Summary: You're trying to make the right decisions and live out your Christian life, but the more you try, the more difficult life seems to get. Our Christians lives are not always so glorious. Why do we continue? Where do find the glory of a life committed to following Christ?
Have you ever had one of those weeks where things seem to go wrong? You’re trying to do the right thing, make the right decisions, but it just doesn’t work out the way you thought it would. You set aside time for a family dinner, only to have it turn into sibling arguments, someone stomping away and complaints about the food. You make a big sale at work or finish a project that you’re sure is going to result in a promotion, only to see your co-worker get all the credit for your hard work. You forgive that person who hurt you with the comments they made behind your back only to discover that they did the same thing again. Life doesn’t always seem so glorious, does it?
If you’ve ever felt that way, then you know exactly how the prophet Elijah must have felt. Elijah was the first prophet that we heard about in 1 Kings 19. Elijah was a prophet who lived about 700 years before Jesus was born. Elijah was called by God to be God’s spokesman to the nation of Israel. You see, Israel had a new king by the name of King Ahab. King Ahab and his wicked wife Jezebel looked to replace worship of the true God with worship of false gods like Baal and Asherah. Ahab and Jezebel worked persistently to persecute, imprison and execute anyone who was a follower of the true God of Israel.
Elijah’s job was to go to Ahab and tell him that because of his and his people’s unbelief, it was not going to rain for a very long time. Well, you can probably imagine how well Ahab received that news. Ahab was literally ready to kill Elijah. Ahab put together a national man hunt to track down Elijah and kill him. But the Lord warned Elijah and protected him and provided for him as he fled for his life.
After three years of drought, the Lord told Elijah to go back to King Ahab and announce that the Lord was going to end the drought and send rain. You might expect that Elijah would respond to God, “You want me to do what? God, you do realize what Ahab has been trying to do to me for the last three years, right?” But Elijah did not question the Lord, but boldly went to King Ahab to deliver the good news. Now you might expect that Ahab would welcome the news of Elijah. But Ahab didn’t believe Elijah. He blamed Elijah for the drought. And that’s when you have the showdown at Mt. Carmel. You remember that account?
Elijah was lined up against the priests of Baal. Each built an altar to their God and then called on their God to rain down fire and burn up the sacrifice. After the bloodied priests of Baal were unsuccessful, Elijah prays to the Lord and fire rains down from the sky and burns up not only the sacrifice, but the entire altar. The people saw what had happened and repented of their unbelief. They turned to the Lord for forgiveness and got rid of their false gods and their priests. And then it started to rain. The drought was over. Great day for Elijah, right? Finally, he would be able to live in safety, people would listen to him and he would be appreciated, right? Not exactly. When King Ahab reported to Jezebel what had happened with Elijah, she responded with a simple, “Kill Elijah.”
Talk about bad days! Every time Elijah did the right thing, something bad seemed to happen to him. Do you think it ever crossed his mind, “This just isn’t worth it! My commitment to the Lord has only resulted in difficulty!” You don’t have to wonder if that thought ever went through Elijah’s mind because the Bible tells us it did. There was a point when Elijah was about ready to give up. He had had it. His life was miserable. The King wanted to kill him. The people he was trying to help seemed to go running after every new religion and pagan god that came along. Elijah even wondered out loud to the Lord, “I am the only one left” (1 Kings 19:14).
Elijah’s life and ministry was not exactly what you might call glorious. Sometimes be a follower of the Lord is pretty hard, sometimes it’s even sad when you see the way that God’s people react to his Word, to his love, to his repeated pleas to repent of their sin. But the Lord lifted Elijah’s heart with his mercy and faithfulness in three specific ways that you find in verse 15-18. (1) God told Elijah to anoint the next king of Israel which showed that God had not given up on his people but would continue to patiently and persistently call them to repentance. (2) God told Elijah that he was not the only one left. There were still 7000 in the nation of Israel that remained faithful to the Lord. (3) God told Elijah to start training his replacement because the proclamation of God’s Word would not stop when Elijah was gone. No! God’s Word would continue to be proclaimed to future generations that they might know the Lord.