I KINGSRemedy for Revenge Solomon replied, "If he behaves himself, he will not be harmed; but if he does not, he shall die. (I Kings 1:52)
Revenge is the act of getting back at someone for something done to us to harm us physically or emotionally. Revenge is often thought of as a punishment toward someone. It is "getting even." Most of us have experience revenge either by giving it or receiving it. Revenge is not a Christian act.
The remedy for revenge is forgiveness. In fact, forgiving someone for a personal attack shows more strength than lashing out in revenge. Trying to prove one's power and authority often proves only one's fear and self-doubt.
Instead of revenge, try forgiveness. Let God handle the situation. After all, God did say, "Vengeance is mine! I will repay." (Hebrews 10:30) Only God can take care of those situations that need to be vindicated.
Discernment: Seeing the Flower in the Seed
So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of ours? (1 Kings 3:9)
The above scripture of part of the prayer Solomon prayed to God. He asked God for a discerning heart so he could know the difference between right and wrong to govern an entire nation. As Christians, we need discernment for the development of our personal lives and those around us. We, too, must ask God for discernment. Don't expect the gift to come to you full grown the moment you pray for it. It will come to you in seed form and will continue to grow and blossom throughout your entire lifetime. What's important is that once it is planted within you, as you continually water it by being obedient and acting upon your discernment, it will grow.
Just as discernment was important to Solomon, it should be important to us. Discernment is simply seeing things that are not immediately apparent. For instance, discernment can be compared to seeing a flower in the seed before it happens. It is seeing a giant oak in a tiny acorn. It is seeing a great leader in your own baby. It is seeing the product of something before it actually happens. Discernment is NOT something mystical or inaccessible. It is merely seeing past our present circumstances to what is in store for us based on God's word.
If you want discernment in your life, simply pray for it.
What is Discernment?
So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. (1 Kings 3:9)
What is discernment? And why is it important to have it? And when Solomon had the chance to have anything in the world, why did he ask for a discerning heart?
Discernment is the ability to know something without seeing it with your natural eyes. It is having the power to see what is not obviously evident. Discernment is having insight and understanding into a matter without all the facts.
Discernment is a helpful resource for several reasons. It is needed to make wise decisions. Having discernment means wanting and striving for only what God wants for your life. Both young and old people are pondering the questions: "What does God want to do with my life?" and "What is my purpose?" With a little discernment, anyone should be able to discover God's purpose for their lives.
Discernment is essential for spiritual growth. "You will never be able to eat solid spiritual food and understand the deeper things of God's Word until you become better Christians and learn right from wrong by practicing doing right." (Hebrews 5:14 TLB) In order to grow from infant Christians to mature Christians, we must be able to discern good from evil; right from wrong. When we have the ability to discern, we can recognize temptations before they trap us.
Discernment is so necessary in every phase of our lives. It is especially important to have discernment to do our jobs effectively. Notice Solomon did not ask God to do his job for him. We, like Solomon, should not ask God to do our jobs for us. Instead, we should ask for a discerning heart so that we will know what to do and the courage to follow through on it.
The Difference Between Discernment and Faith
So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. (1 Kings 3:9 NIV)
God told Solomon, "Ask for whatever you want me to give you." (1 Kings 3:5 NIV) What if God told you to ask whatever you want Him to give you? What would you ask for? Would you want something for yourself or for others? Notice that Solomon was not selfish in his answer. He did not ask for chariots or riches for himself. Instead, Solomon asked for a discerning heart. For what reason? To govern God's people and to distinguish between right and wrong. This proves that Solomon already had to some degree what he was asking for. His had discernment to ask for what would please God. Unlike most kings, Solomon did not ask for long life or riches. He asked for a discerning heart. He did not ask for faith. He asked for a discerning heart. What, then, is the difference between discernment and faith?
Discernment is having insight and understanding. It is knowing mentally. It is knowing something without knowing the reason why you know it. The thirst for discernment is universal, but it is only truly available through God. You cannot conjure up your own discernment. The pagans use magic and divination to gain insight; kings and ruler have their advisers; and people of today turn to palm readers, fortune tellers, and the horoscope. However, God's children are advised to look to Him for discernment. (1 Kings 3:9; Psalm 119:125).
Faith, on the other hand, is different from discernment. Faith is believing something will happen. Faith is having the assurance that which you hope for will come to pass. (Hebrews 11:1) Faith involves trust.
In summary, faith is believing that something will happen. It is believing that it is coming. Some people pray for a thing and they believe that it will come. However, when it comes, they don't recognize or know that it has come. Discernment is knowing when it happens. Faith is saying, "It's on its way." Discernment is saying, "It is here!"
Your Hard Case
When all Israel heard the verdict the king had given, they held the king in awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice. (1 Kings 3:28)
After the death of David, Solomon became king at age 20. Knowing that he could not follow in the footsteps of his father, Solomon prayed for a discerning heart so he could know right from wrong and lead the people of Israel. (1 Kings 3:9) God answered Solomon's prayer. Not only did God give him wisdom, but God also gave him riches and a long life. Sometimes when we pray, God will answer our prayer and give us more than what we requested.
God knew He had given Solomon wisdom, but how would Solomon and those around him know he really had wisdom? Solomon was given his first case, a hard case to judge. Two prostitutes brought a hard case to Solomon when one claimed that the other had laid on her baby during the night and the baby died. She then switched the dead baby with the other woman's living baby. Both women appeared before the king claiming to be the mother of the living baby. This was a hard case indeed.
Because of Solomon's wisdom, he used reversed psychology on the women by calling for a sword and giving an order to cut the living baby in two so each woman could have half. The real mother immediately said, "Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don't kill him!" However, the fake mother was delighted with the idea. The split decision proved who the real mother was, and Solomon gave his verdict. The living baby belonged to the one who said, "Let the baby live."
This hard case proved Solomon had what he had prayed for. The hard case you are facing right now is to prove you have what you have prayed for. How you handle this case will determine how you will handle other cases. Solomon prayed for wisdom, and his wisdom was tested. All the people in Israel were in awe because they saw he had wisdom from God to administer justice. This was the very thing Solomon had prayed for.
How will your hard case turn out? Will your ruling be fair and just? Will your ruling prove that you really have what you have prayed for?
Having Your Own Vine and Fig Tree
During Solomon's lifetime Judah and Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, lived in safety, each man under his own vine and fig tree. (1 Kings 4:25)
A barren land produces only thorns and thistles. However, that was not the case during Solomon's lifetime. The land was fertile, and all the people from one end of the region to the other, lived in peace, safety and prosperity. Every man had his own vine and fig tree. What was so significant about a man having his own vine and fig tree? To own a vine and a fig tree symbolized prosperity. To sit under one's own vine and fig tree symbolized peace, safety and security.
Today, we too live in a fertile land; a land flowing with vines and fig trees. However, many people don't take the time to sit under their own vine and fig tree. They work hard to get material things, but they don't take the time to sit down and enjoy them. They keep working to get more things, and the cycle continues.
Notice there is no "s" on vine or tree in the above scripture. Be satisfied with your one vine and fig tree. You don't have to accumulate an entire vineyard or a large orchard in order to enjoy what you already have. If God has blessed you with your own one vine and one fig tree, do what the people of Solomon's day did. Sit down and rest under them as an indication that you appreciate what God has provided.
Plague of Your Own Heart
When there is a famine in the land, pestilence or blight or mildew, locusts or grasshoppers; when their enemy besieges them in the land of their cities; whatever plague or whatever sickness there is; whatever prayer, whatever supplication is made by anyone, or by all your people Israel, when each one knows the plague of his own heart, and spreads out his hands toward this temple: then hear in heaven your dwelling place, and forgive, and act, and give to everyone according to all his ways, whose heart you know (for you alone know the hearts of all the sons of men), that they may fear you all the days that they live in the land which you gave to our fathers. (1 Kings 8:37-40)
The above scripture is one sentence that covers four verses. This is part of Solomon's prayer after the dedication of the temple. Solomon reminds God of His promises to His chosen people. Solomon lists the physical plagues of the land -- pestilence, blight, mildew, locust, grasshoppers and personal afflictions placed on individuals such as sickness. Then Solomon moves to the spiritual plague of one's own heart. What, then, is a plague of your own heart?
A plague of your own heart is that place of trouble that pains your heart so badly that all you can do is to turn to the God of your salvation. A plague of your own heart is that which ails you individually without affecting your community of faith or the entire body of Christ. A plague of your own heart is a personal problem that needs God's intervention. A plague of your own heart is that private and sacred place of pain that neither you nor your godly counselors can understand. As quiet as it is kept, every one of us has a plague of our own heart. What, then, can we do about the plague of our own heart?
Solomon told us in the above scripture. Whenever we pray and supplicate and spread out our hands toward the temple, God will then hear in heaven, and forgive, and act, and give to everyone according to all his ways because God knows everyone's heart; even those that contain plagues.
What is the plague of your own heart? What troubles you so deeply that you have nowhere else to turn but toward God? Lift up your prayers to Him and spread your hands toward His dwelling place. God has promised to hear your cry. The sooner you do it, the sooner you will be free of the plague of your own heart.
Many Women . . . And Horses . . . And Chariots
Solomon had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines and his wives turned away his heart from God. (I Kings 11:3) Solomon accumulated chariots and horses; he had fourteen hundred chariots and twelve thousand horses. (I Kings 10:26)
Solomon was a king of excess. God promised Solomon wisdom in addition to riches and a long life if he obeyed God as his father, David had done. Instead of Solomon trusting God to do what He said He would do, Solomon married women of royal birth to make sure he had alliance with foreign nations.
Deuteronomy 17:16-20 clearly outlines the limitations on what a king should acquire: The king must not acquire many horses, chariots or many wives for himself, or else his heart will turn away; also silver and gold he must not acquire in great quantity for himself." Solomon defiled every one of those warnings by acquiring huge number of women, horses, wives, silver and gold.
Yes, Solomon had wisdom and riches, but I Kings 11:6 summarizes his life: "So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not completely follow the Lord, as his father David had done." The Bible doesn't say if Solomon repented over his broken relationship with God or if he was reconciled to Him before his death.
Don't let women (or men), horses and chariots cause you to miss out on eternal life with God. It is not how much you accumulate. It is a matter of your heart!
Is Compromising A Sin?
As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been. (I Kings 11:4)
Compromise can be the first step toward full blown disobedience. In the above scripture, we see that Solomon compromised his relationship with God to please his foreign wives. In his old age, Solomon didn't have the energy or the will power to handle the pressure of reigning over a nation, serving God and satisfying his 700 wives and 300 concubines. Therefore, he compromised. Something would no longer get his full attention. He wanted to please his wives more than he wanted to please God.
Another example of compromise is when Pilate, wanting to please the crowd, released guilty Barabbas and imprisoned innocent Jesus. Pilate caved in to political pressure and compromised the truth. When Pilate made the decision to please the crowd, he fell into compromise and lawlessness.
We pay a heavy price when we compromise. We tread on dangerous ground when we exchange the truth to please others. God promises to honor those who do right, not those who make everyone happy at the expense of compromising and putting Him on the back burner.
Advice That Hurts
Rehoboam rejected the advice the elders gave him and consulted the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him. (1 Kings 12:8)
When you receive advice from someone, do you take it at face value? Both the advice and the advisers should be evaluated. Rehoboam asked for advice, but he didn't carefully evaluate that advice. If he had, he would have realized that the advice offered by the older men was wiser than that of his peers.
To evaluate advice, ask if it is realistic, workable, and consistent with biblical principles. Determine if the results of following the advice will be fair, make improvements, and give a positive solution or direction. Seek counsel from those more experienced and wiser.
Advice is helpful only if we evaluate it with God's standards in mind. Otherwise, the advice is just empty words not to be heeded. Do not be guilty of giving empty words to others or receiving empty words yourself.
Advice That Divided A Nation
But Rehoboam rejected the advice the elders gave him and consulted the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him. (I Kings 12:8)
Saul was the first king of Israel, but his lineage did not continue. God promised David that his descendants would continue on the throne. And they did all the way down through Jesus. After Saul, David became king; then David's son, Solomon. Solomon ruled with an iron fist imposing forced labor and high taxes. After his death, his son Rehoboam became king and received conflicting advice.
He consulted the elders who told him to lighten up on the people, to be a servant to them, and they would be devoted subjects. Rehoboam rejected the wisdom of the elders and went to the young men for advice. They told him to be even more harsh with the people, to show them that his leadership was far greater than his father's. The young men advised Rehoboam to say: "My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions" (I Kings 12:11).
Following bad advice, Rehoboam's foolish pride caused 10 of the 12 tribes to break away from his rule and form the northern kingdom (Israel) with Jeroboam as its king. Rehoboam was left with only two tribes which comprised the southern kingdom (Judah). If Rehoboam had taken the wise advice of the elders, the history of a united kingdom might have been different. This split caused both kingdoms to fall and to go into captivity before remnants were unified centuries later.
Consider the advice you take from others. Is it wise advice based on experience? Or is it foolish advice based on pride? The advice you give or take could cause a split in your family, your personal relationships, your job, your church, your community, or even a nation. Be careful with the advice you GIVE and the advice you TAKE!
A Decision That Divided a Nation
My little finger is thicker than my father's waist. My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions. (I Kings 12:10-11)
We make decisions all the time. Some of them are major decisions that affect our family and friends, but that might be the extent of it. The above scripture is part of the decision making process of King Rehoboam after the death of his father, King Solomon. First, Rehoboam consulted the elders who served his father. They advised him to be a servant to the people and lighten up on them. But Rehoboam rejected their advice, and consulted the young men who were his peers. They advised him to be worst on the people than his father was. Because Rehoboam took the advice of the young men instead of the elders, he insulted the people. Rehoboam's foolish decision resulted in a divided nation. Only two tribes remained loyal to Rehoboam which became Judah, the Southern Kingdom. The other ten tribes were loyal to Jeroboam who ruled the Northern Kingdom known as Israel.
This decision divided a nation that never recovered. Jeroboam and every king who followed him led Israel into idolatry, and they were captured by the Assyrians. Judah, the smallest kingdom, was eventually taken captured by the Babylonians. Unless you understand this division, it will be extremely difficult to understand the Old Testament from this point on. The rest of the Old Testament, especially the prophets record what happened to this divided nation.
The decision you make might not divide an entire nation, but it might affect those around you. Make sure your decision is one that pleases God.
The Ravens Are Coming!
You [Elijah] will drink from the brook, and I have ordered the ravens to feed you there...The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook. (1 Kings 17:4, 6)
Ravens are scavenger birds that will eat almost anything. They are known for their practice of pecking out the eyes of a body as a quick way to determine whether their meal is actually dead (Proverbs 30:17). Because God sent ravens to feed the prophet Elijah, ravens are also associated with God's protective care.
What is the life application in this situation of scavengers feeding the prophet? In most cases, the care God gives is in connection with something else that has been going on in our lives. In Elijah's case, he had predicted a drought and famine that would last three and a half years. God proved through the brook and the ravens that the man of God would suffer no lack. Elijah would get room service every morning and evening from the ravens who in contrast are known for not feeding their own young ones.
Two important points can be gleaned from this story. (1) God's providence can take place in unordinary forms. In this case, God used ravens as caterers. (2) When God orders something to be done, obedience takes precedence over what is customary. In this case, God ordered the ravens to feed the prophet. Eating the food themselves was not an option.
God will take care of you. Your very own personal ravens are coming! They will bring you exactly what you need!
On Assignment in Zarephath
Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying “Go now to Zarephath, which belongs to, and live there; for I have commanded a widow there to feed you. So he set out and went to Zarephath.” (I Kings 17:8-10)
In time of famines and droughts we need not worry because God will always provide someone to give you food and drink. Notice, Elijah was told to GO to Zarephath. He was told to go NOW. He was told to go now and LIVE there. No part of this command was negotiable. If Elijah wanted to be fed, he had to follow God's command to the letter, and he did!
When Elijah got to Zarephath he found a widow preparing her last meal. She was going to feed her son, and they were both going to die. Elijah said to her, “Do not be afraid; go and do as you have said; but first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterwards make something for yourself and your son” (I Kings 17:13).
Two life applications are at work here. (1) Elijah did as God instructed him, and he was fed. (2) The woman with only a handful of meal and a little oil had enough faith to share with the man of God what she had. Because the woman was obedient, she and her son as well as Elijah ate for many days. The jar of meal was not emptied, neither did the jug of oil fail.
Would you like Elijah get up and go to Zarephath right away? Would you like the widow share your last meal with a stranger? Visiting Zarephath on your spiritual journey would teach you to do just that!
Give God Something to Work With
As surely as the Lord your God lives," she replied, "I don't have any bread - only a handful of meal in a jar and a little oil in a jug. Elijah said to her, "Don't be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have. (I Kings 17:12-13)
Throughout the Bible we see that whenever God provided blessings, He used something to work with even though He didn't have to. He could have called forth anything, and it would have been done. However, there is a divine principle that we should give God something to work with.
In the above scripture, the widow at Zarephath offered the little that she had to the man of God, and her meal did not run out. She was able to eat from the supply until the famine was over. She gave God something to work with.
Elisha, Elijah's predecessor, also encountered a similar situation with a woman who had nothing but a little oil. She was afraid she would end up in debtor's prison because she was so poor. But she did have a little oil, and she gave God that to work with, and the oil never not flowing until all the jars were filled. (2 Kings 4:1-7)
When Jesus was a guest at a wedding in Cana of Galilee and the wine ran out, He performed His first miracle. He could have called forth as much wine as He wanted to, but instead He used the water that was on hand. He had something to work with. (John 2)
In the feeding narratives in the gospels, the two fish and five barley loaves were a meager meal; yet, it was enough for God to work with to multiply to feed 5,000 men besides women and children.
So, you see, God doesn't have to have something, but He chooses to have something to work with. Moses gave Him his rod, Peter gave Him his fishing nets, Matthew gave Him his IRS forms. What are you giving God to work with? He does demand something from you. Just in case you can't think of anything to give, why not give your heart?
A Simple Act of Faith
Elijah said to her, "Don't be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son." (1 Kings 17:13)
Whether you have a lot or a little, God wants you to share with Him. After all, it has been God who has provided for you to have whatever you have (Deuteronomy 8:18). Therefore, you are to give back to Him a portion of that which He has given you. In the above scripture, the poor widow at Zarephath had only a little . . . only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. She was gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for herself and her son when she met Elijah, the man of God who told her to FIRST make a small cake of bread for him. But how could she? She had only enough for herself and her son. Yet, she trusted the man of God and her simple act of faith produced a miracle. "So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry" (1 Kings 17:15).
Faith is the step between promise and assurance. No matter how big or small the miracle, it can NEVER take place until we take that first step of faith just as the poor widow did. Is your lack of faith keeping you from obtaining that BIG miracle God has in store for you?
God Will Make A Way Somehow
I don't have any bread — only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it — and die. (I Kings 17:12)
God has help when we least expect it. God will make a way somehow. He provides for us in ways that go beyond our expectations. No matter how bitter our trials or how seemingly hopeless our situation, we should look for God to intervene and make a way somehow. We may find that He has already sent someone to help us.
When the widow at Zarephath met Elijah, she thought she was preparing her last meal. Sharing her last meal with the prophet of God was her act of faith. God used that faith to provide a miracle. God made a way, but the widow's simple act of faith was the catalyst that helped to release the miracle. Yes, God will make a way somehow, but our faith is needed for Him to intervene. Why don't you let Him?
Between Two Opinions
Elijah then came near to all the people, and said, "How long will you go limping with two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him. (I Kings 18:21 NRSV)
When you have an opinion at one time and a different opinion about the same issue at another time, you are said to be "wishy-washy." Some say you are "straddling the fence." The politicians call it "flip-flopping." Some go so far as to say you are "two-faced." What does God call it and what does God say to do about it?
In the above scripture, Elijah asked the idol worshippers how long they would go limping between two opinions. Various versions of the Bible say, "wavering" or "faltering." That simply means people have not taken a firm stand for their opinion. They stay in the center between two opinions so they can go over to the popular side at any given moment.
At some point, you have to make up your mind. You have to decide whether you will serve God or not. You must allow God to be who you claim He is in your life. You must take a stand. Sooner is better than later.
Refrain from limping between two opinions, wavering, faltering, straddling the fence, being wishy-washy, two-faced and flip-flopping. Take a stand! You cannot keep your options open forever.
Then Elijah said to all the people, "Come closer to me." They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the Lord, which was in ruins. Then Elijah stepped forward and prayed. "Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again." (1 Kings 18:30; 37)
It was not uncommon for a prophet to say to the people, "Come near to me" or "Come closer." When proclaiming the message of God to them, the prophets wanted to make sure they heard. A close study of the major and minor prophets will reveal that the prophets did not speak from a distance. Even in the midst of turmoil and danger, they stood bold and courageous and told the people exactly what God had told them. Elijah said, "Come closer to me." Isaiah said "Come near to me and listen to me" (Isaiah 48:16). Jesus said, "Come unto me" (Matthew 11:28).
If you have felt a separation from God, know that God hasn't moved; perhaps you have. He is where He has always been, and with loving arms He is saying, "Come closer." If you are not hearing from God, maybe it's because you are NOT in His presence.
Look Up and See Jesus
Then the fire of the Lord fell... and when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, "The Lord, He is the God." (I Kings 18:38-39)
Thors Walden, a Danish sculptor, created a statue of Jesus in a unique way. Walden sculpted the body of Christ in such a way that His face could not be seen from a standing position. There is a sign next to the statue that reads, "If you want to see the face of Jesus, sit at His feet." Many have reported that by sitting at the feet of this statue, one can look up and see Jesus' face perfectly.
On my bedroom wall I keep a framed letter dated June 21, 1972 that I received from Kathryn Kuhlman, the most prominent woman evangelist who ever lived. Four years later she went home to be with the Lord. Yet her letter is still a constant reminder that the best way to see Jesus is to look up. The letter says . . .
"Look up and see Jesus...It is He who has the plan for your life and He who will give you the desire of your heart! Whatever your problem, prayer can solve it; whatever your burden, prayer will melt it away. Even as the fire fell from heaven in answer to Elijah's prayer, so shall God answer YOU as we agree before His throne for wisdom in making your decision and for an open door."
Often we don't see the face of Jesus because we are not in the right position to do so. The next time you have a problem, look up and see Jesus. The next time you need wisdom to make a decision, look up and see Jesus. The next time you need an open door, look up and see Jesus.
You Get What You Expect to Get
1 Kings 18:41-45
Elijah prayed for rain and expected it rain. Even before it rained, he said, "for there is the sound of abundance of rain." And it did rain. Elijah prayed and then expected it to happen. After we pray, by faith we are to expect a miracle and then begin to act as if the miracle has already taken place.
That doubting salesperson who goes from door to door saying she/he will not make a sale, probably will not. The salesperson who prays and by faith visualizes getting sales all day, probably will.
In order for positive things to be manifested in your life, you must first see them in your mind. This principle is even more effective when you begin to feel the way you want to feel when your prayer has been answered. The formula to use is:
Prayer + Faith + Feeling = Manifestation
It works for me all the times. I consider it to be The Way of Life.
Under the Juniper Tree
So Jezebel sent a message to Elijah threatening him. Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day's journey into the desert. He came to a juniper tree, sat down under it and pray that he might die." (1 Kings 19:3)
It is not at all unusual to feel let down after a great victory. Even individuals of great faith let fear stand in his way of continuing to succeed. Elijah was afraid of Jezebel even though he had just experienced two major victories: He had won his lifelong battle against the prophets of Baal, and he called down rain on Mt. Carmel. He should have been "on top of the world." Instead, he sat "under a juniper tree" and prayed that he might die. A juniper or broom tree is a low, bushy desert plant. Sitting under a juniper tree is a symbol of scorn.
God confronted Elijah and commanded him to return to his mission. When you feel let down after a great spiritual experience and sit under your "juniper tree," remember that God's purpose is not yet over. God has more work for you to do!
Four Men With A Common Desire: A Death Wish
I have had enough, Lord, take my life; I am no better than my ancestors. (I Kings 19:3-4).
Four of God's greatest, strongest, and most faithful followers had a common desire: a death wish.
ELIJAH was a discouraged prophet who was afraid and ran for his life and prayed that he might die. He had just experienced two great victories. Often times discouragement does set in immediately after great spiritual experiences, especially those requiring physical effort or involving great emotions. Therefore, God let Elijah rest and the ravens fed him.
JOB cursed the day of his birth. He said, "Why did I not perish at birth, and die as I came from the womb?" (Job 3:1-2) Job never cursed God and died as his wife had suggested. Instead, he cursed the day of his birth because he felt it would have been better never to have been born than to be forsaken by God. Job was struggling emotionally, physically, and spiritually after his losses.
JEREMIAH said, "Cursed be the day I was born! The day my mother bore me, let it not be blessed!" (Jeremiah 20:14) Jeremiah was weary. He had been preaching for 40 years with no visible results. He had received only persecution and sorrow. When he tried to withhold God's word, it became fire in his bones until he could not hold it back any longer.
JONAH said, " It would be better for me to die than to live." (Jonah 4:8) Jonah had preached to Nineveh and after that city repented, he rested under a vine. When the vine withered, Jonah became angry and cried out his death wish. God ministered to him while Jonah was tired and still in a bad mood.
What did all four of these godly men have in common when they announced their death wish? They were all TIRED . . . emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Our bodies and minds were made for rest as well as work. God rested on the seventh day. Jesus rested when He was weary. None of the four men did commit suicide because God interceded and ministered to them. Life Application for us: (1) Rest your body and mind; (2) Rely on God to strengthen you in times of fatigue and stress.
How to Know When You Have Had Enough
Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day's journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. "I have had enough, Lord," he said. "Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors." (1 Kings 19:4)
Are you tired and weary? Or you angry with life or even fearful of what the future might hold for you? Are you ready to give up, to throw in the towel, to wave the white flag? Have you had enough of the things that aren't pleasing anymore? Have you had enough of doing unimportant things merely to please others; yet, you go on being unhappy and unfulfilled yourself? Have you had enough? Or do you really know? How do you know when you have had enough? This is no trick question. There is a time when one can legitimately say, "Enough is enough!" But when is that time?
The above scripture speaks of Elijah who had been victorious over the 850 prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. (1 Kings 18:16-46) Then Elijah became afraid because Jezebel threatened to kill him. Elijah thought he had had enough. Therefore, he ran and hid and prayed that he would die. "I have had enough, Lord," he said. (1 Kings 19:4)
Had Elijah had enough? According to his direct words, yes, he had had enough. However, God let Elijah know that while he thought you had had enough, there was more work to do, more miracles to perform and more prophecies to be told and besides Elisha still wanted a double portion of Elijah's anointing.
How do we know when enough is enough? We know the same way Elijah knew. Enough is enough only when God says so. Has God Himself ever had enough? Yes, even God has had enough! Moses pleaded with God when Moses was forbidden to enter into the promised land. But because God was angry with Moses, God would not listen any longer. "That is enough," the Lord said. "Do not speak to me anymore about this matter." (Deuteronomy 3:26)
In summary, you will know when you have had enough when God says you have had enough. Until then, keep on working for the Kingdom of God!
I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken your covenant, torn down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life. (I Kings 19:10)
Elijah was a mighty prophet of God. Even so he experienced difficulty and adversary the way we do. Elijah was depressed because he thought he was the only one still alive to do the work of God. He believed Israel had become idol worshippers and followers of Baal. So Elijah went into a cave to get away from it all. When God asked him why he was there Elijah said, "I alone am left a prophet of the Lord; but Baal's prophets are four hundred and fifty men" (I Kings 18:22). In Elijah's finite mind, he thought he was all alone.
Knowing that people cannot think clearly while down and out, God instructed Elijah to get up from the cave, give up his "cave thinking" and go to the mountaintop. It was there that he heard God speak through a still small voice. Elijah was instructed to return home. On his way he was to anoint several men to become king. He passed by Elisha and cast his mantle upon him. Elisha immediately stopped his plowing and followed Elijah.
The message of the story is this: Elijah was depressed and ready to give up. He went down to a cave to feel sorry for himself. God called him from the cave to the mountaintop where the view was better. Then Elijah was instructed to go back and anoint others on the way. Because Elijah did not die of self-pity in that cave, Elisha was anointed and followed Elijah. Elisha went on to perform double the number of miracles that Elijah did.
The life application of this message is that even when we are going through our "cave" experiences, God calls us up to the mountaintop with further instructions. To stay in your cave will surely deny others of the opportunity to follow God.
Elijah said, "I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too." (1 Kings 19:14)
When a waitress or someone pours liquids in a glass or cup, that person tells you to say, "When." Therefore you are to say, "When" when you have had enough. It is the same way with life. We need to know when to say, "When." Do you know when enough is enough? Do you know when it is time to make changes in your life and move on to something different? Some people stay in their comfort zones too long. They don't take risks because it is better for them to stay with the tried and true instead of moving on to what is new and different. Say, "When" and go on back to school. "Say, "when" and move into that new neighborhood. Say "When" and make that career change. If it is God's will, say "When" when He has revealed to you that enough is enough of the same old things.
In the above scripture, Elijah thought he had a good reason to run into the wilderness and hide from Jezebel who had promised to take revenge on him for speaking God's word. Elijah became tired of running and hiding from her. Alone in the wilderness, after Elijah heard the voice of God, he realized it was time to say, "When." It was time to stop running and hiding from Jezebel. Because Elijah was willing to say, "When" he became so much in favor with God that he never died. He was taken up to heaven in a whirlwind (2 Kings 2:11).
When you have had enough, remember, it is all right to say, "When."
Dealing With Loneliness
Elijah said, "I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too." (I Kings 19:14, NIV)
How should we deal with loneliness? First, seek out fellow Christians in times of loneliness. The worst thing you could do is to be in the company of a non-believer or another lonely person. "Misery loves company" is sure to be illustrated here if the two of you compare your rejections. Another Christian will not let you drown in your misery. A fellow Christian will pull you up when you feel like you are slipping far down.
Secondly, beware of self-pity in times of loneliness. Elijah thought he was the ONLY person left who was still true to God. He had seen both the king's court and the priesthood become corrupt. After experiencing great victory at Mount Carmel, he ran for his life. Lonely and discouraged, his self-pity was magnified when he focused only on himself and what others had done to him and what he expected them to do.
Thirdly, remember that you are NEVER alone because the Spirit of God is ALWAYS with you. God has assured us over and over again through His word that He will NEVER leave us nor forsake us. When Jesus ascended into heaven, He promised us that He would send another Comforter always to be with us. Yes, it might be hard during periods of loneliness, but remember that the feeling is temporarily and you are actually never alone. God is with you.
How to Lose Your Place
God said, "Go and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat as prophet in your place." (1 Kings 19:16)
When God distinctly tells us to do something or to go some place and we remain where we are, we commit the sin of disobedience. The above scripture comes from the story of the prophet Elijah who was hiding in a cave because he was afraid Jezebel was going to carry out her threat to kill him. God told Elijah, "Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by" (I Kings 19:11). Two verses later, we see Elijah still in the cave even though God has caused a great wind, an earthquake, and a fire to get him out. Because Elijah was still afraid, he remained in the cave. It was not until God gave Elijah a gentle whisper that he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" (I Kings 19:12-13).
No disobedience goes without consequences. Because Elijah never made it to the top of the mountain but stayed in the cave, he had to pay the consequences. He was replaced. God said, "Go and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat as prophet in your place" (1 Kings 19:16)
LIFE APPLICATION: Some of us have been told to go out and stand on the mountain to experience the blessings of God, but we still remain hiding in caves. We stay there because of fear like Elijah. God wants to exalt us, but we remain where we think it is safe. Do as God has instructed even though you might not understand it at this time!
Get Rid of Some Stuff
[After Elijah anointed Elisha to follow him] Elisha took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his attendant. (1 Kings 19:21)
You say you want to follow Jesus; yet you hold on to memories of the past. You say you have committed your life to doing the work of God; yet you still keep a scrapbook of pictures of old lovers, other people's husbands or wives you have had encounters with. You keep every movie stub, theater program, bulletin, and brochure. You keep the gifts ex-lovers have given you. You keep these things because they are pieces of the past that you want to hold on to. When Jesus comes into your life, my friends, there are some things you MUST throw away, destroy, burn, eradicate, and eliminate. This is NOT optional.
In the above scripture, Elisha was in the field plowing with his yoke of oxen. After Elijah anointed him to become a prophet, Elisha killed his oxen. By doing so, he made a strong commitment to follow Elijah. Without them, he could not return to his life as a wealthy farmer. The meal he shared was indication to others that he was rejoicing in his new position. To further illustrate that Elisha was making a break from his former life, he burned his plowing equipment.
Begin to clean out ALL those things that keep you tied to the world. Eliminate those reminders of what existed BEFORE you began to follow Jesus. You will soon see that once you make a clean sweep, you are no longer bound by the world, but you will follow Jesus more passionately.
In Sackcloth and Ashes
So it was, when Ahab heard those words, that he tore his clothes and put sackcloth on his body, and fasted and lay in sackcloth, and went about mourning. (I Kings 21:27)
A sackcloth is a rough, course cloth, or a baglike garment made of this cloth and worn as a symbol of mourning or repentance. In the Bible sackcloth was often used to symbolize certain actions. In the case of mourning, either over a death or another calamity, the people showed their grief by wearing sackcloth and ashes. This was done also in instances of confession and grief over sin. Prophets wore sackcloth to show their brokenness in the face of their terrible message of judgment and doom. Those who experienced intense loss and grief also torn those clothes symbolic of their hearts being ripped apart. Ashes were also a sign of mourning in the Bible. In the Book of Job, ashes are symbolic of dejection as well as repentance (Job 42:6).
The often repeated phrase "in sackcloth and ashes" paints a vivid picture of this visible, physical ritual of sincere sorrow, mourning and grief not only over death but over sin against God.
If you have unrepented sin in your life, it is not too late to rip your clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes.