Sermon on 1 Kings 19.1-18
Title: Seeing God
Theme: God’s word is powerful in the quiet, fearful times.
Goal: to encourage God’s faithful that God’s word kingdom is powerful in quiet, fearful times.
Need: God’s people often feel discouraged and angered when God’s kingdom seems to be powerless.
- Introduction: Feeling discouraged.
- Elijah crashes
- Elijah questions
- Elijah sees God
- Conclusion: Over coming discouragement.
Winnie the Pooh asks a great question. How come things never fall up. My kids got a new book recently where Pooh Bear gets frustrated because everything seems to fall down hard. He falls out of bed. Acorns fall on his head. He falls out of a tree trying to get honey. He finds out that everything that goes up must come down. Gravitational attraction is one of the truths of our universe. Pooh found out about it the hard way.
Elijah finds out about one of the seemingly inevitable truths of living by God’s word and serving his kingdom. Every follower of the kingdom of God experiences highs and lows. Everyone that goes up must come down.
Elijah has gone through a spiritual high. He’s just come off of mount Carmel. God answered his prayer. Ignited the soggy sacrifice. God shows he is the God of life. Then God sends the rain after years of drought. Elijah has been on top.
What goes up, must come down. Elijah was up on the mountain, but he must come back down again. He is told to go ahead of Ahab back to Jezreel which is in the valley to the east of Mount Carmel. And when he’s there he gets a message from Jezebel that must have hit him so hard.
She’s furious. Elijah has killed her prophets of Baal. In verse 2 she says, ““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.”
If Elijah was to truly bring Israel back to believing in the true God the heart of the King and Queen would have to be turned. Without them, the nation is still heading the wrong direction. You hear it in here, the reason for Elijah’s crash from the mountain top. Jezebel is after him now. She has tried to kill the servants of Yahweh. She has said in 24 hours she will kill him too.
That’s the beginning of the crash. Then into the crisis of his life. What brings him to the bottom is the realization that he has rejected God himself. He ran for his life. He knows that God is the God of really real life. He has been miraculously fed in the wilderness. He has been miraculously fed by a starving widow. He has watched the life return to the widows son. He knows God is bigger than Jezebel and her threats against his life. But he runs in fear.
It isn’t even the running that is that bad. Look at Obadiah, secretly being a follower of God while in Ahab’s court. And look at the hundred prophets of God that he hid. And even Elijah himself was sent away for protection and safekeeping during the famine. That’s the time when the birds gave him bread and meat to eat. Its not about the fear and the fleeing.
Verse 3 says he flees south and ends up in Beersheba. If you can picture the layout of the land. Elijah was up North at Mount Carmel. Then in the Jezreel Valley next to it. Beersheba is on the very southern border of Judah, the southern kingdom. He has fled a long way. And in Beersheba, he is going to keep on going.
He is not going into hiding. He is running away from Jezebel and from his ministry to the people of Israel. He’s running away from God
Its symbolic the way he leaves his servant in Beersheba. He isn’t going to make his servant betray God and leave the promised land. But he has his mind made up. Finally, Elijah hits rock bottom. He reaches the breaking point in this crisis in his life. Exhausted from days of fleeing, he plops down under a broom tree, and says, “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.”
He has turned away from God. He has failed as the one who is supposed to bring the Word of God. He is done. Finished. He just wants to be done with life. All his other prayers were for the miraculous coming of life. Now he prays for death?
I know many of us have reached that point. Its not a question of if some of us have wanted our life to end. Its just the reality of broken life is that most of us at some point or another will just wish it would be over. One of things could lead to it would be failure. When you feel like you have chosen a life calling, but can’t succeed in the area, that could lead you to this kind of crisis. Maybe its some tremendous sin you have committed. If it has come out into the open, maybe you feel like it would be better just to die then face the consequences. Those are the feelings most likely plaguing Elijah.
No matter what crisis of life you are going through, is it comforting in itself to know that a person so in touch with God and with his purpose for his life could go through such a major life crisis? It tells us that no one is immune from this crisis of life. But somehow knowing that even those who look like they have it all together, are suffering the same as the rest of us as well. Even the people the most full of the Holy Spirit and in touch with that power have times of crisis as well. We shouldn’t beat ourselves up or hate ourselves for crises that we go through.
It offers hope in much the same way that we look at Christ and realize that he has suffered the ways we have and has endured temptations that we have.
Of course, the passage isn’t done here either. But we can’t understand the power of the rest of the passage until we recognize the despair and crisis that is happening for Elijah.
Elijah lays down and sleeps hoping he won’t wake up. But God is the God of real life. He still is going to use Elijah to bring the people back to God. He isn’t going to let Elijah die here. An angel nudges him. “Get up and eat.” There’s a cake of bread and a jug of water.
I found it pretty interesting that the only places a jug and bread are mentioned together are in this passage where God miraculously gives life to Elijah and in chapter 17 where the widows oil jug doesn’t run dry and she bakes cakes of bread for Elijah. These are the only two places in the entire Bible that they come together. It seems clear that the message is the same in this passage. Even in the depths of crisis, God is still the same God. Whether it’s a physical crisis like hunger or a spiritual emotional crisis like Elijah was going through. God still brings his miraculous life.
And the angel feeds Elijah twice for a forty day journey down to Mount Horeb which we might know better by the name, Mount Sinai. In verse 8 it is called the mountain of God.
Horeb, Mount Sinai was the place where Israel’s greatest prophet had his mountaintop experience. And this is very significant: Its where Moses went to get the law from God, to get the word from God for what they needed to do to enjoy really real life in the promised land. Here the word of the Lord comes to Elijah. Verse 9 “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Then Elijah pleads his case before God. He feels like everything he has ever done is in vain. Ever feel like that yourself. He says, he has been zealous for God, but Israel has turned away still, the prophets are dead and now they are looking for him. He’s the only one left, he says. And what he means by that is, he was the only one left until he betrayed God himself.
This is why he has come all the way to the Mount of God. He needs to be reinstated as the prophet of God. He needs to be recommissioned and he needs to learn something about God. He needs to truly experience the presence of God.
He tells Elijah to come out of the cave he slept in and experience the presence of God pass by. If we know the stories of the Old Testament well, it should bring us to think about Exodus 33 where God tells Moses that he will see the back of God while he passes by while standing on the very same mountain.
Then three events happen a mountain crushing wind, an earthquake, and a raging fire. These things to would make the Old Testament readers realize that these things happened back on Moses’ time on Mount Sinai. And there, you know what it represented? The power and presence of God.
Here the same things happen. Wind, earthquake, fire. But where is God in all of this. Nowhere. When the wind, earthquake, and fire have calmed down. God shows himself to Elijah in a still small voice. Elijah has heard the word of the Lord before. But here he experiences God in a whole different way. This still small voice is like a stillness. In the midst of all the power and show of all these other things. God’s presence is in the stillness and the quietness.
God doesn’t work just with powerful dynamic miracles like fire from heaven. He is also in places you wouldn’t expect, like a whisper. He’s at work in things that seem to get overpowered by the other stuff. God’s kingdom and his relationship with Israel is still strong, although it isn’t as mighty looking as the whole nation walking through the Red Sea with Moses.
Elijah feels like he is the only one left, but God is feeding his kingdom. God is raising up leaders to do the work of his kingdom. And he is preserving people who are faithful to him.
God asks Elijah a second time, What are you doing here. Then Elijah tells the same story of how hard he’s worked to bring the nation back to loving God alone, but its all in vain, there is no one left. Its only him who’s left in the kingdom. And now they are trying to kill him.
God says go back. The best thing Elijah could have heard. Go back. Be my word to the people again. Anoint the leaders that will bring Israel through the dark days. God says there are still 7,000 who are faithful to God.
Elijah is not alone. When Israel has seemed the most lost, God is still maintaining his kingdom.
That is such comfort. Its not about us. Even in the worst times of discouragement when it feels like we are doing everything in vain. Its not about us. Its about God. When we don’t feel like we are making any progress or when we feel like things are going backwards. Its not about us. God works in the subtle whisper. When we have been helping someone and it doesn’t feel like it is doing any good. Its not about us. When we work so hard to accomplish something in our church or school or community, but it doesn’t seem to take off. Its not about us. Its all about the kingdom of God.
Jesus teaches that also. A farmer goes out scatters the seeds in the field. But he can till the soil and pull the weeds. But who makes the seed grow. Its God. The kingdom is growing. It may be underneath the soil. But its growing. You might have expected to find God’s presence in a firestorm. But he was in the gentle whisper, working in silence when we wanted fireworks.
So like Elijah, if you are feeling discouraged, God may not fix your emotions, but he gives you every reason to trust in him. Even in the silence, he’s presence is powerful. Even in discouragement, he is preserving people for himself, building his kingdom.
This is God’s will from his word. All God’s people say. AMEN
 The Holy Bible : New International Version. Grand Rapids : Zondervan, 1996, c1984, S. 1 Ki 19:2
 The Holy Bible : New International Version. Grand Rapids : Zondervan, 1996, c1984, S. 1 Ki 19:4