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Journey thru Despair

Notes & Transcripts

Sunday, November 22, 2009

1Kings 19:1-18


Subject:         Despair

Theme:          Overcoming despair

Proposition:   We can all overcome despair

T.S.                 We can all overcome despair when we remember Elijah’s stops along his journey of despair.


OPENER:

(TRANS)

BACKGROUND:

Idolatrous leaders

Idolatrous people

Called by God to a task (prophet)

Resume’: fed by ravens; raised the dead; Drought (and associated food shortage);

Mt. Carmel

Seeds of revival

(TRANS) Elijah’s journey is typical of the path many walk in times of despair.  Let’s travel this path with him, feel his struggles, listen to his complaints, and see how God brings him out of it.  In your bulletin is a map where you can log what you learn from him.  Ready for the trip? 

Mountaintop experiences often signal a transition in our lives.  And so often after we descend the mountain we are faced with a new test – a test of whether we will continue to trust God with a new challenge or opportunity.

(TRANS) Elijah had this same experience. Having just come down from the mountaintop experience on Mt. Carmel he is confronted with a threat – Jezebel.


A JEZEBEL

Look at 1Kings 19:1-4

1Kings 19:1-4

 1 Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword.

 2 So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, "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."

 3 Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there,

 4 while he himself went a day's journey into the desert.

On your map we’ve represented this with a Wanted Poster. 

(Cross out “Alive”)

Jezabel wanted Elijah dead.

Now, you would think that death threats wouldn’t rattle Elijah.  After all, he has been hunted by Ahab & Jezebel before, and for 3.5yrs God kept him safe from them.  He had just experienced God’s fire from heaven at Mt. Carmel, the people had declared their allegiance to God, Baal’s prophets were dead, and he had just outrun Ahab’s chariot.  What more proof do you need of God’s power? 

It seems like the people who have so long given their hearts to idolatry are finally turning back to God.  You would think this would be the perfect time for Elijah to rise up and give leadership, but he runs away.  The fiery prophet of ch.18 seems to have withered.  Did he think Jezebel could actually kill him?  Or did he think he had somehow failed in his calling as a prophet?  We are not told directly why Elijah’s courage crumbled, but he clearly fell apart.

Elijah seems to have missed a prime opportunity b/c he focused on a threat. 

(APP) How often do we miss an opportunity b/c our focus is on our opposition?  Have you ever walked thru a valley like Elijah’s?  Maybe yours looked a little different.  Your face may not have been on a wanted poster, but

-          have you ever felt like someone was out to assassinate your reputation? 

-          Have you felt like circumstances were conspiring to drain your bank accounts? 

-          Or maybe you felt like you came so close to achieving the goal God set before you, only to have some ugly obstacle stand right in your path.

(TRANS) How did you respond when your personal Jezebel threatened you?  We see how Elijah responded: He ran. 

(TRANS) Any time you take a trip you need fuel to keep you going.  On this first leg of the journey Elijah’s tanks were filled with Panic.

FUEL: Panic.  (Self-focus; short-sighted)

(TRANS) Fear is effective in the short-term, but it doesn’t give you the energy to last for the long haul.  As we’ll see, Elijah burned out pretty quickly.  Let’s pick up the story in v.4.


A JUNIPER

 

1Kings 19:4-9

4 while he himself went a day's journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. "I have had enough, LORD," he said. "Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors."

 5 Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, "Get up and eat."

 6 He looked around, and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.

 7 The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, "Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you."

 8 So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.

He started out in Jezreel, on the northern edge of Israel.  He made it to Beersheeba, on the southern tip of the country.  He traveled one more day into the desert, then…   Elijah crashed hard. 

He stopped at a broom tree, or some translations call it a juniper.  Beneath the broom he was in total collapse.  It was his lowest point. 

Alone.

Exhausted.

Feeling like a total failure.

He preferred death rather than to go thru more hardship.

Ever been beneath the broom tree?  Have you ever been so exhausted, so tired of fighting, that you would rather die than keep on going?  You are in good company. 

There is a verse in the NT about Elijah that should be a great encouragement. 

James 5:17-18

 17 Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years.

 18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.

The context is prayer, but that doesn’t change the truth of those first few words: “Elijah was a man just like us.”  He too was frail and subject to discouragement. 

(TRANS) But even when Elijah’s humanness rises to the top, God’s kindness is still at work. 

FUEL: Provision from God (Bread & Jug of Water)

On a journey God didn’t command, fueled by fear of a mere person, God still tenderly provides for his servant. Twice He dispatches an angel to bring Elijah food and water.  This is the fuel that will carry him on the next leg of his journey.

(APP) God knows our weakness.  He also knows our heart.

It seems Elijah had set his heart on going to Mt. Sinai to meet with God.  Two interesting points about this next leg of his journey:

1)      The Lord could have just met Elijah at the broom tree, but he allows Elijah to take the trip it seems he had already planned. 

2)      To reach Horeb it is only a 14day walk.  It took Elijah 40 days & nights.  We are not told the reason for the delay, but the number 40 and the wilderness seem to be times of preparation in scripture.  God purified the Israelites for 40yrs in the desert to prepare them for the promised land.  Jesus was tempted for 40days in the desert before he began his public ministry.  And here Elijah is walking the Sinai desert with his feet while his soul tracks thru a desert of despair.

But God provides for Elijah the food that will sustain him this journey to meet with the Lord.

(APP) He provides what is needed for those who are seeking him.

If you are in a desert, God will provide all you need if you are seeking him.  It may be that you are not yet in a desert, but God is even now blessing you with what you will need to walk that desert when the time comes.  We can be assured that no matter the wilderness we wander or the despair that brought us there, God will provide for those who are seeking him.

(TRANS) But as we’ll see, we may be surprised when God reveals himself to us. 


JEHOVAH

1Kings 19:9

 9 There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the LORD came to him: "What are you doing here, Elijah?"

Elijah knows Mt. Horeb is the place where God reveals himself. That’s where Moses received his call from the burning bush.  It’s where the Israelites encountered God and received the covenant of the 10 commandments.  Now Elijah is there to meet with God. 

It’s beautiful to see the gentleness with which God deals with Elijah.  He says, “Why are you hear?”  God lets the prophet pour out his heart. 

(APP) That’s a good principle if you are given opportunity to help someone in despair.  Ask good questions, then let them pour out their pain. 

Let’s look at Elijah’s complaint, b/c it tells us much about the state of his heart.

1Kings 19:10

 10 He replied, "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."

Two complaints rise to the surface:

1)      I’ve been good; they’ve been bad. 

2)      I’m alone against them.

God’s response isn’t to answer Elijah’s complaints.  Rather God reveals himself to the prophet. 

1Kings 19:11-14

 11 The LORD said, "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by." 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.

 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.

 13 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?"

 14 He replied, "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."

If God had revealed himself in miraculous ways at Sinai, wouldn’t it be natural to expect he would do so again this time?  But he doesn’t.  There are displays of nature’s power, but that is not God’s way of revealing himself this time.

(APP) Seeking God is always good.  But a word of caution: Don’t be surprised if God doesn’t reveal himself the same way he did last time. 

We are not told what Elijah was expecting, but what he got was a quiet whisper.  And the whisper was not an answer – it was the same question again.  Elijah gives the same answer. 

(APP) Have you noticed that despair is often accompanied by another symptom – selective memory loss?  We magnify the negative facts and minimize the positive.

He is still in despair, and his despair exaggerates the negative in the situation:

-          Elijah’s goodness (zeal)

-          People’s wholesale depravity: Many had just turned back to the Lord at Mt. Carmel.

-          Elijah’s aloneness: He should have remembered there were at least 100 other prophets who had not sold out or been killed.

-          A narrow view of God: (all vengeance w/o mercy)

After listening to Elijah’s complaint a second time, the Lord corrects his misperception:

1Kings 19:15-18

 15 The LORD said to him, "Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram.

 16 Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet.

 17 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.

 18 Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel-- all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him."

FUEL: God gives Elijah a fresh (correct) perspective to carry him on the next leg of his journey.  He has a new view of: 

-          God: He’s compassionate too.  Sometimes subtle and gentle.

-          The people: They’re not all rotten.  You’re not alone. 

-          Elijah: You’re not done yet.

(APP) God uses the bad times to refine us.  Pain is a good motivator to make a change.  He uses that to propel us to seeking him.  When we encounter him He corrects character flaws which usually spring from some lies we’ve believed about God, others, or ourselves.  I’ve heard this called “stinkin’ thinkin’.”

(TRANS) And once God gets us squared away, believing the truth, then we are ready to move forward to the job God has for us to do.


A JOB TO DO

Now that Elijah has a right perspective, he is ready to again embrace God’s will for his life. 

The reason your map goes back to the top is two-fold. 

1)      God sends Elijah back to the northern end of Israel in order to anoint two kings and a prophet.

2)      The journey thru despair should be a round trip.  God may let you walk thru that wilderness, but that doesn’t mean he wants you to stay there.

On that first point, it’s interesting to note that Elijah actually only fulfilled one of those three anointing personally.  He appointed Elisha as his successor, but it was Elisha who anointed the other two kings.  And it was thru these three that God eradicated Baal worship from Israel.

You may fulfill your calling and still not see the good outcome of your labor.  It may happen after you are gone.  But God’s purpose will be fulfilled.

Chances are that all of us have walked this journey of despair.  We’ve panicked when threatened.  We’ve spent time in the wilderness beneath the broom tree, totally drained and despondent.  But hopefully we’ve all met with Jehovah God and allowed him to bring our perspective back in line with the truth as He sees it.  Then we can finally return to the job to which he’s called us.

FOCUS: 2nd coming.  2Peter “What kind of lives should you live…?)



1Kings 19:1-18

 1 Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword.

 2 So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, "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."

 3 Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there,

 4 while he himself went a day's journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. "I have had enough, LORD," he said. "Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors."

 5 Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, "Get up and eat."

 6 He looked around, and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.

 7 The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, "Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you."

 8 So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.

 9 There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the LORD came to him: "What are you doing here, Elijah?"

 10 He replied, "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."

 11 The LORD said, "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by." 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.

 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.

 13 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?"

 14 He replied, "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."

 15 The LORD said to him, "Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram.

 16 Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet.

 17 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.

 18 Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel-- all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him."

 

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