One of my favorite books in the Old Testament is first Kings, because it contains the story of Elijah. Elijah is one of only two people who never died according to scripture. Enoch was the first…”He walked with God and God took him.” (Gen. 5:21-24) The book of Hebrews in the New Testament says, “Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found because God had taken him away.” (Hebrews 11:5) And Elijah was the second mentioned that never died…he was taken by God up into heaven in a whirlwind…riding in a chariot of fire. “Suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated Elijah from Elisha and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.” (2 Kings 2:11) As my beloved departed brother Rich Mullins sang….”I WANT TO GO OUT LIKE ELIJAH!”
But in first Kings we see a lot more of Elijah’s personality….in First Kings we see him standing boldly on Mt. Camel calling fire down from heaven and defeating the false prophets of Baal. With his challenge and God’s reaction to Elijah’s call the Israelites are led back into a relationship with Jehovah God. It’s a total and complete victory for Elijah as God shows Himself with great power. But as is so often the case, right after Elijah’s mountaintop experience, he finds himself discouraged and in the wilderness. He feels alone…he feels depressed and worn out…so much so, he even asked God…”Take my life, I am no better than my ancestors.” (1 Kings 19:4) As God is prone to do, instead of taking Elijah’s life (In fact He never will)..God refreshes Elijah….an Angel comes and fixes him cake (angel food cake)…he provides him with water and then tells him to “go to Horeb, the Mountain of God.” (1 Kings 19:8) Elijah does this…it’s a long journey…forty days and forty nights….when he arrives he went into a cave and spent the night.
Here’s where the story takes on a renewed power. God asks Elijah, “What are you doing here?” and Elijah answers, “I’ve been zealous for the Lord God. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death. I’m the only one left, and they’re trying to kill me too!” (1 Kings 19:10) Elijah’s perspective is really messed up….and just like Elijah, our perspective can get really messed up as well…..”I’m working my butt off for you God, teaching classes, doing stuff, helping at the shelter and working with our kids….I’m in church every time the doors are open…..and I’m the only one that seems to work this hard!”
And then God does something amazing…as He usually does. He tells Elijah to go out in front of the cave and stand in the Lord presence…for the Lord is about to pass by….and then God unleashes a great and powerful wind….it tears the rocks from the ground….and following this violent wind is an Earthquake….and following the earthquake is a raging fire….and God is not in the violent wind, and God is not in the earthquake, and God is not in the raging fire…..but then a gentle whisper says, “Elijah, what are you doing here?” And Elijah answers, “I’ve been zealous for the Lord God. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death. I’m the only one left, and they’re trying to kill me too!” (1 Kings 19:10) And God says, “Go back the way you came, there are 7000 faithful servants who haven’t rejected my covenant…and I want you to find a successor named Elisha.” (1 Kings 19:15-21)
There are some things I’ve learned by experience in ministry, and I would share them with you in hopes that these insights might help you in your journey with God, and hopefully change your perspective if it’s really messed up.
1. AFTER A SPIRITUAL MOUNTAINTOP THERE IS ALWAYS AN EMOTIONAL WILDERNESS: Whether it’s Elijah after Mt. Carmel or Peter, James and John after the Mount of transfiguration, or Rick Burdette after the North American Christian Convention…real life always makes the Mountaintop look like a place you’d like to live….no one lives on the mountaintop!!!!!!!
2. IT’S EASY FOR OUR PERSPECTIVE TO TURN INWARD: I’m the only one working this hard….I’m the only one that really cares this deeply…I’m the only one that really gets it….NO YOU’RE NOT!!! When we listen to the god of this world and begin to focus on ourselves, and live our lives looking into a mirror for satisfaction….trouble, discouragement, and sometimes even despair are waiting right around the bend. Satan cannot steal your salvation, but if you let him…he can steal your joy. That’s why God gave Elijah these two tasks:
3. GO BACK THE WAY YOU CAME: “Remember your first love!” Whether it’s your relationship with God, or your wife, this is good advice. Love doesn’t grow by osmosis…it grows like a fire that is feed with wood. And many time we feel far from the One that we should love the most, because we have taken for granted…the One we should love the most…and we’ve traded doing stuff for intimacy with Him….or her.
4. POUR YOUR LIFE INTO OTHERS: Elijah had 7000 he could share his life with…encourage and receive encouragement from. Church isn’t a place you go…it’s a people who love, encourage, worship, strengthen, and serve. And Elijah probably needed Elisha more than Elisha needed Elijah. Paul’s have to find Timothy’s…Jesus’ plan is “there is no success without a successor!!!!!”
Let me end by sharing…hearing God requires we shut up and listen. It requires a Mary’s heart more than Martha’s hands. Don’t get me wrong…I am greatly appreciative of every one who serves with Martha’s hands…but do that long enough without occasionally cultivating a Mary’s heart….and you’ll end up in the wilderness asking God to take your life, just sayin’
I love you all, (Trying to Listen)