Summary: Faced with the threat of death, Elijah lost his faith that God cared for him and lost sight of God's power. Can that happen to us, and what can Elijah's experience teach us about our faith?
Ever since there’s been a Post Office, it seems that children have written letters to God. Here are just a few of them:
A little girl named Jane wrote: “In Sunday school they told us what you do. Who does it when you are on vacation?
Another girl: “Thank you for the baby brother, but what I prayed for was a puppy.”
Nan observed: “I bet it is very hard for you to love everybody in the whole world. There are only four people in our family and I can never do it.”
Norma asked “Did you mean for giraffes to look like that or was it an accident?”
Mickey said: Dear God, if you watch in church on Sunday, I will show you my new shoes.”
Another child: “I read that Thomas Edison made light. But in Sunday School they said you did it. I bet he stole your idea.” Sincerely, Donna
Larry “Dear God, Maybe Cain and Abel would not kill each other so much if they had their own rooms. It works with my brother.”
And my favorite: “Dear God, I think about you sometimes even when I’m not praying”
When children write letters like that, they reveal what we call a “child-like” faith. They may not understand the things - about life – that goes on around them, but they never doubt that God is there and that He cares for them. But as we get older … things change. Life can disappoint us, dreams get damaged. We experience pain and loss and rejection. And People… hurt us. When things like that happen, we tend to lose the innocence and trust we had as children. That’s why Peter wrote to adult Christians: “Cast all your anxieties upon Him because He cares for you.” I Peter 5:7
You see, as Christians we need to focus on the faith we had as children because – God hasn’t changed. He’s still the same God we knew as children, and He still cares for us.
Today we’re introduced to a man who was one of great men of faith in Bible: He performed miracles; brought the dead back to life; ascended into heaven in a fiery chariot; and to this day Jews speak of him with reverence as the most prominent prophet of the Old Testament era. But… he was also a man who struggled with this idea that God cared for him.
Just days before the part we read this morning, Elijah had preached one of the greatest sermons of his life. He had confronted 400 prophets of Baal on the Mt. Carmel and exposed them as the false prophets they were. And because of Elijah’s faith and obedience, God sent fire down from heaven to consume the sacrifice Elijah had placed on the altar. Then a few hours later God sent a downpour of rain on a land that hadn’t had rain for 3 years because God had brought judgment on the land of Israel and upon the evil King and Queen who ruled it.
Those were exciting days for Elijah. But not everybody was pleased by what Elijah did that day. One of the people who were upset was the Queen… Jezebel. She was furious! Elijah had embarrassed her and, of course, he’d also killed her favorite hand-picked pagan priests. So she was out for blood – Elijah’s blood. And she sends Elijah a message that essentially said - by that time tomorrow he’d be dead. And everybody knows, Jezebel’s good for that because she’s killed off a lot of prophets of God before this.
So Elijah runs away - he runs away like a dog with its tail between its legs. He runs and he runs and he runs until he’s so exhausted that he just collapses under a broom tree. And he just lies there, so embarrassed by his cowardice that he wants to die.
Elijah… this great man of faith - this man of miracles and great deeds - lost his childlike faith that God cared for him.
Now, in the book of James we’re told that “Elijah was a man just like us.” (James 5:17) He was just like you. And he was just like me. Now, granted, he did things you and I could only dream of doing (the miracles, raising the dead, etc.), but he was still governed by the same kinds of passions and emotions as we are. And that’s something God wants us to remember. You see, God could have just told us the cool stuff in Elijah’s life – the miracles, the battles he waged, and the prayers God answered… but no. God also saw fit to include the story of this great man becoming so afraid that he ran for his life. But one of the reasons God included this part of Elijah’s story in the Bible is because we need to realize that God cared for him just like He cares for us.