Summary: Even Great men of God like Elijah fail - take heart - and find your Mount Horeb quickly
2 Ki 19:1-18
This evening’s OT lesson is one of those special Words of Holy Encouragement that God gives us from time to time.
If a great man of God like Elijah can fail – then we can give ourselves permission to fail too.
Elijah, the great Old Testament prophet had had a stunning victory at the end of the previous chapter (1 Ki 18) on Mount Carmel.
He had defeated the false priests of Baal with a test of fire
You will recall the story - where he challenged them to prove who was the true God – and it had been agreed that the God who answered by consuming the sacrifice by fire - He and he alone would be the true God.
The prophets of Baal tried all day but to no avail – their God did not answer with fire
When it came to Elijah’s turn God answered with fire so that the very stones around the sacrifice were burnt up too.
Elijah should have been on Cloud 9 as the Israelites turned back to Jehovah, their true God. It should have been the beginning of a revival.
So how was it that that little warning from Jezebel sent Elijah running – the message that said
"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."
Why did Elijah run?
Well I think there are three reasons
1. Elijah was exhausted – and when we get exhausted we tend to think irrationally.
If Elijah had thought about it rationally – he could have called down fire from heaven to consume her – as indeed he was to do to King Ahaziah’s two captains each with their fifty men (2 Kings 1. 8-12)
But Elijah didn’t. I believe he was too tired – and as such was vulnerable
And there are times when we are tired and we need to remember that it is then that we are at our most vulnerable.
No wonder Jesus used to take his disciples to a quiet place to pray –even in the heat of revival (Mk 6:30-31).
And Elijah didn’t have Jesus to advise him.
2. Elijah took his eyes off God and looked to himself for the answer
It is all too easy when crises come to suddenly look to human ways to deal with them.
Nowhere in the story do we read of Elijah asking God what he should do – he just runs.
Elijah’s reaction to Jerezel’s message was simply that of fear – the Scripture records “Elijah was afraid” (1 Ki 19 v3.)
I feel encouraged – because even great men like Elijah get it WRONG!!
He should have taken it to God in prayer but he didn’t. He should have stood up to Jezebel but didn’t
3. But God realised that Elijah actually needed time off
But as St Paul says in Rom 8:28 – “All things work together for good to those who love the Lord”
And so it was in this case.
I wonder what Elijah was thinking those 40 days on the run. I expect he was buzzing with self pity (cf1Ki 19:10 and 14)
I think God used this time to allow Elijah to work his self pity out of his system and to find out who God really was.
It was when Elijah stopped running (after 40 days and nights) and reached Mt Horeb – that God was able to reach him
And when God speaks to him, you can almost hear Elijah’s self pity oozing out
“What are you doing here, Elijah? God asks him.
Elijah replies: I have been very zealous for the Lord Almighty, The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars and put your prophets to the sword and I am the only one left.”
And God’s reply is very interesting. He tells Elijah "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by."
But God wasn’t in the powerful wind that tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks nor was he in the windnr the earthquake that followed, nor was he in the fire – but he was in the “gentle whisper” (v 12) .
Sometimes God is very gentle with us – as Jesus said a “bruised reed he will not break”
Again God asks him "What are you doing here, Elijah?"
And Elijah, - must have been an Anglican because he repeats him self word perfect.
“I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too."