God May Surprise You

Pastor Mary Inman & Pastor Sam Inman

05-11-14

 

Part A: Pastor Mary Inman

Please open your Bibles to I Kings chapter 17.  We will be walking through the chapter together. 

Today we are going to find out how a single mom—a widow, in a desperate situation, without a means of knowing God, is SURPRISED by God who chooses to enter her world.  We’ve titled this message “God May Surprise You.” 

The year is 874 BC and Ahab is king of Israel.  He does more evil than any king before him.  He marries Jezebel, the daughter of the King of Sidon, who entices Israel into Baal worship.  At this wicked turn of events in a nation called “God’s people”, Elijah shows up. 

He comes on the scene when everything is “going to hell in a hand basket”.  Like America, where our eyes have turned away from the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, where we are killing off our next generation through abortion, and where we are teaching our children violence and the occult through children’s movies, and games—God is about to show Himself as the God of everything, the God of Heaven’s Armies! 

It’s at such a dark time that God decides to invade time and space as the Almighty. Elijah tells King Ahab that he is going to pray, and God will stop the rain—even the morning dew will not come. 

Now, to understand the significance of this, we need to know that Baal, the false god they were worshipping, was supposed to be the god of the earth, of fertility, but also of the rain and the dew. 

So, Elijah tells King Ahab that he will pray and the real God will stop the rain, and even the dew.  This makes Ahab and all Baal followers so furious they are ready to kill him. 

Surprise #1 ELIJAH’S OBEDIENCE MAKES HIM RUN FOR HIS LIFE 

God spares Elijah’s life by directing Elijah to hide in the Cherith Brook and ravine.  As you can see, it was a wild, desolate, desert place. 

Now, when God sends you to use your gift—of healing, prophecy, miracles, faith, administration, leadership, pastoring etc., and you are obedient, don’t you expect a better outcome than complete solitude in a not very nice surrounding? 

Surprise #2 GOD’S HIDING PLACE WAS SOLITARY CONFINEMENT, NOT A FAN CLUB ON FACEBOOK 

Do we expect deserts, dry winds, desolation and excommunication from friends and family?  Well, that is what happened to Elijah.  He was a preacher without a congregation, and a prophet without an audience. 

But Elijah DOES obey—in his case it is obedience or death.  God sends ravens twice a day to feed him, and he has water in the brook.  But then his own prophecy about no rain comes back to bite him.  The brook dries up. 

Surprise #3 GOD DID NOT PROTECT HIM FROM THE CONSEQUENCES OF HIS OWN PROPHECY 

So, when the provision that God has been miraculously supplying in your life dries up, what is your response?  Complaint?  Questioning?  I guess that wasn’t God speaking after all? 

God uses the absence of essential elements to again stir Elijah to faith.  God instructs Elijah to travel about 90 miles to a foreign city to hide.  It is a city ruled by Jezebel’s father.  Interesting—God says, “Elijah, I’ve hidden you in caves in the wasteland of Cherith.  Now I will hide you in plain sight of your enemy.  I will take you to the center of Baal worship.  I AM GOING TO INVADE THE DARKEST PLACE. 

I am going to show my power to a people who have never seen me. 

So Elijah walks 90 miles through his homeland, where he is a wanted man, and into enemy territory—in Phoenicia, where Jezebel’s father is king—to Zarephath—where God has told him a widow will feed him. 

As he comes to the gates of Zarapheth, he sees a woman he believes to be his answer to food, and she is gathering sticks. 

“Please bring me a drink of water,” Elijah asks her, and then adds, “and some bread.” 

“I have nothing to feed you,” she replies.  “I came out here to gather some sticks to bake the last loaf of bread for my son and myself, and then we will die.” 

Surprise #5 MORE FAITH IS NEEDED, EVEN AFTER COMPLETE OBEDIENCE 

Let me ask you, if God asks you to walk 90 miles through enemy territory, you most likely have to walk only at night.  You finally arrive at Zerephath, only to find that the drought you predicted has stuck there also, and the woman chosen to feed you is out of food, what would you do? 

“I know you have never seen me before—but please give me your last loaf of bread.” 

You probably know this part of the story—Elijah instructs her to make him a loaf of bread first, promising her that the flour and olive oil will continue to multiply until the drought is over.  The widow somehow knows he is a man of God—maybe by his clothing, and complies. 

God continues to multiply the flour and the oil.  God has chosen to reach beyond His chosen people, Israel, to bless a Phoenician widow. 

Then the widow’s son sickens and dies, and she knows who to ask for help.  Elijah resurrects the boy—her only hope for income for the rest of her life. 

Surprise # 6 GOD CHOOSES TO MAKE HIS MIRACULOUS POWER AND PRESENCE KNOWN INTO THE DARKEST PLACE

It’s at this point in the story where all the characters and power of God come together.

  • The prophecy of no rain
  • Hiding Elijah at the brook--ravens
  • Keeping him safe on his journey
  • Sending him to the first widow he meets
  • Miraculously multiplying the flour and oil

God’s power and miracles come to rest on an unsuspecting Phoenician widow, by raising her son from the dead.   And she says, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the Word of God in your mouth is truth.” 

IF YOU FEEL YOU ARE HIDDEN, OVERLOOKED, DESPERATE AND OUT OF HOPE, GOD MAY SURPRISE YOU.

 

Part B: Pastor Sam Inman 

God loves to pour himself out on human flesh. It doesn't matter how a particular person looks, acts, talks, or walks. It's also for sure that he does have a particular interest in people who live across the tracks, people who talk, look and even walk different, the unclean, the people who are on the outside. Let’s follow God’s story now to about a thousand years later.

This is in John chapter 4. Jesus was just baptized by his cousin, son of a priest, John the Baptist in the wilderness. Following that he spent forty days in the desert with no food. Then Satan tempted him with power, fame and fortune. Finally he returns home to Galilee full of the Holy Spirits power, and word begins to spread as he teaches and performs miracles. And everyone is praising him.

Then he goes to his hometown Nazareth. He gets up to read scripture. Someone hands him the Isaiah scroll and he reveals himself right then and there by reading “ The Spirit of the Lord is upon me for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.” He rolls it up, hands it back and sits back down just like that. Everyone is just staring at him. Probably in shock so he says. “The scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!

What a way to break the ice. They were still amazed at him and his gracious words though. I can hear it now. “Oh wow. He has such confidence, so wise beyond his years, and that passion. Isn’t that joseph’s son. Hey Joe look at your boy.” Then I think Jesus surprised them. He was anticipating what would have happened next

"23 Then he said, 'You will undoubtedly quote me this proverb: ‘Physician, heal
yourself’—meaning, ‘Do miracles here in your hometown like those you did in
Capernaum.’ 24 But I tell you the truth, no prophet is accepted in his own hometown. 25 “Certainly there were many needy widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the heavens were closed for three and a half years, and a severe famine devastated the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them. He was sent instead to a foreigner—a widow of Zarephath in the land of Sidon. 27 And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, but the only one healed was Naaman, a Syrian." (Luke 4:2327 NLT).

Well when when he said that he immediately proved himself right. The people in the synagogue, which was a place of worship, were furious. They hopped up and tried to run him off a cliff but he escaped.

Wait a minute! This is Jesus, the Son of God, miraculously conceived. The one prophesied
about and recognized by John the foremost prophet of the day as the messiah. He just got
baptized and the Holy Spirit came down and God said you’re my son and I’m very please with you. Then he made it through 40 days without food passed the character test, was known to perform miracles and then. His hometown crowd tries to run him off of a cliff. If that was you wouldn’t you be just a bit surprised.

Surprise God is pleased with you but God’s people want to kill you. Jesus wasn’t surprised though he saw it coming. It was they who were surprised and reacted badly. They were so surprised but they shouldn’t have been, John the baptist already made it very clear to the Pharisees and Sadducees some of whom I’m sure were there. he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?

"8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 10 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire." 

So they should have known what Jesus was about because John already told them you don’t have a birthright to the kingdom of God. You have to show the fruit of repentance or you’re out.

"11 I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

Everything I know about God’s fire is that it brings more repentance. To carry God’s fire with you means to have all the chaff or all of the extra fruitless waste burned out of your life. It’s a painful process. Believe me. Nothing else I know can teach you do discern what the chaff is like pain and suffering. This widow was suffering. She was literally going to eat her last meal and die. Elijah was a prophet. He wasn’t popular, but he was obedient. The widow was obedient. Abraham obeyed, Esther obeyed, Samuel obeyed, John son of Zechariah obeyed Jesus the Messiah obeyed even to death on a cross. Peter and Paul obeyed. Ad your name to that list. Sam Inman obeyed. How does that sound. Powerful. That’s how God’s kindom works submission is the most powerful position. The least of you will be the greatest. 

But if you resist repentance you’re going to get burned, I mean the stuff you’re holding on to is going to get ripped out of your hands if you don’t let it go now. I’m talking about your comforts, your habits, your cultural norms, your earthly possessions, none of this stuff is evil, even your relationships, It’s sin when you put it between you and God. You say well that part of my life is really exempt from surrendering to God because I got hurt once and I need it. It makes me feel safer. Or I’m not going to ask God about this thing because I do enough religious stuff and honestly I’m afraid God will take away everything that’s fun. Or I know how to run my life, and I don’t trust anyone else with it. That pride makes you think you have what it take sir. That constant negativity and complaining you do makes you feel more worthy mam. But the only one who can fill that void is God our Father in heaven through his Son Jesus Christ. 

God pours himself out on people who seem to be low. They appear to be low on the chain of command, low in spirits, low on cash and sometimes even low down, dirty, and rotten, on the outside. Why do you do that God. It really messes with my theology, I mean everything I believed about God is that if I do this He'll do that. If I go to church He'll let me in heaven. If I pray and get baptized he'll know my name and answer my prayers. 

Give me a wife, give me a good job, give me children, limit it to one point five children please to fit with my two point five vehicles and add to that a three bedroom two point five bathroom home in a clean and quiet neighborhood with no crime and no low down dirty rotten people. 

But I do want to be spiritual so if you supply all of my wants then I will try to pray and read my bible everyday, attend church at least 2 times a month, join a small group, find a mentor, sign up for a ministry and take a class so that I can qualify to become a leader. believed that if I do all of that, you will bless me with the house, the cars, the family, surround me with nice people, and you won't let anything tragic to happen to any of us. 

Somehow we may have spiritualized the American Dream there. There’s nothing wrong with wanting security if you completely trust God to provide it for you. But what do you want more, to please him or get stuff from him. I know the answer, because God put it in our hearts to want to please him. but stuff just gets in the way. It get’s in the way of obedience. Get that stuff out of the way.

"14 God says, “Rebuild the road!
Clear away the rocks and stones so my people can return from captivity.” 15 The high and lofty one who lives in eternity, the Holy One, says this: “I live in the high and holy place with those whose spirits are contrite and humble. I restore the crushed spirit of the humble and revive the courage of those with repentant hearts." (Isaiah 57:14-15 NLT).

Repentance paves the way for the Glory of God to be revealed to everyone. It’s not going to be for a few people who are more spiritual or more righteous than the rest. This Glory of God is going to consume everything in it’s path. Help clear that path. Help to smooth out that road. 

There is a generation rising up and by generation I’m not talking about when you were born, I’m talking about God birthing something in you. God is raising up right now a generation that is going to set this world on fire with their outright obedience to him. They are going to set their face like a flint. They are going to have answers for the worlds questions, There are going to spend more time listening to God than asking him for stuff. They’ll pass up rebellion and won’t turn away from Him. They will lay down their pride, lay down their desires, lay down their lives. (paraphrased from Isaiah 50) 

And God will honor that. He will come in all his Glory everyone to see. This isn’t about exciting church services. It’s more than a good feeling. This is the sovereign King of the Universe getting ready to come and visit in all of his Glory. All flesh will see it. Can you imagine what happens inside these walls touching all of Fremont, spreading to all of the Bay Area, engulfing California, Burning in the entire nation. Can you imagine the whole world lit up with the fire of God. Get ready church! Get Ready Church! Get Ready Church! He’s coming.