Jump Start # 3494
1 Kings 18:21 “Elijah came near to all the people and said, ‘How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.’ But the people did not answer him a word.”
The story is told of a man who lived long ago. He was deaf. Every Sunday he would worship with God’s people. There was no person to use sign language. He sat there in total silence. He did not know what the preacher said. He did not know where in the song the people were singing. When he saw others bowing their heads, he bowed. He would peek with one eye to see when the prayer was over. Week after week this man attended. A friend wrote on a piece of paper, “Why do you go to church when you cannot hear anything?” With a broad smile, the man said, “I want the Devil to know whose side I’m on.”
There comes a time in our lives when we must get off the fence and declare which side we are on. Our verse today, shows that ancient Israel was on the fence. They hesitated between two opinions. Jehovah or Baal. Which one? They couldn’t or they wouldn’t decide. So, the nation stayed on the fence.
Elijah had enough of that. It was time to kick that fence and get the people off. Make up your mind. Declare yourself. Which side are you on? What follows is the grand contest between the lifeless, useless and worthless Baal and the powerful God of Heaven and earth. Prayers were uttered. Nothing came from Baal. Elijah mocked the prophets. Some would say today that he wasn’t very nice. He was making a point. Baal couldn’t bring rain when there was a drought. Baal couldn’t bring fire when there was a sacrifice. Baal couldn’t do anything. And, God clearly showed that not only did He hear Elijah, but that He was alive, powerful and the one to be followed. The day ended with the death of the prophets of Baal.
What a lesson for us.
First, there comes a time when we must decide whose side we are on. Some would complain, “why must there be sides? Why can’t we all agree?” Have you seen the Co-Exist bumper stickers? Can Jews and Muslims co-exist? If so, why is there a war in Israel right now? Different gods. Different doctrines. Different authorities. How can they co-exist when there is nothing in common. There are sides simply because there are sides. If everyone followed the Bible, there wouldn’t be sides. But that is not the case. Some follow some of the Bible, but not all the Bible. Some allow culture to color what they think the Bible says. Some are not content with the primitive way of God. Some believe things can be improved upon. Some do not think the Bible way is capable of doing what God intended.
Taking sides isn’t mean, judgmental or ugly. It’s just the opposite. It’s unwilling to go along with changes that are not according to the Bible message. It’s not being silent when some are messing with God’s way. Not taking a stand, refusing to draw lines, is often nothing more than cowardice.
A younger generation does not understand why there was a division among brethren in the 1950’s and 1960’s. The big picture is that there was a major division at the end of the 1800’s. While the particulars were different, the issue was the same. Has God shown us what we need to do and has He given us everything to do that work? Or, can we do things that are simply not found in the Bible?
Lines were drawn. People took sides. Congregations and families divided. There comes a time when a person must stop hesitating and draw a line in the sand and declare that crossing that line is wrong. There is no authority for that. There is no example for that. There is nothing in the Bible that allows that. Stand with God or sit on the fence.
Second, people get upset when lines of right and wrong are drawn. Lines of right and wrong is the story of the Bible. Adam and Eve, they crossed a line. We call that sin. The days of Noah, there was a line that defined righteousness. The days of Lot. The days of the kings. History has shown that some would rather have unity than purity of truth. Compromising, meeting half way, that is the suggested idea of many. But when one waters down the truth, just like watered down tea, it’s just not the same any more. And, once that door has been opened, it can never be closed again. You may be able to take one step of compromise from the truth and feel pretty good because you are still really close to the truth. The next person, might be able to take two steps. Then comes someone who can take yet another step from there. Before long, we are so far from the truth that we do not even know what the truth looks like. It’s out of sight because we have moved so far. It’s hard to say that three steps from truth is wrong, when we’ve winked at one step from truth. It’s hard to say that four steps from truth is error, when we have tolerated the first two steps from truth. Either we stay with the Lord or we start walking.
How long, the prophet declared. Make up your mind. Get off the fence.
Third, these things matter or else nothing matters. If it doesn’t matter what a church does with the money, why does it matter how a church worships? If it doesn’t matter whether or not a band can be used in worship, why does it matter that baptism is necessary for salvation? If it doesn’t matter what how a church is lead, why does it matter about what gender someone declares? Why does anything matter?
Why did God declare purple curtains and fifty rings in the tabernacle? What was wrong with 45 rings? Why not a red curtain? Why a lamb? Why not a dog? Why unleavened bread? Why not a cup cake? Why sing? Why not dance? Why contributions? Why not run a business? Why does anything matter?
If we can’t answer that, then some of us need to stop preaching. We need to start in Genesis and see why these things matter. God is God and we are not. God has all authority and we don’t.
The ole’ Texas preacher, J.D. Tant, once ended his articles with, “we are drifting.” I think some of us are content to just sit on the fence and see which way the wind blows. We need bold faith today that declares, “I stand with the Lord.”
Get off the fence, and declare whose side you are on.