Our theme this year is Hope Starts Here. One lesson each month we are talking about the hope that is available to you in Jesus. We have talked about how to have hope after a year like 2020. We have also talked about how to have hope after failure and when tempted. In today’s lesson we are going to look at how to have hope when you feel alone. If you live long enough, you will experience the highs and lows of life. During those lows in life, we can feel like we are alone as we try to be faithful to the Lord while enduring our difficulty. One person we can look at and learn from when feeling alone is Elijah. We have been looking at the life of Elijah in our Sunday night series. You can open your copies of God’s word to 1 Kings 19. In the prior chapter, Elijah has called for Israel and the prophets of Baal to come to Mount Carmel to get Israel to stop limping between two opinions and fully devote themselves to the Lord. God has answered by fire to turn the hearts of the people back to the Lord. We would want chapter 18 to be the end of the story with Israel and Elijah living happily ever after. We would want to read that Israel served the Lord and Ahab and Jezebel were now convinced that the Lord is God and will fully serve him.
On The Run (19:1-8)
After this amazing display of God’s power of Mount Carmel, King Ahab goes home and tells Jezebel all that Elijah had done and how he had all the prophets of Baal killed. Jezebel sends a message to Elijah. The message basically says that you will be dead by this time tomorrow (19:2). That is enough to sour a great day. Elijah has gone from the thrill of victory, as God displayed his power and the people declared the Lord to be God, to the pain of defeat as Jezebel says that these are your last 24 hours to live. So Elijah runs for his life, leaving Israel altogether, and goes to Beersheba in Judah, which is in the southern most part of Judah. He leaves his servant in Beersheba and goes another day’s journey into the wilderness where he sat under a desert shrub. Elijah prays to the Lord, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” Elijah believes this is the end of the line. He has every reason to believe in Jezebel’s threat of death because she has been killing the other prophets of the Lord up until this point. Obadiah, who works in Ahab’s administration, has been able to save 100 of the Lord’s prophets. But Jezebel is on a mission to kill them all. Elijah is now public enemy number one in Israel and Jezebel is going to make certain to end his life. So Elijah prays to the Lord that he do it rather than her. His efforts appear to have been no better than those who came before him. Then Elijah laid down and went to sleep.
An angel comes to Elijah and tells him to eat. He looks and sees bread baked on hot stones and a jar of water. So he eats and drinks and then lays down again. The angel comes to Elijah again and tells him to eat again because the journey is too much for you. So Elijah ate and drank and then went as he was directed. He goes for 40 days and 40 nights to Horeb, the mount of God. This mountain is also called Mount Sinai where the Lord delivered the 10 commandments to Moses. Elijah looks like Moses who was on this mountain for 40 days and he prefigures Jesus who was in the wilderness for 40 days.
The Lord Comes To Elijah (19:9-18)
When Elijah arrives to the mountain, he spends the night in a cave. The word of the Lord came to him, asking, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Now it is important that we do not misunderstand this question. I think I have misunderstood this in the past. This is not a rebuke nor a question to be critical of Elijah. Why is Elijah at this mountain? He is there because God told him to go there. So this question cannot be a rebuke of Elijah. Rather, God is inviting Elijah to tell him what is going on. In other words, the Lord is asking Elijah to state his purpose. What do you need? What can I do for you?
Elijah gives his answer in verse 10. It is important that we carefully listen to what Elijah says. First, I have been very jealous for the Lord. Elijah says that he has been trying to do the work that the Lord has given him to do. Second, the people have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I am the only one left and they are trying to kill me too. What Elijah is saying is that the signs have done nothing. His preaching has done nothing. The work on Mount Carmel did nothing. The people have forsaken the covenant and they refuse to come back. We should not see Elijah throwing a pity party, as some claim. Rather, Elijah is declaring that he is a failure. Elijah was the only one standing for the Lord on Mount Carmel. No one else would and now he is going to die by Jezebel’s hand.
Look at what God does in verse 11. God tells Elijah to go out of the cave and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord because the Lord will pass by. A great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord. But the Lord was not in the wind. Just imagine what that sounded like and looked like. Then after the earth quaked, a fire but the Lord was not in the fire. After the fire, the sound of a low whisper. Elijah wraps his face and then stands at the mouth of the cave. It is important to note that these cataclysmic signs are heralds for God’s arrival. It is just like when Moses and the people were at Sinai. The mountain shakes and burns and then the Lord comes. The same thing happens here. The Lord comes in a whisper after the shaking and burning of the mountain. Now the Lord asks him again, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (19:13). Elijah’s answer is the same. I am jealous for the Lord. Israel has broken the covenant, torn down your altars, and killed your prophets. I am the only one left and they are about to kill me also.
God now gives Elijah some directions. Go back the way you came and anointed Hazael as king over Syria. Anoint Jehu as king over Israel. Finally, anoint Elisha to be the prophet in your place. Now think about what God just implied to Elijah by telling him to anoint these two kings and the next prophet. Elijah, you are not going to die tomorrow. You have more work to do. In fact, the Lord continues to tell Elijah that there are 7000 in Israel who have not bowed to Baal. You are not alone. There is a righteous remnant and Jezebel cannot stop that. God always keeps a remnant. So go back because God has more for you to do.
So what is the message to us and how does this text help us have hope when feeling alone? Our hope comes from seeing how God dealt with Elijah. First, God does not condemn, ridicule, rebuke, or dismiss the way Elijah is feeling. I think this is important because we are going to feel the way Elijah felt. We are going to feel alone. We are going to feel like we are failing. We are going to feel like nothing is going right. We are going to feel like no one understands and we are going through this alone. God does not condemn us when we have these spiritual lows in our lives. Think about how many of the psalms start with these same kinds of feels. Many of the psalms talk about the difficulty of enduring the wickedness around them while trying to remain faithful.
But what Elijah does next is so important. Elijah prays to the Lord. Once he leaves from Jezebel’s rule, he stops in the wilderness and prays to the Lord. How often we might forget to talk to God when we are feeling alone! But God always wants us to tell him how we feel. Nowhere in the scriptures do we see God telling people to not talk to God about what they are going through. Instead, we see the opposite where people are always talking to God about what they are feeling and experiencing. So the first thing we must do when we have these feelings is talk to God. Lord willing, in tonight’s lesson we will talk about the power of prayer as seen through Elijah and how this can give us the help and hope we need for life. You are not broken. You just need to talk to God about how you are feeling.
Second, know that you are not alone. Elijah felt like he was all by himself in his efforts to serve the Lord. God showed Elijah that he was not alone in two ways. First, God brought Elijah to Mount Sinai, to the presence of the Lord. God comes to Elijah in a gentle whisper. Elijah needed to get away from the noise of Israel and in the quiet understand that the Lord was there with him. God did not send his Son so that he would give up on you or leave you alone, especially in your time of need. God has said to you, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). So God is telling you that you are not alone.
Second, God let Elijah know that he was not alone by telling him about 7000 others who were in Israel who had not bowed to Baal. You are not the only one who is left trying to do what is right. You are not the only one left who is trying to serve the Lord in difficult circumstances. You are not alone as you try to do right when people are trying to tear you down or get you to do wrong. You are not alone. There is always a remnant of God’s people. In fact, the apostle Paul uses this text in 1 Kings 19 to make that very point to Christians in the letter to the Romans.
2 God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? 3 “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” 4 But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” 5 So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. (Romans 11:2–5 ESV)
No one can stop God from having his people. There will always be people who are faithfully serving the Lord, even if you do not see it. I believe this is one of many reasons why God gave us the local church, the gathering of God’s people together. We need to see that we are not alone. We need to see that God is with us and we are with each other. You are not alone in your struggle. Look around the room and see that everyone here is also struggling as they journey with Jesus. This is an important reason why we gather and why we need to gather as much as possible, not as little as possible. The writer of Hebrews makes this very point to encourage one another all the more by not neglecting to gather with each other (Hebrews 10:25). God gave us to each other so that we would not feel alone. You know you are not alone. You are part of this spiritual family and we are here for each other.
Finally, you can have hope when feeling alone by understanding that God has more for you to do. This is what God told Elijah. God told Elijah that he was not done with him. He had more for Elijah to do. Go back to Israel and anoint some kings and anoint a prophet. God has more for you. So do not give up. Elijah is telling God, “I’ve tried. There is nothing left for me to do. I give up.” But God’s answer is that there is more for you to do. We need to see that Elijah’s definition of success was different than God’s definition of success. Elijah’s definition was that all Israel would stop violating the covenant and return to the Lord. God’s definition was that Elijah would go back and keep representing God to the people.
But the beauty of God is that he will give you what you need today. Stopping looking deep into the future and look for what God wants you to do today. Think about how God does this with Elijah. When Elijah is in the wilderness, he does not start by asking what he is doing or why he is there. God does not start by telling him to go back to Israel. God starts by telling him to eat and allowing him to go back to sleep. Then God tells him to eat again so that he can take a journey to Sinai. Only at Sinai does God tell him there is more for him to do. But he did not tell him that while in the wilderness. He told him that while at Sinai when he was ready for it. God gives you what you need today. Do what you can for the Lord today. Stop looking at how far you need to go and how much you need to change years from now. Just look at what you can do for the Lord today. God has work for you. Focus on what God wants you to do today where you are, with the knowledge you have now, in the circumstances you are in now, with the abilities you have now. Let us end with the example and power of Jesus because we see that God understands.
39 And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. 40 And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” 41 And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” 43 And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. (Luke 22:39–44 ESV)
Jesus knows what you are experiencing. Jesus knows what it is like to be in mental anguish and agony. But what does Jesus do? Jesus prays. Then Jesus is strengthened and he continues to pray for today because of the work that was in front of him. Jesus was not alone. We are not alone. Turn to the Lord and he is there to strengthen you.