ELIJAH: THE MAN WHO LOST HIS HOPE

“Let Israel hope in the Lord:  for with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption.”  Psalm 130:7

If you are struggling with situations and circumstances that are out of control in your life, you may be losing hope.  Life is tough and sometimes it appears there are no solutions to the problems that beset us.

You may ask…

What hope is there?

Why should we even try to continue on?

Where is His mercy and His grace?

Sometimes we think…

The Lord’s work is too hard.

The Lord is not with us.

He has forgotten us, and is withholding His power.

We don’t feel His presence or His love.

It seems natural to believe that things can’t get better.  God knows your situation and He wants you to know that He has not forgotten you.

We can take comfort in the story of Elijah, a great prophet who ministered during the reign of King Ahab in Israel.  You may remember that a prophet is one who speaks God’s message by divine inspiration.  If Elijah had a moment where he became discouraged and lost hope, then  recovered, then we too can take heart.  God doesn’t want us to quit.  He wants us to continue on, trusting Him to get us through.  He is sufficient as Elijah discovered.

Here’s Elijah’s story…

Elijah was a rugged man, described as one who was hairy and wore a leather girdle and of course his mantle.  Elijah’s message to the tribes of Israel was a call to return to the worship of the Lord God Jehovah.  The people had left the Lord their God to worship other gods.  In fact King Ahab and his wife Jezebel took idol worship to a new level when they built a temple to Baal, a Canaanite god, in an attempt to supplant the worship of the Lord.  This was a terrible wickedness against our Lord, and caused much misery to His people who had been worshiping Baal along with the Lord God Jehovah.  Now King Ahab and Jezebel were trying to remove from Israel all that pertained to the Lord.  The people didn’t seem to care.  Previous kings had already conditioned them to accept compromises in their worship. They had become used to violating God’s Law and were comfortable with the sin they indulged in.  Everybody was doing it!  They figured it was acceptable to worship all gods rather than to keep themselves from idols as the Lord had commanded.  They failed to understand that the Lord God Jehovah is a jealous god and shares His glory with no one.  Their actions demonstrated their belief that all worship was acceptable, especially if you include the Lord God.  They had forgotten that there is but one god, the Lord God Jehovah.

Consequently, the land was experiencing a terrible drought.  The Lord had not sent rain.  Crops and animals were dying, and the people were becoming desperate due to the great famine. Rather than accept that sin had brought the Lord’s judgment, King Ahab was angry with Elijah, thinking he was to blame, since he prophesied of the coming drought.

“And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, as the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.”  1 Kings 17:1

These were words of doom that King Ahab did not want to believe, but the Lord kept His word.  The drought and resulting famine proved Elijah’s words to be true.  Jezebel too bore a grudge against Elijah and those who believed as Elijah did.  She hoped that by silencing God’s prophets that the truth would not come to pass.  It is interesting that she was so insecure in her beliefs that she felt that she had to destroy those who spoke the Lord’s words.  But God preserved a remnant.  A governor of Ahab’s house named Obadiah rescued a hundred of the Lord’s prophets and hid them in a cave to keep them from being killed.

Elijah in the meantime weathered the drought and famine with a widow and her son in Zarephath.  She was poor and had nothing but a small cruse of oil and a little flour to eat, but God miraculously supplied all they needed to survive during this dreadful time.  How long did the oil and flour last?  Approximately three years!  They simply never ran out!

“For thus saith the Lord God of Israel, the barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth.  And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah:  and she, and he, and her house, did eat many days.  And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord, which he spake by Elijah.”  1 Kings 17:14-16

Three years later…

The Lord commanded Elijah to go to King Ahab to tell him that He was going to send rain.

“And it came to pass after many days, that the word of the Lord came to Elijah in the third year, saying, go, show thyself unto Ahab; and I will send rain upon the earth.  And Elijah went to show himself unto Ahab.  And there was a sore famine in Samaria.”  1 Kings 18:1-2

Along the way, Elijah meets Obadiah and instructs him to set up a meeting with King Ahab.

“So Obadiah went to meet Ahab, and told him:  and Ahab went to meet Elijah.  And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah that Ahab said unto him, art thou he that troubleth Israel?  And he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and thou hast followed Baalim.  Now therefore send, and gather to me all Israel unto Mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the groves four hundred, which eat at Jezebel’s table.”  I Kings 18:16-19

King Ahab agreed to meet Elijah, probably because the need for rain was so desperate.  How King Ahab must have chaffed to have to talk to Elijah.  He still did not believe that the Lord was executing judgment because of their sin, and only He could lift the drought.  Elijah understood the nature of the problem, and he knew the solution.  He exhorted the people to turn to the Lord God Jehovah, and set up a test to prove the Lord.

“And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions?  if the Lord be God, follow him:  but if Baal, then follow him.  And the people answered him not a word.  Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the Lord; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men.  Let them therefore give us two bullocks:  and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under:  and I will dress the other bullock, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under:  and call ye on the name of your gods, but put no fire under. I Kings 18:21-23

Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal to prove their god!  The prophets of Baal did as Elijah commanded, for they had everything to gain by proving the realty of their gods, having no love for the Lord God Jehovah.  Interestingly, the people stood silent waiting to see what would happen.  Did they not remember the deeds of the Lord God Jehovah who had delivered them from Egypt?  Sadly, they had long left their Lord to follow false gods.  Their worship of Baal was founded in the most base of practices.  They had no conscience, despite knowledge of the Law.  Its validity didn’t change just because the people had rejected it.

What happened next was truly amazing!  That day, God proved to the people that their gods were false.  The prophets of Baal called out to Baal from morning to noon, but there was no fire from heaven.  Elijah began to mock them and to mock Baal, but as earnestly as the prophets prayed to their god and called upon their god for an answer, there was no response.  In desperation they began to cut themselves to show their earnestness, but when evening came, they realized it was to no avail.  Their god had no ears, no eyes, no heart of understanding, and no love for this wayward people.  He was a figurehead for their sin.  Then it was Elijah’s turn.

“And Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me.  And all the people came near unto him.  And he repaired the altar of the Lord that was broken down.  And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of the Lord came, saying, Israel shall be thy name:  and with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord:  and he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two measures of seed.  And he put the wood in order, and cut the bullock in pieces, and laid him on the wood, and said, fill four barrels with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice, and on the wood.” 1 Kings 18:30-33

Elijah had the trench filled with water.  The wood and the sacrifice were soaked with water, making it impossible for the sacrifice to burn even if they had lit a fire.  Elijah wanted them to see that what is impossible for man to do, the Lord can do.  Then Elijah called upon the Lord God Jehovah…

“Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word.  Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the Lord God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again.  Then the fire of the Lord fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.  And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces:  and they said, The Lord, he is the God; the Lord, he is the God.”  1 Kings 18:36b-39

What fear must have taken hold of their hearts.  Their sin was great and deserving of death as commanded by the Law.  By humbling themselves, they were saved from the Lord’s judgment.  Submission and humility and honesty about sin were evidenced after the Lord demonstrated His power.  Who can stand before a righteous God?

“Thou, even thou, art to be feared:  and who may stand in thy sight when once thou art angry?  Thou didst cause judgment to be heard from heaven; the earth feared, and was still, when God arose to judgment, to save all the meek of the earth. Selah.”  Psalm 76:7-9

Then Elijah executed judgment against the prophets of Baal in accordance with the law (Deuteronomy 13).  Then came the rain.

“And it came to pass in the meanwhile, that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain.”  1 Kings 18:45

Well, the rain was falling and all should have been well.  The drought was over with the Lord proving His faithfulness to keep His word.  However, Jezebel was not happy to hear that the prophets of Baal had been executed.  Out for blood, she sent a messenger to Elijah to tell him that she was going to kill him.  In fear and despair, Elijah ran for his life.

“…came to Beersheba, which belongeth to Judah, and left his servant there.  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 away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.  And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, arise and eat. And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baked on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head.  And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again.  And the angel of the Lord came again the second time, and touched him, and said arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee.”  I Kings 19:3b-7

Forty days later, much strengthened by his rest, Elijah travels to Mount Horeb where he takes refuge in a cave.  There, God reveals His glory and speaks with Elijah, saying “What doest thou here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:9b).  Elijah replies:

“And he said, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts:  for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only am left; and they seek my life, to take it away. And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord.  And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake 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:  and after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.  And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave.  And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, what doest thou here, Elijah?”  I Kings 19:10-13

Elijah is in great despair.  He’s looking at the condition of Israel, and his heart is broken.  He believes there is no hope, and with Jezebel trying to kill him, he has lost the will to go on.  He is ready to quit and die.  Despite having witnessed the Lord’s intervention and seen demonstrations of His power and might, Elijah is almost defeated by Jezebel.  Then he hears from the Lord.  That still small voice spoke to Elijah, and touched his heart.  Simple words, but powerful.  What are you doing?  Elijah replied again as before, and the Lord listened.  He answered Elijah with instructions on appointing his future successor.  Then the Lord tells him that he is not alone.

“Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.”  I Kings 19:18

Elijah had mistakenly thought he was the only one of the Lord’s men left, but he wasn’t.  With his life threatened by Jezebel, his hope left him.  Elijah had taken on the burden of Israel, but he had forgotten that it was the Lord’s burden.

How the Lord loved Elijah!  Recognizing his need, the Lord supplied food and water and rest.  The Lord encouraged him with a demonstration of His glory, and His still small voice was an exhortation that there was more to be done.  Lastly, He provided a partner to help him in the work.  Thus Elijah was greatly encouraged and ready to continue on, for the Lord was not finished with him yet.

Have you lost hope?

Are you feeling that there is no hope of help for you?  Maybe you too feel the despair of uncertainty.  Your strength may be gone, and you’re just too discouraged and depressed to go on.

Allow the Lord to strengthen you.  Trust Him to sustain you.  Believe He cares for you and will not let you down.  Meditate on His promises.

Remember these words:

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  As it is written, for thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.  Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.  For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come.  Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 8:35-39

We are conquerors!  We are loved!  We have the hope of a future with Him and a reward for faithful service!  God sent His Son Jesus to make a way for us.  We are forgiven and He has gifted us with the presence of the Holy Spirit, our Comforter.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of the Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:  that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.  Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:  receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.”  1 Peter 1:3-9

Be encouraged.  Our Lord never leaves us or forsakes us, but walks with us through every trial and temptation.  He will get you through it.  He will make a way for you.  Give up your plan, and seek His.

“In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust:  let me never be put to confusion.  Deliver me in thy righteousness, and cause me to escape:  incline tine ear unto me, and save me.  Be thou my strong habitation, whereunto I may continually resort:  thou has given commandment to save me; for thou art my rock and my fortress. Deliver me, O my God, out of the hand of the wicked, out the hand of the unrighteous and cruel man.  For thou art my hope, O Lord God:  thou art my trust from my youth.”  Psalm 71:1-5

Copyright 2008 by Linda Hull, (originally published in January 2008.) All rights reserved.

Inspirational writer and photographer.

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