Looking Past Our Pain

1 Kings 19:1-18

Elijah Flees to Horeb

19 Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 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.” 3 Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, 4 while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, 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.”5 Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.
All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” 6 He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again. 7 The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” 8 So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. 9 There he went into a cave and spent the night.

The Lord Appears to Elijah

And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn 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.” 11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 14 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn 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.”
15 The Lord said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. 16 Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. 17 Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu.18 Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.”

Advent Sunday #1- Hope “looking past our pain”

One of the interesting things that I’ve learned about hope is that it rarely functions in isolation. Hope is the older brother of pain. Indeed, it is hope that allows most of us to tolerate and live through our various pains. It is hope that inspires us to push past our fears, doubts, and anxiety. It is hope that emboldens us to rise up against oppression, tyranny, and injustice. It was hope that caused the prophet Elijah to challenge King Ahab and Queen Jezebel’s prophet’s of Baal to a winner take all confrontation on Mt. Carmel.
Yet, despite God’s tremendous display of power and total annihilation of the prophets of Baal, Elijah finds himself in a strange predicament. His ultimate sources of pain, Ahab and Jezebel, not only survived but vowed to kill Elijah ASAP. This unrealized dream of vanquishing Ahab and Jezebel saps Elijah of all of his hope, allowing his pain to overwhelm him. He doesn’t just flee for his life, he slumps into utter despair.
God finds Elijah in the midst of his despair, comforts Elijah, confronts Elijah, and then comforts Elijah again with a plan. At the fulcrum of Elijah’s recovery was the necessity for Elijah to look past his own pain. Yes, Ahab and Jezebel were still alive but Elijah was not alone physically or spiritually. Moreover, God had a plan for the nation of Israel that was bigger than the deaths of Ahab and Jezebel. Most importantly, Ahab and Jezebel  never came close to harming Elijah andeventually die.
Elijah’s initial inability to look past his own pain and frustration with Ahab and Jezebel nearly cost him deliverance and victory. In this season of Advent, when we prepare to celebrate presence of Jesus, let us not allow whatever it is that ails us to cause us to lose our hope. We all must be careful to not let present day pain or disappointment block our ability to see God’s plan for our lives. God had a plan for Elijah that was actually bigger than Elijah’s own plan for his life. Elijah was focused on defeating a king and queen. Meanwhile, God had plans for Elijah to anoint multiple kings, anoint new prophets, and ride in a chariot of fire. In this Advent season, keep dreaming and keep hoping because God probably has bigger plans for you than you may already have for yourself.
Cecil Lettsome

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