Perspective Changes Everything (A Gentle Whisper)

Sermon Summary

This message continues the series "Perspective Changes Everything." Looking back at the prophet Elijah, his victory over the wicked prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel and his subsequent flight from King Ahab's wicked wife Jezebel. In this message we see the importance of wanting God's perspective on life and being willing to hear His voice which many times comes through His Word in the form of a gentle whisper. It is vital that we slow down, get still, and listen. Before Elijah heard God's whisper, he was depressed and wanted to die. After hearing from God he was able to continue his ministry and trained Elisha to follow in his footsteps as a prophet of God.

Community Group Discussion Guide

1. Elijah went from mountain top high to deep valley low very quickly. Have you ever had a mountain top experience and felt things were going great only to have something happen that sent you spiraling downward? Explain

2. As individuals and as a nation we must decide whether or not we want God's perspective on life. There are serious consequences to our decision and when we choose not to decide that in itself is a decision. Why is it so important that we make up our minds whether we are going to listen to God or the world?

1 Kings 18:21 "Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” But the people said nothing."

Josh 24:15  But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."

3. God wants us to see and hear things from His perspective! He desires to show us and tell us great and mighty things. The question is always: Are we looking and listening? And it's important to remember God doesn't want us to live our lives in fear, but in faith. Some people fret and worry about every little thing in their life and wonder if they are right with God and it steals their joy! If we desire to live a life pleasing to God and in His will He will very lovingly lead us and teach us the principles we need to know to do this. It could be through a mountain top experience or more than likely through the gentle whisper of His Holy Spirit. Why is it we think knowing God's perspective, and His will, is so complicated?

Luke 11:9  "So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.
Luke 11:10  For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
Luke 11:11  "Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead?
Luke 11:12  Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?
Luke 11:13  If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"

James 1:5  If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.

4. Have you ever heard the old saying, "Seeing is believing"? Sometimes our circumstances may prevent us from seeing God at work in our lives but if we are listening to His voice we can be assured of His presence and His power to get us through anything! Have you ever had a time in your life where circumstances looked bad, but the voice of God through His Word let you know He was right there beside you and would pull you through? Explain.

Isa 55:10  As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
Isa 55:11  so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
Isa 55:12  You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.
Isa 55:13  Instead of the thornbush will grow the pine tree, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the Lord's renown, for an everlasting sign, which will not be destroyed."

Full Sermon Notes

A Gentle Whisper

"You're rich in love, and You're slow to anger. Your name is great, and Your heart is kind. For all Your goodness, I will keep on singing; Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find." In a world where it is sometimes hard to find even one reason to sing, and we may have ten thousand reasons to cry, it is our hope in Christ, our faith in Christ, our trust in Christ, and our love for Christ that gets us through. As we get ready to pray this morning, I would ask you to pray with me for our nation, for our first responders across the nation, for the families of those lost in Dallas, as well as those injured, and for the families of the individuals in Baton Rouge, and Minnesota. Let's pray!   

"Father God, I cry out to You for our nation. We desperately need You to intervene. We are desperate for Your wisdom, Your direction, Your leadership and Your blessing! Our leaders need to humble themselves and look to You for answers. Without Your presence we will surely find ourselves in the throws of unrest and disunity, but Your Word says…

Psalm 33:12-22 'Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people he chose for his inheritance.
From heaven the LORD looks down and sees all mankind;
from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth—
he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do.
No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength.
A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save.
But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,
to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine.
We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield.
In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name.
May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD, even as we put our hope in you.'

In Jesus Name I pray, Amen!"

As we seek to find God's perspective in our lives, let's pray that our nation's leaders would seek to find God's perspective on things and that they would seek to find and follow God's will in their leadership of our nation. Let's keep that in mind as we come to today's message.

We are on our fourth in our series titled…Perspective Changes Everything. We have looked at examples from the prophet Habakkuk, King David, as well as Elisha the prophet and his servant. Today we're going to look at the prophet who was Elisha's mentor, Elijah. Last week we talked about praying and asking God to open our eyes so we could see things from His perspective. But that's not all we should pray for. You might ask, "What else would we need?" Sometimes, even when we see things with our physical eyes or even our spiritual eyes, we can quickly go astray or misinterpret if we aren't hearing the voice of God. I don't mean a literal, audible voice, but the divine leadership of God's Word which He will speak to our hearts if we are open to listen to His Spirit!
You might be wondering if I could explain a little bit or if I have a good illustration of just what I'm talking about. Well, it just so happens, I do! Let me give you a little background leading up to our text for today.

Remember, the Hebrew people had divided into two kingdoms. Israel the Northern Kingdom and Judah the Southern Kingdom.
A king by the name of Omri began ruling the Northern Kingdom, and the Bible has this to say about him in 1 Kings 16:25-26.

1 Kings 16:25-26. "But Omri did evil in the eyes of the LORD and sinned more than all those before him. He walked in all the ways of Jeroboam son of Nebat and in his sin, which he had caused Israel to commit, so that they provoked the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger by their worthless idols."

Omri later died and his son, Ahab, became king. I've often said, what one generation tolerates the next generation will embrace and abuse! Ahab is a prime example of this...

1 Kings 16:29-33 "In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab son of Omri became king of Israel, and he reigned in Samaria over Israel twenty-two years. Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the LORD than any of those before him. He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, but he also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him. He set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he built in Samaria. Ahab also made an Asherah pole and did more to provoke the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger than did all the kings of Israel before him."

Here's the background info you need to know. Baal worship was a Canaanite religion and was considered the god of fertility. He was also considered the sun-god when things were going good and they wished to express thanks and the storm-god when natural disasters occurred. They would sacrifice humans as a part of their worship and many times it would be their first born. They would be burned alive. It was a terribly demonic and evil religion. So now you know why God was saddened and angered at the same time with the Israel's worship of Baal. Ahab had married Jezebel and she was what amounted to a Baal evangelist, but she wasn't sharing her evil faith, she was forcing and coercing and using her power as the king's wife to push it on people. Ahab not only went along, but promoted the wicked religion by building a temple to Baal, setting up an alter for the human sacrifices and making an Asherah pole which was a wooden image of the fertility goddess who was supposedly Baal's mother.

It's amazing how quickly a nation can loose it's moral compass when they turn their back on the principles and morals of God's revealed Word! When a nation makes the pursuit of worldly pleasure it's god, the result is always devastating. God sent Elijah to confront Ahab and to announce that there would be a drought. I don't have time to get into all of the story, but some fascinating things happened during three years of drought, but you'll have to read about that yourself. We're going to pick things up towards the end of the drought.

Ahab summons the man who was in charge of his palace, Obadiah, and they divided up the territory and went in different directions to search for an area where they could graze the kings horses and mules. Obadiah was a devout believer in the Lord and had hid over 100 prophets and cared for them when Jezebel was killing the Lord's prophets. While on his trip Elijah met him. Obadiah bowed down to him out of respect because he knew Elijah was a prophet of the one true God. Elijah tells him to go tell Ahab to come and meet him. Obadiah is concerned that Elijah will not show up for the meeting and the king will be mad and kill him. But Elijah reassures him in 1 Kings 18:15...

1 Kings 18:15 Elijah said, "As the Lord Almighty lives, whom I serve, I will surely present myself to Ahab today." So Obadiah went to meet Ahab and told him, and Ahab went to meet Elijah. When he saw Elijah, he said to him, “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?” “I have not made trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “But you and your father’s family have. You have abandoned the LORD’S commands and have followed the Baals. Now summon the people from all over Israel to meet me on Mount Carmel. And bring the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.”
So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel. Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” But the people said nothing.

Do You Even Want God's Perspective?

Ahab didn't want God's perspective! In fact, he didn't think his rejection of God and following Jezebel's pagan god Baal and sacrificing children on alters of fire was the problem. As far as he was concerned everything would be fine if it weren't for that pesky prophet pointing out his sin and prophesying the discipline of God through droughts and such. Sometimes we're like that. We have this philosophy, "Just don't tell me I'm wrong and I'll always be right!" But the problem with that kind of thinking is it's just flat out wrong. Ostriches don't really bury their head in the sand to avoid predators. If they did they would all be dead or they would suffocate. But they do put their heads in the sand to turn their eggs which are buried in the sand. So that's where the myth comes from. The problem with us humans is when it comes to sin we sometimes think if we just bury our heads in the sand and ignore the truth we'll be okay. That kind of thing is literally destroying individuals, families, communities and may destroy our nation if we don't get our heads out of the sand and see what's happening.

Many have turned their backs on God and have lost their moral compass! Decisions are being made in our nation based not on God's truth but on popular opinion and what people want. It seems that the people of Israel had their head in the sand morally as well. They refused to make up their minds as to who they were going to follow, the true God of heaven and earth or the pagan god Baal.

Let's read verse 21 again…

1 Kings 18:21 "Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” But the people said nothing."

We have to decide whether or not we even want God's perspective in our lives. Let me tell you something interesting about this. The Hebrew word for "waver" is the word that means "limping." Broadman Commentary says it literally meant "hopping from one leg to another, a metaphor for halfhearted or double-minded indecision." It's the same word we'll see in a moment that describes the weird ceremonial dance the prophets of Baal would perform around their alter.
I wrote a song some years ago called Make Your Mind. Here's the words...

"It's about time to make up your mind, who your gonna serve and who your gonna follow, cause life gets tough, sometimes hard to swallow, those cheap thrills leave you feeling kind of hollow, it's about time to make up your mind.
Make up your mind, make up your mind the kind of life you'll live and the principles you'll stand on.  Will you go against the crowd though it seems your on your own, knowing that in Jesus your never all alone. Yeh it's about time to make up you mind.
Make up your mind, make up your mind, the 'Word of God says that now is the time.
Make up your mind, make up your mind, to give it all to Jesus true peace your gonna find, if you make up you mind, make up your mind.
Decisions you make the choices you choose may seem little now but there's so much to lose, The Spirit of God He wants to lead you ask His guidance you know He won't refuse, if you make up your mind, make up your mind."

Elijah was not the first to confront the people of Israel with this decision to make up their minds. Joshua had also challenged the Israelites about 400 years earlier.

Joshua 24:14-16 “Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” Then the people answered, “Far be it from us to forsake the LORD to serve other gods!

And of course we are studying today just how egregiously the people Israel broke their covenant with God. Let's get back to the story and see what lengths God went through to help the people see things from His perspective.  
Let's jump back into our story, it's fascinating...

1 Kings 18:23-26 Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only one of the LORD’S prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets. Get two bulls for us. Let them choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD. The god who answers by fire —he is God.” Then all the people said, “What you say is good.” Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first, since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire.” So they took the bull given them and prepared it. Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. “O Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made.

The word danced is actually the same Hebrew word "Limped." They limped about the alter just like the Israelites were limping back and forth between their covenant with God and their worship of pagan god's!

1 Kings 18:27-29 At noon Elijah began to taunt them. “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.” So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.

God Wants You To Get His Perspective

This whole thing was being played out before the Israelite people. The crowds had gathered. God wanted the people to see the truth and to witness the futility, the darkness, and the self destructive ways of Baal worship. God wanted the people to see that Baal was no god at all, but something that had been created by man to allow for unbridled passion and wickedness in the flesh.Today, there are many who seek answers in gods who are no gods at all and for the same reasons. The gods of pleasure, power, popularity, prosperity, pride, payback, perversion, and the list goes on and on. God wants us to get His perspective in order to save us from ourselves. He wanted the Israelites to see the truth and so in a dramatic, Old Testament way, God acts.

1 Kings 18:30-40 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come here to me.” They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the LORD, which was in ruins. Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD had come, saying, “Your name shall be Israel.” With the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two seahs of seed. He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, “Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood.” “Do it again,” he said, and they did it again. “Do it a third time,” he ordered, and they did it the third time. The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench. At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.” Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The LORD—he is God! The LORD—he is God!” Then Elijah commanded them, “Seize the prophets of Baal. Don’t let anyone get away!” They seized them, and Elijah had them brought down to the Kishon Valley and slaughtered there.

So Elijah makes the decision to have the prophets of Baal taken out, and that was the holy war concept back then. But we know this: When Jesus came He instituted the New Covenant, a new way. He made it very clear to His disciples in Luke 6:27-28...

Luke 6:27-28 “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

And you might remember from last week that Elisha, Elijah's servant/trainee, when he captured the army of the Arameans, not to many years after taking over the prophetic mantel from Elijah, Elisha had the king feed them and give them water and sent home to their people. Now what happened next is amazing. We're going to finish our message today by learning from Elijah's shortcomings. Why? Because I think many of us can relate and it all has to do with gaining and keeping a God perspective on everything! Have you ever been on a mountain top, things were going great, and you seemed to be seeing God's perspective on things when out of the blue something happens and it seems like you immediately lose perspective?
Check out Elijah's situation after seeing God work in such a powerful way on Mount Carmel.

1 Kings 19:1-14 Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.” Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, 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.” Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” 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. 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.” So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. 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?” 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.” 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. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 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?” 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.”

God tells him in verse 18...

1 Kings 19:18 Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him.”

Hearing Is As Important As Seeing

Sometimes we like to think if we could just see God work a miracle like he did for Elijah and send fire down from heaven then we wouldn't have such a hard time getting God's perspective, but the truth is, even with everything Elijah saw, one evil woman sent him running for his life! And the amazing thing is this: God didn't scream at him, he gently whispered to him.

We want fire from heaven, a mighty wind, an earth shattering kaboom, but God many times speaks in a gentle whisper. That simply means you've got to be listening or you won't hear Him. What can we do to become better listeners? Elijah had to run for 40 days and 40 nights and find a cave in the mountain. There's an easier way. The Psalmist gives us some pretty good advice. Psalm 119:25-37

Psalm 119:25-37 I am laid low in the dust; preserve my life according to your word.
I recounted my ways and you answered me; teach me your decrees.
Let me understand the teaching of your precepts; then I will meditate on your wonders.
My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.
Keep me from deceitful ways; be gracious to me through your law.
I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on your laws.
I hold fast to your statutes, O LORD; do not let me be put to shame.
I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.
Teach me, O LORD, to follow your decrees; then I will keep them to the end.
Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart.
Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight.
Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain.
Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.

Listen to God's Word, He won't be yelling at you, it may be a gentle whisper. Pay attention. Let's pray!!