Hi friends, we are going to have a short time of devotion, based on God’s Word in 1 Kings chapter 19 verses 4 to 16. In the interest of time, we won’t be reading the passage aloud, but do turn to the verses in your books and devices.
Let’s first pray.
Heavenly Father, You are holy and Your Word is precious. May Your Spirit work in our hearts to love you, and what you say to us in the Bible. In Jesus’ name we pray – amen.
The events in 1 Kings 19 seem fit for a devotional, just before a talk on depression. For the great prophet Elijah was in a very bad state in that chapter. We do not have all the details to make a firm clinical judgement, but I think he sounded very dejected and suicidal in verse 4. Let me read it – 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.
Fast forward about six weeks later in the narrative, and we see Elijah was still alive. But it sounds like his mind was locked in a cycle of pessimistic unhappiness. In verses 10 and 14, he said, like a zombie, the same two sentences. He repeated to God – 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.
What had happened, to make the great prophet Elijah break down this way? What made him feel like he is the only one left who is faithful to God – and yet also no better than those before him?
Elijah had actually been on a roll. In the previous chapter, 1 Kings 18, Elijah had challenged all the prophets of the false God Baal in Israel. It was an epic showdown. He had won, because God had miraculously sent down fire and rain, showing that Elijah was a true prophet. All the losing false prophets were put to death.
But after this great high, Elijah was brought very low. Why did he feel like he was the only one faithful to God in Israel? It’s because his victory over the false prophets had not led to any tangible return to faith for his people. In fact, queen Jezebel, who worshipped Baal, sought revenge and wanted to kill Elijah. Elijah was very afraid of this queen, so he fled Israel. Like so many of God’s prophets before him, the only result of Elijah’s preaching seemed to be – what? – just great persecution from the country’s leaders.
It is not that hard for us to empathise with Elijah. Many of us often feel as down as Elijah, when the hard times come. And even if we are not facing the same kinds of persecutions and trials, we can also feel – like Elijah did – that there is no way up, and no way out.
But Elijah also shows us how we can just keep holding on, doggedly, to God.
Through most of chapter 19, Elijah does very little, except move and eat – and talk to God. When he was suicidal, it was God whom he requested to end his life.
He was also willing, in that suicidal mood, to travel forty days and nights to get to the mount of God, which is known as Horeb, and also as Sinai.
When he got to Mount Sinai, he gloomily huddled up in a cave. But he continued to assert, to God, that he was “very jealous for the Lord”.
And when he heard the whisper of God in verse 12, he shambled out of his cave to find his Creator.
And how did our wondrous God respond? He showered love on Elijah, the clinging servant, in the latter’s lowest of lows.
God’s care regime was wise and multi-faceted. First, through an angel, God comforted Elijah before the weeks-long trek to Mount Sinai. He provided cake to eat, and water to drink – enough to survive the journey.
Second, at the cave in Sinai, God reminded Elijah of how powerful He is, when Elijah was probably feeling very helpless and powerless. Verses 11-12 record God sending powerful winds that tear up mountains, and earthquakes, and fire.
But most of all, verses 11-12 also state that God was not “in” those great external signs – not in the wind, not in the earthquake, and not in the fire. Where was He then?
He had been right there beside Elijah, all the time, listening, and then speaking, with His holy Word.
In fact, God asked Elijah twice in verses 9 and 13 – what are you doing here, Elijah? How is that supposed to sound? The Hebrew for these verses indicate God was speaking softly. So, I think the questions sound like those from a loving and concerned Father – who knows his children, and calls them by name. Ours is a God who wants to hear how we are doing. He wants to listen – even as we repeat the same, depressive thoughts, over and over again, perhaps like how Elijah did in verses 10 and 14.
Isn’t that wonderful? I have felt down this year, especially with the increased stress caused by COVID-19. My mind has felt locked in a cage, or stuck in a cave, at times. I thought about how bad things were, over and over again. Eventually, fatigue sets in, and it all cycles downwards even more. At these times, though, as a Christian I could still, just barely, pray to Him. Church and good Christian brothers and sisters would also remind me of His Words in the Bible. It felt so dry at first, but one just keeps praying and reading.
And in our worst moments of human frailty, He will speak softly to us. To me, He also asked, why are your thoughts stuck in this dark cave, Delwyn?
To be clear, I did not hear an audible voice, or see wonders, like Elijah did. Rather, in my case, it was through hearing and reading 1 Kings 19. God also waited longer than Elijah’s fear-wracked 40 day journey to Sinai to speak to me. But it was all in His great wise timing. And in response, I told Him my pains honestly, and remembered just how good He is.
Shall we close in prayer?
Heavenly Father, thank you for being a God whom lovingly calls us by name and hears us out, and whom powerfully provides all things. Thank you for being a God who, through Your Words, encourages and guides us towards a faith in You – You who deserve all glory and praise. Help us to remember that, even on the darkest of days. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.