We have followed the prophet Elijah through many valleys and across a few mountain tops. He has been at the lowest of lows and he has enjoyed the highest of highs. He has witnessed the power of God on a personal level and on a national level. We have seen him as the Student Servant and the Champion Soldier. In this chapter we will meet the Depressed Saint. In chapter 17 we saw his humility. In chapter 18 we saw his heroism. In chapter 19 we are confronted with his humanity. We are given startling evidence of this by the words James used concerning Elijah, “Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are“, James 5:17.
In essence, what we see here is a picture of a man who has pushed himself beyond his physical and emotional limits. Elijah is in a period of depression. In this chapter, we are allowed to see a side of Elijah that both shocks us and helps us.
It shocks us when we realize that great men and women go through periods of deep, dark depression. For instance, Winston Churchill said, “Depression followed me around like a black dog all of my life.” A young lawyer in the 1800’s suffered such a deep depression that his friends did everything they could to keep all razors and knives away from him. He wrote these words, “I am now the most miserable man living. Whether I shall be better, I cannot tell. I awfully forebode I shall not.” This lawyer later became the 16th president of the United States. His name was Abraham Lincoln. Even a man by the name of Charles Spurgeon was given to periods of depression. History tells us that there were times when Spurgeon would be so depressed that he would refuse to leave his home to go to church. On more than one occasion, his deacons had to come and physically carry their pastor to the pulpit.
While these accounts shock us, they also serve to help us. How? They remind us that depression is a common experience. It is something that often happens in life. In other words, if you go through a time of depression, you are not alone.
With these thoughts in mind, let’s look at this account from the life of Elijah and think about the subject, How The Mighty Are Fallen. What happens when depression comes and how can we handle it?
In these first four verses of this chapter, we will witness THE MISERY OF THE PROPHET
- V. 1-3aWE SEE ELIJAH RUNNING
A. After the great events on Mount Carmel, Ahab returns home to his wife Jezebel. She is, no doubt, waiting to hear the news that her prophets wrought a great victory. After all, she probably saw the fire fall from Heaven and now she see the rain. She must believe that Baal is responsible for all these things. Instead of good news, Ahab tells her that it was Elijah who won that day and that he has even slain her priests! When she hears this, she is infuriated! She takes matters into her own hands and decides that Elijah must die!
(Ill. I just want to interject a few thoughts right here. Jezebel is a typical domineering woman. Her actions prove this to be true.
- First, she made all the decisions in this matter.
- Second, she performed Ahab’s job her way.
- Third, she used scheming and intimidation tactics when she saw her puny little husband beginning to cave into the pressure.
- Ahab, on the other hand is a true henpecked husband. He may have been the king, but Jezebel wore the crown in that castle! She was the boss, he was her puppet!)
(Ill. Besides this, Ahab paints another picture for us. He had been confronted with the truth that God was greater than Baal. He knew that, like the people of Israel, he should fall before the Lord in humble repentance. Yet he refuses to do so. When he arrives home, he even refuses to give God the credit for what transpired on Carmel, v. 1. He gives all the glory to Elijah!
B. When Jezebel hears the news that Elijah has slain her prophets, she sends him a warning that she is going to have him put to death.
- Instead of standing, like he did before Ahab and the prophets of Baal, Elijah tucks tail and runs away.
- After all he had already faced: the dry brook, the empty barrel, the dead boy, the prophets of Baal and the lack of rain; and after all that he had seen the Lord do: close the heavens, replenish the barrel, raise the boy, consume the sacrifice, enable the prophet to destroy the false prophets and to run to Jezreel – it seems that Jezebel was a nothing, a non-problem.
- Yet, Elijah does that which is irrational and runs away.
- He doesn’t just leave Jezreel, Elijah runs due south almost 125 miles. He actually left Israel and ran all the way to the southern border of Judah. He went as far as he could so that he might avoid the reach of one woman!
(Ill. His behavior is irrational, but that is one of the effects of depression on the human mind. It causes the sufferer to think in ways that are not normal. Depressed people often do things that defy logic and description. Yet, to them, their actions make perfect sense.
- We See Elijah Running
- V. 3b-4aWE SEE ELIJAH RETIRING
A. Elijah leaves his servant at Beersheba and goes alone another day’s journey into the wilderness. Sits down under a juniper tree, throws in the towel and asks God to take his life.
B. Elijah displayed some characteristics in this event that show us that his thinking was anything but rational. Elijah is at the end of himself and it shows.
Note these warning signs.
- Elijah cut himself off from those close to him, 3. As a result, he felt all alone. However, notice that this is irrational thinking. God still had 7,000 who had not bowed to Baal in Israel, v. 18. Elijah never sought them out.
- (Ill. One of the worse effects of a depressed spirit is the desire to separate oneself from every one. Many people who become discouraged have a tendency to develop an “I’m all alone” or a “Nobody understands” mentality. Yet, the fellowship of the church is so important, 10:25! Even if the people at church don’t understand what you are going through, at least they can pray with you and be a friend to you! You need people around you!)
- Elijah took his eyes off the Lord and focused instead on his own circumstances, 3. (and when he saw that) When we leave God and His power out of the picture, we are in trouble. (Ill. Peter – Matt. 14:28-31. We must learn to keep our eyes on the Lord Jesus
- He stopped interceding for others and started requesting for himself, 4. This was the first time Elijah had prayed for himself. He had forgotten that he was the prophet to Israel. His attention is full of himself.
- (Ill. When we become so self-conscious that it dominates our thinking, we are in trouble spiritually. When we get to the place where everything is about “me”, we need to check up. Someone is in trouble and on the verge of a time of discouragement and depression. We must always strive to be God-conscious.)
- Elijah adopted an attitude that said, “Life is hopeless.“, 4. Elijah said, in effect, “I’ve had it! I quit!” He sat down and he gave up. Elijah felt that life was no longer worth living. As long as we can remember that there is hope, we can make it through. May we never forget that God is still on the throne, and no matter how bad things become, God is in control! He knows where we are and what we are facing. He will see us through! As long as there is a God in Heaven, there is hope for you – Rom. 8:28; Rom. 8:18; 2 Cor. 4:17. (Ill. Job – Job 23:10!) Elijah gave up on life, on ministry and on God.
- Elijah claimed that he wanted to die, v. 4. Many people who are depressed have these types of thoughts. However, most are irrational as were Elijah’s. If he really wanted to die, why didn’t he just stay in Jezreel and let Jezebel take care of it for him? Again, this is just more evidence that he is thinking very irrationally.
- We See Elijah Running
- We See Elijah Retiring
- V. 4bWE SEE ELIJAH RATIONALIZING
A. Elijah attempts to rationalize his request for death by saying that he was no better than his fathers. The question I have is “Who told him that he was better in the first place?” Apparently, Elijah had come to believe that he was something special. After all, hadn’t God used him in a great way? Hadn’t he trusted God and seen the impossible done time and again? Yes he had, but he was no better than anyone else. It seems to me that Elijah must have thought that Ahab and Jezebel would repent when they saw what God did.
What is Elijah’s problem? Pride! He was guilty of believing his own press! He was caught in the backwash of a great victory and he may have felt as though he were invincible.
B. Ill. When we consider the great ministry enjoyed by Elijah, we may wonder what got him into this shape. I think there are two primary reasons why Elijah ended up under that juniper tree asking God to take his life. These are the same two reasons that can lead to serious problems for you and me if we do not heed the warning signs.)
- Elijah Is Physically Exhausted– Think of the activity on Carmel and of his flight into the wilderness. This man is totally exhausted. The Lord knows this and therefore He does not rebuke Elijah for sleeping. Rather, God refreshes the prophet and allows him to sleep and to rest, 5-7.
- (Ill. These bodies were not designed to be pushed constantly. The Lord set this thing up so that man could have a day of rest,Mark 2:27; Even the Lord Jesus Christ took time away from His work to rest His body, “And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat.”, Mark 6:31. That’s why I say if you can take a vacation, take it!
- Elijah Is Emotionally Spent– This man is drained from the ministry he has been performing. He has been giving out constantly. He is emotionally drained.
- (There is an old Greek saying that goes “You will break the bow if you keep it always bent.” There are times when you and I must unstring ourselves and relax.
Remember what He said: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.“, Matt. 11:28; “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee”, Heb. 13:5; “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.“, 1 Pet. 5:7.