Times and seasons of disillusionment come into all of our lives, and often threaten to overwhelm us with a loss of hope and vision that we will barely make it through the night, let alone, live in victory in the days and years that lie ahead.
It is clear from any honest reading of the Word of God that we as Christians are going to have trials and tribultations just like the next person, and seemingly at times, more than the next person.
Elijah had just witnessed the awesome power of God some days before as God had answered his prayers on Mt. Carmel in the great showdown with the followers of the false god Baal. Fire had come down from heaven and licked up the water surrounding the altar that had been prepared, and then as we know consumed the altar, and wood, and even the dust around it.
Following this mighty miracle, we go on to see that the Prophets of Baal were then killed in the great purging work that took place after God answered with fire.
Then we see Elijah prophesying that rain was going to fall on the land, and the long, hot dry famine was going to be dealt with by the rains from God’s heaven.
Elijah told Ahab to arise, and get something to eat, because he "heard the sound of an abundance of rain" - 1 Kings 18:41 - I am sure that Ahab must have thought, "I don’t hear anything, but to arise and eat sounds like a good idea"
I believe today that Elijah was listening with a different set of ears... the ears of faith!
On top of Mt. Carmel once again, Elijah told his servant to go and look out toward the sea, and declare what he sees.
The servant comes back with the exciting news..."There is nothing"
Elijah knows what he knows. He has heard the sound of an abundance of rain! He tells the servant to go back again, and again, and still the same message - "There is nothing",
But on the 7th time, He said "I see a little cloud rising out of the sea, like a man’s hand"
That’s it! - Tell Ahab to get moving! Ahab got in his chariot, and began to race toward the palace. It is believed that this was a 30 mile trip. Elijah got on his spirtual Nike’s and outran Ahab all the way back. Talk about a miracle.
The rains came! The dry thirsty land drank, and the parched soil received nourishment once again.
Elijah may have been thinking to himself that there was absolutely nothing that was impossible for God to do!
If there ever was anyone who was on a "spiritual high" it had to be Elijah at this moment in his life. To see the power of God manifested so greatly all around him, and then to have such an instrumental part to play in all that God was doing.
However, there is a powerful transition in this story that leads us and Elijah in a totally different direction:
1 Kings 19:1
And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain all the prophets with the sword.
Ahab no doubt burst into the palace, "Honey, guess what just happpened, you won’t believe it!" And then he began to tell her the story from the beginning, and really that’s all she needed to hear, as she declared these words:
1 Kings 19:2
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.
One would think that Elijah would have rolled over in laughter at such a threat, but we read that he "ran for his life" vs. 3-
We go on to read in vs. 4 that he went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and there he sat down under a juniper tree, and cried out for God to "take his life" - Elijah had had enough!
Elijah experienced the depths of fatigue and discouragement just after his two great spiritual victories: the defeat of the prophets of Baal and the answered prayer for rain. Often discouragement sets in after great spiritual experiences, especially those requiring physical effort or involving great emotion. To lead him out of depression, God first let Elijah rest and eat.
Then, we see that another miracle of God’s sustaining power take place when Elijah went another 40 days and 40 nights on the strength of the food that he had just eaten.
It is said that this journey he went on was over 200 miles!
This is where we pick up our story tonight...
1 Kings 19:9
There he went into a cave and spent the night.
And the word of the Lord came to him: "What are you doing here, Elijah?"
Elijah then went on to explain why he stopped in the cave...
Vs. 10 - 1 Kings 19:10
He replied, "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."
We then go on to read of the story of the Wind, the Earthquake, and the Fire, but then the still small whisper of God.
Elijah knew that the small whisper was the voice of God, and he covered his face and walked out into the open, and God once again asked him the same question, and Elijah gave the same answer...
But God told Elijah, that He still had a work for him to do. There was some anointing that needed to take place, and Elijah was going to be the prophet would take care of it.
Basically, God was telling Elijah, "It’s Time To Come Out Of Your Cave", and get back to work!
We too, can go through times of great victory, but then for some reason stoop to the lowest of lows, and make a pit stop at the Juniper tree, then finally end up in our Caves believing that God is finished with us.
We need God to remind us at times that it is time to "get out of our caves", because there is a work to be done, and some anointing that needs to take place!
What are some of the caves that we can end up in?
I. THE CAVE OF OFFENSE
Quite possibly one of the greatest struggles that Elijah had was that he was offended in God for not answering in the way he thought he should have.
This is the bait that the enemy will continually dangle in front of us, and often times succeeds with our assistance to throw us into the cave of offense.
We’ve all been in this cave! There is not one here tonight who has not felt the sting of offense, and taken the bait at one time or another. If we were to be totally honest, we would even have to say that there have been times we have been offended with God.
Elijah had seen the powerful miracles of an almighty God, only to be run off in fear by Queen Jezebel.
If he had any problem at this point, it was more likely in the area of pride as he realized he had made a quick decision in a panic-induced state of mind, and that the decision turned out to be a bad one.
Instead of turning around and going back and facing the music, he drove himself deeper into the wilderness, until he finally ended up in this cave.
As I read this story I can’t help but be amazed at the longsuffering of God as He was with Elijah in the wilderness, and was with him under the Juniper Tree, and now shows himself here at the cave.
You may run far and long, but rest assured, God will be with you, loving you, drawing you, seeking for you, and is there with open arms when you’re ready to walk out of your cave into the sunlight of His everlasting love!
Elijah may have thought to himself..."After all I did for God..." here I am on the run, and in a place of hideout.
One thing about being in the cave of offense is that our mind often becomes filled with lies from the enemy, and we begin to believe those lies!
The imagination runs wild, and within this cave’s dark and dreary confines we feel like we can see the formation of new enemies we never knew we had before.
God came to Elijah and asked him, "What are you doing here"? A living man with a message to proclaim concerning the one true God, and you are choosing to dwell in a cold dark, cave with lifeless stones the only audience?
God was saying to him, "this cave is not where you should be"! I have a work for you to do!
God would say to us today when we find ourselves in the cave of offense, that we ought not to even "bed down for the night". Keep moving!
I read with interest this past week about the Astronaut who dropped a 10 pound wrench into space, and they had to fire the rockets in the space shuttle to avoid this wrench hitting their cabin and taking all the pressure out, and killing them all in space. Imagine! A 10 pound wrench causing so much concern on a spacecraft that weighed tons! - Often, it’s not the big things, but the little things that cause us so much trouble in our lives! We need to "fire the engines" and go higher in God to avoid the wrenches the enemy throws in our path.
Many Christians have left their faith in the back of the Cave of Offense. God would say today, "It’s Time To Come Out Of Your Cave!"
Not only is there the Cave of Offense, but we also see:
II. THE CAVE OF DESPONDENCY
One thing we must notice is that while he was under the Juniper Tree, and also in the Cave, he did not ask the Lord for guidance.
The flicker of hope had become dim through the winds of circumstance that had recently been swirling around his life.
In the song, "Great Is Thy Faithfulness" there are the words, "strength for today, bright hope for tomorrow..."
I like that story about the boy and his father who were planning a fishing trip for the next day. That evening as the father was putting his son to bed, the boy hugged his father’s neck and said, "Daddy, thank you for tomorrow."
It has been said that the overthrow of hope is also the overthrow of faith.
Where would we be as Christians today if we did not have "The Blessed Hope", or the knowledge that Jesus truly is going to come back one day for His church?
Where would we be if we could not look through tear-filled eyes at the grave of a loved one knowing that one day we are going to see them again if they died in the Lord, and we live and die the same way?
Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;  perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
Hope is the promise for the future! It is the assurance of the blessed promises and provision of God! It is the realization that God will take care of us!
Hope in God, and He will not disappoint us!
Colligan cites the example of Major F. J. Harold Kushner who was held by the Viet Cong for five and a half years:
Among the prisoners in Kushner’s POW camp was a tough young marine, 24 years old, who had already survived two years of prison-camp life in relatively good health. Part of the reason for this was the camp commander had promised to release the man if he cooperated. Since this had been done before with the others, the marine turned into a model POW and the leader of the camp’s thought-reform group. As time passed he gradually realized that his captors had lied to him. When the full realization of this took hold he became a zombie. He refused to do all work, rejected all offers of food and encouragement, simply lay on his cot sucking his thumb. In a matter of weeks he was dead.
There is that cave of despondency that produces a sense of aloneness that is intense and unbearable at times.
Elijah was convinced that he was the only one left that was serving God, as he said, I and only I am left, and they seek my life to take it away.
Another trick of the enemy is to convince us of our aloneness, and the fact that no one really even cares about us, especially God!
When we read this portion of scripture, we read that Elijah mentions his own zeal for God, and the sin of Israel, it seems quite apparent that his focus is more on himself, and others, instead of the God he was standing up for in the first place.
Despondency will cause us to lose our focus on all that is important, and often causes us to over-appreciate self, and under-appreciate others!
One must also be careful today to not get caught up in the spiritual pride trap where they are convinced they are the only ones who seem to have it all together with God.
1 Kings 19:18
Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel--all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him."
This is a trick of the enemy! He is all about isolating the believer from the family of God! He wants "Lone Ranger" Christians! He knows that if he can get you alone, he can also take away your support system, and before long despondency, and yes, even spiritual pride sets in causing spiritual havoc.
Not only is is time to come out of the Cave of Offense, and the Cave of Despondency, but it is also time to Come out of:
III. THE CAVE OF COMFORT
It’s strange, but after being on the run for so long, even the pillows made of rocks become comfortable after awhile!
Quite possibly the Cave of Comfort is more deceiving than the Cave of Offense, and the Cave of Despondency. We feel that at least we’re not sinning, but we’re just going to take it easy for awhile. James 4:17
Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.
It almost seems that Elijah was going to be content to be "retired", but God confronted him with the need to return to his mission—to speak God’s words in Israel. Elijah’s battles were not over; there was still work for him to do.
When you feel let down after a great spiritual experience, remember that God’s purpose for your life is not yet over.
Elijah had a lot of time to think about the events of the past few days, and didn’t seem to come out it until God caught his attention with the Wind, Earthquake, and Fire, and then the still small voice.
Perhaps there was a sense of "deserving a break".
I haven’t heard the little jingle for some time now, but it sure speaks to America loud and clear when it says, "You deserve a break today" -
Elijah may have thought of all the miracles of God, but also his involvement, and the
As Elijah was on the run, and in this cave, he was also on the run from responsibility. But this was not the time to relax, there was still a great work to be done, and Elijah was the one that God had called to do the work.
It seems that Elijah was willing to lay down the work of God for the comforts of the Cave. It also seems that he was looking for early retirement.
Pastor mentioned the Comfort Zone this morning, and there are times we get into our own little shell in our walk with God, and think that somehow God is pleased with our shrinking away from His work. Brethren, these things ought not to be!
It is Time to come out of your Cave!
We must believe that the same God who called us, is the same God who will keep us!