This sermon is number 7 in a series of 12
As Sparks Flying Upwards - Part 7
"The Exhaustion Of Elijah"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2002 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
I Kings 19:1-18
Our reading this evening is taken from the first book of Kings and chapter 19, 1 Kings chapter 19, and we are beginning to read at verse 1 to 18. Now let me just say that we're speaking on the subject this evening 'The Exhaustion of Elijah', and some of the young people gathered out this evening will have been at the Young Life meeting recently where I dealt with the character of Elijah. The outline that you have before you may be rather similar, but I assure you that the contents in between the outline is dramatically changed. So don't be thinking you going to get an action replay this evening - although the points are quite similar I hope and trust that there are some new thoughts for you here this evening.
Beginning at verse 1: "And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain all the prophets", of Baal that is, "with the sword. 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. And when he saw that, he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beersheba, which belongeth 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 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. And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat. 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. 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. 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? 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. 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: And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. 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? 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. 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: And Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint to be king over Israel: and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abelmeholah shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room. 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. 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".
If you're familiar with chapters 18 and 19 of 1 Kings you will know that in chapter 18 verses 1 through to 40 you have Elijah's challenge to the priests and prophets of Baal. You will know that there was a revival of Baal worship in Canaan and among the people of God. In other words, they were following false gods, they were exercising false rituals, giving false sacrifices, and they were worshipping this false god Baal. Of course, King Ahab and Jezebel were encouraging this Baal worship. But it all came to a climax, or a showdown if you like, on Mount Carmel where Elijah, the prophet of God, is faced with many of the prophets of Baal and Elijah throws down the gauntlet and challenges them: who is the real God of heaven who answers by fire? Does Baal answer by fire? In other words, is Baal the real and the living and the true god, or is Jehovah God? Is Jehovah the God who will answer by fire?
Of course you know the story, that the prophets of Baal set up a sacrifice, and they called upon their god, Baal. They cut themselves, they rent their garments, they squealed and they yelled like mad men and women, and they cried for their god - but there was no answer. As you read down chapter 18 you find that Elijah taunts them. He asks them: 'Where has your god gone? Has he gone on a journey? Is your god asleep?' - and in sarcasm he pokes fun at the fact that their god is not a real and a living god, their god does not exist. Then after that great showdown Elijah comes, he digs a trench around the sacrifice, he pours water in the trench, three times he pours water over the sacrifice - if I could say it, it doesn't make sense but this is the way I think of it, it was as if he was making it hard for God to do what seemed impossible in the eyes of the prophets of Baal. He prayed and cried unto his God, and the God that answereth by fire answered by fire, and consumed the whole sacrifice. Elijah restored the altar of the Lord, the God of heaven answered by fire, and the people of Israel were heard to cry on Mount Carmel: 'The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God! Jehovah, He is God!'. What a triumph!
If that was not enough we move on from the challenge to the priests of Baal, and we find in verses 41 to 45 that he takes Ahab, he tells Ahab to go and have a meal because God is going to come and answer prayer and bring great rain - the famine will be broken, the famine that was across the land because of their idolatry and their Baal worship would finish. So Ahab goes off to an inn somewhere and he eats and he drinks, and Elijah goes and he prays and puts his head between his knees and cries unto God seven times for the rain to come, and the seventh time his servant sees a little cloud in the sky about the size and like the shape of a man's hand. And Elijah said: 'There is the sound of abundance of rain'. The heavens opened and the rains fell, and the blessing comes to the land again. That is why in the book of James we read that Elijah was just like us - but he prayed for rain and God answered him, and the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
What a great man Elijah was, and in chapter 18 alone we see the triumph of Elijah the man of power, Elijah the man of prayer. We see him walking back from this great victory with his servant as the rain comes drenching down, as the winds of the storm are blowing in his face, and Elijah goes back to his humble home, and Ahab goes up to the great palace. All the day long, I imagine in my mind's eye, Jezebel to be looking out of the window of the palace wondering how the great showdown was going on, how the great battle of divine powers was taking place. I wonder as she saw the dark storm clouds hovering over the land, she probably thought that Baal and her prophets had won the day. You can imagine Ahab coming into the palace after the great battle, you can imagine Jezebel asking him how the day had gone. F. B. Meyer, in his book of character studies, does exactly that and this is the way it goes: "She says to Ahab: 'How have things gone today? No doubt well, the rain has anticipated your favourable reply'. Ahab says: 'I have nothing to tell you that will give you pleasure'. 'Why?', she says. 'The worst has happened'. 'What do you mean the worst has happened? Where are my priests?'. Ahab says: 'You will never see them again, they are all dead! By this time their bodies are floating out to sea'. 'Who has dared do this thing?', she says, 'Did they not defend themselves? Did you not raise your hand for them? How did they die?'. And then Ahab would tell her: 'The God, Jehovah, answered by fire'".
We're reminded of the words of Shakespeare when we see her response: 'Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned'. Ahab was a sensual man, we must remember that, the Scriptures teach us that he was extremely materialistic and all he cared about was eating and drinking, his horses and his mules, looking after his riches, and really deep down he didn't really care who was the nation's god - which deity they followed. It didn't matter to him whether it was Baal, or whether it was Jehovah - it was just who filled his pockets with the most, sensually and materialistically. But Jezebel was a different character altogether, Jezebel was a passionate disciple of the god Baal. As soon as she heard this news that all of the prophets of Baal were slain by the hand of Elijah, I believe that deep down in her heart she feared that there would be a great reformation, a great revival, a great turning again to Jehovah in the land. Like Queen Mary fearing the prayers of John Knox more than the Spanish Armada, Queen Jezebel feared the prayers and the preaching of Elijah more than any nation upon the face of God's earth. That is why in verse 2 of chapter 19 it says that she sent a messenger unto him, and said to Elijah: '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'. 'May the gods of heaven do to me what you did to my prophets, if I don't do to you what you did to them by this time tomorrow'.
I'm not sure that she really wanted his blood, but one thing I'm sure of is: she wanted him out of the land. She wanted his holy influence out of the nation so that this great turning of the tide back to God would be stopped. I imagine that this perhaps was the destiny, if you like in the words of the book of Esther, Elijah had come to the kingdom for such a time as this. If there was any time in Elijah's life when he was needed in the land, he was needed now. The tide was changing from Baal to Jehovah. From what we know of Elijah and all his great triumphs of faith, his great triumphs of prayer, his great triumphs of power - you read these verses and you're waiting with bated breath for another great supernatural exploit of spiritual heroism, but we're deflated! We're horrified! We're disappointed and let down as we see what happens. For when this message comes from Jezebel we find in verse 3 that when Elijah saw this, 'he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beersheba, which belongeth to Judah, and left his servant there'. He fled the kingdom of Israel and went down to Judah.
Can you see that gaunt figure that once was a great man, under the cover of the night sky, the cover of the clouds beating down the rain of blessing from God, can you see him scurrying through the driving rain like an animal pursued by its predator across the hills of Samaria? He reaches Beersheba, he leaves his servant there; he still doesn't feel safe enough and so he runs into the wild desert waste stretches southward of Mount Sinai. He wants to get as far away from this wicked Queen as possible. Can you see him as the sun rises in the morning and he walks over the scorching sands? He's dehydrated, he's weary, he's tired - until he gets to the end of himself and he falls beneath the shade of a juniper tree, and cries out in despair: 'I've had enough! Lord, take my life!'.
What a different character he seems to be now to us, doesn't he? This is truly the exhaustion of Elijah. Some scholars believe, I don't know what to believe, but some of them believe that if this great man had not caved in at this point a great revival and a great reformation would have come to the land, and there would not have been a dispersion - it would have been prevented. But isn't it interesting, as we've been going through this study 'As Sparks Flying Upwards' looking at great men like Abraham, and like Jacob and Joseph and Moses, and now this great prophet Elijah - how these great characters of the Bible often fall down where we most would have expected them to stand strong! You remember Abraham, and we have seen that he is known as the father of faith, yet we see him going down to Egypt and lying to Pharaoh. He didn't have faith enough in God to believe that Pharaoh wouldn't touch his wife, so he says that she's his sister.
Do you remember Moses? We were finishing him off last week in our studies, and we saw how he became the meekest of all men that walked upon the face of earth - yet, as we read in the end of the Pentateuch, he missed the Promised Land because he spoke unadvisedly with his lips. His strength was his weakness, and in the very point that we would have thought him to have succeeded was the point at which he fell. We have them warts and all, don't we? Incidentally one man has said, and says rightly, this is one very subtle proof that the Bible which we hold in our hands is truly the word of God. There is no embellishment of the saints of God within the Scriptures - it gives their dark side and their light side. It paints the picture of their biographies as God, the holy, holy, holy God of heaven, sees them - everything is there for us!
I don't know about you, but it's a tremendous blessing and encouragement to me to realise that men like Elijah, Abraham, Moses, Isaac and Jacob were real flesh and blood sinners just like you and me. They were not stained-glass saints! What a solace for us, that specifically this man Elijah is described as a man of like passions as we are. If you're familiar with Christian history and biography you will know that some of the greatest men and women of God and saints of history have suffered in exactly the same way as the prophet Elijah has. I'm talking about depression, I'm talking about despondency and despair - it's almost a dirty word in Christian circles. People say Christians should never be depressed, never be despondent - and that is true, an ideal Christian ought never to be, but none of us are ideal Christians, we're all sinners saved by grace.
Even the greatest of us have fallen into the depths of the valleys of depression like Elijah. Listen to Spurgeon, in his book 'Lectures to My Students', a book that he writes for young men who are going into the ministry, under the chapter entitled 'Minister's Fainting Fits' he admits himself that he had great depressions in his own life - he had great 'fainting fits' personally. He cites them to be often before great successes, and even after great successes - and if you look at the life of Elijah, that's exactly what happens to him. After the great triumph of Carmel he's down in the valley after the mountain, and we find that after - in chapter 20 - he's back up on the mountaintop again. Before a success, after a success, it doesn't matter - we can all be prone to these depressions. He said that he often could not explain them, but listen to what he does say - I quote: 'Fits of depression come over most of us. Usually, cheerful as we may be, we must at intervals be cast down. The strong are not always vigorous, the wise are not always ready, the brave are not always courageous, and the joyous not always happy. There may be, here and there, men of iron - but surely the rust frets even these. Surely the rust erodes even the most iron of men'.
Even great Christian leaders of state have been prone to it - none other than perhaps the greatest president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, who was a child of God. Listen to what he said: 'I am now the most miserable man living. If what I feel were equally distributed to the whole human family, there would not be one cheerful soul on earth! To remain as I am is impossible, I must die to be better'! Have you ever felt like that? Maybe you have felt that you are one of the most iron of men, but where you are at present tonight the rust is eroding your character and even your spiritual prestige. Perhaps you feel like Abraham Lincoln, that you can't get out of your problem, and you must die for things to get better. Now let me say this: take great heart tonight, for Elijah was a man of like passions as you!
Now if we're to see how Elijah got out of his exhaustion, we are to do two things: we are to pinpoint his problems, and we need to look at the God-given solutions to his problems. I want us to look first of all at the external problems that Elijah faced - there are external and there are internal problems, but let's look first at the external ones. The first is the circumstances that Elijah faced. If you remember, there was a famine in the land. The famine was there because of the people of Israel's disobedience and idolatry, but right at the top echelons of society there was political and religious compromise, there was apostasy among the people of God. There is here, facing Elijah, God's prophet, if you like God's representative upon the earth at this particular time, a combination of adverse circumstances that was starting to affect this iron man of God. The rain was literally coming down, but as far as he was concerned it was raining and it was pouring - and you've experienced that, when it doesn't just rain but it pours. You say to yourself: 'I could deal with perhaps one of these problems, but why do all of them have to come on top of me as a dozen?'. Everything seems to, at a certain time in your life, break in and you just can't cope and you break down under it.
Let me just say in passing: that is why it is so important that, when the going is good, that you keep short accounts with God, and you have a regular ministry of worship and communion before the Lord - so that when the hard times come in, and perhaps even that communion is momentarily cut off by necessity, you have a spiritual reservoir in the past that you have carved into your life whereby you can draw out of it. One thing I want you to note is something that we have already learned in the life of Moses - remember we saw that Moses, the book of Hebrews tells us, endured as seeing Him who was invisible? He turned down the riches and the splendour and the status of Egypt by faith, the book of Hebrews says, yet we read in Exodus that by fear he ran away from Pharaoh - we looked at that apparent contradiction last week. We saw how there came a point in Moses' life where what began in faith, he tried to carry on in the flesh. He began to walk by sight and not by faith, he was looking at what people thought of him when he used his right hand in slaying the Egyptian. When Pharaoh heard what Moses had done in slaying that Egyptian, he sought to slay Moses but Moses fled in fear - and you have exactly the same here in verse 3.
Look at the verse, when Elijah saw what the messenger of Jezebel was saying - when he saw, not when he heard, when he saw - he fled! What was he doing? The great man of faith began to walk by sight and not by faith. Circumstances came in and faith went out. The second external problem he faced were personalities. Sometimes we can theorise and theologise these biblical stories so much that we forget that they are real red flesh and blood people in everyday experience in life. These two people that Elijah is fleeing from were just that - two people, they are personalities: Jezebel and Ahab. A great many of the problems that we face in life are usually problem people - problems that come to us through people. It might be unconverted family members; it might be friends in our life - whether our neighbours or work colleagues - it might be people at school who are unkind and bullying us; it might be people in the church, and problems in the church, and politics in the church. It can be so many things, it may even be Christians that we're disillusioned with. We see them living and doing and saying things that they ought not to do as a Christian, and we become despondent, we become depressed and dejected. Even some of the closest to us can make us despair.
Turn with me for a moment, because I want to illustrate this with a biblical story, to Exodus chapter 4. This is another scene, a little cameo from the life of Moses that we didn't have time to deal with - I wanted to deal with it, but we didn't have time to deal with it so I'm pushing it in here tonight, but it actually fits in quite well with what we're looking at. Verse 24 of chapter 4 of Exodus, Moses has been called, Moses is now on his way to Egypt to deliver the people from Egypt into the promised land, verse 24 says: 'It came to pass by the way', on the road, 'in the inn, that the LORD met Moses, and sought to kill him'. Now just wipe your eyes, because you're reading it right: the Lord sought to kill Moses. This is the same Moses that He protected from Pharaoh, that He floated up the river, that He made grow up 40 years in Egypt, gave him all the learning of Egypt in the wisdom - he was a statesman and a soldier. It's the same Moses that went into the Midianite desert and served there another 40 years to the age of 80, it's the same Moses that He appeared to through a burning bush and commissioned. It's the same Moses whom He put up with all the excuses that we heard about last week, that you and I wouldn't put up with. Yet here, after all of this, He's seeking to kill this man Moses!
Verse 25: 'Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son', Gershom, 'and cast it at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband art thou to me. So he let him go', God let Moses go, 'then she said, A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision'. The only plain and simple reasonable explanation of this particular aspect of Moses' life is simply this: Zipporah, Moses' wife, who was not of the nation of the Israelites, objected to the circumcision of her son Gershom - and as they are on their way to Egypt to deliver the people of God, and as Moses one day soon would receive the law of God from Mount Sinai, and as he would instruct the people of God to circumcise their own children as Abraham had been taught in the covenant - he would go, yet his own son was not circumcised probably because of the influence of Zipporah. How do I know that? Well, I don't know it for definite, but everything seems to point to that - because she saves Moses' life by taking a stone, circumcising the child, throwing the foreskin at Moses' feet, and saying to Moses: 'A bloody husband thou art to me, the bloody husband!'. Do you see it?
That's not what I want you to see, what I want you to see is this: how even the nearest and the dearest to us can cause grave problems to us. I believe that it was probably at this point that Moses sent Zipporah and Gershom and his whole family back to Jethro his father-in-law - why? Because they were a hindrance to him, they were a weight upon him in God's race, a sin that easily beset him. How could he teach the Israelites to circumcise their children if he wasn't doing it himself? Like Paul said, he said himself: 'I keep my body under subjection; lest by any means, when I have preached to others, I should become a castaway'.
There's a fascinating story in the life of John Wesley. It's about his wife - you may not have known that John Wesley was married, the founder of Methodism. But listen to this, J.C. Ryle says in his book 'Christian Leaders of the 18th-century' - he deals with people like Whitefield and Wesley, and various other great men of God - he says of Wesley's wife: 'Wesley was once married at the age of 48. He married a widow lady of the name of Vazeille, of a suitable age and of some independent property which she took care to have settled upon herself. The union was a most unhappy one. Whatever good qualities Mrs Wesley may have had, they were buried and swallowed up in the fiercest and most absurd passion of jealousy. One of his biographers remarks: 'Had he searched the whole kingdom he could hardly have found a woman more unsuitable to him in all important respects'. After making her husband as uncomfortable as possible for 20 years by opening his letters, putting his papers in the hands of his enemies in the vain hope of blasting his character, and even sometimes laying violent hands on him, Mrs Wesley at length left her home, leaving word that she never intended to return'. Now this is powerful, listen to this: 'Wesley simply states the fact in his journal saying that he knew not the cause, and briefly adding: 'I did not forsake her, I did not dismiss her, and I will not recall her''. John Wesley, the great revivalist - yet the nearest and the dearest to him was a personality problem.
Circumstances, personalities - and then there are his internal problems. Let's look at them very quickly in the time that we have left. His internal problems - the first is his convictions. He's in the mess that he's in because he has followed God. In 1 Kings 18:17 and 18 Ahab calls him the 'troubler of Israel', when Ahab himself - as Elijah says - is the troubler of Israel. It's because of his idolatry and sin that the famine had come, yet Elijah is labelled as the troublemaker - as we Christians are today. In verses 10 and 14 of chapter 19 Elijah protests: 'I alone am left' - I alone am left! - 'I have done zealously for the Lord Jehovah, and look at what I'm getting for what I'm doing'. But Elijah was right, do you know that? Because of standing up for his principles, he was suffering because of his beliefs, and that is hard to suffer for your beliefs and for your convictions - but if you've got any convictions worth having they will be worth suffering for, and you will be called to suffer for them.
The path to godly greatness is often a lonely path, and it causes many to draw back, and it almost caused Elijah to draw back in this particular instance. Convictions, and then secondly fears and emotions. It is rightly said that the best of men are only men at best. In verse 4 what does he do? He falls under the juniper tree, he says: 'It's enough, I have had enough, I can't go on! Lord, just take my life!'. Have you ever said that? It's human, you know, to say that - 'I can't go on!'. Do you remember Jonah? It's almost humorous when you see Jonah sitting down under the gourd, and just looking and waiting to see if God's going to just fry this whole people, the Ninevites, and boy do they deserve it! He's sitting there, I can imagine, with a packed lunch of popcorn, waiting - just loving it! Wanting to see them all being judged for their sin, but his ways were not God's ways! As he sits there, you remember what happened, God causes the gourd to be eaten up by a worm, and then the sun comes and beats down on him - and he cries out to God in despair because he's not getting his way, and he says: 'It is better for me to die than to live!'.
You remember John the Baptist, the greatest prophet ever born of woman? He sends his disciples to the Lord as he's in prison, and he says: 'Art thou he that should come, or look we for another?'. Now I know there are people believe that the great Baptist would never have doubted, but I remind you please that his type in the Old Testament was whom? Elijah! And where is Elijah now? John the Baptist was only a man like any of them, subject to like passions, subject to fears and emotions - and can I encourage you please, if you do anything with fears and emotions, don't listen to them! Emotions are meant to be controlled by us, they are not meant to control us. If we are not careful our emotions will be controlled and exploited and used by the forces of evil and the devil himself. You control your emotions, like the Psalmist when he says: 'Why art thou downcast, O my soul?' - who's he talking to? He's talking to himself. Why? He's asking a question of himself: 'Why are you depressed? Why are you downcast? Hope thou in God'. That is controlling your emotions, not letting your emotions control you.
Thirdly, his physical and mental condition were one and many of his internal problems. I want you to imagine this please, his physical strength and his nervous energy is completely overtaxed. Remember what he has come through: the great high of a spiritual power clash on Mount Carmel with the prophets of Baal - remember it was his own hand, he slew all those prophets! He killed them all in battle! Then he goes and he agonises in prayer for rain, and then he walks 18 miles - in fact he doesn't walk it, he sprints 18 miles in front of Ahab's chariot. Then, when he hears the news of what Jezebel's going to do to him, he runs away from her without rest, until he finally collapses in a desperate depressed heap, in sheer exhaustion and desperation, and cries out: 'I've had enough!'.
I hope you know, we haven't got time to go into it tonight, but I hope you know that your body, your soul, and your spirit are what you are made up of. You are a tripartite being, your body is sense-conscious - you touch the world, you sense things with your body. Your soul is self-conscious, your personality, your soul is your intellect, your will and your emotions. Your spirit is God-conscious, what you communicate with God with. Although they have separate functions in a sense, a lot of them overlap and they are related to one another. What I mean by that is this: if you are tired and weak physically it can have an effect upon your spiritual life, and you must remember that! If you're ill don't get guilty because you can't kneel down and pray because your knees are wrecked! You know what I'm talking about - what else am I talking about? I'm talking about going about the Master's business every night of the week, so much so that you're exhausted when it comes to a spiritual challenge.
Let's look quickly, as we close, at his solutions. Three things, it's a kind of spiritual check up. The first thing is this: get a good rest. Is that too carnal? Get a good rest? Well, that is exactly the first thing that God did with Elijah. We read in verses 5 to 9 that He fed him, and He gave him a drink, and He touched him and Elijah slept. Sometimes that is what we need, and that is what the Lord instructed His disciples to do: 'Come ye apart and rest a while'. We ought not to feel guilty about it - I'm not talking about laziness now, I'm talking about the Sabbath principle. Not the Sabbath day, but the Sabbath principle right throughout the Scriptures which is a principle of rest - a rest that is needed. You need a rest if you're going to do God's work and do it well! Richard Baxter, the puritan, said to his ministers, that he was training: 'Recreation to a minister must be like whetting', an old word for sharpening, 'to a lawnmower'. In other words, it is to be used only so far as is necessary for its work. You sharpen your lawnmower so that it will cut well, and you rest well so that you can work well for the Lord - and it is time to rest if you find yourself in this slough of despond!
Two, get a grip of yourself. Is that harsh? Well, God said to Elijah in verse 18: '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'. Do you know what He was really saying to him? It's this: 'You're not the only one in this position - get a grip of yourself Elijah!'. You know, to hear some people talking about the experiences they have gone through - and I don't try to belittle them - but you'd think they were the only ones that ever went through it. Get a rest, get a grip of yourself, you're not the first who has gone through it and you will not be the last.
Thirdly, and most importantly, get a fresh glimpse of God. In verse 11 we read that God said: 'Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by'. Elijah goes to Mount Horeb, and incidentally I don't think he was led there in the sense that somebody said - an angel with a big signpost: 'Now it's time for Mount Horeb'. Do you know why he went to Mount Horeb? Mount Horeb is Mount Sinai, it's the same mountain - and historically Elijah knew, I believe, that that was the place upon earth where God's manifested presence was. Moses had seen the burning bush, Moses had been given the law there, Moses spent 40 days and nights with God there, and Elijah knew that that was the place where he should go. As the old black Negro spiritual says: 'Where could I go, where could I go, seeking a refuge for my soul?' - and he went to the cave, and he didn't have long to wait. Verse 9 says: 'Behold, the word of the Lord came to him'.
Listen to what F. B. Meyer says: 'There is no spot on earth so lonely, no cave so deep and dark, that the word of the Lord cannot discover us and cannot come to us'. God's voice was not in the earthquake that rent the rocks and the chasms, it was not in the wind that blew the great boulders across that mountain, it was not in the fire that took away all the heather and all the grass on the mountain - the Lord was not in them. You see, I believe Elijah was expecting God to answer as He always did: in a great cataclysmic supernatural way - and that's the way we look for God to answer and to intervene in our lives, but no! God's voice was in a still small voice. Do you know what He was saying to Elijah? 'I'm working a work in your day, Elijah, and you don't even know it. If you knew it you wouldn't believe it. Those 7,000 prophets who have not yet bowed the knee to Baal, I did that through the still small voice and you didn't even know about it'.
As I close tonight, do you know what that reminded me of? I'll tell you: 30 years in a little town of Nazareth, the Son of the Living God was growing up and not a soul knew about it. A still small voice, and even when He came to His ministry, what does it say of Him? He did not strive, nor cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the streets; but he came as the showers upon the mown grass, he came as a lamb, the Lamb of God - and His Spirit descended as a dove. What's the big thing we ought to do in our exhaustions? It is this: go to the mouth of the cave, wrap your face in the mantle, and listen as the heavens open and God says: 'Behold, my beloved Son, hear ye him'.
Father, we thank Thee this evening for a wonderful Saviour. A bruised reed shall He not break, nor a smoking flax quench. We thank Thee that He came as a servant, and He humbled Himself, and He could even say: 'Suffer the little children to come unto me'. Father, we thank Thee that there was not a stern rebuke for Elijah, but there was a still small voice - and for those who are exhausted in their despair tonight, we thank Thee that there is not a stern voice, but a loving Saviour who is there to sympathise, to succour, and who is touched to the very depths of His holy divine humanity with our infirmities. We praise Thee for Him, and we pray that we will find everything that we need in Him, in whose name we pray, Amen.
Preach The Word
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the seventh tape in his 'As Sparks Flying Upwards' series, titled "The Exhaustion Of Elijah" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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