Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Elijah, or following God in tough times

This week in Sunday School (and at home) we learned about Elijah (and yes that does look like mug shots, but it amuses me and makes drawing easier).  On my facebook page I wrote I was worried about setting the fire alarm off.  For good reason, when we practiced this the first time at home I nearly set off the smoke alarm trying to get the fire out.

One of the things that amuses me about Elijah is how much he persevered.  That and now much his story is like a science fiction novel.

Elijah is called
Now God calls Elijah out of Gilead (black arrow) to Samaria (red arrow).  Elijah delivers the news that God is not going to allow it to rain and Elijah will have the power to decide when it rains again.  This is a scary thing for Elijah because Ahab, the king of Israel, has already killed most of the other prophets of Israel.  After delivering the news Elijah hides near a small river for a few years.  There, he’s fed by ravens twice a day.  RAVENS, did you read that?  I told you Elijah was weird.
God continues to keep Elijah safe and sends him up to Zarephath, and many other strange things happen, but the crux of the story is coming.  You see that fire on the map, that’s where the heart of the story starts.

God sent Elijah to challenge Ahab’s priests to a duel of sorts.  Ahab would bring his 450 priests and Elijah would bring himself, and whoever’s God lit the sacrifice would be acknowledged the one true God.
Elijah versus Ahab lesson
At this point I took my Sunday School class outside because we’re meeting at the YMCA and I don’t want to cause trouble.  As we sat outside I talked about how the priests of Baal tried over 4 hours to get Baal to light the sacrifice.  Elijah started making fun of them, “Maybe he’s taking a nap.  Maybe he’s going to the bathroom.”  Then Elijah stepped up and got ready.  He rebuilt the altar (we started to put sticks in a GLASS bowl), and when the altar was rebuilt and a trench dug around it he added 3 pitcher of water (whereupon we poured a clear liquid on our altar (rubbing alcohol).
Elijah and Baal's prophets lesson
Then God lit the fire.  The kids were suitable impressed.  After this Elijah ordered the Israelites to kill all of Baal’s prophets, and they did.  Then God sent rain.  Ahab mounted up in chariot and rode down to Samaria, and Elijah ran in front of him to get there first.

For the kids to get an idea of what this was like I had them run ALL the way around YMCA and come back into the classroom.  Remember, it’s Texas summer so it was about 100 degrees, and a little muggy.

When they came back inside, I continued the story.  Elijah ran to the palace where Ahab’s wife threatened to kill him.  He started running again, and ran all the way to Beersheba, and continued running for another day.  Finally he collapsed in despair and asked God to kill him.

Instead God fed him food and water and made him sleep. Now we gave them their snack and water.

Elijah continued down and stayed at Mount Horeb (Mt. Sinai) for 40 days.  Now we come to the part I wanted to hammer home.  Here’s the point I wanted hammered home.  God asked Elijah, “Why are you here?”  Elijah started to complain, “Ahab killed all your prophets, and I did this amazing miracle and now he wants to kill ME.”  God had Elijah come outside.
Elijah on Mount Horeb

Elijah stood on top of the mountain, and a great earthquake arose, knocking over boulders, but God was not in the earthquake.  God brought up a terrible wind, bending trees and uprooting bushes, but God was not in the wind.  Then a blazing fire burned hot and bright, blistering all within its heat, but God was not in the fireThen a stillness came and God spoke out of it, “Elijah why are you here?”

Now Elijah repeats all he said before, but this time God gives him a new direction.

Why do I think this part is so important?
Because God didn’t say Elijah it’s wrong for you to be dejected.  He understood why Elijah was so tired.  He’d just run 2 marathons and that’s tiring.  He’d spent years hiding from a cruel king, and that’s tiring.

God understands our pains, and is patient with us.  We can persevere in terrible situations and God will help us bear up.  He gave Elijah food when there was none to be had.  He helped Elijah and the widow for years.  God will be with us.

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