As Believers living in the Laodicean church age, we tend to re-define terms that make us feel uncomfortable. For example, when Jesus says, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15), we redefine His command to say, “Study about how others go into all the world in your annual Missions Conference and rationalize to yourself you are obeying His command by looking at African artifacts and watching a missionary slide show during your Sunday evening service.”
But that’s not what Jesus said at all, is it?
We also re-define what the word “revival” means because we, as the church, are pretty much clueless as to what a true, Spirit-born revival actually looks like. We look to follow those who tell us about revival but have never experienced revival themselves. It’s like the “blind leading the blind” (Luke 6:39).
Do you want to be different? Do you want to learn from those who lived in a constant state of revival? Me too. Then keep listening.
The following is a study on How Not to Find Revival from Revelation 2 and 3.
Download this episode (right click and save)
Our experience may indicate otherwise, but the default setting for the Christian can be found in John 10:10 where Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” Did you get that? Jesus came to give us life and to give it to us abundantly. This is the standard, the default setting in our spiritual life.
Is that what you’re experiencing in your life with Christ? If so, praise Him. If not, why?
Keep listening and you’ll discover how to reset and restore your spiritual life back to the default, factory setting.
The following is a study on the Hindrances to Revival from Revelation 2:1-11.
Download this episode (right click and save)
Shipwrecked Faith from a Shipwrecked Church
Reflections on the book of Jude
Seven Minutes and Eleven Seconds of Coolness
“Na, na, na, na… na, na, na, na…na, na, na, na, hey Jude”
The Beatles, Hey Jude
When I was a kid, I was a big music fan.
I loved it. I identified with it. I listened to it all the time.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about the kind of music fans that we have today. I never walked around the mall with headphones sticking out of my beanie in mid-July with this glazed-over, brain-dead, “Dude, where’s my car?” kind of blank stare on my face. And I’ve never broken into an air-guitar solo while jamming on my iPod in the Household aisle of Wal-Mart— looking more like a dying fish flopping around on a dry dock than a music lover.
No, when I was a teenager, the people who loved music collected music. They talked about music, they shared music— they were consumed with music. Music became our release, a catharsis, a way for us to communicate with, and make sense of, a very confusing world.
Music was much more than just entertainment.
For us, music made a statement— our statement. It was the chosen vehicle of our generation to collectively make our voices heard. It shaped our feelings, values and emotions. We allowed our music to define our morals and our politics and to determine, for us, the very nature of our cultural struggle.
Music was more to us than a song about such deep and moving social themes as, “My humps, my humps, My lovely lady lumps.”
But not all music was equal.
In the crowd I ran with, my peers, there was a definite pecking order in music styles and tastes— and no deviations were ever allowed.
Simply put, to be cool, to be in the “know” with my friends, you had to be into the Beatles. John, Paul, George and Ringo. Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. The Fab Four. The Mop Tops. Sergeant Pepper and the Lonely Heart’s Club Band. Our guides on the Magical Mystery Tour.
They were our answer to crew cuts, parental authority, puberty, and the Vietnam War.
If you were into the Beatles, you were super cool, admired, popular, and accepted. You were on the “A” list of people to know and to be seen with. If, on the other hand, you owned vinyl from the likes of the Beach Boys, the Four Seasons or the Hollies— well, you were ugly, had bad breath and would someday grow up to work at McDonalds.
Well, after all, the Beatles were cool.
We watched them evolve, album after album, from four young men from Liverpool, with their strange “Moe of the Three Stooges” type hair cuts to living icons of our culture and heroes of our generation. We saw them embrace and experience life in ways we never could, and then we eagerly listened as they told us about those experiences in the songs they wrote. They were the proverbial Pied Pipers and we, it seemed, were just a bunch of willing mice.
Whatever they were into, we were into. They set the standards for our young lives.
As their sweet, boyish, innocence faded with time— so did ours.
We were with them when they seemed to find such joy in the simple things of life— like having a girlfriend, or the thrill of singing, “I wanna hold your hand.” And, years later, we were still with them when their lyrics became darker and more sinister:
Yellow matter custard
Dripping from a dead dog’s eye
Boy, you’ve been a naughty girl
you let your knickers down
I am the eggman
They are the eggmen
I am the walrus
Goo goo g’ joob
Looks like somebody was on drugs. And it wasn’t me.
They, like everything else in the 60’s, changed right before our eyes. What started out as good, clean fun soon digressed into Eastern mysticism, LSD and, in 1966, crystallized with the infamous, and quite stupid, quote by John Lennon:
“Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue about that. I’m right and will be proved right. We’re more popular than Jesus.”
Living in the Bible belt, you can imagine what happened.
Preachers began to rant and wail, Sunday after Sunday, about the evils of these four young men from the abyss and the very doom they would bring to the purity of our young people. Some called them agents of Satan, playing the Devil’s music. I remember some preachers even called them the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
There was a swell, a grass-roots church movement of sorts to burn all our Beatle records because, as the preachers would say, “Jee-zus will not take second place to a bunch of long haired hippies!” True.
But personally, I resisted the urge to burn my records and foolishly dump years of allowances down the drain because some preacher told me I needed to. Who were they to tell me what to do? It wasn’t even Sunday. Plus, I figured if Jesus was God, He could pretty much take care of Himself.
A couple of years later even Charles Manson, during his trial for the Tate and LaBianca murders, prophesied about the coming race wars, the Helter Skelter as he called it, and claimed the Beatles, as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, spoke to him secretly through their music. Charlie claimed to be Christ and said the song, “Revolution 9” was his call to arms to end the world.
Really? Pretty stupid sounding stuff, even for a teenager.
All Charlie got for his troubles were multiple life terms in an 8 x 12 cell and a swastika carved in the center of his forehead— and a crude looking swastika at that. It looked like he carved it himself, left-handed, with a Bic pen, — while driving in rush hour traffic.
So much for the Manson family and the coming Helter Skelter.
The Pre-iPod Era
Back then, way before iPods and music downloads and iTunes, you had to buy the Beatles albums, like “Abbey Road” or “Let it Be” just to be able to hear the songs you liked. But to do this, you’d also have to shell out seven or eight bucks— which was a whole lotta jack back then. Especially when we would have to mow, that’s push mow, our neighbors’ football field size yard all Saturday afternoon for about $2.50.
So relatively speaking, Beatle albums were a major investment. Several Saturdays worth of work for 13, three-minute songs— nine of which you didn’t even want.
So most of us just collected 45’s. Do you remember them?
A 45 record was a simple, seven-inch, single, vinyl disk with the song we wanted on one side and a lame, utterly forgettable tune on the other. It was like the record company put the best and the worst songs on the album on the 45’s to cover both extremes, I guess. It was like they were saying, “If you turn the 45 over, you can rest assured that no song on this $8 album we want you to buy will sound any worse than what you’re listening to right now. So, buy with confidence.”
It was also like the artist really didn’t care about side B of the 45’s either. All they wanted was another hit off their bongs.
For example, and this is true, when I purchased the 45 of “Proud Mary” by Ike and Tina Turner, that’s before Ike took batting practice on Tina’s face and she dumped him for a solo life and a solo career— the song on the other side was the classic, “Funkier Than a Mosquito’s Tweeter.” No lie. That was the name. I think I listened to half the song, one time.
Anyway, my prized possession during the fall of 1968 was the vinyl 45 from Apple Records, the one with the big, green apple picture on the front that was the recording of the greatest of all Beatle songs, Hey Jude. It was great. Amazing.
For me, it represented the pinnacle of their career.
And that particular song was different from all the others they had previously released. How?
First, it was not recorded on any album that was released that year by the Beatles. That fact alone made the song something of a novelty. Game show trivia sort of stuff. And second, it was long. Really long.
Seven minutes and eleven seconds long.
By radio play standards, it was as long as two Three Dog Night songs and a radio spot about a car dealership. And the Beatles, at this point in their musical life, simply refused to cut it down for radio play. It was kinda their way to “stick it to the man.” Whoever the “man” was.
Billy Joel, years later, sang about the same problem in his song, The Entertainer:
It was a beautiful song, but it ran too long
If you’re gonna have a hit, you gotta make it fit
So they cut it down to 3:05
But, Hey, Jude— wow, seven minutes and eleven seconds long! Incredible.
Just sticking it to the man.
And, if you listen to that song today, there’s about four minutes of just, “na, na, na…” junk in the end. It’s not like there were any profound lyrics that communicated the meaning of life, the virtues of love or told us where the lost city of Atlantis was located. It’s just, “na, na, na…” kind of stuff.
I listened to that song, day in and day out, until the needle on my record player grew dull. In 1968, it was this one song that set me apart from all my other friends. It was my own way to “stick it to the man.”
None of my friends liked the song— it was too long, not enough Zeppelin style guitar, it was impossible to dance to and you couldn’t even buy the album with the song on it in the record store.
“Like, what’s with that?”
But for me, ah— it was the song that made me cool in my own eyes.
I memorized every nuance of the song, all seven minutes and change of it. I knew, as Jesus would say, every “jot and tittle” of the song. And I mean I memorized everything! It was almost like I had written the song along with John and Paul.
I knew every, “yeah, yeah” in the background or the “Jude, Judy, Judy, Judy, Judy, Judy, ow, wahow!” stuff towards the end. When I was with my friends and the song would play on the radio, we would all sing together the first part and, as they dropped out one by one because they didn’t know the last four minutes of the song, I would sing louder and louder, proud, center stage, until it was just me and Paul “na, na, na-ing” along together.
I know it sounds strange, but I felt empowered, like maybe Paul McCartney and I were close, personal friends, like maybe we were somehow connected by this song, like maybe some of his coolness rubbed off on me because I could sing the “na, na’s” like he did.
I don’t know… it just felt like it made me matter to someone. Like we were kin or something.
Like… well, whatever.
Why am I telling you all this? Simple.
That was the first time in my life that I had ever heard the name Jude— way back when in 1968. In fact, that song made the name Jude cool to me, important, something that made my insides feel good and the corner of my mouth turn up when I said the name.
I like the way that name sounded.
Coming next – Introduction: On the Backside of the Bible
“Nevertheless I have this against you,
that you have left your first love.”
The best way for me to show you that these seven letters do, indeed, reveal to us an outline of church history from the time of the Apostles until the coming Rapture is to simply jump right in with the first letter. The letter to the church at Ephesus.
But before I do I want to give you a quick introduction on how the Lord systematically lays out the design of each letter. For example, in each letter there are seven design elements from the Lord.
First, there is the name of the church and the meaning of that name.
Two, there is the particular name or title of Christ that is different for each church.
Third, there is the good news or the commendation Jesus has for the particular church (and not all have something good said about them).
Fourth, there is the bad news or concerns or criticism He has for each church (and again, not all have something bad said about them). We can call these two steps the Lord’s report card to the churches. In some of the letters, to Smyrna and Philadelphia, the Lord only has good things to say about a particular church. To others, Sardis and Laodicea, He only has bad things to say. To the rest, there is a combination of good and bad news.
Fifth, there is the exhortation or words from Christ about what needs to be corrected in each church.
Sixth, there is a particular promise to the overcomer that varies for each church.
Seventh, there is a unique closing phrase for each church: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Note, that is churches, plural. We are to hear what the Spirit says to all the churches and not just to the particular church addressed in each letter. You will also note that in some of the letters, the first three for example, the closing statement is found in the body of the letter. But in the last four it is found at the end, almost like a postscript. This is not an accident. It is by design and has great prophetic meaning that we will discuss when we get to the letter to the church at Thyatira. Also, if these seven letters were listed in any other order than they are in the scripture, the prophetic timeline would not work. You will see God’s amazing hand in the design and placement of each of these letters.
One final comment, since we know that there are at least four levels of interpretations of these letters: (1) as a letter written to a local church dealing with situations unique to that congregation at the time it was written, (2) as a letter written to all churches in general throughout time for their encouragement and admonition, (3) as a personal letter written to each of us for our personal growth in the Lord, and (4) as a prophetic picture of church history given to us in advance— I will only focus on the fourth level of interpretation for each letter.
So, with that beginning, let’s take a look at the Lord’s letter to the church at Ephesus.
The Letter to the Church at Ephesus
The period of church history covered by the letter is defined as the Apostolic age and runs from about 30-100AD. It is the time when the church was at its infancy, full of missionary zeal, coming to grips with its doctrines and practices, and facing persecution that would only grow more intense over the next century. It was also the time where the church was led by the Apostles and when the inspired scriptures were written and circulated. Much heresy was being confronted by the early church, especially Gnosticism, that is clearly addressed and refuted in John’s letters. But as history has shown us, the early church was growing weary and lax in their stand for the truth they once enthusiastically proclaimed. By the end of the first century all the disciples, save John, had met a martyr’s death. Paul was beheaded in Rome. Peter crucified. Nero blamed his burning of Rome on the Christians and the lions of the Coliseum gorged themselves on the flesh of the struggling church. It was a bad time to be a Christian and it was only going to get worse. In addition, Rome had tired of the rebellious Jews and destroyed Jerusalem in 70AD, sending the nation of Israel into another exile that would last until May 14, 1948, when once again God miraculously brought His people back into their land.
To this church and to this time in church history the letter to Ephesus was written.
Church Name – Ephesus means darling or beloved or desired one. It was a term of endearment. It was a church founded by Paul at the end of his second missionary journey (Acts 18:19-20) and was known by its commitment to fervent evangelism.
Description of Jesus – The letter begins with Jesus being described as “He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands” (Rev. 2:1). We know from Revelation 1:20 that the stars and lampstands represent the churches themselves. In other words, Jesus is telling them, and us, that He is among the churches and His power is available to all of them. They are not left alone.
The Good Words – Then Christ’s good words, His commendation, to the church is as follows:
“I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars, and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate” (Rev. 2:2-3, 6).
First, the church at Ephesus was a church doing what God had called them to do. They were a working church, an enduring church, a church that was not lazy or centered on itself, like many churches today. You can see this by the accounts of the church in the Acts (18-20) and because the Lord knew and commented on their work, labor, perseverance and patience.
Second, Ephesus was a church that was separated from the world. They understood clearly that “bad company corrupts good character” (1 Cor. 15:33) and that they were to be “in the world but not of the world” (John 17:16). How do we know this? Because Jesus said that they “cannot bear those who are evil.”
Third, they were a church that valued purity and genuineness in their leadership and refused to let Satan creep into their fellowship under the cover of darkness as false apostles. There were no tares in their wheat field. Jesus commended them of the fact that they “tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars.” Even without the advantage of having a completed Bible, the church at Ephesus was committed to sound doctrine in their dealings with church leadership. In fact, this was the very warning Paul gave the elders at Ephesus in Acts 20:25-31.
Finally, they hated the things that the Lord hates. The word Nicolaitans comes from two Greek words: niko, meaning “to conquer, overthrow” and laos, meaning “the people or the laity.” The followers of Nicolai had two serious heretical views that the church at Ephesus and the Lord both hated. One, they indulged in gross sensuality and sin due to their radical separation of the physical and spiritual natures. They practiced what we today would call postmodern compartmentalism, where we place all our fleshly desires in one compartment and our life as a follower of Jesus in another compartment and then make sure our Jesus compartment never influences our flesh compartment. In essence, it is a denial of absolute truth. And therefore, with no absolute truth, each part of someone’s life can have a changing truth of its own.
For example, someone’s religious life may say that Jesus is the only way to God and that the Bible is true in all matters. And, within the sphere of religion, they may passionately hold to that belief. But in a person’s entertainment life, they may believe that anything is permissible for them to watch as long as it has a “good” meaning in the end regardless of the profanity, blasphemy, gratuitous violence or nudity in the film. But, doesn’t watching this R-rated movie contradict the religious beliefs or truths held by that person? Not necessarily. You see, a post-modernist compartmentalizes their life into various segments or compartments that have their own truth or set of values and do not seem to communicate those truths among themselves. And, even if these compartments contradict each other (such as holding to the holiness of the Savior and still watching the profanity, nudity and blasphemy of an R-rated film) the person feels no tension because each segment of their life is in watertight compartments that don’t communicate with each other.
Again for example, you can go to someone’s Facebook page and see (actual example) a statement about themselves that reads: “Hey, I’m Kaetlenn, some of you guys know me as Katie. I am a Christian and proud to be one. My favorite Bible Verse is Roman 6:23. I have the most amazing family. My Favorite song is F#^&#$* Perfect by Pink!”
Really? Anybody see a problem with this? For a non-postmodern, yes. How can you claim to be proud to be a Christian and have a favorite song that is laced with profanity? You can’t. The two are inconsistent, contradictory. But for Kaetlenn, she would say, “No, I do love Jesus will all my heart (in my Jesus compartment) but I don’t see anything wrong with telling the world my favorite song is F#^&#$* Perfect by Pink (in my music compartment). I don’t see any problem with the two.” Of course you don’t. You hold to a postmodern view of Christianity and life in general.
In essence, compartmentalism leads to a schizophrenic view of Christianity that says we can embrace the Lord in any way we want and yet not have Him affect any of the other parts of our lives. Why? Because each of our compartments has its own truth… and since truth is not absolute, we find no tension with that.
And this teaching is one the Lord hates— as much today as back then. We might want to take notice of that fact.
The second heretical teaching of the Nicolaitans was trying to set up an ecclesiastical order within the church and rob it of its autonomy. For the first time the distinction between clergy and laity is promoted and it appears they wanted to establish bishops, archbishops, cardinals, popes and the like which would enslave the church to one man or a small group of men and not to the Lord Himself. And this, like postmodern compartmentalism, the Lord hates.
The Not-So-Good Words – When you see the word, nevertheless, coming from the Lord, it usually is not a good thing. And that also holds true with the church at Ephesus. The no-so-good words from the Lord are: “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love” (Rev. 2:4). What does this mean? Had the church walked away from God and the Gospel? Had they devalued Christ and begun worshiping idols like in the days of the Northern Kingdom? Were they now apostates, alienated from the love of God? Absolutely not. Leaving their first love meant they were focused on the eternals, sound doctrine, building the church, discipleship and all the other trappings that go with Christianity. But what was missing? Passion. Love. Fervency. Excitement. Wonder. Awe.
They were so busy doing the work of the King that they had no time for the King Himself.
In other words, the honeymoon was over and the incredible joy and giddiness of knowing the Lord of the Universe had become commonplace, second nature, almost boring. They had substituted the good for the best— and their relationship with the Lord was, at best, strained. More likely they took the Lord for granted and their “familiarity bred contempt.”
“Lord, we are doing all the things you commanded us to. So what’s the big deal?” You are doing them out of duty and not out of love. And to the One who gave His life so we can live, that is a big deal.
The Exhortation of Jesus – Jesus said that to correct this lack of love the church at Ephesus must do the following:
“Remember therefore from where you have fallen” – They were to re-examine their life with Jesus and remember what it was like when they first came to faith in Him. And if they were more in love with Him, more enamored with Him, more excited about being in His presence then than they were now… uh, “Houston, we have a problem.”
“Repent” – Admit, confess and turn away from their apathy and indifference and coldness and run back into the arms of Jesus.
“And do the first works” – Or, go back to your roots, your beginnings and do the things that pleased the Lord in the beginning and not the things that seem to please you now. After all, it is all about Christ and not about us. We are to follow His commands (John 14:15) and produce the fruits that can only come from Jesus (Mat. 7:16).
And what if we don’t? Fair question. But the Lord has a frightening answer. He says, “Or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand (symbolizing the church) from its place— unless you repent” (Rev. 2:5b). In other words, the early church, as us today, needs to repent and act like the church or Jesus will remove that church from its place of safety, influence and blessing. It was a warning to the early church to get back to the center of their faith because stormy, no bloody days or persecution were coming and their self-centered, cold, stale orthodoxy won’t be enough to see them through.
As you can see, the exhortations and warnings can fit almost any church in any church age as well as for us as individual believers. But they historically fit perfectly the early church during the first century (you will see more clearly how they all fit together as we go along). After all, it was the desired and beloved church that Christ gave His life for. It was the only church that mentions Apostles and it was a church striving to remain doctrinally pure and was working tirelessly for the Lord. But that was not enough. They had left their “first love” and needed to rekindle their love for the Lord.
Tomorrow we will look at the letter to the church at Smyrna, the persecuted church. And this is one of two churches that the Lord only has good news for. Do you wonder why? We shall find out tomorrow.
“Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are,
and the things which will take place after this.”
One of the key truths that explains almost everything pertaining to the Christian life today is found in the second and third chapters of the Revelation. Here our Lord Jesus writes seven letters to seven churches that are, on the surface, intriguing. But once you dig deeper into the meanings of these letters, they are breathtaking and prophetic. In fact, they chronicle all of church history from the days of the Apostles until now. They are a timeline of church history and, for us, present church life. And once we come to grips with that fact alone, the meaning and purpose of the life we live, or try to live, or claim to live, or don’t live in Christ today opens up and unfolds like a spring flower. Everything becomes clear and focused.
But, as usual, I am getting ahead of myself. Let me step back and explain.
Seven Letters to Seven Churches
In Revelation 1:19 John is given a command by the risen Lord Jesus. He is told to, “Write the things which you have seen, the things which are, and the things which will take place after this.” Here we have the outline from Jesus Himself for the entire book of the Revelation.
First, John is told to write what he has seen— the seven lampstands, the seven stars, the sharp two-edged sword, the Lord Jesus in all His glory, for example. All this takes place in chapter 1.
Next, John is told to write “the things which are”— the current church situation, the seven letters to seven churches in what we would now call Asia Minor. He is to write what the Lord says to the churches at Ephesus (Rev. 2:1-7), Smyrna (Rev. 2:8-11), Pergamos (Rev. 2:12-17), Thyatira (Rev. 2:18-29), Sardis (Rev. 3:1-6), Philadelphia (Rev. 3:7-13), and Laodicea (Rev. 3:14-22). When we look at these seven letters to these ancient churches with strange sounding names we often see them as something mystical, something confusing, and something that we don’t really need to bother ourselves about except maybe in a purely academic sense. But that would be a grave mistake on our part. These seven letters are anything but dry, academic and boring. As stated before, chapters 2 and 3 reveal to us all of church history, our history, from the Apostles to the coming rapture of the church. They show us why we do the things we do, good or bad, in the name of Christ. They show us why we worship the way we worship, why we “do” church the way we do, and why we live the way we live. These letters show what the Lord commends in His church and what about His church He abhors. And they also show us what about His church literally makes Him sick on His stomach. But I am getting ahead of myself again. We will talk more about that later.
Finally, John is told to write the “things that will take place after this.” He is to write about events that will take place in the future, the incredible events that make up chapter 4 to the end of the Revelation. These events speak of great tribulation, of two witnesses, of the throne of God and the scroll sealed with seven seals, it speaks of the Lamb as if slain, the woman and the dragon, the Whore of Babylon and much more.
As you can see, John is given the outline for the entire book of the Revelation and of human history. In fact, the Revelation is the only book in the Bible that promises a special blessing to those who read it. It begins with these words, “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things that are written in it; for the time is near.”1 Or, as Chuck Missler would say, “Read me, I’m special!”2
Tomorrow we will look at the seven letters in detail and show how they reveal to us past church history and, amazingly, our current church situation. These letters from the Lord to His church are as timely as any news blog and as prophetic as the book of Daniel or Ezekiel. In fact, you will learn more about yourself from these letters, especially the last one, than you would have thought possible. And finally, you will see how God views His church, and you and I, compared to how we view ourselves— and the difference will take your breath away and drive you to your knees.
Are you ready for an incredible journey? Then let’s begin.
1. Revelation 1:3
2. Missler, Chuck. 2002. Learn the Bible in 24 Hours. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 271.
He came from nowhere. No warning, no advanced notice, nothing. One day, he just showed up and spoke a few words that brought an entire nation to its knees… literally. Without any fanfare, pedigree, entourage or press agent, this strangely-clad man with intense, piercing eyes stood among the lunchtime traffic, raised his arms, and bellowed:
“As the Lord, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.”*
And just like that, the sky dried up, the three and a half year drought began, and our lives were changed forever. Thus was our introduction to Elijah the prophet— the Elijah of Mount Carmel fame.
You must understand that a drought in Elijah’s day was much different than a drought today. There was no water rationing or voluntary restrictions. There were no, “You may wash your car on even numbered days and water your lawn on odd numbered days”— type of official pronouncements. No, it was nothing like that.
A drought in Elijah’s day meant crop failures, the death of all livestock, systemic famine, and disease that ran unchecked among a starving population. It meant that people, innocent people— the young and old and infirmed, died. It meant the loss of homes and farms and families and futures.
It meant an economic upheaval many times worse than the Great Depression or the plagues of Europe. Drought brought prolonged suffering to tens of thousands of people with no end in sight. It led to hopelessness, depression, despair, and suicide.
When Elijah spoke those 26 words of divine judgment he literally pronounced a death sentence on their society and culture.
But, why? What was his reason for shutting up the sky for an indeterminate amount of time? What was he trying to accomplish by calling for the destruction of Ahab’s kingdom? What was Elijah, and God, trying to do?
You know the answer. As the late Paul Harvey would say, “And you know the rest of the story.” Elijah was hoping to bring the land of Israel to repentance and back into fellowship with the God of the land— the God they had long ago rejected and abandoned. He was hoping, once the people of the land were stripped of their pride, sin and self-sufficiency, they would repent “in dust and ashes” and be drawn back into a dependant relationship with the Creator of the land.
Elijah’s goal was not destruction, but repentance. And that’s just what happened in 1 Kings 18.
Did it ever dawn on you that, like Elijah of old, God may have some of His holy ones praying for judgment to fall on America in order to bring her back to repentance? That maybe, after a three year drought, we as a nation may experience our own Mount Carmel encounter with God?
Remember the words of Elijah to the nation of Israel, “How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” * In other words, now is the time to choose… for them and for us.
Are you praying for the same? Should you be? Should I?
*1 Kings 17:1; 18:21
Listen while we look at Praying for Judgment to Fall on America. This is a study of Revelation 14:8-11.
Download this episode (right click and save)