Sermon on 1 Kings 19:3-8
Text: Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, 4 while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” 5 Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.
All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” 6 He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.
7 The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” 8 So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.
Do you ever get down, discouraged? Foolish question, right? We all can become discouraged from time to time. But, how do we handle it? There are many different methods that people use to help them get over depression. Some people do something strenuous, working through their frustrations. Some people want to be alone and just sit. Some people, when they are frustrated, let it out immediately. Others try to hold it in, but eventually it all comes out. Some people look outside to friends. Others stay to themselves. This morning we learn from the Lord where to look for help in days of discouragement. LET THE LORD BE YOUR STRENGTH IN DAYS OF DISCOURAGEMENT. 1. Realize That Depression Can Afflict Us All. 2. Be Aware Of The Lord’s Sustaining Presence. 3. Do Whatever The Lord Gives You To Do.
Our text begins by saying, “Elijah was afraid and ran for his life.” (Verse 3) Why was Elijah on the run? We need to back up a little first. King Ahab and his wife, Jezebel, ruled the land of Israel. Jezebel introduced the worship of Baal into Israel. Elijah was called by God to speak out against Jezebel and the prophets of Baal. After many threats on his life, it finally came down to a showdown between Elijah and the prophets of Baal. They were going to see once and for all who the true God was. Each group was to build an altar and place a sacrifice upon it. Whichever god sent fire from heaven to consume the sacrifice would be the true God. The prophets of Baal called all morning to Baal, praying that he would send fire. Of course, nothing happened. Then Elijah prayed to the true God, who sent down fire from heaven, which not only consumed the sacrifice, but the very stones of the altar, as well. The people of Israel saw this and fell down and worshiped God. The prophets of Baal were put to death. It seemed like a triumph for Elijah and God.
How quickly things turn! Jezebel said to Elijah, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.” (1 Kings 19:2) Rather than being able to enjoy the Lord’s triumph, Elijah had to flee for his life. He left the land of Israel and went to the southern edge of Judah. After going a day’s journey into the desert, he sat under a broom tree and said, ““I have had enough, LORD. Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” (Verse 4) Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep. Can’t you just hear the frustration, depression, discouragement in his voice? “I have had enough, LORD. Take my life.” He was exhausted, physically and emotionally. It seemed to him that his preaching, his warnings and even the miracles he performed had been a huge waste of time.
Can’t we all identify with the way that Elijah felt? How often doesn’t it happen that no matter what we do, no matter what we try, it all seems to be of no use. You try everything possible and it doesn’t work. This is true also of our spiritual lives. We try to live as God wants us to, out of love for him. But does that make us well-loved by those around us? Unfortunately, no. You will have people making fun of you, because you refuse to go along with them. If you tell someone that they are doing something wrong, you probably won’t be thanked. Rather they will tell you to mind your own business. If you talk to someone about your faith, they may look at you like you’re from some other planet. Depression can afflict us all, not only in our every day frustrations, but also in our spiritual lives.
Note how the Lord responded to Elijah’s depression. He didn’t come to him and tell him to stop feeling that way this instant or else. Nor did he allow Elijah to wallow in his self-pity. He came to Elijah and gave him just what he needed to continue on. “All at once an angel touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat.’” (verse 5) He looked around, and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water.” By doing this, God reminded Elijah that he was still there. God reminded Elijah that he was not alone. God wanted Elijah to realize that neither the failure of his expectations, nor his fear, nor any of his sins placed him outside the sphere of his love nor nullified his call as a prophet. God still loved him in spite of his discouragement. He was there when Elijah needed him.
This is good for us to remind ourselves of in times of discouragement. God is still there, giving us exactly what we need to go on. He takes care of our basic needs first, as he did with Elijah. Our most basic need is the assurance of the forgiveness of sins. Can’t it be discouraging at times, when we look at the way we’ve lived that day? Instead of all of the God-pleasing acts that we wanted to be there, all we can see are the many times that we sinned that day. We take note of the times we lost our temper. We notice the times we said things about other people that we know we shouldn’t have. The list goes on and on. It’s easy to become discouraged. We might even catch ourselves thinking, ‘What’s the use?’.
God is there, taking care of our most basic need. He comes to us and says, ‘Son, Daughter, I have forgiven those sins because of what Jesus has done for you. He lived a perfect life for you. He died in your place. He rose again. Your sins have all been forgiven.’ That is why Jesus said to us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) The rest that Jesus is talking about is the forgiveness of sins.
Having taken care of our most basic need, God also takes care of our other needs. The old saying goes, “God helps those who help themselves.” That is not true, at all. Rather, it is God who helps those who cannot help themselves. God may make it that we can see the help of God in our lives only after he lets us see, in no uncertain terms, we cannot help ourselves. God may even allow us to sink to rock bottom, before he steps in and helps us. However, we need to remember two things. #1. Even when we don’t see God’s help, it is there. God does not forsake us in our hour of need. #2. All of the setbacks in our lives are for our good. They draw us closer to God’s grace. In the days of discouragement, remember that the Lord’s sustaining presence is always with you.
Elijah was also discouraged. He also was reminded of God’s love and presence. However, God didn’t want him to lie around feeling sorry for himself. He still had work for him to do. Therefore, “The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.’” (Verse 7) Note that God realized that the journey that lay ahead would be difficult. He also said, “The journey is too much for you.” God, in this phrase, is saying that, although it will be difficult, he could do it with God’s help. Our account continues, “He got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.” (Verse 8) That must have been some food that God gave to Elijah. Strengthened by it, he was able to go forty days and forty nights. He traveled around 200 miles to Mount Horeb, or Mount Sinai, as it is most often called. God wanted Elijah to go there, because at Mount Sinai, God would give him instructions as to what he was to do next. God didn’t want Elijah sitting around. God still had work for him to do. However, God didn’t send him right back into the thick of things. He took Elijah aside at Mount Sinai for a more personal strengthening.
We can learn several things from this portion of God’s Word. First of all, God took Elijah aside to strengthen him. It really underscores the importance of shutting all other things out and spending time alone with God in his Word and prayer. Before he sent Elijah out to do his work, God gave him the strength to do it. Where did Elijah get the strength to go on? It was not from himself, but from God. God, first of all, fed him physically, and he was able to go on to Mount Sinai. More importantly, at Mount Sinai, God fed his soul and he was able to go about the work that God had for him to do. Again, the importance of feeding our souls cannot be overstated. We need to keep coming back for our souls to be strengthened to carry out the work he has for us.
That is the other thing that we can learn. We have work to do. God doesn’t want us sitting around saying, “Poor, pitiful me.” God has work for us to do. There are the every day tasks that have to get done. Sometimes things fall apart, but we keep on going. There are also the spiritual things in our lives. Sometimes we meet road blocks or discouragement. We fail to do what we want to do. We are made fun of because of our faith. God has work for us to do. May we, with the Spirit’s help, continue to do the work that God has for us to do, until he calls us home to himself to receive our rest.
There will be days of discouragement. We all will face them. When we do, may we feel the Lord’s sustaining presence. He is there to help and guide us. Being assured of this, may we go forward and do the work that God has for us to do. There is a saying that goes, “When God lets us stumble, he does so that we may fall into his arms.” We thank God for his everlasting arms that are around us, lifting us up and helping us on our way. Amen.
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