In this sermon, David Capoccia examines the prophet Elijah’s descent into despair in 1 Kings 19 and how God ministered to Elijah and restored Elijah to service. The account not only demonstrates how God is working good even through difficult circumstances but also how believers can practically move from depressed doubt to obedient faith.
1. Servant Despairs (vv. 1-4)
2. God Ministers (vv. 5-8)
3. God Instructs (vv. 9-14)
4. God Commissions (vv. 15-18)
5. Servant Obeys (vv. 19-21)
Let’s hear from the Word of the Lord this morning. Pray with me. Heavenly Father, we do indeed live by grace alone. It is only your unmerited favor that has saved us and we need it continually. We need the grace that also comes from the instruction of Your Word. So empower me now to speak it. Work in Your people to hear it and be changed by it. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
One of the most dangerous flying situations that a pilot can face is what’s known as a spin. It’s also called a tailspin, and it’s a situation in which the aircraft is stalling. This means there is no longer lift generated by the wings, so instead of flying it is falling. And in a spin, the aircraft is rotating as it moves towards the ground. It only takes a few moments for an airplane to enter a spin. The pilot can be fine flying high but if he makes a little turn, the plane is at an improper angle based on its speed and direction. Immediately the plan starts careening downwards.
You can imagine how frightening and disorienting the spin can be. I’ve watched a few videos of flight instructors demonstrating how to get in and out of a spin. Just watching it, I felt my heart being restrained. It was heart-wrenching to watch! You see how quickly a plane can go out of control. It’s so obvious from watching that if something decisive is not done quickly, that plane and everyone on it is going to crash and those inside will perish.
Thankfully there is a proven protocol for getting an airplane out of a spin, but the steps the a pilot needs to take are counterintuitive. You have to do the opposite of what you feel in order to successfully rescue the airplane. Have you ever felt like your life was caught in a spin. You were like a plane that was suddenly and wildly heading towards the ground. Maybe everything was going well for you and then suddenly there’s this severe and unexpected setback in your life. And you found yourself spiraling towards the earth.
Maybe you’ve been experiencing emergencies for a while and you’re amazed your plane is still in the air. You’ve lost one engine, your cabin has been depressurized, you’ve got the oxygen mask on and you’re trying to cling to the Lord and serve Him. But then something else goes wrong and you look down at your instruments and say that’s it, you can’t take anymore. And now you’re going down.
Our society has a term for this kind of feeling or mood, it’s depression. But I think a more Biblical term is hopelessness and despair. The world is filled with hopelessness because life is hard and people do not know the true God who is the only God of hope. But even believers, strong ones, can fall into hopelessness. It happens quickly and we even see this happening in the Scriptures. In fact this morning I would like us to take a look at one of those times when a believer experienced hopelessness and the restorative ministry of God Himself back to hope and obedience.
As we look at this account from the Scriptures, we’re going to find encouragement for our own encounters with hopelessness, and also become more equipped to help others who are struggling. Please take your Bibles and turn to 1 Kings 19. The title of the sermon today is, “God is Working in the Silence.” That is the main message and comfort of our passage. When we encounter despair and hopelessness, we need to remember that God is working in the silence.
We’re going to look at the entire section of 1 Kings 19. To appreciate what’s going on in this section of historical narrative, we need to know the context. We’ve gotten a little bit already from today’s Scripture reading. Wicked King Ahab is reigning in the northern kingdom along with his evil wife, Jezebel. These two have begun to propagate the worship of the Canaanite storm god, Baal. They try to replace Yahweh with Baal and many Israelites have gotten on board. They’ve abandoned Yahweh altogether or they tried to serve both Yahweh and Baal at the same time.
Meanwhile, the true prophets of God have been hunted down and killed by Jezebel, the wicked queen. But then Elijah comes on the scene seemingly out of nowhere. In 1 Kings 17 Elijah arrives and announces judgment from God on the two monarchs. He says it will not reign anymore in Israel until he says so.
Then begins a period of drought for the next three and half years. Elijah has to go on the run and God miraculously hides and provides for Elijah during those years while Israel suffers. Then in 1 Kings 18 which is what Greg read earlier, God sends Elijah back to Israel to confront Ahab and the false prophets of Baal. They engage in a little contest at Mount Carmel to see which God, either Yahweh or Baal is able to send fire, probably meaning lightning, from Heaven to consume a sacrifice.
The result of the contest is that Baal loses and Yahweh wins. Elijah proclaims and you heard this, that Yahweh has turned the heart of His people back. He has the people execute the false prophets of Baal and tells King Ahab to tell get ready for the rain to return because God is sending it back. Before the rainstorm comes, Elijah supernaturally outruns Ahab’s chariots 17 miles from Mount Carmel to Ahab’s winter capital in Jezreel.
These are some pretty dramatic events but what happens next? Our text 1 Kings 19 shows this. Rather than reading it all at once and going back, we’re going to read and analyze the sections as we go through. We can divide the passage into five sections and I’m going to give you five different headings as we move through. That’s how we’re going to organize our approach. The first section in this passage is 1 Kings 19:1-4. Read it with me:
Now Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and even more, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.” And he was afraid and arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs 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 my life, for I am not better than my fathers.”
What’s this first section? We can give it the heading, “Servant Despairs.” Notice in verse 1 that Ahab tells Jezebel what Elijah did at Carmel, that he killed all her prophets. In verse 2 we see that Jezebel sends Elijah a threatening message basically saying that may the gods punish her severely if she doesn’t kill Elijah like he killed the prophets. Now the fact that Jezebel sends a messenger rather than an assassin or an executioner is significant and suggests that she doesn’t really have the power to kill Elijah. Also, she is appealing to gods that Elijah knows are false so why be afraid of that?
Notice verse 3 which is Elijah’s response. It is fear that makes him run for his life all the way to Beersheba. Beersheba is all the way at the southern end of the kingdom of Judah. It’s as far away in the land of Israel as he can get from Jezebel. It’s right on the border of the wilderness. He doesn’t even feel safe in god-fearing Judah, which had a righteous king at this time.
He also dismissed his servant in verse 3. Elijah, don’t you need the help of your servant to do ministry? Well in verse 4, Elijah makes it quite clear the he never intends to return to prophetic ministry. He goes a day’s journey into the wilderness and remember when we hear wilderness in Israel we’re talking about a place that is very difficult to survive. The southern wilderness below Judah is a barren, rocky desert. He goes into this wilderness and sits down under a Juniper tree and asks for God to kill him.
Talk about a tailspin! Elijah, what happened to you? Is this the same man, the same prophet of God who just stood up against 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of the Ashura? What’s going on? We get a clue into Elijah’s mind when we hear him speak in verse 4. Notice what it says:
“It is enough."
That is the short cry of resigned despair that we have all uttered at different times in your lives. We cry out and say we’ve had enough and have reached out limits. We can’t take it anymore and go on! And then he says to God secondly:
“Now, O Lord, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers.”
Have you ever been overwhelmed by the troubles in your life so much that you wanted to die? That’s what Elijah is feeling here. Now it is significant that he doesn’t actually attempt to kill himself and there are other righteous men in the Scriptures who similarly want to die but don’t try to kill themselves. That is not man’s right. Elijah is hoping that God will kill him.
Thirdly he says to God that he is not better than his fathers, he is not more righteous, not more able to deal with difficulty or produce change in Israel? In fact, to get a handle on the change that has taken place in Elijah’s mind, we have to keep in mind what he is saying in verse 4 and what has just taken place in 1 Kings 18. Why has Elijah turned from bold faith to fearful despair? It’s simple: dashed expectations.
You see, Elijah loves the Lord. He hates Baalism and he longs for his people to turn back to Yahweh. With the Mount of Carmel showdown, Elijah thought he was on the verge of revival. He said as much three and half years are coming to an end, and God turned His people back and brought the rain. Elijah runs excitedly to the capital in Jezreel and he is ready to advise Ahab and oversee the turning of this syncretistic nation into what it was supposed to be: a holy nation of priests.
What does Elijah find when he goes to Jezreel? Not the swell of support that he expected but instead apathy from the people, the king, and even worse he finds that the decisive defeat of Baal and his prophets at Carmel has not daunted Queen Jezebel at all! She’s as defiant as ever and though her ability to inflict vengeance seems to be temporarily limited, she is determined to see Baalism triumphant over Yahwehism in Israel.
So then to Elijah, all that effort, hope, ministry over the years where he faithfully sought the Lord’s work, it seemed like it was for nothing! He had nothing to show for it and nothing is changing. What is the point, God? Who can keep going when it’s all useless? God, please just kill me now, I’m not superhero and I can’t keep going when there is no hope for victory or relief. Has your heart ever said the same as Elijah’s?
Did you have some hope or expectation that you were longing for in your life, only to see it dashed maybe multiple times? Maybe you thought your spouse would change, but your spouse is as wicked as ever. Maybe you thought God would heal you from your illness but it’s only gotten worse. Maybe you thought God would use you to save your family and now they have disowned you.
Nothing is working out and nothing is changing! Where is God? If your heart has cried this way, then keep listening because has a Word to you this morning. We’ve seen in the first section that the servant despairs. But now God reenters the picture and helps the downcast. The next section in verses 5-8, God ministers. 1 King 19:5-8 says:
He lay down and slept under a juniper tree; and behold, there was an angel touching him, and he said to him, “Arise, eat.” Then he looked and behold, there was at his head a bread cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank and lay down again. The angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise, eat, because the journey is too great for you.” So he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mountain of God.
This next section of text gives us something very surprising. In Elijah’s doubting word of despair, we do not find a word of rebuke from God, nor do we find a word of comfort or destruction. Instead, we find the Lord Himself tenderly meeting Elijah’s needs. After all, Elijah is very distressed and no doubt was frantically running from Jezebel and physically, emotionally, spiritually exhausted.
So what does the Lord provide for Elijah? Food, drink, and sleep. Notice in verse 7 it identifies the ministering angel giving aid to Elijah here as the angel of Yahweh. If you’ve been with us in Sunday school before, that is a specific title. We know that the angel of Yahweh is Yahweh! When God sends an angel to Elijah, He is not just sending an angel but is coming down Himself to minister and meet Elijah’s needs.
What a God! Friends, do you realize that the same God who tenderly ministers to Elijah, is the God who if you’re in Christ, ministers to you? He cares for you in the same way even when you face despair. Twice, Elijah sleeps and eats and notice why specifically God urges him to eat in verse 7. God tells him that the journey is too great and he is going to need more sustenance for where he is going. Verse 8 says that Elijah goes with the strength of that food and drink for forty days and forty nights.
That phrase should should a little familiar. Where else have we seen a man of God go forty days and forty nights without eating and drinking? If you know your Old Testament, that should sound like Moses! Where was Moses going for forty days and nights? Mount Horeb, also known as Mount Sinai which is where Elijah is going.
Something important is about to go down at this ancient site of revelation to Moses and to Israel. It’s going to be a little different than when Moses went. That’s what we see next in our third section. We see the servant despairs, we see God ministers, and now we see God instructs. In 1 Kings 19:9-14 it says:
Then he came there to a cave and lodged there; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.” So He said, “Go forth and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord was passing by! And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking 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. After the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle 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?” Then he said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.”
In verse 9 we immediately start to discover more details that should remind us of Moses’ earlier encounter with Yahweh at this mountain. In Exodus 33:18, Moses requests to see the glory of Yahweh. God grants Moses his request but has to do it in a certain way. He hid Moses in the cleft of a rock, or a cave, and passed by. He was going to let Moses see his back and after hearing God describe His name, Moses bowed down. This is an amazing moment of revelation in the Old Testament.
We see a similar thing in our text. But notice what word comes to Elijah in verse 9: what are you doing here, Elijah? This question is a gentle rebuke to Elijah. God is telling him that He knows there is no good reason for him to be here when he is supposed to be back in Israel serving. Because this is framed in the form of a question, God does give Elijah the chance to explain himself and He is willing to listen to Elijah.
In verse 10, Elijah in reply gives a very depressing and mostly true report of the situation in Israel. He says that he has been zealous and faithful on God’s behalf but Israel has been stubborn and unfaithful to the prophets and have tried to kill them. Elijah says he is the only one left, which is not true. Elijah made the same claim at Carmel when he met with the prophet of Baal. But if you were paying attention in the beginning of 1 Kings 18, Obadiah said he hid another 100 prophets of Yahweh so Elijah is not the only one left. Perhaps he is the only publicly active prophet, or maybe he is just not being accurate here. Certainly he feels like he is the only one left. He feels very alone and if you’ve ever dealt with despair then you know that feeling.
We can sum up Elijah’s reply to God this way: “I’m here because the situation in Israel is hopeless.” He fought hard but the people are unmoved. They killed everyone else and surely he is next. So why go on fighting a doomed battle. Elijah wants a sign that it is worth it to take up the sword and shield again.
God gives Elijah a sign alright, but it’s probably not the one he expects. In 1 Kings 19:11, it says that God would give him a sign. At first it looks like Elijah is going to get the full Moses-Sinai revelation. There’s this succession of rock splitting, wind, earthquake, and fire. These were awesome and terrifying and very much similar to the kinds of phenomena that Israel experienced when they went to Sinai. There is one difference though. In Exodus 19:18 for instance, it says:
Yahweh descended upon Mount Sinai in fire.
Yahweh was present in the fire but what do we read here? Yahweh was not in the wind, earthquake, or fire. What comes after the fire and what is the only manifestation that doesn’t have the accompanying phrase that doesn’t have Yahweh in it. Our text reads that after the fire, there is the sound of a gentle blowing. This is one of the most intriguing statements in all the Bible and it’s translated different ways. The King James famously translates it as a still small voice. The ESV translates it as the sound of a low whisper and the NIV says it is a gentle whisper.
Why these differences in translation? Part of the reason is that the phrase itself doesn’t seem to make sense on its own. The sound or the voice of a thin silence is what this phrase really means. Silence is the absence of sound so what does it sound like? What is a thin silence and how is it different from regular silence. Translators do their best to understand this phrase but I think the mystery is actually part of the point.
You see, after all the clamor of the rock splitting wind, the earthquake and the blaze, what comes next for Elijah is something so extraordinary: a silent thin sound. One translator put it as a vibrant silence. Out of all these phenomena, which of these actually manifested the Lord’s presence? It was the last one, the silence and Elijah himself realizes this. In verse 13, it is when he hears this silence that he wraps his face in the cloak and goes out to the entrance of the cave to see Yahweh passing by.
Do you see the implications of this for Elijah? Despairing Elijah has come all the way to Sinai because he doesn’t see Yahweh at work in Israel or in his life. Elijah wants to see some dramatic action and Sinai fire in Israel. But God shows Elijah that He can bend Heaven and Earth to His will in dramatic fashion but that is not the way He choose to work right now. Don’t think that just because you can’t see or her anything, God is absent. He is there even in the silence.
This is the great object lesson that God was showing Elijah at Sinai. Do you see that this same truth applies to God’s people today? Whenever you think that God has abandoned you or is no longer acting faithfully on your behalf, you need to realize that God is actually there working in your situation and in the silence unseen and unheard. He brings about His perfect will for your life. He never stops working for His own sake and His people’s sake. Sometimes His work is obvious, loud, dramatic, but other times it is quiet and imperceptible, even silent.
This was the instruction God was giving to Elijah, but did he understand it? Apparently not because in verse 13 when God asks him what he is doing at the mountain, notice that Elijah gives the exact same dejected response as before. Elijah didn’t get it and missed the object lesson. He goes back to his prepared speech for why there is no hope in this situation.
God graciously, patiently comes at the issue from another angle and this takes us to our next session. The fourth section is 1 Kings 19:15-18, where we see God’s commissions. It says:
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; and Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint king over Israel; and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place. It shall come about, 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. Yet I will leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him.”
Notice here that God gives Elijah a new task and direction. God tells Elijah to go back through the wilderness the way he came and start heading towards Damascus in Syria. God then tells Elijah that he is to work to anoint three individuals: Hazael, king over Aram or Syria, Jehu, king over Israel, and Elisha as the prophet to succeed Elijah.
Notice that these anointing represent pretty dramatic geo-political changes. There are totally new kings in these nations. And notice the purpose revealed by God that are connected with these anointing in verse 17. God reveals that these three will work together to put certain fugitives to the sword, as to death. Whoever escapes from one man, the other two will make sure that they destroy the fugitives.
What fugitives does God have in mind? Well, remember that Elijah has been complaining to God that He is not doing anything about the Baal problem in Israel. Verse 18 also has Baal worship as its subject. So the fugitives that God must have in mind here has to do with coming judgment on Baalism in Israel. God is saying that it’s not true He is not doing anything about the heinous false worship among His people. He is doing something, in fact Elijah has an important part to play in it! He is to go and anoint these men that God will use to punish unfaithful Israelites. He also will use these men to destroy state-sponsored Baal worship in Israel.
Notice though, that in verse 18 God clarifies that not everyone will need to be judged in Israel. God says that there are 7,000 who have not bowed and whose lips have not kissed any statue of Baal in worship. Notice the way God phases it. It doesn’t say there are, but God will leave 7,000. Why is that phrase significant? Because it emphasizes God’s total sovereignty. He is in control, even of the hearts and salvation of men. God is telling Elijah that big changes are coming and judgment is coming. But also, preservation of the faithful remnant is coming. This is a remnant that God will uphold and cause to be faithful.
Why would these facts be signifiant to Elijah? Well they reveal that God is active and has taken notice of the situation. Second, they reveal that Elijah’s zeal for the Lord is not in vain. Elijah had been given an important role in bringing about God’s will and he needs to do it. Third, it shows that Elijah was never truly alone. He thought and even insisted that he was the last faithful Yahweh worshiper in Israel. God reveals that he is not the only one but there are others like him. God will cause them to stand and Elijah to stand. Therefore, He tells Elijah to return to the ministry for His sake and the sake of the people.
Really what we’re seeing here in this commission is a more direct explanation of the object lesson that God was giving to Elijah before. Elijah can’t see it yet, but God is at work. What is so striking about this commission of anointing these men given by God to Elijah is that Elijah will not be on the earth to see these things unfold. If you keep going in the record of the books of Kings, you’ll see that everything God promises here does come to pass but largely without Elijah’s involvement. It’s Elisha who anoints Hazael, king of Syria in 2 Kings 8. And it’s an unnamed prophetic assistant who anoints Jehu, king over Israel in 2 Kings 9.
So does this that Elijah proved derelict in his duties as a prophet? That he never really turned to faithful ministry because others had to jump in for his unfaithfulness. I don’t think we can say that. If we keep following Elijah in the book of Kings, God keeps affirming and using him. How does Elijah die? He doesn’t! He is taken by a chariot of fire into Heaven! I can’t think of a much more glorious exit for a man on the Earth than that!
This was no prophet under God’s disapproval. No, Elijah was being faithful. But what’s going on here is Elijah was never intended to fully accomplish his commission by himself. He was setting the wheels in motion but it was going to have effects that far outlasted him. Others would literally have to take up the mantel of Elijah to finish the calling given to him. To say it in another way, Elijah’s important work given specifically to him by God was part of a multi-generational plan.
Elijah would not be on the Earth to see God’s great plan come to its dramatic conclusion. Nevertheless, he had a critical part to play. Do you see the implications for us? Brothers and sisters, you will and you already have encounter moments where it looks like God is silent. Where great changes seem necessary for your life and for our world, you don’t see anything happening but take courage from God’s commission given to Elijah here. You too have important work to accomplish from the Lord. You have a calling to fulfill! But this work may not manifest its good outcome for a year, five years, fifty years, or maybe until after you’re gone!
We often get so micro focused on our struggles but we also need to take a step back and realize that this is part of a larger plan, a great and glorious plan, that we can’t see the end of yet. God doesn’t have to reveal to us how what He is doing fits into that plan. But what we have to do is trust the Lord, that He is working out His good purpose for us and through us. And we need to get back to fulfilling His calling to us. We gotta trust the Lord and we have to get back into the battle and back to work! Now how does Elijah respond to this new commission from God? We see it in our last section. This is the beginning of his response in 1 Kings 19:19-21 where we see that God’s servant obeys. It says:
So he departed from there and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, while he was plowing with twelve pairs of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth. And Elijah passed over to him and threw his mantle on him. He left the oxen 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 again, for what have I done to you?” So he returned from following him, and took the pair of oxen and sacrificed them and boiled their flesh with the implements of the oxen, and gave it to the people and they ate. Then he arose and followed Elijah and ministered to him.
We see in this last section that Elijah gets right to work with part of his new commission from God. Elijah seeks out Elisha in his village in Israel. He marks out Elisha as the one who would succeed after him but would Elisha actually follow Elijah? So many in Israel are just seeking the Baals? What are the chances that this random Israelite will embrace a life of dangerous ministry on behalf of Yahweh?
Notice Elisha’s response to the ministry in verse 20. He begs that he might have leave to say goodbye to his family. Uh oh, what’s going on here? Is this a sign of hesitation and repudiation of this calling from God? You might be thinking of Jesus’ own experience in the New Testament with some of His would-be disciples. One of them says that he wants to say goodbye to his parents and Jesus says the person who looks back is not worthy to plow the field.
Is that what is going on with Elisha here? Perhaps Elijah does not know and that is why he says what he does to Elijah. He says that Elisha is free to go back and can choose what he wants to do. But Elisha doesn’t shirk the calling. On the contrary, Elisha takes the oxen he was just plowing with along with the yoking equipment and he prepares a final meal for his family and the people around him. This commemorates Elisha’s entering Yahweh’s prophetic service.
In other words, Elisha’s totally giving up on his old life to follow Yahweh and to serve Elijah. You think these events were encouraging to Elijah? They sure were! And God assuredly meant them to do so. Not only does Elijah see the Lord’s word come to pass, but Elijah gains a faithful fellow minister and friend in the Lord. This is someone who was just as zealous for Yahweh as he was. Just at the beginning, Elijah can see that even after he is gone the prophet that succeeds will remain faithful to Yahweh. That would be encouraging.
Brothers and sisters, we will experience similar blessing and encouragement when we step away from despair and step back into faith-filled obedience to Yahweh. Yes, it will be hard at first to let go of that despairing attitude, woe is me and that sense of inadequacy and self-pity. But as we proceed into the work of the Lord, not according to our own strength but according to God’s we will do it. Elijah couldn’t handle it but God was the One sending him. We will see the goodness of God again! God still has it out there for us. One of the chief ways we see it is in the brothers and sisters who serve alongside us. You won’t see it if you never return to the ministry.
For his part, Elijah does go on to faithful ministry, even though we can’t trace it right now. He goes back and sees many more times of God working dramatically, powerfully, and faithfully in Israel. But he needed this time of reorientation from God away from his spiraling despair. Perhaps you need the same. Do you realize that this passage that we have just looked at has been provided by God to you today to help you in your encounters with despair? This is also to help you help others when they are facing despair.
Actually, the truths that we have seen in this section form a pretty good application outline for dealing with despair. Let me show you. If we just go through the five points again, we’ll see it. Number one, “The servant despairs.” All of God’s servants will face temptation to discouragement and despair. If you haven’t, you will! We respond with number two, “God ministers.” God ministers to us in our despair, even in the simple goodness of creation and meeting our physical needs. Number three, “God instructs.” God also instructs that when we think that God is silent we need to remember that not only is He there in the silence but He is working for our good and for His glory. Number four, “God commissions.” In light of those truths, God commissions us to fulfill our meaningful calling by faith. The work is too much for us but not too much for God. Number five, “The servant obeys.” When we return in obedience to the work of the Lord, He will vindicate our faith and bless us with encouragement especially via our fellow soldiers in Christ.
You know I mentioned in the beginning that the basic recovery protocol for an aircraft and a spin is a little bit counterintuitive. For instance when you’re going down and spinning, you might think that you have to pull the nose up. But actually you shouldn’t do that. Initially when you’re trying to reorient your aircraft, you actually need to point the nose down so that the plane can stabilize. It’s not what you would expect to do, but it’s what you need to do. It’s similar when it comes to dealing with despair. Some of these things I just mentioned to you are just the opposite of what you feel like you should do in that situation.
Hopelessness has a way of grabbing hold of you and trying to pull you away from everything you really need. You might not feel like being with God’s people and experiencing the good of God’s creation or hear any of God’s Word. Ultimately you may not want God anymore. But those are all the things you actually need! Therefore, brothers and sisters please here me in this. To escape despair, to come back to safe spiritual flight so to speak, you’re going to have to go against what your flesh is telling you to do. You’re going to have to go against those despairing feelings and proceed by faith in the Lord.
When you do, you will experience an outcome just like Elijah here. You’ll be brought back to that safe flight and you’ll have the joy of the Lord again. Now for those of you are facing despair but don’t know the Lord Jesus Christ, you need to come to know Him today.
You’re in this account too but you’re not Elijah! You’re the people serving Baal in Israel. They had a false hope which was clearly shown to be false. Baal couldn’t send the rain or fire. He was exposed as utterly useless. Whatever you are trusting in that is not God, it will be exposed as utterly useless. Whether it’s a false god or yourself, you will realize that it doesn’t have power and life’s calamities are going to show this to you.
What are you going to do what that happens? Even more serious, God as your Creator deserves your worship, service, and trust. Because you’re not willing to give that to Him but instead reserve it to yourself or give it to another idol, God is angry. Just as He was angry with the Baal worshipers in Israel. He will, in holy judgment, act against you. You may not see it or think it’s going to happen, but don’t forget that God is working in the silence. If you know Christ, He is working for your good. But if you don’t know Christ, He is working for your judgment.
The judgment is not asleep and it will soon overtake you as it did the unfaithful persons in Israel and there will be no recourse at that time. That’s why you must turn to the only Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the only God and the only hope! Only His life, death, resurrection, and amazing salvation work accomplished at the cross is your way of rescue.
That is the only way of rescue from sin, death, and the wrath of God. On top of all that, without Christ you face the difficulties of life without any help. You need the Lord Jesus Christ, not only for your eternal salvation but to have any real hope in this life. That can be yours today but you must return in repentance in faith and give up your sin and your old way. You say that you’re not the Lord of your life anymore, and you must trust in God and give your life as His. There is no way that you can make yourself to Him and it is only Jesus Christ who brings you to God and reconciles you. It is not good works, riches, but only Christ.
If you will repent and believe, you have a sure hope even today. This is not a hope that we often talk about. Pastor Babij does a good job of clarifying this too. This is not that you hope things will work out. This is that you know things will work out because God is faithful. You know before Jesus ascended back into Heaven, He gathered up His disciples on that one mountain in Galilee and He told them that all authority on Heaven and Earth has been given to Him. He gives the commission to go out and make disciples and baptize them in His Name. Then He gives a comfort for behold He says, “I am with you even to the end of the age.”
That’s another version of what we just saw in our text today. Our Lord and God is with us, even in the silence. It’s for that reason that we can have peace and joy no matter what we’re going through. That’s a great comfort and I hope that you have it.
Let’s pray. Lord God, we thank You for Your Word. You are indeed the only hope. You’re the only hope of eternal life and the only true hope for this life now. But I pray that everyone listening today would know Your hope in an intimate and saving way and they would not trust in false hopes. Lord, for those facing despair I pray that You would be so gracious as to cause them to act in faith. That they would go against what their flesh is telling them to do and instead trust Yahweh again. He is doing something here even though we can’t see what it is. It is for your good and His glory. I pray that anyone who is facing despair that they will remember that truth and that You will rescue them. Lord, we thank You for this passage and this time in Your Word today. Make it effective. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.