1 Kings 19:3-4

Sermon preached on October 07, 2007 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2007. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

When I first became a minister, one of the things I really wished for was a good electric typewriter. I thought it would be great for my work, especially helpful for doing my sermons. I had an old electric typewriter at the time, but it wasn't a very good one and didn't work very well—you couldn't type fast on it and the keys would often get jammed. But, I think it was IBM, had a typewriter that, instead of using individual keys that could get stuck, used a ball to print the letters on the page. Every letter was on the ball, and the ball would just turn a little to print different letters. So the individual keys couldn't get jammed because there weren't any. I may have even priced that typewriter at the time because I have a figure of $1200.00 in my head. Of course I couldn't afford that, but I thought that if I saved for awhile, I would eventually be able to get one of them.

But after two years I saw the first computer with a graphical user interface and how one could cut and paste and get everything on the page exactly as you wanted and then select "Print" and it would print out exactly as it was on the screen. I still remember the first time I saw it demonstrated—and from that moment on I never again wanted a typewriter. I was actually glad that I hadn't been able to afford that expensive typewriter—because if I had bought it and then saw what computers could do with cut and paste—I would have been extremely disappointed.

We have to be careful what we wish for. We have to be very careful what we pray for. The passage before us is very instructive and teaches us much about prayer and the Christian life. We read,

"Elijah was afraid and ran for his life.
When he came to Beersheba in Judah,
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.'"

The first thing this passage teaches us is that

as much as possible, you want to make sure that what you ask for is in line with God's will.

Elijah's prayer was very foolish. He prayed that he might die. What an utterly foolish prayer. God had great plans for Elijah. God had planned it that Elijah wasn't going to die. He was going to be the second man in the history of the world to leave this earth without dying. You'll remember Enoch, the seventh from Adam. In Genesis 5:23-24 we read,

Enoch lived 365 years.
Enoch walked with God;
then he was no more,
because God took him away."

Elijah was going to be only the second person in the world not to experience death. God had plans for him to be taken up into heaven in a whirlwind, in a chariot of fire. In 2 Kings 2:11-12 we read about Elijah's transition. He and Elisha were walking along together when,

"suddenly a chariot of fire
and horses of fire appeared
and separated the two of them,
and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.
Elisha saw this and cried out,
'My father! My father!
The chariots and horsemen of Israel!'
And Elisha saw him no more."

What a glorious way to leave this earth. How privileged Elijah was. How wonderful for him that he did not have to experience death.

Elijah's being caught up to heaven in a whirlwind was like what Paul described in 1 Corinthians 15 about Christians who will be alive at Christ's second coming. He wrote, (verses 51-54)

"Listen, I tell you a mystery:
We will not all sleep,
but we will all be changed—
in a flash,
in the twinkling of an eye,
at the last trumpet.
For the trumpet will sound,
the dead will be raised imperishable,
and we will be changed.
For the perishable
must clothe itself with the imperishable,
and the mortal with immortality."

Christians who are alive when Christ returns are going to be immediately changed—they are going to be made perfect in both body and soul and they will be like Christ. As Paul wrote in Philippians 3:20-21,

"But our citizenship is in heaven.
And we eagerly await a Savior from there,
the Lord Jesus Christ,
who, by the power that enables him
to bring everything under his control,
will transform our lowly bodies
so that they will be like his glorious body."

What a glorious day that will be. What we should understand is that Elijah's being taken up into heaven in a whirlwind prefigured that.

Because of Christ's work, we who are Christians don't have to fear death. Nevertheless, we need to recognize that it is a great evil. The world today will tell you that death is natural, that it's good, that it makes way for new people and new ideas. But death is not good. It is not natural. It's a great evil. In the Bible it is described in the Bible as an enemy. (1 Corinthians 15:26) Man was not created to die, but to live for ever. Death is the result of sin. In death the soul and body are rent asunder. The body goes into the earth and experiences corruption. For someone who is not a Christian, their soul goes to hell, a place of torment, which is a place for the punishment of their sins. There they await the last day when they, too, will experience the reunion of their bodies and souls. Then there will be the judgment where they are cast into the lake of fire. For them death is certainly not good and natural. Nothing could be further from the truth.

But even for Christians, death does not usher us into a state of completeness. Question 86 of the Larger Catechism asks,

"What is the communion in glory with Christ, which the members of the invisible church enjoy immediately after death?Answer: The communion in glory with Christ, which the members of the invisible church enjoy immediately after death, is, in that their souls are then made perfect in holiness, and received into the highest heavens, where they behold the face of God in light and glory, waiting for the full redemption of their bodies, which even in death continue to be united to Christ, and rest in their graves as in their beds, till at the last day they be again united to their souls."

Christians in heaven are not complete and whole. Their full redemption is not yet. Only on the last day will they be made complete—when their bodies and souls will be reunited.

The vast majority of people in heaven—Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Deborah, Ruth, Samuel, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Peter, Paul, John, Mary, Martha—all of them are there, but they are not yet made whole—their souls are in heaven—but their bodies have returned to dust. Their dust is awaiting the 2
nd coming of Jesus. Only then will the be complete in glory.

In light of this—what a blessing for Elijah that his body and soul were not torn apart and separated. What a blessing for Elijah that his body did not enter a grave and return to dust. But even more than that—apart from Jesus, Enoch and Elijah are among a select few in heaven who are complete and whole, who dwell there with body and soul untied. We know that Jesus, Enoch and Elijah belong to that group. The only others, that I know of, are those that rose from the dead after Jesus' death. Matthew 27:51-53 speaks about the moment of Jesus' death. We read,

"At that moment the curtain of the temple
was torn in two from top to bottom.
The earth shook and the rocks split.
The tombs broke open
and the bodies of many holy people
who had died were raised to life.
They came out of the tombs,
and after Jesus' resurrection
they went into the holy city
and appeared to many people."

We're not told what happened to them after that, but it is certainly possible that they ascended to heaven, both body and soul—and that they are in glory now, united in perfection, like Enoch and Elijah. But we know for sure that Jesus, Enoch and Elijah are like that. What a privilege that Enoch and Elijah enjoy. How blessed they are.

In light of this, this prayer of Elijah has to be one of the most foolish prayers ever.

He asked for death. In doing so he was asking to be deprived of the great glory that God had planned for him. Matthew Henry wrote,

"Our case would be bad sometimes if God should take us at our word and grant us our foolish passionate requests."

So, Christians, be very careful what you ask of God.

How foolish to ask God for something that isn't the best that God has for you—and receive it. How impoverished Elijah would have been if God had given him what he asked for.

We see the same thing in the apostle
Peter. When Jesus told His disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life, Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. He said, (Matthew 16:21-22)

"Never, Lord!
This shall never happen to you!"

If Peter got what he wanted, there would be no salvation for the human race—there would be nothing but eternal suffering and misery for us all.

So we have to be careful what we ask for.

When you ask God for things—ask for the very best things.

By that I mean that you should be asking for things that you know that God wants you to have—that are according to His revealed will.

For example, the opening of the
Lord's Prayer is all about God receiving glory and honor. Jesus said to His disciples, (Matthew 6:9-10)

"This, then,
is how you should pray:
'Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

So what this means is that a lot of your prayers are to be about God's glory—asking for God to honor His name and to glorify His Son, Jesus.

Another example of praying according to God's will is to pray that
God would bless you spiritually so that you will be more useful to Him. In 1 Thessalonians 4:3, Paul wrote, (REB)

"This is the will of God,
that you should be holy:"

Be praying for your sanctification, that you would be more holy. As you read passages of the Scripture that tell you what you are to be like, like the Beatitudes, pray that God would make you like them. Jesus said, (Matthew 5:3-9)

"Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those
who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God."

Or consider what Jesus said in John 13:34-35.

"A new command I give you:
Love one another.
As I have loved you,
so you must love one another."

God wants you to love others as He loves you.

Or consider the apostle Paul's prayer for the Ephesians in Ephesians 1. He said, (verses 17-19)

"I keep asking that
the God of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the glorious Father,
may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation,
so that you may know him better.
I pray also that the eyes of your heart
may be enlightened in order that you may know
the hope to which he has called you,
the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,
and his incomparably great power
for us who believe."

To know God better, to know the hope to which you are called, to know about the riches of your inheritance, to know the power that He exercises on behalf of His church, on our behalf—those are things we absolutely need. Those are things we need to be praying for.

So I ask you, are you praying for such things? Do you wrestle in prayer about them? You should be. These are characteristics that God wants you to have. You need to be asking for them, in abundance.

Or are you praying for earthly, selfish things? There's nothing wrong with pouring out your heart to God and asking Him for the things that you desire, even when they are earthly things. But that should not be our emphasis. If you look at the teaching of Scripture you'll see that it tells us that the emphasis of our prayers is not to be on earthly, temporal things, like health, riches etc. Rather it's to be on spiritual things.

Remember how God responded to
Solomon's request for wisdom? God appeared to Solomon and told him to ask whatever he wanted, that He would grant it. Solomon asked for wisdom, so that he would know how to govern God's people. We read, (1 Kings 3)

"The Lord was pleased
that Solomon had asked for this.
So God said to him,
'Since you have asked for this
and not for long life or wealth for yourself,
nor have asked for the death of your enemies
but for discernment in administering justice,
I will do what you have asked.
I will give you a wise and discerning heart,
so that there will never have been
anyone like you,
nor will there ever be.
Moreover, I will give you
what you have not asked for—
both riches and honor—
so that in your lifetime
you will have no equal among kings.
And if you walk in my ways
and obey my statutes
and commands as David your father did,
I will give you a long life."

When you're praying to God and asking for things—your emphasis should be on His glory, His will—and the good spiritual things you know that He wants you to have.

The second lesson we see here is that

when God doesn't give you what you ask or hope for—don't be discouraged, don't feel disappointed—trust Him.

God may have something better in store for you. He certainly did for Elijah. But Elijah didn't realize that. He said,

"I have had enough, LORD."

He was disheartened and discouraged. He had been so faithful to God, so zealous for Him but now he had had enough.

Have you ever had enough? This life can be hard. One of the things that sticks in my memory about my brother's illness is something he said to me a couple of weeks before his death. I was sitting by his bed reading while he was sleeping. He woke up and had to get up to go to the bathroom. He was in really bad shape, suffering from a lot of pain and discomfort. He said to me,

"Larry, it takes a long time to die."

Death can be long and drawn out. People suffer greatly. Disappointment, discouragement, loneliness and despair can come. People feel like they've had enough. Other people will tell you that you've put up with enough. Job's wife told him to curse God and die. The doctor who treated my brother told him to stop eating. To others, euthanasia may seem like a legitimate option.

But all that's wrong. When you're at your lowest, feeling that you've had enough—remember that God is good and that there is good ahead for you and His people. God had something so much better in mind that what Elijah was asking for. James Montgomery
Boice said this about the circumstances of the illness from which he died,

"God is not only the one who is in charge; God is also good. Everything He does is good. And what Romans 12: 1 and 2 says is that we have the opportunity by the renewal of our minds--that is, how we think about these things--actually to prove what God's will is. And then it says, 'His good, pleasing, and perfect will.' Is that good, pleasing, and perfect to God? Yes, of course, but the point of it is that it's good, pleasing, and perfect to us. If God does something in your life, would you change it? If you'd change it, you'd make it worse. It wouldn't be as good. So that's the way we want to accept it and move forward, and who knows what God will do?"

Trust God. He knows what He's doing. He is wise. He is good. Deliverance will come. As the writer to the Hebrews said, fix your eyes on Jesus, who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross and scorned its shame. Remember that there is joy ahead. No matter what your condition—trust God. Never forget that Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He is leading you to glory.

How thankful to Jesus you ought to be for His work.

Elijah wanted to quit before his work was over. Jesus did not do that and He will not do that. Jesus came to do His work and He kept at it until He uttered the cry on the cross, "It is finished." He paid for our sins. Jesus was not ineffective in His work. As He said in John 6:37-40

"All that the Father gives me will come to me,
and whoever comes to me
I will never drive away.
For I have come down from heaven
not to do my will but to do
the will of him who sent me.
And this is the will of him who sent me,
that I shall lose none of all that he has given me,
but raise them up at the last day."

He will not let you go. On the last day, He will not be alone. You will be with Him. On that day He will say, (Hebrews 2:13)

"Here am I, and the children
God has given me."

The third lesson we see here is that you need to always keep in mind that

your work in the Lord is not in vain.

Elijah was downcast. He said,

"I am no better than my fathers."

We're not sure what Elijah meant by that. But it's related to his discouragement. It's almost like he's saying,

"I'm useless. I'm ineffective. All my work is in vain. No one has believed."

He had wanted to lead the people of Israel back to God. But he had failed. He thought that he was the only one who was faithful to the Lord. He had been very zealous for God and His glory but it seemed to be all for naught. The people remained apostate, unfaithful to God. Elijah felt like a failure.

The problem was that
he was measuring success the wrong way. He was a great hero of the faith. He had done great things for the Lord. He and Moses were the ones that were chosen to appear with the Lord on the Mount of Transfiguration. He was a success. His mission was a success.

How do we as Christians measure success in our mission to evangelize the world? How do we measure success in our congregation? Many people in the church growth movement today measure success by numbers, by positive results. Measured in their terms—Elijah looks like a loser. For all of his work—he thinks that he's the only one that's faithful to God.

If you look at Jesus' work and ministry—at some points it seems like things are not working. At the end of John 6 we read, (verse 66)

"From this time many of his disciples
turned back and no longer followed him."

God has purposes that are sometimes mysterious to us. But what we must remember is that God's Word does not return to Him void. As God said in Isaiah 55:10-11,

"As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower
and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."

God will accomplish His purposes. In Isaiah 6 we see that God sent Isaiah and told him beforehand that his mission was to, (verses 9f)

"Make the heart of this people calloused;
make their ears dull and close their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed."

He was to do that

"Until the cities lie ruined and without inhabitant,
until the houses are left deserted
and the fields ruined and ravaged,
until the LORD has sent everyone far away
and the land is utterly forsaken."

Sometimes God uses His Word to harden, to render people inexcusable. But He does have a plan. And that plan involves saving a great multitude that no man can number and having a new heavens and an new earth. From the beginning of time God's plan has been at work. It was at work in Elijah's mission to Israel. The apostasy of many in Israel served God's purpose. Yet there were 7000 who had not bowed the knee to Baal. God preserved a remnant and in His time He sent Jesus.

Elijah had a role in that great purpose. He was successful. The way to measure success in by looking at your obedience and faithfulness to the Lord. Elijah was faithful. He was better than some of his fathers!

The fourth thing I want you to see here is

the great grace of God.

God did not grant Elijah's request. God said, "No," to it. And how good for Elijah that God did so. God had a better way for Elijah to leave this earth.

How weak Elijah was. He didn't know how to pray as he ought. The same is true of us. In
Romans 8:26 Paul wrote,

"We do not know what we ought to pray for,
but the Spirit himself intercedes for us
with groans that words cannot express."

How weak Elijah was. How weak we are. We don't even know what we ought to pray for. How thankful you ought to be for the intercession of the Spirit on your behalf.

Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians, there is a great lesson for you here. Elijah was disappointed. His hopes were dashed. He was discouraged and disheartened. One day those realities will surely come to you.

Unless you turn to Jesus, the end of your life will be filled with disappointment and disillusionment.

For Elijah it was only temporary. God delivered him from it. He was taken up to heaven in a whirlwind.

But for you it will be different—unless you go to Jesus. There will be no escape from the discouragement, from the disappointment, from the disillusionment. There will be no hope. You will perish. Don't let that happen to you. Ask Elijah's God and deliverer to save you. You need Him. Only He can save you. Go to Him today.