Bethel Baptist Church
Worship Service @ Home
22 August 2021
There is no video for this service. An audio podcast should become available following the service in the building on 22 August.
We were able to share communion last week for the first time since early last year. We’ve been able to buy pre-packed bread and wine to minimise the risk of infection – but they were a bit tricky to open.
‘The rescheduled church weekend away has been confirmed for 3rd – 5th June 2022. If you would like to go, please contact Andrea for an information letter and sign-up form.
1 Kings 19:3-18
3 Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, 4 while he himself went a day’s journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” 5 Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep.
All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” 6 He looked around, and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.
7 The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” 8 So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he travelled for forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. 9 There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
14 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
15 The Lord said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. 16 Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. 17 Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. 18 Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him.”1 Kings 19:3-18
I’ve been reading recently about Elijah the prophet – a great man of God.
God works through Elijah for the good of the people He has chosen – the people of Israel.
In this passage, God is restoring Elijah from his exhaustion after a triumphant revelation of the power of God to the people.
I got to thinking about how we manage in the “down times”. Managing in the “up times” is easy – when we feel God’s presence, when everything is going well and difficulties are being swept aside. Some of us have more “down time” than “up time”. These last 18 months have been “down time” for most people.
This morning I’m going to see what we can learn from Elijah and other people in the Bible about managing in the “down times”. We’re going to look at three people and three causes of “down times”.
Elijah was exhausted after God used him to deal with the prophets of Baal. Elijah had been living a stressful life ever since he prophesied to King Ahab about the drought – Ahab’s wife Jezebel was trying to kill him (1 Kings 18:4).
Elijah doesn’t see all that God is doing. Obadiah, the king’s servant and still faithful, tells him that he has personally rescued 100 prophets from Jezebel’s clutches (1 Kings 18:3-4). By the time of the confrontation with the prophets of Baal, he has forgotten this.
22 Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only one of the Lord’s prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets”.1 Kings 18:22
Then comes the sacrifice competition – God consumes Elijah’s sacrifice with fire, and the prophets of Baal are executed. When Jezebel hears of this, she redoubles her efforts to kill him.
Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, 4 while he himself went a day’s journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” 5 Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep.2 Kings 19:3-5
God deals with Elijah by
- Encouraging him to rest, to eat and to regain his strength.
- Giving him a new task that distracts him and keeps him out of Jezebel’s way – travelling to Horeb.
- Meeting with Him – after the wind, the earthquake and fire there is a gentle whisper, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
- Commissioning him for a new work
The Lord said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. 16 Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. 17 Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. 18 Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him.”1 Kings 19:15
This is not just more things to do: this is to take the rest of his life. In fact, Elijah himself only anoints Elisha (1Kings 19:19-21). It is Elisha who anoints Hazael (2 Kings 8:13) and who gives an unnamed prophet the task of anointing Jehu (2 Kings 9:1-10).
If we are exhausted after years of stress, why don’t we bring this to God in the expectation that he will deal as graciously with us as he dealt with Elijah?
Many of you will know of King David – the man after God’s own heart.
‘I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’Acts 13:22
David was a great king of Israel, a man of God, but sinned on one occasion. And this is one of the things we remember him by – as well as the historians.
For David had done what was right in the eyes of the Lord and had not failed to keep any of the Lord’s commands all the days of his life—except in the case of Uriah the Hittite.1 Kings 15:5
However, look at what God says:
This is what the Lord says: “Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight. 12 You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.”
13 Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”
Nathan replied, “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. 14 But because by doing this you have made the enemies of the Lord show utter contempt, the son born to you will die.”2 Samuel 12:11-13
God has taken away David’s sin – and David believes him. Look at the Psalm he wrote (also Psalm 18):
The Lord has dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me.
22 For I have kept the ways of the Lord; I have not done evil by turning from my God.
23 All his laws are before me; I have not turned away from his decrees.
24 I have been blameless before him and have kept myself from sin.
25 The Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to my cleanness in his sight.2 Samuel 22:21-25
Both David and the Lord have turned away and forgotten about David’s sin.
If we are struggling because of past sins, do we believe what God says?
Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? 23 Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 24 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.…” He said to the paralysed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home”.Luke 5:22-24
Or do we think we know better – that God couldn’t possibly forgive what we’ve done. That the price that Jesus paid is not quite enough?
You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price.1 Corinthians 6:19-20
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.1 John 1:9
The world will end before the price paid by the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins is all used up. And it’s not just forgiveness that is promised, it is purification as well.
However, David did still have to live out the consequences of his sin – the death of one son and the treachery of another – and this brings us to our third reason for “down time”.
Job lived a long time ago.
In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. 2 … He was the greatest man among all the people of the East.Job 1:1
The way the author of the book of Job tells it, God allows Satan to take a poke at Job:
Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no-one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”
9 “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. 10 “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. 11 But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”
12 The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.”Job 1:8-12
And everything that Job has – his wealth, his family, his health – is taken from him.
At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21 and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”Job 1:20-21
At this point, Job has no idea why this is happening to him, but he is still giving praise to God. Things get even worse, and eventually three of his friends turn up.
Over the days that follow, Job’s “friends” wear him down and provoke him into challenging God about what is happening to him.
But note this: Job does not understand why his circumstances have become so bad; he does not believe that they are any kind of punishment from God and he will praise God regardless.
Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and 6 my God.Psalm 42:5-6
This is excellent advice. We should spend time praising God every day. Praising God helps us to take our minds off our own gloomy situation and to turn them to God himself – a far better way of spending the time than agonising in prayer over our circumstances and how desperate they are.
We still don’t understand clearly why this happened to Job. However, Job is not the same man afterwards as before.
Before God answers him, Job says
“Does he not see my ways and count my every step? 5 “If I have walked in falsehood or my foot has hurried after deceit … 22 then let my arm fall from the shoulder, let it be broken off at the joint. 23 For I dreaded destruction from God, and for fear of his splendour I could not do such things.”Job 31:4-5, 22-23
Afterwards, Job says
“You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ 5 My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. 6 Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”Job 42:4-6
Job has changed – he used to try to be righteous because he dreaded destruction from God, now he will try to be righteous because he has a better understanding of the holiness and righteousness of God.
I hesitate to say that this was the reason that God brought such disaster on him, but God was able to change him for the better while these things happened. As with Job, so with us.
Whatever the cause of our “down time”, whether it’s one of the causes we’ve looked or something else, whether it’s simple or complicated, God is there with us.
- If it’s exhaustion – bring it to God, ask for His help and His rest, renewal and repurposing.
- If it’s sin – God has promised that if we confess to Him, He will forgive us and purify us. Whom do I believe? God or me? Who is more reliable?
- If it’s circumstances – endure patiently, praise God and look for His stealth blessing.
Be joyful always; 17 pray continually; 18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Almighty God and our Father in heaven, thank you for the love and kindness that you show to us and that you long to show to all men and women. We thank you that you are always with us, even when we’re distracted by exhaustion, sin or circumstances. Help us to take time to turn our faces to Jesus to praise and worship Him. Help us to learn to seek You in everything, and to bring everything to You in prayer.
Please remember the people affected by Covid 19 at home and abroad, by the horrific events in Plymouth, by the situation in Afghanistan, by the earthquake in Haiti, and by famine and civil war in parts of Africa.
Help us to be the effective body of Christ, reaching out with His hands and love to the people around us so that they get so see Jesus in us.