Summary: How does God deal with our cries of anguish? He patiently listens and then gives us what we need.
“Lord, I can’t go on. My life is pointless. Please, just take it from me.” The prayer of someone in the midst of chemotherapy? Perhaps. The cry of an adolescent who doesn’t feel she fits in? Maybe. The plea of God’s champion prophet? Surprisingly. Last week in Episode II of our sermon series “Seer Wars”, God worked a great victory on top of Mt. Carmel through his prophet Elijah. The idol Baal was shown to be a fake god. Baal’s prophets were put to the sword. And the Israelites who had witnessed the showdown confessed: “The LORD—he is God!” (1 Kings 18:39). So why would Elijah offer a desperate prayer asking God to take his life when everything was going his way? Jezebel. She was the reason for Elijah’s plea. Today in Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith, Queen Jezebel steps out of the shadows as the Phantom Menace to threaten the prophet Elijah. How did God deal with the affect that threat had on his servant? How does he care for us when we become disheartened and think that life is not worth living? Let’s find out.
By the time the credits rolled for the Star Wars version of Episode III, I was exhausted. Not because the movie was boring but because it was so action-packed. Perhaps the most active character in the movie was the Jedi, Obi-Wan. If he wasn’t leading military campaigns on the other side of the galaxy, he was duelling it out with the best the enemy could throw at him. The prophet Elijah was no less active the day of the showdown on Mt. Carmel. He had not only spent the day climbing a mountain, building an altar in the hot sun, and supervising the execution of Baal’s prophets, he finished the day by running 25 km to Jezreel at chariot-speed through wind and rain (1 Kings 18:46). At the end of it all I’m sure Elijah just wanted to collapse in bed and sleep but that didn’t happen. When King Ahab returned home he told his wife Jezebel everything that had happened, especially how Elijah had ordered the death of the 450 prophets of Baal. Jezebel was furious. No longer content to work behind the scenes, Jezebel herself sent a message to Elijah saying: “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 [the prophets of Baal]” (1 Kings 19:2b).
How serious was Jezebel’s threat? Had she really wanted to kill Elijah she would have sent an assassin, not a messenger. So it seems that all she wanted to do was scare Elijah into leaving Israel so that he wouldn’t further influence her husband and the rest of the Israelites (Jeske). Her plan worked. Elijah fled south leaving Israel behind and went to Beersheba, 120 km away at the southern tip of Judah. Although the God-fearing king Jehoshaphat ruled Judah, Elijah still didn’t feel safe there from Jezebel’s assassins so he left his servant in Beersheba and kept going south into the wilderness of the Sinai Peninsula. This was the same area the Children of Israel had wandered forty years on their way to the Promised Land. It’s a land without food or water. A land inhabited by scorpions and snakes. A land that is suicidal to venture into alone or without provisions (Jeske). Elijah did both. The fact that Elijah didn’t care if he lost his life was confirmed when he finally stopped running, curled up under a tree, and prayed: “I have had enough, LORD. Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors” (1 Kings 19:4b).
Have you ever said a prayer like that? What Christian hasn’t? Life is not easy, especially for followers of Christ. We not only have the usual challenges of sickness and the everyday rat race to put up with, we also have to deal with Satan’s attacks. Now I’m not suggesting that Satan doesn’t attack unbelievers, he does, but not as intensely as Christians who are not yet in his clutches. He especially goes after believers who are eager to share their faith because Satan knows that the words they share with others will cost him subjects. This is the same reason the Sith in the movie version of Episode III sought to destroy the Jedi. He knew that if they remained, they would continue to rally others against his oppression.
One way Satan attacks Christians is to get us to think, as he got Elijah to think, that a believer’s life is pointless. Sure Elijah won the showdown at Mt. Carmel but did it change things in Israel? It obviously hadn’t changed Jezebel’s attitude towards the true God. In the same way Satan may have gotten us to think that it was great having all those visitors from soccer camp in church last Sunday, but where are they now? Was the camp worth the effort? Why bother with outreach programs if they don’t seem to bear fruit?