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Overcoming Spiritual Discouragement Textual Study of I Kings 19:1-18
The Pretext And Elijah came to all the people, and said, “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people answered him not a word. Then Elijah said to the people, “I alone am left a prophet of the LORD; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men. Therefore let them give us two bulls; and let them choose one bull for themselves, cut it in pieces, and lay it on the wood, but put no fire under it; and I will prepare the other bull, and lay it on the wood, but put no fire under it. Then you call on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the LORD; and the God who answers by fire, He is God.” So all the people answered and said, “It is well spoken.” (I Kings 18:21-24)
The Pretext So they cried aloud, and cut themselves, as was their custom, with knives and lances, until the blood gushed out on them. And when midday was past, they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice. But there was no voice; no one answered, no one paid attention. (I Kings 18:28-29) Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” So all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the LORD that was broken down. (I Kings 18:30) …
The Pretext … Elijah the prophet came near and said, “LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word. Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that You are the LORD God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again.” Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and the stones and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench. Now when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, “The LORD, He is God! The LORD, He is God!” And Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal! Do not let one of them escape!” So they seized them; and Elijah brought them down to the Brook Kishon and executed them there. … (I Kings 18:36-40)
Observations • Ahab and Jezebel had killed almost all of the prophets of the Lord, except Elijah and some who were hidden (I Kings 18:3-13, 22). • The Israelite people were largely idolatrous, uncaring, lethargic, or terrified (I Kings 18:7-14, 17-18, 21). • After the Lord answered in fire, the people glorified God, seized the prophets of Baal, and killed all of them (I Kings 18:38-40). It was a great victory and turning of the tide! • God’s presence, His power, and His dominance had been overwhelmingly expressed. • His people had spoken and acted decisively, even if at last. • Neither should have been quickly forgotten …
The Text … So Ahab rode away and went to Jezreel. Then the hand of the LORD came upon Elijah; and he girded up his loins and ran ahead of Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel. And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, also how he had executed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.” And when he saw that, he arose and ran for his life, and went to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, “It is enough! Now, LORD, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!” (I Kings 18:45-19:4)
The Text Then as he lay and slept under a broom tree, suddenly an angel touched him, and said to him, “Arise and eat.” Then he looked, and there by his head was a cake baked on coals, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank, and lay down again. And the angel of the LORD came back the second time, and touched him, and said, “Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you.” So he arose, and ate and drank; and he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights as far as Horeb, the mountain of God. And there he went into a cave, and spent the night in that place; and behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (I Kings 19:5-9)
The Text So he said, “Ihave been very zealous for the LORD God of hosts; for the children of Israel1have forsaken Your covenant, 2torn down Your altars, and 3killed Your prophetswith the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.” Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces 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; and after the fire a still small voice. (I Kings 19:10-12)
The Text So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him, and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” And he said, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God of hosts; because the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.” Then the LORD said to him: “Go, return on your way to the Wilderness of Damascus; and when you arrive …” (I Kings 19:13-15)
The Text “ … when you arrive, anoint 1Hazael as king over Syria. Also you shall anoint 2Jehu the son of Nimshi as king over Israel. And 3Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel Meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place. It shall be that whoever escapes the sword of Hazael, Jehu will kill; and whoever escapes the sword of Jehu, Elisha will kill. Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” So he departed from there, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he was with the twelfth. Then Elijah passed by him and threw his mantle on him. (I Kings 19:15-19)
Application to Us • Do you ever feel spiritually discouraged or depressed? • Elijah was one of the “greats” of the Old Testament: • Stood opposed to the most wicked king and queen of Israelite history in the heart of their kingdom at one of Israel’s darkest times. • Did not die. Was carried to heaven in a whirlwind (II Kings 2:1-12). • Served as a type or figure for the work of John the Baptist in turning men’s hearts back to God to avoid their being wiped out (Malachi 4:5-6; Matthew 11:12-14; 17:10-13). • As Moses represented the law, Elijah represented all of the prophets at Jesus’ transfiguration (Matthew 17:2-5). • And, yet, even hegave into discouragement and despair …
Good Company? • Take some comfort in knowing that the great saints became discouraged at times … • Our struggles are not really unique to us (I Corinthians 10:13; Hebrews 4:15-16). • Elijah was not a super-human (James 5:17). • But, do not take too much comfort. God does not grade on a curve! • All have sinned (Romans 3:23). • Wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). • Few will be saved (Luke 13:23-24; Matthew 7:13-14).
How Much Discouraged? • Started with victory at Mt. Carmel (18:36-40). • Ahab responded with some level of repentance or at least submission (18:41-45). • The “hand of the Lord came upon Elijah”, and he “ran ahead of Ahab”and the rain storm he requested (18:41-46). • Triggered by Ahab’s lack of conviction and Jezebel’s obstinate rebellion and imminent death threat (19:1-3). • God sent him to Jezreel, but he “ran for his life” (18:46; 19:3). • Prayed acknowledging failure and requesting death (19:4)! • Went 40 days on 1-2 meals, and ran 170+ miles (19:3, 8)! • Repeated his first answer to God, even after God’s visual lesson (19:13-14).
How Much Discouraged? • Elijah only recognized himself, “I alone am left”, in spite of 101 known brothers and Mt. Carmel victory (18:3-16, 20-40). • Elijah recognized God was master of armies, “Lord of hosts” (19:10, 14). • Elijah recognized Israel’s sins against God (“Your covenant … Your altars … Your prophets”; 19:10-14). • Was this a plea for action in the light of apparent inaction? God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel, saying … (Romans 11:2-5) Elijah was apparently insistent upon a response from God.
Longsuffering God • God was insistent upon a justification of Elijah’s fleeing to the wilderness (19:9, 13). • God did not strike Elijah down or injure him over his 150 mile escape into the wilderness (19:3, 9). • God did not grant Elijah’s prayer for death (19:4). • God miraculously supplied strength for Elijah’s misguided escape (19:5-7; see also, Matthew 5:45). • God taught Elijah what he was missing (19:11-12, 17-18). • Sympathetic to our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15; Hosea 11:8). • Compare to: Job, David, Jonah, Habbakkuk, John the Baptist, Peter, Paul, Manasseh, etc. … • Why? Does not want any to be lost (II Peter 3:9). If patience is the answer, He will supply it! (See: Romans 8:32.)
Unconventional God “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces 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; and after the fire a still small voice. (I Kings 19:11-12) • Reminiscent of Job’s “opportunity” from God (Job 38-42). • God does not always act in the way that we expect or want. • We cannot anticipate God. Neither can we expect Him to conform to our expectations. (See: 19:17, in His time.) • Truth, wisdom is never shouted (Pro. 1:20-33; Ecc. 9:14-17). • God’s due respect is never forced … here (Ps 32:9; Ro 14:11).
The Remnant God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel, saying, “LORD, they have killed Your prophets and torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life”? But what does the divine response say to him? “I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace. (Romans 11:2-5) • Things are never quite as bad as they appear. • There may always be saints unknown to us, suffering and withstanding just like us. • Do not let yourself be deceived into thinking you are alone.
Never Alone At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them. But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. And I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen! (II Timothy 4:16-18) Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we may boldly say: “The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5-6; see also, John 16:32)
To The Work! “What are you doing here, Elijah? … What are you doing here, Elijah? … Go, return on your way to the Wilderness of Damascus; and when you arrive, anoint Hazaelas king over Syria. Also you shall anoint Jehu the son of Nimshias king over Israel. And Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel Meholahyou shall anoint as prophet in your place.” (I Kings 19:9-16) • Although patient and supporting, eventually God expects us to trust and obey (Job 38-42; Hab. 3:16-19; Luke 7:16-30). • At some point, patience is neither the answer nor helpful. • We control our emotions and reaction (Ezekiel 24:15-27). • If He commands our work, then He commands its stop (II Kings 13:14-19).
Who Is This About? “Ihave been very zealous for the LORD God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.” … Then the LORD said to him: “Go, return on your way… And Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel Meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place.” (I Kings 19:10, 14, 15-16) • Enigma: When we focus on others, especially serving God, and lose ourselves in His work, our worries often go away! • Too often we fixate upon ourselves. Too often we think we are irreplaceable or everything depends upon us. • But, God refines His workmen and teaches them the true source of their strength and the battle, God Himself. • “God buries His workmen, but His work continues.”
Be of Good Courage • Every generation has its own battle (Judges 3:1-6). • We have what we need to overcome (II Corinthians 10:3-5; Ephesians 6:10-18; II Timothy 3:16-17; Romans 8:31-39). • The question is, “Are we being faithful in our generation and to them?” (Acts 13:36; Genesis 6:9)? • Turning our back helps no one and hurts everyone (Ezekiel 33:1-9; 3:18-21). • With love, pursue the salvation of every opportunity given to you (Matthew 13:3-9; II Corinthians 8:12), knowing that the apostasy of some will grieve us deeply (I Corinthians 3:10-15), but the final salvation of others will bring the greatest joy (III John 4; I Thessalonians 2:19-20).
Be of Good Courage • With repentance and forgiveness, whatever the past may be, we must move forward with thoughts and hopes only toward the present and future (Philippians 3:13-14). • The conclusion of all battles always has been and always will be in the Lord's hand and on His shoulders (II Thessalonians 2:1, 8-12). • So, don't let the Devil put too much on your shoulders. “Have I not commanded you?Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9) • God’s command necessarily implies ability, provision, and protection.
Conclusion • Good men, even great men, can become discouraged and even depressed, like Elijah. • They may ultimately require rebuke, but God is patient. • Part of our discouragement may come from incorrect expectations, and God does not conform to us. • We must accept God’s plan on His timeline. • We may feel alone, but we never are. We always have God, not to mention the remnant unknown to us or forgotten. • Although God is sympathetic with our heartache, He ultimately expects us to do His work! • Great men are great because they accept rebuke and the work and plow ahead.