— Brother Phil Enlow: You know, I think a lot of times I’m conscious that…messages that I preach paint big picture, teaching kind of things, but you know, we need…and we need that. But we also need messages that get down into the nitty-gritty of life, of real life. And I feel like this is probably one of those. And I’d like to begin with 1st Corinthians, I’m sorry, 1st Kings…a little bit of difference…1st Kings, chapter 17, and I’ll just begin there.
And, this begins the account of one of the most famous Old Testament prophets, and his name was Elijah. He just suddenly appears on the pages of scripture without any real background. We don’t know anything about him other than, Elijah says this, and starts doing that, and all of a sudden, there he is. So, the Lord doesn’t give us a whole lot of background as to where he came from and what he was about as a human being. But boy, does he burst on the scene.
And, you remember what the scene was, that after the kingdom had split, the kingdom of Israel had split into the Northern Kingdom of ten tribes that were called Israel, and the southern two tribes that were called Judah, the Northern Kingdom never did serve God, did they? It was just…they immediately plunged into a condition of wickedness, sinfulness, everything you could think of that was wrong, idolatry…they set up heathen gods, and one king would outdo the next one.
And the king who had taken over this time was the worst of them. His name was Ahab. And he had married a lovely lady from a nearby tribe, nearby nation, called Jezebel, who was a hundred percent devoted to wickedness and idolatry, and you name it, she was guilty of it. And so, this was the condition of the land and of the nation. And so, it was into this context that God sent a man.
You know, I wonder…when you think about the nation and where we’re at in our world, and where we’re headed…do you think God’s gonna have a people in that time that are gonna stand up for Him, and have something to say?
But there are some lessons in his experience that I believe we need to pay attention to. And just to…not to spend a lot of time on it, but, all of a sudden, this man, this prophet called Elijah goes to Ahab and announces that there will be no rain until I say so.
Whoa! You talk about the power of God over everything and how He commits that power into the lips, through the lips of a man. And so, of course, Elijah didn’t hang around to see what was going on. The Lord told him immediately, go hide yourself. So, he leaves Israel proper and goes across the Jordan and he hides in a ravine. So, this is a real secret hideout. Nobody can find him there.
And, of course, he’s gonna need a little sustenance, so the Lord sends ravens twice a day. Can you imagine living like that? We have a great God, don’t we? So, here’s a man who obviously has natural needs and God’s mindful of that. That’s something we need to remember. And, all of a sudden, there he is, he’s hiding for his life, essentially, and every day ravens come and they give him all that he needs. He’s got a brook there to drink from. And so, that goes on for a period of time, and then, the brook dries up, of course, in a drought.
So then, the Lord says, I’ve got somebody that…I’ve commanded a widow to feed you. Well, the widow, I’m not sure…didn’t know anything about this at the time, but the Lord had it all arranged. And so, he goes over to the kingdom of Sidon, which was over by the seashore, over against the Mediterranean. And I believe, if I’m not mistaken, Jezebel was from there. Talk about the Lord doing something that was kind of ironic!
So there he goes, and he meets this woman and she is picking up sticks to cook her last meal so she and her son can die because of the drought. And the prophet says, all right, go and make me something first. That’s when she tells him the situation. And he says, no, you go and do that and here’s what the Lord says. The meal will not waste. You’ll not run out of what you need until the day that the rain comes.
She says, okay. So, she listened and…anyway he begins to…he begins to live in the home there and the Lord puts her through a trial, but as He often does with those that He is reaching out to, the trial was meant to lead to a blessing. How many of you have been down that road? The Lord put you through something you would not choose, but when you come through it, you realize you’ve learned something about God and you are strengthened in your spirit.
And so, here is the Lord allowing her son to die, to get sick and die. And so, she’s wondering about this God that he supposedly serves and what in the world does He have against me that He’s allowed this? “Did you come to remind me…” she says, “…of my sin and kill my son?” (NIV).
So, he takes the son up to his room, and he entreats the Lord, three different times he lays his body over this little boy and pleads with God to…Lord, give him his life back. And the Lord hears his prayer and answers it. And so, here’s man of God who’s commanding the weather and who raises the dead…I mean, this is a mighty prophet, isn’t it?
And so, he comes to the end of that particular episode and she says, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth.” You know, the Lord has a way of making Himself known, doesn’t He? If we’ll listen—if we’ll listen, God will make Himself known.
So anyway, the time comes for him to go back…and I think this was like a period of three years all of this took place. It’s time for him to go back and show himself to Ahab and to make a long story short, he comes and Ahab goes out to meet him, and his greeting to this prophet is, “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?”
He said, “I have not made trouble for Israel, Elijah replied. But you and your father’s family have. You have abandoned the Lord’s commands and have followed the Baals.” We’re in the middle of chapter 18, if you’re trying to follow. So anyway…so now, there’s a challenge that’s issued. God is going to make Himself known and make the people responsible for their choices as to who they’re gonna serve.
So, he says, you go and you gather together all of the prophets of Baal, all of these heathen…bring them together. We’re gonna have a little contest here. And it was 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah. So, there were 850, all totaled. And they all were gathered to Mount Carmel. And now, Elijah stands there, and…you know, we have this picture of this mighty prophet. And so, this mighty prophet stands and says, how long are you gonna halt between two opinions, is the way the King James puts it. “If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” (NIV).
The people stood there and said…what are they gonna say? Nothing. He said, all right, let’s have a contest here. We’re gonna build two altars. And, let’s get a couple of bulls and we’re gonna prepare our altars. You call upon your god, I’ll call upon mine, and the god who answers by fire, he’s the one who’s really God. They say, okay, that sounds good to us. That’s not the words they used, but those are…anyway, that’s the idea.
“Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first, since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire.” So, they go ahead and do all of that. Now, they start crying and dancing around the altar and calling on their god. Oh god, come and answer our cry, and doing this heathen dance. This goes on for a long time. And finally, at noon, Elijah decides to mock them a little bit.
( laughing ).
He says, “Shout louder…Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.”
( laughing ).
“So they shouted louder and slashed themselves….” And they’re going through all this, all the shenanigans that they did in their heathen religion, and they’re going on and on and on. “…No response, no one answered, no one paid attention.” Praise God!
“Then Elijah said to all the people, Come here….” And so, he prepares an altar. He picks 12 stones to represent the original 12 tribes. He really does it the right way…prepares the bull. He says, I’m not done. Let’s get you four barrels of water and pour it all over the altar. Let’s make sure that we’re not gonna have any funny business here. Let’s really…let’s make a real contest out of this.
He said, all right, fill it up again. And they do it a second time. Okay, fill them up again. So, 12 barrels of water are dumped over the altar. I mean, water is running off, and pooling around the edges. He’d built a little trench…running over all of that.
So now then, he calls on God. And he says, “O Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 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.” Mighty prophet, right? Praise God!
So, what happens? “…The fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.” I mean, there’s nothing! There’s no way anybody could say that he pulled off a trick there.
So anyway, then the people fell on their faces and said, the Lord is God, the Lord is God! So anyway, now…and of course, they executed all these false prophets. And so, now…what a mighty victory! I mean, how would you like to be on the winning side of that one? Wouldn’t that be exhilarating to stand there and see God do something mighty…wow! You’re just rejoicing in all that.
But He’s not done! Now, it’s time for rain. And so, he tells the king to go back and eat and drink, it’s about to rain. So, he goes up on the top of the mountain and bows his head between his legs and prays. Seven different times, he sent his servant out to look to the west toward the sea. Finally, he said there’s a cloud about the size of a man’s hand rising. He says, run, Ahab, you better run! It’s fixing to rain.
And not only did he go through all of that, it says, the Lord strengthened him. The power of God came on him and ran ahead of the chariot all the way back to the palace. I mean, you think about a man who has experienced the incredible things that he did, seen the power of God, tasted it, had God just bless him mightily, and mightily reach out through him!
Then, what? Chapter 19, “Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword.” Ha! Sweet lady. “So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.”
Well, now wouldn’t you expect that a mighty prophet of God would stand there and say, oh yeah? We’ll see about that. I serve the God who is God of all of your gods. Ain’t nothing like that gonna happen. But that’s not what he did, is it? That’s not what he did.
“Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah…,” which, by the way, was many, many miles. This was not like…and of course, he couldn’t just pick up a car and run over to the next county, drive over to the next county. This is on foot. This is dozens of miles away. It was a pretty good trip.
So, he’s traveling, he’s running in fear. And he gets to a certain place and, “…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. Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep.”
The message that I heard had to do with depression. And this scripture, as well as any in the Bible, reminds us that depression is, not only a part of this world, it afflicts God’s people. And it’s something that I believe God desires that we confront and be honest about our needs in this area, because we live in a time, as we’ve heard so many times, when the Devil’s power is increasing.
And we are not exempt, we…all of us here still live in these bodies. We still have that nature in these bodies. Thank God, if you’ve got Christ, “…greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” (KJV). But the reality is, that if we are not careful, we are subject to exactly what happened to him.
And what happens is, well, I’m not supposed to be that way…so, I’m gonna do like the commercial on TV. I’m go around with a happy mask on. And I’m gonna pretend that everything is okay because…oh, I’m in Canaan land! Everything is wonderful! I’m supposed to feel good all the time. I’m supposed to be happy, happy, happy.
And the reality is, many times that’s not the way it is. And we need to be honest about it. I mean, the scripture doesn’t hide this. This is a mighty prophet of God, the guy you’d want to be just like…and there he is praying, oh God, I’ve had enough. God, take my life. It’s over. There’s no purpose in my living.
You know, one interesting thing that was quoted on that message…I’ll just refer to this one thing, because it was a statistic. And I didn’t realize, so I looked it up and checked it out and it’s right. And, he was referring back to the Vietnam war and those who fought there. We have brothers here who fought in that war.
And the statistic was this, that there are more Vietnam soldiers who died by suicide than were killed in the actual war! That’s a terrible…well, I’m leading into the fact that suicide has become a growing problem in our society. And it’s interesting that the Viet Nam war happened about the time the Lord was revealing to us the last loosing of Satan!
What do we expect? This world is a lie! It is built on lies! Everything about it motivates human beings to build their lives on lies, to try to seek happiness apart from a relationship with their God.
And I’ll tell you, the Devil enjoys destroying, stealing, killing, lying, destroying. And it’s not just Vietnam soldiers. It’s children! These issues of people reaching a point where life is so worthless that all they want to do is leave it! The fear of dying becomes weaker than the pain of living! Oh God, do we need Him!
( congregational response ).
And you think this doesn’t affect Christians? Sure, it does. Those of you who have been around, you know how the Devil attacks. Some of you remember Sister Thomas, and how she went through a deep, deep period of just black depression. Brother Thomas had to fight for over a period of months as I recall, just ministering truth, trying to bring her out of that state.
She’s not the only one. Brother Thomas battled depression. So, you look at me and say, well, preacher, what about you? You live up on the mountain, right? Are you kidding? I battle it just like everybody else does, and don’t always do it as well as I should! Of course, I’m the only one here, right? Everybody else here is just living on the mountaintop every day!
You know, the Lord has given us a mountain we can live on, but I’ll tell you, it doesn’t happen automatically. And we have been so programmed, more than we realize, with lies, and they bring us down to a place of weakness.
And you go on here. Here he is coming to that point where, all I want to do is die, Lord! My life is worthless! Nothing that I’ve accomplished has changed anything! Oh, God, I’ve come to the end.
Well, you know, we can come to the end, but God doesn’t. Thank God! How many of you’ve been in a place where you were about ready to hang it up and the Lord intervened? Well, the Lord intervenes here. So he’s asleep. All of a sudden, he’s awakened and it’s an angel that’s awakened him. He said, here’s a meal. He looked around. By his head there was a cake of bread baked over hot coals and a jar of water.
So the Lord sent down an angel who knew how to cook. He ate and drank and then lay down again and now he wakes up again, and the angel comes back and does the same thing. “…The journey is too much for you.”
Evidently…the scripture does not explain all of this. But somehow, I feel like, from where he went, there was something in his mind…God, if I’m gonna find any meaning in all of this, I’ve got to get back to where it started. And so, he takes off from wherever he’s at now in the desert, he takes off south for Mount Sinai.
Now the Israelites wandered 40 years in the wilderness, it took him 40 days. It was no small journey. And, there were a whole lot of altitude changes. Now, I’m a guy who doesn’t like altitude changes, especially when they’re up. And there he is in places where some of it was below sea level. Now he’s heading south through a desert, and then when he gets to the end of his journey after 40 days, he’s got to climb a mountain! Do you imagine he’s probably pretty tired?
You know, that’s one of the things that can get us in a bad place. We are not supermen and superwomen. You know, I thought of a…I think of a scripture from time to time. It’s in the Psalms somewhere. You can look it up if you want to know where it’s at. But I remember the King James Version of it, I think. “It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late…for so he giveth his beloved sleep.”
There’s simple, practical wisdom in that, isn’t there? How many of you have been…have just pushed it, pushed it and pushed it, and you’ve gone way overboard and you wind up getting so tired and all of a sudden, life just kind of descends on you and you get in a bad place and you can’t…you just emotionally can’t.
You see, we’re emotional creatures. And, too much of the time the emotions have too much of an influence over us and we begin to descend into this place that Elijah was. But somehow, there he is going back to Horeb, which was another name for Mount Sinai, going up into a cave and he spends the night.
( panting ).
I’ve made it, maybe I’ll get my answers here. “And the word of the Lord came to him: What are you doing here, Elijah?” (NIV). I don’t know what the tone was, but…I don’t know that it was condemning so much as trying to raise a question. What are you doing here?
He said, “I have been very zealous…” 19:10. “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.”
No depression there, right? After saying, I’ve had enough, kill me. You know I mentioned something on a recent Wednesday night that bears on this, and I was talking about vulnerability to temptation, and one of the factors that really makes us vulnerable. And it’s a very simple thing. It’s being self-centered…I forget the word now even that I even used…but, it’s self-absorbed, where I become so wrapped up in what’s happening to me, what has happened to me, all of the things that affect me and my feelings, that becomes my world, that becomes my universe.