- Sermon Notes
Elijah and the Weight of the World
1 Kings 19:9-21
December 11-12, 2021
Sometimes life gets heavy. It feels like the weight of the world is weighing you down. Difficulties and challenges build up and accumulate, and discouragement sets in.
What do you do when you get discouraged? Discouragement can lead to depression. It comes from seeing the circumstances as overwhelming, they’re more than you can handle. When it seems your problems are larger than you.
The more important question, however, is, what does God do? The life lessons from this story can apply directly to your life if you are feeling weighted down and discouraged. If that is not your situation now, these life lessons are important to remember for the future. Everyone will go through great challenges and difficulties in life.
Elijah has come to the lowest point of his life. Here, he’s without a compass. He’s lost his bearing. He’s faltering. He is running without instruction. He’s downhearted and discouraged.
Elijah had just come from the highest point of victory just before he reached this lowest low. If you come to the point where you reach your lowest low, please know that God never fails. His grace is more than enough.
Elijah was living in spiritually dark times and there was much spiritual warfare. The northern kingdom of Israel was led by the worst king Israel had ever known, King Ahab. Not only did he walk in the sins of his fathers, but he also married that wicked woman Jezebel. He led the nation to follow the false gods of Baal and Ashtoreth and to turn their back on Jehovah, the God of Israel. In other words, the nation was falling apart; the world was falling apart it seemed.
God called Elijah to be a prophet. It’s no easy task being a prophet of God in a time when the nation was turning their back on God and following the gods of the world.
They trusted in Baal the god of fertility and rain, so Elijah declared there would be no rain in Israel until he gave the word. God meant for Israel to be a land of blessing; flowing with milk and honey, but God also said that if their hearts turned hard, so would the land.
At the end of 3 1/2 years of no rain, with Israel suffering a devastating drought, Elijah confronted Ahab and directed him to bring 450 prophets of Baal to Mt. Carmel and to gather all the people of Israel there as well.
When all the people assembled, Elijah declared, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If Jehovah is God, then follow Him; if Baal be God, then follow him.” Elijah then challenged the prophets of Baal to call upon Baal to answer by fire and consume the sacrifice there on that mountain and that whichever God answered by fire, he is God. Only Jehovah answered by fire that day, so Elijah commanded that the 450 prophets of Baal be seized and were slain there at the brook Kishon.
When Jezebel heard what happened on Carmel, she answered with some wrath of her own. She sent a messenger to tell Elijah he would be killed the next day. That was when Elijah hit his lowest low. He ran for his life. As I mentioned last week, Elijah had no reason to run. Jezebel was the one who had reason to be afraid. So she thought to intimidate him, to contain him. And it worked.
Alone in the desert he prayed that God would take his life. He had had enough. He couldn’t take anymore. He was burned out, tired, intimidated, discouraged, and depressed.
God’s response to Elijah is a life lesson unto itself. God answered with compassion. Instead of rebuking Elijah, he fulfilled 2 Corinthians 7:6, “God comforts the depressed.” He ministered to Elijah. He let him sleep and eat.
After comforting and strengthening Elijah it was time to instruct him. God doesn’t just comfort you through a dark or difficult time, He doesn’t just walk with you, He wants to teach you through it. The message and instruction God had for Elijah was a message filled with instruction for us.
I. Time for a Come to Jesus Meeting
- Mount Horeb is the place where God first spoke to Moses out of the burning bush. It was a ‘come to Jehovah’ meeting.
- It was also there that the Lord spoke directly to the children of Israel. It was there God gave them His Law, His commandments.
- This was the place of many ‘come to Jehovah’ meetings for Moses and Israel.
- God sent Elijah there to Mount Horeb for a meeting. The place had meaning.
- It says Elijah lodged there. That suggests that he stayed there and waited. He waited for God to speak, to move, to answer his heart.
- God spoke into Elijah’s heart and strengthened his faith for the calling and purpose God had on his life.
- If the weight of your problems is a heavy burden, the place to begin is to come to Jesus. Come to Jesus to wait on Him and to listen to His voice.
A. Know from whom help comes
- God asked, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” It was time for Elijah to get this off his chest.
- Listen to Elijah’s response and hear how Elijah was focusing on himself and on how terrible things had become.
- “I have been very zealous… and I alone am left; and now they seek my life to take it away.”
- You get the sense right away that Elijah was basically saying, “The weight of the world is on my shoulders!” and, “This whole thing is about to break!” and, “What are you going to do when they take my life, Lord?”
- Elijah had stopped focusing on the adequacy of God and instead was focusing on the size of the trouble and on the inadequacy and insufficiency of Elijah.
- This is true for each of us. One thing is absolutely for certain; the more you focus on yourself, the more discouraged you become.
Illus – One of the worst sermons I ever gave came the day after I decided to watch some archived messages I had given in the past. I thought perhaps that if I could find all my flaws it would somehow make me better — — big mistake. It just made me discouraged. What I should have done was to fix my eyes on God and trust that His strength is perfected in my weakness.
Psalm 121:1-2, I will lift up my eyes to the hills; from where shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord, maker of heaven and earth.
Hebrews 12:1-2, let us run with endurance the race set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.
B. Be still and know that He is God
- What comes next in the story is interesting. God gave Elijah an object lesson that he would never forget. He wasn’t just going to tell him; He was going to show Elijah. He wanted this lesson written on his heart.
- God told Elijah to stand on the mountain before the Lord. A great and strong wind immediately slammed into the mountain and began tearing the rocks to pieces, but God was not in the wind.
- Then after the wind, an earthquake, but God was not in the earthquake; after the earthquake, there was fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire there was a still, small voice.
- If you step back, you can see why Elijah was frustrated. His world was falling apart and he wanted God to bring some great demonstration of His power and might. “Bring a storm over this land, Lord! Shake these people with a mighty earthquake! Rain down fire from heaven and consume these hardhearted rebels!”
- God can use the wind and storms to teach a lesson, he did it on the Sea of Galilee with the disciples. God can use an earthquake. The earth shook in great power when he opened the prison for Paul and Silas to be freed. God can use the fire. God was with the three Hebrew men in Babylon when they were cast into the fire.
- But God restores people, He speaks in that still, small voice to speak of His love and His kindness.
Romans 2:4, Do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?
- We want to write the script for God. The script we would write is the one where God moves in the greatness of His power and everyone stands in awe of His might!
Illus – There is a powerful story about the man who listens the horses. He knows their language and he transforms a horse into obedience by speaking their language.
- God told Elijah in verse 18, that he had 7,000 in Israel who had not bowed the knee to Baal. God was speaking to their hearts in a still small voice, and there were some who were listening.
Romans 10:8, But what does it say? “The Word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” —that is, the word of faith which we are preaching.
C. Don’t be afraid of what might happen
- God asked Elijah what he was doing there, and Elijah responded, “I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.” In other words, I’m trying to preserve my life because I’m the only prophet you have left.
- Perhaps Elijah thought too much of his life. Perhaps it was in trying to save his life that Elijah was at risk of losing it.
Matthew 16:25, “for whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”
- The apostle Paul is an example of this very thing.
Philippians 1:21, For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
Psalm 56:4, In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me?
- God may even allow us to go through some troubles, some battles, and some fires; to know that our future and our hope are in God’s hand and not in our own.
- What if I should lose my job? Or my house? Or my retirement? Or my spouse? Or my health?
- Then I will know that I am in God’s hands and that He is able to keep that which I’ve committed to Him until that day.
II. Keep Walking in God’s Purpose
- God is not done with Elijah. God does not fire him; He sets him forth in the purpose of his calling. When God told Elijah to anoint kings, He was getting Elijah back to God’s purpose.
- When God told him to anoint Elisha, he was giving him a friend and giving him purpose in preparing the next great prophet.
- Elijah found Elisha while he was plowing with 12 pairs of oxen and threw his mantle over him. God is giving Elijah someone to walk with him. He’s going to have a prophet in training.
- Elisha immediately understood what this meant and said, “Please let me kiss my father and mother and then I will follow you.”
A. Put your hand to the plow
- God told Elijah to go and be the prophet that he was called to be. In other words, ‘Put your hand to the plow, Elijah. Fulfill God’s purpose and calling in your life.”
- Elijah would then find a man named Elisha, one of the 7,000 that was listening to God in his heart, who would set his hand to the plow and be faithful to what God had called him to do.
- When he found Elisha, he was plowing with 12 pairs of oxen. That’s 24 oxen plowing a field.
Illus – I used to plow when I was young and there is something very satisfying about plowing the earth. I loved driving a tractor.
I’ve often said that a pastor is like a farmer. Always plowing, always sowing, always trusting God for the harvest. Be faithful and keep plowing!
- It’s interesting that God called Elisha while he was diligent in his work.
- God called many people in their diligence.
- Gideon was called while he was threshing grain.
- David was called while he was watching the sheep
- Peter was called while he was fishing.
- Jesus was raised by a carpenter.
Illus – Moses was raised in Pharaoh’s house and wasn’t ready to be used of God until he had been a shepherd for 40 years.
- God calls those who are faithful and diligent in their heart.
- When Elisha asked Elijah if he could go and kiss his mother and father, Elijah responded, “Go, for what have I done to you?” In other words, follow God’s call on your life because that is the desire of your heart.
B. Don’t hold onto what you cannot keep
- Elisha wanted to go back to kiss his mother and father. He wasn’t making an excuse.
Luke 9:60, but he said to him, “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.”
- We know that Elisha wasn’t looking back because he burned the plow and sacrificed the oxen. He was making the choice to follow God with all his heart.
Luke 9:62, but Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
- Jim Elliot, a famous missionary to Ecuador captured it beautifully when he said, “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
- Don’t look back. Press on to the upward call of Christ Jesus
Philippians 3:13-14, One thing I do; forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
- Listen to His still small voice. There will always be a remnant, He always has a few who honor Him with their lives and follow Him with all their hearts. I have decided to follow Jesus, not turning back.
9 Then he came there to a cave and spent the night there; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 And he said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of armies; for the sons of Israel have abandoned Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they have sought to take my life.”
11 So He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord was passing by! And a great and powerful wind was tearing out the mountains and breaking the rocks in pieces before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind there was 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 sound of a gentle blowing. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak 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 armies; for the sons of Israel have abandoned Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they have sought to take my life.”
15 The Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; and when you have arrived, you shall anoint Hazael king over Aram. 16 You shall also anoint Jehu the son of Nimshi king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place. 17 And it shall come about that 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. 18 Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him.”
19 So he departed from there and found Elisha the son of Shaphat while he was plowing, with twelve yoke of oxen in front of him, and he with the twelfth. And Elijah came over to him and threw his cloak on him. 20 Then he left the oxen behind and ran after Elijah, and said, “Please let me kiss my father and my mother, then I will follow you.” And he said to him, “Go back, for [a]what have I done to you?” 21 So he returned from following him, and took the pair of oxen and sacrificed them, and cooked their meat with the implements of the oxen, and gave it to the people and they ate. Then he got up and followed Elijah and served him.