Well, Hi everyone! It's good to be with you again - where are we, it's February, isn't it? Losing track of time! But we are in our fifth study, believe it or not, in this series 'Divine Encounters'. I want you to turn with me in your Bible to 1 Kings chapter 19, 1 Kings chapter 19, and we're going to read - we're looking tonight at 'Elijah On The Mountain', and we're reading from verse 1.
First Kings 19, we're reading down to verse 18: "And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, also how he had executed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, 'So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time'. And when he saw that, he arose and ran for his life, and went to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, 'It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!'. Then as he lay and slept under a broom tree, suddenly an angel touched him, and said to him, 'Arise and eat'. Then he looked, and there by his head was a cake baked on coals, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank, and lay down again. And the angel of the Lord came back the second time, and touched him, and said, 'Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you'. So he arose, and ate and drank; and he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights as far as Horeb, the mountain of God. And there he went into a cave, and spent the night in that place; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him, 'What are you doing here, Elijah?'. So he said, 'I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life'. Then He said, 'Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord'. And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces 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; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him, and said, 'What are you doing here, Elijah?'. And he said, 'I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; because the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life'. Then the Lord said to him: 'Go, return on your way to the Wilderness of Damascus; and when you arrive, anoint Hazael as king over Syria. Also you shall anoint Jehu the son of Nimshi as king over Israel. And Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel Meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place. It shall be that whoever escapes the sword of Hazael, Jehu will kill; and whoever escapes the sword of Jehu, Elisha will kill. Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him'". Amen.
Let's pray together, and would you pray with me now please that God would speak to your heart tonight. We want that to happen, don't we? We want to encounter the Lord, so let's pray, and please pray now just for yourself - of course for all of us, but pray for yourself, that the Lord might meet you tonight and speak to you. Father, we come before You and we acknowledge, as we have read - thinking of the previous chapter, that showdown on Mount Carmel - we declare that You, Jehovah is the Lord, Jehovah is the God, and there is none beside You, Lord. We just proclaim Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Saviour, as Lord of all. Lord, we just pray that You will fill this very atmosphere with the Lordship of Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit, that everything would submit - even in our own lives, those areas that might be rebellious or stubborn, uncompromising - Lord, that You will cause those things to melt in Your presence. Oh, we just long for an encounter with You, Lord. We don't want to be talking about these things and, Lord, have a total absence of them personally. We want to really meet God tonight. Whatever our need might be, Lord, would You come down with the sweet dew; would You come down, Lord, upon our lives in Your imperceptible and yet unmissable presence. We wait for You, we wait for You, Lord. Take Your word, Lord, and use it tonight. Give us minds to understand and hearts to receive what the Spirit is saying to us tonight. Help me, please, Lord - in Jesus' name, Amen.
Well, I don't know if it's anybody's first time here tonight. You're very welcome, of course, but we've been going through a series now for a while, from September, 'Divine Encounters' - what can happen in a moment with God. We're talking about close encounters of the Divine kind, whenever people really have a moment or are surprised by the Lord, they have a brush with Divinity in such an incredible way. They come face-to-face, as it were, with God and experience Him. We've been saying these weeks that we believe in a personal God - and if that is the case, we must expect personal encounters with Him. We've been looking at well-known stories of the Bible, but from the perspective specifically of individuals' personal encounters with the Lord. There is so much we could say about these portions of Scripture, we could take whole series on each of them, but we are wanting to primarily home in on this aspect of what it was for the individuals concerned to meet God in this way - how it changed their lives - and, with the Holy Spirit's help, to see if we can derive principles whereby we ourselves can truly encounter the Lord. We looked at 'Moses At The Burning Bush', we looked at 'Jacob At Jabbok', we saw 'Gideon At The Winepress', and our last study was 'Isaiah In The Throne Room'.
Tonight we're looking at 'Elijah On The Mountain' - and really we see him in three places. The title is 'Elijah On The Mountain', but we see him in three places at least in this portion that we have read together. We see him under a broom tree, we see him in a cave, and then we see him eventually on the mountain. All of these, we might call them situational scenarios, reveal insights that might, in fact, contradict the typical stereotypes of Divine encounters. Let me explain that: what we're going to see tonight might debunk some presuppositions that we have about what meeting God is actually like.
So, I want us to go to those places right now. First of all we're going to go with Elijah under the broom tree in the wilderness. Really the way we see Elijah here is, he's burnt out and depressed, under the broom tree in the wilderness burnt out and depressed. It's not how we expect the stage to be set, perhaps, for a Divine encounter - and yet, if you've been with us in these studies, you will see that there might well be a pattern here. Moses, when he met God at the burning bush, you remember he had been in the wilderness forty years. We talked about how it is often that Divine encounters are preceded by wilderness experiences. Then Jacob, you remember he is at Jabbok, he's in trouble, he's a twister, a supplanter, a bit of a liar, he's actually wrestling with himself - although he's wrestling with God, this angelic being, a pre-incarnate manifestation of our Lord Jesus, and yet there is a sense in which he is wrestling with his own self - he won't surrender. Yet it was at that place God met him. Gideon, you remember he's threshing out wheat in the winepress for fear of the enemy, and God comes to him in the midst of his fear and says 'You mighty man of valour!' - but his knees knocking and he's biting his nails out of fear! Yet that's where God met him. Isaiah, you remember it was 'In the year the King Uzziah died, I saw also the Lord, high and lifted up'. There was this great disappointment, in fact this great grief that Isaiah went through because this man whom they epitomised as the greatest king that had been known in modern times, contemporarily speaking, he dies - but he had to die, because they had an idolatrous tie to this man. Yet it was in that moment that God met him. We see something similar here with Elijah, and it all just teaches us that God meets us in our need. Isn't that precious? He meets us in our brokenness and our desperation. Maybe that's where you find yourself tonight? Well, you get ready, because God could meet you.
I want you to understand the contributory factors that got Elijah under this broom tree burned out and depressed. You might want to take notes on these, because I think they will be practically helpful for you. The first thing that I noted at least (this isn't exhaustive by any means), is that this mood, this disposition Elijah is now in is a demonic kickback from spiritual warfare that he was engaged in. Did you get that? A demonic kickback from the spiritual warfare that he was engaged in. I alluded to it in my prayer, 1 Kings 18, you remember he throws the gauntlet down to the prophets of Baal - if their god is a god let him answer by fire, and come and consume the sacrifice, and of course that doesn't happen; but God, the Lord, Yahweh, He answers by fire and He consumes the sacrifice. There is a great victory for the Lord on Mount Carmel. So this spiritual conflict, this collision of powers takes place, and there is no doubt about it: God is the victor, but Elijah is the hero of the moment, the man of God - and yet it's right after that, on the heels of this spiritual victory, that Elijah finds himself burnt out and depressed.
If you look at verses 1 to 3 again, Jezebel, the Queen, gets word of what he did to the prophets of Baal, slaying them, and she says: ''So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time'. And when he saw that, he arose and ran for his life, and went to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah'. Now let me just say, before I go further in this, if you find yourself on the forefront of the spiritual battle, you need to expect Satan to have a pop at you. Now I'm not attempting to engender fear in you, because fear of the demonic comes from the demonic - we are not given a spirit of fear, but power, love, and a sound mind. But nevertheless, we're not to be ignorant of his devices, we're not to be naive to the point of putting ourselves into exposed areas, not realising that our enemy, our adversary, as a roaring lion goes about seeking whom he may devour, whom resist, steadfast in the faith. If you are making headway for God in His kingdom, you have to expect a kickback from time to time. Ephesians 6:12, we have to adorn ourselves in the armour of God - why? Because we do not wrestle with flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers etc - heavenly forces in the spiritual dimension.
But I think, for me anyway, what is surprising, perhaps, about this moment in Elijah's life is: he has been so courageous up to this point. I mean, if you look at chapter 18 and verse 17, he goes to face King Ahab and it says: 'Then it happened, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said to him, 'Is that you, O troubler of Israel?'' - and Elijah was fit for him, 'He answered, 'I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father's house have, in that you have forsaken the commandments of the LORD and have followed the Baals. Now therefore, send and gather all Israel to me on Mount Carmel, the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal, and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel's table''. Boy, he's no pussycat, is he? Yet this message he receives in chapter 19, first three verses, from Queen Jezebel, this message of a mere threat from this woman has such an effect on him that he runs into the wilderness and hides. It's incredible, isn't it? Such a paradox.
But, you see - we're going to tease this out tonight - one point we should note is that sometimes we can get so involved in the battle, and we're fighting, that our armour slips and a chink can be exposed that the enemy can exploit. We have to be so careful that we're not so busy fighting, that we're not maintaining that intimacy with the Lord. It's just come to me, and I didn't prepare to say this, but if we will allow ourselves to be vulnerable to God, we will not be vulnerable to the enemy. If we allow ourselves vulnerability with the Lord, we will not be vulnerable to the enemy.
How did he get into this position? A demonic kickback from spiritual warfare. Secondly: we are more vulnerable after success. Did you know that? Right after this spiritual mountain peak experience, we need to beware of defeat following spiritual victory. I don't know where I heard this, and I've tried to authenticate it and I haven't, so don't quote me on it - but I did hear or read on one occasion that it was not uncommon for wartime fighter pilots to crash coming into land. They had done all their dogfighting, or bombing, or whatever it was; but as they came in to land, having fulfilled their mission, it was not uncommon for them to crash - why was that? Because they relaxed, they let down their guard and they became vulnerable. I remember the late - and I believe great - evangelist Sam Workman saying to me on one occasion years ago: 'David, don't let the devil steal your victory'. It's a good point, isn't it?
This valley of Elijah's came when he was more vulnerable after his success. But how else did he become exposed? Well, I want you to see that he entertained the enemy's lie - do you see this? Now I have been reading through the life of Elijah and Elisha recently in my own devotions, and I was really gripped - especially with Elijah - by this repetitive phrase in the narrative of his story 'and the word of the Lord came to Elijah, and the word of the Lord came to Elijah, and the word of the Lord came to Elijah'. But now what is happening? He's giving place to the word of the devil through Jezebel, he's listening to what she says. It's easy for all of us to do that, in fact most of the pickles and the problems that we get ourselves into primarily come from having listened to the lies of the devil. I've said it many, many times: when you believe the lie, you empower the liar. He believed this lie of the devil through Jezebel, and he empowered her in her witchcraft over him. He became paralysed.
Then we see in verse 3, further, he walked, he began to walk by sight and not by faith. Look at what he says in verse 3 after hearing this message from Jezebel: 'And when he saw that', isn't it interesting that it says not 'when he heard it', 'when he saw that, he arose and ran for his life'. He was obviously envisaging what was going to happen, he was going to get butchered by the forces of Jezebel; she was going to make sure his life was like one of the lives of the prophets of Baal. He saw it - you see, this is what happens: we believe the lie of the enemy. This is the opposite of faith, by the way - Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness' sake; and then God gave him a vision, the stars of the sky, what his children would be like on the earth. That's the way God works, by the way, He gives you a word to your heart, and then He gives you a vision, and then He expects you to speak out the vision. Abraham believed, but he spoke it out because his name was changed from Abram to Abraham, and 'Abraham' means 'father of a multitude' - and is that not comical? This is a man who can't have any children, and you ask 'What's your name?' and he says 'Father of a multitude' - and he had to say that maybe a hundred times in a month; but he was speaking out a declaration of what God had spoken into his heart, what God had shown him in vision, and now by faith he's declaring it. But here we're seeing the opposite in Elijah - do you see? He's hearing the voice of the enemy and he's starting to see - this is what happens to us, our imagination gets filled with the lie - and he starts speaking it out. You can see all the things, in a few moments we'll look at what he says, but he starts speaking out this false belief.
I wonder what you're saying over your own life? I wonder has your focus changed from the promises of God to the threats of the enemy that have engendered fear within you? It's staggering, isn't it, when we see where Elijah was in chapter 18? By the way, for three and a half years God had protected Elijah from Ahab and Jezebel; but all of a sudden he goes to pieces, and fear replaces faith, and he runs for his life - and that can happen to any of us, if it can happen to great Elijah, it can happen to any of us.
How did he get on this broom tree burnt out and depressed? Are you with me? Demonic kickback from spiritual warfare; he was more vulnerable after his success; he entertained the enemy's lie; he began to walk by sight and not faith; and fifthly: he once ran in the Spirit, but now he is running in the flesh. Now let me compare verse 46 of chapter 18 with verse 4 of chapter 19, verse 46 of 18: 'Then the hand of the LORD came upon Elijah; and he girded up his loins and ran ahead of Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel'. That was a supernatural sprint, but then when you look at verse 4 of chapter 19, it says: 'But he' - read it for me - 'himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree'. One was running in the Spirit and the other was running in the flesh. Do you know what happens when you run in the flesh? You get burnout.
Now overwork is a real thing, you can overdo it in work - whether it's the Lord's work or any type of occupation. Over-working is bad. We all need balance within our lives, but there is a common misunderstanding that burnout comes from overdoing it. Maybe physical burnout to an extent, but spiritual burnout comes from working out of the flesh rather than working out of the Spirit. Hard work never killed anybody, really, unless they overdid it - but often overdoing it, it is working out of the flesh rather than working out of the Spirit. Burnout is when you have a chronic inner stress that reaches a level which causes a deep exhaustion, particularly in your human spirit, that results in emotional and physical dysfunction - that's what burnout is. You're tired working, you take a couple of days off, and you're OK again - that's not burnout, it's just being tired. But when you rest and it still doesn't replenish your fatigue, that's burnout - because it's something deep down in your spirit, and this is what Elijah had. Why? Because he was running in the flesh. Having once run in the Spirit, he was running in the flesh, and he was running the wrong direction! Isn't that what Paul said to the Galatians? 'How did this happen? You began in the Spirit and now you're trying to be made perfect in the flesh'. That's why he is where he is now.
Then sixthly: this all caused him to despair of his very life. I don't think it is an exaggeration to say that Elijah is suicidal here, because anybody who says 'I want to die' - it's not far off suicidal. Isn't it interesting that Moses said the same thing? And Job, Jeremiah, Jonah - they all said 'I wish I was dead'. Isn't that interesting? But at the root of Elijah's exclamation that his life would be over was pride and self-protectionism, pride and self-protectionism. Look at the word 'life', verse 2, verse 3, verse 4; verse 2 'your life', verse 3 'his life', verse 4 'my life' - it's all about his life, and him not being better than his fathers. He's despairing because Jezebel is wanting to kill him, he's not very popular in the nation, and he feels he's a failure - and he just wants to die. When really, what Elijah needed to do - and it's rich me saying it, of course, I'm only expounding Scripture, it's a different thing living this way - but what he really needed to do is what we all need to do, and that is die to self. What did Jesus say? 'Whoever loses his life', it's all about his life, 'loses his life will find it' - yes?
So what was the solution, quickly, for Elijah under the broom tree in the wilderness, burnt out and depressed? Well, the first thing we see was an angelic intervention. Verse 5: 'Then as he lay and slept under a broom tree, suddenly an angel touched him, and said to him, 'Arise and eat''. Now can I just say to you: wherever you are in life, whether you're under a broom tree, or chapter 18 you're on a mountaintop experience, always be open to God's suddenlies, always be open to God's suddenlies! 'Suddenly an angel', that can happen you know! I've had 'suddenly an angel', I've had that, angelic intervention. Let's not quickly move from the literal here, we believe that angels - according to this book - are ministering spirits sent to minister to those who shall inherit salvation, that's you if you're a child of God. You need to believe in angels, and you need your inner eyes opened to know they're about and what they're doing. They're doing an awful lot more than you realise, and can I tell you: most of the things God does for us, I believe most of the things God does for us, He uses angels to do it.
Yet this might not only be applied to literal angels, because we know that angels are messengers, aren't they? The word literally means 'messengers', and Hebrews chapter 13:2 talks about not to forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels. So sometimes, even metaphorically, people can come and they are like angels to us in how they help us, relationally. But here's the bottom line here: whether it was natural or supernatural, this fellow needed help, didn't he? He needed intervention. Do you see whenever you get an Elijah complex - what's that? 'I alone am left! Woe is me, I am no better than my fathers!', you become a lone ranger, the whole world is going to hell in a hand cart, the church is in a mess, and you're the only fellow or girl that has the answer and the truth - do you know what I mean? When you're like that, do you know what you need? You need other people. You need other people! If you're burnt out, and if you're depressed, you need intervention.
But he didn't just need intervention angelically, he needed practical intervention - and I love this. Doesn't it say the angel touched him and said 'Arise and eat', and when he looked 'there by his head was a cake baked on coals, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank, and lay down again. And the angel of the Lord came back the second time, and touched him, and said, 'Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you''. This man needed sleep and he needed food - do you know you need sleep? Some of you, this is not a sermon you need to hear, sleep is no problem for you - maybe you're in the middle of a nice doze right now! But some people think it is spiritual not to sleep, I'm glad Jesus slept in the bottom of the boat, aren't you! Yes, He got up a great while before day to seek God and all the rest, and I sometimes get so condemned when I hear about people getting up at three and four in the morning and all the rest - I wouldn't say I could never do it, but I find it hard enough getting up at the time that I get up in the morning! But we need sleep, we're made to need sleep and we're made to need food. I believe in fasting, OK, and I try and do it; but fasting is an exception. We should do it regularly if we can, but we're made to eat. You remember what they said about the Lord Jesus - they said 'John the Baptist is an oddball', that's basically what they said, 'He eats locusts and wild honey and he wears strange clothes'; but Jesus, they called Him a winebibber and publican, and the reason was: He ate and He drank like everybody else - not to extremes of course, but you know what I'm trying to say - He was normal. Some of us can be too over-spiritual for our own good. In the times when we're finding spiritual valleys, we sometimes go into this hyper-mode where we have to fast and we have to stay up all night, when what some of us really need is go to bed and have a good feed.
You know, I was thinking of this in relation to ministry, personal ministry with people. Some people need rehabilitation before they can really get through to God. I'm not against medicine, I mean medical intervention with people with depression and other problems, emotional problems and mental problems, and I think we have to realise that the best treatment at times that can be given to people is when there is counselling, medical intervention, and spiritual help all together - when they are in a balance, biblically speaking. Now I'm not countenancing everything that is medical, or everything that is drug related, I'm not saying that - but I am saying that there are times, there are times when people are not in a position to even receive ministry because they're too distressed and they need help, physical intervention, medical intervention. I think that was the case for Elijah. He wasn't hearing the word of the Lord any more because he'd got into such a frenzy that he needed some time out, he needed rest, resuscitation. The Lord as much as said that to him in verse 7 after eating this food: 'The journey is too great for you'. Do you feel like that tonight? 'I cannot go on'. It's amazing, verse 8: 'So he arose, and ate and drank; and he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights as far as Horeb, the mountain of God' - I would love a slice of that, wouldn't you? Forty days and forty nights on that cake, whatever it was - maybe we'll get a bit of it later on!
Forty days and forty nights, that's an interesting figure, isn't it? Forty days and forty nights, that pops up every now and again in Scripture of course. You remember Moses, how long he was in the wilderness with God's people, how long they went through, how many years? Forty years. Do you see all the parallels here? This man is in a wilderness, literally and spiritually - but we need to move on, we've been under the broom tree too long! I want you to move now to the cave, because here we find him in the cave, verse 9: 'There he went into a cave', and he's hiding in the cave and he's complaining, hiding and complaining. Now sometimes we hide from others, and even God, when we most need other people and the intervention of others - isn't that the case? 'I don't want anybody near me'. I've been here, you know, where you don't want to see or hear from anybody, or talk to anybody, and if you saw somebody coming one direction towards you, you want to go the other way - that's the way we're often like. So he hides, and he's still rehearsing the same complaint, you know, that he's been so zealous for the Lord, and he's the only one that is left, he keeps rehearsing this - and here's the reason why we see him saying this several times over and over again to God: it has become a stronghold in his mind. He has believed the lie, and now there is a stronghold in his mind.
But I want you to see that it's after the angelic and practical intervention that the word of the Lord came to Elijah again, isn't that interesting? It backs up what I said: sometimes people are not ready to receive from God, they need a bit of time, space, practical intervention. Look at what the word of the Lord is, the word of the Lord comes in the cave, verse 9, halfway through, and He says to him: 'What are you doing here, Elijah?'. The emphasis, I think, is: 'Elijah, you mighty man of God, you man who did great exploits for the Lord, what are you doing here, Elijah?'. I wonder is God saying that to you tonight? I don't know where you are, but maybe the Lord is coming to you and saying: 'What are you doing here?'.
How did he get there? Well, let's move on from the cave to the mountain. We saw him under the broom tree in the wilderness burnt out and depressed, in the cave hiding and complaining, and now on the mountain waiting and watching. Now, isn't it interesting, physically he's on a mountaintop but spiritually he's in a valley. Can I tell you: that can actually happen. I have read accounts of people like Hudson Taylor, and even Duncan Campbell, that were in the middle of blessing of God in a supernatural way, but they were in a spiritual valley and felt they were nowhere. Here's Elijah, the great man of God, physically he's on a mountaintop, but spiritually in the valley - and in the cave, verse 11, God says: 'Go out, go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord'. Now this is interesting to me, because there is usually something for us to do to position ourselves for Divine encounter. We have noticed this, we have noticed that Moses turned aside to see that great sight and then God spoke. A burning bush was nothing special in the wilderness for a Shepherd to see, but there was something different, and it was when he allowed himself to be intrigued by that and turned and waited and watched, that God then spoke. God was calling Elijah: 'Go out, and stand on the mountain, position yourself for a Divine encounter'.
Now I don't know what that means for you, how you need to position yourself for a Divine encounter - maybe it's the sleep, maybe it's the food, maybe it's fasting, maybe it's staying up all night, I don't know - God needs to speak to you, but you need to hear what God is saying to you to position yourself for a Divine encounter. What I'm really hitting at here is: so often we are too passive when it comes to Divine encounters - do you know what I mean? The opposite of active. So we're sitting around waiting, 'Oh God, if You want to give me a Divine encounter, You know my address and You can zap me - but, you know, God has never done that for me', and you're not looking for it. One: you're not looking for it; you're not expecting it, that's maybe why you don't have it - but are you positioning yourself? What does that mean? Well, you need to find that out, because it meant different things for these men and women that we're talking about these nights, and it will mean something different for you - so you need to get God's ear. You need to get to that place where God is speaking to you the way He is speaking to Elijah, and saying 'Go out'. Do you remember the prodigal son? The turnaround in his fortune happened when he came to himself in the pigpen and said: 'I will arise and go to my father, and say unto him 'I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no more worthy to be called your son'' - but the whole change in his spiritual position took place when he arose, he got up from where he was at and he went to father.
So God says: 'Go out, get out of your cave, Elijah'; and maybe the Lord is saying to you 'Get out of your cage, get out of your hiding place, stop hiding, stop being passive! If you want a Divine encounter, get up and go after it, and don't care what anybody else thinks, where they see you going, and what place you enter into, or where you fly to, or who you listen to, or who you're reading - get out of your cave! Get out and stand on the mountain before the Lord!'. Isn't that interesting? What mountain? This is Mount what? Horeb? This is called 'the mountain of the Lord', isn't it? Do you know what mountain it is? A lot of people don't know this: Mount Horeb is Mount Sinai, it's the same mountain. You think of the stuff, the supernatural stuff that went on on this mountain previously, didn't we touch on this before? There can be places where God is in the habit of showing up. Isn't it interesting - I don't understand this, and I don't need to - but it's God that says to him 'You need to go to the mountain', and he's in a cave, isn't he? Do you remember where Moses was whenever God passed by him? He was in a cave - but whereas Moses was in the cave, Elijah had to get out of the cave. Wouldn't it be funny if it was the same cave? It would be God if it was the same cave, that would be like Him, wouldn't it?
He says 'Go out', 'And behold, the Lord passed by', the Lord passed by - now, how did He pass by? 'And a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces 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; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice'. Now this has often intrigued me, this passage of Scripture, this verse - the reason being: there are many other places within Scripture where wind, earthquake, and fire display the presence of God; and I think it's doing exactly the same here as well. Because what we've got here is the Shekinah Glory of God - and I think I've taught you before, I don't know exactly, but I probably have mentioned that the Shekinah of God are figurative images, motifs, that indicate when God is around, when the presence of God shows up. So it could be cloud, it could be fire, it could be thunder, earthquakes here, it could be a voice - various things, light, even darkness, that appear whenever God is about - but they are not God, they are not God Himself, they are just things that happen when God is around. This is what is going on here: these are signs of the Divine presence, they are actually preceding the Lord just like a messenger, but they are not the Lord Himself. Matthew Henry actually says: 'These are allusions to the angelic procession that precedes the Lord', so it's as if the angels are going by, wind and fire and earthquake, ahead of the Lord Himself - but these things were not God Himself.
I want you to note here tonight that these phenomena, they must have been spectacular - can you see him standing outside this cave and the wind, and the fire, and the earthquake? But these phenomena were not what Elijah needed, now ponder that. Sure, he saw a miracle in chapter 18, did he not? Fire coming from heaven, but it wasn't doing any good here, was it, in chapter 19? I believe, you know I believe in the miraculous, and you know I believe we need the miraculous, and you know I believe we need touches of the supernatural - but that was not going to answer Elijah's problem at this moment. Often we fall into the same trap, when we seek a Divine encounter, we are seeking the phenomena, we're seeking the gifts, and we're not seeking God for Himself. Now it's not wrong to seek those things in their rightful place, we're encouraged to, but not at the expense of seeking Him. Frances Brook put it:
'My goal is God Himself, not joy, nor peace,
Nor even blessing, but Himself, my God'
What Elijah needed was to hear the voice of God again. Do you know something? This man's mind, in the state that it was in, needed the whispers of God. That's what some people need. When they are in a state of distress, when they're depressed, dejected, even suicidal, they don't need somebody shouting and ranting and raving in a rain dance fashion around them, they need the whispers of God. Some people with disturbed minds, they need to hear the still small voice.
This still small voice that the Lord was in can be translated 'the voice of a gentle whisper'. Do you know one of the greatest hindrances to the supernatural is the desire for the sensational? Now God does do sensational things and spectacular things, but sometimes our desire for that gets in the way of the supernatural which is often very supernaturally natural. It's more natural at times than we realise. We need to cultivate a quietness. I mean, let's face it, you can't hear a still small voice if there's a lot of hullabaloo and racket around - and that applies to your mind, it applies to your heart, it applies to your environment. We need to get quiet again. I've talked, I think I did, about solitude, I think maybe when Moses was in the wilderness we touched on that. It's not easy in today's modern age when there are dings, buzzes, and all sorts of things going off every couple of seconds, social media, and SMS, emails - it's hard to get away, there is so much clamouring for our attention and trying to drown out the voice of God. That's why we're not often hearing the voice of God, because we're hearing so many other things.
A few weeks ago, Barbara, my wife, was writing a 'Get Well' card to my sister-in-law who had gone through an operation. Very often Barbara will come into me when I'm in the study, and in a train of thought or something, and she'll say: 'Give me a verse, give me a passage for to put on this card' - and I just fling out half times any old verse, not any old verse, something relevant, but I don't think and pray about it for much time. Usually it's Psalm 121 - so if you've got a card from us with Psalm 121, now you know the process of how it works, or Psalm 46: 'God is our refuge and strength', you know. That particular day it was Psalm 46, I said 'Put Psalm 46, that will be a good one', and so later on in the day I had a wee pitstop time with God, a wee prayer time. I sat down on my easy chair in my study and thought 'What will I meditate on here for a moment or two in prayer?'. It came into my mind, Psalm 46 verses 10 and 11, 'Be still and know that I am God'. I thought 'Sure, I know that', you're thinking 'I'm so familiar with that verse, you know, that's not going to do much for me now' - we're always looking something new, aren't we? But I really felt strongly: 'No', that the Lord was telling me to lift this. I had (don't fall off your seat, now) a pile of Bibles at the side of my easy chair, and at the top of them was one I like a lot 'The Good News Bible', OK, don't tell anybody! I like the pictures in it! I lifted the Good News Bible and I looked up Psalm 46 verses 10 and 11. It astounded me, here's what it said: 'Stop fighting, and know that I am God'. Did you know that 'be still', that's what it means? We think it means sitting in the lotus position or something, what does 'be still' mean? In the context of that Psalm, God, the God of Jacob is the God who makes wars to cease - 'Stop fighting'. That's what Jacob needed to hear, 'Stop wrestling, Jacob, be still'. I was rebuked, I thought I knew that verse 'Be still and know that I'm God'. Then I had another underneath that one, there's another translation I have called 'The Passion Translation', a very good translation - and I thought 'I wonder what it says'. Here's how it rendered 'Be still and know that I'm God', listen: 'Surrender your anxiety, be silent, and stop your striving, and you will see that I am God'. Surrender your anxiety, be silent, and stop your striving, and you will see that I am God - that's why some of us can't hear the still small voice, there is too much anxiety going on.
There is a Greek translation of the Old Testament, did you know that, called the Septuagint? If you look at the footnotes in your Bible, it will be shown as the LXX, it's the Greek version of the Hebrew Old Testament. Do you know how it translates 'be still'? 'Relax and know that I am God'. Did you know you have to relax to hear the still small voice? I don't tell too many people this - I suppose it's a bad job doing it now - but God often speaks to me through dreams. Some of my dreams are a lot of rubbish, but sometimes God speaks to me through my dreams - that might be because I'm too busy in my head when I'm awake, I don't know. But do you know when God most often speaks to me when I'm asleep and when I'm awake? On my holidays. I'd love to ask you: is that the same for any of you, but maybe you backslide when you go on holidays, I don't know! Do you understand what I'm saying? Do you see when I naturally relax, still myself - not for God, I'm not doing it for God, I'm doing it for myself - but when I naturally become still, all of a sudden I can hear. I remember getting a full sermon one morning after a bit of a lie in in the caravan, I woke up, read the book of Esther, and God downloaded a sermon that you can get (I think I might have preached it here) on 'God's Door In Disaster', but it was all downloaded from God in that moment. I should lie in all the time, shouldn't I?
But what was the message - I'm almost finished - what was the message, what was the message of the still small voice? Well, we maybe don't know it all. He wrapped his mantle around him, having heard the voice of God, and God says again: 'What are you doing here, Elijah? What's going on with you?'. Then he goes on a spiel again: 'I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life'. 'Then the Lord said to him: 'Go, return on your way to the Wilderness' - and basically, here's what God tells him, are you ready? 'Go and anoint two kings, Elijah' - and by anointing the two kings, what he was doing was, he was finishing the wicked dynasty of Ahab who was the troubler of all Israel. So God was answering Elijah's prayers. Not only had he to anoint two kings, he had to anoint Elisha as his successor in the prophetic ministry. So what God was saying to him was 'Elijah, you're not the only one that is left, and you will have a legacy in Elisha and his ministry.
You remember Elisha - this is all a digression - but you remember Elisha desired to have a double portion of what came upon Elijah. Do you know that Elisha had exactly double the number of miracles that Elijah had? Did you know that? Well, that's not quite true, to one extent, he had one less until his funeral, and then the dead man was thrown in on the coffin and he came alive - and it was double, exactly, of the miracles of Elijah. Then God just crowns it all by saying: 'Anyway, Elijah, there are 7000 who have not yet bowed the knee to Baal or kissed him'. You know what seven is in the Bible, it's the perfect number, this is speaking of a perfect number of people interceding and calling upon God - and you're going to see your prayers answered, Elijah! Do not despair!
If we could be a bit harsher about it, the Lord is really saying: 'Elijah, get over yourself, there's more than you, there's more than you'. Sometimes we all have - myself included - we all have a wee 'Elijah fit' where we think 'I'm the only one doing this', or 'I'm the only one standing for this', or 'I'm the only one, I'm the only one' - and it's a lot of rubbish. Do you know God can do it without you? He can do it without me. If I died and went to heaven tonight, He can do it without me. In fact, I don't even think I would be missed because God will do something else. What did Mordecai say to Esther? 'If you don't do it, deliverance will come from another place'.
So I don't know if you're under the broom tree or not, or you're in the cave, or you're on the mountain but in the valley - but do you know what you need? You need to be still, and you need to wait and watch for the word of the Lord. Let's pray. One of the greatest encounters could be the still small voice of God. I know we want the pyrotechnics, and the lights in the sky, and we want the earthquakes and all that stuff - and God can do that, and I'm up for that alright, shake, rattle and roll, bring it on - but not at the expense of the still small voice. Because I'm going to tell you this: it's the still small voice that will be your meat day and night, that will feed your soul. When the big miracles aren't happening, the still small voice will go on speaking and feeding you. The still small voice will be what will prevent you from burning out. Like Jesus says: 'I have meat that you know not of, I have food that you don't know about', and it was the voice of God, 'I do what I see the Father do'.
I don't know where you're at. Maybe you're depressed and dejected, or you're hiding, or you're disappointed, or you feel 'I'm the only one doing this'. Would you allow God to come to you tonight? Now, I'm not going to go back on what I said, some of you might need a bit of R&R spiritually and even physically. Some of you might need a bit of time out in order to get into a place where you can actually receive and hear the voice of God. Over Christmas I took a few weeks off, and I'll be honest with you: at the beginning of those holidays, because I had been so busy before Christmas (and, by the way, I'm getting close to it now again), I could hardly hear the voice of God, I could hardly feel God. But after a couple of weeks - and I wasn't praying and fasting over Christmas, I could have done with a bit of fasting over Christmas! - but by the end of Christmas, I was starting to hear God again. You know, we are obsessed in Christian circles with meetings, and with serving, and with running, and with doing - and as someone well said: 'We are human beings, not human doings'. We need to be, God is the great 'I AM', and we need to be in His presence if we're going to do anything worthwhile.
Maybe you just need to choose tonight: 'I need to put some buffers into my life. I need to practice Sabbath rest on a weekly basis, and on a daily basis have little junctures during the day when I pause'. Maybe you need sabbatical, where you take a month off, some of you maybe need to take a year out, a career break. I don't know, but maybe some of you are looking for the spectacular, you're looking for God in the earthquake, fire, and wind; but you've ignored the still small voice. What you need to do now is be still, take your journal - if you haven't got one, get one - and in the stillness allow God to start to speak to you, and write down what He is saying. He will speak - do you see when I start doing that, He says so much I can hardly get it all down. But do you know what my problem is? Taking the time to stop and to listen.
Father, we ask for Your stillness to come, and we believe You have. Lord, we just pray now - I pray for some who are ready, that You might even speak in that still small voice now.
'Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace'.
Lord, help people in this room tonight to surrender their anxiety, to be silent, to stop striving, to stop fighting, to relax and rest upon You - the rest of faith. There is a Sabbath appointed unto the people of God, there is a rest appointed to the people of God. Oh Lord, let us come to You with all our heavy laden burdens and find rest. Lord, may there be people here tonight and in subsequent days who have their Divine encounter. If there are people with depression, if there are people suicidal, if there are people struggling about their role and calling and identity, if there is anybody here with an Elijah complex - Lord, would You come and begin to meet them at the point of their need, and show them that it's not about them, it's about You. The work goes on, and the kingdom of God goes on irrespective of who the prophet is. Lord, I pray that You will just bless the rest of our fellowship together tonight, and whatever else You want to do. We love You, Lord, we love You. There is so much pride at times, Lord, we think we are something - and yet, Lord, You love us, we are valuable to You, we are unique and You shed the blood of Jesus for us, we mean so much to You. We thank You that You're so gracious to us and long-suffering, and we will get there, Lord, we know we will - help us to get there all the quicker, Lord, by Your grace. Bless our time, we thank You for these refreshments. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at Loughbrickland Mission Hall in Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the fifth recording in his Divine Encounters series, titled "Elijah On The Mountain" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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