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A Study of A Study of Elijah, 1 Kings 19:4-16

Introduction

Do you sometimes feel like giving up? Does it seem like the journey is too difficult and that everyone is out to get you? Do you just want to lie down somewhere and hide from your troubles? This is the way Elijah felt. He had done a mighty work for God, but it seemed like he was the only one in the nation of Israel being true to God. Now he was being pursued and hunted, and he just felt like the fight wasn’t worth all the effort. If you’ve ever felt that way, you can learn from the example of Elijah. These verses give us important instruction as to what God would have us do when we feel like quitting.

Verse 4

But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree; and he asked that he might die, saying, "It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am no better than my fathers."

Elijah was so frustrated that he asked God to let him die. Have you ever felt that way? You feel like you’ve come to the end of your rope and you simply have no strength left. That is the way Elijah felt.

Snaith comments, "Elijah stops and shelters, exhausted and disillusioned, under a broom tree. ... It provides no great amount of shade against the desert sun, but it is the best shade there is. Elijah is utterly at the end of his own courage and his own strength, and dejectedly confesses that in spite of all he has done at Carmel he is no better than his fathers."

Verses 5-6

And he lay down and slept under a broom tree; and behold, an angel touched him, and said to him, "Arise and eat."

And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank, and lay down again.

Elijah was so despondent that all he felt like doing was sleeping. Many people when faced with difficult situations feel more tired and drained than usual. They just want to sleep, hoping that when they wake up all their troubles will somehow have disappeared. God cared for Elijah and sent an angel to minister to him. He cooked bread and provided water and woke him up so that he could be strengthened and nourished. But Elijah didn’t want to face another day and so retreated again into sleep.

Into what are you retreating? It may not be sleep. You could be running from your problems by retreating into drugs or alcohol or immorality or some obsession to distract your mind. Elijah didn’t want to face tomorrow.

Verses 7-8

And the angel of the Lord came again a second time, and touched him, and said, "Arise and eat, else the journey will be too great for you."

And he arose, and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God.

Here we have three things the angel tells Elijah to help him get over his desire to give up. I believe God is telling us the same three things today.

First, he says, to arise. We will never overcome our feelings of frustration and despondency unless we are willing to get up and do something about it. The angel told Elijah to arise. God may be telling you to arise – you’ve been hiding for too long. It’s time to get up and face the real world once again.

Second, the angel tells Elijah to eat. Elijah needed physical nourishment. We may not need food, but we may need other forms of nourishment – emotional, mental, spiritual. Whatever we need, God has provided it for us just the same way he provided for Elijah. He told Elijah to be strengthened by the food. God is telling us to be strengthened by spiritual nourishment. This might come from the living message of the Bible, or the love and encouragement of our church family. It could come from our time in prayer and meditation or it could come from being renewed by the Holy Spirit. Whatever your need, God will provide it and is offering it to you by saying, "arise and eat."

And third, the angel tells Elijah that he must begin the journey. He could not simply stay where he was and do nothing. He must begin the journey which would end in a new calling and a new spiritual encounter with God. God is telling us we cannot stay where we are in the shade of discouragement and hopelessness. We must begin the journey out of our depression. We must allow God to strengthen us for the journey, and then by faith step out.

Remember, trying times are no time to quit trying.

Verse 9

And there he came to a cave, and lodged there; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"

So Elijah made the journey to Mount Horeb. This was most likely the Sinai mountain where God had given Moses the ten commandments. God had sent Elijah here for a purpose. But when he arrived, instead of climbing up the mountain, he decided to hide in a cave. As Sockman remarks, "Elijah was in the cave mood. He came to a cave and lodged there. Both his mind and heart had gone into hiding. He was still free from Ahab and Jezebel, but he was a prisoner of himself. He had shut the sunlight out of his mind. He had drawn the shutters of his heart. When doors are slammed against us, we are prone to draw into ourselves and lock our hearts against others."

So God came to Elijah and asked the question, "What are you doing here?" Is God asking you that same question? Are you hiding in a cave trying to escape the turmoil and confusion out there? God does not want us to live unto ourselves. He wants us to get out of the cave and start helping others and being a blessing to them. Perhaps it’s been a long time since you’ve thought of ways you could strengthen and be a help to others. Perhaps it’s been a long time since you got out of your cave. God may be asking you, "What are you doing here?"

Verse 10

He said, "I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the people of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thy altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away."

Elijah expresses his frustration. He felt that he was all alone in this battle. Jezebel had killed all the other prophets of God and now she was seeking Elijah’s life. He was really saying, "What’s the use? They won’t listen to me anyway." But God was not finished with Elijah yet. He had some important things for Elijah to do. Later on in this chapter he lets Elijah know that 7000 in Israel have not bowed down to Baal. But for now, he wants Elijah to have a spiritual encounter.

God is not finished with you yet. He has things to teach you just as he had things to teach Elijah. Let us learn from these verses how we should respond to God’s prompting in our lives.

Verse 11a

And he said, "Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord."

God called Elijah to the mountain. God had brought him to this mountain for a purpose. Now it was time to go forth and stand on the mountain of God. God has a plan for you also. He may be calling you to come out of your cave and go forth and stand on the mountain before God. Whatever you may be facing might seem like an insurmountable peak, but God has called you to climb it. Elijah was obedient and climbed God’s mountain. What will you do? Will you go forth and stand, or will you go back and retreat into your cave?

Here’s a poem with a wonderful message.

Don’t Quit
When things get wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you are trudging seems all up hill;
When the funds are low and the debts are high
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh;
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.
Success is failure turned inside out;
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt.
And you can never tell how close you are
It may be near when it seems afar;
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit –
It’s when things seem worst that you mustn’t quit.

Verses 11b-12a

And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.

And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.

As God passed by, the splendor and majesty of all the great forces of nature were crashing all around Elijah. First a mighty wind tore rocks from the face of the mountain, and then an earthquake shook the mountain, and then a fire raged up the mountainside. But in each of these awesome displays of power it says God was not in the wind, and God was not in the earthquake, and God was not in the fire. Sometimes when we are searching for answers, we look toward the spectacular for God’s presence. We seek him in an awesome display of majesty and power. But sometimes God does not send us a magnificent display of might. Sometimes we must wait for the storms to pass by before we can find God.

Verse 12b

And after the fire a still small voice.

Here is where Elijah found God – in a still small voice. Where are you looking for God? Are you waiting to hear a thundering voice from heaven? Are you waiting for God to send down fire on your enemies? Are you waiting for God to send the wind to split the rocks of your problems? For Elijah, God was not in any of those displays of power. It was only after the crash and terror of these events had subsided that Elijah could make out the still, small voice of God. Are you listening for that still, small voice? Or are you searching for God’s power in a supernatural display? We need to learn how to listen for that quiet voice speaking to our hearts.

Sockman tells us, "When despair engulfs, it does not suffice merely to feed the body and flog the will. The mind must be fed. And that is what the Lord did for Elijah on the mount. By watching the storm, the prophet’s eyes were opened to his own weakness and to the divine source of strength. The wind, the lightning, the earthquake were reminiscent of his own methods against Ahab and the Baal priests. But the Lord was not in the noisy phenomena. It was after the still small voice that the divine presence became real. The blustering physical forces were superseded by the quiet spiritual resources. The stormy Elijah was learning the gentleness of true gianthood."

Verse 13

And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him, and said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"

Amazingly, even after this awesome display and the reassuring sound of God’s voice, Elijah still felt compelled to go back to his cave. It seems he was more willing to endure the din of the crashing rocks and the terror of the earthquake and the light and heat of the fire than to listen to God’s voice. Are you afraid of hearing what God has to say to you? It is a frightening thought to be in God’s presence. But he would not speak to us if he did not care for us and have our best interests at heart.

Verse 14

He said, "I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the people of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thy altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away."

Elijah repeats his lament. He can’t seem to let go of his frustration. He has no doubt experienced the power and presence of God, but he is clinging to his own self-pity. He has become accustomed to feeling sorry for himself, and he’s not sure he’s ready to get rid of that. In a strange sort of way self-pity can be a familiar comfort. But it is not God’s plan for us to live our lives in weakness and to be crippled by doubts or discouragement.

Verse 15

And the Lord said to him, "Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; and when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria."

God now calls Elijah to a new ministry. He is to anoint a new king over Syria who will bring judgement onto Israel for their disobedience. Elijah was ready to give up, but God was not through with him yet. We may feel like giving up, but God has other plans for us. We have to be willing to hear that still, small voice speaking to us. And not only listen, but to obey which is exactly what Elijah did.

Verse 16

And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel; and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place.

God has Elijah anoint two more men. The first will be the new king over Israel who will defeat Ahab and Jezebel, Elijah’s enemies. God did care for Elijah’s plight after all and was going to use the prophet as an instrument for his own deliverance. Elijah was ready to give up because everyone was against him and the Lord’s work. But God had a plan for Elijah to anoint the one who would rid Israel of those who were against Elijah and be the king that would do the Lord’s work.

Finally, God called on Elijah to anoint a helper, Elisha. This man would be enlisted to help Elijah and would eventually take his place. When we feel overwhelmed with troubles, it is then that God sends us someone to help us. Elisha would assist Elijah in the Lord’s ministry. Together they would take on the enemies of God and together they would encourage and strengthen each other.

No matter what difficulties you may be facing, remember that God does not want you to give up. He has a plan for you and he will strengthen you. Be ready to listen for that still, small voice, and you too will see the mighty work of God in your life.

Footnotes:

This Study from the Book of Ruth 1997 by David Humpal. All Rights Reserved

All scriptures unless otherwise noted are from the Revised Standard Version 1971, A. J. Holman Company

Snaith: The Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 3, pg. 161 1954, Abingdon Press

Sockman: The Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 3, pg. 161 1954, Abingdon Press

Don’t Quit from The Complete Speaker’s Sourcebook pg. 207 1996, Zondervan Publishing House

Sockman: The Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 3, pg. 165 1954, Abingdon Press

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