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Unmet Expectations

Date: Feb. 22, 2015

Author: Bob Henkins

1 Kings 19:1-18

Key Verse: 1 Kings 19:18

“Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.”

Who here has ever experienced the Monday morning blues? This is when you just don’t want to go to work on Monday. It doesn’t matter how good a week end you’ve had, somehow your spirit sinks and you experience a bitter low. For the past couple of weeks, we’ve been looking into the life of Elijah. Personally I think that he is one of the most interesting people in the Bible. He is one of only two men that have never known physical death. (Enoch being the other) He is one of two men that appear in both the Old & New Testaments. He appeared in the time of Ahab and also with Moses on the Transfiguration mount as they spoke with Jesus. Jesus spoke to the disciples about him. At the time of Jesus’ crucifixion, the people thought Elijah would come and rescue him. Elijah was chosen by the apostle James to illustrate for us the might of a man of prayer. He’s an outstanding man of God, but in this chapter we find him at an awkward moment, where he is neither heroic nor courageous, but instead simply human. In the passage today, Elijah is experiencing one of those dreaded Monday morning blues where he just doesn’t want to go on. Let’s take a look and see what caused it and what can cure it.

Elijah’s ministry took place during Ahab’s reign in Israel. Ahab was a self-centered, easily influenced king who had married a pagan priestess named Jezebel. Historically, there are a few names that have become so infamous that they have become much more than just a name. For example, if you call someone a Benedict Arnold or Judas, what are you saying about them? What if you call them Caesar or Einstein? Jezebel is another one of those infamous names. Because of her reputation, her name became synonymous with evil. The event that we are looking at this morning added to that reputation. It took place immediately after Elijah’s awesome victory over the 450 priests of Baal on top of Mount Carmel. Take a look at verses 1-3a. “Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.Elijah was afraid and ran for his life.” From the text we can see, Ahab went home and like a good little hubby reported to his wife about Elijah, specifically on how he killed the prophets. This makes me wonder if he mentioned anything that God had done. God had displayed his awesome power, but there seems to be no mention of it, only the things Elijah did.

Elijah had been so pumped up after winning this epic battle that he actually beat Ahab to Jezreel 16 miles away even though he was on foot and Ahab was in his chariot. So tremendous had been the victory, so mighty had been the demonstration of God’s power, so thorough and complete had been the destruction of the Baal priests that Elijah thought Ahab and Jezebel would be stunned, shaken in their unbelief, and the hold evil had on his country would be finally broken. But instead, comes a message from Jezebel that basically said, “I swear to Baal, by tomorrow morning, you’ll be dead!!” This takes Elijah totally by surprise and as a result, he seems to fall apart at the seams. “No!! This isn’t what’s supposed to happen,” Elijah thought to himself. He thought that, after the epic battle, everyone would see how awesome God is, Ahab, Jezebel and all people of Israel would repent and turn back to God and Elijah would be their Bible teacher, but that didn’t happen. Instead, Jezebel’s heart got even harder, they tore down God’s alters and wanted him dead. And he’s completely stunned. He thought they would be stunned but in reality he is the one that’s stunned.

When Elijah set up his own expectations that were not the same as God’s plans, he had a huge let down. If his expectations were the same as God’s plan, then he would have been ok, but it wasn’t. Sometimes we think that we know what God’s going to do, but how can we? Take a look at what Elijah said in verse 10, “10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” If I were to paraphrase this, it might go something like, “I’ve given everything to God, I did my best, all that I could and nothing happened. It’s a complete failure.” This is what’s going on inside Elijah’s head. He’s so stunned that he says this twice, in verse 10 and 14. He has experienced a huge let down. In his mind he’s saying, “If I do this, God is going to do that,” but maybe that was never in God’s plan to begin with. I think this happens in part because Elijah has placed his faith, not in God, but in his knowledge of God. And his knowledge of God is limited. And he’s ok when he knows what God is going to do, but when God does something that he doesn’t understand, he is shaken because he hasn’t put his faith in God himself. Elijah’s faith doesn’t seem to go beyond his knowledge.

How does Elijah reacts after taking this punch to the head? Take a look at verses 3-5a. “Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.” Elijah’s initial solution to his problem is to escape. He thinks, “If I run away, I won’t have to deal with them.” So he ran 90 miles to Beersheba. Have you ever tried to escape your problems like Elijah? Life is like a roller coaster some days are great and then the next are as low as can be. Sometimes it happens so quickly and it triggers our flight or fight response. Unfortunately for those of us that have the flight response, we may not run in the physical sense, we may try escaping in other ways. For example some people will try to escape by drinking or drug use. Others may throw themselves into work, video games or movies, anything that takes their mind off of their problems. Some people try to sleep is all away. Does avoiding our problems, solve them? Not usually. I think it probably makes them worse. This is what happens if we live our life by our feelings, our own ideas and expectations. Instead of standing firm and trying to find out what’s God’s purpose in that situation, we try to escape it. When we live according to our feelings, this is inevitable. So instead of being like Houdini (another famous name – escape artist) we need to learn live according to scripture. We have to modify our flight response.

Let’s take a look at the effects of unmet expectations has upon Elijah. Because of his let down, he feels depressed and sleeps a lot. Sure, the body needs rest, but as I said earlier sleep can often be a way of escaping life’s problems. Next, he asks God to take his life. He spent 3.5 years in hiding and he’s just experienced a disappointing loss and he’s tired of it. He went through all of this and for what? What’s next? He has been burned out in his service to God. He can’t take it anymore and wants it to stop. How any of you thought like this? Sometimes when we give our best effort in serving God and we don’t get the results that we expects, we feel burnt out. One year at the start of our fall ministry, I took two days off of work so that I could stay on campus and invite people to Bible study. In those 2 days I met over 70 people and I experience a kind of high like Elijah and I thought that it was going to be a successful school year. But in the end none of those people remained. My expectations were one thing and God’s plan was another and I had a big letdown. Another effect of being depressed upon Elijah is that he sought to isolate himself from others. Elijah left his servant and wanted to be all alone. At this point, the thing he needs the most, is the very thing he avoids. During this critical time you need fellowship with God and his people to help us come out of letdown. If we let it go, depression will grow in isolation. Another effect we see is how Elijah groveled in self-pity. He was saying, “Poor me, look at my problems.” Another effect was loneliness. He felt like he was all by himself. And lastly Elijah’s thinking was affected as he became irrational. He said he was the only one left, which we know wasn’t true because he knew that Obadiah was hiding a hundred prophets in two caves. Not only that he was so afraid of Jezebel, why? What did Jezebel say to him? She said that she wanted to kill him, so she swore to her gods, that she was going to do it. But remember what he had just been through, how God destroyed the alter with fire, it was a demonstration that Jezebel’s gods were powerless and the Lord was alive and on his side. However he was paralyzed by fear. Also Elijah forgot God’s past blessings to him. We have a tendency to write our hurts in stone and our blessings in sand. It’s amazing how we can recount the smallest details of how we’ve been hurt and how quickly we forget how God has blessed and provided for us. The last effect that I’d like to point out is how he condemns himself saying that he was no better than his ancestors. Self-condemnation is really the lie of Satan. And this is one of his main weapons to destroy God’s people. This can be a particularly deadly one if we let it get to us. Satan is the accuser and we should never fall for his lies because Jesus came and died in our place but Satan seeks to destroy our faith in Jesus.

Elijah comes to the conclusion that all escape artists eventually come to, and that is running isn’t going to solve anything so he cries out to God to make it all stop. And then we see a beautiful thing, God answers his prayer. Take a look at verses 5b-8. “All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again. The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.” Through these verses we see God’s compassion for his people. God doesn’t say, “Ahhh suck it up, don’t be a cry baby.” God understands Elijah and he loves him. Elijah had been under some heavy stress and he is probably physically & emotionally exhausted. So God sends his servant, an angel, to take care of Elijah. Sometimes we need an encouraging visit from a friend or coworker to lift our spirits. Not only does he visit he brings hot fresh baked bread. Now there is something that will lift your spirits, the smell of fresh baked goods. Sometimes all we need is a good night’s sleep and a good hot meal to restore our spirits. But sometimes that’s not enough. God did it twice and that still wasn’t enough.

Finally God gave him a demonstration. Take a look at verses 11-13a. “The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.” God give Elijah another awesome display of his power as he is standing on the same mountain that Moses stood many years before where God first gave his promise to his people and Elijah was saying that they have now rejected it. What was God trying to teach Elijah through this awesome display of power? Actually God’s point wasn’t in the power, it was in the whisper. God’s victory wasn’t in the big event. Rather God’s victory was in the gentle whisper. We want to see the big events, miracles, but these things often don’t lead people to God. God works in the subtleties. Like Elijah, we want to see the great revival of God’s work, but maybe God is working bit by bit, in the small ways, in the gentle whispers.

The gentle whisper is intimate and personal. Earthquakes, wind and fire all push people away, while a whisper draws us in because we have to get close enough to hear it. Jesus said, “28 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Mt 11) God is Almighty and powerful, but he gentle and compassionate. Elijah though that all he did was for nothing but maybe his public act of faith encouraged other believers that he didn’t even know where there. Take a look at verse 18. “Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.” Maybe Elijah’s act strengthened the 7000’s faith to stand firm. Elijah thought that there wasn’t a great work of God, but there was, it’s just that he couldn’t see it.

As we studied this passage, interestingly we found how it parallels Jesus’ ministry. Jesus served for 3.5 years, and he experienced a victory as they welcomed him as king but then the religious leader wanted him dead. But Jesus didn’t run. He stayed and they killed him. God’s victory wasn’t in the crowd but in the cross. And Elijah’s response is similar to the disciple’s response when Jesus was arrested – then ran. And after Jesus’ death the disciples despaired without hope. Their expectations were different than God’s plan. However God raised Jesus from the dead and revealed himself in the gentle whisper.

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The Result of Complacency and Pride

Amos 6:1-14

Key Verse: 6:8b

The Lord GOD has sworn by himself, declares the LORD, the God of hosts:

  “I abhor the pride of Jacob
    and hate his strongholds,
    and I will deliver up the city and all that is in it.”

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