Listen to audio above while reading the transcript below (also available in Word for download at www.biblestudyministriesinc.com)
Happy New Year. It seems like a year since we’ve been together. As we come again to look into the word of the Lord, I remind you and my own heart that there is an indispensable principle of Bible study, and that’s total reliance on God’s Holy Spirit. He has put His life in us, and it’s His great desire to unveil the Lord Jesus.
I’d like to share these verses to introduce our session. Galatians 1:16, just that expression, “God was pleased to reveal His Son in me.” The Bible is the external revelation of God. The Holy Spirit is the internal revelation of God. So, He takes the written word and turns our eyes to Jesus, the Living Word, and that is when He begins to make a change. We need to see the Lord. We prize both. I thank the Lord for the written word, and I thank the Lord for the Living Word. John 14:21 says, “He who loves Me will be loved by My Father. I will love him and disclose Myself to him.” So, we’re asking for that this morning, that God would disclose Himself to us. Let’s pray together.
Heavenly Father, we thank You so much that we have the indwelling Holy Spirit, and You’ve given us Your word that Your Holy Spirit takes that written word and turns our hearts to the Living Word, to the Lord Jesus. We ask you again to guide us, that we might have a fresh revelation, a living vision of our Lord Jesus. We commit this study to You, and we thank You for everyone that You’ve brought here. I pray that would protect Your people from anything I might say that is just from myself. We trust You to teach us, and to uproot anything that’s not from You. We pray in the matchless name of our Lord Jesus. Amen.
I’ve already said it, and I’ll say it again, Happy New Year, and I hope you are excited about the infinite possibilities of living in union with Christ in 2023. I am. We have no idea what He’s up to next, and He’s invited us to have a part in that.
I’m not going to take time to review everything. We’re in lesson 7, and that would take quite a while, and it’s been a while since we’ve met together. But just to say this, we’re continuing our look at the Lord Jesus through the study of His servants Elijah and Elisha, and I think to remind you of the great theme of our series would be sort of enough to get us back into the flow. The revelation is that God has a heart that longs to recover His people. God wanted to recover Israel, and wanted to recover Ahab, and God will be looking, and God is going to recover Elijah, because he took his eyes off the Lord.
The reason we’re studying Elijah and Elisha is because God wants to restore His people, and He uses instruments like Elijah and Elisha. So, He shows us in the Bible how He prepared them, and how He worked in them, and how He conformed them to Christ, because that’s who He’s going to use to restore His people.
He wanted to restore Israel; they had turned their back on the Lord. In fact, they had cast the Lord out, and in His place, they turned to Baal and Asherah, a false god, a false husband, and they substituted relationship with the true and living God for this that was not a God. But God still loved them, and He longed to restore them, but they still had a moral choice. God will never force anybody to trust in Him. I showed you how the Lord attempted to restore Israel, and they said no. Then I showed you how He attempted to restore Ahab, the wicked King, and that, too, failed because he had a choice. His heart was hard, and he was influenced by Jezebel and turned away from the Lord. Once again, God will never force anybody.
That brings us to the material where we are now; God attempted to restore Israel, attempted to restore Ahab, but now it’s His own dear child, Elijah, that needs to be restored. Follow along, please, 1 Kings 17:1, this is the first mention of Elijah in the Bible, “Elijah, the Tishbite, who was of the settlers of Gilead, said to Ahab, ‘As the Lord the God of Israel lives before whom I stand.’” That’s the part I want you to see. He was standing before the Living God, the God of his people, Israel. But something happened, and so down the road we read 1 Kings 19:11, and He said, “Go forth and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” He’s inviting Elijah to come back into His presence. That implies that he got out of His presence, and now He’s inviting him back. “I’m the one standing in the presence of the living Lord,” and he lost his standing. He didn’t lose the presence of the Lord. You can never lose the presence of the Lord. But instead of standing in the presence of the Lord and receiving messages from the Lord that he could fearlessly and faithfully deliver to this wicked king, we find him running for his life. 1 Kings 19:1, “Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, how he killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah saying, ‘So may the gods do to me and even more, if I do not make your life as the life as one of them by tomorrow about this time.’ And he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life, and came to Beersheba, which belonged to Judah, and left his servant there.” He needs to be restored. He took his eyes off the Lord when Jezebel threatened him. He became afraid and he ran, and he got so low and discouraged that he asked the Lord to take his life. He wanted to die.
At this point I just want to make a clarification. God has a heart to restore. He wanted to restore Israel, and He wanted to restore Ahab, and now He is going to restore Elijah, but His method of restoration is different. For example, Israel and Ahab were wicked, and they said no. It was a willful rebellion against God. They broke relationship with God because they said, “No; we don’t want God and we don’t want His will, and we don’t want to please Him,” so they turned away to idols. It’s sort of what David did when he sinned with Bathsheba. It was sort of a rebellion; he knew the way, and he sinned against the Lord with Bathsheba, and he killed Uriah by proxy, and so on. It was what Demas did when he turned to this present world. In other words, Elijah went out of the presence of the Lord, but he wasn’t rebelling. His heart didn’t say, “I don’t want God, I don’t want to follow Him, I don’t want to do whatever He said.” He didn’t say, “I choose sin; I don’t want God.”
I call attention to that because when it’s willful rebellion, God restores in one way, and when you just take your eyes off the Lord, maybe looking at circumstances or a little bit of introspection, looking at your own heart and becoming self-confident, He deals differently. The big word is chastening. For those who willfully rebel against the Lord, God in love, they say tough love, He chastens in order to bring them back. But when someone gets distracted and bumped off the path and just looks at circumstances or gets a bad doctor’s report, or loses some financial investment, or something, God deals differently; it’s very tenderly. So, we’re going to see how God deals with Elijah who looked away from the Lord, no question about that. He had struggling faith, and he took his eyes off the Lord, and God is going to bring him back, but we don’t see the chastening in his life because of that situation.
I’m going to restate, not try to prove again, but what I believe happened to Elijah. We’ve already covered this, and if you missed it, you can get the CD’s; there are no charges. Pick up the CD’s; they are out in the hallway. In a nutshell, here’s what brought Elijah to his deep despair. 1 Kings 18:1, “It happened after many days, the word of the Lord came to Elijah in the third year, saying, ‘Go show yourself to Ahab, and I’ll send rain on the earth.’” Elijah, for the first time, was to stand face to face before Ahab. Ahab represents an enemy. Up until this time Elijah’s experience was at the brook. Elijah’s experience was at the widow’s house. Elijah’s experience was discovering El Shaddai, the God who is more than enough, but he was sheltered from the enemy. He wasn’t face to face with the enemy, and now for the first time he is called upon to stand face to face with Ahab, representing the world, the flesh, the devil, and every enemy, and he’s got to learn about spiritual warfare. This is a brand-new experience for him, and he’s got to learn that the battle is the Lord’s, and it’s not his, and he fails in that lesson. He completely failed in the test on Mt. Carmel with the 450 prophets of Baal.
He thought God called him, single handedly, to stand alone against 450 prophets, and he tried to do it. He was courageous. He did it in his own strength, and he attempted to win God’s battle. When you read the record, he was fearless, and when God quizzed him on it, he said, “I’ve been very zealous,” and he was. He was fearless, he was zealous. He imagined, because he didn’t understand spiritual warfare, that he had authority that God gave him, enabling him to stand against the enemy. So, he didn’t fear the enemy. In fact, when you read the record, he mocked the enemy. Anybody who knows anything about spiritual warfare would be careful before they started mocking the enemy. Even Michael the Archangel refused to rebuke Satan, and said, “The Lord rebuke you.” But Elijah thought it was his battle, and when it was over, he thought he won.
Listen to verses 38 & 39, “Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering, and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench, and when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and they said, ‘The Lord, Jehovah, He is God.’” Doesn’t that sound like victory? It was to Elijah. He said, “We did it!” And then the prophets of Baal, verse 22, “Elijah said to the people, ‘I alone am left a prophet of the Lord. Baal’s prophets are 450 men,’” and then in verse 40, “Elijah said to them, ‘Seize the prophets of Baal, and do not let one of them escape.’ So, they seized them, and Elijah brought them down to the Brook Kishon and slew them there. All the prophets of Baal were slain.” Doesn’t that sound like victory? He said, “Wow, God sent down fire, and God consumed the offering, just as He said He would at the time of the evening sacrifice. All the prophets of the false gods have been destroyed. He thought he won, but what did he find? Did he find a repentant nation that had turned back to God? The opposite is true. Did he find a humble king and queen, Jezebel and Ahab, convinced by the events on Mt. Carmel, that God is the One true and living God? The opposite is true. Verse 1, “Ahab told Jezebel all Elijah had done.” Notice that he didn’t tell anything God had done; it was all Elijah had done, and he was trying to do it, too, in his own strength. And then she put a death warrant on his head.
What he thought would be a national revival became personal vengeance, and when he saw that he failed, that he went to battle and he was courageous and he stood up alone and he wasn’t afraid, and he thought he won, but all of a sudden, he discovers, “I am a failure when it comes to being God’s warrior.” It didn’t work. He forgot the El Shaddai who is more than enough. He felt like he had failed, and now danger is all around him, and he took his eyes off the Lord, the One that sent the ravens. He took his eyes off the Lord, the One that fed the widow. He took his eyes off the Lord, the One that raised the dead boy. He took his eyes off the Lord, the One that sent the rain after three and a half years of famine, and he looked at his circumstances. How quickly we can forget God’s benefits, and how quickly we can forget the faithfulness of the Lord. When we look to ourselves, we say, “I failed,” and we look to circumstances, “Uh-oh,” we’ve got to run and we’re afraid. When we lose control of a situation, we get very discouraged, frustrated. Elijah came to the place that he wanted to die. He said, “It’s all over. I tried and did my best; I served the Lord, I prayed, I did everything I thought was right and it has all blown up in my face, and now he’s running for his life.
I just encourage you, dear friends in Christ, stay fixed on Christ, and keep your eyes on the Lord. Elijah didn’t understand spiritual warfare. When we finish following him to where he’s finally restored, we’re going to have one special lesson on spiritual warfare. I want you to see God’s balance, what God teaches about that. We’ve got a couple of more lessons to follow Elijah before we get to that, but I just announce that in advance.
So, Elijah looks to himself, looks to his circumstances, and is overwhelmed with the fact that, “I am a big failure, and nothing is working in my life,” and he’s ready to throw in the towel. Let me say this before we move on. I remember when God first began teaching me this, I was shocked. Failure may surprise you, but it will not surprise the Lord. I was shocked when I learned that the only thing God ever expected from Ed Miller was failure. I thought He expected more from me than that, and the only thing God has ever expected from you is failure. This is the life of Christ that we need to learn. I was shocked when I learned that. The revelation that I can only do one thing, and that is to fail, that revelation takes me on the road to victory and enjoying the Life of Christ lived in my place, and so on.
In our meditation, I want us to run with Elijah in his discouragement. I want us to stop under the Juniper tree. I want us to continue running and wander through the wilderness for forty days. I want to get to Mt. Horeb. I want to see how God met this person who was so down and so discouraged and so exhausted and so ready to throw in the towel. How does God deal with somebody when they are like that? Don’t think that can’t happen. It happened to Elijah. Don’t be too proud that it can’t happen to you. Having said that, don’t despair, because Elijah was restored. You can be restored, as well.
I say that I want to run with Elijah, but I’m going to ask your patience because we were just on Mt. Carmel and we saw the great events on Mt. Carmel, but there are a few things on Mt. Carmel that I would like to mention. I’m not going to develop them. I’ll give a fact and give you a principle, but it would be a shame in my mind to jump over these great realities that are sprinkled over Mt. Carmel. So, I’m going to give general observations, and I want to call attention to four different things that are illustrated on Mt. Carmel, but we sort of jumped over them.
The first one I want you stand way back, and picture in your mind the events of Mt. Carmel. My first observation is this, that Mt. Carmel, yes, it’s literal, it was a one-time event, but Mt. Carmel is a picture, it’s a daily contest. Every day the Christian is in a contest against the enemy. The second fact, that contest takes place during a famine. Every day is a famine. It’s a dry land out there. The third thing, every day we are confronted with the lie that Jesus is not the answer, that there is some Baal. I just want you to see that every day is a contest, and every day is a famine, and every day is a lie, and every day is a victory that only Christ can give. So, I just wanted you to see Mt. Carmel in terms of where we are today.
The second observation has to do with a sad reality suggested in verse 26, “They took the ox which was given them, and they prepared it and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, ‘Oh, Baal, answer us,’ but there was no voice, and no one answered, and they leaped about the altar which they made.” And then verse 29, “When midday was passed, they raved until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, but there was no voice, no one answered, and no one paid attention.” It’s those words at the end, “No voice, no answer, and no one paid attention.” That’s very sad when we’re talking about spiritual things. They are crying out to a false god, and of course they’re not going to get an answer, but so many who have not had God’s revelation of the true God are attempting to reach Him, and there is no voice, and there’s no attention, nobody pays attention. They go through rituals, and they go through forms, and they are trying to get close to God and heaven’s brass. It’s very discouraging when you try to pray to God, and He seems ten million miles away. Where is the Lord?
Do you see what they did to get the attention of their god? Verse 28, “They cried with a loud voice and cut themselves, according to their custom, with swords and lances until the blood gushed out around them.” If you don’t have a word, if no one hears, if no one listens, if no one pays attention, the possibility of yelling and screaming and raving and dancing and hurting yourself to get attention is possible. It’s amazing when I read this, I know they shed their blood to get the attention of their god. Our God shed His blood to get your attention, to get my attention. The principle is larger than just seeking the Lord. When God instituted the family, He made the parents, not just the man as the head of the family. Mom and Dad, husband and wife together are the god of the family. The children look to the god of the family to protect them. They look to the god of the family to provide for them. They look to the god of the family to shelter them. They look to the god of the family to guide them and discipline them. The god of the family should be there for them, but you know in our society, just look out there, the kids are crying out, and there’s no answer. Nobody is listening and nobody pays attention, and they’re hurting themselves, just to get attention. They’re running to drugs and other things, cutting themselves and trying to take their own life, just to get somebody to listen and pay attention. I didn’t want to pass over that illustration on Mt. Carmel because I think it’s so practical.
A third observation is what Elijah said just before God did His miracle. Verse 18:30, “Elijah said to the people, ‘Come near to me,” and so all the people came near. Just that little expression, “Come near to me,” in those days there were many fakers, pretenders. You remember the magicians in the days of Moses. Exodus 7, they tried to imitate the miracles that God was doing through Moses. They imitated the rod being turned to a serpent. The magicians were able to turn the water red, the Bible said, “By their secret arts,” to make it look like blood. In Exodus 8 they were able to multiply frogs and pull frogs out of their hats, but when it came to the lice, we read in Exodus 8:19, “The magicians said to Pharoah, ‘This is the finger of God.’” They couldn’t fake it and couldn’t imitate it and couldn’t copy and they couldn’t be a fraud. When Elijah said, “Come near to me,” this is before the fire fell, I think it was to show that there is no slight of hand, “I want you to come and look closely. I’m pouring water on the sacrifice. I’m not pouring lighter fluid or gasoline. I’m pouring water on the sacrifice. There’s nothing up my sleeve. Come closer and examine and pay attention.”
In the work of God, when God is doing miracles, if anything but the finger of God can be explanation for your life, you better recheck it and go before the Lord. We don’t want to be fakers, and we don’t want to be plastic. We want everyone to know, “Look at our lives. I want you to examine my life.” I sit here and teach, and I want you to know me. I’m not afraid if you interview my wife, if you interview my children, interview my grandchildren. Come close and examine it and see that it’s true. That’s what Elijah did before the miracle. He invited everybody to come close, nothing under the table, no false dealings, and there was nobody who was faking a sickness and is going to be healed, nobody who is faking a short limb and it’s going to be lengthened, no doctor’s reports that aren’t true, so come examine it. The books are opened, and we want you to see. The Christianity has taken a black eye today because of so many shenanigans, “Give to the Lord; here is His address,” and then they give their own address. Everybody has their hand in your pocket, in your purse and in your wallet and in your bank account. Everything aboveboard; that’s the point of this. No tricks.
One more observation and then we’ll follow Elijah to the juniper tree. Chapter 18:42, “Ahab went up to eat and drink, but Elijah went up to the top of Mt. Carmel, and he crouched down on the earth and put his face between his knees, and he said to his servant, ‘Go up now, and look toward the sea.” So, he went up and he looked and said, ‘There’s nothing,’ and he said, ‘Go back,’ seven times, and it came about at the seventh time that he said, ‘Behold, a cloud as small as a man’s hand is coming up from the sea.’” I’m referring to this matter of the prayer of faith. Some have questioned why Elijah had to pray one time and fire came down and consumed the offering, but he had to pray seven times before the rain would come down. Some have struggled with that. The fact is, it wasn’t prayer that brought down the fire, and it wasn’t prayer that brought down the rain. It was the Lord that brought down the fire, and the Lord that brought down the rain.
I know what people mean when they say, “There’s power in prayer,” but technically there’s no power in prayer. There is power in the God that you pray to, and God has given certain directions, and so on. God prayed, actually that’s true, but Elijah prayed, and God responded. The question comes in verse 1, “It happened after many days that the word of the Lord came to Elijah in the third year saying, ‘Go show yourself to Ahab. I will send rain on the face of the earth.’” Nothing could be more clear, “I will send rain.”
God promised to send rain, so why pray? He said that He’s going to send rain, so then wouldn’t He send it, anyway? Does prayer make God do something He wouldn’t otherwise do if we didn’t pray? Or to say it another way, does prayer determine or change the will of God? Can you change God’s will by praying? We often hear, as I said, that’s there is power in prayer. Prayer does not determine the will of God and doesn’t change the will of God. Prayer fulfills the will of God. That’s different. No one would doubt that God determined the end. You say that the end was ordained, and this is what God is going to do. He determined the end, but He also determined the means to the end, and God said, “I’m going to do this,” but He also said that someone is going to pray. So, our prayer, God is letting us cooperate with His wonderful work, and in our prayer, we are fulfilling the will of God. You can’t speed up the work of God, and you can’t hinder. God is going to do what He’s going to do, and as I said, He ordains the means as well as the end.
In this connection I’ll give you a little advertisement. We’re going to have a men’s conference, a little gathering of men in March, and the Lord has given me a privilege to speak at that conference, and we’ve got four lessons, and we’re going to look together, and I want you to pray for me. We’re going to look together at this idea of prayer. What does it mean to pray in the Spirit? What does it mean to pray in the name of Jesus? There’s a revelation of Christ that many miss. I must have fifty books on prayer. I’ve read them all, and most of them miss the revelation of Christ. The revelation of Christ is what opens every door to a victorious prayer life, and we’re going to look, not at prayer, we’ll look at prayer, but we’re going to look at the revelation of Christ that unlocks everything in terms of prayer. So, if you would pray for me.
The point is that Elijah is now, not setting a time limit on God. God said that He’s going to send the rain. He’s just expecting it, because God promised it. The Bible says to pray and watch, as well as watch and pray. I put those verses there. I’m not going to read those verses now, but the point is that when we’re praying in the spirit, we wait for the Lord, and we look, and he went back seven times, and he saw a cloud the size of a man’s hand. I hope you get excited. If the Lord has guided you to pray for somebody, be on the alert for God’s answer when there is a cloud the size of a man’s hand. Be encouraged when they accept the tract. Be encouraged when they pick up the Bible. Be encouraged when they say, “I’d like to go to church with you.” That’s an amazing thing! Be encouraged when they say, “Will you pray for me?” That’s a cloud, that’s a prophecy, that’s the beginning of God doing a great thing. Don’t despise those little things. We say, “I’ve been praying for this relative and it seems like nothing is happening.” Something is happening. If God has called you to pray, He’s not going to prompt a heart for something that is going to be denied. He prompts the heart for something that is going to be answered. When you get a burden to pray that’s from the Lord, the heavier the burden, the greater the prophecy when He finally fulfills it. Just be on the alert for that wonderful, wonderful hand.
Now let’s run with Elijah. 1 Kings 19:3, “He was afraid, and he arose and he ran for his life, and came to Beersheba which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.” This is the one, according to James 5, who has a passion just like you, has a passion just like me, he’s like us, he’s human, he’s not from some wax museum. He’s real and he’s an honest person, and he’s just like us. Chapter 19, “He himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a juniper tree and he requested for himself that he might die. He said, ‘It’s enough now, oh Lord, take my life. I’m not better than my fathers.’”
It’s so easy for us to identify with discouragement and frustration and even despair. He looked away from Christ to circumstances, whether it was Jezebel, whether it was the death sentence on his head, whether it was his fear of dying, whatever it was, he took his eyes off the Lord, and he ran and he stopped at this juniper tree. Many commentators take great pain, I’m amazed at how many pages to describe the juniper tree. I don’t care about the juniper tree. I don’t care if it was an apple tree, a peach tree, an orange tree or a weeping willow. That’s not the point, what kind of tree it was. That might be interesting, but that’s not the point. Notice verse 5, “He laid down and slept under a juniper tree and behold, there was an angel touching him, and he said, ‘Arise and eat.’”
At this point in the record, an angel touching him, we don’t know what angel that was. That could have been Gabriel, it could have been Michael. He’s the Lord of hosts; there’s hosts. There are many angels. It could have been many angels. It could have been the angel that would one day roll the stone away from the tomb. We don’t know what angel that was from that record, but verse 7, “The Angel of the Lord came again a second time.” Now we know who it is. It’s the angel of the Lord. When you see the expression, “Angel of the Lord” in the Old Testament, it’s always Jesus. Here’s a reference sheet on that….
The many appearances of the Angel of the Lord, these are the main ones, and some of those, He appeared to those more than one time. The first appearance of our Lord Jesus is not Bethlehem. He appeared in the Old Testament in five different ways, and one of them was the Angel of the Lord, and by His appearing in flesh over and over and over, He prepared us for the incarnation.
I want to begin by just telling you that the Angel of the Lord, we’re going to be seeing this for a couple of lessons, that this is the revelation of Christ. Elijah has already seen Him as El Shaddai. He’s already seen Him as the Author of Faith. He’s already seen Him, or he’s going to continue to see Him as the Perfecter of Faith, but now God is going to introduce Himself, and this is the revelation of Christ, as the Angel of the Lord. I promise you that at any time a Christian is depressed and finds himself under the juniper tree, the Angel of the Lord, the Lord Jesus, will also be under the juniper tree. He’s not alone. He dropped off His servant to be alone, but he’s not alone. Since Jesus appears to Elijah as the Angel of the Lord, I want to introduce my comments on what is going to take place, from this wonderful Psalm 34:6, “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. The Angel of the Lord encamps around those that fear Him and rescues them.” Oh, what a passage that is! Imagine the Lord Jesus encamping around about.
I once saw an old western, and it was a comedy western, and one of the guys said, “I’m going in; you surround the house. Well, how is one guy going to surround the house? But the Angel of the Lord encamps around about those that fear Him. What a marvelous picture we have of Jesus all around the circumference of your life and my life! Psalm 139:5, “You have enclosed me behind and before and laid Your hand upon me.” 1 Kings 19:5, “He laid down and slept under a juniper tree and behold, there was an angel touching him, and he said, ‘Arise and eat.’”
Elijah needs to be rescued, and he needs to be rescued from depression, from despair, from wanting to throw in the towel, from the sense that, “I’m a failure; I don’t get anything right. I’m nothing and I’m a nobody.” He took his eyes off the Lord, and he ran away, so the Lord appears as the Angel of the Lord, in order to encamp round about him and rescue him, and deliver him (KJV says).
I like principles. Maybe you’ve noticed that. So, just to go through these facts, I would like to give six principles on how God, the Angel of the Lord, meets a discouraged Christian under the juniper tree. I just mention them as principles, and you’ll see them illustrated. The first principle, when I run away from the presence of the Lord because I’ve taken my eyes off the Lord, the Angel of the Lord will run with me. Don’t forget, I’ve taken my eyes off Him. He doesn’t just say, “Well, goodbye.” He runs with you. Elijah was not alone. You know that wonderful passage, Psalm 139:7-12. I’m sure he thought he was alone. Listen to these verses, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there. If I make my bed in Shaol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, and I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness around me will be night, even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You.”
Many are familiar with the title of the poem by Francis Thompson, “The Hound of Heaven.” I would doubt that anybody ever read the poem. The poem is hard to read. I have the poem, and it’s very difficult to go through, but everybody knows the title, “The Hound of Heaven.” The idea is that God is not going to let you go. He’s going after like a hound dog. It’s encouraging for those who especially are failures and depressed and almost in despair and want to throw in the towel and give up. Hebrews 13:5 says, “I will never, never, never, never leave you.” In English two negatives make a positive. In Greek the more negatives you can pile up, the stronger is the statement. It doesn’t turn it around. This verse has the most negatives ever put together in one verse, and it is, “I will never, never, never, never forsake you, never.” God wants us to know that.
I have a Bible and that verse is not in my Bible, Hebrews 13:5, “I will never, never, never,” and I’ll tell you why. I got a call from a sister in Christ, and she said, “Please come right away,” and I went to her apartment and she didn’t answer the door. I knocked and knocked and banged on the door. She didn’t answer the door. I thought it was unlocked, so I walked in. I called her name. She didn’t answer. I found her on her knees in front of the gas stove with the oven open and the gas on, and she was not unconscious, but groggy. I ran over and pulled her away, and we talked, and talked for an hour. We prayed together. The Lord revealed Himself and she came back to the Lord, and she said, “What if that ever happens again? What if I get so discouraged and I want to end it? I gave her this verse, and she said, “What if I forget it?” I said, “Get me scissors.” She got the scissors and I cut it out of my Bible. That’s why it’s not in my Bible. I cut it out of my Bible, and we taped it to the oven.
The whole point is that Elijah needs the Lord. He’s discouraged and he’s got the promise that the Angel of the Lord encamps around those who believe, and He’ll run with you. We’re shocked to read where someone with his eyes off the Lord, where they will run. They’ll run to some strange places, and might end up in a bar some place, or in other places, and the Lord is there, too. I was shocked when I saw King Saul in the witch’s house in Endor, but when I read the text carefully, I was more shocked to see Jesus there. He was at the witch’s house in Endor, trying to reach Saul a day before he was going to die, trying to recover him. That’s the heart of our Lord. That’s the first principle. When you run from the Lord, He’s running with you, wherever you go, however low you get, He’s running with you.
The second principle is that He knows what you need. 1 Kings 19:5&6, “He laid down and slept under a juniper tree, and behold, there was an angel touching him, and said, ‘Arise and eat.’ And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a bread cake baked on hot stone and a jar of water. So, he ate and drank and lay down again.” I want to look first, before I show you what the Angel of the Lord did, call attention to what the Angel of the Lord did not do. Elijah took his eyes off the Lord. The Angel of the Lord did not rebuke him. The Angel of the Lord did not give him a pep talk. The Angel of the Lord did not give him a sermon. The Angel of the Lord did not give him a Bible verse. The Angel of the Lord didn’t put His arm around him and say, “Let’s pray together.” He gave him a sandwich and a nap. That’s what he needed. He needed a sandwich and a nap. He gave him a cake and gave him some water and told him to lay down, and in another connection, He’s going to say, “You are going to need some exercise, too,” and he’s going to get that exercise.
That’s not generally how we deal with depressed people. Sometimes when we see someone depressed, we try to give them a Bible verse or give them a sermon or invite them to church, or something like that. There will be a day for that, but when they are that depressed, when they are downcast, in that connection I love Proverbs 25:20, “Like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar on soda, is he who sings songs to a troubled heart.” If there is a troubled heart, you wouldn’t strip a man of a coat on a cold day. We’re told that the word “soda” here is really sodium carbonate. It’s what they put in toothpaste. Would you tell somebody, “I’m trying to encourage you, I think you should put vinegar on your toot brush before you brush your teeth, and you are out in the cold, let me take that coat,” if you sing songs to someone who is depressed, you are going to get them more depressed. It’s not going to help at all. That’s not what they need.
I’ll show you what they need as we go through this, but when we sing songs to a troubled heart, we’re just making them more cold and more bitter toward the Lord. The Angel of the Lord didn’t do that. Instead, because He knows our needs, and He knows there is a real connection between the physical and the spiritual, I know there’s a connection, but I don’t know what it is. I’m not trained. I don’t know what it is. Some people say, “It’s a chemical imbalance,” and all. I don’t know all of that. I don’t doubt it. I’m not saying there’s not. I know the big things, that one circumstance can lead to liver problems, and other things can lead to other things, I know that. The point is that the Lord knows what you need, and He will give you what you need, and it may not come across to those who are spiritual to say, “That’s spiritual.” You just encourage someone, “You just need to get some rest. You aren’t eating and you need to eat.” That is so practical. May God help us! That’s what the Angel did.
Let me give you the third thing. In verse 5&6 in said, “He laid down, slept under a juniper tree, and behold, there was an angel touching him and said, ‘Arise and eat,’ and he looked, and behold, there was at his head a bread cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. He ate and drank and laid down again.” It seems to be that he had a good night’s sleep, but I wanted to call attention to is that the Lord not only gives you a touch, and sometimes a touch will do more than anything, and something to eat and a rest. But the Angel of the Lord kept vigilant all night. He just stayed there watching His child sleep. I know what He did. He was delighting in Elijah. He always delights in His child, and He just kept vigilant. That’s like a mother with a sick child, just sitting there keeping vigil. Such a scene! This is Jesus! Can you imagine the Angel of the Lord coming down and baking you a cake, coming down from glory of heaven just to bake you a cake? That’s our Jesus.
Anyway, in verse 7, “The Angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him, and said, “Arise and eat.” He not only kept vigil, but He touched him a second time. He did that to the blind, remember in the New Testament, “Do you see?” “I see men as trees walking.” If you need another touch, you are going to get it. That’s just an illustration that He’ll keep touching you as long as you need it. Psalm 127:2, “He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.” He keeps vigil while you are discouraged. Some nights are longer than others. Some nights are weeks, and some nights are months, and some nights are years, and some people get so discouraged, year after year, and it doesn’t change the fact that the Angel of the Lord runs with them. It doesn’t change the fact that the Angel of the Lord doesn’t rebuke them and say, “Shame on you; look what you’ve done. You’ve ruined your testimony. Pull it together. Let’s get up.” He doesn’t do that. He meets us where we are, and gives us what we need, and He doesn’t rebuke us, and He watches over us, all during that long night of depression, He’s just going to keep vigil and watch over you.
Do you know what He did? He gave him, verse 7, “Arise and eat because the journey is too great for you.” It’s the journey of running from the Lord. What the Lord gave him was a miracle meal. He went in the strength of that meal for forty days and forty nights. This is a precious thing. Verse 7, “Arise and eat. The journey is too great for you.” Jesus sustained him while he was running away from Jesus. Jesus watched over him and gave him a miracle meal, because without that miracle he would have died in the wilderness. I think it’s a precious thing that God watches over us when we’re out of fellowship with Him, and that He takes care of us. I’m not going to do it, but I think if I went around just this room, I think some who have departed from the Lord and then returned, you might give a testimony, “I should have died. I got involved and I should have died, but God watched over me. I got involved with a group of people you wouldn’t believe. I should have not been here, but God miraculously keeps you as you’re wandering through the wilderness.
You see, we’re going to see three pictures. We’re going to see Elijah under the tree, and Elijah wandering in the wilderness, and we’re going to see Elijah in a cave, because that’s a discouraged person; under the juniper tree wandering aimlessly without direction, and finally hiding himself in a cave. Anyway, that’s the glory of the Angel of the Lord. He runs with me, and He doesn’t rebuke me, and He provides what I need, He keeps vigil over me, He provides even for my backsliding and straying, He gives me a miracle and keeps me alive to bring me back.
Finally, one last thing. Job 6:26, “You intend to reprove my words, when the one of one in despair belong to the wind?” Isn’t that an interesting statement? “The one of one in despair belong to the wind.” When somebody says something to you, and they are in despair, they are going through stuff, don’t put much stock in it. Their words belong to the wind. Some wife says something, and it hurts your feelings, she doesn’t mean it if she’s in despair. He doesn’t mean what he says. The kids say, “I hate you, mom, and I hate you, dad,” don’t believe it. It belongs to the wind. I call attention to this because Elijah said, “It’s enough, now, oh Lord, take my life.” The Angel of the Lord just ignored that. That belongs to the wind. God said, “I’ll tell you when it’s enough. You say that it’s enough and to take my life.” Do you realize what Elijah, especially him, what he would have missed if God answered that prayer, “Take my life.” He’s the one that was caught up in a fiery chariot and went to heaven in a chariot. If God had answered his prayer, he would have missed out on God’s purpose. God knew that was just words that belonged to the wind, and He didn’t take any stock in that whatsoever.
Psalm 119:165, “Great peace have they that love Thy law; nothing shall offend them.” The Angel of the Lord was not offended at the words of Elijah. I don’t even think Elijah was even addressing the Angel of the Lord; he was just calling out on God, “Take my life, God.” Anyway, we’ll all live to praise the Lord for prayers that were not answered. I can think of prayers now, if He answered it, boy, my heart would sink. I’ve asked God to do stuff, and I don’t want Him to do it now. I feel like dear old Zachariah, that always makes me laugh, the father of John the Baptizer in Luke, he’s now an old man, maybe over ninety, and the first words he hears is, “Your prayer has been answered.” “What prayer was that?” “To have a child.” “I prayed that fifty years ago. You sure have red tape going on up there.” We’ll thank the Lord for prayers that haven’t been answered.
I want to make one final point and we’ll close. Most of the time in this record you notice that Elijah was unconscious physically. He was sleeping. All of the time he was unconscious spiritually. When you read this record, it’s amazing. Here is somebody cooking a cake for you, and he didn’t say, “Thank you.” He says nothing to this angel. It’s like he’s not there. It’s like he doesn’t exist. Like I said, the Angel of the Lord is not offended. Nothing offends the Angel of the Lord.
When you take your eyes off the Lord and looking to circumstances, the Lord is doing many things for you, and you don’t have a clue. Hosea 11, “It is I who taught Ephraim to walk. I took them in My arms, and they did not know that I healed them. I led them with cords of a man with bonds of love. I became to them as one who lifts the yoke from their jaws, and I bent down and fed them and I took them in My arms, and they didn’t know it was Me.” They didn’t know, and when we’re running from the Lord, we don’t know what He’s doing. We’re not there, yet. This Angel of the Lord is going to take us all the way to Horeb where we’ll see the solution. Hosea 11:4, “I led them with cords of a man and the bonds of love; I became to them as One who lifts the yoke away from their jaws, and I bent down and fed them.”
Discouragement makes us dull to the Lord, but it will never stop Jesus. I hope nobody here is running from the Lord, but if you are, He’s running with you, and He’s going to speak softly and tenderly to you, and He’s going to watch over you all those days you are running from the Lord, and He’s going to keep vigil. He’s actually going to protect you from your stupidity and my stupidity. He’s going to protect us, and He’s not going to listen to stupid prayers. That belongs to the wind. He’s not going to be offended. You don’t know it, but He’s there and He’s with you.
Father, thank You for this part one of the revelation of Jesus as the Angel of the Lord, and how rich it is to know all that You do for someone who is discouraged and depressed. I pray that You prepare our hearts as we get ready to go to Horeb and see the other things that You are going to do. Work these things in our hearts and our lives as those who might be depressed and as those who might be ministering to those who are depressed. Teach us. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.