Pulpit message: The Two Tokens
It was the 4th of August 1976. That evening the centre of Portrush was destroyed by a series of bombs. We were staying in a caravan park on the edge of the town. A crowd of us was gathered as we viewed the flames and the smoke with horror.
Just then, another bomb exploded, first the sight of a massive ball of flame rising into the clear night air, then the sound of the explosion as the earth below us shook, and then the sound of falling glass and debris. The crowd stood silent for a few seconds, and then we could all hear the voice of a wee Scottish laddie. “Ah hope it’s no Barrys, fer Ah hae twa toakens.”
We can smile now, but wasn’t that wee boy giving us a token of his own sense of values? Many millions of pounds went up in smoke, but his concern was for two tokens worth a few pence.
In 1 Kings chapter 8 we read of the contest between Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. When Elijah called on them “If the LORD be God, follow him, but if Baal, then follow him.” Their response? “And the people did not answer a word.” They didn’t want to make a choice. We can be sure that many of them knew what the right choice was. Was it that they didn’t want to be identified with the minority? After all it was 450 to 1. Were they waiting to see what others would do? Did they need a clear sign? In response God gave them two clear signs.
God showed them his hatred of sin, v40. “And Elijah said to them, ‘Seize the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape.’ And they seized them. And Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon and slaughtered them there.”
Now, of course some will say “but that’s the God of the Old Testament. God’s not really like that in these days. But they’re wrong. God is a God of justice. God hates sin and he punishes the unrepentant sinner. Go, not to the Old Testament, but to the New Testament. Revelation 20:15 “And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” Not 450 false prophets, but millions of unrepentant sinners. Not simply physical death, but eternal destruction. What happened at the brook Kishon was only a token of God’s wrath against sin, against the unrepentant sinner.
But as we talk about a token, let’s look at the other sign that God is displaying here – his acceptance of the sacrifice. Just imagine yourself there at Mount Carmel that day. See the spectacle of the prophets of Baal dancing around and frantically cutting themselves. Hear the noise, almost deafening. Then watch as Elijah, the sole prophet of the LORD, almost silently steps forward, “Answer me, O LORD, answer me that this people may know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” Suddenly the massive flame completely fills the sky. It comes, not from the earth, but from the sky. It utterly consumes the sacrifice and the wood and the stones and the dust and evaporates in a second the water that was in the trench. God has accepted the sacrifice! What is this sacrifice? What does it mean? What does it represent? Dramatic, magnificent as it was, it was but a mere token of the real Sacrifice. Ephesians 5:2 Christ also has loved us, an offering and a sacrifice to God.”
Did the people of Israel need proof of the wrath of God for sin, and of the mercy of God in providing an acceptable sacrifice for their sin? God gave them two signs, tokens of his wrath and his mercy. But for us today, we who have the full revelation of God’s Word, can see far more than they could ever have imagined. We have so often been told “for God so loved the world, that he gave his onlybegotten Son, that whosoever believes in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Have you learned from the two tokens that God gave Israel?
And have you learned anything from that wee lad with the two tokens. Clearly he had a wrong sense of values.
What about your sense of values? The Lord says: “For what does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” Mark 8:36
By Wor. Bro. Rev. Ian McClean, Grand Chaplain