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The Powerful Whisper of God

Standing Alone  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Notes & Transcripts
Good morning Northvale family, if you would join me in 1 Kings chapter 19.
We are continuing our study this morning on Elijah in this series Standing Alone where standing for God in such a day as ours as Elijah’s often means standing alone. We began in and we see the situation in Israel: the wicked King Ahab ruling, his wife Jezebel erecting temples to her foreign gods and demanding the people of Israel worship them, slaughtering the prophets of God, and not backing down. Jezebel’s god, Baal, was the Baal, the god of rain: so for Israel to be prosperous, Jezebel claimed: Israel must worship Baal. Elijah, whose name again means: The Lord is God directly confronts this claim, he goes to Ahab in chapter 17:1 and tells him that God will shut up the heavens so that there is no rain and of course this was devastating to Israel: an agricultural society: food, income: it all depended on rain. Yet, Elijah the stand alone prophet in all of this time is not alone. God provides for him at the Brook Cherith, he provides for him through the pagan widow of Zarephath, and three and a half years later sends him to find Ahab to gather the false prophets of Baal for a big showdown on Mt. Carmel. The true God, Elijah states will be the God who sends fire. The prophets of Baal cry out for many hours, the dance around the altar, they cut themselves even, but still yet no answer, no response. Elijah’s prayer immediately is followed by the fire of God falling consuming not only the sacrifice, but also, the wood, the stones, the dust, and even miraculously the water the sacrifice was sitting in. Elijah, through God: has victory over Baal, right? Now, what?
We imagine this nice feel good type of a movie ending where Elijah, played by Russel Crowe, is given a beautiful house by the king’s palace with a new king, a moral and wise king now reigns. Ahab played by Christopher Walken and Jezebel played by Rosie Odonnel are thrown in prison sentenced to life, and Elijah returns to Zeraphath to marry the widow, a beautiful Hebrew girl, and they have 7 strong, healthy children. Israel is made great again and Elijah and his family live happily ever after. As we look in , however: that’s not quite the story we read:
1 Kings 19:1–18 ESV
1 Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” 3 Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. 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.” 5 And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.” 6 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. 7 And the angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” 8 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. 9 There he came to a cave and lodged in it. And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” 11 And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore 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. 12 And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. 13 And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak 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?” 14 He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” 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. 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. 17 And the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha put to death. 18 Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”
Prayer
In our text we are reminded of how immediate one’s perspective can change in life; how fast a high can transform into a low. We are reminded that there is no one who is safe from the attack of depression as Elijah, the bold prophet, the prayerful 3 year drought inducing prophet, the fire down from Heaven prophet, the prophet who did not die: Elijah faced depression. This is another reminder that your seat of victory and blessing does not secure you from an attack of depression, but instead qualifies you for an attack of depression. When you are on a spiritual high, Satan is quick to attack you in an attempt to bring you to a spiritual low. You might remember Jesus’ baptism and that special moment where the Heavens are opened up, the Spirit of God descends on Jesus, and the Father God declares: “This is my beloved Son,with whom I am well pleased.” Then Jesus is led to the wilderness to be tempted by Satan, and of course Jesus remains victorious: not true for many saints. Moses after leading the miraculous victory through the Red Sea gave in to the whining and complaints of the Israelites just after falling into temptation. Jonah saw the great revival of Nineveh, and yet not only faced temptation again, but gave in to the temptation. Peter, not long, after preaching Pentecost, or healing the sick, or repeatedly being known as a man full of the Holy Spirit gave into the sin of partiality, a sin that Apostle Paul later rebukes him for. When God’s work is becoming more and more apparent, so is the work of Satan. Are you making a fresh commitment to the Lord, or you saying yes to somewhere the Lord is calling you, has God been using you: then get ready, Satan is coming to attack. He does here against Elijah, yet Elijah gives in, falls into a time of depression. We have several clues from the text indicating the depth of Elijah’s depression. (1) First of all, we see Elijah has fallen into a state of fear, verse 3: “then he was afraid.” The guy that so boldly and confidently prayed down the fire of God down on a bull soaked in water: is now in fear: he’s in a state of anxiety, fear, and stress. (2) Secondly, we see his depression, verse 3: “he arose and ran for his life.” He ran away. He runs away from all of it, the opposition, the threats, the ministry: he runs away. And that is further seen, number (3) In his seclusion: Verse 3: “he left his servant there”. He had a servant, somewhat of a ministry assistant, he leaves him behind showing most likely: he has no need for him anymore, he’s done with his ministry, and also showing he just wants to be alone. By the way if you are ever feeling depressed one of the worst things you can do: is just be alone. Everything in you says run away, get away, be alone and yes there are times you need to be alone, but times of depression are not those times. Times of depression you want to miss church, I understand there are times you have to miss church: don’t let it be times of depression. There may be times you have to miss your small group, don’t let those times be in times of depression.
Number (4) it escalates further, verse 4: Elijah cries out to God: “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.” Kill me God, let me die. Now, I do want to comment on this: can I point out that Elijah, even in this situation, even in this condition, does not presume that he has the right to kill himself? As depressed as he is, he does not assume he has the right to take his own life, but what he is asking for is for God to do it, which shows he’s in deep and dark depression: take away my life O Lord. Elijah’s depressed: we see that in his fear, in his running away to be alone, leaving his servant behind, and climatically in asking God to let him die.
Elijah’s Depression Seen in: 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.”
Now, what has led to this depression? Why has Elijah who was standing confidently, boldly, victoriously on Mt. Carmel fallen into depression. Let me give you a few reasons that are on the surface though we will not see fully until later. (1) First, of all nothing has changed. Elijah expected everything to change: Ahab and Jezebel would be removed from the throne, the people of God would have purely repented and only be worshipping Yahweh, the true God. But, there is no change it seems: Ahab and Elijah are still in rule, Jezebel has no change of heart, but instead says in verse 2: “So may the gods kill me if I do not kill you as you have the prophets of Baal.” Elijah put so much into this, he gave all of himself and yet nothing happened. (2) Secondly, adding to the anxiety and depression is the fact that Elijah’s life is threatened, he is a marked man by the king and queen of Israel, and then adding to that is this (3) guilt he faces. He’s overwhelmed with guilt: he ran away, he did not remain faithful, he allowed himself to fall into this time of fear and depression: we see that guilt in verse 4: where he says just take me God, I’m not better than our ancestors who fell cowardly into sin. And, then added to that, number 4: he feels all alone. He says twice in this passage: both in verse 10 and verse 14: I, even I, I’m all alone in this. He’s depressed: why? Nothing has changed: he’s disappointed, his life is threatened: he’s fearful, he has sinned: he’s overwhelmed with guilt, he’s feel’s alone: he’s lonely. Can you relate with Elijah? I think we all can: you see the one who was challenging the pagan worshippers: how long will you continue to limp between two different devotions is now limping himself. He has realized there is some idolatry within his own heart. Elijah struggles where I often do: with an idol of ministry success. I don’t walk down from Mt. Carmel, but often from the pulpit or from an event: and think where were you God? I put hours of research, prayer, and preparation into this: where were you? No one came forward, no movement, three guys fell asleep, there’s no change. For you it might be something different: it might investing yourself into a career that promises much but it doesn’t fulfill, perhaps a relationship that promises and yet doesn’t fulfill, or maybe the product that promises but does not fulfill. We rise and then fall in depression. But, what God will reveal to us and to Elijah is that there is something deeper within that so often leads to our depression than our external occurences. Elijah, whose name is The Lord is God is faltering in his belief: to truly understand who the true God is. The depression, then, is not a result of an external situation, but instead an internal situation. So God comes to reveal himself to Elijah: in who is the true God? But, surprisingly before God reveals the depths of Elijah’s disbelief and sin: he ministers to Elijah. God does three things, and it shows us so much about who the true God is.
But, what God will reveal to us and to Elijah is that there is something deeper within Elijah that is leading to his depression. Elijah, whose name is The Lord is God is faltering in his belief: to truly understand who the true God is. The depression, then, is not a result of an external situation, but instead an internal situation. So God comes to reveal himself to Elijah: in who is the true God? But, surprisingly before God reveals the depths of Elijah’s disbelief and sin: he ministers to Elijah. God does three things, and it shows us so much about God.
First, I want you to see that God comes with physical comfort. Look again at verse 5: “5 And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.” 6 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. 7 And the angel of the LORD came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” 8 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.” God sends an angel to the depressed Elijah and what does the angel do. What is the first thing that God does to the depressed Elijah. Does the angel come and say, “Fear not”? No. Does the angel come and say, “I bring you good tidings”? No. Does the angel say, “Repent”? No. Does the angel even say, “Do you want to talk about it?” No. What does God do first for Elijah? He cooks. This is the angel of the Lord, by the way. All the angel of the Lord does is cook and touch him and, in a sense, almost reflect his feelings, saying, “You’re tired; you’re hungry.” What does that mean? This means that God is NOT like so many of us in that when someone around us is depressed: the first response we offer is to point spiritually and say: there’s you’re problem. In other words many Christians, what they’ll do with somebody who’s depressed is they’ll say, “Well, you need to pray. This is a lack of faith,” or they’ll go down their troubleshooting list. They’ll say, “Okay, Elijah, have you prayed in faith? Have you confessed all known sin? Have you claimed the promises? Have you rebuked the Devil? Have you pleaded the blood? Have you thanked God?” They’ll go right on down the list. But, God in His infinite wisdom understands: Elijah has a physical nature, and he lives in the physical world. Sometimes you don’t need a prayer meeting first. Sometimes you certainly don’t need a lecture. Sometimes you certainly don’t need a sermon. Sometimes you need a long walk with a close friend, sometimes a nice meal, or sometimes you just need a nap. We have a creative nature, so sometimes we need art. Sometimes we need music. Sometimes we need a great book. God starts there; God comes with cakes and a nap for Elijah. Pastor JD Greear told the story about a time he was going through frustration and burnout in ministry and he talked with one of his Seminary professors: who said to him: “J.D., the most godly thing you can do sometimes is take a nap. In your case, that will do as much to help you with the fruits of the Spirit as memorizing another verse.” Maybe that’s your first action step of this sermon: go home and take a nap: just don’t do it here. God comes with physical comfort.
The first thing it means is God is not like an awful lot of Christians, who are sure immediately if you’re depressed, it must be a spiritual problem right away. In other words many Christians, what they’ll do with somebody who’s depressed is they’ll say, “Well, you need to pray. This is a lack of faith,” or they’ll go down their troubleshooting list. They’ll say, “Okay, Elijah, have you prayed in faith? Have you confessed all known sin? Have you claimed the promises? Have you rebuked the Devil? Have you pleaded the blood? Have you thanked God?” They’ll go right on down the list. But, God in His infinite wisdom understands: Elijah has a physical nature, and he lives in the physical world. Sometimes you don’t need a prayer meeting first. Sometimes you certainly don’t need a lecture. Sometimes you certainly don’t need a sermon. Sometimes you need a long walk with a close friend, sometimes a nice meal, or sometimes you just need to sleep in. We have a creative nature, so sometimes we need art. Sometimes we need music. Sometimes we need a great book. God starts there; God comes with cakes and a nap for Elijah. JD Greear told the story: “In college I was talking to one of my professors who was a kind of mentor to me, and I was struggling with frustration, and burnout, and he said, “J.D., the most godly thing you can do sometimes is take a nap. In your case, that will do as much to help you with the fruits of the Spirit as memorizing another verse.” Maybe that’s your first action step of this sermon: go home and take a nap: just don’t do it here.
The second thing he does with Elijah, if you look carefully, is he listens. He comes, and he asks Elijah, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” And by the way: when God asks a question, it’s never to get information for him. Can you imagine? He comes to the cave. Is this God saying, “Elijah, what are you doing here? What happened? You look awful.” No, when God asks you a question, it’s never to give him information. It’s to give you information. He asks the question twice, and if you look carefully, you’ll see for a long time all God does is listen. Up in verse 9 and in verse 13, he says, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” And Elijah talks: in verse 4 he’s talking. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” In verse 10 and verse 14, most of this passage, all we’re getting is listening to Elijah. And Elijah makes some pretty stupid mistakes. We’re going to see that in a second. He says, “I have been very jealous …” In other words, “My Mt. Carmel program was perfect. What’s wrong with you, God?” Then he says, “No one is left but me.” We see some mistakes here, but it’s a long time before we finally get to it, because Elijah also has a psychological nature. He has a physical nature, and sometimes you need a bed and breakfast. But, we also have an emotional and psychological nature. Sometimes we need to talk. We just need to express ourselves, and we need to have somebody there to touch us emotionally. God comes to comfort Elijah: physically, emotionally, and yes also spiritually.
God Comes with Psychological Comfort: The second thing he does with Elijah, if you look carefully, is he listens. He comes, and he asks Elijah, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” When God asks a question, it’s never to get information for him. Can you imagine? He comes to the cave. Is this God saying, “Elijah, what are you doing here? What happened? You look awful.” No, when God asks you a question, it’s never to give him information. It’s to give you information. He asks the question twice, and if you look carefully, you’ll see for a long time all God does is listen. Up in verse 9 and in verse 13, he says, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” And Elijah talks: in verse 4 he’s talking. “… I am no better than my ancestors.” In verse 10 and verse 14, most of this passage, all we’re getting is listening to Elijah. Now Elijah makes some pretty stupid mistakes. We’re going to see that in a second. He says, “I have been very jealous …” In other words, “My Mt. Carmel program was perfect. What’s wrong with you, God?” Then he says, “No one is left but me.” We see some mistakes here, but it’s a long time before we finally get to it, because Elijah also has a psychological nature. He has a physical nature, and sometimes you need a bed and breakfast. We also have an emotional and psychological nature. Sometimes we need to talk. We just need to express ourselves, and we need to have somebody there to touch. God comes to comfort Elijah: physically, emotionally, and yes also spiritually.
Eventually, the third thing God does is he says, “You need to spend time with my Word. You need to listen to my voice. You need to come into my presence,” because we do have a spiritual nature. And this is where Elijah’s problem primarily resided, but notice that’s not where God started. God comforted physically, he comforted psychologically, he comforted spiritually. We tend to overemphasize one of these over the others and in doing so fail to truly understand how to find comfort for ourselves and how to comfort others. Some people focus only on the physical: their worldview is everything is scientific. Basically, we’re just animals. Basically, we’re just biology. Basically, there is no spirit. There is no supernatural. Therefore, they’re going to say to a depressed person, “It’s chemical. Take a pill.”
God Comes with His Word: Eventually, the third thing God does is he says, “You need to spend time with my Word. You need to listen to my voice. You need to come into my presence,” because we do have a spiritual nature. Yes, this is where Elijah’s problem primarily resided, but notice that’s not where God started. God comforted physically, he comforted psychologically, he comforted spiritually. We tend to overemphasize one of these over the others and in doing so fail to truly understand how to find comfort for ourselves and how to comfort others. Some people focus only on the physical: their worldview is everything is scientific. Basically, we’re just animals. Basically, we’re just biology. Basically, there is no spirit. There is no supernatural. Therefore, they’re going to say to a depressed person, “It’s chemical. Take a pill,” and they’re going to reduce things to mechanics. They’re going to reduce it to chemicals and synapses and say, “Take a pill.”
On the other hand, you have other people … I’ll call them moralists … who reduce everything, not to the physical plane, but to the spiritual plane. The moralists are always sure, “You’re sinning somewhere. You’re not praying. You’re not doing this. You’re not doing that.” These are people who will never take a pill when they’re depressed. Moralistic people tend to be people who want to deny they have a physical being. They want to say, “The physical, the psychological, these things aren’t important. The important thing is the spiritual. They talk as if we have nothing but the spiritual plane, they say, “Oh, medicine. I’m depressed. That’s a lack of faith,” because they’ve reduced everything to the spiritual plane. Thirdly, you have a lot of people who reduce everything to the psychological. They say, “Well, you just need to talk. I can’t judge. I could never tell you there’s anything wrong. You just need to talk. We’re not going to evaluate. You’ve been abused. You’ve been hurt. It’s all psychological.” This is an issue: when a worldview reduces everything to the physical, reduces everything to the spiritual, reduces everything to the psychological, it’s not going to deal with real problems. If you try to reduce everything, you’re not going to really deal with the complexity of reality. You’re not really going to help people. The true God never does such a thing. The God of the Bible has invented every one of those aspects of reality, and He’s is redeeming them all. The God of the Bible has not only invented body, soul, and spirit, but he’s redeeming them all. As a result, look at him. He deals with them all. It’s unbelievable. Therefore, this is the mark. If you know you have a worldview that takes all into consideration then you have a worldview that can stand up to reality. If you reduce everything, it doesn’t work.
Moralistic people tend to be people who want to deny they have a physical being. They want to say, “The physical, the psychological, these things aren’t important. The important thing is the spiritual. The spiritual is the highest.” They talk as if we have nothing but the spiritual plane, and they will never take, ever. They say, “Oh, medicine. I’m depressed. That’s a lack of faith,” because they’ve reduced everything to the spiritual plane. Thirdly, you have a lot of people who reduce everything to the psychological. They say, “Well, you just need to talk. I can’t judge. I could never tell you there’s anything wrong. You just need to talk. We’re not going to evaluate. You’ve been abused. You’ve been hurt. It’s all psychological.” Listen, friends. When a worldview reduces everything to the physical, reduces everything to the spiritual, reduces everything to the psychological, it’s not going to deal with real problems. If you try to reduce everything, you’re not going to really deal with the complexity of reality. You’re not really going to help people. The God of the Bible never does such a thing. The God of the Bible has invented every one of those aspects of reality, and the God of the Bible is redeeming them all. The God of the Bible has not only invented body, soul, and spirit, but he’s redeeming them all. As a result, look at him. He deals with them all. It’s unbelievable. Therefore, this is the mark. If you know you have a worldview that takes all three into consideration … there are even more, I suppose … then you have a worldview that can stand up to reality. If you reduce everything, it doesn’t work. Christians, there’s one thing before we move on.
God comes with bread, a nap, and listening, but then He comes with His word; we are reminded of that Jesus came with grace and truth: we see the same principle here to Elijah: he comes with grace to feed and provide rest, to listen, but he also comes with truth. The comfort we need is not just grace, and it’s not just truth: we need grace and truth. God comes with truth: revelation to Elijah: Elijah, I actually do have a plan. And then he comes with his Word: in this still small voice, number 4.
Moralistic people tend to be people who want to deny they have a physical being. They want to say, “The physical, the psychological, these things aren’t important. The important thing is the spiritual. The spiritual is the highest.” They talk as if we have nothing but the spiritual plane, and they will never take, ever. They say, “Oh, medicine. I’m depressed. That’s a lack of faith,” because they’ve reduced everything to the spiritual plane. Thirdly, you have a lot of people who reduce everything to the psychological. They say, “Well, you just need to talk. I can’t judge. I could never tell you there’s anything wrong. You just need to talk. We’re not going to evaluate. You’ve been abused. You’ve been hurt. It’s all psychological.” Listen, friends. When a worldview reduces everything to the physical, reduces everything to the spiritual, reduces everything to the psychological, it’s not going to deal with real problems. If you try to reduce everything, you’re not going to really deal with the complexity of reality. You’re not really going to help people. The God of the Bible never does such a thing. The God of the Bible has invented every one of those aspects of reality, and the God of the Bible is redeeming them all. The God of the Bible has not only invented body, soul, and spirit, but he’s redeeming them all. As a result, look at him. He deals with them all. It’s unbelievable. Therefore, this is the mark. If you know you have a worldview that takes all three into consideration … there are even more, I suppose … then you have a worldview that can stand up to reality. If you reduce everything, it doesn’t work. Christians, there’s one thing before we move on.
One of the problems with us in dealing with our own discouragement or helping other people is when you see the real God, you’ll see sometimes we’re super-spiritual. Sometimes we’re not spiritual enough. On the one hand, we’re super-spiritual. Instead of really just sitting down and saying this person needs to rest, there’s a tendency for us to start saying, “You need to get into a Bible study.” On the other hand, when is the last time you spent 40 days seeking to hear the voice of God in solitude? On the one hand, what Elijah needed to get back on his feet, which he did, was something far more spiritual than we ever give anybody and far less. The wisdom of God … When God comes, he comes in consummate wisdom.
Some people’s worldview is everything is scientific. Basically, we’re just animals. Basically, we’re just biology. Basically, there is no spirit. There is no supernatural. Therefore, they’re going to say to a depressed person, “It’s chemical. Take a pill,” and they’re going to reduce things to mechanics. They’re going to reduce it to chemicals and synapses and say, “Take a pill.” On the other hand, you have other people … I’ll call them moralists … who reduce everything, not to the physical plane, but to the spiritual plane. The moralists are always sure, “You’re sinning somewhere. You’re not praying. You’re not doing this. You’re not doing that.” These are people who will never take a pill when they’re depressed. Moralistic people tend to be people who want to deny they have a physical being. They want to say, “The physical, the psychological, these things aren’t important. The important thing is the spiritual. The spiritual is the highest.” They talk as if we have nothing but the spiritual plane, and they will never take, ever. They say, “Oh, medicine. I’m depressed. That’s a lack of faith,” because they’ve reduced everything to the spiritual plane. Thirdly, you have a lot of people who reduce everything to the psychological. They say, “Well, you just need to talk. I can’t judge. I could never tell you there’s anything wrong. You just need to talk. We’re not going to evaluate. You’ve been abused. You’ve been hurt. It’s all psychological.” Listen, friends. When a worldview reduces everything to the physical, reduces everything to the spiritual, reduces everything to the psychological, it’s not going to deal with real problems. If you try to reduce everything, you’re not going to really deal with the complexity of reality. You’re not really going to help people. The God of the Bible never does such a thing. The God of the Bible has invented every one of those aspects of reality, and the God of the Bible is redeeming them all. The God of the Bible has not only invented body, soul, and spirit, but he’s redeeming them all. As a result, look at him. He deals with them all. It’s unbelievable. Therefore, this is the mark. If you know you have a worldview that takes all three into consideration … there are even more, I suppose … then you have a worldview that can stand up to reality. If you reduce everything, it doesn’t work. Christians, there’s one thing before we move on. One of the problems with us in dealing with our own discouragement or helping other people is when you see the real God, you’ll see sometimes we’re super-spiritual. Sometimes we’re not spiritual enough. On the one hand, we’re super-spiritual. Instead of really just sitting down and saying this person needs to rest, there’s a tendency for us to start saying, “You need to get into a Bible study.” On the other hand, when is the last time you spent 40 days seeking to hear the voice of God in solitude? On the one hand, what Elijah needed to get back on his feet, which he did, was something far more spiritual than we ever give anybody and far less. The wisdom of God … When God comes, he comes in consummate wisdom.
Elijah flees to Mount Horeb. Why is Elijah going to Mount Horeb? Why is Horeb called the mountain of God? Many of you may not recognize the word Horeb. That’s not its most famous name. This mountain had another name. It’s Mount Sinai. Elijah is going to Mount Sinai. When he gets to Mount Sinai, he goes into a cave, it says. That’s the way the ESV translates it, but it’s a much more generic word than that. It means a hollow. It means a cleft. Centuries before, Moses went up on that mountain and said, “I want to see your glory.” He said to God, “I want to know who you really are. I want to see what you really look like. Who are you?” God said, “Moses, get into the cleft of the rock, and I will pass by.” Now we have almost exactly the same situation. Elijah goes into a cleft in the rock, and some commentators say it’s a very good possibility that Elijah went to the very same spot that Moses had gone and he got into the very same cleft in the rock. He says, “I want to see you. Pass by,” and God says, “Okay.” The thing you learn in this chapter, which is fascinating, is in this chapter God shows up in many, many forms, in a sense. He sends all sorts of various forms in which he appears, but there’s no one chapter I know anywhere in which you see such a such an incredible range of his manifestations and his appearances. What do I mean? First of all, he comes as the Angel of the Lord. Do you see verse 7? He comes as the Angel of the Lord. No sermons. Just nearness. Then when he gets to the mountain, earthquake, wind, and fire. First, a hurricane, incredible wind tearing at the rocks, then an earthquake, then a fire. Some people would say, “Notice it says God is not in those things,” but the message here does not mean, “Hey, God is never a fire. God is never an earthquake. God is never a wind.” That can’t be what it means. In fact, those three things have obviously come from God. It’s not a coincidence. These three things came from him. He is the God of the earthquake. He is the God of the fire. He sent them, and actually there are numbers of other times …It reminds us of all the times in which he shows up as these things. When he showed up to Moses in the burning bush, what was he? When he showed up to Abraham in , what was he? Fire. When he showed up to Job at the end of the book of Job, what was he? When he shows up to the apostles on the day of Pentecost in , what was he? Wind. When he showed up actually on Mount Sinai to Israel, what was he? He came down, and what was there? Earthquake. What we’re seeing here is almost the entire range of all the things God can show up as, and then in the very end the most surprising of all, the ultimate manifestation of his presence, at least here. A still, small voice is what the old King James says. A gentle whisper, the still, small voice. Elijah’s problem ultimately … God has been very sweet about this. That’s our whole thing. God has been very gentle. He has been very careful. He has been incredibly patient, but in the end Elijah condemns himself out of his own mouth. Elijah shows you why he’s depressed: He says, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty,” which means, “I had the right plan. I executed it perfectly. What’s wrong with you?” Secondly, he says, “I am the only one left …” The reason we see right there that Elijah is depressed is he has put God in a box. He knows exactly how God should be. He knows exactly what God is, and yet God shows up in this humbling multiplicity of forms to show us, “You can’t put me in a box.” What do I mean? For example, the fact that Elijah puts God in a box leads him to over-optimism. He thought, “This is the plan. I do this on Mount Carmel, and now God has to. This is what God has to do. He has to overthrow Ahab and Jezebel now. Either he has to overthrow them spiritually so they change in their hearts, or he has to overthrow them physically. This has to happen,” well it doesn’t happen and now Elijah is depressed. Here’s why. God has not let him down. His plan has let him down, and he had identified God with his plan. Every time you think God has to show up as a fire, he’ll show up as a whisper on you, and every time you think God has to show up as a whisper, he’ll show up as a fire. He showed up as a fire to Moses. He shows up as a whisper to Elijah.
God says, “I am not a tame God. I am not a God at hand. You can’t put me in a box. Elijah, your depression is really your fault.” He has been very careful and slow to show us this, but he says, “It’s your fault. You’re shocked because you said, ‘God had to do this,’ ” but when God finally starts to talk to him at the end, he says, “I have a plan. I want you to go anoint Hazael. I want you to go do this, and I want you to do this with Jehu. I want you to do this … I’ve been working all along. What makes you think I don’t have a plan, Elijah, just because it’s not yours?” Elijah is despondent because he has put God in a box. He was overly optimistic about his plan, and now he’s devastated. On the other hand, he’s now too pessimistic. The other thing he says is, “I am the only one left …” Listen carefully. God has to come and say, “What do you mean you’re the only one left? I have all kinds … I have Hazael over here I’m going to use. I have Jehu. I have 7,000 who have not bowed the knee to Baal, which means they haven’t kissed his idol.” When Elijah is told by God, “Go anoint Hazael,” now I can’t get into this. Hazael was a pagan king. There is absolutely no evidence that Hazael was a believer or ever became a believer, but God was saying, “I’m going to do some terrific things in the world through Hazael, and I have all kinds of people out there you don’t see because they’re not like you. They’re not theologically correct. They don’t have everything together. You put me in a box. As a result, you are depressed, but you’re paying the price for your own narrow-mindedness.”God is God, and if he is God, then there is no place safe except in his will, and that will will always be immeasurably, unspeakably, infinitely beyond any of your largest notions about what he’s up to. Earthquake, wind, fire, whisper, angel, cooking, listening, then a hurricane. One of the reasons we are so discouraged and so depressed is we put God in a box, and therefore, we get too pessimistic and sometimes we get too optimistic. Here’s what’s going on. God is teaching Elijah the gospel. What is the gospel? Here’s the gospel. The gospel is you’re more sinful than you ever dared believe, but you’re more loved and accepted in Christ than you ever dared hope. If you don’t believe in the sinfulness of sin, which is why Elijah thought his program was going to save the world, on the other hand, you don’t believe in the gracefulness of grace, which is the reason Elijah says, “Well, God couldn’t be working over there and couldn’t be working over there. God couldn’t be working through those people,” because his view of sin was actually too little and his view of grace was too little because he had a lot of religiosity in him …
God is God, and if he is God, then there is no place safe except in his will, and that will will always be immeasurably, unspeakably, infinitely beyond any of your largest notions about what he’s up to. Earthquake, wind, fire, whisper, angel, cooking, listening, then a hurricane. One of the reasons we are so discouraged and so depressed is we put God in a box, and therefore, we get too pessimistic and sometimes we get too optimistic. Here’s what’s going on. God is teaching Elijah the gospel. What is the gospel? Here’s the gospel. The gospel is you’re more sinful than you ever dared believe, but you’re more loved and accepted in Christ than you ever dared hope. If you don’t believe in the sinfulness of sin, which is why Elijah thought his program was going to save the world, on the other hand, you don’t believe in the gracefulness of grace, which is the reason Elijah says, “Well, God couldn’t be working over there and couldn’t be working over there. God couldn’t be working through those people,” because his view of sin was actually too little and his view of grace was too little because he had a lot of religiosity in him …
To some degree we always are slipping back out of Christianity into religion. Religion says, “God is not so holy that I can’t please him by being good.” If you say that, what you’ve done is you’ve shrunk the idea of sin. You say, “I can do it.” You’ve shrunk the idea of God’s holiness, saying, “He can be pleased by me.” You’ve shrunk the idea of grace, because God is really waiting for you to do what you need to do. The gospel says, “No, you’re more wicked than you ever dared believe. You’re more accepted than you ever dared hope.” Only when you push it out to the margins will you be saved from the over-optimism about your own abilities and over-pessimism about everybody else’s. The whole reason Elijah is so just screwed up now is because he’s not looking at the world through the gospel. He’s not understanding. He hasn’t been humbled by the multiplicity of God. He has put God in a box. What does a still, small voice mean? It’s very clear that God is trying to say, “The ultimate way in which I come to you, Elijah, is through the still, small voice, not through the earthquake, wind, and fire.” What does that mean? I guess I’m going to say it means he comes in a word of grace. What does that mean? First of all, notice Elijah doesn’t go out. Do you notice that? Do you see the place where God says, “Go out”? Where does it say that? He says, “Go out,” in verse 11, but notice it’s not till verse 13, where he actually goes out. Why not? God says, “Go out,” and all of the sudden a hurricane comes. Then an earthquake comes. Then a fire comes. Elijah is not touched by any of them. Why? The rock shields him. The rock is torn up. The rock is burned. It can’t get through.
Mary comes up to Jesus Christ and says, “Jesus, if you had been here, my brother Lazarus wouldn’t have died.” Martha, another sister, comes up to Jesus, “Master, if you were here, my brother wouldn’t have died.” It’s the same situation, same question. Moses gets a fire. Elijah gets a whisper. Mary gets tears. Martha gets a lecture. “I am the resurrection and the life.” What’s going on? Different hearts need different things from the richness of God’s glory, and unless you have close relationships with a lot of other Christians, you’re not going to really have a decent picture of him. Some of you, because of who you are and because of your need or even because of your situation, your experience, even your temperament, your culture, your spiritual gifts, you’re never going to see the whole thing. You’re never going to see the whole picture. You’re never going to really completely know who God is outside of community, outside of deep relationships with other Christians, especially people who have had very different experiences than you.
What does a still, small voice mean? It’s very clear that God is trying to say, “The ultimate way in which I come to you, Elijah, is through the still, small voice, not through the earthquake, wind, and fire.” What does that mean? I guess I’m going to say it means he comes in a word of grace. What does that mean?
First of all, notice Elijah doesn’t go out. Do you notice that? Do you see the place where God says, “Go out”? Where does it say that? He says, “Go out,” in verse 11, but notice it’s not till verse 13, where he actually goes out. Why not? God says, “Go out,” and all of the sudden a hurricane comes. Then an earthquake comes. Then a fire comes. Elijah is not touched by any of them. Why? The rock shields him. The rock is torn up. The rock is burned. It can’t get through.
Finally, in comes the word. On the one hand, this means God is trying to say, “Don’t look to the spectacular. Mount Carmel isn’t really the way I usually do things, Elijah. You thought everybody’s heart was going to be changed. You thought spectacular answers to prayer, you thought miracles, you thought the dramatic arguments were going to change hearts.They didn’t, any more than the earthquake, wind, and fire got into you. It couldn’t penetrate their hearts any more than it could penetrate you and to get to you inside the mountain. It just didn’t do it. Let me tell you what will actually penetrate and change people’s hearts. My voice, my word, my Spirit through my word.”
On the other hand, you have a kind of superstitious approach. You have a lot of religious people, not skeptical people, who say, “If you really want to know God, there have to be miracles. There have to be healings.” I’m not beating up on Pentecostals here. “You have to have mystical experiences. You have to feel it.” No, the only way you can be sure your mystical experiences aren’t indigestion is his word. Jesus Christ said the very same thing very explicitly that God is telling Elijah implicitly. Do you remember there’s this famous parable where Jesus Christ in tells a story about a rich man who goes to hell. It’s just a story, but it’s Jesus’ way of teaching.The rich man looks up in heaven and sees Father Abraham and says, “Father Abraham, please send somebody from the dead to go back and talk to my brothers. My brothers are still alive, and I don’t want them to go to hell. I want them to see the truth. I want them to understand. I want their hearts to be changed. Send somebody back from the dead. A miracle, that’ll do it.” Do you know what Abraham says, which, of course, is what Jesus says? He says, “They have Moses and the prophets. If they won’t listen to the Scriptures, they won’t listen if somebody is risen from the dead.” Do you take that seriously? For a minute, let me talk to Christian friends. Do you know what kind of claim that is? Do you know what God is saying right here? Do you know what Jesus is saying?He was saying if you want to know God, if you want to have your life changed, instead of looking for incredible mystical experiences or looking for signs in the sky, go to the Scripture, Moses and the prophets, and read it as if it’s the voice of God. Don’t just dissect it, though, of course, you have to do some of that. You see me doing it all the time.
Eventually, you have to get to the place where you say, “This is the voice of God. Speak to me through the word of God.” Do you take it that seriously? Nothing will change your life like hearing the voice of God through the Scripture. Jesus Christ said so explicitly what God says to Elijah implicitly. Earthquake, wind, and fire … No, the word of God. Not just a word of God, but a word of grace. This is what’ll really change you. This is what’ll really melt your heart. Not shows of power, a word of grace. Why is it that Elijah was not smitten by the earthquake, the wind, and the fire? Do you know what the earthquake, wind, and fire are? Tokens of judgment. Why was it that the God of the earthquake, wind, and fire could become a God of the still, small voice for Elijah? You say, “Because the rock took the earthquake and the wind and the fire, so then Elijah could have the still, small voice.”
Years later, centuries later, God brought Elijah and Moses back from heaven for a very special event. In , you’ll see Moses and Elijah appeared on another mountain. It’s called the Mount of Transfiguration. They saw Jesus Christ in his glory, and they spoke to him about his death. Moses and Elijah saw the Rock in which they had been hidden so they could have a relationship with God. Jesus got the earthquake. When he died, there was an earthquake. Do you remember that? The graves were open wide because he was shaken with the justice of God. The judgment of God came down on him. He was torn to pieces. He was disintegrated so we could be made whole.When Jesus Christ died, he inherited the wind. Do you know that place in the Bible? Some of you just have heard of it as the title of a play, but it says in the Old Testament, “He who troubles his own house will inherit the wind …” It’s a curse, but Jesus inherited the wind so we could get the gentle whisper of God’s breath.
Jesus was the Rock. He got the earthquake. He got the wind. We saw last week he got the fire. This is the reason why at the very end of John the Baptist’s life … John the Baptist had the spirit of Elijah. John the Baptist had the personality of Elijah. In fact, Jesus said he was a reincarnated sort of Elijah. In , he sends Jesus a question from prison. He says, “How could you be the Messiah? How do we know you’re the One?” Jesus knows John’s problem. John is trying to say, “Where’s the fire? You should be coming in judgment.” John is an Elijah. He says, “Where is the spectacular stuff? You should be bring the fire to burn up the enemies. Why am I in prison? You’ve come in weakness. How could you be the Messiah?” What is Jesus’ answer basically? He says the very same thing God says here, “Elijah, you don’t really understand. If I had come with the fire of God, Herod wouldn’t be the only one burned up. So would you. I didn’t come to bring, I came to bear the judgment of God. Because I have borne the judgment of God, because I took in the earthquake, wind, and fire into my heart, you can have a personal relationship with him through his Word.”
In conclusion, first, only the thought of what Jesus Christ did and took for you will melt your heart into friendship. That’s what’s going to make you a friend. Do you see what he has done for you? That is going to give you a relationship with the Father that is a personal one, not one of earthquake, wind, and fire, but a personal one. You have to see that. Yet, Christian friends, you have to see God working in all sorts of places that are off your map. You have to see it’s only in Jesus you’re going to really be friends, but you also have to see God working everywhere. Be a people who breathe grace, not judgment. If there is anybody here who is going through deep waters, anyone here who feels like God is shaking them, Jesus is the One who was really shaken so you could stand. Jesus is the One who took the real fire. If you take hold of him, you’ll pass through the fire. He was the One burned. You’ll pass through the shaking. He was the One who was really shaken down. See the true God. Let’s pray.
Fear (3)
Ran away (3)
Left his servant (3)
Asked to die (4)
Why?
Nothing Changed (1-2)
Threat (3)
Guilt (4)
God’s Care
Rest: Physical (6-8)
Listening: Psychological (9-10)
Instructing: Spiritual (
God has a plan
Message: you have exhausted yourself with your plan. Your plan has become an idol to you. You need physical rest, you need to listen to yourself, and you need see my plan.
Commentary Notes:
This theophany, or appearance of the Lord, reminds readers of , where Moses desires to see God’s glory and is rewarded by being allowed to view “the back” of the Lord’s splendor. God places Moses in the rock and covers him with a divine “hand” to protect him. Here, Elijah waits for God’s word through tearing wind, ground shaking earthquake, and roaring flame. The Lord does not speak, however, through these natural phenomena. Certainly Elijah has experienced God’s sovereignty over nature, and has benefited from miraculous fire, but what he needs now is a definitive word from the Lord.
He receives this word in “a gentle whisper.” Perhaps the Lord attempts to teach Elijah not to expect always the miraculous and wondrous deliverance from problems.
Regardless of the meaning of the natural wonders, however, it is God’s word alone that will heal the prophet in this moment of crisis.
The voice asks Elijah why he has come to the mountain. R. Gregory says that this repetition of the question asked in 19:9 forces Elijah to consider carefully his current position and his future destiny. “The first time this statement of defense is presented to the audience, the emphasis falls on Elijah’s feelings (informative) but the precise reiteration exhibits Elijah’s inflexibility and egocentrism (elucidating).
Tim Keller Notes
You see here somebody who is just like us. For example, what does he do? He says, “My God can lick your god. Meet me on the mountain. Meet me in Madison Square Garden. We’re going to show you,” and he does. He sets up two altars, and he says to the prophets of Baal, “Come on. Pray to your god and see if fire will come down on your altar.” They pray and nothing happens. Then Elijah prays, and down comes fire from heaven.
Jezebel sends him a message, and she says basically, “May I be struck dead if by tomorrow night I haven’t killed you.” Elijah runs off into the desert. Why? He’s running to Mount Horeb. Why? As we’re going to see, he wants to see God. He says, “I don’t know who you really are. I am so confused. I am so upset. I don’t know who you really are.”
May I point out that Elijah, even in this situation, even in this condition, does not presume that he has the right to kill himself? It’s amazing. As despondent as he is, he does not assume he has the right to take his own life, but what he is asking for is for God to do it, which shows he’s in utter despair.
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