Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“He makes my feet like hinds’ feet (able to stand firmly or make progress on the dangerous heights of testing and trouble); He sets me securely upon my high places.”
Psalm 18: 33
“He writes in characters too grand
For our short sight to understand;
We catch but broken strokes, and try
To fathom all the mystery
Of withered hopes, of death, of life,
The endless war, the useless strife –
But there, with larger, clearer sight,
We shall see this –
His way was right.”
Today’s Study Text:
“The word of the Lord came to him (Elijah), and He said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ He replied, ‘I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken Your covenant, thrown down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword.”
1 Kings 19: 9, 10
“Disappointed With God”
“There is no disappointment to those whose wills are buried in the will of God.”
Frederick William Faber
Have I ever faced a time in my life when I felt disappointed with God and His response to my needs?
What caused me to feel disappointed?
“The suffering caused by shattered dreams must not be thought of as something to relieve if we can or endure if we must. It’s an opportunity to be embraced, a chance to discover our desire for the highest blessing God wants to give us, an encounter with Himself.”
“The solution to our disappointments is never found in answering the question why – it is found in trusting God in the midst of our whys.”
Enclosed by walls of rock, I think it would be fair to say that the physical darkness which encompassed Elijah had also drilled a hole into his emotional well-being. Isolated by geography, Elijah could easily have felt isolated from humanity. But it wasn’t just an emotional despair which swept over him, indeed, Elijah’s spiritual well-being was shaken as well. God certainly had not responded to the gross apostasy in Israel the way Elijah hoped He would. But as our study text makes clear, it was again at Horeb where God’s voice came to Elijah. And this time God asked His servant who felt so alone, a simple question. “My friend, why are you here? How did you get to this place?” I found it enlightening to read the thoughts of various Biblical scholars whose assessment of this situation imply that Elijah was very depressed, even despairing. However, I’d like to share some of the thoughts written by Dale Ralph Davis in his terrific commentary on 1 Kings. But first I want to divide today’s study text (1 Kings 19:9, 10) into two separate sections. Initially, we find God came to Elijah with a question. Some scholars find these words of God more of a rebuke. “Elijah, what are you doing here? You are outside of My will. I didn’t send you to this place.” Davis offers a different perspective, one I find to be highlighted and affirmed by Elijah’s own response to God’s question. Rather than God rebuking Elijah for the situation he found himself in, Davis asks this probing question. “Can no one consider Yahweh’s question as an ‘invitation’ rather than a rebuke?” Quoting from Lange’s commentary on the book of Kings, Dale Davis shares this insightful quotation regarding the question God posed to Elijah. He describes it as:
“A question of tender kindness, to relieve the full, burdened heart of the prophet, that he, to whom the great privilege of being able to complain of his sorrow had so long been denied, might be moved to reveal his desire, to pour out his whole heart before the Lord.”
The reason I believe it is important to clearly understand God’s question, is that it assists us in gaining a better understanding of our heavenly Father’s character as well as His interaction with His earthly children. Further, God asks this question two times and each time it appears to be for a different reason and in a different manner. “What brings you here, Elijah,” I believe to be the gracious way God approached His child, whom He knew full-well, was stretched both physically, emotionally and spiritually. God had been with Elijah every step of his journey, from the moment he left Gilead and delivered God’s message in the palace of King Ahab. But while this entrance into the public square was where we first became acquainted with Elijah, let us not forget that Elijah and his Father in heaven were already on very close terms, for it was in response to Elijah’s prayers that God intervened and brought a drought upon Israel. God and Elijah went “way back,” like two close friends who keep in touch -- on a daily basis. The fact that Elijah felt like he was in “meltdown mode” came as no surprise to God. Nor did God need a tracking devise to hunt down His prophet. He knew exactly where Elijah was and furthermore, God knew exactly what Elijah needed.
This brings us to the second part of our study text and I call this the place where Elijah “unloaded on God.” Here are the basics of Elijah’s response to God’s simple question: “You want to know why I’m here? Well, let me tell You why I’m right here perched in this cave. I’m here because of You! Yes, that’s right! When everybody else was tossing You over in favor of Baal, I was loyal. When Your prophets were being murdered, instead of hiding, I stuck my neck out. I even went into the palace -- right where the death squad was stationed. When Your people broke their covenant with You, I remained faithful. When Your altars were broken-down, I rebuilt them. I am true to You. Now, here’s my question to You, ‘Where are You right now, Yahweh? After that Mt. Carmel revival, which didn’t last much more than twenty-four hours, what were You doing?’”
It is here where I want to share another perspective posed by Dale Davis regarding Elijah’s emotional response. As Davis accurately points out, “There seems to be such a huge contrast between the Elijah of Carmel and the Elijah of Horeb.” But then he highlights the fact that many “expositors” are quick to exploit the change seen in Elijah.
One writes that Elijah “cracked up.” Another states that Elijah, “lost sight of the Lord and saw only a furious woman.” While there may be an element of truth to some of these viewpoints, Davis offers the relevancy of words which express the fact that he believes Elijah was “broken” for the sake of the cause of God. As Davis creatively writes, “Jezebel was still wearing not only the pantyhose but the pants in the kingdom and calling the shots. Since he (Elijah) was not required to be meek meat under Jezebel’s guillotine, Elijah left the kingdom, but not because he was afraid of dying.” As Davis astutely observes, “If Elijah truly wished to die he had no need to flee from Jezreel, since (Jezebel) would have gladly accommodated him.” Davis continues his thoughts regarding Elijah’s concern for God’s cause when he points out that the “Hebrew underscores this fact by placing the emphasis on the direct objects, especially ‘your altars’ and ‘your prophets.’” We can learn something profound from Elijah who is broken in heart over the treatment of his Father in heaven. But we can also learn something just as critical about our Father who loves us so much and tracks our lives so carefully that when the burdens of the way are ready to swamp us, He comes to us and asks us to unburden ourselves to Him. He is able to handle our concern. Even our anger. And especially our disappointment in His response to us.
This special trait of our Father is one that should give great hope to each one of us today. For at those times when we feel our Father isn’t working at the pace we think He should or His silence leads us to believe He doesn’t know what is happening in our lives, Elijah’s experience at Horeb is cause to remind us of our Father’s listening ear and loving heart.
I recently read a story of a little girl who went to visit the dentist for the very first time to have a tooth removed. The dentist, realizing how scared she was, handed the child a fifty-cent piece. “Hold this in your hand and when we are through you can keep it.” The little girl never flinched throughout the operation. When finished the dentist said, “You are so brave.”
“Yes,” she replied, “The coin you gave me had these words on it, ‘In God we Trust,’ and that is what I did.”
High on Horeb’s mountain, alone in a cave, God came to His child Elijah and offered him the heart and hand of a God who cares. A God who stands with us in days of disappointment. A God in whom we can trust.
In the worshipful words of Angels Ashwin, “Lord, through weariness and hurt, through headaches and depression, I am still Yours. I do not understand, but I believe that You are here in the darkest places…and that nothing can take us out of Your hands.”
It was nearly twenty years ago when I purchased a book at my local Christian bookstore entitled, Disappointment With God, written by noted author Philip Yancey. While this volume contains many encouraging words which would be appropriate for our study today, one of my favorite passages comes under the title, “Survivors of the Fog.” In discussing the chapter in Hebrews 11, which is frequently referred to as the “Faith Chapter” in the Bible, Yancey has this observation: “Saints become saints by somehow hanging on to the stubborn conviction that things are not as they appear, and that the unseen world is as solid and trustworthy as the visible world around them. God deserves trust, even when it looks like the world is caving in…Fidelity involves learning to trust that, out beyond the perimeter of fog, God still reigns and has not abandoned us, no matter how it may appear.”
“Does Jesus care when my way is dark
With a nameless dread and fear?
As the daylight fades, into deep night shades,
Does He care enough to be near?
O yes, He cares, I know He cares!
His heart is touched with my grief;
When the days are weary,
The long nights dreary,
I know my Savior cares.”
Frank E. Graeff
“Casting the whole of your care on Him, once and for all, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully.”
1 Peter 5:7
“Cast your burden on the Lord, releasing the weight of it, and He will sustain you.”
Psalm 55: 22
“A God Who Cares”
“What can it mean? Is it aught to Him
That the days are long, and the nights are dim?
Can He be touched by the griefs I bear,
Which sadden the heart and whiten the hair?
About His throne are eternal calms,
And strong glad music of happy psalms,
And bliss unruffled by any strife –
How can He care for my little life?
And yet, I want Him to care for me,
While I live in this world where sorrows be.
When the lights die down from the path I take;
When strength is feeble and friends forsake;
And love and music which once did bless,
Have left me to silence and loneliness,
Then my life-song changes to sobbing prayers,
And my heart cries out for a GOD WHO CARES.”
Let all who are sad take heart again;
We are not alone in our hours of pain:
Our Father looks from His throne above
To soothe and comfort us with His love.
He leaves us not when the storms are high,
And we have safety, for He is nigh;
Can that be trouble which He doth share?
Oh, rest in peace, for the Lord DOES CARE!”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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