EMPTY BARREL GRADUATE SCHOOL | The Book of 1 Kings 17:8-16

Elijah: Obedience in a Threatening World
Elijah: Obedience in a Threatening World

Elijah holds in his hand a diploma from Dry Brook University. He has trusted God to take care of him even in the most desperate of situations. He trusted God to send the ravens to feed him, and he trusted God to supply his water using the little brook Cherith. He watched as God met his needs day in and day out. He also watched as God allowed his brook, the only source of water he had, to dry up before his eyes. Surely, enduring this kind of trial would count for something! Surely, things would get better for the prophet now!

Yet, when God speaks to Elijah, it is to send him into another difficult situation. You see, the prophet’s training isn’t over just yet. God is creating a man of God! Elijah may have graduated from Dry Brook University, but now he is about to enroll in Empty Barrel Graduate School. At Cherith God broke the prophet’s flesh: He taught Elijah to depend on God. At Zarephath, God will break Elijah’s pride. Here, he will learn that God, not Elijah calls all the shots of life. He will learn that things are never like they appear. He will learn that God can use the humblest of means to train His children for His glory.

Remember, God intends to use this man in a mighty way! When we get to chapter 18, we will see why God put the prophet through such rigorous training. God is building a man of God!

Now, with that in mind, there are times when it seems that our trials come back to back to back to back. That is, it seems that before one trial can end, another begins! When these times come, we may be tempted to question the Lord as to what He is doing. Simply stated, God is getting you in a position where He can use you in a greater way. I will remind you that before He can mold us, He must first melt us! After all, God’s goal for every saint of God is that we be made into the image of the Lord Jesus Christ, “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:“, Eph. 4:13.

Therefore, let’s join the prophet Elijah as he continues his training at Empty Barrel Graduate School. There are lessons here that we can glean from as well. These lessons will help us when we face our times of testing.

I. V. 8-11 A FRESH PATH

A. V. 8 The Call – As Elijah sat there beside that dried up brook, it must have felt like he had been abandoned by God. Have you ever felt that way? It is a terrible feeling! However, God had not forgotten about Elijah! God knew exactly where he was. God knew all about that dry brook and God had something else in mind for the man of God!

    • Let me just remind you that the dried brooks of life are merely those things which God uses to move us along in His will.
    • (Ill. There is a lesson here for us, and it is a hard one to swallow! That lesson is this: genuine faith waits for God to reveal His plans. It will sit by a dried up brook forever, even if it means death, waiting on the will of God to be revealed.
    • Friends, this is where we get into trouble! We have this tendency to run ahead of God and take matters into our own hands. Yet, God’s will is that we learn to wait on Him, even when He doesn’t move on our schedule!
    • If your brook is dry this morning, do not fear! God has not forgotten about you. He knows just where you are and when the time is right, you will hear His voice calling you to a fresh arena of service! “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

B. V. 9a The Command – when the Lord does speak to Elijah, He commands him to go to Zarephath. This is a strange command considering the fact that Zarephath is in a Gentile nation. It is country of Jezebel. It is a land of idolaters. It is a wicked place filled with wicked people. Yet, that is exactly where the Lord sends His prophet! To top it off, to get to Zarephath from Cherith will force Elijah to march over 100 miles through territory ruled over by King Ahab, who is looking for Elijah everywhere. It seems like this command of the Lord makes no sense at all! Of course, one of the reason for sending Elijah to Zarephath was to vividly illustrate the impotence of Jezebel’s wrath and power!

    • (Ill. Again, there is a lesson for us in this verse: Often, the life of faith will lead through difficult pathways. Folks, God never promised that this way would be an easy way. Job 14:1; Job 5:7; John 16:33. Yet, that is the path of faith! Yet, even when the command of God makes no sense, faith simply obeys God without regard for the consequences, v. 10! You can see this truth displayed throughout the Bible.
      • Noah and the ark – Gen. 6
      • Abraham and Isaac – Gen. 22
      • Daniel and the 3 Hebrews – Dan. 1

C. V. 9b The Challenge – Notice that again Elijah is told to “dwell there“. He is to go to Zarephath and stay there until he receives new instructions from the mouth of the Lord.

    • However, the real challenge is in what God told the prophet next, “behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee.” That must have been a serious blow to the pride of the prophet.
    • Instead of God telling Elijah, “I have a widow over there in Zarephath and I want you to go take care of her.” God says, “Elijah, I am sending you to another place of testing where you will have to look to me for all you receive, every day.”
    • For Elijah, Zarephath was a place that would live up to its name. The name Zarephath meanssmelting furnace, or refining“. It refers to the furnace into which metal is placed so that it can be heated up and have any impurities removed. Cherith was the place where Elijah had been cut off and cut down. Zarephath would be the place where he would be refined. It would be here that the last vestiges of Elijah’s pride and self-reliance would be stripped away.
    • (Ill. We are a self-reliant people aren’t we? We always want to believe that we can “handle it” ourselves. We would like to think that we are in control of our lives and that we are calling all the shots. However, when the Lord begins to work in your life to reveal Himself in you more clearly, He will send you to a Zarephath where you have to depend on nothing but Him. When you have been brought to the place where you can lean on nothing but God, He has brought you to the greatest of places that life can afford. For it is in that place that you will learn Who is in control. That is the challenge we all face in our faith life. We all face the challenge of getting to the place where we are trusting God and Him alone for all the needs we have in life! That is where He wants each of us, “The just shall live by faith.” Rom. 1:17.)

D. V. 10-11 The Comfort – When Elijah receives this command, he does not hesitate, he just gets up and goes where God tells him to go. When he arrives at Zarephath, he sees “the” widow picking up sticks.

    • (Ill. There is a lesson here as well. Our God is a God Who works on both ends of the line. Let me illustrate. When Jacob and his sons needed food, God provided a Joseph in Egypt. When the children of Israel sent their spies to Jericho, God gave them a Rahab. When the Jews faced a Haman, God raised them up an Esther. When an Ethiopian Eunuch needed salvation, God sent him a Philip. The point is this: When your time of need arises, rest assured that your Father has already gone ahead to spread the table of provision in your behalf, Phil. 4:19.)

IA Fresh Path

II. V. 12-15a A FANTASTIC PROMISE

A. V. 12 A Doubt – When Elijah asks the widow for a cake of bread, her fear is brought to the surface. God had already commanded her to care for His prophet, v. 9, but she is trapped is the fear of faithlessness. She has her eyes on the circumstances and not on the God Who controls the circumstances!

    • (Ill This is the place where many people are living this morning! When we look at our problems and our needs, we feel like we are trapped in a hopeless situation. We are guilty of looking at the problem and not at the Provider! As much as Elijah was sent to Zarephath for his benefit, he was also sent for the benefit of this widow. She needed to learn the value of faith in God.
    • My friend, are you trapped in doubt this morning? Does it appear that your situation is hopeless and that you are helpless to do anything about it? The answer lies in looking beyond your problem and getting your eyes on the Provider,
    • (Ill. It must have been a discouragement to Elijah to hear the widow express her lack of faith. If he had focused on first impressions instead of on the word of God, then he might have lapsed into despair. However, he believed God more than he believed even what he saw! Real faith knows that God is greater than what the eye can see. Real faith knows that God can make the impossible possible, Heb. 11:1!)

B. V. 13-14 A Demand – When Elijah hears the widow’s sob story, he makes what appears to be the coldest demand in the Bible. He tells her to go ahead and fix her last supper, but to feed him first! On the surface this appears harsh and cruel, but it was, in fact, a plea for faith and surrender to the will of God.

    1.  Involved Encouragement – “Fear not!” Elijah comforts her heart in this matter. She is told that she can trust God.
    2.  Involved Enlightenment – “Thus saith the Lord God of Israel.” She gets a direct word from God concerning her situation. She has God’s word that she will be taken care of.
    3.  Involved Excitement – “Neither the barrel of meal nor the cruse of oil will fail until God sends rain upon the earth. This widow hears the news that she is about to be center stage for a miracle designed to care for God’s man. She is about to be caught up in a manifestation of the power of God.

C. V. 15a A Decision – When this widow heard the word of God, she went and did as Elijah had commanded her. It must have took great faith to use the last little bit of meal she had to prepare bread for a total stranger. Yet she did it by faith!

    • (Ill. This is the place that God wants to bring us all to. He wants His Elijahs and His widows to learn to trust Him in every circumstance, regardless of what outward appearances may suggest.
    • (Ill. God wants us to get to the place where we can give it all away!
  1.  A Fresh Path
  2.  A Fantastic Promise

III. V. 15-16 A FABULOUS PROVISION

  • (Ill. The Bible tells us here that until the rains returned to the earth, the meal barrel and the jar of oil did not run out. Every time the widow went to get meal and oil to prepare a meal, there was more to be used. When she decided to bake that cake for Elijah, she traded the certain for the uncertain and received the impossible in return!)
    1.  The Grace Of It – Because this widow took God at His Word and prepared bread for Elijah, God allowed the widow, the widow’s son and Elijah to enjoy plenty while all around them hundreds starved to death.
    2.  The Greatness Of It – For years, until it rained, every meal time was a miracle. He can take the little that is dedicated to Him by faith and multiply it to enormous proportions! (Ill. The 5 loaves and 2 fishes fed a multitude – John 6:5-13.)
    3.  The Glory Of It The glory of this story resides in this fact: that barrel of meal and that cruse of oil were never full! Elijah and the widow were taught to live day by day. Everyday she scraped the bottom of the barrel and everyday there was just enough meal to fix their food. Everyday she watched the last drop of oil drip from that jar, but the next day there was always more. The glory in the story lies in the fact that Elijah and the widow were taught to trust God day by day! As the days passed, their faith was strengthened as they saw the Lord provide!

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Twelve Ordinary Men|Book Review

John MacArthur
Twelve Ordinary Men

The Twelve Ordinary Men by John MacArthur is a great book. Contrary to popular belief, we do not have to be perfect to do God’s work. Look no further than the twelve disciples whose many weaknesses are forever preserved throughout the pages of the New Testament. Jesus chose ordinary men – fisherman, tax collectors, political zealots – and turned their weakness into strength, producing greatness from utter uselessness.

1 Corinthians 1:20-29

20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?

21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.

22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:

23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;

24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.

25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:

27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;

28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring time in to nought things that are:

29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.

Christ personally chose the twelve and invested a lot of time in them.

He chose them before they chose him (John 15:16). 16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.

The process of choosing and calling them happened in distinct stages. Careless readers of Scripture sometimes imagine that John 1:35-51, Luke 5:3-11, and the formal calling of the Twelve in Luke 6:12-16 are contradictory accounts of how Christ called His apostles. But there is no contradiction. The passages are only describing different stages of the apostles calling.

In John 1:35-51:

35 Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples;

36 And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!

37 And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.

38 Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou?

39 He saith unto them, Come and see. They came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day: for it was about the tenth hour.

40 One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.

41 He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ.

42 And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.

43 The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me.

44 Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.

45 Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.

46 And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see.

47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!

48 Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee.

49 Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.

50 Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these.

51 And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.

For example Andrew, John, Peter, Phillip, and Nathaniel encounter Jesus for the first time.

This event occurs near the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, in the wilderness near the Jordan River, where John the Baptist was ministering. Andrew, John and the others were there because they were already disciples of John the Baptist.

But when they heard their teacher single out Jesus and say, “Behold the Lamb of God!” they followed Jesus.

This was phase one of their calling. It was a Call to conversion

  • It illustrates how every disciple is called first to salvation.
  • We must Recognized Jesus as the true Lamb of God and Lord of all, and embrace Him by faith.
  • That stage of the disciples call did not involve full-time discipleship. They became followers, but they remained at their jobs and their normal day today life.

I am currently walking our Church through this study of Twelve Ordinary men. It is a great lesson to share with the body of Christ. It speaks to God choosing the simple and ordinary to accomplish great things in His Kingdom.

Study 1 of The Book of Joshua|This Land is our Land

CanaanJoshua 1:1-18

Do you remember the song we used to sing when we were children in school? “This land is your Land.” The lyrics went a little something like:

“This land is your land This land is my land
From California to the New York island;
From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and Me.”

When I read the book of Joshua that’s what I think about, the land that God promised to them many years ago and now it was time for them to enter into that land of promise. However, as they prepare there must be an understanding that there will be battles that will have to be fought. Therefore, in the midst of the battles, there is always hope for victory, Rom. 8:31, 37. In fact, the Bible tells us that we are the recipients of victory through the Lord Jesus Christ, 1 Cor. 15:57.

While we are engaged in the battle with evil, there is the expectation that we can and will walk in victory in our lives. For me, this is what the book of Joshua represents.

In this book, we find that Moses, has died and a new leader named Joshua has been appointed to lead the nation of Israel into Canaan. After 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, Israel is about to take possession of the land which God promised Abraham.

This book is about the battles Israel faced in order to claim that promise from God. Joshua is a book of warfare, suffering and great victories. It is a book that can teach the Christian much about obtaining spiritual victory in your life.

This morning, I begin a new series that will take us through the book of Joshua. My goal in preaching it is help you to stop wandering around in the wilderness and to enter into your Canaanland of spiritual victory. These verses will help us to understand what it takes to go from wandering around in a wilderness of defeat to living in a land of victory.

There are 3 truths given here that we need to understand this morning as we look at the thought,

This Land Is Our Land!”

In Verse 1-9 we see THE CALL FROM GOD.

In order for them to enter the land they must get instructions from the one who gave them the land. In verse 1-4 there is A Call To Claim The Land – In these verses, Joshua is reminded that the Lord has already given the land of Canaan to the children of Israel.

Joshua is commanded to lead the people into Canaan to claim the land that they had been promised by the Lord. The land was given to them back in Gen. 12:7 and the promises were reaffirmed to every succeeding generation of the nation of Israel. The land was indeed their land! There was no need for them to continue their wandering around in the wilderness. They had a land, all they had to do was claim it.

Each day as I look around as I go through my week I see Christians who are defeated, who struggle with sins, who, for all intents and purposes are wandering around in a spiritual wilderness. My friends, it does not have to be that way! God has a place of victorious living which He has promised you and I can live in, 2 Cor. 2:14; Rom. 8:37; 1 Cor. 15:57. I believe with all my heart that God did not save you to see you defeated! Most of the time, we are defeated because we refuse to walk in victory.

We also see in verse 5-6, 9 A Call To Have Confidence In The Lord Joshua is reminded of some very precious promises in these verses. Notice what God promised him:

There was the promise of victory over every enemy, the promise of the presence and power of God, the promise of the faithfulness of God, the promise of absolute victory and the promise of God to keep His promises. The question is what did Joshua have to do to make these things happen? Just one thing: Trust God! May I remind you that the same promises God made to Joshua are in force for you and me this morning? You can still count on the Lord to do everything He promised Joshua He would do!

He still gives victory over all our enemies – 1 John 5:4-5. For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? He is still ever-present, Heb. 13:5, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. and all powerful – Matt. 28:18. And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. He is still faithful – Matt. 28:20. I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen. He still gives absolute victory – 1 Cor. 15:57; But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. He still keeps His promises – Rom. 4:21. And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. What do we have to do to see these things come to pass in our lives? Just one thing: Trust God!

In verse 7-8 we find A Call To Carry Out The Law – The Lord tells Joshua that if he is to lead the people of God to rest in Canaan, then he take heed to the Law of God. Remembering the Law is an essential step to entering our Canaan as well. Notice what the Lord to Joshua about the Law and how this applies to our lives today. He was to keep the Law, He was to meditate on the Law and He was to prosper by honoring the Law.

There is a lesson in this for us this We are to feed on the Bible –  Job 23:12. I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food. We are to live by the Bible – Psa. 119:11; Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. We will be blessed when these things are true in our lives – Psa. 1:1-3! Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

Finally in the Call from God we find in verse 6a, 7a, 9a A Call To Courage In Leadership – In the midst of all these things the Lord calls Joshua to do, 3 times, God Himself, encourages Joshua to be strong and courageous! These words carry the idea of “standing firm and strong in the face of opposition.”

Are you standing for the Lord? Or, have you fallen out along the way?

To claim the land as yours you must also look at verse 10-15 THE CHALLENGE FROM JOSHUA.

After Joshua receives his challenge from the Lord, without hesitation, he goes to the people and tells them that the time has come to take their land. First, he challenges the nation as a whole and then he addresses a specific group within the nation of Israel.

In verse 10-11 there is  A Challenge To Readiness – Joshua tells the people to get ready to go into Canaan and claim the land. These were the words they had been living for 40 years. However, before they could go in, they had to get ready! God told them to prepare them some food. You see, the manna was about to stop. God had told them that He would give them manna while they were in the desert, but it would cease when they entered the Promised Land, Ex. 16:35. The manna was desert diet, now they were about to move up to something a whole lot better. They were going to a land flowing with milk and honey. What had worked in the wilderness would not suffice in the land of blessing!

The same is true for us today. Before we can enter our Canaan, we have to prepare for that land. The way we live must change. The things we feed on must change. The entire scope of our lives must be altered to adjust to life in Canaan! This is why so many never enjoy the victorious Christian life. They simply refuse to make the necessary changes to adjust to living in spiritual victory. The fact is, if you expect to walk in victory, you will have to learn to walk by an entirely new set of rules, Rom. 6:4; Col. 3:1-10.)

What will you have to do to get ready for Canaan?

In verse 12-15 there is A Challenge To Responsibility – Now, Joshua addresses the tribes of Reuben, Gad and that half tribe of Manasseh. These tribes had sought, and gotten, permission from Moses to remain east of the Jordan, just outside the Promised Land. Their reason in making this request? The land east of Jordan was a land that was good for raising cattle, Num. 32:1, 4, 16. Still, Joshua reminds them that they had promised to fight alongside their brethren until the land was conquered, Deut 3:12-20. These people are challenged to remember their promise and to aid the nation until victory was secured. While these people settled in a land of prosperity, they were also in a land of danger. Years later, when the Assyrian army attacked from the East, these tribes were the first to go away into captivity.

Listen, there is a very powerful lesson for us in these verse. We have literal legions of Christians who are just like these 2 ½ tribes. They are more concerned about making a living than they are about making a life! The primary thing that motivates them is getting ahead in life. In other words, they are materially minded instead of spiritually minded!

These people represent those Christians I would call “borderline Christians”. These are people who have trusted Jesus for salvation, but that is about as far as they are will to go. They will come when they want to, tithe when they feel like they can afford to, fight a battle now and again, but most often, they are seen just playing around the edges, refusing to put God first in their lives.

By the way, it is this type of Christian who is usually the first to fall in times of attack and temptation!

Lastly, take a look at verse 16-18 THE COMMITMENT FROM THE PEOPLE.

In verse 16 They Commit Themselves To A Life Of Surrender – These people make their stand with the Lord. They promise absolute obedience and surrender to the will of God.

This is the only way spiritual victory will come to any life. There must be total and absolute surrender of every area of life to the will of God and to His divine leadership. Anything less hinders the work of God in your life and mine. What are you holding back from the Lord this morning?

In verse 17 They Commit Themselves To A Life Of Submission – These men also promised to follow the leadership of God’s man. Just as they had followed Moses, they committed themselves to following Joshua! We are to submit to the leadership of God! Canaan is only for those who are subject to the will of God!)

Finally, verse 18 shows us  They Commit Themselves To A Life Of Separation – Finally, the people commit themselves to separating from those in their midst who refused to comply with the commandments of the Lord. And, their separation was so strong that they vowed to put to death anyone who rebelled against the leadership of Joshua. These people knew that allowing rebellion in their midst was a sure way to guarantee defeat.

Again, the lesson for us is clear this morning. If we want to walk in victory, we must practice separation in our lives as well. We should separate ourselves from anything that would prevent us from having victory in our lives. Whether it be from certain people, in the way we dress, the way we talk, the things we watch and do, where we work, how we think or in any other area of life. If it is a hindrance to your entering into your Canaan, then it must go. Otherwise, you will always be defeated and in danger. Even as I speak, you already know what it is that is holding you back this morning. You need to get that things settled today!

Canaanland is our land! It has been given to us by the Heavenly Father and all we have to do this morning is to march in and claim it for ourselves. However, while it is ours, it isn’t cheap! If you really want to walk in spiritual victory and live in Canaanland, then you will have to pay the price.