Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Expect the Unexpected in 2019-Nathan Shaw

Expect the unexpected. Not only does this statement have a nice ring about it, it is also totally Biblical. Every year unexpected events change history, but not only that, they also change individuals lives and stories. God specializes in the unexpected.

Elijah's life is a prophetic model. From beginning to end Elijah's story is full of unexpected events. James makes a bold claim about Elijah: "Elijah was a man with a nature like ours" (James 5:17). Yet God used him to confront the high-level demonic assignment that was operating through Queen Jezebel.

An Unexpected Prophet and an Unexpected Judgment
Elijah made an unexpected entry onto the stage of history and the pages of the Bible. There was no build up to the first event recorded about him. He stepped out of obscurity and straight away presented himself to King Ahab. He gave no polite introduction. Instead He boldly challenged the idolatrous worship of Baal by declaring, "...there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word" (1 Kings 17:1). Baal was a chief god and the god of the storm clouds. Elijah's words took immediate effect. Even more startling was the fact that the drought continued for three years. After releasing the unexpected judgment, Elijah was instructed by God to flee to a remote location.

Unexpected Provision and an Unusual Source
The remote location Elijah fled to was by the brook Cherith, a tributary that fed into the Jordan River. Although God's provision of water for Elijah was from a natural source, the provision of food was both unexpected and unusual. Ravens brought Elijah bread and meat each morning and evening. Ravens are naturally scavengers and opportunists. However, under God's command they displayed generosity and kindness. It was a source of provision that you could not have predicted. After a period of time the brook dried up (1 Kings 17:2-7). God used this miracle to prepare Elijah for the next one.

An Unexpected Visitor and an Unexpected Request
God instructed Elijah to leave Israel and go to a widow in Sidon. Sidon was a foreign city with foreign gods. In fact, Sidon was dominated by the worship of Baal. In the same way that God commanded ravens to provide for Elijah, now He commanded a widow. Not only was the widow an idolater, she was also destitute. The drought had taken grip in Sidon also. The widow's resources were scant—a handful of flour and a little oil. She was about to prepare a meal for herself and her son before they both died of starvation. Her story was changed, however, by an unexpected visitor and an unexpected request. Elijah asked her to bake some bread for him first. The request seemed unreasonable. Elijah reassured her that the flour would not be used up and the oil would not run dry until it rained again (1 Kings 17:8-16).

An Unexpected Death and Resurrection
Through the series of unexpected and supernatural events already mentioned, the widow and her son were spared from imminent death. In light of this, that which happened next was truly unexpected. The widow's son died from a serious sickness! Elijah responded by taking charge. He took the dead boy, stretched himself out on his dead body three times, and cried out to God. The child unexpectedly came to life (1 Kings 17:17-24). If the widow hadn't stepped out in obedience and became a source of provision for Elijah, her son would have died anyway, and the subsequent resurrection miracle would never have happened. The event illustrates a powerful principle: Becoming an unexpected source of provision today (the widow baked bread for Elijah each day) opens the door for supernatural provision tomorrow (her only son was resurrected). In the ancient world the widow's only source of future provision was through her son.

An Unexpected Confrontation
King Ahab was perplexed. Elijah had appeared to him at the commencement of the famine, but then disappeared for three years. Unexpectedly Elijah presented himself a second time. He told Ahab to gather the nation at Mount Carmel along with the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah. Elijah directly challenged the false prophets: "The god who answers by fire, He is God" (1 Kings 18:24). The prophets of Baal called down fire on their sacrificial bull for the whole day, but to no avail. Elijah had his sacrifice and altar drenched in water. The moment he called down fire both altar and animal were consumed. The false prophets were put to death and later that evening it rained (1 Kings 18:1-46). Three unexpected things happened in one day: Elijah presented himself to Ahab, fire came down from Heaven, and finally, it rained.

An Unexpected Visit from the Angel of the Lord
When Queen Jezebel heard all that had happened she was furious and put herself under a curse if Elijah wasn't killed within 24 hours. Elijah fled in fear. After a day's journey into the wilderness Elijah was exhausted and defeated and wanted to die. Unexpectedly an angel appeared with a provision of supernatural food. The food gave Elijah the strength to journey 40 days and 40 nights to Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:1-8).

An Unexpected Visitation and Commission from God
At Mount Horeb Elijah had an unexpected visitation from God. During this visitation God commissioned him to anoint Hazael as king over Syria, Jehu as king over Israel, and Elisha as a prophet in his place (1 Kings 19:9-18). Hazael, Jehu and Elisha would defeat and destroy Queen Jezebel and the idolatry she had promoted in Israel. Elijah arrived at Mount Horeb defeated, discouraged, disillusioned and disorientated. Through an unexpected visitation direction, purpose and vision were restored to him.

Elijah's life and story are dominated by the unexpected. The same is true for all those who live in the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1:17). Elijah is a prophetic model for an end-time generation of prophetic messengers. Why did so many unexpected things happen in Elijah's life? The answer is simple: God has purposed that there will be a supernatural witness to His glory in every generation. It was true for Elijah's generation, and it is true for ours.

Here's what we can expect in our day:
• Unexpected audience with people of authority and influence.
• Unexpected provision.
• Unexpected public demonstrations of God's surpassing glory.
• Unexpected visitations from God and angels.
• No matter how impossible the odds, or how difficult the situation, expect the unexpected.

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