THE COMING BLESSING
Scripture Reading: 1 Kings 18:41-46
Before we can understand this portion of scripture we need to know the whole story of 1 Kings 18.
The people of God had abandoned their God. They were worshipping Baal and Asherah. Elijah had to bring the people to an encounter with God. It was to turn their hearts back to God again. Well the fire of God fell and the children of God saw that the LORD alone was God. The miracle of fire proved that Israel’s God alone was the living God whom they were to serve. Of course there was the slaughter of the prophets of Baal and Asherah. Elijah’s slaughter of the false prophets also showed a deep concern for the Israelites themselves who were being spiritually destroyed by false religion.
Elijah’s action against the false prophets represented God’s wrath against those who were trying to destroy his chosen people’s faith and spiritual heritage, and expressed Elijah’s own love and loyalty to his LORD. But this was not the end of the story. Elijah was still in Mount Carmel. The people returned to God. When people turned to God, the rain and the blessings would surely come. People must realize that the drought, the curses in our lives, the famine on our everything is not just an accident of nature but is a disciplinary measure by God. That is the background.
Now how did Elijah bring back the blessings to the people of God?
(1) Elijah’s perception of the coming blessing
Elijah told Ahab that ‘there is a sound of the abundance of rain’. That is found in verse 41.
I want you to understand the implication of this statement. I mean it has already been three and a half years since they had even a drop of rain. Three and a half years is a long time. I think the famine was terrible. I remember last year around May, we were already getting worried because there was no rain for a few months already. Electricity bill had doubled; brownout became frequent; we preached without electricity especially on Tuesday; there was no Nawasa water and people were frantic. The newspaper told us that there was an El Nino. I remember seeing a lot of water trucks parked at Sarabia Hotel and even at this building to supply water from other sources because the deep well had no more water. If you go down this building today and see the first parking lot, you will see that there is a covering for a well. Until now we cannot even park on the first lot. You will remember that it was because of lack of water, that Mr. Charlie Ho, the owner of the building, had to open that well probably to pump water into the tanks. And we were only a few months without water and we were all terrified. Can you remember we prayed for many weeks and even months for rain?
We must be grateful that we prayed and God sent the rain. We have the habit of taking the blessings of God for granted. God has sent so much rain that this year so far we have only 2 weeks of summer. There was no El Nino as predicted by the experts.
For the nations of Israel it had been three and a half years. I believe a lot of animals died, crops dried up and even human being died of starvation. The cheek bone of human rose higher and higher. Long ravens’ wings and even vultures waiting for dead bodies of human and wild animals were extended over the hill. The bank of Kishon put on a ghastlier (horrifying, grisly) hue (color). The brook has dried up and the surrounding was brown and the ground was cracked up.
How about the famine of our life? How long has it been? Food is getting lesser and lesser in the house. The body is getting skinner and skinner. The home is becoming worse and worse in conditions. The souls in the house are the living dead. Sicknesses reign. Gloom and doom envelope our home. And to make matter worse, your family has been in this condition for a long time already.
And then now Elijah came in and said there was the sound of the abundance of rain. Elijah was still in Mount Carmel. Mount Carmel means a ‘park’ or a ‘fertile ground’. Mount Carmel is located on the Mediterranean coast of Israel, overlooking the modern-day city of Haifa. The view of Haifa and the surrounding region from Mount Carmel is quite beautiful. In the midst of deadness, there was a coming blessing. Elijah saw it. Ezekiel was asked ‘Can these bones live?’
Maybe you are asking too, ‘Can anything good come out of my life, my family.’ I ask you, ‘Do you hear the coming of the abundance of rain, the coming blessings.’ I hear it. Do you hear it in your life? Does God tell you that your family and your life will be a fertile ground and like a garden again?
Elijah perceived the coming blessings when he said ‘There is a sound of abundance of rain.’ God had promised him this blessing.
When God gives you a promise, you must hold God to his promise and have faith in his promises.
In 1 Kings 18:1 God said ‘Present yourself to Ahab and I will send rain in the land.’ Also Elijah perceives the coming blessings from God’s word. Elijah knew there would be rain if there was repentance. The people had turned to God. They openly confessed, ‘The LORD, He is God.’ They slaughtered the false prophets, depicting giving up their false religion. Deut 28:12 says ‘The LORD will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands.”
Only a person in close relationship with God can perceive the coming blessings. Maybe you have already heard from God about the coming blessings in your life. Only a soul in close walk with God can hear this beautiful voice of God. Elijah must have been a man of prayer in his life before this episode in his life.
I want to encourage you to have your daily devotion. To live a life of prayer. I promise you that it will be an exciting life, filled with miracles, signs and wonders and answered prayer. Like Elijah you perceive the coming blessings. Maybe you have a stirring that a mighty revival is going to take place in Iloilo City. Maybe God has promised you that your family is going to experience great financial blessings. Maybe you perceive that something wonderful is going to happen to your career, your business. Maybe God told you that your family will be whole again, well, wholesome. Maybe God has told you that he is going to heal you. Your close relationship with God has caused you to perceive the coming blessings.
To put it correctly, God has revealed to you the coming blessings upon your life. In your spiritual sensitivity, the long wished blessing is coming. You can just sense it. Whether you hear it in reality from some people or a sign from God that has been shown you, this spiritual anticipation is quickening in your soul. There is already the gentle flow of easy blessings that has started in your life. Blessings in trickle are already starting to flow into your life. But it will become an abundance of rain. It is summoning you, the lone believer in the coming blessings, to prayer.
It is said that a certain Polish Jew, whose great musical genius raised him to eminence and wealth, had become so familiar with the different kinds of wood of which he made his flutes, that he knew every tree of the forest, by the peculiarity of its sound. So, long practice in prayer sharpens every sensitivity of the soul, and familiarizes it with the faintest indication, of the nearness of the coming blessings.
I am becoming more and more of a believer in prayer and I believe the greatness of Elijah and his ability to hear of the coming blessings has a lot to do with his prayer life.
(2) Elijah’s posture in prayer
In prayer Elijah sought retirement. ‘Elijah went up to the top of Carmel’. It is because in solitude, he can pour out his heart to God in secret.
I just returned with Pastor Lily and Pastor Carlos from an “Ignite” meeting with 114 Church Planters and their leaders at Lauaan, Antique. God moved very powerfully. But one of the things I noticed in the meetings was there was a lot of young people that could not stop but literally scream and shout continually before God. It tells me something about them. They have gone through a lot in just their short span of life and they don’t know how to respond to life and trials and pains. But when in the presence of God, they could pour out their hearts to God in secret, in the sense that nobody knows what they are going through.
Devotion needs times of quietness and solitude in order to store up spiritual strength for the bustle and conflicts of life.
Elijah must have prayed before that it might rain again. I believe you must have prayed a lot for a certain blessing. But now the great burden of your heart is for the blessing to come that had been so long withheld. Prayer is the necessary link to receiving God’s blessings and power, and the fulfillment of his promises. In some respect God has limited himself to believing, persevering prayers of his people.
God greatly impressed upon me concerning the prayer of saints, which is us, in the book of Revelation, which is a last day message. And we are living in the last days. Rev 5:8 mentions about ‘the golden vials full of odors, which are the prayer of saints’. Revelation 8:3-4 talks about a golden censer, with much incense, being offered with the prayer of saints. And the smoke of the incense which came with the prayer of saints ascended up before God.’
I Kings 18:42 says ‘Elijah cast himself down upon the earth and put his face between his knees’. Do you know that kneeling is a very difficult task? Try kneeling down for 15 minutes and you’d want to get up already. It is humbling. I shall never forget the way Martin Luther prayed in the movie that was shown in HOF; how he would totally fall prostrate with his face on the floor. No wonder he led the Great Reformation.
Kneeling put you in touch with reality of who you really are. You humble yourself when you kneel before God. Elijah took a position of humility and concentration.
There is also spiritual discipline when in prayer. The bible says seven times he told his servant to go again and seven times he would bow himself down upon the earth and put his face between his knees. For prayer to be effective we must be persistent. Elijah received the prophetic word that rain was coming and he persisted in prayer until the rain came.
The number seven in Scripture symbolizes something that is full and complete. For Elijah he engaged in a complete intercession with three aspects.
Firstly he interceded to restore the altar and the honor of God in the land. You need to pray to restore the altar of God in your life.
Secondly he interceded by engaging in spiritual warfare against the false religion and cult of Baalism and Asherah.
Thirdly he interceded with God by intense and persistent prayer for the blessings.
I do not know what the coming blessings that God has promised you are. The promised blessings are different with every individual but it is still a spectacular blessings. I told you that God told me to kneel down at the altar seven times because He wants me to be like Elijah. The Old Testament likens the outpouring of the Sprit with the outpouring of rain; that is what I feel for this church, this city and even this province and this country.
Elijah’s confrontation with Baalism illustrates the three main kinds of intercession that must characterize the prayer of God’s people.
Firstly intercession for the restoration of God’s honor and glory and for a revival among God’s people. You not only must restore God’s altar in your life but you also must restore God’s honor and glory and see a revival among God’s people.
Secondly intercession involving spiritual warfare against demonic strongholds. After the first day of our “Ignite” service with the people of Antique, we went to our lodging house to rest to prepare for the following day. We preached at least 8 messages for that day and we had to preach another 8 or so the next day. It was tiring. I also notice in that lodging house, which belongs to a Barangay Captain, has tall images of Mary or other idols. There is a stronghold of Catholicism in it. While I was sleeping, I thought that an insect crawled over me and I tried to brush it off, but I saw no insect. I was too tired and went back to sleep. The next day after we woke up, Pastor Lily complained to me that she felt demonic creatures twice crawling over her. She jumped out from her bed in pitch darkness to switch on the light but she saw nothing. I told her I felt the crawling but insisted that it was an insect. After the “Ignite” service ended, I returned to Iloilo City and was praying on the Saturday morning at 3am, which was yesterday, and God brought me to a dream that I had had almost a year ago. In that dream I saw a light, actually quite a beautiful light. In that dream at the same time, twice I had the knowledge that there was an especially large mantis trying to crawl over my back. It was especially a large one with the size of a palm. I cannot remember which came first, the light or the mantis. Then suddenly in my dream I saw every inch of the floor of my room was filled with insects; cockroach, bugs, all kinds of tiny insects all dead and my helper had to clean up the whole floor. I asked God for the interpretation of that dream. Then the same thing happened again in Laua-an. I believe the light speaks of the powerful God wanting to pierce through our soul and send a mighty revival, renewal and restoration to us. But at the same time there is demonic opposition. The creatures represent demonic creatures crawling over our lives because we have open our lives to vices, sinful habits, strongholds, immorality and uncleanness to crawl all over our lives. It talks about spiritual warfare against demonic strongholds that binds the lives of not just unbelievers, but also members of the church, including leaders and pastors. I feel that all our poverty and bondages have to do with demons preventing the blessings.
Prayerful intercession involves spiritual warfare against demonic strongholds. We are preparing very seriously for the Ignite during the HOF this coming May 27, 2011 because we want to break the demonic creatures that control the people in vices, sinful habits, immorality, uncleanness.
God spoke to my heart about the young people in our church. It happened when I was distributing the free bags during one of the HOF service, to prepare them for the coming school holiday. I was struck by all their faces. From their faces, I can see the pains in their lives. During the encounter weekend on Holy Week, my spiritual eyes were open for the first time on how painful and lonely the Filipinos families are. They are in complete bondage and nobody is helping them. Yes we only see their rebellion, their vices, willfulness but we did not see their pains. Only God can set them free. I am reminded of the man from Macedonia whom Paul saw in a dream saying, “come over and help us.” We have to help them to have an Encounter with God. God will richly bless us. When they are set free to be on fire for God, that will be the greatest joy in our lives that no money can buy.
Please remember that there was an encounter between Israel and God at Mount Carmel before the blessings of rain came. Likewise, the youth need an Encounter before any blessings can happen to their life. They need to slay the Baals and Asherah in their lives. They need to know God alone is God.
Thirdly, there is a need for intercession for the spiritual drought to be broken by the outpouring of God’s Spirit and by a spiritual awakening.
Why must Elijah pray 7 times? Delaying is not denial. The blessing is withheld partly to certify the fact that it comes from God, to show the necessity of hourly dependence upon God in prayer everyday. And also to teach us, when the blessing did finally come that whatever apparent difficulties there may be in the way, ‘men ought always to pray and not to faint’. Six times the servant came with the disappointing word ‘there is nothing’ but the Tishbit’s faith was undaunted; he had unwavering confidence in the prayer- hearing God.
(3) Elijah’s undaunting faith
Elijah’s confidence that God would answer his prayer was so great that ‘a cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea’ was all the evidence he needed. He needed just a sign.
When in prayer, if you see the sign of blessing coming in your everyday life, believe. Something has been happening to me since February. I saw a dark foreboding cloud that sent a strong rain that caused aeroplane to turn back to the original location. It was a sign. Then I heard God impressing upon me to pray like Elijah seven times for the completion of the abundance of rain or the coming blessing. I knelt before this altar and caught hold of the altar one Sunday morning and there was an outpouring of the Spirit on my people during the altar-call. Not only that, that evening, there was a literal downpour of rain during the third service. They were all signs that God has been showing me that an abundance of rain and the coming blessing is before us.
I have received more signs than Elijah and yet insensitive as I am I have not the faith of Elijah. God wants me to have the faith of Elijah.
We must understand the object of our faith. For Elijah it was to procure rain for the parched land. I do not know what is yours. Everyone of us has our own individual coming blessings. Let us learn from Elijah to keep a clearly defined object before our God.
With regard to God, Elijah saw the fatherhood, the mercy and love of God. One of the most powerful sermons in the Encounter Retreat was the fatherhood of God portrayed in the Prodigal Son. In Antique, we were having our meeting in the school. The service was going on. But I had to go to the CR. Even at the CR, I heard the fatherhood of God because of the loud speaker. I was so touched and I just cried and cried in the CR. I was more ministered by the message of the Prodigal son shared by Pastor Lily, at Antique than at our Encounter Weekend at El Grande Resort. I saw how much God loves us. I saw how important we are to God. I saw what beautiful thoughts God has towards each of us. And His thoughts of us are one of love; we are His priceless possession. Pastor Ronilio Vegas cried and cried and said that he has no father in Antique and nobody can protect him except God. He had a powerful breakthrough.
God is near and ready to help us. Elijah heard the sound of the abundance of rain. This was an indication of God’s nearness to him and a token that his prayer would be answered. This sound in all likelihood was heard only by himself. So it is with every man who has strong faith in God, and who lives in close union and intimate relationship and fellowship with Him. He has visions of God unseen by others. His faith is manifested in his perseverance. ‘Go seven times’. Many a one would have grown weary on being told by the second or third times, there is nothing as promised by God. But Elijah was undaunted. He continued to watch and pray. Finally ‘there was the great rain’. Though he had to wait, yet God heard him. Who can imagine the feeling of joy that would rush into our heart as we received the answer to our prayers?
James 5:18 says ‘Again he (Elijah) prayed and the heavens gave rain and the earth produced the crops’. Elijah was a man who had faith that his prayers to God would accomplish much, even to the point of God’s intervention in the course of nature. He believed that prayer by a righteous person does change things. The Christian’s most powerful resource is communion with God through faith in prayer. The results are far greater than we thought were possible. The rain came and the earth produced the crops. If we follow the principles of Elijah our blessings will come and it will produce the results, the rewards, the fruits.
Are you experiencing a famine and draught in your life? In the midst of it, do you perceive the coming blessing upon your life? Then engage the posture of prayer. Exercise undaunted faith. Then God will rain the blessing upon your life and your life will yield the crops, the results, the rewards and the fruits.
END OF SERMON
SERMON OF PASTOR TOH NEE.
Preached on May 15, 2011 AT EFC Iloilo