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Curing Elijah’s Blues

1 Kings 19:1-21 • March 6, 2024 • g1287

Pastor Tim Anderson from Calvary Chapel Burbank teaches a message through 1 Kings 19:1-21 titled “Curing Elijah’s Blues.”

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Pastor Tim Anderson

March 6, 2024

Sermon Scripture Reference

I’m going to begin reading in 1 Kings 19:1. “And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, also how he had executed all the prophets with the sword. 2 Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, ‘So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.’ 3 And when he saw that, he arose and ran for his life, and went to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.”

The Bible is filled with mountains and valleys, and life also is filled with mountains and valleys. We have mountaintop experiences where we see God come through and we’re just rejoicing and as happy as can be, but then other times we go down into deep valleys, valleys that are so deep David described them as like the valley of the shadow of death. Sometimes we go from one to the other—we come down the mountain of a mountaintop experience and go right into a deep, dark valley. This is exactly what’s happening in 1 Kings 19.

Chapter 18 is one of the highest mountaintops in the Bible. It’s the story of Mount Carmel where Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal. If you remember, it was 450 against 1, and that’s not good odds. He challenged them to a test, a challenge of sacrifices. They prepared sacrifices before their gods, and the challenge was this—no fire. “You prepare your sacrifice, and then you pray to your gods, and I’ll pray to my God,” and “the God who answers by fire, He is God.”

If you remember, the prophets of Baal prayed and cried out to Baal all day long. In fact, Elijah kind of mocked them, “Maybe your god is sleeping,” he said. “You gotta shout a little louder, wake him up.” They go all day long, and the Bible just simply says, “There was no voice.” No one heard, no response. About the time of the evening sacrifice, Elijah very dramatically prepared his sacrifice. He put the altar together with stones, put wood on it, and then he did a very bold move, he went ahead and poured water on it—four giant containers of water three times over. He drenched the sacrifice. He made a trench around his altar to hold that water and then prays just a simple little prayer, just a sentence virtually of confidence in God to ask Him to move and to work. What happened? Fire fell from heaven and consumed not only the sacrifice but also the wood, the stones, and even the water in the trench. All the people saw the power of God and the answer to Elijah’s prayer, and they bowed down and worshiped and said, “The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God!”

You might remember, too, that there had been three and a half years without rain, so after this demonstration of God’s power, Elijah goes and he prays and asks the Lord seven times, it was like a travailing, perhaps, in prayer, then it begins to rain and the victory is sort of complete—God has demonstrated His power and vindicated His name. That’s chapter 18. It’s Mount Carmel, this high mountain of victory, but then we’re sort of shocked by what happens so soon after. Right down from the mountain we go into a deep, dark valley.

You know something’s wrong almost immediately, verse 1, when it said, “And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, also how he had executed all the prophets with the sword.” You know, something’s wrong there in verse 1, where Ahab reported all that Elijah had done. It wasn’t Elijah, it was the Lord God who had done the miracle and the work. Somehow it’s as if Ahab didn’t really see the hand of God, that that revival didn’t hit his heart, if he’s talking about what Elijah had done. He seemed to miss the point.

In verse 2, “Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, ‘So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.’” Jezebel curses Elijah. This is the language of a curse, “So let the gods do to me,” she’s talking about her false gods, yet she’s making this vow, this curse. It’s a death threat. It’s a desire to put Elijah to death. In verse 3 we have sort of the shock and the surprise from the mountain down to this deep valley. It says, “And when he saw that, he arose and ran for his life, and went to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.”

Beersheba is about as far as you can go. It’s maybe 85 miles. He’s traveling from the north of Israel down to the south. You might remember a phrase in the Old Testament, “From Dan to Beersheba,” Dan sort of the farthest tribe north and down, Beersheba, the farthest city down in the south. He’s just gone as far away from her as he possibly can. The Bible just plainly tells us he was running for his life. He became frightened. The great prophet who had experienced this victory on the mountaintop is plunging deep into despair and discouragement down in Beersheba.

It gets a little worse in verse 4, “But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, ‘It is enough! Now, LORD, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!’” This is about as low as you can go to pray and ask God to take your life, to have these feelings of intense despair, although he’s not the first person to pray it. You might remember Moses had a moment like this where he prayed something almost the same to the Lord, and he’s not the last. Jonah the prophet also had in incident where he prayed a prayer just like this, so maybe it’s not that unusual. But to have Elijah, I mean, he’s the prophet of power! He’s the one who saw the hand of God move. He could pray the weather to come and to go, and he could pray the fire down from heaven. Why would our hero go down so far, so low.

Notice, “But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree.” These are those trees you see out in the desert where it looks like an upside-down broom, where you have just a little stick and then the branches spread out. You’re in the wilderness, the desert, and you’re looking for a place of shade and comfort. He just parks himself under this little broom tree. I don’t know if you’ve ever been under the broom tree, but these feelings of despair, praying that you might die, “It is enough! Now, LORD, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!”

How did that happen? I made a little list of five things that I think all combined together. It could probably make a list of a hundred, if you thought about it long enough. How can a person who loves the Lord and has seen the power of God and be used by the Lord get to a place this low? Well, here’s maybe five reasons. Maybe reason one is physical exhaustion. You know, all you have to do is sort of add up the miles. After the great event at Mount Carmel, he ran to Jezreel. That’s a 20-mile run. The Bible says he ran it faster than Ahab’s chariot, so he was running almost a marathon after the events of that night. Then, this journey down to Beersheba, that’s another 85 miles running for his life, frantic, frightened, discouraged. Then it says another day’s journey out there into the wilderness by himself.

Physical exhaustion can leave you vulnerable. Sometimes we get so tired we don’t even know what we’re thinking. I remember once, years ago, I was with a group of pastors and an older pastor pulled me aside. I don’t know why he did this. I’ve never forgotten what he told me, but he told me that he kind of lost it once in the ministry. He said he was on an airplane, and on the airplane he kind of lost his mind. He wanted to get off, and he tried to get off an airplane. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen such a thing, this is a fairly distinguished fellow, this pastor, somebody I looked up to. He was just sort of whispering into my ear something he wanted me to know that there are times where you can just get absolutely exhausted. He said that as they began to figure out what happened—why did he get to that place of just sort of losing his mind—the answer was after some tests and some counseling that he had been sleep deprived for years. He said that finally he just snapped. He was so exhausted that his body, his mind, he just kind of lost it. He wanted to get off an airplane, but the problem was the airplane was thirty thousand feet in the air! They had to restrain him. This pastor was restrained until they could get down, and you think to yourself….

Well, I’m talking to some moms in the house. Any moms here? Does anybody here know about sleep deprivation? You start thinking strange thoughts. Here Elijah has just exerted himself physically over a period of time, and I think that was definitely a part of what brought on this prayer.

Then, spiritual exhaustion, that’s harder to see. I’ve often thought, Oh, I wish God would give each of us like a little fuel gauge that we could sort of check and see how we’re doing spiritually. How much do we have in the tank? One thing I know for sure is that when you’re doing ministry, you get spiritually exhausted. Do you remember the famous story when Jesus was walking through the crowd and the woman touched the hem of His garment? She had the flow of blood that no one could cure, and she had the faith to reach out. All she did was grab the hem of Jesus’ garment. Do you remember that? When she did, she was healed. Jesus stopped with this whole crowd around Him, and He said, “Who touched Me?” Remember, the disciples didn’t get this. They thought Jesus was crazy. You have a whole crowd of people jostling and He said, “Who touched Me?” But remember what Jesus said, it’s just a one liner, “I felt power go out from Me.” That’s just a truth that if you are ministering, if you’re putting out spiritually, that’s output, and power does go out from you.

Here, again, Elijah and the conflict with the prophets of Baal, a great victory but it’s a spiritual battle, and we know that that prayer for the rain, it’s such a fascinating thing that he had to pray for it to rain seven times. Something about that just strikes me of just spiritual output. You can get to a place where you don’t even realize it. We don’t have that fuel gauge, but then you realize, “I’m empty. I’m dry. I need to be filled and refreshed.” Boy, when you get spiritually and physically exhausted, you’re in a very vulnerable place. Elijah’s been just kind of living on the edge, and here it’s like he’s almost ready to go over.

I could add a third thing is he’s under attack. He’s being threatened with his life. It’s through this person, this queen Jezebel, and that’s another whole study. She’s not actually Jewish, she was the result of a treaty made with her father. It was one of those Old Testament political marriages, so she’s the one that brought the worship of Baal into Israel. She’s just an evil person. She makes the threat, she curses him, “So let the gods do to me,” right? but this threat of death is really the voice of the enemy, isn’t it. Jesus said, “The thief comes only to rob, kill, and destroy.”

I think anytime people are having suicidal thoughts or who are despairing of life in getting to a place like this, there’s demonic activity involved, and there might be an attack. It might come through the voice of a person, but the voice of the devil—the voice of our enemy—he only comes to rob, kill, and destroy. Whenever I hear people talking about suicidal thoughts and things, it’s always true that we’re dealing with a realm of spiritual warfare. Satan is trying to actually take somebody’s life.

We could add another thing, maybe a fourth thing, is that Elijah is all alone. You know, it’s a sad thing there at the end of verse 3 when it says, “…and left his servant there.” In the beginning of verse 4, “But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness.” Remember, Jesus sent out His disciples two by two. There’s a danger in being completely alone. Here, through this set of circumstances, Elijah finds himself completely by himself under this broom tree. To be completely isolated, not to have any voice to balance your thoughts or someone to talk to, somebody with you, obviously is a very vulnerable place to be. The crazy thing is, sometimes when we’re feeling these thoughts, we want to be alone. It’s counterintuitive. We actually put ourselves in a place of danger when we leave everybody else behind and outside of our thoughts and we’re not thinking clearly. Oh, it makes such a difference if we could just talk to somebody, but you find yourself completely alone. Again, that’s a very vulnerable place to be in.

The fifth, I would just say, it’s just the sheer disappointment of what happened. Even in that victory I’m thinking that Elijah was looking for maybe a greater response—that maybe King Ahab would just repent, maybe Jezebel would just repent—that when everybody just saw the power of God that there would be a revival, that the whole nation would just in a moment turn back to God. But we know that didn’t happen. Even though we read the story and see victory that God heard Elijah’s prayers, and he’s just a powerful man, that if his expectation was for more after all that he had done, and after all that God had done, that there would have been maybe a greater response that people would just all turn to God and that the nation would be saved, that the revival would be complete. Somehow, he was disappointed. It didn’t turn out exactly the way he thought.

The disappointments in life, I mean, these things you can despair. You want more than what happened. You give everything you’ve got, and it just seems like it wasn’t enough. We’re still in a place of trouble and loneliness. You add up all these things—physical exhaustion, spiritual exhaustion, being under attack, being all alone, and just great disappointment—our hero, Elijah, actually prayed that he might die, verse 4. He said, “It is enough! Now, LORD, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!” I don’t know if you’ve ever been “under the broom tree.” Have you ever been that discouraged? Have you ever gone down in a valley that dark where you’re not seeing much, you’re not thinking clearly, you’re exhausted physically. Spiritually, you find yourself being attacked, you’re alone, and you’re just disappointed. Anybody been “under the broom tree”?

I sort of wonder. Maybe at one time or another we’ve all been there, and I’m glad that the Bible doesn’t hide these things from us. The Bible shows us the weaknesses—the valleys of our heroes—and the beauty now as we’re going to see how the Lord ministers to him. How the Lord pulls him out of this valley and takes hold of this whole situation. Let’s watch the Lord here carefully at work, verse 5. “Then as he lay and slept under a broom tree, suddenly an angel touched him, and said to him, ‘Arise and eat.’ 6 Then he looked, and there by his head was a cake baked on coals, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank, and lay down again. 7 And the angel of the LORD came back the second time, and touched him, and said, ‘Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you.’”

It’s fascinating to me that the first thing the Lord does ministering to Elijah is He ministers to his physical needs. He did it first, and notice it’s an angel of the Lord. Verse 5, “…an angel touched him,” and again, verse 7, “And the angel of the Lord.” I have a New King James Version I’m using here, and I have a textual note down at the bottom of my page. How many New King James people do I have in the house? There’s a note at the bottom of the page that says you could translate it with a capital “A,” Angel. That would be a reference to the Angel of the Lord that we often identify as a Christophany, a preincarnate appearance of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament. Now, that’s entirely possible because Jesus, the Word, is eternal, and it seems like there are times in the Old Testament He appears because this Angel of the Lord is sometimes worshiped, and we know that no ordinary angel would ever be worshiped. But this, “angel of the LORD” could very easily be Christ in a preincarnate state.

What’s so interesting to me is that we know from the New Testament that Jesus sometimes did make meals. Most famously, you remember John 21 after the resurrection, Peter was despairing because he denied the Lord three times. He went back to Galilee and went back to fishing. Do you remember this story? To me it’s one of the most beautiful stories in the Bible. Peter is wiped out because of his three denials, so when he says, “I’m going to go back to fishing,” it’s almost like, “I’m going to go back to my old life.” He’s out there fishing all night, and they don’t catch anything. Suddenly a mysterious Person appears on the shore and says these famous words, “Cast your nets on the right side of the boat,” and sure enough they do, and there’s a net full of fish. It’s John who says, “It’s the Lord!”

That was a déjà vu, right? Peter had experienced that earlier when he first met Christ—a miraculous catch of fish—and Jesus, again, is just bringing him back to his calling. That’s when he was called the first time; now he’s going to get a second chance. He’s going to get called again. You remember this whole scene, and what did Jesus do? As they come to the shore it says, they came and there was a fire there and some fish cooking and some bread, and one of my favorite Scriptures (I have a lot of them). I would like to say this could be my favorite, the red letters, the words of Jesus. They come to the shore and what does Jesus say to Peter? “Come, and eat breakfast.” That’s the God that I worship. He says, “Come, and eat breakfast.” This is the beauty of it, it’s going to be a beautiful restoration of Peter. You know the famous questions, “Peter, do you love Me?” three times over. He had three chances to reaffirm, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You,” and that somehow was the words of healing and life and calling Peter back. What did He do? He took care of the physical needs first. He had that fire, the fish, He had the bread, and then He ministered.

Here, this is so similar. We have an exhausted, physically and spiritually, prophet. He’s sleeping, and when the angel touches him, it’s just so gentle, “Arise, and eat.” In verse 6, “Then he looked, and there by his head was a cake baked on coals, and a jar of water.” He ministered to his physical needs. I think about this. I think you can tell a lot about a person’s theology, their idea of God, by whether or not this bread is warm or stale. Is this jar of water as hot as radiator water or is it cool? You have to kind of work this out. If the Lord is feeding him…you remember Elijah earlier we met him that he was fed by ravens miraculously. Later, he was miraculously fed by a widow, so he had experienced miracle meals before, but this is the Lord Jesus. Here’s this bread and this water, and I think, How good is the Lord! How tender. How kind. I’m thinking this bread was perfectly warm. I want to say straight out of the oven, but obviously there’s no oven here, you’ve got a fire, maybe a little clay, I’m not sure how He baked it. Then, the water, I don’t think it’s desert, hot springs—Murrieta Hot Springs—water, I think this is cool, refreshing water. This is a gift from God. This is the grace of God saying, “I know that you’re warn out. You need to sleep. You need to eat and to drink,” so he ate and drank and laid down again. He needed more rest.

Verse 7, “And the angel of the LORD came back the second time, and touched him,” this incredible gentleness. There’s no sermon here. He didn’t preach at him. He didn’t rebuke him. No. The first thing, we’ve got to take care of your exhaustion, your physical need. There’s quite a lesson here. If you find yourself not thinking clearly, if you find yourself deep in a valley and you’re feeling pretty wiped out, it might be a good idea to see how you’re doing physically, not just simple food and water and sleep, but maybe even sometimes a trip to the doctor. Is there something not right? If I’m not thinking clearly, is my body betraying me? Am I experiencing a physical trial? It seems like this is the first thing we need to look at. Let’s take care of your physical needs, and this is what the Lord does in such a beautiful way.

Verse 8, “So he arose, and ate and drank; and he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights as far as Horeb, the mountain of God. 9 And there he went into a cave, and spent the night in that place; and behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and He said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ 10 So he said, ‘I have been very zealous for the LORD God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.’” This is fascinating. This mountain of God, verse 8, Horeb, is the same as Mount Sinai. He’s going all the way back to where Moses met with the Lord up on Mount Sinai. This is far outside of Israel. We’re down the Sinai Peninsula, we’ve gone another couple hundred miles. He’s way beyond Jezebel’s reach now. He goes down, and it says, verse 9, “And there he went into a cave.” My understanding there is there’s a definite article in the original that it really is that he went into the cave.

You remember the famous story of Moses when he wanted to see the glory of the Lord that God hid him in the cleft of the rock, and it seems like he’s retracing those steps. He’s going back to when Israel was born as a people at Mount Sinai, with Moses receiving the Ten Commandments. He’s going back to that very spot, and God somehow is getting him ready to receive ministry. Again, not a sermon to begin with, it’s a question. Verse 9, again, the Lord said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

When you minister to people, I think a lot of times we feel like we have to be the Bible answer man or we need to know the answer to everything and we have to preach at people, but here I’m learning that maybe a good place to start is to ask people, “What’s going on? What is happening inside of you?” “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Now, we know that God knows everything. He’s omniscient. He doesn’t need to ask any questions, so He’s not asking it for Himself, He’s asking it for Elijah. It’s almost like a diagnostic. This works. When you minister to people, it might be a good idea to start by just asking a few questions trying to figure out what’s going on, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” to let them speak, and as he speaks it sounds a little bit like a speech which he prepared. Again, he had forty days and forty nights to prepare it. In verse 10, he’s prepared this answer, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.”

I wrote down in my notes here, it might be good just to spill your guts, just to honestly tell God exactly what you’re thinking and feeling, even if it’s this sad, “I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.” If we learn anything in the Bible, it’s that we can be honest with God. There’s no reason not to be. If God asks you, “What are you doing here?” Just pour it out.

I love the psalms. Anybody here love the psalms? If you learn anything in the psalms, you can pray and talk to God about anything. I believe it was Skip Heitzig where I remember hearing say at first is that the absence of the presence of God is as normal as the presence of God in the psalms. In other words, so many psalms begin with, “Where are You, God? When are You going to work Your power?” The psalms are filled with struggle and despair, up and down. The mountains and valleys in the book of Psalms are almost endless. There’s the praises of the triumphs and thanksgiving and glory to God, but then how many times is the psalmist crying out and despairing and working through his troubles and problems, and then confessing, anxiety, depression, discouragement, bringing to the Lord all of the attacks and physical afflictions. I mean, it’s all there. You’ve got 150 of them.

As you go up and down the mountains and the valleys of the psalms, it’s interesting to me that often mountains and valleys are right next to each other. You have one psalm that says, “Be still, and know that I am God,” Psalm 46:10, and in the very next psalm, Psalm 47:1 says, “Oh, Clap your hands, all you peoples! Shout to God with the voice of triumph!” You’re going from a valley to a mountain, and then from a mountain to a valley, but all of it is just a person crying out to God expressing what’s going on.

Here, the Lord is drawing this out. God’s asking the question and you just get this spilling of the guts, and I think the wisdom of the Lord is that you’ve got to talk to God. Be absolutely honest with God, and pour out your troubles and your griefs. All of that discouragement needs to go somewhere. You can lay it at the feet of the Lord.

Watch this. This is beautiful, verse 11, “Then He said, ‘Go out, and stand on the mountain before the LORD.’ And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.” I think a lot of us would actually really like to hear the Lord in the wind, in the earthquake, in the fire. There is a human tendency, we actually like drama. We would actually like the Lord to be more obvious, and if there was ever a person that maybe fits that profile, it would be Elijah, right? He called down fire out of heaven. He saw the power of God.

I think there is something in us that we would like to see the fire of God in that way today. We would love to see God answer dramatically. Even in the history of the Old Testament when you read about the crossing of the Red Sea, it was a mighty wind that blew all night and created the path. When you think about earthquakes, I think about the battle of Jericho, and I don’t know exactly how God engineered the falling of those walls when they blew the trumpets and marched around seven days, and on the seventh day, seven times, and they shouted, but those walls fell down and obviously the earth was shaking. God does show Himself in power.

I’m thinking a little bit about in the New Testament the day of Pentecost when you had a mighty, rushing wind and there appeared tongues like fire. Again, a very dramatic display of God’s power captured everybody’s attention. I think there’s something in us that really would rather that God was a sky writer. We would like to see messages in the sky, “Good morning, Tim. How are you?” We would love something more obvious, more dramatic.

So the Lord calls him out and he goes out, and you have these demonstrations of power with the wind and the earthquake and the fire. But so interestingly, God wasn’t in that wind, wasn’t in the earthquake, verse 12, He wasn’t in the fire, “…and after the fire a still small voice,” the voice of God ministering to him. We’re going to hear in just a minute exactly what He wanted to say. There’s times where God wants to just speak to us, can we say conversationally, simply, ordinarily, and without the drama, just direct, intimate conversation, fellowship, with God? “…a still small voice.”

Can you turn back to Exodus 34. I want to read what happened to Moses there. Exodus 34 is that place where Moses was in that cleft—same place! He’s there in the cleft of the rock, and Moses was asking to see His glory. God answered that. He said, “I’m going to cause My glory to pass by you,” and we have a record of exactly what happened and what it looked like, Exodus 34. To me this is a picture perhaps of “the still small voice.” When Moses asked to see the glory, this is what happened, Exodus 34:5. It says, “Now the LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. 6 And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, 7 keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.’ 8 So Moses made haste and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped.”

I find this fascinating that the glory of God, he doesn’t just talk about the cloud, what he saw, or the sounds of it like some sort of movie, but what happens is the Lord speaks and the Lord speaks in words, but these words are God revealing Himself, the character of God, that He’s gracious, He’s merciful, He’s longsuffering, abounding in goodness and truth. These words could be written down. If it was just a movie or an experience, if it was just something physical in that way, this drama, like the wind or the earthquake or the fire, how could that actually be communicated? How could God be known if it was just something that we all just sort of feel in a sensory way? But if God speaks, if “the still small voice” is giving us truths, just speaking words, this is God saying, “This is who I am. You want to see My glory? You want to know who I am? Write this down. I’m merciful. I’m gracious. I’m longsuffering. I’m full of goodness and truth.” He’s giving a revelation of character in who He is.

It’s amazing to me then that these words, we have them. What happened to Moses in the cleft of the rock, we actually have the words. We can know God like he did! We don’t have the drama of it, but we have the truth of it. And, in “the still small voice” of God, the voice of God, so often it’s just the Lord speaking and giving us clear words of truth. When “the still small voice” began to speak to Elijah, it was words that he could write down and that ministered truth to him, that we also can look at it and say, “That’s how God speaks. This is the kinds of things that He says.” “The still small voice” is God in intimacy saying, “I want you to know Me. I want you to trust Me. I want you to put your faith in Me and go deeper into the things of God.” It’s not about that drama.

Does God act in power, and can He in great and mighty ways display His majesty? Sure. Yes, and He does. But “the still small voice,” this is how God spoke to Elijah in his despair, in his exhaustion, in his aloneness. It was a still small voice.

Flip back there to 1 Kings 19, and let’s hear what He said. At verse 13, “So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him, and said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ 14 And he said, ‘I have been very zealous for the LORD God of hosts; because the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.’” We know it was a speech, wasn’t it, that he rehearsed because he says exactly the same thing again. He hasn’t really budged, yet. He’s still sort of this is where his mind is fixed, but not everything he’s saying is true. It’s what he feels.

I just encouraged you to tell God how you feel. You go ahead and tell God in your deep, dark valleys the things that are going through your heart and mind, even if you’re not thinking very clear. Here, this idea that, “I alone am left,” he’s not alone, “and they seek to take my life,” God is not done with him. Those things are not true, so now here comes the Lord, “I’m going to very gently now speak the truth into Elijah.” He needs to hear from the Lord afresh and grab onto some truth.

Verse 15, “Then the LORD said to him: ‘Go, return on your way to the Wilderness of Damascus; and when you arrive, anoint Hazael as king over Syria. 16 Also, you shall anoint Jehu the son of Nimshi as king over Israel. And Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel Meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place. 17 It shall be that whoever escapes the sword of Hazael, Jehu will kill; and whoever escapes the sword of Jehu, Elisha will kill. 18 Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.’” Verse 15, “Go, return on your way.” I like another translation that says, “Just go back the way you came. Go right back where you left.” He really should have never left in the first place. He was running for his life in fear.

Fear will make you do crazy things, and so the Word of the Lord first is, “No, I’m not done with you. I want you to go right back the way you came.” And notice, all the way to Damascus! I mean, we’re going from all the way in the southern part of the Sinai Peninsula, all the way up through Israel, up into Damascus, all the way across the country again, even past where Ahab and Jezebel were, and “I want you to anoint three different people—the king of Syria, the king of Israel—and, Elijah, I’m not done with you. I want you to go right back and pick up where you left off. No one’s going to kill you, man. I’m not done with you.” You’re indestructible until you’ve completed God’s will for your life. “I want you to anoint them,” and that sets in motion the next thing that God wants to do. He still has his calling.

Then, verse 18. There are some verses that I read in my Bible, I read them over and over because every time I read them I can’t believe them. I don’t know if you have any verses like this where just in your mind you think, No, that can’t be true! For me, verse 18, I have to read it over and over because I can’t believe, “Yet I have reserved seven thousand.” He thinks he’s all alone, and the Lord says, “No, I’ve got not seven, not seventy, not seven hundred, seven thousand!” Can you believe that number? That is such a huge number! He thinks he’s the only one left who loves the Lord, and it’s like, “No, man. I’ve got seven thousand.” Unbelievable. Unbelievable. Now, you feel alone, and there are times where we feel alone. We feel like nobody knows, nobody understands. We don’t have anybody around, and it can just seem like God’s not working.

I requested a song at the end of tonight, “Way Maker” because I love the bridge, Even when I don’t see it, You’re working; Even when I don’t feel it, You’re working; You never stop, You never stop working. That’s a truth about God. Sometimes we feel alone, we feel like nothing’s going on, but then the Lord just let us in on, “No, you’re not alone. I’ve got seven thousand.”

Every year we send our youth to winter camp. Last Sunday, just a few days ago, they were back from camp, and we give time on Sunday morning for testimonies, so in our first service…in our church we have two services, and the first service is when all the leaders and the Sunday school teachers come, so we had the leaders give testimony first service. In the second service the youth group comes in and we gave about twenty minutes in the service and let the youth give testimonies. They all spoke last Sunday, and I just sat there crying. I could start crying about it right now. Sometimes I’m trapped in the pulpit—I don’t know what’s going on up there in the youth room, and I don’t get out much. So, to have all the youth leaders…we had twenty-three kids from our church go, and we had ten leaders go—ten adults that wanted to serve.

As they began to share what the Lord did on the retreat, and the work that God was doing in their hearts, it was just so real, and the testimonies were so wonderful. I actually just sat and listened to them all again because I thought, I don’t know everything God is doing. I don’t know everything God’s done. I don’t even know everything God’s doing in my own church! Just to sit and let these young people speak and give testimony of what God did in their hearts up there at the winter camp, it just did something to me. “God, You are working!”

We look around sometimes, we feel like, “God, what’re You doing? What’s happening? Our nation seems to be falling apart,” and sometimes you just need to hear, “What is the Lord doing?” Because you might think He’s not doing anything, but even when you can’t see it, He’s working. Even when you don’t feel it, He’s working. He never stops, never stops working.

Elijah just needed to know, “You’re not alone. No, there’s seven thousand,” and then, obviously, Elisha was a special one, verse 19. “So he departed from there, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he was with the twelfth. Then Elijah passed by him and threw his mantle on him. 20 And he left the oxen and ran after Elijah, and said, ‘Please let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.’ And he said to him, ‘Go back again, for what have I done to you?’ 21 So Elisha turned back from him, and took a yoke of oxen and slaughtered them and boiled their flesh, using the oxen’s equipment, and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he arose and followed Elijah, and became his servant.”

The mantle was Elijah’s cloak, and sometimes clothes tell you what a person does for a living—a doctor has a doctor’s coat, a judge puts on the judge’s robe—and Elijah’s mantle was the symbol of his prophetic office. When he puts that mantle on Elisha, he’s actually choosing a younger man to take over. He’s going to have a protégé now, the next generation is going to rise up. This changes everything. As you read into the book of 2 Kings, we find out before Elijah was dead there actually were at least three schools of the prophets in three different cities, and at least 150 students in those schools. So, we went from one prophet, to two, to like 150. There needed to be a multiplication, “You can’t do this all by yourself, and you don’t need to do it alone.” This last part of his life was fruitful in raising up a whole other generation of people to do the work of the Lord. God was not done with Elijah, “You’ve got to know the whole second act of your ministry and life in raising up the next generation, so go ahead and anoint Elisha. He’s going to be a friend to you and a servant. You don’t ever really want to be alone in this work again.”

I’d like to summarize the whole sermon. If we could go to Romans, I’m just going to read one verse and we’re done. Romans 11:29, one of my favorite verses that to me summarizes what just happened, what God did in Elijah, and maybe what He needs to do in us, how He restores people who are in that valley of discouragement. Just one small verse, Romans 11:29, one of my favorites. I’d summarize that whole story in this one verse, “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.”

Maybe you’re up on the mountain and you saw the power of God, but then you went down in the valley and you got so discouraged that you wanted to quit. You just couldn’t even see the point. You got to a place of exhaustion and maybe not being able to see what the Lord was doing and you needed to be restored! You needed a touch from God, and physically to feel strong again, not be exhausted, but then to hear from the Lord and get direction and, “I have things for you to do,” and “I am working a work in your generation and the next because even though you hit rock bottom, ‘…the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.’”

You know, God doesn’t give up on any one of us. As gentle and as loving as God was to Elijah when he prayed that crazy prayer, He’s that gentle and loving to us. God’s plan and purpose for your life, even when you’re in that dark valley, it still holds because, “…the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” Let’s bow our heads, and we’ll pray.

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About Pastor Tim Anderson

Pastor Tim Anderson is the Senior Pastor at Calvary Chapel Burbank.

Sermon Summary

Pastor Tim Anderson from Calvary Chapel Burbank teaches a message through 1 Kings 19:1-21 titled “Curing Elijah’s Blues.”

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Pastor Tim Anderson

March 6, 2024