Elijah and Seeking God
Seeking God (1 Kings 19:1-13)
Intro: [OHP] - looking at Elijah as a picture of the time leading up to the end - preparing the way, getting ready for the LORD’s return.
- Spiritually dry times but the man of God is sustained by speaking God’s word, hearing God’s word and living God’s word.
- Those who find life in that time are the individuals, not the nation as a whole - the resurrection life of Christ that comes by faith alone.
- We are servants of יהוה and we must know who we are serving, no divided loyalty.
- The nation, the people as a whole will be religious but godless - a false religion without power - all show and noise but no reality.
- Elijah called the people back to God - they acknowledged יהוה as God, there was the fire of judgment, the rain of blessing, God manifest as real - but were their hearts changed? Did they seek after God? There was no national revival, no turning from idolatry, no restoration of worship of יהוה . What more could be done?
- The worship of יהוה was falling apart, the direct intervention of יהוה had no effect. What do we do when we see false religion all around and the love of many growing cold? We seek God’s face! In the end times we need to be seeking יהוה like never before.
- When I went through notes I’d done some years ago I realised that I was more earnestly seeking the Lord then than now, been a challenge to me. Let’s look at earnestly seeking God [OHP1]
Crisis (1 Kings 19:1-2): - [read 1 Kings 19:1] We tend to continue on in our Christian life until a crisis comes, then we press into God (difficulties of a couple of years ago). So it was with Elijah. Ahab tells Jezebel what happened - concentrates not on יהוה being God but with death of prophets of Baal.
- For Jezebel this was war! - on the offensive to win back lost ground (dualism). (1 Kings 18:4) Killed all other prophets of יהוה. Elijah was the last pocket of resistance.
[read 1 Kings 19:2] - Jezebel threatens - use words to intimidate when they themselves are unsettled. Typical weapon of satan is words. Don’t warn if you really intend to kill, that makes you wary. Purpose is to unnerve, intimidate. If you seek God earnestly you will encounter such opposition, particularly verbal and threatening.
- Elijah was supernaturally protected (1 Kings 18:12). Jezebel intended to carry out threat but she wanted to unnerve - psychological warfare.
Get alone with God (1 Kings 19:3): [read 1 Kings 19:3] - What was Elijah’s response - to get away alone - went to Beersheba in the kingdom of Judah, outside Jezebel’s jurisdiction. But not just to get away - left his servant in safety there but he went further, alone to the wilderness to speak with God.
- When crisis comes, get alone with God.
- The situation had come to a crisis and he needed to get back to God there and hear from Him concerning the covenant - like when Moses came down the mountain and broke the tablets of the law because of the golden calf - so too here idolatry had caused the covenant to be broken. Elijah had to get back to that place to find out the state of the covenant with these people, to intercede, to see if it could be reestablished.
- Was Elijah "afraid" (he stood up to Ahab and 450 prophets)? or did he "see"? - i.e. perceive, understand the true state of the nation. Despite convincing, overwhelming, proof that יהוה is God, despite confession of Him as God, repentance, killing of the prophets, יהוה’s subsequent blessing with rain - NOTHING HAD CHANGED - it was mere surface stuff, motivated by the spectacular, performed out of self interest - their heart hadn’t changed at all! Still Baalism ruled, still they wanted to kill the prophets - despite all that had happened nothing had changed! What would it take?! Elijah understood this, he saw it clearly - and saw clearly the only possible consequence - because there was no genuine turning to God despite all that He had done to turn their hearts to Him (cf. 1 Kings 18:37) the only inevitable conclusion and consequence was that the covenant relationship was OVER - TERMINATED! This is why he headed to Horeb, the place where God established the covenant. What was God going to do now? Now that His plan for Israel could no longer continue? This was a crisis - far beyond a personal threat to Elijah’s life! (He wasn’t concerned for his own life 1 Kings 19:4) Could the worship of יהוה die out altogether?! Elijah went as the only remnant left of יהוה fearers - there were none beside him on that day (cf. 1 Kings 18:21), if he died there would be none left! They sought to wipe out the only remaining witness to the true God. Elijah had to meet with יהוה! What was He going to do now?
Disillusionment (1 Kings 19:4) [read 1 Kings 19:4] -He’d come apart, alone in the desert to talk with God. Still he was preoccupied with his own soul (נֶפֶשׁ two times in this verse). He had had enough. His life had been one of service to יהוה but now he saw that it was over. He had done all he could and יהוה had shown His mighty power, the reality of His being, and it had made no impact. What more could be done? This people were inveterate in their rejection of יהוה and their following of idols.
- Elijah thinks back to the beginnings - to the fathers of the faith - to the patriarchs, Moses too was in his mind - for he had confronted idolatry the very moment after the revelation of יהוה at Sinai (the golden calf incident). If יהוה Himself coming down on the mountain did not convince these people of His reality, if Moses couldn’t turn them away from idolatry, how could he? He was certainly no greater than Moses, what could he do? He had laboured in vain (John the Baptist experienced this, even Jesus felt this cf. Isaiah 49:4 laboured in vain/how long must I put up with you?).
These people were hopelessly inveterate idolaters - there was nothing that could be done that would make them follow יהוה with their whole heart. Moses couldn’t change their heart, neither could he. Moses offered his life for the sake of this people (Exodus 32:32), now Elijah offers his. he had done all he could, no more could be done - it was enough. He had served the LORD and failed to turn the people’s heart - serving יהוה was his whole raison d’etre - there was no point remaining now he had done his assigned task. Previously, perhaps, he thought that the people would believe and serve יהוה if they could clearly see and know the reality of Him (1 Kings 18:37) but now he knew that even knowing this truth, they still would not serve Him - this is the consistent, tragic, record of human history - even when they know, they still reject Him. Idolatry is not from ignorance - it is KNOWING and WILFUL and DELIBERATE REJECTION of God (cf. Rom 1:18 even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God ..... and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man).
- Elijah was disillusioned, wanting to give up, felt like he’d accomplished nothing (this is what satan wants to bring the earnest seeker to with his intimidation). You think you can be used to bring people back to God but they are as stubborn and unresponsive as they have ever been - it’s all part of the process - don’t give up despite disappointment and seeming failure. What do you need to do?
Fed from above (1 Kings 19:5,6) [read 1 Kings 19:5] - we need to seek God further yet - how do we go further? - we are sustained by heavenly food.
- Elijah had had enough and he lay down and slept - he’d given up. An angel came and woke him and told him to eat. Rather than taking his life יהוה supplied food to sustain it - his life wasn’t done with yet. Many say at this stage Elijah was out of the Divine will, backsliding - but he was still receiving Divine revelation, in touch with God on a level that few of know even in our most spiritual of moments. יהוה gave no indication that his journey south was wrong, rather He endorsed it by supporting him to continue it. Elijah’s purpose was to meet יהוה in the desert - Sinai wasn’t his original intention or destination. It wasn’t that Elijah’s motive was wrong, rather it was that he didn’t go far enough. יהוה wanted Elijah to go even further in seeking Him out alone - wanted to take him back to where it all began, where the covenant was first established. For as Elijah had SEEN, the covenant relationship with Israel was OVER - יהוה was taking Elijah back to Sinai to confirm the relationship, no longer with the whole nation but with a remnant - a subset, those whose heart was true to יהוה
[read 1 Kings 19:6] - water = Spirit of God; fresh bread = Jesus the bread of life, revealed fresh daily from the word of God.
- All throughout יהוה had provided food supernaturally for Elijah - that sustenance from heaven continued - no, Elijah was not out of relationship with יהוה, he was still feeding on the heavenly bread. The drought had ended and the people had gone back to relying on natural sources of supply - but still the servant of God was fed by God with bread from heaven. Spiritually exhausted, Elijah still was not up to the spiritual journey ahead of him. יהוה was looking after him, He had not taken His hand of care away from him - He was preserving Elijah’s soul, not taking it. Some say that Elijah was away from God at this point, when were they last fed by an angel? This was a man closely in touch with יהוה - the LORD holds him up as an example of a righteous man and the standard against which prophets are measured - who was and is to return and prepare the way for the LORD Himself, who spoke with Him on the Mount of Transfiguration, who was in the select company that never tasted death! Highly honoured of God! We need to be careful not to right him off as being depressed and self-pitying - we have not begun to appreciate the greatness of this man of God nor understood the depth of his heart which was jealous for יהוה alone. יהוהcares individually and wonderfully for such rare and precious ones as these.
We haven’t the strength (1 Kings 19:7,8) - [read 1 Kings 19:7] - angel came second time, “Angel of the LORD” - Jesus!
- Elijah had not gone far enough in his seeking - there was still a journey, further to go - we must press in further
- a journey too great for you - seek till we come to the end of our strength, we haven’t the strength for the journey (naive days - lie here till You reveal yourself)
- We should not be sleeping in these end times but strengthening ourselves, feeding on God’s Word, preparing ourselves for the journey ahead - days when we will no longer be able to feed ourselves.
- Elijah had travelled into the desert to meet with God but יהוה said that he had not gone far enough - he had further yet to go in his seeking of God - back to the very beginnings, the foundation. This is a word for us - in all our earnest seeking of the LORD, we have further yet to go in our seeking of יהוה. Press on to maturity (Heb 6:1 leaving the elementary teaching, let us press on to maturity). The journey is too much for us - we cannot make it on our own strength, by our own efforts and resources - it requires Divine sustenance. Again יהוה provided it - it is He who provides what is necessary for the journey.
[Read 1 Kings 19:8] - some food, it sustained for 40 days and nights - depressed men don’t have that will power, determination, motivation, discipline, purpose
- God’s destination - the mountain of God, Sinai, Horeb “no better than my fathers” - ? thinking of Moses: 1/ 40 days without food; 2/ met God on Sinai; 3/ dramatic revelation of יהוה God. 4/ people went straight back to idolatry; 5/ hid in cleft; 6/ God passed by in person; 7/ Moses interceded - blot out my life
- it takes earnestness of seeking, dedication of purpose to encounter God (Jeremiah 29:13 You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart)
- destination Horeb -Elijah went into the desert, alone but יהוה took him further - to the very mountain of God itself. He is not found in the splendid cathedral, in luxurious surroundings but at the end of man’s endurance and strength, the end of his own resources - in a place of desolation and waste - the root of "Horeb" (חֹרֵב) means desolation, devastate, waste, destroy, dryness, drought. It is there in the desert that יהוה is found - but who wants to go there? "No, we will seek "Him" in a more convenient way - that is extreme, overboard. God wants to bless and prosper us - He wouldn’t want us to go there." Thus the god we seek is not the One Elijah, Moses, Jesus or John the Baptist found - in the desert at Horeb.
Back to the place of the covenant (1 Kings 19:9,10) - [read 1 Kings19:9] - for Elijah it was Horeb, for us it is the cross - when apostasy reigns, get back to the place where the relationship was established -you find God at the cross
- there God spoke to him by name! - not a word of encouragement for a weary burnt-out prophet but: :What are you doing here?” - God directed him and gave him the food to get there, yet He asks “What are you doing here?”
- We seek יהוה - we do well to ask “What are we doing here?” Why are you here this morning? -We do well to ask ourselves: "What are we doing here?" A call to examine our motives in seeking יהוה. How come we are not with the rest of the people but are in this place alone with יהוה where He has led us? What are we doing seeking יהוה? Why aren’t we pursuing idolatry and self-interest (pleasure, things, experiences, ambition) like everyone else?
- read 1 Kings 19:10 - what was Elijah doing there? He is not with the rest of Israel because of zeal for God - his appointed task had been to turn Israel back to יהוה but they had forsaken the covenant, the relationship was over - he was the only one left!
- He was here at the place where the covenant was established because Israel had forsaken it. The covenant was the issue - if this was broken the nation was destroyed - they had forsaken it so Elijah was at the place where it was enacted to seek the future of the covenant of God with His people. Without a covenant they, and Elijah himself, were lost. A new covenant, a new relationship, had to be established. But in Israel the covenant had been abandoned and the altars pulled down - worship of יהוה no longer existed. Where is true worship of יהוה today? - that isn’t "worship" of worship, employing music for the benefit and gratification of the congregation, not for יהוה? They had been pulled down - not abandoned, forgotten, obsolete - but deliberate willful destruction. They didn’t want revelation from יהוה or correction from His prophets who prick their consciences and attempt to turn them from the path on which they had embarked. They killed the prophets, slaughtered them with the sword. Today the true prophet isn’t heard, he has been sidelined, silenced - in effect: put to the sword. Elijah was the only one left. The only remaining witness who took a stand for יהוה was being sought - the very last remnant of faithfulness to יהוה they were seeking to wipe out! Israel was totally unregenerate, determinedly depraved, even יהוה’s demonstration of His power and reality had left them inveterate in their vehement opposition to and rejection of Him - this is just how it will be at the end. Israel was beyond hope, irredeemable. That is why Elijah was there and why he could no longer be in Israel. יהוה had sought to turn Israel back to Himself but they would not (cf. 1 Kings 18:37; Matt 23:37-39). A new relationship needed to be established because the old was beyond repair, otherwise יהוה would be without a people, without a witness. This is what Elijah was doing at Horeb, at the place where covenant was established, seeking urgently needed change on the basis by which יהוה relates to His people. The only possible outcome of the present situation was the obliteration of Israel! The drought was severe judgment but, unheeded, the next stage could only mean their total annihilation! Israel was concerned with itself, Elijah was concerned, zealous for יהוה’s glory, the honour of His name is tied up with His covenant people - that is why he was there.
Encounter with God - know His voice (1 Kings 19:11-13) - [read 1 Kings 19:11-13a] - seek God, you will find Him - Elijah met God! יהוה spoke to him by name!
- as Moses hid in cleft of rock and יהוה passed by - so Elijah hid in cave, so too now יהוה commands Elijah to come out and stand before Him and יהוה passed by! There came a great wind, so strong that it broke rocks to pieces, even tearing mountains apart! Overwhelming! Awesome! Impressive! Terrifying! It was not יהוה, just the response of the earth to His presence! But Elijah had discernment, he KNEW יהוה and greatly impressed as most of us would have been, he knew יהוה was not in the wind. He was not taken in by the spectacular, as were the Israelites (cf. 1 Kings 18:38,39) - a dose of the spectacular and they are convinced - but only for five minutes. Elijah’s knowledge of יהוה was deeper - it was based on relationship, not on impressive supernatural displays. As soon as people see something supernatural or awesome in power they think it must be God - not necessarily so. If you are so swayed you are a sure victim for deception. Elijah could see this mighty display and be unmoved. He knew his LORD, knew יהוה, and so knew this was not Him. He would not settle for anything less than the real thing. יהוה allows these supernatural things that are not of Himself in order to test our hearts (cf. Deut 13:1 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God is testing you to find out if you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.) see if we will be seduced by something other than Him Himself. The testing came not one but three times. After the mighty wind came an earthquake - few other things are more awe-inspiring, yet Elijah knew that יהוה was not in the earthquake - would I, or would I fall on my knees at something that is not יהוה? How well do I know Him? As at the original encounter at Sinai there was storm, earthquake and fire/lightning - then the people were overwhelmed by these mighty manifestations - but Moses and Elijah KNEW their LORD and saw further and went beyond the visible manifestations to encounter יהוה Himself. And how different He is, when you truly meet Him, to all the impressive show and display of power that effects the masses - He comes in MEEKNESS.
1 Kings 19:12 - After the earthquake came a fire but יהוה was not in the fire either. No, not in the big show, the display of might or power. All power is His, this was a minutest fraction of His power - if God wanted to overwhelm us with power He could easily do so - but He doesn’t force us, overwhelm us. יהוה came! But who but one who was very close to Him would hear? A low whisper - we’d be too busy praying or singing to hear. Would I hear it, would I pick it, recognize it? יהוה is speaking and we miss it! We are making too much noise to hear! We are not listening! We hear the great wind and think that is Him - but not all wind is the Holy Spirit - יהוה was not in it!- it was wind but a gentle blowing - the breath of God! Do we know His gentle whisper? Do I know His voice?- like Mary (John 10:3-5, 14 the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.” I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me). Elijah knew the voice, knew יהוה, knew when he had heard His authentic voice and responded appropriately.
1 Kings 19:13 - He WORSHIPPED! (cf. Isaiah 6:2). He covered his face in awe at יהוה - not awe-struck by wind, earthquake or fire but that VOICE! When he heard he covered his face. He heard the voice he knew so well - it was יהוה! יהוה had told him to come out and stand before Him (1 Kings 19:11) - until now Elijah had not moved, he was still in the cave because he knew for all the pyrotechnics it was not יהוה. He was not fooled (cf.2 Thessalonians 2:9,10 the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved) - he only responded to the real thing, the authentic, genuine presence of יהוה. And this gentle whisper was it - he went out and stood before יהוה at the opening of the cave exactly as יהוה had commanded him. Timing is critical - we can be over eager to respond and do so before the right time and miss the encounter, miss meeting יהוה altogether. KNOWING HIS VOICE is the key to everything - this comes from close, continual relationship with Him. יהוה spoke in the smallest of whispers - but Elijah knew that voice and responded immediately, he came out with his face covered to stand before יהוה as he had been commanded. And there standing before יהוה Himself, יהוה spoke to Elijah!
Seeking יהוה is all about coming to know His voice.
Conclusion - We will look at what יהוה said in that face to face encounter next time.
- Do you want to meet God - there is required an earnestness and a dedication in seeking - getting apart from the world and alone with God, pressing on through disillusionment, being fed from above, relying on Divine strength, getting back to the cross and discerning His voice - knowing Him.