Have you ever felt on top of the world, only to find yourself in the gutter just a few hours later? It's like enjoying a beautiful warm sunny afternoon, only to wake up the next morning to freezing rain, slippery sidewalks and a miserable long drive to work. It's like looking forward to fall, moving your clock back one hour for that precious extra hour of sleep, only to wake up at your normal time, unable to fall back to sleep...or worse yet, forgetting to move the clock back and showing up at church an hour early. It's like getting a cheque in the mail you didn't expect, only to find a bill that was bigger than the cheque.
Mountaintop experiences; they are fantastic when you are on the mountain, but you always have to come down and sometimes, that hike down can be fraught with difficulties, pain and sorrow. I have read 1 Kings 19 hundreds of times but yesterday it took me by surprise. The prophet Elijah has just successfully shown that 1) The LORD, he is God (1 Kings 18:39) and 2) Elijah is his servant. You remember the story in 1 Kings 18. There is a challenge on Mt. Carmel against 850 false prophets and Elijah. God answers Elijah's prayer by sending fire to lick up the sacrifice, wood, stones, and water. The false prophets are killed and Elijah stands as the true prophet of the living God. If that wasn't enough, Elijah prays to God to cease the drought that has plagued the land for over 3 years and God answers. Then God supercharges Elijah, like Eric Liddell on heavenly steroids, so that he outruns a king's chariot and beats him back to town.
Let's be honest, we have all had some type of mountaintop experience where we have been so elated, so overjoyed that we feel like we are floating on air. That has to be how Elijah feels at this moment. His job is to point the people to God and he has succeeded. Enter stage left - Jezebel, Queen of Israel. The Queen mother of evil upon learning of the fate of her false prophets fires off the equivalent of a threatening and raging email to Elijah.
To: Elijah@Prophetof GodMinistries.gov
Subject: Till Death Do Us Part
"The gods will get you for this and I’ll get even with you! By this time tomorrow you’ll be as dead as any one of those prophets."
P.S. Thanks for the rain.
Ok, time to put on Elijah's shoes. What would you do? A) Send a nasty "reply" and get into a virtual email fist fight. B) Consider the source, hit "delete" and resume what you were doing. C) Get out of Dodge, run for cover, save your bacon. D) A and C.
Verse 3 says "Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life." Wait a minute, this is Elijah the great prophet we are talking about. The man that just called down fire from heaven, made the heavens rain after 3 years, ran faster than a chariot, was fed by ravens and raised a boy from the dead. YUP, the very same man. If nothing else, it makes me feel a lot better about my failures and reveals my vulnerability right after those mountaintop experiences.
Have you ever stopped to think what it takes for your perspective to change? For most of us, it could be just a word or two from that person of influence in our life to take us from the mountaintop to the valley of death. It could be an email from that person in your life that continually hounds you and heaps negative outlooks into your life. Maybe an insecure boss that suppresses your creative ideas and positive influence in the workplace. A son or daughter that refuses to change thereby torturing the parent with guilt, turmoil and fear. The reality is, it normally doesn't take a 9/11 catastrophe to move us from joy to despair, just a sentence or two. It's amazing how in the face of calamity, our perspective becomes cloudy, jaded, and distorted.
What can we do?
1) Pray. Elijah should have hit the floor as soon as he received the message. Instead he responds without consulting God and as a result Jezebel wins. She can tell everyone that Elijah, the great prophet of God, ran away as soon as she threatened his life. The work done on Mt. Carmel is now ruined as soon as the people of Israel learn that Elijah ran. If the God who just rained down fire from heaven can't protect his prophet, then he must not be a God worth serving.
2) Seek godly Counsel. Call someone you trust (spouse, friend, co-worker) and get their advice. Someone who is not part of the same calamity can see things from a different perspective and offer guidance that you may not be able to see. Remember, many times your judgment is clouded. Elijah, when running from Jezebel, tells God that he is the only prophet left. Yet Obadiah has just told him that he has 100 prophets of God hidden in two caves (18:13) and God tells him he has 7,000 people that have not bowed to the false gods (19:18).
3) Find Comfort in the Word. Just over a week ago I was growing discouraged with the lack of response from God. I have been praying and praying for God's direction in my family's life and the heavens have been silent. I was to the point that I looked at the Bible sitting on the counter and didn't want to have my quiet time. I prayed and told God how I was feeling and I sensed that I should skip my daily reading plan and go directly to the Psalms. I started in at Psalm 4, "Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!" I devoured Psalms 4-7 and couldn't wait to share them with my wife. She calls me back in a few minutes elated as she read them in The Message and couldn't believe the impact they made in her life.
Here's the same verse from The Message:
"When I call, give me answers. God, take my side! Once, in a tight place, you gave me room; Now I'm in trouble again: grace me! hear me!"
Oh yeah, that's what I'm talking about. Don't wait, don't delay, grab your version of The Message or find it online (i.e. www.Biblegateway.com) and read Psalms 4-7, you will be so blessed that you will be sharing it someone within the hour (money back guarantee).
4) Finally, be on your guard. The enemy hates mountaintop experiences and will do everything they can to negate that experience. Don't drop your guard just because you are on the mountaintop. Can you imagine soldiers dropping their guard, putting away their guns just because they won the first round? Of course not, their commander is going to be barking orders, getting them mentally prepared for the next round that is sure to come. The latter part of Ephesians 6 is always a good reminder of what we are continually up against.
Text: 1 Kings 18:1 - 19:18