By Pastor Hal Mayer
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Welcome to KTF Ministry. Thank you for joining me today as we continue our study on the life and times of Elijah. We are living in a total surveillance world. And it is a fearful time in history to be alive. Most people however, aren’t paying attention to the signs of the times. They are content to ignore the things God says and just live their lives as they wish. But the surveillance society has snuck up on them. Prophesies of the Bible are being fulfilled right, left and center and they still don’t think that they need to do anything about bringing their lives into harmony with heaven. They bury their heads in the sand, so to speak. But today, we need to understand God’s will for the last and final Elijah.
Today, we are going to look at a very serious time in Elijah’s life, a time when he failed the Lord. Yet it is a time that reveals the love of God for His servant. It reveals His tender care even in the midst of a mistake.
As we begin, let us pray. Our Father in heaven, we are so grateful for the story of Elijah and the wonderful end-time lessons that it has for us. As we study today, please send Your Holy Spirit to inspire and teach us Your ways. May we be ever mindful of how weak we really are and how much we need Jesus. Bless us today as we study. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Please open your Bibles with me to James, chapter 5: 17, 18. We are told something very important about Elijah, and also about living in a total surveillance world. Listen carefully.
“Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.”
Notice that Elijah was a man of prayer. And this was not just superficial prayer. He was a man of passionate prayer. He loved God with all his heart, and he conformed his life to God’s requirements. He pleads with God to stop the rain so the people could see that it is not Baal, the storm god that brought rain but the God of heaven.
Elijah is a prophetic type of the third Elijah that God will have before the second coming of Christ. What Elijah was, you must be when you are tested for your faith in the time of trouble. You will have to worship God according to His Ten Commandments in the midst of a great apostasy both national and spiritual. Like Elijah, you will have to uphold the true worship of God in a time of great trial. Like Elijah, you will have to defend the law of God, particularly the Sabbath commandment.
Elijah was a man of prayer. You must also become a man or woman of earnest, passionate prayer. Elijah was greatly burdened about the apostasy in the church and it led him to intensify his prayer life on behalf of Israel. He is a prophetic type of those who will “sigh and cry for all the abominations that are done in the church.” The seal of God is only given to certain people. You cannot have the seal of God unless you are sighing and crying for the salvation of lost souls in the church and in the world.
Listen to this from Ezekiel 9:4. “And the Lord said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.”
****Listen to this from Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 3, and page 267. “Mark this point with care: Those who receive the pure mark of truth, wrought in them by the power of the Holy Ghost, represented by a mark by the man in linen, are those ‘that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done’ in the church. Their love for purity and the honor and glory of God is such, and they have so clear a view of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, that they are represented as being in agony, even sighing and crying.”
**Elijah purified his life so that he could walk with God and have power with God. You cannot walk with God unless you have a pure life too. That purity gives you a hatred for sin. As you become more like Christ in character, you sense the deep wickedness of sin and how it destroys the soul.
****Listen to this statement from Desire of Ages, page 668. “When we know God as it is our privilege to know Him, our life will be a life of continual obedience. Through an appreciation of the character of Christ, through communion with God, sin will become hateful to us.”
**Elijah’s burden for souls and for the honor of God prepared him to be God’s choice to confront the wicked king and queen and all Israel. After the confrontation, Elijah still acted by faith.
Turn with me in your Bibles to 1 Kings 18:41. While you are doing that, let me add that killing the prophets of Baal and the prophets of the groves was a good work ordained of God. These men had been exposed for their spiritual fraud, and since they were not men of repentance, they had to be destroyed. They had led Israel in apostasy to the law of God, and had they been permitted to live, it would have sent the wrong signal to all Israel that God tolerates sin and that His law is not as important as He says it is.
After destroying the prophets of Baal and neutralizing their influence, and preventing them from seducing Israel again, Elijah turned to Ahab and said. “Get thee up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of abundance of rain.”
Did Elijah hear the rain or thunder? Did he see lightening? No. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Yet, Elijah told Ahab to eat and drink; a sign of rejoicing, for the rain was coming.
You see, Elijah worked by faith, not by sight. God had told him that He would send rain upon the earth. Elijah had to do more praying. And friends, if you want the fulfillment of God’s promises, you must pray for the promises to be answered earnestly and with passion. This is part of cooperating with God. When we know God’s will, we must pray that it will be fulfilled in our lives. That way we commune with God and understand Him more fully. Prayer is power, my friends. If you want power with God, learn to pray.
Rain represents the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. We are to pray for the Holy Spirit in the latter rain. Zechariah 10:1 “Ask ye of the LORD rain in the time of the latter rain; so the LORD shall make bright clouds, and give them showers of rain, to every one grass in the field.” The third Elijah must pray that God will pour out His Holy Spirit like torrents of rain. He will answer that prayer in due time, and it will not be in shallow measure. It will be an “abundance of rain.” Don’t you want to be part of that? I do.
Listen to this very interesting statement from Selected Messages, Vol. 2, and Page 58-59. “Under the showers of the latter rain the inventions of man, the human machinery, will at times be swept away, the boundary of man’s authority will be as broken reeds, and the Holy Spirit will speak through the living, human agent, with convincing power. No one then will watch to see if the sentences are well rounded off, if the grammar is faultless. The living water will flow in God’s own channels.”
Often God has to use humble, less educated, and less cultured people like the man Elijah to deal with the rough circumstances of the times. Do you think that God can use you, even if you don’t have all the ministerial degrees, and seminary training, or sophisticated language? Of course He can. Many think that they cannot be God’s messengers if they don’t have a degree from the seminaries of the church. In fact, many church leaders tell young aspiring ministers that they must go to a seminary and get a M.Div. degree in order to be able to be the pastor of a church. Often church policies are structured that way. But it is often the seminaries that ruin the youth and make them unsuitable to be pastors. Today, brothers and sisters, we need men who know the truth and are as true to duty as the needle to the pole. And God will have them. Many will be drawn from other sources than the ministerial lines. Here it is from This Day with God, page 115.
“Unexpected talent will be developed in those in the common walks of life. If men and women can only have the message of truth brought to them, many who hear will receive it. Those of every rank of life, high and low, rich and poor, will accept the truth for this time. Some who are regarded as uneducated will be called to the service of the Master, even as the humble, unlearned fishermen were called by the Savior. Men will be called from the plow, as was Elisha, and will be moved to take up the work that God has appointed them. They will begin to labor in simplicity and quietness, reading and explaining the Scriptures to others. Their simple efforts will be successful.”
Elijah was unexpected talent for sure. Ahab was shocked by his appearance. I suspect that Ahab was shocked by his lack of political savvy, his lack of court etiquette, his simplicity and purity. He was no doubt taken aback by the straightforwardness and sternness of his reproof. Friends, God needs men who will not fear to say what needs to be said today. More than ever, we are living in the age of political correctness. Anyone who says or does anything that is out of line with the mainstream of culture is considered to be a radical and marginalized. This is the way it was with Elijah. This is the way it was with other prophets to God’s people. This is the way it was with Christ. And this is the way it will be with those who are the third Elijah.
In 1 Kings 18:42 and 43 it says, “So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he cast himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees, And said to his servant, Go up now, look toward the sea. And he went up, and looked, and said, There is nothing. And he said, Go again seven times.”
Elijah prayed seven times. His prayer was specifically for rain that God Himself had promised to send. But the heavens were still dry. We must also pray specifically too. But do you think that rain is all that Elijah prayed about? I suspect he thanked God for the victory that day. The fire from heaven had vindicated his work in the eyes of the people. Remember, Jezebel and Ahab and all of their cohorts had publically demonized Elijah. He had been slandered, misrepresented and accused. Now he had honored God and God had honored him. We often pray for needs we have, but God also wants us to give Him thanks for what He has done for us.
Seven times Elijah sent his servant to look toward the sea to see if there was any sign of rain. Elijah was persistent in prayer. He didn’t stop praying after just two or three times. He kept on pleading with God to fulfill His promise to send rain. Why do you think God did not answer Elijah’s prayer after the first time? After all, it was God’s will that there be rain, wasn’t it? Why did Elijah have to pray at all? Why did it take seven prayers to move the hand of God and get rain to come upon the earth?
Friends, this is important. Sometimes, even though we know what God will do, we still have to pray for it. God wanted to unite Elijah with heaven so closely that his personal experience would be in full sympathy with the unfallen world. He also wanted to increase Elijah’s desire for the answer. Do YOU sometimes have to pray long and hard in order to move the hand of God? Of course you do. By requiring you to pray earnestly, God opens your heart to heaven. We plead for the promises to be fulfilled to deepen our walk with God. We may not see the answer right away, but we should not stop praying. Go to your private place of prayer and pray earnestly, persistently and with passion for God to fulfill His promise.
Elijah went to the top of Mount Carmel to pray. This was a lonely place, a place of isolation. Here he could commune with God in privacy. Those who are called to public ministry must also find time to be alone with God, to commune with Him in private. This deepens their conversation with God. It strengthens their hold on the Almighty and humbles them in the dust so that they do not think more of themselves than they ought.
Listen to Habakkuk 2:1, “I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what he will say unto me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved.”
Friends, there are times when you must go to the top of Mount Carmel and in solitude seek the Lord with all your heart. He may reprove you for something, but this should be received with surrender of soul. God wants to transform your life. No doubt Elijah felt reproved on Mount Carmel. Who was he to confront Israel’s apostasy? He was just a farmer from Tishbe. He was just an unlearned peasant. Yet, God had used him in such a powerful way. How could it be? His thoughts must have frightened him in a way. Perhaps he felt reproved for his boldness. Yet, alone with God, he felt strengthened at the same time he was humbled. He bows himself with his face all the way to the ground between his knees in a sign of humility, reverence and self-abasement. God had honored him, and he felt unworthy and undeserving. Isn’t that the way we should feel when God does something miraculous for us? That is the way the righteous soul responds to the salvation of God. You feel as if you do not deserve the honor.
Elijah prayed and prayed and prayed for rain. His perseverance revealed his sincere faith in God’s promise. His mind was so intent on prayer that he did not want to be diverted or distracted by going to look for clouds. He does not want to leave his place of prayer until he has the answer. Instead, he sent his servant to look over the sea. He was persistent. He pressed his urgent request to the Lord. It is as if he prayed like his ancestor Jacob who said, “I will not let thee go except thou bless me,” Genesis 32:26.
Friends, this is the kind of prayer life that you must have if you are going to succeed in the battle with Satan. You must have this kind experience with God if you are ever going to successfully pass through the time of trouble. God brings troubles into your life so that you can become such a man or woman of prayer. Those very troubles are designed to call you to prayer about His promises and to bring you closer to Christ. They are designed to unite your heart to heaven and cut off your affections for this world.
When you are in spiritual drought, that is the time to pray. Get on your knees and don’t get off of them until you know there is a cloud. Don’t get off your knees until you are convinced that God has blessed you with spiritual rain to water your soul.
And when your church is lukewarm, dry and lifeless, get on your knees and start praying that God will overturn their wickedness and return them to righteousness. Be importunate. Be persistent. Go in your prayer closet and pray earnestly for your fellow church members by name. Plead with God to do something about their lukewarmness and their lack of sensitivity to the Spirit of God. Keep watching for answers to your prayers.
Friends, if we do not pray for our churches, we will never get off this planet. We need intervention. We need the latter rain. We must plead that God will turbo charge those who are willing to work. We, ourselves, may need to be awakened out of Laodicean slumber. We, ourselves, may need the revival and spiritual rain to set before the people an example of the power of the truth.
Finally, Elijah’s servant comes with good news in verse 44. “And it came to pass at the seventh time, that he said, Behold, there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea, like a man’s hand. And he said, Go up, say unto Ahab, Prepare thy chariot, and get thee down, that the rain stop thee not.”
Elijah did not wait for further evidence. By faith, he saw in that small cloud an “abundance of rain.” He saw the token of God’s power and he knew that the answer to his prayer was on its way. He immediately sent his servant to alert Ahab that rain was coming. Very quickly that small dark cloud began to accumulate rapidly and overspread the heavens. Soon large drops of rain began to fall, then a massive down pour.
Listen to this practical statement from Prophets and Kings, page 157 that applies directly to us. What Elijah “was enabled to do under God, all may do in their sphere of activity in God’s service…” In other words, if you have the passion and prayer life that Elijah had, with your whole heart dedicated to God, He will use you to do a great work for Him wherever you are, and in whatever occupation He has given you. Remember, Elijah was “a man of like passions as we are.” Reading on, “Faith such as this is needed in the world today—faith that will lay hold on the promises of God’s word and refuse to let go until Heaven hears. Faith such as this connects us closely with Heaven, and brings us strength for coping with the powers of darkness… And through faith we today are to reach the heights of God’s purpose for us.”
Earnest, passionate, prevailing prayer that gets answered requires faith. Faith grasps the promises and expects God to do what He says He will do. God promised rain. Elijah expected that God would fulfill His promise because his life was in harmony with God’s law. He even prayed like he expected rain. And when he didn’t see the answer right away, he kept on praying, expecting and believing that it would surely come. God is a God of His word. God stakes the honor of His throne on His word. If we do not take God at His word, our faith will never mature to be the third Elijah.
Verse 45 says, And it came to pass in the mean while, that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode, and went to Jezreel.”
There was “a great rain.” Notice too that there was wind to drive the rain. This was no drizzle. This was a blinding rainstorm, perhaps one like Israel had never seen before. It was a drought-ending rain in proportion to the prayers of Elijah. It was also a pledge of more to come.
You can imagine how the people must have felt. Maybe they ran outside just to stand in it, smiling and laughing and excitedly enjoying the shower. They had almost forgotten, perhaps, what rain was like. They were so stressed, but the rain was a huge relief.
Now notice verse 46, “And the hand of the LORD was on Elijah; and he girded up his loins, and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.”
You would think that after such a wonderful public manifestation of God’s glory and power, and with such a clear decision in the controversy between God and Baal to the satisfaction of all the people; and after they had seen both fire and water come down from heaven in miraculous ways, that Ahab would have shown some respect for Elijah. But his actions were quite the opposite. Elijah is neglected by the king. No respect is paid to him. Ahab did not invite Elijah to ride with him in his chariot. Elijah had humiliated him publically before all Israel and killed his idolatrous priests. He was angry with Elijah. And he missed an opportunity to spend personal time with Elijah and seek counsel about how to make further reformation. Instead, he let Elijah find his own way to Jezreel while he rode in state in his chariot.
But the Bible tells us that “the hand of the Lord was upon Elijah, and he girded up his loins, and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.” Though Ahab refused to respect Elijah, Elijah still respected Ahab as king. The last person Ahab wanted to see was Elijah. Yet, he still had the ghostly vision of Elijah running in the pouring rain in front of his chariot. As much as he wanted to, he could not get away from him, it seems. Yet, in doing this service for Ahab, Elijah was showing the mercy of God toward the wicked king. Coming down from Mount Carmel at a high rate of speed would have been rather dangerous to Ahab. But with Elijah out in front of him in the blinding rain running as fast as he could, Ahab avoided the dangers of the road. His chariot did not fall into the ditch or fall off a precipice. His horses did not stumble. He did not make a wrong turn, all thanks to Elijah’s service as a footman. Elijah was not unwilling to do menial tasks, even after God was pleased to honor him on Mt. Carmel in a signal way.
I tell you, my friends, I would rather have the hand of the Lord upon me than live in fancy palaces, or ride in high-end cars. I’d rather have the hand of the Lord upon me than be flattered and pampered with the privileged class. I’d rather have the hand of the Lord upon me to take me from place to place than be with kings and presidents. We must not prioritize worldly privileges. Yes, be practical, but not extravagant. Simplicity is always the best way in the work of the gospel. No matter how great you are, or how exalted you appear to be when you deliver God’s message, never let yourself be affected by worldly grandeur. Leave that to the rulers, potentates and tycoons of the world.
Elijah ran on foot in front of Ahab as if he were one of his footmen. But the hand of the Lord was upon him. This suggests that God gave him supernatural strength so that he could keep ahead of Ahab’s chariot and horses on a dead run. The heavy rain would have made it hard to see ahead, but under the hand of God, perhaps God gave him special eyesight so he could see clearly in the driving rain. Elijah quickly guided Ahab back to Jezreel in spite of Ahab’s anger over what he had done.
At Jezreel Ahab and Elijah parted. Ahab went to the shelter of his palace. Elijah stayed outside of the city. While Ahab went to his bedchamber with his comfortable bed, Elijah slept on the bare ground perhaps under the shelter of a covered place near the wall of the city. No human hand took care of his needs. No government official invited him to shelter in his home. Though he would have been the best counselor Israel would have had, no one was interested in his counsel.
Chapter 19:1 says, “And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain all the prophets with the sword.”
Notice that Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done. He could have told her all of what God had done that day, of the defeat of Baal and the vindication of the God of heaven in order to convince her of the truth. But he didn’t. It was as if he believed that somehow Elijah had caused fire to come down from heaven by some spell or charm, some trickery. The fact is that Ahab himself did not want to acknowledge the true God. He especially pointed out how Elijah had slain all the prophets with the sword, meaning the prophets of Baal, as if there were no other prophets worthy of the name, and that not one of them had survived. He relayed the story as if Elijah was a criminal, who had committed murder, the very charge of which he and his arrogant consort were actually guilty. He deliberately played to her passions and crazed zeal in defense of Baal and stirred up her indignation.
That Ahab insulted God’s prophet and the prophets of the Lord that Obadiah hid in a cave reveals his underlying motives. He had no interest in Israel’s reform. His heart was with those slain prophets of Baal. Perhaps he sensed that Jezebel would take matters into her own hands in her anger. He did not point out to her that the execution of the prophets of Baal was just sentence upon Jezebel herself in killing the prophets of the Lord, and that it was a righteous judgment against them for leading the people into idolatry. Ahab ignored all that and instead represented Elijah as worthy of death.
But Jezebel was the hardened criminal. She was determined not to acknowledge the power of God in the day’s events on Mount Carmel. She boldly declared that Elijah must die and sent a messenger to tell him so. How the messenger found Elijah we are not told, but he found him, woke him up and told him what Jezebel said.
Verse 2 says, “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.”
Jezebel is still acknowledging the god’s of Phoenicia, and she appeals to them to help her in executing Elijah. She swears that they should do to her what she would do to him. She did not get Elijah within about 24 hours. The fact that she survived the anger of her gods reveals the impotence and worthlessness of her deities.
You would think that after showing so much courage, and triumphing so completely over the forces of political and spiritual apostasy, that Elijah would not have given in to discouragement and to timidity. But Elijah was subject to like passions as we are, says the apostle James. Even though he was blessed with so many evidences of God’s loving care for his messenger, Elijah was still a frail human being. In this dark hour his faith faltered and forsook him.
Keep in mind that he had been all day up on Mount Carmel without food and drink. And afterward he ran before Ahab’s chariot. The physical strain he had endured exhausted him. The rain was pouring down and it was pitch dark. He already feared that the reformation begun on Mount Carmel would not be lasting or that it was superficial. Depression came into his heart. Suddenly, awakened from a deep sleep, Elijah’s heart was overwhelmed. He forgot that God had protected him in the past with places of refuge. He forgot the signal manifestations of God’s power to preserve him. Great fear gripped his heart, and tragically, the one who had not flinched before the terrors of wicked Ahab and who stood by his alter when the terrors of heaven’s fire fell upon it, fled for his life from the vengeance of the angry queen and the intensive search and surveillance of Ahab. You see, my friends, great faith is not always the same. Human hearts are fickle and can change like the wind.
At Beersheba, which was under the rulership of King Jehosephat, he “left his servant” and continued a day’s journey into the wilderness. He could have stayed in Beersheba and would have been safe there. But he went into the wilderness instead to be alone with complete privacy.
As for Jezebel, she probably realized soon enough that in spite of all the tools of her warfare, and in spite of her spies and communication networks, Elijah had escaped her again. In His great mercy God did not reveal to her his cowardice. She just assumed that he had been spirited away like three and a half years before. Though she wanted his blood, she didn’t think strategically, but exposed her plans giving him time to escape.
Elijah should have prayed, as was his custom, for protection from the wrath of the wicked king and queen. But instead he left his post of duty. God’s signal manifestation of power, only a few hours earlier that day, should have encouraged him with the assurance that God would not forsake him in carrying forward the work of reform. He should have known that just now he would be of great service to Israel to lead the reformation.
Prophets and Kings, page 160 tells us, “Had he remained where he was, had he made God his refuge and strength, standing steadfast for the truth, he would have been shielded from harm. The Lord would have given him another signal victory by sending His judgments on Jezebel; and the impression made on the king and the people would have wrought a great reformation.”
That’s hard to understand. He had all the reason in the world to have confidence in God. But because Elijah feared and fled, the reformation of the church was delayed.
This reaction is not uncommon for those with high faith and glorious success. He had been exalted above measure and victorious over the enemies of God, but now he was in the valley of discouragement. And he lost his hold on God.
He fled on and on, way out in the wilderness, the very wilderness in which the Israelites wandered for 40 years. There in the dreary wasteland, alone and utterly exhausted, he sat down to rest under a juniper tree.
Verse 4 says, “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.”
You can hear the weariness, exhaustion and discouragement in his voice as he complains to God. Maybe you have had similar experiences. Maybe you too have felt like there is no hope and that your mistakes have been so bad that you cannot recover from them.
Elijah has run from death threats and now pleads with God to take his life. He runs from death to death so to speak. Elijah would rather die by the hand of a tender and merciful God, than by the hand of a cruel and merciless woman. He would rather die in the wilderness, than die at the hand of Jezebel and give the remaining worshippers of Baal a reason to triumph and blaspheme the God of Israel. Elijah’s concern is about vindicating Jehovah.
Note that he also said that he is no better than his fathers. God is showing us that when we are in the Lord and the power of his might, we are bold and strong with zeal for the Lord. But of ourselves, we are no better than our fathers. Oh, the weakness and frailty of the human heart! Your heart, my heart, must have Christ if we are going to avoid depression and anxiety. We cannot be alone! We cannot replace the power of God with anything in our lives. God left Elijah to himself so that he could see and feel his weakness. And God does that to us too from time to time. The better we understand our weakness, the better we will understand our need of Him.
Friends, for all of us there are times of great despondency. When you are discouraged, that is the time to open your Bible, get on your knees and ask God what to do. Don’t flee your difficult post. Don’t let yourself complain. Just close your eyes and think about God’s providences in your life, how He has led you all the way. Think of heaven and our wonderful home where we will be with Christ when all our labors and trials are ore. Plead with God to come into your heart and not leave you on your own.
It almost brings me to tears when I think of the despondency Elijah was in. I have been there myself. When criticized and accused; when standing alone; when pushed beyond measure and cornered; when all that I have done is unraveled, all that I have stood for is trampled in the dust, it is easy to become discouraged. I know the feeling of despondency that can well up and overtake your soul. Tears stream down your face and your heart wells up with dark and dismal thoughts. This is not the time to let go of God. This is not the time to give in to the slavery of doubt and the bondage of unbelief.
Elijah was a self-imposed fugitive. Far from any human dwelling, he was again alone with God. What a wonderful place to be! It is when he is alone with God that God can speak to him. Elijah is physically exhausted and can go no further and he falls asleep.
Verse 5 says, “And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat.”
Elijah had intended to die there in the wilderness. He did not bring any provisions from Beersheba. He had nothing to eat. But God did not intend that Elijah would die in the wilderness. He still had work for him to do. He knew that Elijah was not going to pass from the scene of earth in ignominy and desolation, but in a much more glorious and triumphant way.
When the angel touched him, Elijah sat up fearful that an enemy had found him. When he saw the compassionate face of the angel and that there was warm food waiting for him, he relaxed.
Verse 6 says, “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.”
Think about the tender mercies of God. He understands the weakness of the flesh, the need for rest; the need for strength. And He sent the very things Elijah needed for an extended trip to Mount Horeb. God still had use for His beloved prophet. He still has a purpose to honor and exalt him. He knew this was going to happen and He was prepared for it. The angel of the Lord woke him up and bid him eat. He does not discuss anything with him. Elijah is still too tired to comprehend what God wants to say to him.
Does this remind you of anything that Christ might have done with His disciples after a discouraging night of fishing? Christ had breakfast for them on hot coals. There is something about a warm meal when you are discouraged. Comfort food, we often call it, because it is so comforting. God gave Elijah warm food to comfort him as well as strengthen him. Oh friends, isn’t our heavenly Father so loving and tender. He that watches over Israel slumbers not nor sleeps (Psalm 121:4). Don’t you think you can trust God to look after you no matter what your circumstances?
And to comfort him further the angel is posted by his side to protect him while he slept and regained his strength. God did not take Elijah’s request to die at face value. He knew Elijah needed to have time to recover so he patiently waited until Elijah’s mind was ready to listen.
Friends, this sad chapter in Elijah’s life is for our encouragement. When discouraged, God knows just what you need. He knows how to restore your faith and hope. He knows just how to give you His tender mercies. You may lose yourself in the wilderness of despondency and doubt, but He has not lost you. Your heavenly Father still has his eye on you and cares for you.
Verses 7 and 8 say, “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.”
I can imagine tears streaming down Elijah’s face as he eats the wonderful cake that the angel had prepared for him. He realizes that God has not forsaken him in his hour of darkness. God did not leave him to struggle alone with the powers of darkness that were pressing upon his soul. Oh friend, isn’t that the way God deals with us in the dark times of our lives? Take courage, faith and confidence in the God of Elijah.
Three times in his life God sustains Elijah. First, the ravens, an element of nature feed him. Then He uses a pagan widow woman who is willing to cooperate with God. Third, by direct heavenly miracle bread and water are provided him. God has many ways to provide for his servants, doesn’t he?
The ravens brought Elijah food morning and evening. So also with the widow woman he was given his daily portions. But with the food heaven provides, there is something supernatural. The Bible says that he went on the strength of that food without eating for forty days and forty nights. This was no ordinary bread. Like Moses, who was on Mount Horeb with Joshua nearby for 40 days without food; like Jesus, when He was in the desert for 40 days without eating; now Elijah is 40 days without nourishment also. God sends Elijah to Mount Horeb for 40 days. Isn’t that interesting? The Israelites were 40 years in that very wilderness after they rebelled. Elijah is 40 days in the same wilderness reconnecting with God, one day for each year.
But let me ask you this question, what are your priorities? Would you rather eat at Jezebel’s table, like the prophets of the groves, where all your government meals are assured? Or would you rather eat by the miraculous hand of God like the prophet of the Lord? You see that is what we must choose spiritually. This is not just talking about physical food, my friends. We need to understand that God is giving us a spiritual lesson. How many people today eat from Jezebel’s table? What does Jezebel set before them to eat? She sets before them sensual and violent movies. She sets before them dancy music. Jezebel sets before them pornography and sexy pictures. She feeds them so-called scientific theory instead of the truth of God. She sets before them materialism, wrongful relationships, competitive sports and a host of other things that will not give them spiritual health or strength.
On the other hand, when we eat the bread of God and drink the water of life, both of which we get from the word of God, we are strengthened spiritually and can abound with spiritual energy and power. We will have holy boldness and commanding spiritual influence on the lives of others.
Notice that the Spirit of God sent Elijah to Horeb, the mount of God. That is a long way from the juniper tree. This was Mount Sinai, the very place where God gave the law to Israel, the very place where Moses received the tables of stone. Can you imagine Elijah’s feelings as he approaches that sacred place? What a place to commune with God! And we get an amazing amount of detail about their conversation.
Verse 9 says, “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?
Elijah is now ready to listen to God, and think deeply of His providences. God asks him a simple question, “What doest thou here, Elijah?” God already knew his heart. He already knew the answer. So, God did not ask Elijah this question for His own benefit. He asked it so that Elijah would think deeply about who he is and what motivates him. He wants Elijah to consider his mission and most of all He wants Elijah to think about who God is and how fully His servant can trust Him.
Elijah climbs Mount Horeb. Perhaps he even takes the same path that Moses took hundreds of years before. He goes into a cave. It could even be the same cleft of the rock where God showed Moses His glory. No doubt Elijah hoped he could commune with God on the mountain where God gave the sacred law, which he loved so much and which all his efforts were bent on restoring. Perhaps he thought that being there and meditating on the law of God would help him recover his personal and spiritual bearings. You know, every once in a while, we all have to regroup and rethink who we are and God’s purposes for us. Perhaps Elijah felt that this was the time to do that.
And friends, when you are, like Elijah, cast out from human society for His sake, or from friends or other companions; when you are mistreated, ridiculed, unappreciated or forsaken, God will find you. He will own you by taking you under His wing. He will gather you with everlasting loving-kindnesses that are suited precisely to your situation.
God’s question to Elijah was a reproof. Why are you so far from home, Elijah? What brought you out here in the wilderness? Why did you flee from Jezebel? Could you not depend on My almighty power to protect you? How is it that so great a man, so famous a prophet as you, fled your country and your mission? Yet, God does not condemn him. His gentle reproof is meant to get Elijah to think deeply about why he was in Israel at such a time as this. God is mercifully trying to restore Elijah to a right understanding of his role as God’s prophet.
Verse 10 says, “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.”
Elijah excuses himself, not on the basis of his lack of zeal for the Lord or for reformation of Israel. He has all that. He excuses himself on the basis of his lack of success and his endangerment. In other words, “while ever there was hope of reformation, or of doing good, he was “very jealous for the Lord of Hosts.” But now it seems he has labored in vain, and all his energies and projects have failed and have no purpose any longer. He now believes he should drop back into obscurity.
He paints the most dismal picture of Israel’s rebellion and apostasy. “For the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword…” But that’s all in the past. He forgets to mention the great victory on Mount Carmel. He neglects to offset his gloomy thoughts by reminding himself that God has just sent fire down from heaven to successfully convince them of their error. He is basically accusing Israel of forsaking God, and by his actions Elijah appears to be forsaking them. And for what purpose was all his good work? “I am the only one left,” he says. “No one stands by me. No one can take up some of the work from off of me. I’m the only one. What can I do against thousands?”
But Elijah is not alone. Even if he was the only one in Israel as he claimed, he still has God, the best companion anyone can have. You are never alone, my friend. God is always there with you to help you do what He has appointed you to do. There is no reason to be discouraged just because there seems to be too little success. Remember, the only people that went into the ark were Noah’s family. He did not have one convert from the public. Yet, he was a successful evangelist in the eyes of God because he faithfully brought the warning to the people. Lot was totally unsuccessful in bringing any of his family out of Sodom except his two daughters. Even his wife didn’t make it. And as it was, the angels had to take him by the hand and drag him out of the city. Yet, he gave the warning to them all.
Elijah is looking at the wrong thing. He is looking at numbers instead of mission. He had fulfilled a major part of his mission successfully by confronting the false worship in Israel and getting Israel unconfused about who is the true God. But the circumstances made it appear that sincere repentance and serious reform were not happening.
“And they seek my life to take it away,” he adds. “I had better spend my life in a useless solitude than lose my life in a fruitless endeavor to reform those who refuse to be reformed.” He’s starting to sound like Jonah. Elijah is still struggling with his feelings of discouragement.
Now, in the cave, Christ comes to Elijah. Verses 11, 12 and 13 say, “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?”
What is the meaning of all the wind, earthquake and fire, if God was not in them? When God spoke to Israel on Mount Sinai (or Horeb) and gave them the Ten Commandments, He preceded it by these very three things. Exodus 19:18 says “And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly.” And Hebrews 12:18 says “For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest…”
So, before God gave the law to the people on the mountain there was first fire, earthquake, tempest, or wind. They “heard the voice of the words,” Deuteronomy 4:12 says. God uses the noisy and violent elements of nature to prepare the way for His word. It gets the attention and impresses the mind with awe in the power of God. The wind, earthquake and fire usher in the revelation of divine glory. But they are not the glory. It is God’s word, His voice; that is the glory. And when you hear God’s voice in the quietness of your morning devotions, you are hearing God’s glory.
So, Elijah stands in the front of the cave. The Bible says that “The Lord passed by…” like he did with Moses when He showed him His glory. Elijah hears a strong wind and sees the effects of it as it tears the mountain and throws great rocks around. Then he feels the shock of the earthquake as the mountain shakes and more debris falls from the heights. Then he saw the eruption of the fire upon the mountain, burning swirling fire. God did not speak to him out of these things. He was not in them. But He used them so Elijah could contrast that with the still small voice. God was laying a foundation for Elijah to understand his new mission from now on.
God had prepared for reformation by using Elijah to proclaim a long and devastating drought. He had dramatically confronted the wicked king and the worship of Baal on Mount Carmel by fire. These great demonstrations of nature however, are not the way to bring reformation. They were the way to get the attention of the people and create an awesome effect. “The Lord, He is God,” they said. But reformation would take time and much effort.
Now there must be a different work. God speaks to Elijah through the still small voice. God desired to teach Elijah that it is not always the most visible work, or the work that makes the greatest demonstration that is most successful. Elijah is not to go back into Israel like a great warrior to wield the sword and create a tempest. He is now to go back with a still small voice and work with the people in loving-kindness and compassion and help them carry forward the work of reform. Miracles and demonstration of power can impress the mind. But it is love and kindness that wins the heart. It is tenderness and gentleness that appeals to the impressionable soul.
When Elijah hears the still small voice, like the Seraphim who stand in the presence of God who cover their faces in reverence, so he covers his face in humility and worship. When Christ, the mighty angel, came to Elijah at the mouth of the cave, the true and living Word spoke to flesh. Can you imagine the emotions that Elijah felt when he heard God’s still small voice? What a contrast to the bombastic wind, earthquake and fire. Now God speaks gently and tenderly to Elijah, “What doest thou here?”
Elijah’s heart was softened. He answers with the same sad story about himself and about Israel. God asks this question twice because He wants Elijah to really think about His mission. Why are you here in this cave, Elijah? Is this the time for men like you to retreat in fear and cowardice from an evil woman? The nation of Israel is in need of you. Right now, on the cusp of reformation, why are you running from the main opposition? You have been secluded for three and a half years, first by the brook Cherith and then with the widow woman, but now you are needed in ministry among my people. Who sent you here? What errand brings you out here in this desolate wilderness?
And today, my friends, God may be asking you the same question. Why are you here? What are you doing for me? Why are you neglecting your duty to find lost souls? You are busy with your frantic life. Don’t you have an interest in My work? You have all your friends that lead you into things you know won’t help you spiritually. You are involved in worldly entertainment and sports and other forms of pleasure. Don’t you have a spiritual mission? Why are you here? Friends, think about the question God asked Elijah. It is in the Bible for you too? We are to ask the same question of ourselves.
Elijah was to go to the people and convince and persuade them with a still small voice to turn their hearts back to God. He must not forsake them when he should be with them, helping them to make the right choices. He must be there to help them restore the true worship of God. That would take some time. It could not be done overnight.
John the Baptist was that way. The second Elijah was the forerunner of Christ. Startling and stern was his message, but full of hope in the soon coming Savior. Christ was gentle, tender and healing. John awoke the people to their need. Christ healed them of the spiritual disease and showed them the way to heaven.
So it is in our work. God’s judgments bring startling and powerful warnings to awaken the sinful heart to its need of a Savior. We must follow with loving words and kind deeds of service to reach their hearts with the gospel.
Sickness is even that way. When someone has a painful or debilitating disease, it opens their mind to realize that they need help. It awakens them to their sins – at least their lifestyle sins. They feel the pain and violence of illness on their system. But this also opens their minds for healing. Then the medical missionary comes along, and under the leading of the Holy Spirit ministers to the sick in kindness using Christ’s method to bring them healing and salvation.
God does not just reprove Elijah for his momentary fear. He uses reproof and also the circumstances as a teaching moment. And then He gives Elijah some instructions. In those instructions God answers the questions Elijah has in his complaint. He shows him that he still has a prophetic and spiritual role, even though he has made a mistake. Isn’t that wonderful!? Even though we may make mistakes, God tenderly cares for us and provides us a work to do for Him. He does not turn us out. But educates us and shapes our thinking and our ministry for the future. God seeks to restore his faith, his prayer life, and reassigns his work. Faith, prayer and activity are the divine formula to heal discouragement and despondency.
Verses 15 and 16 say, “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.”
God tells Elijah that his time is limited by telling him to anoint Elisha to take his place. God is going to end his work, but not in the way he asked. Elijah has done the important work that God designed him to do. His personality was perfectly suited to confront the sinfulness of a wicked king and nation. God is not going to answer Elijah’s wish to die. He is going to translate him so he will live forever. God is so kind. He sees something valuable in all of us, just as He did Elijah.
Elijah becomes the type of faithful souls who confront the wicked global system of worship that will be constructed in the last days. They will overcome all the systems of surveillance and control that rulers can construct. And they will be faithful right through the final time of trouble.
And now Elisha is to do the work of reform more deeply than Elijah could have done. These two men are the prophetic types of John the Baptist and Christ. Elijah tore down the system of false worship. He disrupted the licentious and wicked system that Jezebel had set up. Elisha, on the other hand, was to re-establish the schools of the prophets and restore the principles of true worship in the land.
Then in verse 18, God tells Elijah something that he knew all along, but did not tell him until now. The thought at first seemed overwhelming to Elijah, but it was meant for his encouragement. All was not lost. “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.” Those words must have shocked him. Maybe there was hope for Israel after all. Maybe he still has work there.
Elijah had complained that Israel was still unpunished. The drought was not enough to reform them. So, God sends him to anoint Hazael king of Syria. Under Hazael Israel will suffer a lot of bloodshed as punishment for their sins, see 2 Kings 8:12. He is to anoint Jehu as the next king. He is going to utterly destroy the house of Ahab and vindicate God’s cause in Israel. And he is to anoint Elisha as the next prophet. He would finish the work of restoration. He would slay the children of Bethel for their persistent apostasy. God was going to do a work of thorough reform, but it would take time and God would use others to do this work. Elijah was to set the wheels in motion by anointing these men. God is never at a loss of useful instruments to do His great work. Some fulfill His will as the great mission of their lives. Others fulfill it unwittingly. Yet, all do His biddings and His plan is accomplished. And when one leaves the scene of action, God raises up others to take their places.
God has always had, and always will have, faithful voices of truth to defend His law and vindicate His character, a remnant that is faithful to Him. It is God’s business to preserve Him a remnant of faithful souls who have not bowed the knee to false gods and distinguish them from everyone else.
Elijah did not see those 7,000, but God did. The remnant, the faithful are often the hidden ones. When the visible church is scarcely visible because of persecution, often the faithful ones, the wheat, as it were, are in hiding, in and around the tares. God sees in secret what man cannot see. God looks upon the heart, not the outward appearance.
Oh brother, my sister, are you part of that remnant? Are you turning your heart over to God every day so that you are being purified and prepared for a mighty work for God? Are you faithfully improving your opportunities for service in God’s cause? If you are, praise the Lord. If not, perhaps it is now time to get serious and yield your life to the Master. Don’t wait for a more convenient season. You may make mistakes, but the Savior needs you and has a place for you in His vineyard. Yield to Him now, my brother. Don’t fear to give yourself over to Him, my sister. He will restore and give you a place in His work.
Let us pray. Our faithful Father in heaven, thank you for telling us so much about Elijah’s time of discouragement and fear. What an encouragement it is to us. We need to know these important things as we approach the same issues as he faced. The surveillance society, with its underlying threat to liberty, is a fearful time for those who long to be faithful to God. Yet, there is hope. We do not need to fear man. For in Christ there is no such thing as fear of men. The global system of control and ultimately of worship will lead the whole world into the same principles that were in play during the time of Elijah. Ahab is a type of global rulers, while Jezebel represents the apostate church that imposes her worship on all that dwell upon the earth. May we learn how to be faithful Elijahs in these last days. We are the third and final Elijah if we have a love for souls and a love for God that goes all the way down to the joints and marrow. We pray that Christ will give us His grace, His kindness and tenderness, that we may reform our lives and give the message to others. In Jesus name, amen.