There was a time when one of God’s prophets, Elijah, was not so sure about his future, not so filled with hope. There was a time when this holy man was a depressed wreck. He was down in the dumps, sure every one was against him. And he was not too sure about God.
Before I tell you that part of his life story, let me give you some background.
Elijah was a faithful follower of God. He was brave. He was bold. He was filled with great faith.
He went before the wicked king of Israel, King Ahab, and told him what was what. Standing before the throne, Elijah spoke out against Ahab’s idolatry-promoting ways. “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives,” he said, “there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.” (1 Kings 17:1, NIV)
This was a direct affront to Ahab’s new god, Baal – a god of rain and thunder, fertility and agriculture. God was getting ready to show the nation of Israel what was what. He was about to shout it out loud and clear, “I am the God of rain and thunder and fertility and agriculture. I am the God of all things, Maker of Heaven and Earth. You shall not have any other gods before me.” And Elijah was God’s spokesman. He spoke with all the great faith God had given him and what he said happened. For three and a half years there wasn’t a drop of rain on the land. Everything was dry and barren in Israel, brown and dusty. (Kind of like western Kansas in August.)
Elijah hid out first in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. There he was supplied with food by God-guided ravens and with water from a brook that ran through the narrow valley. The birds brought him bread and meat morning and evening every day. When Elijah’s water supply dried up, his hideout became a widow’s home in Sidon.
In the third year of the drought, God spoke to his prophet. “Go and present yourself to Ahab,” he said, “and I will send rain on the land.” (1 Kings 18:1, NIV)
Elijah did as he was told. He entered the king of Israel’s court and issued an invitation to the entire nation. “Meet me on Mt. Carmel,” he challenged. “Bring the four hundred fifty prophets of Baal. Bring the four hundred who serve Asherah.”
And they came, all of them. The mountain was covered with people. Young and old stood together. Regally-robed priests and ragged peasants too. The king and his entourage.
Elijah spoke to them. “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him…but if Baal is God, follow him.” (1 Kings 18:21, NIV)
Then the challenge to the false prophets: “Call down fire from heaven upon a sacrificial bull.” The deceivers tried and tried. They cut themselves and shouted loudly. Nothing.
Then Elijah stepped up and, after soaking his altar – wood, stones, bull, everything – called upon God. Fire! The whole thing was consumed. Not one bone from the bull was left. The flames destroyed the stones. The water in the trench around the altar was licked up.
A great cry erupted from the people as they fell on their faces in worship. “The Lord – he is God! The Lord – he is God!” (1 Kings 18:39, NIV)
Elijah ordered the execution of every false priest then he spoke to the king. “Go,” he said, “eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain.” So the king went off and ate, but Elijah climbed to the top of the mountain and prayed.
At first nothing happened. The man of God’s servant looked, but there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Elijah prayed again and again and again – seven times in all. On the seventh look-see, his servant reported back with this news: “A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea.” (1 Kings 18:44, NIV)
Elijah sent word to Ahab. “Hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.”
The sky grew black, the wind rose, heavy rain came and Elijah, filled with the power of God, tucked his cloak into his belt and ran ahead of Ahab’s chariot all the way to town.
Friends, Elijah was a man who followed God. He obeyed even when the assignment was perilous. He trusted God, had faith in him, saw his Lord work miracles. And then the bottom fell out.
Jezebel, King Ahab’s Sidonian wife, hears what Elijah has done to all of her Baal prophets and Asherah priests sends a messenger to the prophet with this rather pointed message: “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.” (1 Kings 19:2, NIV)
Elijah hears her words and runs for his life. He’s scared. He flees deep into the desert. Too tired to go on, too frightened to go back, he sits down under a broom tree and prays.
“I have had enough, Lord.” Not a lot of faith in those words. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” (1 Kings 19:5, NIV) With that he lies down under the tree. He’s done in. He drifts off into a troubled sleep.
Let’s stay here with him for a moment. Elijah is as lost as lost can be. His faith is faltering. His fears are taking over. His hope is dying.
We’ve all been in that place before. We’ve laid down in the shade of a broom tree and wished we were dead. We’ve wondered if God is with us in our desperate state. The questions are hard to ask, harder to answer. “Does he care? Does he know? Does he exist?”
Failure, suffering, hardship, pain – they are not easy to deal with. But listen to me. We cannot stay here. We cannot continue to sleep in the desert. We will die. We must follow God out of the wilderness. We must trust him. We must obey even when the way seems overwhelmingly difficult.
God sends help to his servant. An angel wakes Elijah and feeds him. “Get up,” the heavenly warrior instructs. “Get up and eat.” A supper of baked bread and a jar of water are offered. Elijah eats, drinks and falls back into a deep sleep.
The angel returns some time later. His instructions are the same: “Get up and eat.”
Elijah does so and strengthened by this second meal he sets out for Mt. Horeb.
Days later Elijah finds the mountain of God and holes up in a cave to spend the night. “What are you doing here, Elijah?” God’s voice! A difficult question.
“I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty,” Elijah explains. “The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” (1 Kings 19:10, NIV)
God speaks again. “Go out and stand on the mountain. Stand in my presence.” Elijah obeys.
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.
When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
Same question. Same response.
“I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
This time God answered Elijah with instructions.
“Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu.”
And after the instruction, words of hope.
“Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel – all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him.”
Elijah was not alone. God was with him. A godly remnant was with him. Elijah broke camp and returned to God’s work, trusting his Maker rather than fearing a wicked woman.
This story asks a very profound question of you and me. Simply put, it asks: “What or who do you fear more than God?”
Do you fear failure? Rejection? Death? Are you afraid God will abandon you? He’s promised not to. Do you fear despite his assurances?
Then when the question is asked, God speaks through Elijah’s story: “Do not fear. I am with you. I will not leave you.”
Friends, you’re all alive and breathing today. That means none of your failures have killed you yet. You’ve come through dozens of difficult situations with God’s help. Don’t you remember? He has been faithful. He has been trustworthy. God will continue to be faithful.
“What are you doing here wallowing in self-pity? What are you doing here trembling in fear? What are you doing here worrying about the future?” He will see you through. So get up and eat! You’ve got a journey to complete. Go after God. Pray earnestly for his help. Meet with him and hear his direction.
God did not stop at your failure. Don’t you!
To receive my once or twice weekly message via email, send a blank email to email@example.com. Past messages are available at freegroups.net/groups/webmessage.