Sermon delivered July 24, 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: How to Help a Caveman

Today is part four of a sermons series on Elijah. Next week we finish up with the Elijah message, but today is about How to Help a Caveman.

Elijah, the last time we left him last Sabbath, was in a cave. Now, you don't want to spend very long in a cave. A lot of people do that. Discouraged, Ex-champion Elijah ate two meals from the angelic catering service and then he journeyed on. He went south about two hundred miles to Mount Horeb, which is basically, Mount Sinai. You can read this in 1 Kings 19 in your Bibles. We're beginning with verse 8. As you see Elijah, he is entering the desert near Kadesh-Barnea, which is the last oasis before you enter the true desert. Only a bedouin would want to go to that area, and yet, here he goes, off into the desert. No cooling clouds hanging over his head like the Israelites had in another day.

Have you noticed a one hundred eighty degree change in Elijah's life?

You've been hearing the news this week of the airplane crash of John Kennedy Jr. The Kennedy family has had so many tragedies, haven't they. I am told, and it is probably false, that when an airplane loses control that it begins a death spiral, and I wonder if they even felt much of that until they hit the water. They lost their lives on a course of self-destruction.

One of the first things you notice in Elijah's life, one of the true clues to his true condition is how long it takes him to travel this two hundred miles down to Mount Sinai. Now you realize that Elijah is a marathon runner. Remember how he ran before Ahab's chariot from Mount Carmel to his palace. He takes forty days to travel two hundred miles. That's an average of five miles a day. Not much for a marathon runner. He's really down. He's crawling at the pace of a dried out snail. No good for a marathon runner. He appears to be carrying the full weight of the world on his drooping shoulders. This burdened man is trudging along with a very heavy heart. Understandably he was physically and emotionally exhausted. You don't do too well you're exhausted. Have you been burning the candle at both ends? Do you wake up in the morning, tired? How do you help someone like that? Somebody who is truly discouraged? Observe how God rescued Elijah. Here are the steps that will also help us from our problems. I Kings 19:8B - So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. He was heading for the mountain of God. That's a good place to go. A good destination.

Observe here that Elijah is not perfect. He's a scared prophet, a back-slidden prophet. He's supposed to be out having a great revival, and he's not. God has never chosen leaders of churches or conferences that are perfect: even conference president, even pastors are not perfect. And we can't expect it now. They grew more and more like the divine image, but I don't recognize any individual other than God and His Son who were absolutely perfect in the scriptures. Elijah was a growing person and he was in a deep valley but he did come out on top because he was translated. He was taken to heaven. So, he's a fantastic man.

Now, verse 9. There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the LORD came to him: "What are you doing here, Elijah?"

He probably thought, "O Lord, how can you ask such a Question! You placed me in an impossible job description, I really can't do anything else."

In verse 10, he words it: He replied, "I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too." Who was "they"? "They" was Jezebel. Often time we hear, "Well, do you hear what 'they' say?" It's probably just one or two people.

At the Cave Motel no one left the light on for Elijah. It was damp and dark in there. I believe this was the very same cave where Moses had been years when he spent forty days and forty nights in that cave, visiting with God, getting the Ten Commandments there in Exodus 33. In the same place. It was a Holy spot. That's why Elijah headed there.

Elijah went there to find God, to get his strength back. And that's wise! If you lose God, go back to the last place where you knew God once existed. Maybe your mother's Bible, maybe Sabbath School, maybe prayer, church. Come back and you will find Him again.

Finally he found the desolate cave. He hunkered down in a dark dingy corner and cried and prayed. That cave would be his school room and God would be his teacher. He learned a lot in that cave. We must realize that God is not in the business of destroying spiritual lives. God is in the business of reconstructing fallen, frail human beings. He's there to help us.

God started by giving him a one Question quiz. The question was, "What are you doing here, Elijah? I did not send you here. I sent you to the brook. I sent you to the widow of Zarephath. I sent you to Mount Carmel. I didn't send you here. But, who sent you here?" The same question God asked Adam and Eve as they stood shivering in the garden of Eden.

You need to ask yourself that same question, What am I doing here? Why do you live in Collegedale? Do I belong here? Is this where God wants me to be? You need to answer that question.

Now, how do you help a Caveman? Notice how skillfully God handled this prophet who had fallen into the ditch of deep doldrums. First of all, after allowing him a good night's rest, God LISTENED to His prophet. He allowed Elijah to vent his anger, his feelings, to get them out into the open. For you to help someone who is really discouraged, you need to allow them to talk. You can help your friends who are down by listening to them. Elijah gave God a sob story. After that God held a cosmic firework show. A nature lesson, a science lesson. And He uses wind, earthquake and fire.

Let's read this in 1 Kings 19:11, The Lord said, "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by."

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. A tremendous wind. A wind so powerful that it tore the mountains apart. Now, across the street on McDonald Road, we have a mountain called, "Grindstone Mountain." How much of a wind would it take to tear that mountain apart? This would be like a level twenty-five hurricane, with winds of five thousand miles an hour. Tremendous force here that this is talking about. The cave became a wind tunnel. And poor Elijah, he was in there and his cave was probably whipping in the breeze and winding around his legs. He was in a critical condition. The sand was sand-blasting him. Did that get him out of the cave? You can't get a person out of a cave by blowing at them.

The next item that happens is an earthquake. Now, when an earthquake is taking place, where is the safest place to be? In a cave? Do you want to be in a cave during an earthquake? That's the last place you want to be because all those tons of rock are hanging there over your head, those big boulders that are up in there, they're going to come down. You're going to be trapped in there. You're going to be in a sardine can. And Elijah should have gone out. "It's time to evacuate, Elijah." When your cave is in danger of caving in, you need to leave it. He didn't come out.

The next item, we are told in the Bible, a great fire came. What was not blown away and what was not shaken down was burned up. I have a book in my library about the Waldenses. It was printed in 1853. It's about the sketches of the evangelical Christians of the Piedmont valleys. I was reading a story this week about three thousand Waldenses who went into a cave to escape their persecutors. The women and children were sent to the very back of the cave and the men were toward the mouth of the cave. And they were found. Their pursuers brought a lot of brush and debris and wood and piled it in front of the entrance to the cave and lit it on fire. All three thousand of those Waldensians died of smoke and fumigation. (See the Waldenses: sketches of the evangelical Christians of the valleys of Piedmont, Philadelphia, Presbyterian Board of Publication, by A. W. Mitchell, 1853.) A cave is not a place to be during a fire. Did Elijah come out? No. Elijah must have feared for his life in that cave. But God's disciplines are not dangerous to sinners. They are only dangerous to sin.

But God was not the wind, not in the earthquake, not in the fire. I would just like to point out something here. I don't think God is often in the gut wrenching emotional dramas and events of life. God is in the still small voice. God's normal method of communication is not phenomenal lightening bolts. He doesn't have to have earthquakes. It seems like contemporaneous theology has subscribed to the big bang theory of Evolution. They believe that the louder the bang is the greater the propensity to spirituality. It seems to be that. I went to worship in a place not long ago and it was so loud it hurt my ears. It seems today that in some churches the more sensational the preaching and the more electrifying the theatrical show the greater is its ability to make one holy. Apparently that's not the case here.

I Kings 19:12 ...After the fire came a gentle whisper. The Bible says, "Be still and know that I am God." I personally enjoy the stillness of the morning time to listen to the Almighty. That's when I seem to grow the most. In the morning time. I do my worship in the morning, a lot of my praying in the morning. I think my corn grows better in the morning. I don't think anything can grow in that heat.

Isaiah 30:21 Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it." We hear that voice. Almost inaudible at times. "Go here. Turn your car here. Don't go down that road." Have you ever had that impression? I have. I've always wondered, "Well, what would happen if I disregarded that voice? Some times I go another way. Isn't that weird? Still small voice. God's utterances are frequently barely audible. We must listen.

Well, the wind died down and the smoke cleared, the dust settled, Elijah heard the still small whisper. A kind voice, it was his friend, God. God was not angry. God is omnipresent. He's everywhere. God was there to show His love, His grace to His discouraged friend. That's what kind of a God we serve. He's not there to condemn. He's not there to throw rocks at Elijah. He's there to express His gentle grace to Elijah. What a meaningful God we serve! Elijah covered his face and came out of the cave. That's how you get somebody out of the cave. By love! You can't draw people out of their shell by yelling at them. You can't convert your wife by yelling at her. You can't convert your husband by nagging at him. You convert somebody by loving them, gently, by the still small voice. At that exact point Elijah became ready to listen to God. Elijah stepped out of the cave.

Now, why didn't God just go into the cave and get Elijah? He could have done that. Caves are dark anyway and God's presence would have just lit up the cave. Or he could have sent an angel and written words of fire across the walls of the cave: "God is love. I love you, Elijah. You can come out, now." He didn't do that. Because God wanted an altar call. He wanted Elijah to come out. It was Elijah's move. It was time to step out for God. God can blast rocks apart but there is one thing He cannot do, make up our mind. That is something God could never do. God is omnipotent but He can't make up your mind for you. He gives you the freedom of choice. If you think about it, the fact that there will be a Hell someday means that humans are not robots. We do have the freedom of choice. Forgiveness is not force-fed.

Today we must decide for God. If you have been struggling with some problem for years I urge you to come to God. Get out of your cave. Stop clinging to the dark sins of your life and come out.

I remember talking to a fine young man in North Carolina when I was pastor there. He had a secret sin in his life that he revealed to me. He said, "Pray for me, Pastor, that will get the victory over this sin." And several times I would say, "Well, how's it going?" And he would say, "It's not good. I can't get loose from this thing." Time after time he would say, "I know what I need to do." But he never did it. He kept on sinning. After a time I noticed his spiritual arteries were hardening. Sin was calcifying a thick crust around his very soul. He kept choosing sin. He was just not able to shake it loose. Eventually he lost his way. The solution was to come out of his dark cave of sin into the clean light of God's presence.

Well, Elijah came out of the cave. Again God asked him the very same question. "What are you doing here, Elijah?" And Elijah gave Him the same answer. You can see the exact same answer, word for word. The same question, same answer. He hadn't learned a thing, had he. Still flopped. Was Elijah's answer good or bad? Look at here in verse 10 for his first answer. And you can compare that with his answer in verse 14. Elijah is saying, "I have been very zealous but Your people are bad. I'm the only one that's left and they're trying to kill me. They're coming to get me." He was wrong on all three counts of his answer.

Perhaps we are looking for something new but again here is God asking the same old one question quiz and so Elijah gives basically the same answer. God was drawing out the poison. Allowing Elijah to ventilate his negativism.

Dejected people tend to focus on discouraging things. He could not see beyond the overshadowing clouds, you know, the little cloud that hangs over you? His viewpoint was distorted. God helped him by showing him reality and setting the facts straight. Was Elijah the only one there? If you are ever going to get on top of life again you must have accurate information. God set the record straight. Notice that our kind God only allowed Elijah to play his broken record two times. If you reiterate bad information often enough, you eventually begin to believe it yourself.

Was Elijah the only one left? Not at all. Verse 18 Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel--all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him. Elijah was not a lone Ranger. And you aren't either. You might think, "I'm the only Christian left in the world. I wish everybody was like me." It's a good thing they're not like me. We are not the only ones left. In fact God has 144,000 who serve Him with an unwavering zealousness. God has a number of people who are faithful to Him, who have not bowed the knee to Baal, who serve Him with an unwavering zealousness. Elijah needed the knowledge that he was not alone. Are you the only one doing right? Is the Seventh-day Adventist church the only Christian church out there? No. We're not alone. God is helping others to cope with similar things. To cure Elijah, God put him back to work. I Kings 19:15 The Lord said to him, "Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram.

God went on like nothing had ever happened. "You're still my prophet. You're still employed, I never did fire you. You went off on this side track. And now I'm trying to get you back to do the work that I want you to do for Me. Go and anoint Hazael. Get back to work." You Know, no matter what we do, no matter how we fail God, God is always there to take you back. Isn't that a blessing. It does not matter what you have done. It doesn't matter how deep you have fallen or how far away you have drifted, if you want to come back, God is there to put you back on the payroll. He's there to accept you as His child again.

Elijah had a misconception about the issue. He wanted Jezebel dead right now. And God was saying go and anoint Hazael as king. Elijah was probably thinking that the Almighty was way off in left field. He just doesn't understand what the issues are. The issue is Jezebel. But God is always way ahead of us. What Elijah did not know was that the anointing of Hazael as king would solve the Jezebel problem because there would be a war Ahab would be killed.

I Kings 19:16 then God said: "Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel..." Do you remember Jehu? That hotheaded race-car driver? You'll never forget him, will you. I imagine Jehu's chariot was one of those low-riders. It had little doughnut tires sticking way out beyond the frame with the sparks flying underneath as he went along. That's Jehu. God said to go and anoint Jehu. Elijah did not know that Jehu was longing for the restoration of the true God in Israel. Jehu would give the order for the three eunuchs in Jezebel's room to throw her out the window. And they threw Jezebel out of a high window and she was trampled by horses and eaten by dogs. All this was designed to solve the Jezebel problem.

Then comes another bombshell. I Kings 19:16 ...and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. Wow! That's a bombshell, isn't it. But that was for his benefit.

Another factor God used in restoring Elijah was to give him a human friend. Elijah needed Elisha. Christians cannot live a righteous life in a cave. People need people to encourage them. You need some other Christian, you need some other person to help you. You need a friend.

The Elijah message that we focus on here is not the message Elijah gave, but the message Elijah received from God. Elijah got a new picture of God. He had assumed that God was going to get even with him for running away. He was afraid of God. As the wind, earthquake and fire came he perhaps thought his life was about over.

But God did not kill him. He was there to rescue him. God took Elijah's punishment and gave Elijah His grace. God's voice was tender and soft and loving. It was just the beginning of a new wonderful life, a life that would end up in heaven. God, his friend was out there to save him. Elijah saw how nice and forgiving God really was. God was after him to save him, not to condemn him. God seeks you friend, that He might save you and be your benefactor. You can never be afraid of God. God was Elijah's true Friend. He learned to trust God and he learned that God does not desert us when we desert Him. God is there for you as well.

John 3:16,17 For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.

Moses wearied on the Borders of the Promised Land. Elijah failed just before the time of his translation. But both returned to God's will for their life. Will we fail on the boarders of Eternity? Our friend Jesus waits to save us.

Not long afterward, God took Elijah to heaven in a fiery chariot. He went up through the sky and through the clouds. I want to tell you today that if God can translate Elijah, God can translate you. Do you believe that? He can do it! It doesn't matter how deep the cave is that you are currently in, God can draw you out of that cave if you will listen to His still small voice. You may be in a cave of physical problems. Maybe you're facing some medical problem in your family that is just about to get you. And you are wondering, how you are ever going to get through this crisis. God will help you. Maybe you're facing some financial problem, some marital problem, whatever it is, you come out of your cave, place your hand in the hand of God and God will see you though. He'll do that. What a wonderful God we serve! See how God can translate a discouraged backslidden prophet. One that just a few weeks before had been despondent, and lost a lot of his faith in God.

My point in preaching this sermon is not to show you Elijah, but to show you God, that you can know the wonderful God that you're serving. Can you see how nice God really is? Although Elijah had made a mistake, the Lord did not cast him off. Jesus came to this world to save people who get discouraged and make mistakes. Jesus came to save sinners. You may leave Him but He never leaves you. You may disappoint God but He still wants you in His kingdom. Just come to Him and accept Him again as your loving Savior.

Have you gotten a new picture of God today? God loves you! But He has a problem. Jesus cannot save you unless you hear that still small voice. Unless you come out of the cave. Unless you come to Him and place your life in His hands. I invite you to do that today. If you would like to place your life fully in the hands of God

If God can translate Elijah then there is hope for you.

Opening Hymn: 111 It took a Miracle
Scripture Reading: I Kings 19:11-13
Closing Hymn: 525 Hiding in Thee


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