• The End Of Ahab

    1 Kings 22:29-40

    I know we've been studying Elijah, but his story is so linked to Ahab's, I didn't want to skip over this passage.

    Say what you will about Ahab, but he is not cowardly. He might be sulky, idolatrous, indulgent, selfish, disobedient, not to mention evil, but this passage shows he is at least willing to fight his own battles. He, king of Israel, and Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, decide against all good advice, that they are going to go take Ramoth-Gilead. God has just told them through a prophet, that it is not going to go well for them if they try; yet they want to try.

    To tell you the truth, I do this. Any child of any parent has done this. Mom or Dad says no, but we need to exercise our own power of choice, and sometimes it doesn’t turn out so well.  

    In Ahab’s case, the stakes were higher, and he was guaranteed failure from the very beginning. He and Jehoshaphat make a plan. Ahab wants to be IN the battle. Jehoshaphat puts on his kingly robes, but Ahab enters the battle as a soldier. He thinks his chances for survival are better if they don't know he's king. Ramoth-Gilead had their own plan in the works. Kill Ahab. That’s it. They had one goal in mind, and that was it. When they saw Jehoshaphat dressed in his robes they thought they had found their guy. Jehoshaphat yelled, and told them otherwise, and shockingly, they let him be.

    Some Aramaen soldier was out doing his job, fighting the Israeli soldiers and he “happened” to pull back on his bow and let an arrow fly. It “happened” to go through a joint in an Israeli soldier’s armor, and that Israeli soldier “happened” to be King Ahab. As soon as it happened, Ahab knew he was in trouble. Ahab was in a chariot and called to the driver that he needed to be taken out of the fight.

    Scripture says Ahab was propped in the chariot, watching the long day’s battle rage on. He had an entire day to recall his life’s story, all the evil he had done, how he wouldn’t be saying goodbye to his wife, how he had fought for everything he wanted, and yet now found himself bleeding to death in front of the Aramaens. It says his blood ran into the bottom of the chariot.

    And just like that, the battle was over. Everyone retreated and headed home, except for Ahab and the others in his army he had murdered through his disobedience. They took the chariot that held Ahab down to the pool by Samaria and washed it out. As they were cleaning it, dogs came and licked up his blood, just as had been prophesied would happen by Elijah after Ahab and Jezebel had Naboth stoned to death wrongfully, just a few stories earlier.  God kept his promise of justice to Naboth.

    Another prophecy was also completed at Ahab’s death. Remember how Ahab was supposed to completely destroy Ben-hadad and the Aramaens in chapter 20? When he showed mercy to Ben-hadad, it was prophesied that he would incur the death that he passed over Ben-hadad. It would be Ahab’s life for Ben-hadad’s, and here Ahab is killed by the Aramaen army. God kept his promises.

    What does seeing prophecies fulfilled through Ahab’s story do for your faith?

    Seeing how God acted toward Ahab and His people, what picture does it give you of God?

    Ask God to give you a right picture of Himself. Ask Him to give you eyes to see Him for all His mercy, compassion, second-chances and justice.

  • Killing the Innocent and Receiving Mercy.

    1 Kings 21

    Last week we looked at a series of Ahab's bad decisions and then the pronouncement of judgement on him for them. This week we find King Ahab going home to Samaria to sulk. While he’s there, he notices a man’s vineyard next to his palace. He’s probably seen it 100 times, but today, he decides he wants it. Talk about retail therapy. He’s just been chided for not following through what God asked of him of the Aramaen king, so he wants to comfort himself with the taking over of more property for himself. He goes to have a chat with the land owner. He claims he’d like a nice vegetable garden in the place where the vineyard is. He even promises to give the landowner another plot of land for his vineyard.

    The landowner does the unthinkable. He tells the king no. Naboth said to Ahab, “The Lord forbid me that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers.”  Do you see what is happening here? A couple things, really.

    1. This is land that has been in Naboth’s family for generations. It’s land God promised the people of Israel back in the days of Moses during the Exodus. The sense we get here, is that Naboth’s family has been cultivating this specific patch of land for generations. He sees God’s blessing and provision to his family through the everyday cultivation and care of this land.

    2. Naboth acknowledges the Lord. He is one of the few who has not been turned away to the Baal’s by the king’s wife. He knows that the blessings he’s been given have been given to him by the Lord. Not a neighbor, not a king, and certainly not an ungodly man could finagle this property and promise from God from his hand. There’s too much tied up in it. It is the fulfillment of God’s promises seen everyday in this little patch of land.

    This is where King Ahab becomes “sullen and vexed” again. He’s been told no, when he NEEDED the affirmation to make him feel better. Worse yet, in the “no” Naboth reminded him of his previous sin of disobeying God. One man's obedience called out another man's disobedience.

    This is what happens when we walk faithfully with the Lord. We don’t always have to call out the sin of others by actually naming it. Our walk with the Lord shows others what a life committed to Him looks like, and either guilt or repentance happens. Have you heard people accuse others of being judgmental? Boy, I have. Sometimes it’s 100% justified. Christians [including myself] can be self-righteous, hypocritical, and unkind in calling out the sins of others. So while sometimes it’s justified, sometimes just living a life contrary to how others live, the Spirit convicts their hearts. If they are not in a place to respond positively to the conviction, they might call out judgment in others to avoid their own repentance.

    That is what I see happening here. Naboth stood by his convictions, and gave God the credit for it. Ahab didn’t get his way and saw again how the man respected God more than Ahab and he couldn’t handle it.

    Ahab complains to his wife. Scripture says he crawled in bed, turned his face to the wall, and wouldn’t eat. I’ve seen children behave in much the same way. Jezebel doesn’t like seeing her husband like this, so she “takes care of it.” She frames Naboth. She plans a dinner and seats Naboth at the head, as the guest of honor. Then she plants 2 scheming nobodies and has them testify that Naboth has cursed God and the King. Which is precisely the OPPOSITE of what he actually did.

    It works. The men accuse Naboth, and the people stone him to death.

    Jezebel tells her husband that Naboth’s dead, and the land is all his for the taking. Ahab gets his sulky self out of bed and takes possession of this man’s land.

    Enter Elijah. Elijah tells Ahab what his punishment will be.

    God is finished with Ahab and Jezebel’s rebellion. When Naboth was stoned, he was left in the streets for stray dogs to feed on. God promises Ahab the exact same end: disgraced, without any heirs take over the throne, and alone.  Here are some interesting facts. 

    Scripture says that NO ONE did evil like King Ahab and Jezebel did. Yet God shows mercy to Ahab. Again. When Ahab heard from Elijah his punishment, he humbled himself, fasted, and prayed. God relents. He promises that Ahab’s sons will see this punishment, but Ahab will not.

    God is much more merciful than I, and I am so thankful.

    How have you seen merciful acts from God in your life?

    How have you seen them in the lives of others?

    Take a few moments to rejoice over the mercy of God. We sin and deserve consequences for our sin, but God does not always give us the consequences we deserve. This ought to propel us into worship.

  • Defensiveness or Repentance

    1 Kings 20:35-43

    The story I want to look into today involves a strange request, an unnamed prophet, and extreme consequences. As I dig a little more deeply, I see a prophet of God desperately trying to get a message across to his king.

    An unnamed prophet asks a man near him to strike him. The man refuses, which seems like a polite gesture. I’m not one to go about striking people just because they asked me to. The prophet curses the man by telling him a lion is going to kill him. This poor guy! I don’t know about you, but if a leader in my church asked me to hit him, I’d probably say no too.

    The man is a little dumbfounded by the message, he takes a few steps away AND A LION KILLS HIM. Exactly what the prophet predicts takes place moments later. 

    Try try again. The unnamed prophet finds another man, and makes the same request. This time, the man didn’t ask questions. He winds up, whacks the prophet, and wounds him. The prophet bandages himself up, covers half his face, and waits alongside the road like a beggar, for his king to pass by. The prophet yells out for the king. And the king listens. He paints a picture, much like Samuel did for King David after his sin with Bathsheba. He recounts this interesting story:

    “A soldier in the battle on the opposing side is captured. The soldier who captured him brings him to me and asked me to guard him with his life. I got busy doing this and that, and the man escaped. So the soldier told me I could either be killed or pay him what would take me 9 years of skilled labor to earn. What will happen to me?”

    The king is ruthless in his response to the prophet. He tells him that he will get precisely what he’s earned. His life for the soldier’s.

    At this, the prophet rips off the bandage over his eyes. The king gasps. This prophet is not unnamed to the king. Ahab knew him to be a prophet of God and then the prophet delivers a message from God. “Thus says the Lord, ‘Because you have let go out of your hand the man whom I had devoted to destruction, therefore your life shall go for his life, and your people for his people.’”

    Ahab gets a little sulky. Scripture says he’s “sullen and vexed.” If I had my disobedience called out and my destruction predicted, I think I might have a reason to repent. Not Ahab. His heart is so hard, all he can muster is sulkiness about his bad decisions. There is no repentance in his heart. When given the choice between repentance and guilt, he willfully chooses the guilt. And even his guilt is more wrapped up in the consequences than it is in how he’s turned against God’s heart.

    He starts out for Samaria. Where we’ll find him being more “sullen and vexed” next week.

    We know the proper response is repentance and receiving God’s grace, but we often choose the same path as Ahab, and sulk over our sin in self-deprecation. Why do we do this? Maybe instead of defensiveness, we ought to choose repentance. It seems an appropriate discussion this week after recent events in the U.S. 

    How do you respond when your wrongdoings are mentioned?

    How can you receive God’s grace today?

  • Battle #2.

    1 Kings 20:26-34

    Last week we looked at a battle between Ahab and Ben-hadad. God gives Ahab victory over Ben-hadad. But in this passage in 1 Kings 20, Ben-hadad is rallying. They believe the God behind Ahab is Baal. Baal is the god of Mt. Carmel, and because of Israel’s turn to Baals, Ben-hadad has assumed that Israel’s god is only the god of the mountain. They plot to have their next battle in a valley. They’re banking on Baal being as absent during their battle as he was when Elijah was facing him with his prophets and altar on Mt. Carmel.

    But this time the Aramaens are mistaken. They don’t know that Baal is not behind this battle, God is. And we learned that He, unlike Baal, is not preoccupied, He’s not too busy, He’s capable of being all places at one time, and He’s orchestrated these battles for His glory.

    The Aramaens have brought 100,000 foot soldiers to this battle. They mean business. They were humiliated before, and are prepared to not have it happen again. They know they can take Israel’s puny army, but have brought a few extra men to ensure it.

    There are not gory details of the battle save these 2 verses:

     “29 So they camped one over against the other seven days. And on the seventh day the battle was joined, and the sons of Israel killed of the Arameans 100,000 foot soldiers in one day. 30 But the rest fled to Aphek into the city, and the wall fell on 27,000 men who were left. And Ben-hadad fled and came into the city into an inner chamber.”

    Pretty much, Ben-hadad is the only one left. All of his men have been killed, and when his city walls came down the rest of his city was defeated. He and a few servants started surmising about how they could raise their white flag. They decided to take the form of total surrender. They’d put on sackcloth and came to King Ahab. They begged for mercy. They had heard that Israel was merciful to others, and they were hopeful that Ahab would also be merciful to them.

    They were right. Israel has a long history of disobedient kings defying God by not completely destroying the kingdoms God had promised them. Ben-hadad knew he was dealing with a king who in the long line of disobedient kings, might show him mercy as well.

    Ahab not only fulfilled Ben-hadad’s hopes, he also made a covenant with him. Can you imagine? This king who brought 100,000 men against him, begs for mercy and Ahab grants it. AND not only does he allow Ben-hadad to live, Ahab attaches promises to it.

    Have you done this before? You are disobedient and then you make promises to protect your disobedience? Maybe it’s an unsafe relationship. Or a work mistake you’re trying to cover instead of just admitting your failure.

    “I won’t tell if you don’t.”

    It’s common to try to cover for our bad decisions. It’s a bad option. EVERY TIME. It doesn’t turn out how we’d hoped, and many times we find our disobedience leading us down paths of further disobedience.

    Are you stuck in any of these situations now? If so, turn from them. Don’t let further disobedience hinder the presence of God.

    Do you KNOW anyone in this scenario right now? Graciously offer them your forgiveness and remind them of the forgiveness of God. It’s not too late for them to experience grace either.

  • For God’s Sake

    1 Kings 20:1-25

    This chapter almost feels out of place in our study. There is story after story of Elijah’s involvement in the politics of Israel and then all the sudden there is a story of a battle between nations. And regardless of the evil of Ahab, God promises him a victory. Not for Ahab’s benefit, not for Elijah’s benefit even, but for God’s sake alone. He has made promises down through the ages, and this is yet, another fulfillment of the promises of God. He has not changed. He is still who He is.

    Remember, God has just promised Elijah in chapter 19 that He’s going to replace Aram’s king [Ben-hadad] with Hazael, and Israel’s king [Ahab] with Jehu. Chapter 20 is the beginning of God making good on His promise.

    Ahab and Ben-hadad have a little power struggle. Ben-hadad surrounds Ahab and tells him he is wants all his best stuff. And he’s going to come in and get it. Ahab agrees at first and then comes to his senses. He doesn’t WANT to give the Ben-hadad all his best stuff, his prettiest wives, his children, and his finest silver and gold. Ahab consults with his elders and decides that the next day when Ben-hadad sends his servants to collect Ahab’s best things, he would refuse.

    The messengers returned to Ben-hadad with the news. Ahab’s exact words are, “Let not him who girds on his armor boast like him who takes it off.” [v. 11] He’s trash talking. He’s basically saying, don’t have the confidence of winning a battle, before you have shown up for it. Don’t rejoice before the battle has been fought. Ahab’s not going to make this easy on Ben-hadad.

    As you can imagine, Ben-hadad is angry. He was already drinking with his buddies after Ahab’s positive response the day before, and now he’s going to actually have to DO something. So he stations his army around Ahab.

    It’s getting a little tense and heated. Ahab’s sweating bullets. Maybe he SHOULD have just turned over all his best stuff to this Aramaen king and been done with it?! But a prophet comes to him and promises God’s blessing. I don’t know about you, but this astounds me.

    The all time most evil king in Israel’s history, who is more evil than each king before him, who has repeatedly tried to kill God prophet, who has allowed his wife to turn the hearts of the country to false gods, who taunts God, THIS KING is promised victory.

    And what piques my interest even more is the why. God, through a prophet tells Ahab, “Behold, I will deliver them into your hand today, and you shall know that I am the Lord.” [v. 13] God has shown Himself to Ahab repeatedly. Through the drought, and the relief from the drought, through the face off at Mt. Carmel, through Elijah’s words and proclamation, and yet here God is giving Ahab another chance to repent. This battle is going to require some courage. Ahab is told he has to strike first. Ben-hadad’s army is encamped around Ahab and the prophet tells him to begin the battle.

    Ben-hadad is having a grand time. He thinks there is no way he can lose. He’s already drunk in his tent with 32 other kings who have joined him against Ahab. Ben-hadad tells his soldiers that if they come in peace to bring them to him alive, and if they’ve come for war, to also bring them to him alive. But they don’t get a chance. Ahab’s men kill the soldiers as soon as they’re in range.

    It catches Ben-hadad and his men so off guard that Israel completely slaughters the Aramaen army.

    The prophet again warns Ahab. The Aramaens will be back at the new year. Be prepared.

    I have a few ideas about God’s work here with Israel and Ahab. If I were God, I’d want to fulfill every stereotype created about me, throwing lightning bolts on Ahab’s arrogant house. But God doesn’t. He has promises to fulfill for Israel. He also has judgment to follow through with for Aram.

    He gives Ahab another opportunity to turn to Him, to give Him the glory for the work in his life, and to repent. In a way Ahab IS acknowledging the power of God. He actually obeyed the prophet’s orders. But what is the state of his heart? Is it merely for his victory or is there a genuine willingness to see God for who He is?

    It causes me to question my own motives as I pursue my relationship with God.

    Why am I obeying God?

    How can I bring God greater pleasure and glory, by obeying Him for His sake alone?

  • God Answers in 5 Ways

    1 Kings 19:15-21

    After God visits Elijah in a gentle whisper, He repeats His question. “What are you doing here?” And Elijah word for word, repeats his answer. They’re both standing down. My brother insists that God’s gentle whisper is like an angry parent in church. “WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?” in an all-caps angry kind of whisper. I’ve always read it with compassion. We might both be right.

    Regardless, Elijah stands firm in his response and God begins the answer to his prayer and complaint in 5 unique ways.

    1. God answers with His presence. He gently whispers to Elijah, affirming that He is still present, He is still listening, He is contrary to the Baals in every possible way. He is not preoccupied, too busy, too involved with others. No, He’s present and available.

    1. God enacts a change of political power. God tells Elijah to anoint two new kings, one over Aram and one over Israel. This is an interesting twist. King Hazael later in his history fought ruthlessly with the King of Israel. Through this act, God is putting in place the punishment of Israel. [Story in 2 Kings] Hazael is promised the throne but it’s not enough for him, he suffocates his master to ensure a speedy takeover. And It’s downhill from there. This period in Israel’s history is sordid and unsavory. 

    1. God promises a successor for Elijah, which means, as Elijah is begging God to let him be done with his work, God is laying the groundwork to relieve him of his duties. He recognizes Elijah’s limits and offers him promise of relief. He tells Elijah to appoint Elisha as the prophet who will take his place.

    1. God promises other faithful followers.

    1 Kings 19:17-18:  ”It shall come about, the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall put to death. Yet I will leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him.”

    God IS going to put things to rights. But it’s not going to be pretty. Yet the passage ends with some hopefulness. There ARE those who have like Elijah, remained faithful to the Lord. They have not turned their hearts to another. They have walked with God, and God vows to protect them.

    Elijah does as God asks. He finds Elisha and appoints him as his successor. And Elisha follows the call of God on his life. He has one request. He wants to kiss his parents. Elisha has probably heard about Elijah’s life. In the midst of a whole country turned to false gods it’s bound to get out when someone defies the king and chooses to walk with God. Elisha very well may have been aware of the epic showdown on Mount Carmel with the Baals and the altar God burned up along with the slaying of the prophets of Baal. He most likely knows that in the following of Elijah he will face the very same tumult as Elijah has undergone. He wants to break bread with his family one more time.

    Elijah graciously agrees. And Elisha makes good on his promise. He worships with his people by offering a sacrifice of an oxen, he cooks for them, and feeds them. And this is where God answers Elijah’s prayer in the final way.

    1. Elisha ministers to Elijah. God gives Elijah a friend. Not just a successor, not merely the just punishment of his tormentors, but a friend. Someone to minister to Elijah’s soul, as he has worn himself out ministering to others. We cannot underestimate the power of friendship.

    Who has God brought into your life as a trusted confidant and friend in your spiritual journey?

    In what other ways are you seeing God interceding in your life to answer prayers for God’s presence?

    Take a few minutes to thank God for the friend you mentioned above. Now take a second to reach out to them: A letter, email, phone call, text. Let them know how they are an asset to your life, and proof of God’s presence.

  • What Are You Doing Here?

    So many of my favorite Biblical stories are wrapped up with Elijah. The life he lived was truly extraordinary, like nothing I can comprehend. We just finished studying Elijah running, broken, exhausted, lonely, and begging God to let him die. He’s wandering in the wilderness for 40 days and God visits him once again.

    1 Kings 19:9-14

    9 Then he came there to a cave and lodged there; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 He said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.”

    11 So He said, “Go forth and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord was passing by! And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks 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 After the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. And behold, a voice came to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 14 Then he said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.”

    God shows such compassion to His servant. He asked Elijah to tell him how he’s gotten where he is. Elijah responds with a very human answer. He’s tired. He’s lonely. He’s discouraged. And he’s scared. Yet he’s been faithful. At every turn, even amidst adversity, Elijah has chosen to walk with the Lord. It’s been thorny and hard, but he has not wavered.

    God listens. And God answers with an incredible gift to Elijah; His presence.

    The LORD was passing by!

    Great winds tore the mountain away from itself, as rocks flew around Elijah and fell to the ground far below. The gusts around Elijah threatened to dismantle the very rock that seemed so stable. But God was not in the wind.

    An earthquake shook the ground beneath him, his strong foothold of the rock soon was wavering and faltering. The solid ground beneath him threatened to give way. Yet God was not in the earthquake.

    Fire washed over the mountain where Elijah stood waiting for God to pass by him. But there too, God was not to be found.

    Finally and definitively, a gentle blowing washes over Elijah. And it was that gentle blowing that brought Elijah face to face with the presence of God.

    Elijah wrapped a cloth around his face, and ventured out of the cave he’d hidden in to protect himself from the elements in which God was not found. Now he knew, in this gentle quiet, this was where God would visit him. I find it remarkable that God comes gently to Elijah, rather than through the elements that show an eccentric amount of power. They were all acts of God, but God was not IN any of the elements until He breathed on Elijah. Elijah experienced the power of God all throughout his story. But what he needed right then, in those moments of fear, was not to see God’s power but to experience His gentle kindness. And that is precisely what God brought to him. Romans 2:4 says, “…the kindness of God leads to repentance.” This was what God was doing here. He was exercising great kindness to bring His servant back to Him. 

    And God asks Elijah the same question as He did, before the wind, the earthquake and the fire. “What are you doing here?” It’s Elijah’s story and he’s sticking to it. His response is WORD FOR WORD the same as when he answered God initially. He has been faithful. Discouraged yes, but faithful.

    In what ways has God shown Himself to you?

    What stories of the miraculous work of God do you have in your arsenal to remember when things get really tough?

    How has God gently served you in places of discouragement?

  • Food, Prayer, Rest

    1 Kings 19:5-8

    This study has helped me see a theme in Elijah’s story that I’d never picked up on before.

    Read 1 Kings 17:6
    Then 1 Kings 17:15-16
    And now read 1 Kings 19:5-8.

    Elijah and God have this provision/trust thing that keeps cropping up. It seems that for Elijah God wants to continue to provide for him the assurance of His provision. He keeps feeding him. And all three of these times, in intensely meaningful ways. Through ravens, through empty flour and oil jars, through his most desperate discouragement, God brings Elijah sustainment of the most basic of needs…his appetite.

    Elijah runs into the wilderness. He throws himself under a juniper tree. And he sleeps. Next thing he knows, an angel is gently waking him. He speaks two words to Elijah. “Arise, eat.” Elijah eats the meal the angel prepared for him and falls to sleep again. He’s exhausted from life’s hard work.

    Again, the angel comes to him and shows compassion. This time he says, “Arise, eat, for the journey is too great for you.” He doesn’t scold Elijah for his discouragement. He doesn’t tell Elijah to pull himself up by his sandal straps and get going. Instead the angel of God shows Elijah kindness and compassion by meeting his basic needs. 

    When we are in our places of deepest discouragement often what we most need is for someone to come along our side and say, “man, that’s hard.” We don’t need advice or tips, we need empathy. That is what the angel provided for Elijah.

    And that food that Elijah was fed? It sustained him for 40 days. He went to Mount Horeb for 40 days. It doesn’t say what he did for all that time but from his first feeding at the Brook by Cherith to this one at Mt. Horeb, it’s roughly 200 miles. I find these facts fascinating. It was a lot of hard work for Elijah just getting where he was going when the Spirit wasn’t just moving him from one place to the next. He walked all that way.

    Finally, I want us to consider the importance of these 40 days for Elijah. I know it’s not possible for me in my present situation, and you might feel the same as I do, but maybe God is calling you to a time of rest. You may not be able to swing 40 days wandering the wilderness. And maybe Elijah felt like that time was ANYTHING but rest. But I think we can be assured with the history of Elijah up until now that it was 40 days spent seeking the Lord.

    With big changes on the horizon for the Lempola family, maybe it’s time I do the same.

    It’s not lost on me that God first comforts Elijah with food to eat and sleep. How are you malnourished in your basic needs of diet and rest? 

    Even amidst the craziness your life holds right now, how can you take time to rest?

    How’s your prayer life? Is there a way to build in time to meet with God in prayer?

  • I’ve Had Enough

    1 Kings 19:4

     But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree; and he requested for himself that he might die, and said, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers.” 

    I want to slow down a little in the beginning of 1 Kings 19. As I’ve spent time in God’s Word reading this story, I’ve spent a lot of time weeping.

    Reread verse 4. Take a second and sit in Elijah’s shoes. Or maybe this is a place you frequently sit already. You work hard to do the right thing. You work hard to further God’s kingdom through your faithfulness to your family, your job, your relationships. And after all your striving, you’re feeling dumped on with raging lunatics at your heels. Like Elijah, you have had enough.

    All Elijah knew to do sitting in his exhaustion and discouragement was to beg God to let him die. He didn’t have anyone patting him on the back for his good work. No one was giving an annual review telling him where he was improving. He was receiving death threats and discouragement at every turn. In fact, he’s doubting his own faithfulness to God. Look at the end of the verse: “for I am not better than my fathers.” He sees himself not only worth death, but unworthy of God’s affection.

    Up to now, we see Elijah as a lone ranger. He acts alone with the help of his Savior. He has no counterpart helping him manage life or his work. His servant left him in Beersheba and he’s all alone. This is a fabulous reminder to me of 2 things.

    1. We cannot live our lives in isolation. We NEED others to speak into our lives, offer perspective, and to love us well. If we are going to have the greatest amount of impact, we need help accomplishing God’s work.

    2. We need to depend on God more deeply than we depend on the people God puts in our lives. As badly as we need to realize we can’t live life alone, we also need to realize that God is ultimately where we find our hope and fulfillment.  

    As we continue to slowly make our way through chapter 19, we are going to see some miraculous responses to Elijah’s prayer. God listens, He visits Elijah, and makes promises to him. Elijah allows God to nurture his desperate and broken heart.

    I’m often awfully quick to try to find a silver lining when I’m relating to others in their pain. But the last thing I want from others when I’m hurting is for them to diminish my pain by finding the light in it. No, I have to discover the light for myself for it to hold meaning and significance.

    In Elijah’s discouragement, he took his broken heart to God. It may seem like an overreaction on Elijah’s part at first glance, but what I see, is someone a lot like me. I face discouragement and I can either wallow in self-pity, or I can fall honestly and vulnerably before my Savior and admit my brokenness and need. Take a look with me at Psalm 51:17.

    “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”

    God desires exactly Elijah’s kind of heart, to use and bring glory to Himself. Elijah’s broken and contrite heart is what God wishes to point others to Himself.

    Where do you have the tendency to most often fall into discouragement?

    Where do you find encouragement when you’re in the darkest places?

    What do you ask of God when you’re there?

  • Running, Rain and Fear

    1 Kings 18:41-19:3

    There has just been a massive miracle. God has just burned up the entire alter Elijah prepared for Him. Elijah has also just had to do the hard task of ending many men’s lives. That is no small thing. We see it take a toll on him and his heart in this passage. We see him overtaken with fear. He has courage until he doesn’t. In Elijah’s heart and mind when he allows his cowardice to win, there’s a torrential downpour of disillusionment, discouragement and fear.

    First after the death of all the prophets, Elijah becomes concerned with Ahab’s physical needs. He tells him to have a meal. It was a sort of celebration, because here Elijah is announcing the end of the drought that he called over 3 years ago. He says, “Go up, eat and drink; for there is the sound of the roar of a heavy shower.” While Ahab is eating and drinking, watching the sky for a storm, Elijah and his servant high tail it to the top of Mount Carmel to also watch the sky and to beg God to end the drought.

    Elijah plants himself at the top of the mountain, puts his head between his knees and seven times asks his servant to check the sky. He can’t bring himself to do it.

    Are there any clouds?

    Are there any clouds now?
    Nope. Still nothin’


    Look at the sea. Do you see any there?
    Nope. Nothing. Bluest skies I’ve ever seen.

    Can you check again for me?
    Sure. Nope, no clouds.

    Hey man, will you look again?
    Yeah, well, no. Still no clouds.

    I need you to look again.
    Ok. There’s a tiny little cloud this time. About the size of a man’s hand.

    YES? Elijah stands to give his servant a new job. No more looking at the sky, this time, run to Ahab and tell him to get moving with his chariot so he doesn’t get stuck in the rain. Once again, he’s inexplicably tending to Ahab’s physical needs.

    The sky got black. It filled with clouds. The wind came up. And it rained. Hard. For the first time in YEARS.

    Ahab jumps on his chariot and starts riding. Elijah RUNS. All inhibitions aside, he pulls up his robe and gets going. And with the help of the Spirit, Elijah beats Ahab back to Jezreel. I’m not sure what difference this makes in the story. It’s still Ahab that tells Jezebel the story of what God did on the mountain with the sacrifice, but I think it’s a beautiful detail to not lose sight of. God is with His servant. Once again, for the millionth time over, He’s showing Himself faithful to Elijah. Maybe God knew Elijah needed a few minutes to catch his breath before Jezebel hears about the death of her servants and sends Elijah this message.

    “So may the gods do to me and even more, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.” Love, Jezebel

    And once again Elijah starts running. This time the Spirit isn’t making his steps faster. This time it’s sheer fear moving Elijah. His faithful servant gets dumped in Beersheba, but Elijah keeps running. He’s literally running for his life. He has become completely overcome with fear. He runs into the wilderness all alone.

    We'll dig deeper into Elijah's response as we go, but can you relate to Elijah's fear?

    Has there ever been a time you have lost sight of the hand of God and ran in fear?

    How did God call you back to Himself?

    What keeps you trusting now, when fear starts to get the better of you?

    If you’ve never had the experience of running in fear, what is about the love of God that keeps you close to Him and trusting? 

    How can you use that deep trust in God to draw others to also trust Him?