Detours - Part II
Detours. They come the way of everyone. They come physically. They come spiritually.
They come emotionally. They come when plans do not materialize as we foresee them.
Plans of where we will be or what we will do with school or jobs or even ministries. They
come when we have difficulties after being obedient to God. They come because it seems
so easy to feel forsaken and forgotten.
Detours. They come the way of everyone. Including people of God.
Because detours come to everyone, what becomes most important is how we respond to
Of course, we can respond by trying to run away from God’s plans. Plans that might
come because of the detours in our lives.
We can respond by yelling and screaming in protest when detours come our way.
Especially uncomfortable detours.
We can respond by becoming so depressed we are of no good to anyone.
all of which are very easy - very natural - to do
Or we can instead respond by allowing God to work in our lives when we are on detours.
To work to the extent of causing our detours to lead us to whatever good God has in
store for us.
Obviously, that last response is the one God wants us to choose. Not only do we know
that is what God wants, we have Biblical examples to teach us it is possible to respond
that way. One example is, in the Old Testament, Elijah.
Elijah is who we are going to think about in this message. And hey, Elijah was not
perfect. It was apparently not easy for him to respond appropriately to detours. That
point will especially be made about two-thirds of the way through this message. But it
turned out OK. The challenge is that that we, too - even if we come up short in
responding - will eventually do what we are supposed to do in allowing God to get us
through whatever detours of life we experience.
Elijah is introduced in chapter 17 of the Old Testament Book of I Kings. And by the way,
there is a lot that happened in his life, which is told about from chapter 17 of I Kings into
the second chapter of II Kings. Not everything recorded about Elijah is going to be
covered. But at the start of him being mentioned, he spoke the word of God and
immediately thereafter was sent on a detour.
The word of God was spoken to Ahab, the king of Israel at the time.
Ahab was a very powerful king, but listen to the description of his reign. In chapter 16
the wording is, “And Ahab did evil in the sight of the LORD. He did more evil than all
the kings who were before him.”
To make matters worse, Ahab married Jezebel - a non-Jewish foreigner who led Ahab
and the rest of the nation into worship of false gods. with that, the wording is, “Ahab did
more to provoke the LORD, the God of Israel - to provoke Him to anger - than all the
kings of Israel who were before Him.”
Conditions were bad in Israel. They were bad spiritually. King Ahab was the source of
much of that. Elijah, a prophet of God, was sent by God to Ahab to announce to the king
a punishment for the evil he was doing. The announcement was this. “As the LORD, the
God of Israel, lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain for a
number of years. That will end only when I [when God] will speak otherwise.”
Clearly, that was not good news for the king. Clearly, moisture is needed for crops to
grow. Clearly, with no crops, people would starve. It was not good news that Ahab
heard. Plus, the point of the announcement was that Ahab had sinned. I don’t know of
too many people who are ever very happy when their shortcomings are pointed out to
It was at least to be feared Ahab would be so upset with the announcement, he would
attack and probably kill Elijah. Of course, Ahab could not kill God, but God’s messenger
could very easily become a target.
So it was that God sent Elijah on a detour. “Depart from Israel,” God said. “Turn
eastward and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan River.”
A detour? Yes.
A physical detour because he was told to leave his nation and go into another. A spiritual
detour because it was God’s work that put him in danger. An emotional detour because
he knew his very life was threatened. In essence, God was telling him to flee for his life.
And yes, Elijah would be safe while in exile. While on that detour. But his living
conditions were going to be pretty bad.
He would have water. God told him he would be able to drink from the brook. But his
food would be brought to him by ravens. Which are scavengers. Not angry birds, like
those in a popular online game, but dirty birds.
Who would want to eat what ravens brought? No one. Including Elijah. But that is what
God told him He had set up for him on that detour.
How did Elijah respond? Did he yell and scream? Maybe. Did he withdraw into
depression so much he was no good to anyone?
Whatever his response, it is recorded, Elijah obeyed the word of the LORD. He left
Israel. He went to and dwelt by the brook Cherith that is east of the Jordan. He did
drink from the brook for his water. He ate what the ravens brought him - bread and
meat each morning, bread and meat again each evening.
Again, what was provided for food was not very pleasant. But God did look out for Elijah
when he was on that detour.
Then another detour. It came when the brook dried up. It dried up because there was no
rain, just as Elijah had announced for the LORD.
That detour” Te word of the LORD came to Elijah. “Arise,” the LORD said. ‘Go to
Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. behold, I have commanded a widow
there to feed you.”
I don’t know that Elijah necessarily wanted to take charity. But he again obeyed the
detour God had for him. h arose and went to Zarephath, where he met the widow to
whom the LORD referred.
Elijah asked the widow for a little water. When she turned to get it, he added, “Also
bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.”
I imagine Elijah said “please.” Bt her answer was this. “I would be happy to serve you,
but there is a problem. First of all, nothing is baked. Second of all, all I have is just a
handful of flour and just a little cooking oil. What I am doing now is gathering a couple
sticks. Just enough to bake the little I have. My son and I will eat what we have. Since
that is all we have, after the meal we will prepare to die.”
Elijah said to her, “Fear not. Go and do as you have said, but first make me a little cake
and bring it to me. Then make bread for yourself and your son. Do this. If you do, here is
a message from the LORD, the God of Israel, for you: the jar of flour you have shall not
go empty and the cruse of cooking oil you have shall not go dry. You will have all you
need of both for as long as there is no rain.”
I am thinking that was a detour for the woman. A detour away from what she planned. A
detour away from assuring that she and her son would have at least one last meal
together before they died.
But she did as Elijah said. And guess what. She and her son - and Elijah - ate. Not just
that meal. They continued to eat, day after day, week after week, year after year. They
ate because the flour did not run out. Neither did the oil run out.
A detour? Definitely. A rough detour physically, spiritually, and emotionally, for both
Elijah and for the woman. But the LORD led them through it. The LORD did that until,
in the third year of the drought - this is in chapter 18 of I Kings - and again, there is
more that happened in the life of Elijah - I am highlighting just a few of the things
recorded - things that suggest the detours he was taken on - in the third year of the
drought, the LORD sent Elijah back to Ahab.
That had to have been scary. It could probably be considered another detour since it
took him back to danger. In fact, when Elijah met with Ahab, the king’s first words were,
“Is it you, you trouble-maker?”
Elijah answered that whatever trouble there was came because of the king’s forsaking
the commandments of the LORD and the king’s worship of false gods. That was a
dangerous accusation. True, but dangerous for Elijah.
Then Elijah asked for the chance to prove the strength of his God - our God - the one
and only true God. A chance to compare God’s power to the power of the false gods that
were the main ones worshiped in Israel at that time. The gods known as Baal and
Here is what Elijah asked.
At Mount Carmel, the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah were to be
gathered. Asherah is, I think the way I would word it, kind of an associate of Baal. There
were prophets of both, but Baal seemed to be kind of the main false god. Those prophets
were to be gathered. That happened.
Two bulls were to be brought. One was to be given to the prophets of Baal and Asherah.
They were to choose which one. They were to cut their bull in pieces and lay the pieces
on wood,but no fire was to be put to the wood. Elijah said he would prepare the other
bull, lay it on wood, and put no fire to it. That would happen later.
Elijah then said to the prophets of Baal and Asherah, “You can call on the name of your
god - the god of Baal - and I will call on the name of the LORD. Whichever one answers
by fire, he is God.” All the prophets agreed, and the first bull - the one selected by the
prophets of Baal and Asherah - was prepared.
when all was ready, Elijah said, “You first.” Immediately, the prophets began to call on
the name of Baal to send fire.
I assume they expected an answer right away. But from morning until noon they said,
over and over again, “Baal, answer us.”
When nothing happened after a time, the prophets began to dance around the altar they
had made. They danced until noon, at which time Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry a
little louder. Maybe your god has stepped away for a while. Maybe he had to go to the
bathroom. Or maybe he is asleep and needs to be awakened.”
With that, the prophets did cry out louder. Then they started to cut themselves with
swords and lances until blood gushed out of them. Maybe that would please Baal enough
for him to answer.
But even with that, by afternoon there was still no answer from the god worshiped by
the prophets who had gathered.
Elijah said to others who had also gathered at Mount Carmel to come to him. They
gathered at the place he planned to use. At that place, Elijah built his altar. He built it of
He then dug a trench around the altar. He did that before putting the wood in order.
After that he cut his bull in pieces and laid it on the wood.
He then said, “Fill four jars with water and pour it on the burnt offering [the cut up bull]
and on the wood.”
That was done, which soaked everything on the altar. Elijah had the same thing done a
second time. Then a third time. So much water was poured on the altar, the wood, and
the bull that the trench around the altar was filled with water.
With that, Elijah prayed to his God - to our God - “O LORD,” Elijah said, “God of
Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel, and that I
am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word. Answer me, O
LORD. Answer me, that these people may know that You, O LORD, are God, and that
You have turned their hearts back.”
That was Elijah’s prayer. Which he spoke just once. Not over and over again, as the false
prophets had done. Not accompanied with dancing and self-mutilation, as the false
prophets had done.
Elijah just prayed, doing so just once.
The result? Te fire of the LORD fell. It fell immediately. It fell with so much force it
consumed the bull and the wood, and the stones and the dust, though all of it had been
soaked three times. The fire then licked up - it evaporated - the water that was in the
Wow. What a scene that must have been. A scene that caused all the other people who
had gathered at that spot to fall on their faces and proclaim, “The LORD [the LORD
worshiped by Elijah], He is God.” Those words were spoken because the hearts of the
people were turned. They were turned to God. !
What a wonderful result that was. Which led to something else. With that change of
heart, God, a short time later, saw fit to end the drought. For the first time in three
years, there was rain. A “great” rain is the way it is described.
That should have been a very good thing in everyone’s opinion. And it was for most. But
not for Jezebel.
Remember her? The one who King Ahab married? And remember Jezebel was a
worshiper of Baal, so when her god was demeaned - when, at the order of Elijah, all the
prophets of Baal had been killed, she - this is in chapter 19 of I Kings - threatened Elijah.
She threatened to have him killed.
Now, remember God had helped Elijah in the wilderness. God had provided him with
water and food.
Remember God had helped Elijah when the water in the wilderness dried up. God had
provided him a place where a widow gave him food and water.
Remember God had shown His power by stopping rain. God had shown His power by
burning a water-soaked sacrifice over water-soaked wood. The burning had happened so
severely even the stones of the altar were destroyed. God had then shown His power by
causing rain to return. A great rain that fell on land that had been parched.
Remember all that. Which we might think would be enough to convince Elijah to trust
that God would continue to watch out for him. !
Elijah should have learned to trust God. But when he was threatened by Jezebel, Elijah
was afraid. mention this, not to insult or criticize Elijah, but to point out that if we
sometimes falter, we are not alone .
Elijah was afraid. So afraid he fled. And yes, Elijah had fled earlier. He had run away
right after confronting Ahab the first time. But that time, God had told him to go away.
This time, it was Elijah who made the decision to take a detour.
So, as asked before, did he yell and scream? Maybe. After fleeing, he asked God to take
his life. I think he was tired of being in danger.
Was Elijah so depressed he was of no good to anyone? Maybe. It is recorded he laid
down and slept, which would be normal, at least from time to time. But here the
wording seems to suggest he was so distraught, it was all he could do.
But guess what. Even though this was a self-imposed detour, God helped him.
God helped Elijah, doing so first through an angel, who saw to it he was fed. The food
kept Elijah going for 40 days and nights.
God helped him again when He spoke to him.
The point is made that God did not speak to Elijah in a great wind. A wind so strong it
broke rocks. He did not speak to Elijah in an earthquake that followed the wind. Or in
fire that followed the earthquake. Instead, God spoke to Elijah in a still small voice. I
think the point of that is that God can be very powerful in His communications, but that
sometimes He works with people very quietly. Let’s be accepting of however He speaks
That voice gave the message that Elijah was to go back to work. His work would be
anointing various men to be kings. Which Elijah did.
Why is that mentioned? It is because, even though Elijah had fled in fear by his own
choice, rather than by God’s design, and despite the fact he was the only prophet of the
one true God left, God was still willing to use him.
Which got Elijah to take yet another detour. A detour from safety back into danger. A
detour during which he was protected by the God he served. Protected until he was, in II
Kings 2, taken up to Heaven.
Detours. Elijah certainly faced them. He faced them physically as he was sometimes
forced to flee and once chose to flee. He faced them spiritually as he must have felt
forsaken by God. Especially when so much of his suffering came about because of his
obedience to God. He faced them emotionally as he was so often in danger.
Detours. Do you - do I - ever face them physically, spiritually, emotionally? They can
come when what we plan does not materialize as we foresee. They can come when we
have difficulties after being obedient to God. They can come because it is easy to feel
forsaken and forgotten.
And yes, we can try to run away. We can yell and scream when bad things happen to us.
We can withdraw into depression so much we are of no good to anyone.
Instead, may we do what Elijah did each of the times he faced detours. Each time
detours were forced upon him. Even the time he chose a detour on his own. He allowed
God to work in his life, which God did in sometimes sending him to safety, in providing
water and food, in performing a miracle in a contest with prophets of false gods, even in
calling him back from self-imposed exile into spiritual service.
Detours. Yes, they do come. But along whatever physical, spiritual, emotional detours
we encounter - along whatever detours we are forced to follow or choose to follow - may
we know and trust that God is still in control and will work things out for our good.
Including giving us things to do for Him. He will do all that if we will let Him do so.
May we know that and live by it. May we share that with others.
today’s closing song is a hymn that will remind us God is loving and present wherever
we are. Even when we are on detours. None Is Like God Who Reigns Above.
None is like God, who reigns above,
So great, so pure, so high;
none is like God, whose name in Love,
And who is always nigh. !
In all the earth there is no spot
Excluded from His care;
We cannot go where God is not,
For He is everywhere.
He is our best and kindest Friend,
And guards us night and day;
To all our wants He will attend,
And answer when we pray.
O if we love Him as we ought,
And on His grace rely,
We shall be joyful at the thought
That God is always nigh.
Detours. They come along the way of everyone. Including those who are Christians. New
Christians and old Christians alike.
When detours come our way, may we look to people like Elijah, who, though he might
have been bothered or scared, at least from time, did not give in to discouragement.
Instead, he trusted God. He let God work things out, doing so to the point that even
now, he is known as an effective servant of God. Oh, how good it will be for us to be
known the same way. Amen.