Sermons delivered July 17, 1999

by Pastor Donald J Gettys

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

Elijah: Prophet at a Loss

I Kings 18:41-19:9

I would like to speak to you this morning about part three of our sermons series on Elijah. One of those most forceful leaders in the whole world. A brave man. Last week we talked about Mount Carmel. He was up on Mount Carmel with the falling of the fire, the consuming of the sacrifice, and our hero, Elijah, came back to that same mountain to claim the rain. And that's where we left off last week.

Turn to I Kings 18:41 And Elijah said to Ahab, "Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain." A big storm on the way. Did Elijah hear that storm? Were there any clouds? Not even a cloud in the sky, not even heat lightning, and yet he said, "I hear it." By the ear of faith he heard it. Verse 42: So Ahab went off to eat and drink, but Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel, bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees. and prayed. Now obviously he was in better physical shape than I am because I don't think I could put my head between my knees. That would be pretty tough. While the King was out eating and drinking Elijah was praying. What a lesson! If you want an answer to prayer, you'd better pray first. Have you ever prayed with your face between your knees? Humility. Surrender. Deep sincerity. Elijah desired a restoration of spirituality more than he did a renewal of the water supply. So he prayed earnestly. I think that's what it means. He was sincere. He was humble. He really did desire the Lord to answer his prayer.

And so what happened? Verse 43: "Go and look toward the sea," he told his servant. And he went up and looked. "There is nothing there," he said. Seven times Elijah said, "Go back."

His servant may have been Elisha (?) or the widow's son from Zarephath that was raised back to life. Whoever it was, he said that there was no big storm on the horizon that he could see. Elijah had God's promise of rain but now he had to lay hold on that promise. His first prayer just didn't work. Some promises seem almost automatic, and others have a stick shift. You have to claim them, you have to work at them. They are gained by gained by deep prayer. The pledge of rain was to be a gift. It was not a debt.

I read something interesting about prayer in Great Controversy, p. 525 - EG, "It is a part of God's plan to grant us, in answer to the prayer of faith, that which He would not bestow did we not thus ask." If you don't ask, you won' t receive. That's what James 4:2 says: ...You do not have, because you do not ask God.

Elijah went back to the mountaintop to request the promised rain. Jesus spent a lot of time on the mountain, didn't He. It's a good idea. Have you ever prayed on the top of a mountain?

Verse 43: Seven times Elijah said, "Go back and look." Seven times! Over and over again! Have you ever asked for something like that in your prayer life? Some big request that you really needed? You knew God surely wanted to give you your request, and you had to pray over and over and over. That's what Elijah did. How often Christians ask God over and over again for help. You may plead month after month with no evidence of an answer. Don't quit. It is impossible for God to be totally deaf to the prayers of His own when what they are asking is for His glory. If Elijah had quit praying the sixth time the unbelievable rain would not have come. He persevered in prayer. We need to keep praying.

Wouldn't it be interesting to know what type of prayer he prayed? We can get some evidence from Seventh-day Adventist Commentary Vol. 7a p.97 - "Elijah kept reviewing his life to see where he had failed... he confessed his sins... he afflicted his soul... he searched his heart. It seemed to him that he was nothing and God was everything and when he reached the point of renouncing self, while he clung to the Savior.... the answer came..." That's the key. That's what he did.

And of course, Hebrew tells how he laid hold to this promise of rain. Look in Hebrews 11:32,33 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about .... the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised... How did Elijah gain the rain? Faith is the key to great answers to prayer. "Prayer is not designed to overcome God's reluctance but to take hold of His highest willingness. Prayer is not a password to get what we want but a passageway for God to take full possession of our hearts to set up housekeeping there, to make our minds His reception room, our faculties His tools, our homes His workshop, our mouths His message center, our souls His sanctuary." Prophets of Fire, p. 55. Prayer is desire for God to come into our hearts to set up housekeeping in there, to make our minds a reception room, to make faculties His tool, to make our home His workshop, to make our mouths His message center, and to make our souls His sanctuary. That's what prayer is.

Verse 44: The seventh time the servant reported, "A cloud as small as a man's hand is rising from the sea." So Elijah said, "Go and tell Ahab, 'Hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you."

Let's go back to 1 Kings 18:44 The seventh time the servant reported, "A cloud as small as a man's hand is rising from the sea." (The Mediterranean Sea)

So Elijah said, "Go and tell Ahab, 'Hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.'" You know, I like his faith. He didn't say, "you mean that only how big the cloud is? I'd better keep praying or the cloud will kind of dissipate." No! He said that that's all he needed. That little cloud was enough. It's going to grow. Verse 45: Meanwhile, the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain came on and Ahab rode off to Jezreel.

Six times he sent his servant to look for good weather coming from the Mediterranean Sea. He kept on praying. Finally a small black cloud about the size of a man's hand was spotted. That was enough! You know, someday we're going to see a small black cloud about the size of a man's hand. It's going to be in the eastern sky and that indicate that very soon you're going to see some quick action. When you spot a small black cloud about the size of a man s hand in a cloudless sky something awesome is about to transpire. You're going to see Jesus coming in the clouds of glory. In that cloudless cloud, here came that small black cloud. That tells you that at Jesus' coming it will be good weather, because if the sky is full of black clouds you couldn't notice a small black cloud, could you. Elijah was a man of large faith! Quickly they must head back to town! It was going to be a terrible stormy night. There would be flash floods because the ground hadn't any rain for three years. The ground was hard like concrete. So all that water is going to run off.

Ahab's chariot had no head lights and it was getting dark fast. And so poor old Elijah had to run in front of the chariot to make sure the way was clear. He ran twenty miles all the way back to Jezreel! That's quite a feat. He was powered by divine steam. At that instant things were as they should be. Did you ever think about that? Here's the king and his chariot, Elijah leading the way. So here's the government, the king following God and God's will for a change. I think our leaders need to follow God's will. There the king was finally following God s leadership by way of God s prophet.

Normally one of the King's security team would run ahead to make sure the road was clear. The designated runner was not there. So, Elijah took his place. Elijah was concerned for Ahab s safety and guidance. That's why Elijah did that. The man that was trying to kill him, he was concerned about his welfare. That tells you something about the prophet, doesn't it. Also, in running ahead of the King that dark rainy night, Elijah was showing respect for Ahab's position as a duly chosen leader of Israel. True reform does not include disloyalty to leadership.

That marathon achievement may have been unrivaled in modern Olympics. Barely had they gotten started when the clouds exploded with three years of stored up rain. You know, one inch of water over one acre of land weighs about eleven tons. I don't know how the clouds can hold all that water up there. It's amazing! Millions of gallons of water flooded the parched land. Curtains of water pelted the parched land. Everything was drenched, refreshed, revived, renewed, and restored. It was wonderful what God did.

When they reached the gate of Jezreel the two men separated. King Ahab wheeled quickly into the warm dry shelter of his great palace. But Elijah didn't have anywhere to go. He remained outside, so he wrapped up in his camel skin tunic and slept near the city walls. There in the blackness of the pouring rain he lay down on the bare earth to rest. He was weak, starved, and exhausted. He had run all those miles and hadn't anything to eat. There was no band there playing for our champion. No big crowd to welcome his arrival. If the truth were known, few probably even knew the news of what had happened. All they knew was that it was finally raining. Maybe the false prophets had brought the rain. The citizens didn't know yet.

With the false prophets out of the way and the true God exalted, the way was now open for a mighty spiritual reformation. The land was refreshed with rain and the people were ready to listen to whatever Elijah had to say. He may have expected that he would be prime minister and with one heart the people would finally follow the true God. All the Baal altars would be destroyed, every heart would be rededicated to the true God. Jezebel and her false prophets would be no more. With these thoughts Elijah went to sleep. His dreams were sweet.

Ahab, of course, dropped the ball. Ahab could have helped Elijah's dreams to come true. Instead chicken-hearted, wishy-washy Ahab reverted to his old habit of yielding to Jezebel's temper tantrums. She always got her way. He let a prime moment slip through his fingers. Here he could have led out in this great reform and the nation was led by a weak government. I want you to know that when weak government kowtows to a fanatical religious power you have a problem. When bad religion is more forceful than dirty government and the two unite, you get deadly consequences. Ahab and Jezebel were a devilish duo.

Like Pharaoh, she hardened her heart. She heard all about this terrible experience where all these prophets of Baal were executed. And dashed off a note in her big hand- writing (You can picture it, can't you?) on her smelly flamboyant stationary, put it in the hands of a messenger. "You go find Elijah!" The messenger did find him. The runner shouted to be heard above the pounding rain. It was a message from Jezebel!

What was the message? I Kings 19:2 So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, "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 them." That's a pretty tough message, isn't it. "You're going to be dead. You killed Baal's prophets and I am going to get you. I can't come out in this rain right now because it might mess up my hair and my make up might streak, but after this driving rain stops I will exterminate you. I'll wipe the memory of you from the earth, you old fire breathing dreamer. Vengeance will be mine!"

Elijah got the note from Jezebel and considered it was like a registered letter from God. You know, every event in life does not have to carry divine implications, does it? Some Christians who catch a cold or run out of gasoline wonder what God is trying to tell them. If the truth were known, what they really need to do is wear a hat and stop at gas stations more frequently.

Elijah's sweet dreams ended up bitter. Raw fear gripped him like a boa-constrictor, choking off his spiritual power in its smothering clasp.

QUESTION- What would have happened if Elijah had stood up to Jezebel? That messenger came, gave him that message, What would have happened if Elijah would have said to that messenger on that stormy night: "Sir, you go back and you tell Jezebel that I'm not afraid. I'm going to go ahead with my reform. It doesn't matter what she says. God will not forsake me, God will protect me. We're going ahead." What would have happened? Well, I read a statement in Prophets and Kings, p. 160 - EG White- "Had he remained where he was he would have been shielded from harm....A great revival would have been wrought." Probably Jezebel would have immediately come down with AIDS or LEPROSY or something!

But faithless Elijah veered off of the clear trail of God's will. He caved in to Jezebel. Now, with Elijah doing that... What I like to do when I read the Bible... Do you ever do this when you read the Bible? Do you like to read between the lines and kind of try to figure out what God is doing behind the scenes? What did God do? When Elijah turned his back on God and fled, did God desert Elijah? When you backslide from the Lord, does God desert you? Notice what He did to His servants. Have you ever noticed that the times you veer off the path that His kindness still blesses you? His sun still comes up and helps your tomatoes grow, or your weeds.

Why didn't Jezebel just go execute him on the spot as he slept? Why did she send a messenger and warn him? I believe she was afraid of the people. Perhaps she even sent word to merely frighten him that he would not carry out the task he had started. It worked!

Imagine this towering man of faith just up and QUITTING! His faith had vaporized. A sudden metamorphosis changed him from a fearless leader to a frightened fugitive. He ran on one hundred twenty MILES down to Beersheba. That's a major expenditure of energy, isn't it. Yet God did not leave Elijah. Do angels assist runaways? They did! Have you ever noticed that the times you veer off of God's path, that His kindness still blesses you?

What did Elijah do when he got there? 1 Kings 19:3,4 Elijah was afraid and he ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day's journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree (KJV - Juniper tree), and sat down under it and prayed that he might die. "I have had enough, Lord," he said. "Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors." Elijah requested death! There under the Juniper tree the bionic marathon runner was run down; the Baal buster was busted. The conqueror of Carmel crumbled. From the mountain top experience he went to the bottom of the barrel. "Lord, everybody hates me, no body likes me, I guess I will just go eat worms and die." Isn't that what we used to say when we were kids?

Why did Elijah do that? The Bible tells us why, if you look at James 5:17 Elijah was a man just like us. He had like passions and feelings. He'd get discouraged just like we do. He had lost perspective. He had a sudden personality change. Jezebel s warning was the straw that broke the camel's back.

Proverbs 23:7- (KJV) says, For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he. Elijah became a negative thinker and almost lost it all. He focussed on Jezebel instead of focussing on Jesus. We need to keep our focus on Jesus Christ as Christians. He was now alone. Sleeping under the stars and hearing only the desert wind and the howl of wild Jackals.

WHY did Elijah fail? He gives his reason why: 1 Kings 19:4- Take my life because I am no better than my ancestors. "I have to die sometime and it might as well be now. I am a sinner just like my fathers. I'm no good." He had thought he was a little bit better, maybe. But are we any better than anybody else? We're all sinners, aren't we. From the Pastor to the Backslidden church member, we are all spiritual Zombies. Everyone here today is on level ground at the foot of the cross. Churches today have no business railing against other churches or thinking we are free of sin.

Another reason he failed is Physical Exhaustion. When you're exhausted your spiritual prowess is at a low ebb. He was drained physically, and not strong spiritually. All day he had toiled without food and he was depressed. He was discouraged. You've got to take care of your body. We must take care of our Body temple. No wonder that Satan tempted Christ in the wilderness AFTER Jesus was weakened by forty days of fasting in the wilderness. That's when Jesus was the weakest. Often the devil strikes when we are at our weakest point.

Still another reason why Elijah failed is a lack of prayer. He had prayed for the fire to fall, he had prayed for the rain to fall, but he had not prayed for himself for strength. Is it appropriate to pray for spiritual strength for ourselves? It is! We need that strength. He didn't pray about the crisis with Jezebel. Immediately after he got the message he should have gotten on his knees, gotten his head back between his knees again and said, "Lord, what should I do about Jezebel?" He didn't. Those who are acting in public for God must find private time to commune with Him. Without alone time a Christian is living very dangerously. Prayer and Bible study are the food and vitamins of the soul.

Another reason he fell... 1 Kings 19:3. Do you see what he does here? He dismissed his faithful servant. You know, when we are down, we're discouraged, we need a friend, we need the encouragement of a friend. You need somebody. People need people. Elijah waved goodby to his companion who could have been a source of courage for him. But notice that he could command his private servant to linger behind but he could not sever the fellowship of His forever Friend, God. God was there for him. That's the kind of God that we serve. What a wonderful God he is. The fellowship of this forever Friend, God was there.

And you know, people can understand how Elijah fell. You can understand how he felt. A mother who delivers her child after 9 long weary months only to find it stillborn she knows the agony of defeat. You know how Elijah felt. He did all that work all for nothing. The mother who prays for her fallen teenager day after day with little result can empathize with Elijah. That teenager seems to be going down through the cracks in the floor. She feels that way. I want to tell you we need to keep praying. There are moments in life when the values we have held so long seem to turn into sand. Jezebel the dung woman had defeated the planned nation wide revival. Elijah waved good-by to God and ran away. And Jezebel had defeated the nationwide revival.

How did God react? God had depended on His servant to stand up to the wickedness in the kingdom. God needed Elijah to carry out a great work of reform. Did God forsake the one who forsook Him? Not at all! Gods love does not diminish when we sin. Our loving God stood by His depressed disciple.

Observe how God cured his discouragement. Notice this now. If you meet a friend that's discouraged, if you meet somebody that is really down in the dumps, how are you going to help them? What did God do? First of all, He allowed Elijah to run away. He didn't stop him. You have to allow a person to come to the bottom of the barrel. Next God allowed Elijah to sleep. That's a key factor. We need rest. Half of our problems come from not sleeping well last night. We got up on the wrong side of the bed because we didn't rest. I needed his sleep. He taught him to be still. Psalm 46:10 Be still, and know that I am God. He needed that down-time.

God sometime allows things to happen in our life that make us stop. Has He done that to you? He puts a stop sign in your life. There's a reason for that: so that you can grow. They cause us to be still. Then we know that we are His children and He is our God.

Exhausted Elijah slumbered under the shade of that Broom tree. I've never seen a broom tree. I don't know if it's a tree with a bunch of brooms hanging from it. Or if it's shaped like a broom. Or if you make brooms out of it. [A branch from a juniper tree could easily be used for a broom. They did not make brooms from broom corn like we do today, but used branches from trees and the juniper was one of the best for sweeping.] There he was, slumbering under that tree. He was awakened by a touch and a voice. That's something else God did for Him. He touched him. I think we need a touch from God. And angel touch him. Even though he wasn't praying for it, the angel was right there touching him. Have you ever been touched by God? Maybe God want you. And Elijah jumped up in terror, ready to fight or flee fearing Jezebel had found him. But Elijah's Forever Friend, God, had sent an Angel with a plate of mouth- watering treats.

I Kings 19:6 He looked around, and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again. Where did the angel get that jar? Angels don't take jars off our shelves and use them do they? Did the angel make that jar? I don't know. That would be an interesting artifact.

He filled his famished frame and dozed off again. Again heavenly provisions were served. It is amazing what good food will do to revive the human spirit. Christians need to remember that they have bodies. We need to take care of our bodies. Instead of taking our vitamins and exercising we tend to blame our woes on the God. Take time.

I Kings 18:8 So he got up and ate and drank. If you meet one who is depressed what do you do? What's the best thing you can do for somebody that's discouraged? People who are discouraged don't need friends like Job had. They don't need your unwanted lecturing.

They need your help, your love.

And so strengthened by that angel food, what happened to Elijah? He traveled on forty more days on the strength of those two meals, apparently. That's all he ate was those two meals and he traveled forty more days on that super, heavenly food. I don't know what kind of food that was, maybe a little bit of the Tree of Life. Forty days, he traveled on the strength of that food, until he reached Horeb, the Mountain of God. You know, God will care for you. You may have had some hard experiences. You may be sitting under a broom tree right now. You may be sitting under a little black cloud right now. But I will tell you that God will find you there if you will stay. And if you will eat His food, if you will do some thinking, God will come to you and He will save you, He'll care for you, He'll see you through the valley of death because He loves you.

So Have faith in God who held Elijah's hand.  
Have faith in God, He will guide you through the sand.
Have faith in God.  He will lead you to the promised land.
Have faith, dear friend, in God.

Opening Hymn: #71, Come, Thou Almighty King
Scripture: 1 Kings 19:1-8
Closing hymn: #476, Burdens are Lifted at Calvary


Email us at our Sermons Contact Page

Return to McDonald Road Sermons Index

Return to McDonald Road SDA Church Home Page

McDonald Road Sermons converted to HTML and
last updated 7/23/99 by Bob Beckett.