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Left Alone: The Elijah Cycle (4), 2016-0619

. 4 min read

Call to Worship, Psalm 42 &
43
Children, 1
Kings 19.1-8
Message, 1 Kings 19.9-18
Annual Conference report by Tim
and Jane
On the heels of a fantastic
victory, with fire falling from heaven, people falling on their faces, a
dramatic end to a drought, and a 17 mile run – leading the horses and chariots
of the king from Carmel to Jezreel – the great prophet flees for his life, is
utterly alone, and prays for death. Happy Father’s Day. Of course, some of our
children could rival the drama in the story, so maybe we have some entre to the
human experience reported here. And, many of us have experienced burnout and
even depression, often enough on the heels of our greatest success.
      Commentators
struggle with this passage
            A
different Elijah, fit elsewhere in story?
                  So
easily intimidated?
            A
reading that Elijah is not fleeing and not venting (Leithart)
                  Based
on textual variants of verb (see/fear, 19.3)
                  Based
on echoes of other stories (Egypt to Sinai)
Four factors that contribute to
his burnout/depression:
1.    
He is
exhausted, emotionally and physically
      Run
      Stress
of the great victory
2.    
He is not
prepared for rejection
      Proof
is irrelevant to someone whose mind is made up
      Proclamation
of the gospel involves conflict
            “I
did not come to bring peace but a sword”
            (Matthew
10.34, Leithart)

3.    
He
exaggerates his uniqueness, and therefore, isolation
After hearing that Obadiah
sheltered 100 prophets: “I, even I only, am left a prophet of the LORD” (1
Kings 18.22)
As he lies down under the broom
shrub: “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than
my ancestors” (1 Kings 19.4).
Twice, when God asks, “What are
you doing here, Elijah?”, he replies: “I have been very zealous for the LORD,
the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down
your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they
are seeking my life, to take it away” (1 Kings 19.14).
      Zealous:
typically GOD’s role (Seow, 142)
4.    
He seeks the
dramatic and immediate rather than the secret and slow
            To
this point, his story has been miracle after miracle
            The
renewed call of God, return to ministry:
                  Comes
to him in “sheer silence”
                  Ordain
leadership for the future
Fathers, mothers, that’s our call.
It is a secret work – hidden from
public view. No trophies or accolades. When they graduate, your emotions swing
between pride and relief. The dramatic moments are in there – some highs, some
lows – but it is mostly a secret work.
      And,
it is a slow work. It takes 21 years for them to get to legal age, and our work
may not be done at that point. We’d like them to really “get it”, but just when
they are on the verge of growing up they seem most indisposed to learning from
us parents. “Dad, you don’t understand. I got this.”
How does God respond to Elijah?
If it was me responding to the prophet, there’d be a heavy dose of reality,
delivered in a sarcastic tone. Maybe I’d play the world’s smallest violin.
Maybe I’d get in his face and bellow, “You kidding me?” Maybe I’d quote one of
my personal proverbs, “If it’s not worth doing the hard way, it’s not worth
doing at all.”
      How
does God respond to Elijah? My interest in the question
            I’ve
been there
                  At
the end of myself, physically, emotionally
                  Hopeless
for the world – one more violent outbreak
How does God respond?
      “He
is never rebuked for showing weakness” (Seow, 145)
      God
shows up IN his weakness
Baked on “live coals” (Hebrew
only here and Isaiah 6)
“Passes by” – as Moses on the
same mountain
Five ways:
1.    
God feeds
him – bread and cup – and encourages sleep
2.    
God asks a
question, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
      Questions
are much better than rebuke
      Push
us to think for ourselves
3.    
God gives him
work to do
      We
do not stay stuck
      Work
that will change the world in the long term
1 Cor 15.58 – In the Lord your
labor is not in vain.
4.    
God informs
him that he is not isolated or unique
      “reserves”
7000
5.    
God invites
him into “sheer silence” (KJV: “still small voice”)
                  God
is not only present in sign and wonder
                  God
is present in absence, emptiness, “left alone”
                  Stillness
after a storm (Psalm 107, Seow)
I don’t know where you are in
this story. What I do know is that, wherever you are, God is there.
Resources: (used
Seow and Leithart this week)
      Seow,
Choon-Leong. 1999. The New Interpreter’s
Bible, Vol III,
The Books of 1 & 2 Kings. Abingdon Press: Nashville,
TN.
      Conti,
Marco. 2008. The Ancient Christian
Commentary on Scripture, Old Testament Vol V.
InterVarsity Press: Downers
Grove, IL.

      Leithart,
Peter. 2006. 1 & 2 Kings (Brazos
Theological Commentary on the Bible). Brazos Press (Baker): Grand Rapids, MI.