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Elijah: Prophet Of Courage And Confrontation

Sermon #9

1 Kings 19:1-21


Intro: In our last message, we were forced to leave Elijah in the depths of despair. We last saw the prophet sitting under a juniper tree, asking God to take his life. The mighty prophet of God is discouraged and depressed. He has been used mightily of the Lord and he had expected a great revival to come to the land. I revival in which the people of Israel would repent of their sins and turn back to God with all their hearts. When this didn't happen, and when Elijah was threatened by the wicked queen Jezebel, he felt as though he and his ministry were a failure. Therefore, he ran away from his position, his problem, and his people.

While Elijah is a perfect picture of one who is depressed, he is also a portrait of a man who is guilty of sin. Verse 4 reveals the truth that Elijah's trouble stemmed from thinking more highly of himself than he should have. This is a problem we are all encouraged to avoid, 1 Cor. 10:12; Rom. 12:3. Certainly, God's perfect will for Elijah would have been for him to have stood up against Jezebel and to have led the country in renewed devotion to the Lord God. Of course, we all know that this isn't what happened. Yet, when we see how God deals with the fallen man of God, it can show us the steps God takes in the lives of those He wishes to restore to usefulness and power. Let's join our friend Elijah under that juniper tree and see the steps God takes to restore him to a place of service. We have seen How The Mighty Are Fallen, today let's see How The Fallen Are Restored.


A. V. 1-3a We See Elijah Running

B. V. 3b-4a We See Elijah Retiring

C. V. 4b We See Elijah Rationalizing

(Ill. For the full development of these points, please see Sermon # 8, How The Mighty Are Fallen, 1 Kings 19:1-4.)

I. The Misery Of The Prophet


A. V. 5-8 A Ministry Of Consideration - After Elijah's display of self-pity, one might think the Lord would just write him off as a lost cause. Thankfully, the Lord doesn't operate that way! Men do that all the time, (Ill. Paul - Acts 15:37-39) but not the Lord! God knew that Elijah needed some things straightened out in his life. So, the Lord performed a ministry of consideration on behalf of the prophet. This is seen in two ways.

1. V. 5-6 Involved Rest - God knew the prophet had expended all of his physical energy and was worn out. What Elijah needed was a break! God knew that and allowed the prophet to rest.

(Ill. Just a reminder: God never intended these bodies to run like we force them to! You and I should never be guilty of laziness, but we should get the rest our bodies need. When we are rested, we will accomplish more for God than we will if we are exhausted physically. Remember, even the Lord Jesus took time to rest, "And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat.", Mark 6:31.)

2. V. 5-8 Involved Refreshment - Twice we are told that an angel appeared to the prophet and supplied him food their in the wilderness. Who was this angel? I believe it was none other that Jehovah Himself, a pre-incarnate visit from the Lord Jesus Christ! This time there would be no brook or ravens, there would be no widow's barrel and cruse of oil. Now, the prophet would eat directly from the hand of the Lord Himself. What grace! Think about it, here is a man who has run out on God, yet God hasn't run out on him! Just as Jesus later fed His wayward disciples, John 21:1-14, here He feeds His discouraged prophet. The Lord knew that more than a lecture, Elijah needed to be rested and refreshed, so the Lord looked after the prophet's basic needs.

(Ill. When we are in a time of discouragement, depression, or doubt, we will find that the Lord knows just how to meet our need. Often, He will deal with a symptom before He deals with the problem. Why? So that we might be in a position to listen more clearly! If th Lord has tried to reason with Elijah when he was exhausted, hungry and depressed, nothing would have been accomplished. Therefore, the Lord met him, dealt with his symptoms and then moved on to take care of his greatest need. You see, what you are dealing with right now may not be your real problem, but the Lord will deal with you where you are so that He might get you into a position where you can hear Him better. He does have a way of getting our attention!)

B. V. 5-8 A Ministry Of Compassion - Not only did the Lord feed Elijah and allow him to rest, He also dealt with him directly. It is a blessing to see how the Lord spoke to this discouraged and defeated prophet. It teaches us that the Lord has compassion on the fearful, the fallen and the foolish. After all, Elijah was all of these things and so are we at times!

1. V. 5-7 Involved Gentleness - When the Lord comes to Elijah, there are no sermons, no lectures, no threats, no reproaches and no rebukes. The Lord simply touches the prophet, meets his need and gently speaks to him. Verse 6 also shows us the condition of Elijah's heart. Note that when the Lord appears to him, there is no repentance for the past, no gratitude for the present and no burden for the future. Elijah is a man in desperate need of a personal revival! Yet, the Lord is so gentle with this wayward man!

(Ill. I think too many of God's children have the impression that God is standing over them with a cosmic baseball bat, just waiting for them to make a mistake so He can bash them with it. While it is true that God is a God Who chastises His children, Heb. 12:6-11; Rev. 3:19; it is also true that God is longsuffering and patient with His children, Ex. 34:6; Num. 14:18. Thank God that He is! How many times have we seen the Lord deal with us tenderly and patiently? I think of what the Bible tells us about Nebuchadnezzar. The Lord tried repeatedly to speak to his heart in Daniel chapter 2-4. When the king failed to repent and turn to the Lord, God judged him and brought him low for 7 years. At the end of that period of time, Nebuchadnezzar repented of his sins and turned to the Lord. God did judge him, but He dealt with him patiently first!)

2. V. 7-8 Involved Grace - God's compassion is also seen in the fact that He dealt with the prophet with a hand of great grace. This is seen in three areas.

a. In God's Presence - Even though Elijah had run away from God. God has not left Elijah! God's was still faithful in spite of the failure of the man. God extends the same grace to you and me! Regardless of where the paths of sin and suffering lead the saint of God, we need never fear being abandoned or forsaken by Him. It can never happen! We have His promise in the matter, Heb. 13:5; Matt. 28:20. Why doesn't He forsake us when we forsake Him? Because He can't! For one thing, He is sealed inside every child of God, Eph. 4:30. For another, He has made quiet an investment in us and He will not deny what He has done in us, 2 Tim. 2:13. Regardless of what we do or face in life, the love of God for us never waivers, Jer. 31:3.

b. In God's Provisions - Even though Elijah was in a place of his own choosing, running away from the will of God for his life, still God met his needs! Notice especially the words of verse 7. Elijah is own a journey of his own choosing, headed to a destination of his own choosing, and still the Lord is concerned about meeting the prophet's need! How many times has God done the same for you and me? We run from Him and His will for our lives and yet He is still faithful, ever present and He continues to allow His blessings to fall on our lives. Why does He do this? It is always an effort to bring us to the place of repentance, Rom. 2:4.

(Ill. Don't make a mistake and take this the wrong way! If you go off into sin, the Lord will deal with you patiently and with love and compassion. However, if you refuse to repent and return to Him, the day will come when He will deal with you and with your sin harshly. He may exercise patience for a while, but the time will come when you will either repent before Him or you will die, 1 John 5:16; 1 Cor. 5:5.)

c. In God's Patience - Even though Elijah is on the run in body and in heart, the Lord is so patient with him. He even allows Elijah to go his own way for a time. God doesn't write Elijah off as a lost cause, because God still has plans for the prophet. However, God allows Elijah to come to the end of himself so that he will learn to look to the Lord again.

(Ill. God is patient with you and me as well! If we got what we deserved, God would abandon us for a people who would love Him first, serve Him with dedication and honor Him as Lord. Yet, even when we fail Him, He is faithful to stand by us! Why? Because He has plans for our lives and a purpose for our future, Jer. 29:11. May we never forget, though, that Elijah never again rose to the level of prominence he enjoyed before this incident! His disobedience cost him plenty, and it will cost us plenty as well. I wonder what we could achieve for God if we really lived for God as we should.)

C. V. 9-14 A Ministry Of Confrontation - While the Lord was considerate of the prophet's needs and compassionate with him while he worked through his problems, God knew that the root of the problem had to be dealt with. Elijah had sin and pride in his heart and they had to be rooted out before the Lord could use him again. These verses tell us how the Lord went about getting the prophet's attention.

1. V. 9-10 A Challenge - Elijah arrives on Mount Horeb. This mountain was a place of great significance for the children of Israel. Here, Moses had met God by a burning bush. Here, God had handed down His Law to the people of Israel. Perhaps Elijah went here so that he too might hear the voice of God. When he arrives, he goes into a caves and sits down to wait for God to speak. He is not disappointed! The Lord's voice does come to the prophet in that dismal cave, and when the Lord speaks, it is to issue a challenge. He asks Elijah this question: "What doest thou here, Elijah?" This question is a rebuke of the prophet! What God is asking is this: "Elijah, what are you doing in a cave on Mount Horeb? Did I not send you to preach to my people Israel? Shouldn't you be in Israel leading my people in a great revival? I didn't call you to run to this cave and hide yourself away. I called you to stand before kings, to defy false gods and prophets and to be an example of righteousness for the people of Israel. So, Elijah, what are you doing here?" It was a call for Elijah to examine his life and his priorities. It was time for Elijah to come face to face with the fact that he had sinned against the Lord. Of course, Elijah replies by reminding the Lord of all he has done and how alone he is. Basically, Elijah is whining about what he thinks the problem is. (Ill. By the way, if you must whine, resolve to do it only to the Lord. He can take it! It just drives other people crazy!)

(Ill. I wonder if the God is asking anyone here the same question this morning? "What are you doing here? I didn't save you to be in this condition! I didn't call you to be doing things like that! I called you to serve me! What are you doing here?" There have been numerous times in my experience with God when I have heard that gentle rebuke from the Holy Spirit. We allow ourselves to wander from the path of fidelity to the Lord and we go our own way. Or, we develop a bad attitude. Or, we get slack in our service to God. Or, we walk into open sin. When we do, the Lord says, "What are you doing here?" This is God's way of getting our attention! If He were to speak to you today, would He have to ask you the same question? It's tough to think about, but I thank God for the challenges from the Word of God and from the Spirit of God. Remember, "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.", Rev. 3:19. If the Lord challenges your life, it's only because He loves you!)

2. V. 11a A Command - Now that the Lord has Elijah's attention, He commands the prophet to stand before God. By the way, this is where Elijah should have been all along! God is calling Elijah back to the place of total surrender. To the place where nothing was greater in his sight than the Lord God. You see, Elijah had let Ahab, Jezebel and the sins of the people eclipse God. God calls him back to that place where nothing but God matters!

(Ill. That is the place we all need to be today! Did you know that your problems aren't your problem? Did you know that your trials aren't your problem either? Did you know that your depression, your discouragement, and your defeat aren't your problem? Did you know that even your sins aren't your real problem? When we have problems in life, whether they are spiritual, material or emotional, the real root of the problem is that something has gotten larger than God in our eyes! If He is all He claims to be, then what problems are there? If He is really God, and He is really in control, then He can take care of any situation. Like Elijah, we must learn to take our hands off the wheel and relinquish all control to the Lord. Let us take the admonition from the book of Hebrews and fill our vision with Jesus and Jesus alone, Heb. 12:1-2.)

3. V. 11b-14 A Confrontation - While Elijah stood in that cave on Mount Horeb, the Lord passed by. First, there was a great strong wind that rent the mountain, then an  earthquake that shook the mountain to its foundation. After that there was a great fire. However, we are told that the Lord was in neither of these. After that, there was a still, small voice. What the earthquake and the fire could not do, the small, still voice did: it touched Elijah's heart! This was what Elijah needed. He needed to know that God isn't interested in the great, striking things that impress men. He is interested in working in men's hearts. Elijah was used to the remarkable. He was used to the astounding! After all, who else was fed by ravens? Who else saw God feed three people with a barrel and a jug of oil that never ran out? Who else had seen God raise someone from the dead? Who else had rebuked a king and lived? Who else had defied 450 Baal prophets, prayed fire down from Heaven and then killed the prophets? Elijah is used to the spectacular! God wants to teach him that it is God's work in the heart of the individual that is vitally important! The power of God is in the Word of God and in the work of His Spirit in the hearts of men.

(Ill. We're guilty of the same thing aren't we? When we see great things happening we get excited! When we see the church growing, people getting saved, shouting and all the wonderful things we all like to see, we get fired up and talk about how the Lord is moving. However, we forget that God doesn't always move in big, visible, outward manifestations. Often, the greatest works of God are done in the secret places of the heart. As God speaks to and grows the individual, His glory is revealed in ways that it could not be otherwise! God is in the business of growing men into the image of His Son, not working miracles, Eph. 4:13. However, taking a sinner, saving him by grace and reproducing Jesus in him is a miracle of the highest order!)

I. The Misery Of The Prophet

II. The Ministry To The Prophet


(Ill. Verse 13-14 tell us that Elijah is again asked the question, "What doest thou here, Elijah?" His response is still the same old whiney answer. {Note: God's question is present tense. Elijah's answer is past tense. It doesn't matter what you've done for the Lord in the past, the questions: "What are you doing today!"} This time God sets the prophet straight and tells him how things really are. God has a threefold plan for getting Elijah back on track. Let's consider that plan together.)

A. V. 15-17 It Involved A New Commission - Elijah is told to return to Israel through Syria. There, he is to anoint 2 kings and a prophet. He is given an important assignment from the Lord. He is given evidence that the Lord is not finished with his life. Surely, this was an encouragement to the man of God!

(Ill. It would do those who have wandered off the Lord's path good if they were to come before Him this morning, confess that they have sinned and ask Him for a new assignment. The Lord is faithful, He will forgive you and He will use you again. Like Elijah, you might not ever be what you were before, but you can still be a blessing to the kingdom of God! If you are wallowing in the pit of depression, why not bring that to the Lord and ask Him to use you again for His glory. He still has plans for your life, or else you would already be in Heaven!)

B. V. 18 It Involved A New Comfort - Twice Elijah had complained that he was all alone in his devotion to the Lord, v. 10, 14. However, God tells him that there are 7,000 others who have not worshiped Baal. Elijah is not alone! There are others who will stand with him. He is given hope and encouragement.

(Ill. Friend, you aren't alone either today! Whether it's discouragement, depression, sin, or anything else you wish to name, others have been through it and are going through it as well. Even if no human comfort can be found, the Lord knows what you are going through and is ever present to help you through any crisis you might face in life, Heb. 4:15-16. Let us not forget to turn to Him for the help we need, Phil. 4:6-7.)

C. V. 19-21 It Involved A New Companion - When Elijah went into the wilderness, he left his servant behind in Beersheba, v. 3. He was all alone. God knew this was not good and He gave him a man named Elisha. Elisha was to be a companion to Elijah and would take Elijah's place when his ministry ended. I like the concluding words of this chapter, "and ministered unto him." God knew that the burdens Elijah carried were too heavy for him to bear alone, so He gave him a confidant, a friend, a peer. He gave him one to walk beside him through the valleys and through the difficulties. Notice that God told Elijah to meet three people, v. 15-16. Notice also that Elisha is the first on Elijah meets. God puts this man into the prophet's life to help him along his way!

(Ill. We all need that kind of personal ministry from time to time! Proverbs 27:17 says, "Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend." Basically, we do not need to cut ourselves off from other people. We need friends and companions as we go through this life. What a blessing to have someone to confide in. To have a friend who hurts with you, who will help you bear life's loads, who will pray with you, cry with you, and even when they don't understand you will still love you! Certainly, we have that kind of ministry in the Person of the Holy Spirit, John 14:16-18; John 16:7-15. However, we still need human interaction! Let us resolve to ask God to put someone into our life who will help us be accountable to the Lord in all we do as we go through life. Ill. Imagine the ministry Elisha had in the life of Elijah!)

Conc: As this chapter in the life of Elijah comes to an end, we find him well on the road to recovery. He is back, and he is serving God once again! The Lord's ministry in his life has delivered him from the brink of death and of shipwreck. Some of you need that ministry today. You are on the verge of quitting on the Lord. You are discouraged and defeated. Others have wandered off into sin and are living lives that are no pleasing to the Lord. I wonder if He is speaking to your heart this morning? Is He saying, "What doest thou here?" If he has spoken to you, you need to come!

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