Go Stand on the Mountain 1 Kings 19:1-18
When United Flight 93 crashed in Shanksville, PA, on Sept. 11, 2001, John Gerula was one of the first on the scene as a volunteer firefighter. The experience inspired John, still in high school, to enlist in the Marines. He shipped out to Iraq two years later. Over the course of 18 months in Fallujah Gerula survived 21 IED blasts, resulting in a severe traumatic brain injury that gave him migraines and memory loss, and post- traumatic stress that left him anxious, isolated and abusing alcohol. “I would spend a lot of time by myself at home on my property, just away from people,” Gerula says. “I didn’t like large crowds, just the things that brought me back to what caused my issues, the flashbacks and everything.” The staggering truth is that 20 veterans every day commit suicide due to PTSD. John was not one of those. When he was close to giving up, he found hope through the American Humane Society’s “Shelter to Service” program. They take dogs who have been abandoned, give them rigorous training, and then they are given to veterans for healing, hope, compassion, and love. John says, “He can sense when I start to breathe heavy, when my heart rate’s high, things of that nature, he comes up to me allows me to pet him,” Gerula says. “Since I’ve had Oliver, I’ve not had a drop of alcohol. I gave up drinking altogether. So he has made huge changes in my life.” And Gerula has a message to veterans seeking the help with their own struggles. “Don’t give up,” he says. “The best thing to do is to keep going and just go do every option you can.”
Today’s text is about a man who had his own battles and in spite of victory, was down, dejected, and ready to give up. Elijah was a fiery prophet who seemed to be fearless in his pronouncements and actions for God. He confronted King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, and the prophets of Baal. He called down fire from heaven . In spite of his great victory, we get a glimpse of the man when Jezebel promised to kill him. Elijah ran for his life … and when he sat down he began to wish his life was over.
1 Kings 19:4-5 …He longed for his own death: “It’s more than enough, Lord! Take my life because I’m no better than my ancestors.” He lay down and slept under the solitary broom bush.
After some time he made his way to Horeb, God’s mountain where he went into the cave and spent the night. The Lord’s word came to him and said, “Why are you here, Elijah?”
Attitudes That Led Elijah to His Cave
1. Unmet Expectations. He felt like he deserved better treatment. “I’ve been very passionate for the Lord God”. Keathley: When we focus on our expectations and make the results we want the source of our happiness, security, or significance, we end up in the Elijah syndrome–fearful, ready to run away, and engulfed in feelings of failure and depression or fear and frustration.
2. Accusatory and Judgmental of his fellow Israelites. He felt like he was more faithful than others. “… the Israelites have abandoned your covenant. They have torn down your altars, and they have murdered your prophets with the sword.” The implication is that since Elijah has served God better, he should have better results.
3. Self-Focused. He felt like he was the only one who really cared about God. “I’m the only one left…” Because he thought everyone else had abandoned God, he thought he alone was God’s special servant.
4. Fearful – He felt like his life was in danger (“and now they want to take my life too!”).
5. How did the powerful and passionate prophet of God end up like this? Notice that what is missing in all of those responses is the presence and power of God. When we start looking at our lives without recognizing the presence and power of God the strongest of us is reduced to weakness and a loss of faith. Been there myself, and actually find it easy to go back to that way of thinking.
God asked: Why are you here?. A great question for our own struggles of our lives. Sometimes it is because of things that have happened to us – out of our control. Often it is because of our own mistakes or even our own perspectives.
Go Stand On the Mountain: God’s Word for Fear, Anxiety, Pain and Loss
1. God is Near
1 Kings 19:11-12a The Lord said, “Go out and stand at the mountain before the Lord. The Lord is passing by.” A very strong wind tore through the mountains and broke apart the stones before the Lord. But the Lord wasn’t in the wind. After the wind, there was an earthquake. But the Lord wasn’t in the earthquake. After the earthquake, there was a fire. But the Lord wasn’t in the fire.
God is near, but He isn’t always near in the way we would like Him to be.
Roger Nam: Perhaps Elijah wanted a miracle, but instead God was not present in the wind, earthquake nor fire. God certainly controls these elements. But the passage instructs us that during difficult, painful times, God is still there, and he reveals himself in silence. We cannot only look for God to come to us in fantastic revelation, but in quietness.
God is near, but we are the ones who are often far away from Him. Elijah certainly doesn’t seem to be walking in powerful faithfulness at this point. But notice that God has not gone away… he continues to minister to Elijah’s fearful heart.
Go Stand on the Mountain…
2. God is Speaking
1 Kings 19:12b-13 But the Lord wasn’t in the fire. After the fire, there was a sound. Thin. Quiet. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his coat. He went out and stood at the cave’s entrance. A voice came to him and said, “Why are you here, Elijah?”
“a sound of a gentle blowing” (NASB); “a gentle whisper” (NIV); “a still small voice” (KJV). Elijah gives the same speech twice to God. We are grateful to know that Elijah kept talking, and God allowed him to express himself openly and honestly.
Michael Chan says this “ demonstrate how deeply paralyzed he has become by the queen’s words.” He goes on to say that Elijah’s pronouncements are simply untrue. He is not the only one left who is loyal to God. Elijah was largely responsible for leading many Israelites to repentance (1 Kings 18:38). And what about Obadiah, about whom the text says, he “revered the Lord greatly” (1 Kings 18:3)? Blinded by fear, Elijah is unable to see God’s work on Mt. Carmel and elsewhere. But it’s not what Elijah says that is so important, it is that God continues to be faithful to Elijah.
The Grace of God in dealing with us in our own failures is truly amazing. How is God speaking to us today in our struggles and hardships? Primarily through His word. Through the influence of others. Through the Spirit’s influence in our heart. But if we aren’t in the Word then we will not be able to discern the voice of God. When God speaks he again asks Elijah why he remains in this cave. If God were speaking clearly to you today, what would He ask you? What cave are you dwelling in? Cave of discouragement, disillusionment, destructive habits? We are often so focused on others and what they do or say that we forget to look in the mirror.
Go Stand on the Mountain…
3. God is Working
1 Kings 19:l4-17 He said, “I’ve been very passionate for the Lord God of heavenly forces because the Israelites have abandoned your covenant. They have torn down your altars, and they have murdered your prophets with the sword. I’m the only one left, and now they want to take my life too.” The Lord said to him, “Go back through the desert to Damascus and anoint Hazael as king of Aram. Also anoint Jehu, Nimshi’s son, as king of Israel; and anoint Elisha from Abel-meholah, Shaphat’s son, to succeed you as prophet. Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu will kill. Whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha will kill.
Here God recommissions Elijah – gives him some new jobs to do. A renewal of purpose.
Garrett Galvin: Elijah teaches us to bring all our emotions to God. God will be present to us in different ways on different parts of the journey. We cannot experience the theophany of a storm cloud and deluge in the middle of the desert, but God finds a different way to be present to us. Our reading assures us that God makes the entire journey with us.
Go Stand on the Mountain…
4. God is Knowing
1 Kings 19:18 But I have preserved those who remain in Israel, totaling seven thousand—all those whose knees haven’t bowed down to Baal and whose mouths haven’t kissed him.”
“Elijah is tired, discouraged, suicidal, and God is with the prophet.” – Roger Nam. There is much more going on with God’s workings than Elijah knows. Today we can fall into the trap of thinking that Christianity is shrinking, the church is losing, and God seems to be farther and farther away from our world …. We need the Revelation Reminder: God Wins! The world resists, the enemy is at work, there is tragedy and loss and hardship – but God is at work in a million ways we never knew.
On the days when life seems the lowest, we should ask why we remain where we are! We need to Go stand on the mountain:
God Comes Near!
In John 12:27-28 Jesus was faced with a difficult time as he approaches his mountain, Calvary. “Now I am deeply troubled. What should I say? ‘Father, save me from this time’? No, for this is the reason I have come to this time. Father, glorify your name!” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”
In our fears, anxieties, pains, and losses, we ask God to help us in our times of being deeply troubled … and he will walk with us through those times and bring glory to Himself.
1. Share with the group a hobby/activity you used to enjoy in which you no longer participate. Why did you give it up? Are you ok with that being an activity of the past or would you like to take it up again?
2. Elijah found his way to a cave by running away from Jezebel’s threat. What are some ways people run away from their problems today that can land them in trouble? Can you name some ways that people run away from God?
3. Michael Chan paints a sad picture of Elijah that we are unaccustomed to reading. He writes, “First Kings 19, then, leaves us with a troubling and tragic picture of the once-great Elijah: fearful, curved in on himself, faithless, and ultimately disobedient to his call. In an act of compassion, Yhwh gives Elijah a way out in the person of Elisha. The tasks to which Elijah was called are eventually accomplished, despite the resistance of Elijah, because Yhwh is able to find another, more willing prophet — namely, Elisha, who wears the mantle Elijah no longer wanted.” What does this portrait of Elijah make you think about (1) our own personal struggles in living the Christian life and (2) how we can view others who are struggling and (3) how to reach out to those who are ready to give up.
4. If you were to hear from God today, would you rather it be in a big loud way or in a still small voice? Why?
5. When we pray we have expectations that God will answer our prayer and we expect Him to answer them in a certain way. What do you do when your expectations and the reality of God’s answer do not match up?
6. Elijah’s isolation likely prompted his feelings of being the only one who cares. Why does isolation from other believers harm our spiritual walk? What can you do this week to draw in someone who seems isolated and distant from our faith family?
7. At the end of our text God tells Elijah to commission Elisha. What are some ways we can reach out to the next generation and get them involved and invested in the Kingdom work now?
8. In 1 Kings 18 and 19 we see both the fiery prophet Elijah on Mt. Carmel defeating the prophets of Baal … and the fearful prophet Elijah in the cave defending himself? In reality they are the same person. Would you share with the group what do you do to weather your storms of discouragement … perhaps someone tonight might need to hear some ideas and receive some help.
Brent Strawn commentary https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1082
Michael Chan commentary http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2061
Roger Nam commentary https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1714
Garrett Galvin Commentary http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2557
J. Hampton Keathley III, The Crisis of Elijah https://bible.org/seriespage/15-crisis-elijah-1-kings-194-14
Morgan, R. J. (2000). Nelson’s complete book of stories, illustrations, and quotes (electronic ed., p. 715). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
Service Dog Helps Veteran Change His Life. http://www.abcactionnews.com/news/national/service-dog-helps-veteran-change-his-life.