thing that they were doing was publicly worshiping Baal and privately praying to God. They were men like Obadiah.
When you read 1 Kings, you hear about a priest, who would go before Baal's altar on a daily basis, and he would sacrifice to appease Jezebel. And then when he went home, he had an altar to Jehovah there. And he would pray and tell God how sorry he was for what he was doing in public. Jesus said that this way, "No man can serve two masters. You will either be the friend of the world or you will be a friend of God". And the inconsistency of our behavior has no bearing on the nature of God. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. So into the midst of this chaotic scene comes one prophet, one man by the name of Elijah. And Elijah walks into Ahab's throne room and he preaches one message. It's short and it's sweet, and it lasted for three and a half years.
Could you imagine if your preacher could preach one message and it would last you for three and a half years? The first thing that he says is, "As the Lord lives". What he is saying is it doesn't matter if you behave as if God doesn't exist: he still lives. He still exists. He is still great and greatly to be praised. His mercies are still renewed every morning. And from the rising of the sun to the going down of the same, his name is great and greatly to be praised. The next thing he says is, "As the Lord lives, before whom I stand". Elijah was letting an entire nation know that God can do more with one person, who is taking a stand for him, than he can with an entire generation that's ignoring him. And the final thing he says is, "It is not going to rain except at my word".
Now this is an important thing to consider, because what Elijah was saying when he said, "It's not going to rain," understand that Israel was an agrarian nation. No rain, no crops. No crops, no harvest. No harvest, no money. Elijah is the preacher, who walked into wall street and said, "The economy is going to crash until I decide it's going to turn around". In Elijah's day, there were people who were saying, look, preacher, it's not our fault: it's the government. What an easy excuse to blame the government when you are the one who appointed the government. You can't blame me. I didn't vote. No, you're the reason to blame. Your vote is your voice.
The people in Elijah's day, "It ain't us: it's Jezebel. She's crazy". But recognize this: that the government is always a reflection of the people. And the people are always influenced by the church. So you can't say there's something wrong with a few of us and not share the blame amongst all of us. If we've got things to fix in this nation, we've all got to play a role in fixing it. Elijah didn't let the people blame the government. Elijah didn't let the people blame the church. When he asked this question, he asked them directly. He said, "How long will you falter between two decisions? If God is God, serve him. If Baal is God, serve him". He recognized that this was a moment in which the entire nation was going to make a decision. And the outcome of that decision would determine their future.
You and I are living in a day of decision here in the United States. And the outcomes of our decisions are going to determine our future, not just our future, but the future for our children and our children's children. And the question that Elijah asked in his generation, echoes through the centuries into this sanctuary and to all who are watching today: "If God is God, serve him". And if he's not, then we've all been deceived and lied to. You say, "Well pastor, you just don't understand about the times that we're living in". It doesn't matter. He's still God! But there's a party that's taken "One nation under God" out of their statements and out of their pledges. It doesn't matter. He's still on the throne. But it's politically incorrect and it's culturally insensitive, and it's socially inappropriate, and it's intellectually close minded to use words like "Jesus," and "Savior," and "Blood," and "Cross".
I still believe! I still believe the power of the gospel is the truth of Jesus Christ and salvation! As Paul said, "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ: for it is still the power of God unto salvation". How long will you falter between two opinions? If God is God, serve him! If he's not, then walk away, because you are either going to walk in the light or you're going to sit in the darkness. You're going to stand upon the truth or be held in bondage to a lie. And what I know is that you shall know the truth and the truth will set you free!
Let me explain something to you very clearly. Congress does not set you free. truth sets you free. Wall street does not set you free. truth sets you free. The power of positive thinking and motivational speaking does not set you free. The power of the gospel and its truth declared is what sets you free. Jesus Christ and he alone is the one who sets you free, because whom the son sets free is free indeed! Give the Lord a handclap of praise! Elijah makes it very clear: you've got a decision to make. And he said, I'm going to give you the opportunity to make this decision once and for all. You've been three and a half years without rain. How's Baal doing? Three and a half years with a flat economy: how's his economic policy? Three and a half years without enough food to maintain your health and your strength: how's his health care program?
And the Bible says that whenever he asked this question, as if the track record of the false God was not enough, they didn't answer. They went, "Shhh. Jezebel, kill you man. We agree with you, but we don't want to make her mad. We like what you say, preacher. Do you think you could talk to her for us"? You see when people know the difference between right and wrong but they don't answer you, the truth is they don't have the courage to take a stand. How long are you going to live this way? How much suffering are you willing to endure before you change your mind and go back to the God who has given you all things? God is always waiting for someone to take a stand. Because when one takes a stand, millions can follow. Elijah challenges the 450 false prophets of Baal. He said, since these people don't know what they want to do, let's put our Gods to the test. You 450 represent your God. I'll represent mine.
Now you say, "450 to one, that's not a fair fight". When you know the God that Elijah serves, you're exactly right: it wasn't a fair fight. He tells these 450 false prophets: he says, "You do it your way. I'll do it my way". But here's the thing: "The God who answers by fire, that will be the God". Church, I've got good news. Our God answers. Our God answers. And so now the battle lines are drawn. It's between faith and foolishness. And you need to understand something. Faith will never make you look foolish. Why? Because trees are known by their fruit. Four hundred and fifty fools, and one man of faith.
Why are they fools? Because the Bible says that the fool has said in his heart, there is no God. These 450 false prophets, they begin the process of preparing the sacrifice. They build the altar. They quarter the animal. They lay it on the altar. And they begin to dance. And they begin to shout. And they begin to twist. And they begin to turn. And they begin to do all of the things they believe they need to do in order to wake Baal up so that he can send down fire upon this sacrifice. And Elijah, he may be the first trash talker in all of history. Because as he watches this go on for hours, he encourages these men. He says, "Maybe you should cry louder". Maybe Baal's busy. Maybe he's meditating. Maybe he's asleep and he must be awakened. Or maybe he's gone on a trip and you should call him back. And they took his advice. They yelled louder. They even went so far as to take knives and cut themselves to prove how passionate they were about Baal's power to provide.
Guess what? They looked like fools, because they had no faith. Faith belongs to God. It's Elijah's turn. And the first thing that Elijah does is he rebuilds the altar of the Lord. The Bible says that he takes 12 stones. Why 12 stones? Because they were 12 tribes in Israel. And this altar had been dismantled because of neglect. How many things in our world have been dismantled because of neglect? How many places in our community would be better because if we put effort into it instead of ignoring it, things would be different? How many of you remember a day when you knew the people who lived in your neighborhood? I grew up in a world where one dad on a cul-de-sac could watch 20 kids. Be out in the street playing, and dad would come home from work, and he'd say, "Oh, mr. Smith's out: we're good".
Now, you come home and you run into your house, and you hide behind the door. The people next door knock. You look on your phone. Who is that? Shhh. Don't say anything. Don't say anything. Why? You're neglecting the community that God put you in. Here Elijah rebuilds an altar that's been broken down because of neglect. And he rebuilds it with 12 stones, because he recognizes that the only way that things are going to get better in the nation of Israel is if the nation is unified.
Let me tell you something. The only way that things are going to get better in this nation is if the nation is unified. Elijah takes 12 stones because he recognizes that God's promises: that where there is unity, he commands a blessing. And church, let me tell you: if our nation is going to get unified, then our families have to get unified. And if our families are going to have to get unified, then the church has to get unified. And if unity is going to come, it means that we cannot think so highly of ourselves that we're not willing to listen to someone else. And as a pastor, I want God to command his blessing. I want it on your family. I want it on your future. I want it on your business. I want it on everything you put your hands to. But where there is unity, God commands the blessing. Where there is division, you have chaos.
The second thing that Elijah does is he prepares a sacrifice. First, he brings unity. And then he brings repentance. Why? Because the Bible is very clear: "Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins". The sacrifice that Elijah prepares is a type and shadow of Jesus Christ, who is the lamb for sinner's slain in our lives. 1 Peter 3:18 says that he suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust.
And then the final thing that he does is he gives. He tells people, "Bring me barrels of water. Pour them over the sacrifice". You want me to do what? "Pour it on the sacrifice". "You said you want this to burn with fire, and you're soaking it wet". "Yeah, I know". Remember faith will never make you look foolish. What was Elijah doing? Elijah was giving to God what he wanted God to give to the people. Elijah wanted it to rain. Elijah didn't rejoice in three and a half years of drought. Elijah, just like everyone else, wanted to see God's goodness poured out. But the people were making decisions that made it impossible for God to bless them.
And so Elijah was saying, Lord, if I'm going to make this sacrifice, I want to give you what I want to see poured out by you. I'm going to give you water so you can send rain. There are people in this room today, who want to know: when is God going to pour out his blessings from heaven upon my life? When you give him what you want from him. And then finally, Elijah prayed. He opened his mouth, and he said, "O God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, I am asking you to honor this sacrifice so that these people will know that you are God". And the Bible says that when he prayed, fire fell from heaven. And it not only consumed the sacrifice: it licked up the stones.
Our God is the God who answers. Our God is the God who pours out his blessings upon those who request. Our God is a promise keeper. Our God is there when you need him. He said he'd never leave you, nor would he forsake you. He'll rain his blessings down upon you. Do you need victory today? He is the God who rained down victory on Joshua. He'll rain down victory on you. Do you need courage and strength today? He's the God who gave strength to David. And he'll give strength to you. Do you need confidence today? He's the God who gave Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego the confidence to stand. And he'll give you the confidence to stand. He'll rain down peace if you're laying in a lion's den. He'll rain down fire if you're kneeling on top of Carmel. He'll rain down his blessings no matter where you are, because his truth endures! His promises are forever! And no matter what you need today, if you call upon him, he will answer you, because he is the God who answers and gives us victory, in Jesus' name! Give the Lord a handclap of praise!