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1 Kings 19:1-9

1 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 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.” 5 Then he lay down under the tree 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 a cake of 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 travelled for forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. 9 There he went into a cave and spent the night.


How could someone like Elijah fail so spectacularly? One possible explanation is ‘Clinical Depression’. Now anything like that we always find difficult. Anything with the ‘Mental illness’ label we shy away from because it’s often something that we have difficulty understanding. We can accept a broken arm, or toothache, or the flu – but things which affect our mind are harder to come to terms with.


Yet our mind can suffer just like the rest of us and depression is a clearly defined medical condition which responds to treatment. So what is it?


Clinical depression is a serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Individuals with clinical depression are unable to function as they used to. Often they lose interest in activities that were once enjoyable to them, and feel sad and hopeless for extended periods of time.


Clinical depression is not the same as feeling sad or depressed for a few days and then feeling better. It can affect your body, mood, thoughts, and behaviour. It can change your eating habits, how you feel and think, your ability to work and study, and how you interact with people.


Clinical depression is not a sign of personal weakness, or a condition that can be willed away. Clinically depressed people cannot "pull themselves together" and get better. In fact, clinical depression often interferes with a person's desire or ability to get help. It is a serious illness that lasts for weeks, months and sometimes years. It may even influence someone to contemplate or attempt suicide.



What are the symptoms? What are the causes? Often with this disease they are linked, but some symptoms are:



And some causes are:



When Jezebel's threats reached him v3: Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. Another interpretation of the phrase ‘Elijah was afraid’ is ‘Elijah saw’.

If we can see, do we still need faith?

What does sight do to faith?


Peter walked on the water until he looked from the Lord to the waves he was walking on. When he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord save me!" (Mat 14:30)


While Elijah looked constantly to the Lord, he was not afraid. But when he looked at the danger he was in, his faith deserted him and he told God that he had had enough, and wanted to die. Fortunately God didn’t answer this prayer. We might give up, but God never does.


There are often spiritual causes behind depression. In Elijah’s case:


(1) He was disappointed because he failed to rest his expectations on the Lord. Elijah was expecting revival and reformation, but instead he experienced rejection and a threat against his life. He failed to realize that God was at work regardless of how things appeared to him.


(2) Elijah felt anger and hurt, and that quickly led to self-pity. He was angry at everyone including himself and the Lord. People didn’t care. He had failed. God had let him down, and no one would stand with him in the fight. He was all alone. The trouble is that when our hurt festers into anger and replaces love and endurance, we quickly lose our perspective and begin to imagine things that only reinforce our bad feelings and increase our depression.


(3) Wrong thinking about himself. This is seen if we look at 1 Kings 19:4, 10, and 14. There was the thought that he was indispensable: and poor God, He was left alone with just Elijah. So, suddenly, all became hopeless. Note three things:

  1. He became occupied with his own importance, as seen in verse 19: He replied, "I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty.  .  .  .  I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too". This was basically true, but focusing on this caused him to forget what God had taught him during the last three years.
     
  2. He began to think of himself and his ministry as indispensable to the Lord’s cause. We see this in his words, "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". In other words, ‘there is no one else to maintain your cause, God’. He was ignoring the fact that God is almighty and he always has a remnant (Isaiah 1:9). Though the Lord uses individuals as his instruments, he actually depends on no one.

  3. Finally, he saw himself as an absolute failure, as worthless, as no better than his fathers who had allowed the nation to fall into this condition (verse 4). In other words, he was seeking his significance, the value of his life, from his success in terms of outward results.


If Elijah was suffering depression, what was the cure? Well unfortunately although depression can come on quite suddenly, often the cure will take a period of time to work through. Watch how the Lord handles Elijah’s depression:


(1) Elijah was determined to travel to Horeb (Mount Sion). This was illogical and unnecessary but rather than dissuade him from an obviously wrong course of action, the Lord rejuvenated Elijah physically with rest and nourishment.


(2) He then got Elijah to face his true condition, the real problem. Taking the position of a counsellor, the Lord twice asked Elijah “what are you doing here?” In other words, take stock, think about what you have been doing (vss. 9 and 13).


(3) God spoke to him personally in verses 9, 12, 13, and 15. This illustrates the need to read God’s Word, listen to him, focus on him, and apply the truth.


(4) He got Elijah active and involved in ministry again. Note the “Go back the way you came . . .” in verse 15. When feeling down and depressed, apart from getting needed rest, the temptation is to mope about and do nothing. Doing nothing only reinforces the depression. By the same token, we should never use activity to deaden the pain. Give it to the Lord. Rest, relaxation, and solitude with the Lord need the balance of involvement in work and ministry, but always out of a spirit of faith, never just activity.


(5) God provided Elijah with a companion. He commanded him to find Elisha. Elijah was trying to do too much himself so he had to learn to share the work and burden with others. We must always be prepared to let others share our load and perhaps eventually take our place.


Now let’s return to the passage: verse 3 Elijah was afraid and ran for his life.


Imagine a different scenario: what if Elijah had been a soldier, standing alone against a rebel army; imagine that he had single-handedly defeated the rebels and at the same time gained a major political coup in turning the hearts of the people back to the legitimate government; imagine the praise that would be heaped on him by his commanding officer when Elijah returned triumphant from the battle!


Imagine the reaction of the same army commander when it is discovered that during the following night his prize soldier had received hate mail from the wife of the rebel leader and as a result has now deserted! There is surely only one punishment for desertion in the face of the enemy.


Although God is quite ruthless in his attacks against the forces of evil, the way he treats his own people is amazingly gentle, loving and kind. He loved Elijah as he stood by the smoking rock on Carmel, he loved him just the same as now exhausted physically, mentally and spiritually, Elijah falls asleep under the broom tree. (V5)


God’s aim was not to condemn or punish him – as always it was to heal and restore him. So verses 5 and 6: All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.


Twice an angel is commanded to prepare a meal for him – but then what?

The angel touched him.

In what way might we physically reach out to someone who feels they have failed?

Holding a hand, an arm around the shoulders, a hug, a kiss.

What does the physical touch convey?

Acceptance, love.

Why is it different to just words spoken?


So there was no rebuke, no threat, no condemnation or rejection, only sleep and food and acceptance – exactly what Elijah needed for the next step in his journey. Rather like the time in the New Testament when Jesus prepared breakfast for a group of despondent disciples who, with their leader taken from them, had gone back to their old way of life and then, to cap it all, found that now they couldn’t even catch any fish.


Actually, let’s look at that passage for a moment:

John 21:1-14

1 Afterwards Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias. It happened this way: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together.
3 “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.


Imagine the thoughts of those Disciples. Cold, tired, hungry, wet, in the dark, and all the time the weight of the loss of Jesus heavy upon them. And now they can’t even catch fish.


4 Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realise that it was Jesus.

5 He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”

“No,” they answered.

6 He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

7 Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. 8 The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. 9 When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.

10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.”

11 Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.


Were the Disciples rebuked for going back to their old occupation?

No.

Was it legitimate for them to do it?

Yes.

Was it a sensible thing to do?

Yes.


But Jesus used it to demonstrate that without him, and in our own strength, we may find that we are unable to do those things that we may consider to be quite simple. But he had to teach them that now, even though he had been crucified, the risen Lord can help in those same simple tasks – and produce amazing results.


Look at verses 6 and 11:

6 He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

11 Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153.

For those fishermen, 153 fish was nothing special. But we are told that they couldn’t haul the net in, it was too heavy (v6). And why count them so specifically? – it doesn’t say: ‘about 150 fish’. The answer lies in our understanding of the word ‘large’. I have always imagined the sort of large fish you might see on the fishmonger’s counter.


My wife and I had a holiday in Israel, and we had a trip across the sea of Galilee on a big pleasure boat. Half way across, the boat stopped, the captain stripped to his shorts, and dived overboard. He had seen a fish, floating on the surface – not dead, but dying. He grabbed the fish which struggled half-heartedly, and with the help from the rest of some other members of the crew,  managed to get it on board. It was quite a fat fish, rather like a carp, but it was about three feet long.


We were amazed to think that anything grew that size – and if I caught a net full of those, I would certainly have counted them!


For the Disciples, and particularly Peter who had not only denied Jesus but had also led the other Disciples in this failed fishing trip, the lesson was that Jesus hadn’t left them; and with his help, even normal day-to-day tasks could be miraculously transformed. Having fed and encouraged them all, Jesus then went on to re-commission Peter. (John 21:15-19)


Perhaps sometimes we feel that in some way we have let the Lord down, and because of that, he can no longer trust us or want to use us in his service. What is the worst error in thinking like that? It’s the error of bringing God down to our level – thinking that he will react in the same way that we would; limiting his power and the extent of his love.


One of the reasons that the Bible records the failures of God’s people is to show that all the time, God is looking for their restoration – the father looking down the road every day, waiting for the prodigal son to return. More than that, if ordinary methods fail, he is quite prepared to use extraordinary ones.


What extraordinary things has God used so far in Elijah’s life?


Kerith itself, with water still in it.

Ravens – bread and meat

Zarephath – widow – meal and oil

Restoring a dead boy

Protection

Boldness in front of Ahab and his men

Fire from heaven

Rain


As we continue we will find that the level of extraordinary-ness is about to go up!





1 Kings Elijah 131 Kings Elijah 15








ELIJAH 14   1 Kings 19:1-9 Depression. God’s gentle restoration. Big fish

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