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Elijah's Self-Pity (morning)

Mar 21, 2021    Pastor Matt Davis    One God? Which One? - 1 Kings 19:1-18
Introduction

And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain all the prophets with the sword. 2 Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by to morrow about this time. 3 And when he saw that, he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beer-sheba, which belongeth 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 juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers. 5 And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat. 6 And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again. 7 And the angel of the LORD came again the second time, and touched him, and said, Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee. 8 And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God. And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah? 10 And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy 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 forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake 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 a still small voice. 13 And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah? 14 And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy 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 unto him, Go, return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus: and when thou comest, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria: 16 And Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint to be king over Israel: and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room. 17 And it shall come to pass, that him that escapeth the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay: and him that escapeth from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay. 18 Yet ||I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.

Last week in our series, “One God? Which One?” we had witnessed the ultimate victory of Elijah over the prophets of Ba’al and Asherah. Outnumbered, eight hundred and fifty to one, the false gods of Jezebel were unable to answer the call and the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob responded overwhelmingly with fire from above that licked up the drenched offering, the soaked wood, the stones of the altar, and the water filled trench. This overwhelming victory resulted in the chanting of all the people (minus the false prophets) of “The Lord, He is God; The Lord, He is God.”

We all know how this would have ended, were it a movie. The hero would have been united with his true love, and they would have ridden into town together. In my town, they would have accompanied by a parade of fire engines and police vehicles, lights swirling, sirens blaring. If this were New York, there would be confetti flying, party streamers everywhere. Elijah would have been presented with the “key to the city.”

As one pastor put it, this is where the movie ends, “and they all lived, happily ever after.” This is the perfect ending that we would all imagine. The good guys win, the bad guys leave, disappear, get arrested, whatever happens to them.

Have you ever felt that right as you accomplish your greatest feat, your biggest victory, your best moment in life, all of a sudden everything crashes in around you? The movies say at that moment, everything goes up, its easy sailing from there. But have you ever accomplished your biggest feat, only to have everything crumble? At just the moment that everything should begin going your way, it doesn’t.

As we read today, let us examine six elements from our passage, dealing with Elijah turning from faith to fear, to depression in the believer, to God’s plan of the future. As we examine the historical context of these events in Elijah’s life, let us also examine the characteristics of God that stand out against all the other so called gods of this world. What makes our God different from them? As we continue to examine the questions, “is there only one God?” and “If so, which one is the correct God?” let us not forget what we have proven so far.
In our first message of the series, “God of the Outsider,” God showed Himself to be the God of the outsider, the provider, where Ba’al and Asherah couldn’t be bothered to provide for their own believers. We’d seen a God that welcomes the outsider, the unworthy, and accepts them by grace and love, whereas the so called gods of this world accept you based on your worthiness and own merits. Our message displayed the power of God in the multiplying of the flour and oil.

Our second message, “God the Reviver,” featured God raising the young son of the widow from the grace. We learned of a feat no other god has been able to accomplish. The widow and the boy, due to the circumstance and trials, learned to know and trust God and will have a gift ever more precious than the temporal needs of the flour and oil met.

Last weeks message, “The Lord, He is God,” Elijah displayed the power of our God through the consuming fire from Heaven. The differences between false gods and the true God were shown in the works of the peoples. The false gods required cutting, drove you to destruction, and offered zero promise of happiness and joy. The final blow in the chapter was to Ba’al, the god of rain, when it was Jehovah who brought the rain that ended the three and a half year famine.

In what way will our God stand out today? Let us continue and discover the greatness of the one whom we serve.

From Faith to Fear – VV. 1-3

And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain all the prophets with the sword. 2 Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by to morrow about this time. 3 And when he saw that, he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beer-sheba, which belongeth to Judah, and left his servant there.

Last chapter ended with punishment of the prophets of Ba’al, from verse forty of the last chapter “ And Elijah said unto them, Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape. And they took them: and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there. ” and Elijah running into Jezreel. From our last verse in chapter eighteen - “46 And the hand of the Lord was on Elijah; and he girded up his loins, and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel. ” The hand of the Lord was upon him, he had his victory, and he is ready for his heroes welcome. Expecting the land to repent, Ahab to put away with Jezebel, and the land to return to God; Elijah instead finds himself in another situation.

Jezebel, being informed of the results of the prior challenge and the fate of her prophets is still sending orders to Elijah. “Allow the gods to do to me the same and so much more, if in twenty-four hours I have not killed you.” Apparently, she forgot that her gods failed to even show up the previous day.

With no repentance on behalf of Jezebel, and Ahab being a weak wimp, combined with the threat of death, Elijah seemingly forgets that that it was the hand of the Lord upon him. He forgets the ravens of which brought him food at God’s command. He forgets about the flour and oil that multiplied day by day. He forgets about the raising of the boy to life, and the all consuming pillar of fire that consumed the offering and everything around it. Elijah becomes so caught up in his own life, that he forgets whom it is he serves. His faith has turned to fear.

We may find it easy ourselves to make fun of Elijah, to say “how the mighty has fallen,” but I rather encourage you to examine of yourself if this resonates with you. Is it not true in life that our greatest struggles often follow our greatest moments? We’ve worked so hard to get where we are, lost sleep on many nights, struggled against enemies and all odds, and then we get there. But then we are tired, we are weak, our motivation to fight has dwindled.

I think this is exactly where we find Elijah. He has spend over three years weary, fighting, preaching, and just when he reaches the height of his ministry, it seems he has to start all over. Tired and weary, it seems as if he is giving up on his ministry all together.

It is for this reason we must not forget how it is we got here in the first place. Not by our power or might, but the power and grace of God. When we get so consumed by the circumstance, and we will, it happens to each of us, we then become fearful rather than faithful.

Elijah’s response is to flee. He takes his servant and leaves him in Beer-Sheba, the southern most city in Israel, founded by Abraham himself. From there, Elijah takes off in self-pity.

Self-Pity – V. 4

4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.

In a ironic turn of events, upon dropping his servant off in Beer-Sheba, Elijah continues yet another days journey into the wilderness, where finds and sits beneath the juniper tree. It is here he requests for himself that he would die. Such is ironic of the prophet, who just two days earlier fled for the safety and security of his life.

There is much to be said from irony, in that, when we step outside the will of God, the result is always going to be grief. What was once purpose, then preserving of life, then turned in his exhaustion to pity, grief, and depression.

Honest examination would reveal that after his day long battle with the prophets, then running the thirty one miles (fifty kilometers) from Mount Carmel to Jezreel, to only then flee a days journey into the wilderness would leave anyone exhausted and depressed. Honest examination should proclaim by such a point, the average person would become discouraged and be ready to give up.

It is here we see Elijah talking, “it is enough, now.” It sounds like Elijah could be saying many things with that phrase. He could be saying “I am done, take me,” or “Do I still have it? Am I still what I was?” Elijah could be saying “No one really cares,” or “theres none who understand what I am going through.”

We see here, a great man of faith, who is downcast. He has allowed his self-pity to take over his mind and has become consumed with his own unhappiness.

Such thinking usually results from lies of the enemy, and failure to recognize in the situation that God is still in control. Such thinking leads to us becoming unproductive in the Kingdom of God. In Elijah’s case, as we shall see next week in our final message through the series, such thinking led to the end of his prophetic career.

As with the other accounts we’ve read, God works best in us when we are at our lowest. God worked in the widows life twice in her lowest moments. God will now work in Elijah’s weakness to show that He is God.

Comfort From God – VV. 5-8

5 And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat. 6 And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again. 7 And the angel of the LORD came again the second time, and touched him, and said, Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee. 8 And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God.

For our next three topics (this one included) we shall address the answer to the question we set to observe. What sets our God apart in this passage of scripture? Elijah, after he journeys, sits under the tree, and then cries in his self-pity, lays himself and falls asleep. I have to wonder, in the heat and dryness of the wilderness, combined with all the running he has done, and his lack of desire to live, if Elijah would have ever woken on his own, if it were not for God sending His angel. But alas, we see in where our God presents Himself differently from any other. For when Elijah wakened, he woke not to an angel there to scold him, berate him for his selfishness, and talk about the disappointment he is. No, rather, God sends His messenger to comfort and tend to Elijah.

The first thing the angel says to him is, “arise and eat.” When Elijah looks, he sees a cake of bread and a cruse of water, the same things he first asked of the widowed women. Interesting to the story, Elijah eats manna from heaven, in the same wilderness where the Israelites ate manna provided of God.

Imagine for a moment, a God, whom after you abandon your post, throw a major temper tantrum, and tell Him your done – Who then sends His heavenly host to bake a cake of bread for you and feed you. Elijah is reminded both of God’s provision in the Brook of Cherith, and the miraculous provision of the multiplying flour in the widows home.

What now, would we imagine of the great man of God from the last passages? Would we imagine that he gets up, shakes the dust, and moves on with his life and ministry? I’m sure we would imagine that, we would love to see that. Rather, Elijah goes back to bed. “Thanks for the food, now leave me alone.”

Again, we see, that compassion and comfort are extended to Elijah. For he is touched and awakened again, and told, arise and eat. This time he is told that he shall journey and needs strength for the trip, strength, supplied by the food, said to last forty days.

Where other gods give if you give, take as they will, and only bless when you are worthy, the God of the Bible is the Father figure when you do wrong, when you do right. He is there to comfort in our strengths and our weakness. When we fail, He say’s He has it covered. Where the so called gods show wrath and destruction in any shortcoming, our God shows mercy and compassion.

Pastor James Smith says of God providing the comfort and food, “The terrible strain of Carmel, the wearisome run before Ahab, the long journey into the wilderness had no doubt brought upon him complete physical and nervous prostration. The remedy provided by God was “a cake baken on the coals and a cruse of water.” He knows the frailty of our frame (John 21:9–12). How long he slept before the angel touched him we cannot know, but perhaps he was, through utter weakness, in danger of sleeping the sleep of death had not the angel wakened him up to eat. Are we not reminded here of that other angel of His presence, the Holy Spirit, whose gentle touch awakens many of God’s downcast ones, and whose tender voice bids them arise and eat of Him who is the Living Bread. That angel may be touching you even now. ”

Still Small Voice – VV. 9-12

9 And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah? 10 And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy 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 forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake 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 a still small voice.

Over the past forty days, Elijah has traveled two hundred miles, and comes to rest in a cave, where, God says to him, “what are you doing here?” It seems, over the forty day period, Elijah found no time to overcome his self-pity, but has only become swallowed up in it. He has only become more depressed then he has – For he answers, “I have been very jealous for you, Lord. I have been on fire, preaching, showing people only you are Lord God. I am all that is left, only me. The others, they have forsaken you, God. They have forsaken your covenant. They don’t care about you, they don’t care about me. They have destroyed your altars, they have slain your prophets, and they seek to slay me as well.”

It seems that, in his journey, Elijah has only found more ways to complain. God, ready to prove a point to Elijah, commands him to Mount Horeb, better known as Mount Sinai, the place Moses received his call and the law. Elijah would have been humbled to be called to the Mount of God, but before he could leave, the Lord passes by and what follows is great winds, earthquakes, and fire (lightning) – in each of which, it is said, the Lord was not in them. Though at times God has used such things to show Himself, God also demonstrates He is much more than that.

What does this demonstrate? This shows that God does not always respond in ways which we would expect. Elijah has heard stories of God showing in the wind, thunders, earthquakes, fire, ect. Elijah has been part of stories that included such elements. But here, God was not in them – rather – God was at the end, God was the small still voice.

Our God is unique, in that He can show up in various manners, and ways. He can speak to some through great signs and wonders, while to others, He can speak in a small whisper. The extent of this truth is more, in that, God can speak to each of us in each of these various ways.

This also teaches, that, when we don’t see God doing what we think He should, or responding in ways that we think He should, that we shouldn’t stop trusting in Him. God is always working, and we must always be listening.

Elijah Responds – V. 13

13 And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?

This is cool, “When Elijah heard it.” Just take a quick second and let that sink into your mind. How did Elijah hear it, the voice of God, when it came not in the manner he was expecting?

A quick story form Jim L. Wilson, “A voice-over actor sang “Let it Go”—a popular song from the Disney animated movie Frozen—while imitating various Disney characters’ voices. He uploaded the video to YouTube, and it received over 2.5 million views, generating much positive feedback. Many of the viewers guessed which of their favorite Disney characters sang parts of the song—from Winnie the Pooh to Mickey Mouse. How could they guess the voices? That’s easy: They have heard them many times before.
Christians who are in the habit of listening to God will recognize his voice when he speaks to them. ”

As we practice in listening to God, we become more and more able to hear Him. As we accept that He will speak in ways foreign to us, but learn to hear His voice, we shall recognize it when it comes in unexpected ways. I believe it is too often, we as Christians get comfortable in how we feel God should communicate, that when we no longer hear Him, it is because we don’t know how. We can’t recognize His voice, because we have never become familiar with it. I invite all of you to work on becoming familiar with God’s voice – to seek ways in which He may be speaking to you that your not expecting – and then, when you are downcast, or weak, or whatever circumstance you are in, you will hear God.

Something else to consider, when Elijah heard His voice, he wrapped his face in a mantle. That is, Elijah went before God and declared Himself guilty. It’s interesting, just to think about. If I went to court and entered a guilty plea, I am going to be punished. If I plead guilty, I may receive a lighter punishment, but I will be punished. You know, all the other so called gods, it is the same. A guilty plea with all the so called gods results in wrath, in anger, punishment.

The same is not true with the one true God – He is the only God, the only person, when you stand before Him and enter the guilty plea. When you say, I am guilty and unworthy, you don’t receive judgement. Rather, you receive forgiveness.

From my favorite pastor, Charles Spurgeon, “Oh! it is a great thing when a sinner is willing to wrap his face when he is confounded, and say, “I cannot defend my course; I am guilty.” We know that if at our judgment-seat a man pleads guilty, he is punished; but at the judgment-seat of the gospel whoever pleads guilty is forgiven. Wrap your face. Oh! but you thought that you were better than most; you went to church, and you went to the meeting-house, the chapel, regularly, and were you not better than others? Ah! wrap your face. Your church-goings and your chapel-goings have only increased your responsibilities if you have rejected the Saviour. Take the mantle of self-humiliation, and wrap it about your face now. Say, with the leper, “Unclean! Unclean!” Where you are in the Tabernacle, where you are, never mind where you stand or sit, I commend to you the publican’s prayer. Say it now, and God help you, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” Did you say it from your heart? Go home. You shall go home to your house justified, for he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. ”

The final thing to take away from this point, in answer to how our God is different from any other so called – Our God listens. Where other gods take, demand, and care not of their believers, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob cares and takes time to listen. He asked Elijah once more, “why are you here?” and gave him again an opportunity to speak his mind and feelings. This was also another opportunity to be restored to his full ministry once again.

God’s Not Done – VV.14-18

14 And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy 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 unto him, Go, return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus: and when thou comest, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria: 16 And Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint to be king over Israel: and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room. 17 And it shall come to pass, that him that escapeth the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay: and him that escapeth from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay. 18 Yet ||I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.

At the end of all this, you would expect a great restoration of Elijah to his ministry, just as with Peter, who was restored after Christ’s resurrection. But alas, Elijah has become marred, wearied and swallowed in his pity. In response, Elijah gives the same pity account he gave when first asked “why are you here?”

In reply, God informs Elijah that He has seven thousand others, set aside in Israel, who also care about God. God then instructs Elijah to anoint a pagan king over Syria, and another king of Israel, and to find Elisha, and anoint him his replacement.

As our last thought of the night, on how our God is different – God can use you, if your willing, but He doesn’t need you. Keep that in mind – God can use each of us, but He doesn’t need us. God can provide for us in many and various ways, and through various people, or jobs, and so on. But God doesn’t need any of those to work. Whereas other so called gods, who require of their hands and feet to be made of man, they need you.

Conclusion

In todays passage, we read of Elijah, who after his biggest victory, was plunged into a great depression. He was expecting a great welcome, a change in the government and people, and instead was met with death threats. Elijah’s downfall led to a giant pity party where Elijah complained to God to take His life and be done. Rather, we learn of a God who tends to His people, comforts them, provides, and encourages. We learned of the God who speaks in various ways, and in this case, the still small voice. We learned of the God who listens, and can work even when we cannot.

Application

I want to talk a moment about depression in the church – a loaded topic I know, but one in which must be addressed. There are many people who look at depression as merely physical, to be treated with rest or medication. And others, who look at depression as merely emotional, to be handled with mere self-control. And yet, one other group, who looks at depression as only spiritual, to be handled through the word of God.

I will admit, I tend to fall into the final category, and I look at most things as spiritual and not physical/emotional. I view certain illnesses, such as multiple personality disorder and skits as spiritual, and I believe they are. There are also those others that I tend to lump into spiritual that may very well be a physical issue, while others may be emotional.

So here is the deal – God created us, not only as spiritual beings, or emotional beings, or physical beings – God created us as all three, and God ministered to Elijah through all three. God tended to Elijah’s physical needs through rest, food, and water. God tended to Elijah’s emotional needs, giving him an opportunity to express his emotions and frustrations. And God tended to his spiritual needs as well.

As a Christian, when we are downcast, when we are depressed, or filled with self-pity, I’m going to give you the best advice. Start with a nap. Really, I mean that, and I know it seems silly, but start with a nap and a good meal, and go from there. If it’s not a physical issue, look at the spiritual.

Elijah’s primary cause of depression was spiritual (though he added physical exhaustion himself). Elijah’s depression started with a mixture of truth and lies. He says, “I have been jealous for you, Lord.” A true statement. He says, “They have been killing your servants,” another true statement. He also says, “I am all that is left, the only one who cares, and there is none else,” a false statement.

In dealing with depression, let us first deal with the false statements in our minds. Let us truly examine our thoughts with the thoughts of God, and weed out the true from the false.

When your thoughts say, “I am alone,” you can speak back the truth. “Christ died for me, and says He will never leave nor forsake me.”

When you feel, “I have no future, there is no hope,” you speak back, “my hope is in the resurrection, which is sure.

When all else fails, we have our God to turn to.

Invitation

For the many who do not know, I got saved at a time of great depression, and like Elijah, was ready for life to end. Unlike Elijah, I was not pleading with God to take my life, I was planning it myself. I’ve been there, I know what that is like. I know what it is like to feel like there is nothing left, no hope, no purpose, no future. I know what it is like to be at the end of your rope.

I also know what it is like to have God extend His hand. I know what it is like to have God say, “I got you.” I remember when God pulled me from the pits, and put my life back on track. I can tell everyone, it was not easy. But let me tell you how I overcame.

I gave it to God. I read my Bible, day and night. I put on the amour of God. When my mind started telling me there was nothing left, and I would contemplate ending things, I would turn back to the scriptures. And God, through His grace and power, was able to carry me through.

If you are tired, if you are weary, if you are depressed. God is calling to you. If you are tired of living a life of sin, God is calling to you. If you are looking for someone who wants to love you, to help you, who wont ridicule you for your past, for your current situation, for your emotions, then I tell you, God is calling to you. God is ready to be your Father, your friend, your counselor, your provider.

Let me tell you something cool, right before we close. In our passage today, God passed and there was a great wind and earthquake that shook the mountain and broke pieces, yet Elijah was safe. There was great fire, and yet Elijah was shielded. On the cross, Christ took that great wind, the earthquake, and the fire. Christ took to the punishments and the great judgements of God. Christ is the rock that protected Elijah and is the sacrificial Lamb that took our penalties.

Here is how this works – A belief that Jesus is God in the flesh, that He lived a sinless perfect life, dying on the cross out of love for you. That if you would believe in Him, and would make Him Lord over your life, you would be forgiven. You would be saved, and you would be adopted into the family of God. If you are ready to begin this relationship with God, it begins with that admission, with the believe, and the confession that you are a sinner and cannot save yourself.

Christ says that whosoever would confess Him before men, He would confess before the Father above. And Paul wrote that if you would confess Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the grave, thou shall be saved. If you are ready to begin this relationship with the Lord, and have Him in your heart, I invite you to join with us today. Begin by saying the first portion of our closing prayer with us, where you will confess Jesus as Lord, as Him into your heart, and confess that you are a sinner. After that, be ready to truly make Him Lord over your life, and do your best to live as He would ask you to live. Be ready to confess Him before men, and He will confess you before the Father. We love you, and we welcome you to this great and worldwide family.

***Prayer***