“What are you doing here, Elijah?” Can you imagine God asking you that question?  Elijah is one of my favorite people in scripture.

And there he went into a cave, and spent the night in that place; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

1 kings 19:9 nkjv

Typically, when Elijah is spoken of, we talk about the man who was incredibly strong his faith.  We preach about Elijah, the prophet of God that revived the widow’s son (1 Kings 17:8-24). Elijah, the prophet that was unafraid to stand before Ahab, king of Israel (1 Kings 18:17-18).  We will preach about Elijah, the prophet who had such great faith that he challenged the 450 prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:22).

Elijah truly was a great man of faith and an example of what strong faith looks like.  Yet, we lose a bit of what made him such a strong person and an example for all believers when we partially tell his story.  There was something that brought him to a place where he was in serious need of the Lord.  I want to focus on that something in today’s sermon because I believe all of us have been there before or will be there at some point of time in our life.

A look at the man named Elijah

My key verse for today’s sermon drops us into Elijah’s story after the showdown on Mount Carmel with Baal’s prophets.  If you’re not familiar with that story, you can read about it in 1 Kings 18:20-40.

From Israel to Horeb
From Israel to Horeb. Image credits to Quora.com

In my key verse, Elijah finds himself in Horeb.  (Some of you may be more familiar with recognizing this area with Mount Sinai.  Horeb was where Moses initially brought the children of Israel after they left Egypt and crossed the Red Sea.).  Elijah is alone and sitting in a cave on the mountain of God when the Lord asks him this question:  “what are you doing here? (1 Kings 19:8-9)”

A man that suffered from depression

What was it that brought Elijah to being in this cave by himself?  Let’s work towards answering that question. Elijah was a man of great faith that also suffered from depression.  I would also state that Elijah suffered a bit from feeling alone at times and I feel that helped to drive his depression.

On three occasions you can see Elijah state that he was alone.  Elijah tells the people at the showdown on Mount Carmel that he was alone (1 Kings 18:22).  You will notice, if you continued reading pass my key verse for today, that Elijah then told God that he was alone in two separate responses (1 Kings 19:10, 14).

Any time I speak about Elijah to somebody, I let them know that he was a man that suffered from depression during his time as a prophet.  I feel like it is important for believers to see this side of him because for years people lived in a society that responded to depression by saying “tough it out” or “be strong”.  Elijah’s depression was so great that he even asked for the Lord to take his life (1 Kings 19:4).

This is certainly a different look from the sole prophet that stood before all of Baal’s prophets on Mount Carmel.  Those of the faith today would probably have said some of the same stuff that’s said today to Elijah back then, right?  You have probably heard these before: “Keep the faith! God is still with you, have faith!”  

Nothing wrong with these sayings, but the self-righteous and pious ones often use these sayings to try and shame others of genuine faith who may be depressed at times.  There is nothing wrong with your faith if you find your fighting against depression. Some may even consider Elijah to have been a failure or disgrace for not being so strong in the faith all of the time. Those who are strong in the faith should never shame those who may be weak in the faith (Rom 14:1).

A man who was afraid

I will tell you that there was also a physical reality that also drove Elijah to run off to Horeb.  After his victory on Mount Carmel and the execution of the prophets of Baal, Jezebel, the wife of Ahab, had a message to deliver to Elijah (1 Kings 19:2).  Jezebel was heated about what had happened on Mount Carmel and sent word to Elijah that she was going to get him.

Horeb – Image credits to sinaimonastery.com

Let’s put ourselves in his shoes for just a moment here.  Here is a man that was completely worn out both physically, mentally, and even spiritually I believe.  Physically, he had just finished dealing with those prophets all day. Mentally, he had just finished dealing with those prophets all day  (repeating myself was not a mistake). Spiritually, he really was the only prophet bold enough to stand in faith against Ahab and Baal’s prophets.  The showdown on Mount Carmel was very taxing, I believe.

The one moment he has to rejoice in victory is immediately followed by a very frightening message.  Jezebel had already killed prophets of God and so she completely had the power to have Elijah killed as well.  Elijah was overworked, exhausted, and now he was filled with stress, fear, and terror. In that moment of fear, all Elijah could think to do was run for his life!

Turning to God when we’re afraid

Sometimes I wonder if those self-righteous and pious believers have ever been given some frightening news?  Have you ever been delivered a message that completely terrified you?  I don’t know about the pious believers but I can certainly say I have received news that’s rattled and terrified me.

In the past decade, I lost my dad and that news absolutely shook me to the core.  How would I be able to live in a world without my hero? I was afraid.  Also in the past decade, my kidneys failed me and let me tell you, that was not a message I was happy to receive – I was terrified.  Did it say something about my faith in God that I was afraid in that moment?

Should we as genuine believers ever be ashamed to admit when we are fearful about something?  Absolutely not. There are people who live in our world today who will say that they’re not afraid of anything.  As one commentator said, that’s a completely insensitive position to take.  

I understand the idea of fear prohibiting those of faith.  For example, fear can cause us not to act in faith. Fear can keep us from moving towards God’s blessings. Fear can even cause us to act irrationally if we allow it to control us.  In those ways, we need to remove fear from out of our system.  Yet, David said (Psalm 56:3), “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You (God).” 

Fear also brings out faith?

You see, being afraid can also drive us to act in our faith in the Lord.  A lot of times we begin to think that having fear in our hearts (being afraid of something) means there is something wrong with our faith.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with being afraid if that fear drives you to God.

I have explained in the past what it means when we say we are God fearing people but I want to do it again here.  We are afraid of facing the Lord’s punishment of sin (disobedience of His way), so we choose to live a life of obedience to His way.  I am afraid of living in this world without God being on my side, so that fear pushes me even more in my faith towards Him.

Can we have fear and faith at the same time? The apostle John wrote (1 John 4:18-19), “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment.  But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.  We love Him because He first loved us.” To answer that question, the answer would be yes. 

You see, where God’s love is, there is no fear because His perfect love takes away fear.  Who does God love?  Well, He loves those who genuinely love and believe in Him.  When we are afraid, God seeks to remove and ease our fears.

God keeping us in His care when we’re afraid

When Elijah was afraid, he took his eyes off the Lord for a moment and ran away in fear of Jezebel.  Yet, I want you to pay attention to the fact that the Lord was still with Elijah. Before reaching Horeb, Elijah found himself in the wilderness of Beersheba (1 Kings 19:3-4.)

Scripture tells us that he prayed to the Lord and, afterwards, he fell asleep underneath a broom (or juniper) tree in the wilderness.  As he slept under the tree, we are told that an angel touched Elijah and provided him with a cake that had been baked over coals and a jar of water (1 Kings 19:6).  Who do you suppose told the angel to be there and have those things there for Elijah?

This did not happen only one time but we will see that it happened again.  Elijah was tired and ended up falling back to sleep. After sleeping for a while, again, the angel visited Elijah and gave him more food and water to drink (1 Kings 19:7).  Who do you suppose told the angel to be there and have those things there for Elijah?

I point this out to you for a couple of reasons.  Firstly, I want to show you that even though Elijah was afraid of Jezebel, he never stopped believing in God.  You see, he was still a person of faith to pray and trust in the Lord.  Our eyes may initially be taken off of God at the initial shock of something terrifying but it is important for us to remain faithful.  

Secondly, I want to point out the actions God took while Elijah was filled with fear.  God was still there and providing for Elijah even though he feared for his life and, I tell you, God still does the same for His children today.  God is not going to let the monster get you.  I don’t say that to make light of a scary situation but this is true:  we can/will even overcome the things or the people that frighten us!

What are you doing here?

God brought Elijah to Horeb, far away from the people back in Israel, and there Elijah spent the night in a cave.  It was there that the word of the Lord came to Elijah and God said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Elijah was there because he was in need of God’s care.

I know this because Elijah acknowledges and tells God two times that He felt alone and feared for His life. I have no idea what anybody is going through, but I believe all of us are in need of being in God’s care today.  When I pray, I often find myself praying that God keeps me in His care.  I also pray that God will bless us in what we are doing and what we are going through!

You know, when the Lord asked Elijah what are you doing here, I believe God already knew what Elijah was doing there.  However, Elijah, ran from Jezebel and then prayed that God take His life instead of acknowledging what His affliction was the first time he had prayed.  I believe God asks us what we are doing before His presence every time we seek Him out.

As I have said about prayer before, the Lord wants us to boldly let Him know what we are in need of, even though He already knows.  We have to be able to acknowledge what we need from the Lord. Whatever may be terrifying you today, I tell you that you should pray that the Lord remove your fear and that He keeps you in His care.  I will also tell you again that you can overcome whatever it is that might be filling you with fear today through your faith in the Lord.

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