I Kings 19:7-8, "And the
angel of the LORD came again the second time, and touched him, and said, Arise
and eat; because the journey is too great for thee. And he arose, and did eat
and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights
unto Horeb the mount of God."
This morning, life is a series of ups and downs. We have joys and sorrows.
Truly, if truth was measured by our perception and "feeling" of things, then
truth would be relative to our emotions of the day. However, what should bring
us the highest ups and cheer us through the lowest downs are the things that do
not change. We cannot eliminate the downs in life. Storms, persecutions,
tribulations, etc. will come. They are inevitable. However, they are bearable,
and the success with which we are able to bear them stems from a proper
perspective of the Lord's dealings with us. Quite often, our perception of His
dealings is limited; therefore, we do not see all about a situation like He
does. Yet, His consistency of dealing with His people should be enough for us to
know that what we see Him do is consistent with the things we may not notice. In
other words, God is not duplicitous or capricious. He does what is right all the
time, every time. Furthermore, He is pleased to do what is right all the time,
In the passage from our study verses above, we see Elijah coming into a "down"
time right after an "up" time. If we review the 18th chapter of I Kings, we see
that Elijah has one of the highest manifestations that a prophet could have,
proving his validity as one of the Lord's prophets. Elijah challenges the
prophets of Baal - one against many - and wins the day. By Elijah's
supplication, God sends fire down from heaven to consume the offering, alter,
water, etc. that Elijah prepared. All Baal's prophets could do was cut
themselves and bleed everywhere when there was no answer to their cry. After
this happens, Elijah is furthermore blessed to call upon the Lord to send rain
to end the 3.5 year drought, kill all the prophets of Baal, and run before Ahab
into the city.
How high his experience must have been! Everything from physical strength to
outrun a chariot to fire from heaven that prompted speechless and rebellious
people to cry out, "The LORD He is the God. The LORD He is the God." Yet,
chapter 19 opens with Jezebel threatening the man of God's life for killing her
prophets and making a mockery of her system and rule. Compared to the "up" he
just had, one might think that Elijah could handle this "down." Even after the
repeated blessings, Elijah becomes discouraged. (Verse 4) Then an angel appears
and tells him to eat. (Verse 5) In our verses, the angel appears again, and
tells him to eat again. Then, Elijah must go for 40 days in the strength of the
meat from those two meals sent from the angel's hand.
One might say that this is an interesting story, but what should the purpose be
for us today? What is interesting is that even though this story revolves around
physical and natural things, it pictures spiritual things seen by faith.
Consider that Elijah was much blessed physically with natural fire, natural
fleetness of foot, and eventually natural food for sustenance on a natural
journey. These things should point us to our spiritual walk, manifestations of
spiritual fire, and spiritual food. Like Elijah's natural circumstance, they are
not without their persecutions, but we should learn two things about this
particular account. The first thing we should learn is that the Lord's
consistency in dealing with His people is the same now as it was then. The
second thing we should learn is that Elijah's behaviour - as great a man of God
as he was - is not something we should mirror when having our "downs" in life.
Let us deal with the second thought first. Elijah has a literal mountaintop
experience at Carmel and then immediately wished to die after Jezebel's threat.
Oh how similar that is to our case sometimes when we have left God's house
rejoicing in hope of the glory of God only to immediately fall victim to
self-pity when confronted by the devil's devices. He might be waiting at the
door of the church house or shortly thereafter to attach himself somewhere in
our lives and rob us of the beauty that we experienced in God's holy mountain.
We may have had an experience so rich that God's spiritual fire was seen by
faith to receive our offerings and praise to the extent that hearts overflow and
our cups run over. It might be a case so apparent that all there present say,
"Surely the Lord is in this place."
Those moments are the times when the devil works the hardest shortly thereafter
to steal that from us. He will be waiting, and he will be ready. May we be ready
to stand and contend rather than lie down and wallow. The other thought that we
should understand is the Lord's consistency. Quite often, we hear said, "Even if
we did everything that we were supposed to do, that does not obligate the Lord
to bless us." Biblically speaking, that is a true statement. Luke 17:10 shows
that doing our duty is not extraordinary. However, we sometimes hear said, "Even
if we do what the Lord commands, He is not obligated to bless us." Biblically
speaking, I do not believe that is a true statement.
Because of His consistency and unchangeable nature, what the Lord promises will
always be true. (II Corinthians 1:20, Malachi 3:6) This unchangeable purpose is
not restricted to God's economy of salvation. Rather, it extends to God's
complete nature and all the promises that He has made. Therefore, when God
promises to bless righteousness and punish iniquity, we can rest assured that
this promise is just as sure and unchanging as the promise, "It is finished."
While they pertain to different things, both are just as sure and unwavering,
due to the non-duplicity of God. Now, someone might say, "What are you driving
at, and what is the point?"
The point is simply this: our actions are not what obligates God to bless us,
but God is obligated to bless us when we act righteously. The reason that He is
obligated to do so is because He obligated Himself to do it when He promised us
how He would act in conjunction with our actions. If willing obedience is met
with the good of the land today, so will it be tomorrow and always. If stubborn
rebellion is met with the sword's point today, so will it be tomorrow and
always. (Isaiah 1:19-20) The obligation is there, but it was not us who did the
obligating. God "obliged" us by making sure and steadfast promises to us.
So, if God is unchanging in the way that He behaves both respective and
irrespective of our actions, then His dealings with Elijah naturally are also
mirrored in His dealings with us spiritually. God knew that Elijah would have
trials even after such a grand time on Mount Carmel. Elijah's down moment of
wishing to die in verse 4 would not end there. God knew that his complaint would
be bitter still when he got to Mount Horeb later. Yet God, in His faithfulness,
provided Elijah what was needed and sufficient to get through the problems.
Elijah's current problem in our verses was a death threat. The solution was to
"get out of Dodge" or Jezreel in this case. God provided the sufficient
sustenance for Elijah to make it out of harm's way.
We may have mountain top experiences in Mount Zion, but God understands that we
will have death threats and problems that trouble our souls. The remedy is that
we are provided with spiritual meat that will sustain us to the other side of
the trial. The angel tells Elijah that he must eat more than he initially did,
because the journey before him was too great. Elijah did not know the specifics,
but it was sufficient to get him through it. We may have wonderful meetings in
God's house that are greater and more majestic than we have ever seen. Those
times may be necessary as meat to get through some difficult days ahead.
My richest days in God's house many times are followed by long periods of
onslaught from Satan. As he brings his arrows of fear and discouragement, I many
times fail to draw on the sustenance of the meat that I enjoyed in God's
vineyard. But, thankfully, there have been a few campaigns in which the
difficult journey that I did not know was before me was spiritually fought using
the sufficiency from God's hand. Brethren, His grace and meat is always
sufficient, but many times, I fail to see and use it sufficiently.
One of the main differences between the natural picture in Elijah's life and the
spiritual account in our lives is the separation of mountaintop fire and food.
In this passage, they occur separately, but spiritually, they are entwined.
God's house is not just as place to get - as they say these days in the
"contemporary church" - spiritually "pumped up." God's house should encourage us
and lift us up spiritually, but there is more of a benefit than that. The
service provides food for the soul that is meat for strength in the days ahead.
Perhaps we might think that we have received a double handful from heaven, but
it just might also be that the meat of that experience is necessary to sustain
us for the long and difficult days ahead. Therefore, church is not a place for
"feeling good" and not using the experience later, or much worse just eventually
forgetting about it. Rather, it is a blessing for today and strength for
tomorrow as well.
Finally, may our reaction to the trial keep a single-minded focus on something
that never changes. Elijah looked at things that changed: his circumstances. Our
circumstances will likewise change. May we think about One that does not change.
Regardless of circumstance, He is there, behaves the same, consistent way, and
is the provider of those things we need. Are we up or down today? Is it a high
day or a low day? Are we being fed or having to go in the strength of previous
meat? Are we victorious in our contention for the Lord in His mount or having to
run from our enemies? The answer to all of these questions is not nearly as
important as knowing that He is still with us, His grace is sufficient, and our
efforts to serve Him are neither in vain nor unrequited.