ELIJAH: The Summary (15-20)
The churches of Christ Greet You (Romans )
Lesson 15: The Vulnerability of Victory (Read 1 Kings 19)
First Kings Chapter
in stark contrast to the preceding two chapters. It deals with the same
the difference is like night and day. The contrasts are noteworthy
show us just how vulnerable we all are and how careful we need to be.
humanness of the heroes of the Bible can be tremendously instructive
encouraging to the heart. While we should know better, we tend to think
possessing something special that we do not have access to. We think of
though they were a different breed, almost god-like, with special
can't have. Or perhaps we are plagued with another idea. We look at
heroes of the faith or listen to many Bible teachers today with their
of deliverance. Then we think about our own struggles and failures and
if there is not something terribly wrong with us. We have adopted the
we should have somehow reached the point that we do not struggle. The
Christians who are truly spiritual never get down. But that kind of
does not fit with the Word of God. We can experience God's victory by
(cf. 1 John 5:4-5). But none of us will do that without difficulty and
discipline. We can grow in Christ and we can become more experienced
consistent in trusting the Lord, but none of us will ever reach
resting in the Lord in this life.
Elijah, remember, was a man of like passions with us (James ). He had his own struggles of weakness and discouragement through which he had to contend. He too had to do battle with his mental attitude and his focus. Elijah is a representative person and this portrait helps us to see ourselves. Why? So we will reach out and draw upon God's grace and mercy. Illusions about self hinder that. This portrait helps us see the need to glory in God rather than in people. Perhaps this portrait and reality will help us stop trusting in the lies we tend to believe. God gives us this portrait of Elijah to teach us how vulnerable we are, how important our focus and our attitudes are, and how much we constantly need the grace of God for every moment and every breath.
The evil one is well aware of our vulnerability. So where does Satan want to attack us? He attacks in the area of our need to depend on God. Every person is only an earthen vessel, a man or woman of like passions with feet of clay. We are not super spiritual athletes who now sit enthroned over the world, the flesh, and the devil. But there is a special reason for this. In 2 Corinthians 4, Paul says, "that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not of ourselves." The reason is that we might not glory in people, but in God.
We are to be examples for the flock and our families. Scripture is clear on this. Being a model for others is one of the great challenges of leadership. As God's servants, we should all desire to be a clear vessel though which people may see Christ; not a stained glass window that draws attention to itself. By the same token may we not become a dirty window, but one that is clean allowing people to see beyond us to Christ and the truth of the Word (1 Cor. 2:1-5). Our temptations, our trials, our frustrations and failures are common to all men (1 Cor. ). You and I are not alone no matter what we are facing. God is faithful to enable us to handle the temptation, and God is gracious to pick us up when we fall.
In First Kings 19 we see Elijah fearful, running scared, exhausted, depressed, and wanting to die. Something really shattered his focus and his faith. Have you ever been there, in the gloom of despair and defeat when all your expectations exploded in your face? Like Elijah, Christians can be around the Word, hear it taught, and even experience the work of God in our lives and still grow lukewarm or callused. When we get our eyes on PEOPLE and what they have done or said, we fail to see God at work. When our eyes are on people all we see are the conditions. When this happens, we are unable to respond with the right kind of action - with ministry, endurance, and faith.
Our focus (how we see a situation) can empower and encourage us, or neutralize and turn us into whimpering complainers or discouraged discontents. When people focus on people, one of two things happen: (1) Either they brag about the person they admire, which may bring temptation to that person and encourage others to glory in man, or (2) they attack and criticize bringing persecution and heartache. When God is not the focus, we lose.
We should never walk by sight - as things appear to us. We are to walk by faith in the sovereign control and providence of the Lord (2 Cor. 5:7). This means we are to stay focused on the Lord and seek to look beyond the problems through the eyes of faith. Therefore, by faith, we are to continue to do the things God has called us to do. We should never run ahead of the Lord with our own escape and defense strategies through which we seek to change, manipulate, or control the situation.
Life is full of disappointments and if we are not extremely careful, our expectations will derail us as they become demands of our heart - demanding that things work out the way we think they should. The potential of a fall is always only one-step away (1 Cor. ). God holds us responsible for trusting in Him, for obedience, for love, for endurance, and for faithfulness to do what He has called us to do. He does not hold us responsible for the results. The results are in His hands, not ours. We can't change people, and we often can't change our circumstances, only God can.
Though we are soldiers in God's army, the battle is the Lord's (1 Sam. ). While we are fellow workers with the Lord with one sowing and another watering, the Lord alone gives the increase (1 Cor. 3:5-9), and He does so according to His timing (Ecc. 3:1; Gal. 6:9). We are all to find our significance, our value in the Lord and His grace. We need to know we are complete in Christ and have been given “the measure of faith” to serve Him.
Keeping our focus on the Lord and our minds relating to God in the midst of a fallen and evil world that says, "happiness, security, significance, i.e., your needs, is found in the details of life," is not easy. Thus, depression is a major problem in this country. Just like the rest of us, Elijah experienced the problem of depression - that mental and emotional condition marked by feelings of discouragement, worthlessness, dejection, guilt, apprehension, and failure. Circumstances, possessions, or position does not cause depression, but rather it is caused by the way one handles life.
Depression is universal. It is no respecter of persons. No profession is exempt from it. It has nothing to do with one's IQ. If anything, people with higher IQs are more susceptible. Age is not a defense against it. It attacks the young and old alike. Depression ranges from mild mood swings (which we all face) to deep psychosis. It may of course have physical causes. Such things as drugs, low blood sugar, glandular disorders, allergies, brain tumors, and chemical imbalances may also cause it. The most common causes, however, is in the area of the spiritual, mental, and emotional.
We tend to become depressed when our expectations are not met. Thinking wrongly about ourselves can also be a terrible downer. In other words, seeking happiness, security, and significance from our success or performance rather than from the Lord is a big cause of discouragement or depression. Sometimes we have a strong desire for things (covetousness). When those things don't meet our needs (and they won't) depression sets in. Rejection by others can cause depression. However, in Christ we have acceptance. As God's children, we belong to the family of God and we have the capacity He gives us to live the Christian life.
When our bodies are tired, we can't think and respond to pressure as well as we normally can. In Elijah's exhausted state, he prayed, "It is enough; now, O Lord, take my life." Instead, the Lord lovingly and graciously sent an angel to feed and nourish him. There is a principle here: proper rest, diet, and exercise are essential to coping with depression.
First Kings 19 is the most instructive and, in many ways, the most encouraging chapter in Elijah’s life because we can all so easily identify with the prophet and his failure. Just when the Lord needed him the most, this divinely trained prophet proved to be a notable failure and ended up running away from his post in a terribly depressed condition. When faced with the threat of Jezebel and the obvious fact there would be no immediate revival in the land, he suddenly became fearful and discouraged. He then deserted his post and ran for his life.
But the Lord wasn't through with Elijah, and neither does failure mean defeat or an end to our ministry. This is one of the encouraging elements of this chapter - how the Lord worked to restore the prophet. God remembers that we are frail. He knows our frame that we are but dust (Ps. 103:14). He is mindful that we possess material bodies that must be cared for, often, before the spiritual part can function properly. The Savior never leaves us no matter how far we drift away. He is personally involved in seeking to restore us. Though the means may be completely lacking to us and all may appear lost and without hope, there is never an end to the degree of God's love and care, nor to the capacity and power at God's disposal to supply any need at any time.
Elijah’s restoration is another indication of the grace of God, that even when we are out of fellowship, with our hearts devising our own way, the Lord still works on behalf of His children's needs to lead them back to Himself. This also is an illustration of how we are so prone to prolong our trek in the wilderness in the pursuit of our own solutions to our pain and misery rather than quickly turn to the Lord. We do this because we tend to believe so strongly in our solutions. Because of our pride or our sensitive egos we just do not like to admit we are wrong and pursuing a wrong course.
changing people and bringing reformation and revival is not the
sensational, and spectacular like
Remember, depression that is not caused by physical problems, is one of our methods of escape. It is a human strategy for dealing with pain and disappointment. The irony is we seem to be more willing to depend on it as a solution than we are to trust the Lord. No one of us is in this fight alone. God is with us and we should be with each other as family and fellow servants. God is using us all, even in our weaknesses and trials. Our job is to trust God and sow the seed (Luke ) no matter what comes our way. Then we are to pray, watch, wait, and see the results God brings to pass (cf. 1 Cor. 3:4-11).
Lesson 18: The Mantle (Read 1 Kings 19:19-21)
When we fall, God is always at work to restore and renew our lives. Graciously He works to put us either on track or back on track to make us fruitful (cf. John 15:1-2). Like Elijah, we too can easily find ourselves down, lonely, and discouraged, but the Lord is the God of all comfort (2 Cor. 1:3) and He has committed Himself to our renewal and restoration. What a loving and gracious Lord!
After his renewal
by the Lord
acted on his faith by following God's call. He was willing to be
his quiet, peaceful, and rural life with its financial security to
Lord. Obviously he knew what his nation needed was the Word of the
the sons of Issachar, he understood the times and knew what he must do
Chron. ). Though wealthy, he was not irresponsible
or lazy. Many
great men of the Bible were called into some special ministry after
already demonstrated ability and a willingness to work and where they
shown faithfulness and loyalty (Moses, David, Peter, Paul, and the Lord
to name a few). As parents, we need to teach our children to work,
home around the house and then encourage learning a trade as a part of
education. Learning to work helps to develop character, faithfulness,
resourcefulness, and responsibility.
The life of a prophet was not a life of luxury. The mantle (Heb. addereth) was his official garment. This mantle automatically marked a man as a prophet, a spokesman of God. It was also a symbol of sacrifice and commitment. The mantle represented a man's gift, the call of God, and the purpose for which God had called him. Throwing it over the shoulders of Elisha was a symbolic act denoting his summons to the office of prophet.
As believers in Christ (cf. Eph. 1:1), we are God's representatives and called to ministry according to the ability God gives us (1 Pet. ). Part of this occurs in the work place, part in the home, part may occur in the church building, and part may occur with a neighbor, etc. Every Christian has at least one talent (cf. Matt. 25:15) and this represents a portion of the mantle of God's call on one's life. Our occupation may be anything from an engineer to a mailman, from a housewife to an executive secretary, a nurse to a doctor. But our vocation, our calling, is to serve the Lord according to the way He has blessed us.
was accountable to God for what he did, not to Elijah. Elijah would
Elisha's spiritual leader and mentor, but Elisha understood that
was accountable to God, not to a man. As the servants of God, we must
remember that we are ultimately accountable to the Lord for what we do
lives. One of the goals of leadership, as with parenthood, is to help
learn to become accountable to God (Heb. ).
Life and service to the Lord are like a cross-country race, not a hundred-yard dash! One of the greatest needs in the Christian life as fathers or mothers, as husbands or wives, or as servants in any area is endurance with the commitment. Jesus said in Mark 10:43-45, "But whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son man did not come to be served, but to serve." Without total surrender, we cannot be His disciples; we simply will not be able to make the sacrificial decisions that following Him will require.
Lesson 19: The Translation – 1 (Read 2 Kings 2:1-8)
In 2 Kings 2 we are given a glimpse of the mighty works of God through Elijah and Elisha. This in itself teaches us again about the might and power of our God. It also demonstrates a God who is loving and gracious and who cares for us as His people. Our God is both transcendent and immanent. By transcendent we mean that God is exalted above and is distinct from the universe. God is the source of all the immense power of the universe. He pervades, sustains, and controls the universe. There is no law, power, or fate that transcends Him since He alone is the absolute sovereign. By immanent we mean God is very much involved with our lives and our being. God often uses the personalities and lives of others to work in our own lives in various ways. We need to recognize this and respond in faith to what He is doing.
Elisha was a man eager to learn and experience more of knowing the Lord. He was loyal, loving, and devoted to God's calling. This means God's priorities and goals directed and controlled his life. God has called you and me to serve and minister to others. This means a willingness to go the extra mile. How we need loyal Christians who are not just looking out for themselves and what they can get out of the church. We need servants who are genuinely concerned for others and determined to find ways to serve (cf. Phil. 2:3-5).
Elisha was called to the work of a prophet. He was not ruled by other desires that could turn him off course and make him unavailable to God and others. He was determined that nothing was going to keep him from being the man God wanted. God calls Christians to be models of Christlikeness. Our profession needs to be backed up with authentic Christian living to demonstrate the life-changing power of the gospel and to give people confidence in the message of Jesus Christ. People are watching to see evidence of the blessing of God's work in our lives. Only God can see our hearts. People must be able to see our works, the fruit of the Spirit, and hear our words as we let our light shine. Then our life will have an impact on believers and non-believers alike (1 Tim. ).
God is not working directly by miracles as we have seen Him perform in the life of Elisha. Nevertheless, He is still working providentially in a multitude of ways - through His Word, through people, and through circumstances of trials and blessings. Today we have the completed canon of Scripture, the Holy Bible. It is God's final revelation that records the mighty historical acts of God from creation through the early church and anticipates His acts in these last days.
Lesson 20: The Translation – 2 (Read 2 Kings 2:9-11)
Second Kings 2:1-11 is the story of the translation of Elijah. This brings to a close his ministry on earth. Elijah's translation and the events that surrounded it became a means of testing for Elisha whom God had called to step into the shoes of the older prophet. So also God works providentially in our lives through the events and lives of others.
In verses 1-6,
there was a
test of Elisha's commitment. This test showed that he had a teachable
and a commitment to God's calling to the very last. Then, in verses
learned a lesson in the miracle of the parting of the waters of the
None of us are indispensable to God. God always has someone else, or some other way to accomplish His purposes, or He may have a different purpose or purposes. Our need is to rest in God's will and then carefully consider our responsibility in view of the removal of that one on whom we have been depending. We should seek to be a blessing to others as long as we are here. Always we must recognize that we are only instruments of God's grace, but it is God who is the indispensable and ultimate cause (cf. 1 Cor. 3:5-10).
We are never ready to lose a loved one, a good friend or teacher. There is always more to say more to teach and learn; more times we would like to enjoy together. But God, who alone is the indispensable one, suddenly breaks into our lives and takes our friend or loved one home to be with Him or moves them somewhere else. This is the way the Lord works; it's the way life is. Life must go on. We must pick up the baton and keep moving toward the goal. Often it is a new goal God has set before us.
One man has defined courage as "the willingness to sacrifice for a better day." Our ability to live godly, to serve God rather than self, to forgive and love others, and find real peace and stability is directly proportionate to the degree that the glories of heaven grip our souls and become the motive and anchor of our lives Until the refrain in the old hymn, "this world is not my home, I'm just a passing through" becomes real to us, we will not be truly free from those forces that dominate us and keep us from being more available to God and able to love and serve people.
We need to discern the right time to teach, confront, challenge, or even to encourage. The wise man teaches that there is "A time to tear apart, and a time to sew together; A time to be silent, and a time to speak" (Ecc. 3:7). A great time to challenge Christians to action is when they have just witnessed the blessing of God and are encouraged by the Lord through His Word or through what He has been doing in their lives.
Our desires and requests show the condition of our hearts. It shows just how ready we are for ministry, responsibility, and sacrifice. It shows if our treasure is primarily here on earth or in heaven. This in turn shows where our hearts are, which will in turn determine our priorities and pursuits and willingness to make the necessary sacrifices to fulfill God's will. If we are trying to use things to make this world our heavenly home and our basic source of satisfaction instead of the Lord, it will never work.
We do not 'belong' to this world. We are temporary residents only. Our real home is not immediately available, but we refuse to settle permanently anywhere else. We are 'pilgrims and strangers.' Deep within us, however, is a longing for our true home. It is this longing that characterizes the people of God. We do not belong to this world because we do belong somewhere else. HOW BEAUTIFUL HEAVEN MUST BE!