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In the Name of the Father, and (+) of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
1 Kings 19:1-18
Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” 3 Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.
4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” 5 And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.” 6 And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again. 7 And the angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” 8 And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.
9 There he came to a cave and lodged in it. And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” 11 And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke 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. 12 And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. 13 And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 14 He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” 15 And the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria. 16 And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place. 17 And the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha 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.”
I came across a fascinating quote that I really love: The demon in your heart is called, “What’s the use?” (To be clear this quote is clearly using the term “demon” rather broadly.) This is where Elijah is at in 1 Kings 19. Victory looks more like defeat. Think about it. He had just won a great victory on Carmel, and the people yell, “The LORD, He is God. The LORD, He is God.” They basically yell the prophet’s name – and it sounds like victory. It appeared he had won the majority to his side…but nothing seems to have changed because most of the people are still worshipping idols.
When Elijah challenged and then killed the prophets of Baal, he was impelled by the Spirit of God, yet, when Jezebel’s wrath has been reported to him, he fears for himself. He is not commanded by God to withdraw. His reason kept telling him that he would be safe if he hid in the desert. He is ready to give up, he is ready to die, Elijah thinks in his heart, “What’s the use?” These facts were recorded to comfort us, who have no other thought about the saints than that they were blocks and logs without feeling.
I have seen it happen time and again that faithful pastors become weary and distressed when they see that their earnest labors bring so little fruit. I have experienced this myself – sometimes it feels like I am trying to empty the ocean with a thimble.
But I am certain you have experienced this in your Christian life as well - as the devil, your sinful flesh, and the world seek to wear you out and lead you astray. You strive and struggle in the Christian life and it seems like your efforts are bearing little fruit – and there are probably days when you think, “What’s the use?”
Maybe you look around at our culture and how bad things are and you say in your heart, “What’s the use?” We see even Christians living and confessing contrary to God’s Word and indifferent to God’s gifts. Maybe you are struggling with a certain sin and it seems to get the better of you time and time again, and so you say in your heart, “What’s the use?”
Perhaps you say this about going to church or reading your Bible or praying, “What’s the use?”
Nothing seems to change, victory seems far from me, things don’t feel like they are getting any better, “What’s the use?”
The bills are piling high, your family is stressed out and at its breaking point, your health is still failing, God seems to not be fulfilling His promises…and you hear the words in your heart “what’s the use?”
This is a real temptation for the child of God and when you fall into it, you must repent.
It was not hopeless for Elijah and it is not for you either. Elijah did not see all that God was doing to uproot idolatry and even preserve 7000 who had not worshipped the false gods. Through His Word He was still working, still saving, still rescuing – even though Elijah could not see it.
God always has strength for you in His Word and in the power of His Spirit.
This is beautifully depicted: 11 And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke 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. 12 And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.
The Law is a hammer that crushes rocks, a fire, a wind, and a great and mighty earthquake that overturns mountains. When Elijah could not bear the terrors of the Law that were signified by these events, he wrapped his head in his mantle; and after the storm he had seen was over, there came a still small voice, in which the Lord was present.
But the violence of the fire, the storm, and the earthquake had to come first, before the Lord Himself followed in the still small voice. The voice of the Gospel comes and brings the forgiveness of sins, peace with God, and eternal salvation which Christ purchased and won for you on the cross.
The power of God’s Word forgives you your doubts and your despair and your lack of faith…and strengthens you to face all those things that make you say, “What’s the use?”
The demon in your heart says, “What’s the use?”
But the LORD says, “What are you doing? Why are you despairing? Why are you afraid? Why are you giving up? I am your light and your salvation…you have nothing to fear…wait on me…be of good courage and I will strengthen your heart…look to me…I am in control…these things are not done in vain…I am in control of all things… I will not abandon you nor forsake you…Arise and eat…be strengthened for the journey…” Amen.
O Lord, it is very tempting to despair and throw up our hands and cry out, “What’s the use?” Forgive us for not trusting You and Your Word. Strengthen us by Your Word; through Jesus Christ Your Son our Lord, Amen.
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