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1 Kings 19:1-7 by Robert Dean
Series:Kings (2007)
Duration:48 mins 54 secs

Beating the Blues; There's No Profit in a Pity Party. 1 Kings 19

 

We see in the Bible that these great men that were used by God not only have tremendous spiritual victories but they also have tremendous spiritual failures. Their flaws are the same flaws that we have. We all have sin natures; we all have failures spiritually, and sometimes our failures are fairly large. In the Scriptures these are recorded for us so that we can see that these great men of God are just like we are. This is why James reminds us that Elijah was a man of like nature. The only thing that made him special was that at key times he was completely dependent upon God and obedient to His Word. Therefore God was able to use him in magnificent ways. But just like us Elijah took his attention off of God and when he did there was tremendous failure. In those failures in our life we often learn more than we do in those times of spiritual success and spiritual victory.

 

What we see when we come to 1 Kings 19 is that the prophet that is so triumphant and victorious in the eighteenth chapter becomes in just two short verses disillusioned, downcast, depressed and despairing of his whole life. So coming to this situation we should address a couple of questions. What are the dynamics of despair? What goes on in our mind and our thinking that takes us from a position where everything is wonderful and moving forward to five seconds later wallowing in self-pity? How does that happen and what is God's solution? What are the divine solving-problem devices that we use in order to recover? These are some of the questions we can answer as we look at what happens with Elijah in 1 Kings 19. We see Elijah at the top of his game. We don't know what Elijah was like before he bursts on the scene in chapter seventeen but from the very beginning he has the spiritual courage to confront those who are standing against God in the northern kingdom of Israel. He goes straight into the presence of the king and he is not cowed, fearful or anxious, he just boldly announces that God is about to bring discipline upon the northern kingdom of Israel and there would not be rain again until he' Elijah, says so.

 

The just as quickly as he appeared on the scene he disappears. We have seen what went on in his life during the three and a half years as God takes him on a training procedure. This is similar to the training procedure that He does for all of us. He takes us through various circumstances and situations in life where we are forced to trust Him; and in trusting Him and enduring in those circumstances spiritual growth and maturity takes place and our confidence in God builds. In each of the situations in Elijah's preparations God is not only preparing Elijah for what is going to happen on Mount Carmel but in each of these miracles and provisions He is specifically dealing with the confrontational points that Elijah is going to face in dealing with Baal, the theology of Baalism and the whole false belief system that had so infected and corrupted the northern kingdom. For each of the miracles there is a counterpoint to what the claim was that Baal could do. All of this culminated in the great confrontation that occurred on Mount Carmel.

 

At the end of that event the priests of Baal and the Asherah are defeated, the forces of evil and tyranny seem to be on the ropes. Ahab is present through the whole situation. When Elijah commands that the priests of Baal and the Asherah are taken down and executed Ahab is obviously present and obviously concurs; he does not resist or contradict Elijah. He has been there, front seat, watching God vaporize the altar that Elijah had built, and this must have made a remarkable impression upon Ahab. He has seen profound empirical evidence of the reality of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and of the inadequacy and failure of the false religious system that he has promoted as he has been influenced by his domineering wife Jezebel. We can almost see Ahab teetering on the verge of perhaps turning to Yahweh. He just goes along with Elijah, there is no longer any resistance whatsoever.  

 

What was going on in their minds? Ahab is headed back to Jezebel. He is wondering what in the world he is going to tell her. He knows how she hates Elijah. The bitterness, anger, the dedication that she has to Baalism, is at the highest level and she has not been there to witness this display of God's power on Mount Carmel. So Ahab has to convince her of that and he has to relay to her that all of her favorite priests of the Asherah and of Baal have been executed by her enemy Elijah. He knows that he is going to face all the wrath of hell from Jezebel when he gets home and tells her because she is not going to take any of this very well.

 

What is going on in Elijah's mind? He has just seen this tremendous display of God. There were thousands of northern Israelites present on Mount Carmel to witness it, and at the conclusion of this display, "The LORD, He is God; the LORD, He is God." They have recognized the power of God. Elijah has spent the last three and a half years focused on this one event that has come about, and all those years waiting upon the Lord. Now is the moment of triumph and what his desire is and what his heart is focused on is that this will bring about a tremendous spiritual revival. That is what he expects will transpire, and as Ahab comes back to Jezreel he is on the edge of realizing that hope that there will be a tremendous turn in the northern kingdom and that the northern kingdom will no longer be mired in the paganism, apostasy and tyranny they had been experiencing for these past several years, that now there will be a return to the worship of God and real freedom.

 

What is going on in the soul of Elijah is the same thing that often goes on in our own soul. We often have our hopes and dreams; we often have our expectations of what God is going to do in our lives. Elijah had an expectation that God would bring about a revival in the northern kingdom. This is a good thing to hope for, it is not a wrong goal; it is not an erroneous objective to hope that people in the land will turn back to God, be obedient to Him and then God will bring the nation back to a position of blessing. We often have valid hopes and dreams in our lives and in the course of our lives we often set these goals and objectives. We have biblically correct God honoring goals and objectives in our lives that we hope to achieve. In order to achieve those goals or objectives we know that as Bible believing Christians it is not just choosing the right end but how we get there. We know that in order to get there we have to study the Word, we have to grow spiritually, that as husbands, wife, parents, we have to fulfill what the Scripture teaches in order to be effective, godly parents, husbands, wives. In careers and pursuit of financial goals we know that there are certain principles that we need to apply. So we not only choose goals or objectives that are valid and are honoring to God but we choose a way to get there that we know also honors God. If we do it God's way then we know that the end result is going to be one of blessing.

 

We go through that process and then one day everything crashes. We lose our life's savings and our retirement doesn't look so secure. Our health gets wrecked and we find that the end of our life is going to be very different from what we thought it was going to be. We are married and our spouse goes negative to doctrine, negative to us, and one day we wake up and are alone. Or we have children that have been raised according to biblical principles and then in their late teens it is like we don't know them anymore. So what do we do? How do we handle this? This is the situation that Elijah faced. Everything that he had thought would happen, everything that he had dreamed of for the northern kingdom was not going to happen, and this is what sets him up for failure. And the same thing that sets him up for failure is the same thing that sets us up for failure. It has to do with two things: mental attitude and mental focus. When we get our eyes off of the Lord and on to circumstances, no matter what those circumstances are, blessing or adversity, then we can encounter a tremendous failure in our own spiritual life. When everything goes wrong counter to what we expected, when we have done everything to honor and glorify God, have done everything God's way, and suddenly we lose everything we begin to question ourselves, question God, and swim around in self-absorption and despair, depression, fear, worry and anxiety. We often just throw ourselves one enormous pity party and as a result of that we sometimes begin to blame God. We want to give up and die—"Even so Lord Jesus, Come now!" Why doesn't the Rapture happen this week? Etc.

 

One thing we ought to look at is Elijah's frame of mind. This is one aspect of the spiritual life that is brought out in this passage but is not brought out very much. We often think of things just exclusively within a sort of mental attitude, mental focus, doctrinal position. But the reality is for most of us is that we also have certain physical factors that impinge upon our mental attitude, factors related to rest, to health, nutrition, the stress that comes our way because we are expected to work maybe twelve hours a day, and when we come home we still have work to do, and it piles up on us. We become physically exhausted. That is one of the factors we see here with Elijah. Think of what is going on with him physically. He has had a long, long day; he has been the focal point of tension, of opposition, and he has weathered all of that quite magnificently. At the end of the day there was the execution of the prophets, followed by the time of prayer where he is praying seven times. All of this takes time and so it is getting late in the day. Then he has this fifteen-mile run to Jezreel. He would have been physically exhausted at the end of the day. That physical reality often affects us in terms of our own mental attitude. We all know that when we are tired and have been facing one thing after another then we are much more vulnerable to spiritual failure than when we are alert and refreshed. That is part of the dynamic that is going on with Elijah. We have seen that Elijah has been engaged in this warfare for all of this day and that can be wearying.

 

We have to keep our focus on the Lord. In Ephesians 6:10ff is a great passage dealing with spiritual warfare. "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might." Elijah has understood that his fight must be in the power of God. He has rested and trusted in the Lord and he understands as well as any of us what the apostle Paul states in Ephesians 6:12 NASB "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual {forces} of wickedness in the heavenly {places.}" The battle is not against human beings ultimately. It is not against people who are in places of power where we work, it is not against people in positions of power in the government, it is not against people who are in positions power in education; it is ultimately a spiritual battle. The causation of this lies behind the physical in the realm of the angelic conflict: in the realm of Satan and in the realm of demons. That is why our weapons are not physical weapons and why the issue isn't rationalism and empiricism.

 

There has just been this phenomenal display of God's power on Mount Carmel. Ahab has seen it and Elijah has seen it, and just within a very short time—three verses in the text; probably no more than a couple of hours—Elijah goes from being this tremendous dependent man of God to a despondent, despairing believer who just wants to give up and let God take him home, and he is running in fear for his life. He has made a 180-degree turn in his spiritual life because he took the focus off of God. We have to remember that it is ultimately a spiritual conflict and a spiritual issue and not dependent upon empiricism or rationalism.

 

So Elijah is going to go into another test. When we look at Scripture like this and we see somebody go through this we have to think categorically about what is going on so we can learn the lessons that are there. James tells us we are to count it all joy when we fall into various trials because we know that the testing of our faith produces endurance. Elijah has endured to a point but now he is going to grow weary and is going to fail. He hits this one test. He has had test after test after test and now he is going to fail, just like we do. We have to learn from that and have to apply that to our own failures. We have to be reminded that there are promises, such as 1 Corinthians 10:13 NASB "No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it." All the categories of testing that we go through are common areas of testing that are common to everyone else. The Lord Jesus Christ went through those same categories of testing, yet without sin. And God always makes a way to escape, according to 1 Corinthians 10:13, which doesn't mean to get out from under the pressure, the circumstances, but to stay there. That Greek word for endurance is hupomone [u(pomonh] which means to remain under—"that you may endure it." God provides a way so that you can stay in the test and in the adversity and yet still have victory, still grow and advance spiritually by staying there. That is where we learn the principle of endurance.

 

The Lord Jesus Christ understood this. When he went to the cross He had to face the fact that He was going to receive the judicial imputation of all of our sins. He would have to endure that without failure, without giving up, without getting down off of the cross. He had to endure the fact that he who knew no sin would be made sin for us. The key to handling any test, any trial, whatever it is, is humility. What happened to Elijah is the same thing that happens to us. We get arrogant. It just seeps in and we start becoming over-confident thinking that somehow we really are in control and we will get what we thought we would get. The key that is demonstrated by the Lord on the cross is expressed by Paul in Philippians 2:8 NASB "Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." He never failed. Every means that he chose to get to the goal was right. Everything He said was right. He didn't do anything wrong. What happened? Everybody turned against Him; even His disciples deserted Him at the end. He never did anything to deserve the death that He died and He was hung on a cross. If that happened to the Lord Jesus Christ by doing everything right, we can really expect the same kind of thing to happen in our life because we live in the devil's world. We often become our own worst enemies by creating a world of unrealistic expectations and we forget that God is in control and we need to be completely devoted to Him. Just because we do everything the right way doesn't mean it is going to end up the way that we think it will.

 

1 Kings 19:1 NASB "Now Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword." We see Ahab arriving at his summer palace in Jezreel and we can just imagine that he must have faced Jezebel with, at the very least, mixed emotions—fear, anxiety, what is she going to say? He tells her everything that Elijah had done. Perhaps he was even trying to convince her that Elijah was right. Jezebel responds immediately by sending a messenger to Elijah. [2] "Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, 'So may the gods do to me and even more, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time'." This is the typical form of an oath that would be taken in the ancient world. What she is swearing is an oath of revenge. She is threatening that she is going to catch Elijah and that she is going to execute him and Elijah has less than 24 hours to live.

 

There is a real irony here because he is going to run away, and as he dives into the pool of self-pity what is he saying? Lord, take my life. Why not just stay there in Jezreel where Jezebel would have taken his life? When we get into carnality and stop trusting God we become so irrational and illogical and everything just turns upside down in our souls. We are not any better than Elijah. We have moments when we have tremendous spiritual victory. We trust God, we claim those promises and we have everything right on the mark, and then two seconds later you'd never think we have never learned a bit of Bible doctrine, that we had never learned any truth, and we are as out of fellowship and as pagan as anybody we can think of in our society. It can happen just like that because we let the circumstances suddenly dominate our focus and take our eyes off of the Lord. That is exactly what happens with Elijah.

 

1 Kings 19:3 NASB "And he was afraid and arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there." He has gone from focus on God to focus on circumstances, from confidence and a relaxed mental attitude to fear, worry, anxiety, despair and depression in a heart-beat, in a moment. He does have his servant with him to a point and then he leaves him in Beersheba. The description that we have in the Bible to describe the Promised Land from the north to the south is from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south. He heads south approximately 100 miles, so this is a long journey. [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 my life, for I am not better than my fathers'." We think of wilderness as a forested wilderness, but the wilderness there is a barren desert. Notice he is getting as far away from Jezebel and her hit team as he possibly can. He is now exhausted. [5] "He lay down and slept under a juniper [broom tree] tree; and behold, there was an angel touching him, and he said to him, 'Arise, eat'."

 

What has happened? We know that he failed. Otherwise that is known as sin. He fails to trust God. He is relying on his own strength and resources, he is now out of fellowship trying to handle the circumstances of life on the basis of his own sin nature—human stress management. God gives us problem-solving devices but all the world can give is a way to sort of manage the stress, but we can't get rid of it. When we follow the Word we can completely relax and rest in God's provision.

What is God doing? Elijah is out of fellowship and not trusting God. He is not where God would ideally want him to be but he is running away. But God meets us where we are. Psalm 103:13, 14 NASB "Just as a father has compassion on {his} children, So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are {but} dust." God knows our limitations, our failures, and even when we are out of fellowship that doesn't mean God removes Himself from any involvement in our life. God is going to out of grace provide refreshment and nourishment for Elijah. He is going to send an angel to him. In God's earlier provision  at Cherith and Zarephath there was no angel but notice God's remarkable grace here. He sends an angel. He deals with a servant in failure with remarkable compassion and mercy and sends an angel.

1 Kings 19:6 NASB "Then he looked and behold, there was at his head a bread cake {baked on} hot stones, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank and lay down again." One of the things that has to happen even in the midst of going through spiritual failure is we have to take care of ourselves physically. While we are focused on claiming promises, confession of sin and these other things we forget other factors and enter in. When we are exhausted we have to get rested. It has an impact on our frame of mind, on our thinking. God is going to deal with Elijah at both a spiritual level and a physical level. He provides food and water and an opportunity for Elijah to rest. This is only the beginning, it goes on for another forty plus days, and then when we come to the end of this section we will see that Elijah still, after forty days in the desert where he has wrestled with his own failure and the spiritual principles, wallows in self-pity and still wants God to just take him home. This is a complex situation. The reason for pointing this out is that when people teach about principles of recovery in the Christian life it sounds as if all we need to do is turn on a dime, get back in fellowship and we can just go tearing forward in spiritual growth. But that is not always the case. Here is a great believer, a great prophet of God, and he has all of this empirical data and God is providing for him in grace in sustenance and rest; yet after six weeks he is still mired in self-pity and failure. He just can't quite get to that point of recovery.

1 Kings 19:7 NASB "The angel of the LORD came again a second time and touched him and said, 'Arise, eat, because the journey is too great for you'." God's continuing grace even when we are out of fellowship. God continues to move us along and deal with us in grace. He is not in a hurry to lower the boom and discipline us in a harsh way. God takes care of Elijah's physical nourishment. God isn't ignoring the physical life and just focusing on the spiritual. He is going to take care of both and provide everything we need to fulfill our spiritual destiny and His will for our lives. Elijah is going to go another 100 miles. [8] "So he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mountain of God." This is reminiscent of the forty years that the Israelites had wandered around in the wilderness, also being tested by God. God is testing Elijah while he is out there for these forty days and forty nights on his way to ultimately meeting with God at Mount Horeb (another name for Mount Sinai). It is there that he is going to come to grips with God's plan for his life and how he fits within God's plan for Israel. God is going to enlighten him to a few things which is going to show that God is not through with him. Even though he has failed miserably God still has a plan for his life. The same thing is true for us. This just emphasizes God's grace, and all of this is a picture of the lesson that Elijah should have learned before this because it is also a picture of what God is doing in the life of the nation Israel. 

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