After Elijah’s victory over the prophets of Baal, he was on a high. The prayers 450 prophets of Baal could not bring fire to consume their sacrifice. Elijah taunted them, because he knew Baal didn’t exist. Elijah told them to pray louder. He suggested that perhaps Baal was on a vacation, or deep in thought, or maybe even sleeping. Elijah knew Baal didn’t exist. He only existed in the minds of people.
Then Elijah prayed and fire came down from heaven, consuming the sacrifice, the wood, and licking up the water in a trench surrounding the altar. He simply prayed, “O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command.”
At that the 450 prophets of Baal were executed. Elijah must have thought that God was going to bring about a great spiritual awakening in Israel.
Now keep in mind it’s been over three years since it rained last in Israel. But now the rain is coming. After the slaughter of the prophets Elijah tells Ahab he better hitch up his chariot and get home before the rain stops him. So he rode home. And the Bible tells us: “The power of the LORD came upon Elijah and, tucking his cloak into his belt, he ran ahead of Ahab all the way to Jezreel.” Elijah ran ten miles ahead of Ahab in his chariot.
So imagine you’re Elijah. The storm is coming from the west, you’re traveling to the east. The storm, a picture of judgment is behind you, you’re God’s prophet leading the king. What a picture! What a teacher the Lord is! As long as I follow the prophet, who represents the true God, I’m okay. So, Elijah was on a high.
But it only last for a short time. I don’t know many girls named Jezebel. That’s would be a lot to live up to, or down to. When the queen of Israel found out she told Elijah, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that one of them.”
So Elijah ran away. For a full day. He ran twenty miles to a town called Beersheba, dropped off his servant there and then ran another 20 miles until he go no further. And he said, “I have had enough Lord…take my life.” And he fell asleep.
Then the angel of the Lord came and fed Elijah and left him a jar of water too. Elijah ate and drank and then laid back down to sleep. But the angel of the Lord came a second time and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” Strengthened by that food, he traveled 40 days and nights for another 200 miles until he reached Mount Horeb, where the Lord ministered to Elijah.
Elijah the mighty prophet despaired. He told the Lord he was the only one left who believed in God. He was wrong. His despair distorted his vision. A mighty prophet didn’t know what he was talking about, because of his despair.
In his distorted vision, he tried to advise God. He told the Lord things didn’t go the way they should have. Jezebel is having her way. All the prophets are dying: this is all wrong.
Is it true for you too, that we go back and forth from pride to despair and back and forth? One day were think we know better than the Lord, the next we don’t think Lord has the ability to back up his promises. So, where are you? Pride, or despair?
Have you ever thought that it’s a losing battle to talk about Jesus with a family member? The Lord will never bring him to faith, you think. But God melted your heart of stone! And you might be the one he wants to use! Despair: God can’t do what he says he can.
Or the other side of the issue: Lord, this is how things ought to be. You give me better health. You make my kids obey me better. You take away my aches and pains and then I’ll know for sure you are almighty and loving.
20/20 hindsight tells us that Elijah had nothing to worry about. Power was all around him. It stopped raining for 3.5 years after he prayed. It starting raining again after the slaughter of the prophets of Baal. And what confidence Elijah had! Can you imagine calling out the 450 prophets of Baal for a showdown. What if God doesn’t answer his prayers!?
Let’s look at the present and the future. There is power all around us. In baptism a baby is plucked from the pit of hell. In the saving waters of baptism a baby is no longer Satan’s little boy, but Jesus’ little boy.
How in the world is there enough body and blood of Jesus to go around. Think of all the Christians who have taken the Lord’s Supper and have been strengthened in their faith and assured of their forgiveness. There is power here. The Lord’s Supper is enough.
Think of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper as the dessert. God is so rich in his mercy that the Word is all we really need. But God gives us Baptism and the Lord’s Supper to assure us individually that his grace is ours. You don’t need the apple pie after the big thanksgiving meal, but it sure is good.
God plays with big toys. Did you know that one storm cloud weighs 1.1 million tons? Did you know that 125 million gallons of water and more electricity than is needed for a large city is in one thunderstorm? And God sends the rain.
And did you know that God created this world in six days, with his Word?! Nothing else. On day one he made all the materials and on days 2-6 he decorated it beautifully. There is power in the Word. There’s power in the preacher’s sermon, because it is based on God’s Word. God’s truth goes in here, the heart, out my mouth, to you ears and into your hearts. God’s grace overflows through God’s Word and that is enough.
God told Elijah that the journey was too much for him. So, he insisted that Elijah take nourishment so he could travel another 200 miles to the south in unforgiving wilderness.
The journey is too much for you. Have you learned this? You hear people say, “The Lord helps those who help themselves.” No, better to say, “The Lord helps those who cannot help themselves.” If the journey is too much for Elijah, then God needs to bless Elijah. If the journey is too much for me, then God needs to bless me, or give me strength. It’s called grace. And that is why God sent his Son, Jesus.
In matters of everyday life, the journey is too much: this bill, that co-worker, this ache or that pain, this child or that parent. Have you learned that you need the Lord to bless you? Has the Lord taught you rely on him? Do you pray “Give us this day our daily bread” because he has taught you to rely on him everyday for whatever you need for body and soul?
Has the Lord taught you your need for help spiritually? This journey is way too hard! “Be perfect,” God says. “Be holy,” God demands. Be content with what you have. Honor your parents who are sinners. Love your children, who are sinners. Trust in God for every blessing for body and soul.
Talk about a hard journey, but Jesus pulled it off. For us sin-sick sinners Christ put his trust in his Heavenly Father to provide. Jesus loved sinners: he healed, he taught, he loved the unlovable. He died for all sinners. In love Jesus Christ used the Word of God to teach, and preach. The effect of his love we still see today: Jesus Christ instituted the sacraments for our faith. Jesus Christ shared the word God which brought sinners to faith. And when he was done with his 3 year ministry, he offered his life to pluck us from the pit of hell. And his empty grave means we’ll never see the pit of hell, only the glories of heaven.
Elijah went from victory on Mount Carmel and the heights of joy to the despair of believing it was all for naught and a 250 mile journey to Mount Sinai. The Lord let him run away because he would minister to him on Mount Sinai. Tough place to go to be ministered too. But on that mountain the Lord did minister to Elijah. While on the mountain there was a great wind that tore the mountains apart and shattered rocks. But the Lord wasn’t in the wind. Then there was an earthquake, but the LORD wasn’t in the earthquake. Then there was a fire but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face.” What could humble Elijah? What could comfort Elijah? The LORD took him to another mountain, to Mount Calvary. The LORD was in the gentle whisper. The shock and awe didn’t humble and comfort Elijah, but the gentle whisper did.
No, we’re not told what God said in that gentle whisper. But what causes a man to go back another 300 miles to serve the Lord in a difficult call from which he left? What causes a man who had despaired of his ministry and his life to roll up his sleaves and get back to doing difficult, dangerous work? The gentle whisper: I love you, God says. I forgive you, God says. I’m with you, God says. I can still use you, God says. And all you need to do to hear the gentle whisper of God’s love is go for yourself once again that mountain and see your Savior Jesus bleed and die for you.
In matters of life, the journey is too much for you, but not for the one who promises to bless you. In matters of salvation, the journey is too much, but not for Jesus. The Lord helps those who cannot help themselves. Despair or advising the Lord is forgiven and can truly be a thing of the past, as he takes us to that wonderful mountain. In light of everything I’ve just said, the journey is not too much, because of a merciful and gracious God.