Summary: Part 9 in Elijah series - how God deals with us in our loneliness.
1 Kings 19:9b-18 – When Saints Sing the Blues
I love the story about the mom & dad with a son who was a freshman in college. He blew off his freshman year. He wasn’t very responsible, didn’t make good grades, squandered his money, & finally came back home. His parents told him, “If you go back to school you’ll have to pay your own way.”
So he had to work that summer & not go on the family vacation. That was part of his punishment. The family went to Greece that year & the mom sent him a postcard, “Dear Son,” she wrote. “Today we stood on the mountains where ancient Spartan women sacrificed their defective children. Wish you were here.”
Defective children. Flawed. Those of us with kids have felt that way from time to time. And certainly God our Father has felt that way too. Today we will continue our journey through Elijah’s life, and see how God dealt with His defective child. Now, it’s not that Elijah’s whole life was defective. He had done tremendous things for God, his life was upright, and his prayer life was strong. Still, God wanted to work on him just a little more. That’s where we find Elijah in 1 Kings 19:9-18 – in need of God’s correcting. Let’s read.
This is one of the more familiar stories of the Bible. The “still small voice” of v12 is a recognizable phrase from the scriptures. That’s because people have found encouragement from it over the centuries. The truth of this passage can comfort and encourage you in dark times, as it was meant to do with Elijah back then. So what was Elijah’s problem? What did God want to correct? What wrong thinking of Elijah’s did God feel the need to rebuke lovingly? The problem was this: Elijah was a man prone to loneliness.
Let’s look back at his life. Elijah came from the area or tribe of Tishbe, but we know nothing of his family. Perhaps it’s because Elijah never spent any time with them. Then he brought this message to King Ahab, all alone, and then fled. He hid out all by himself, with no-one around. Finally, when the river ran dry because of the drought, God told him to go find the widow and her son, miles away, in a foreign country. You see that? God had to tell Elijah to go be with people.
The battle on Mt. Carmel was no different. Elijah chose to stand alone. Granted, he didn’t think there was anybody else to stand with him, but still, he was alone. He ran back to Jezreel, and fled there when Queen Jezebel swore he would die. He went with his servant into Beersheba, and left him there to go off into the wilderness by himself.
From there Elijah moped to Mt. Sinai, or Mt. Horeb. I don’t know if his servant followed him, or got left back in Beersheba – the scriptures don’t seem to suggest either one. But it is likely that by the time God spoke to him, Elijah was alone again. This man knew what it was to work alone, and to feel it. This man knew what being alone was, and it finally caught up with him to the point of loneliness.
Lee Strobel writes: “People today will admit any problem - drugs, divorce, alcoholism - but there’s one admission that people are loathe to make, whether they’re a star on television or someone who fixes televisions in a repair shop. It’s just too embarrassing. It penetrates too deeply to the core of who they are. People don’t want to admit that they are (sometimes) lonely. Loneliness is such a humiliating malady that it ought to have its own politically correct euphemism: ’relationally challenged.’ Or its own telethon. Anything to make it safer to confess. Because right now it’s a taboo, an affliction of losers and misfits. And - to be honest - of respectable people like you and me."
Even though Elijah was one of Israel’s most famous prophets, certainly the best-known one of his day, he felt loneliness. Even Albert Einstein said this: “It is strange to be known so universally and yet to be so lonely.” Fame has nothing to do with having friends. Nor with being lonely. And even Mark Twain, who was certainly skeptical of religion, said this: “Be good and you will be lonely.” Elijah knew loneliness.
I say this because of Elijah’s speech, repeated word for word in v10 and v14: READ. He said, “I am the only one left.” There is no one else. I am all by myself. It’s one thing to work alone, but it’s another to be alone. And the truth is, we have all felt it. Poet Thomas Wolfe wrote these words: “The whole conviction of my life now rests upon the belief that loneliness, far from being a rare and curious phenomenon, peculiar to myself and a few other solitary men, is the central and inevitable fact of human existence.”