1 Kings 19:5-9


Sermon preached on October 14, 2007 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2007. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

There's a story about gratitude that I like. It's probably fictional but it shows what human nature is like. It involved a young boy who fell into the water among some ships at the dock in Plymouth, England. A nearby sailor jumped into the water and pulled him out, saving his life. A few days later this sailor was accosted by a woman who asked,

"Are you the man who picked my son out of the dock the other night?"



The sailor replied modestly,

"That is true ma'am." "Ah," said the woman, "you are the man I am looking for. Where is his cap?"



The boy had apparently been wearing a cap when he fell in the water and she wasn't happy with the sailor that he hadn't retrieved that along with her son.

That might be considered the height of ingratitude. We would have expected that she would have been profuse in her thanks to the sailor and would have had something good for him. But there was not a word of thanks and no reward for his good deed. Instead there was a criticism.

Not one of us would think that we would be like that. But are we like that towards God? Do any of us realize the extent of His grace toward us and thank and praise Him for it like we should?

I don't think we do. God's grace to us is incredible, reaching beyond our requests and our comprehension. This morning I want to look at God's grace to Elijah in the hope that it will open our eyes to understand more of the extent of God's grace to us.

The main thing we see here is

God's great grace to Elijah when he was in a state of sin.

Elijah had sinned. When he heard Jezebel's threat he became afraid and abandoned his post. He was discouraged and asked God if he could die.

But rather than punish him for his sin, God went to him in grace. This happens so often. So many times God does not punish us for our sins, but instead treats us with grace.

The famous verse from
Psalm 103 speaks of God and says, (verse 10)

"he does not treat us
as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities."

God treats us with mercy and kindness. He does not at all treat us as our sins deserve. We see the same thing in Lamentations 3:22-23. Jeremiah declared,

"Because of the LORD'S great love
we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness."

If God treated us as our sins deserved we would be going from misery to misery. God treats us much better than we deserve. An interesting passage in this regard is Leviticus 26:21. God said to the people of Israel,

"If you remain hostile toward me
and refuse to listen to me,
I will multiply your afflictions
seven times over,
as your sins deserve."

I don't believe we should take the number seven there literally, as seven is a symbolic number, signifying completeness, fullness. Yet the implication is that God was treating His sinful people much, much better than they deserved.

Consider God's grace to Elijah.

First, God did not give Elijah what he asked for—death.

Elijah asked for God to take his life. But God did not grant Elijah's request. He had plans for Elijah, plans to take him up to heaven in a whirlwind. And that's what God did for Elijah. He ignored his request to die. God had something far better in store for Elijah.

What grace God showed to Elijah in not giving him what he asked for, in reserving something far better for him.

There are two lessons for us here.

First,

how thankful we ought to be that Jesus is the Good Shepherd and that He leads us.

Trust Him. Trust His leading.

How often we set our hearts on things that are not good for us. How often we ask for things that are not good for us.
Lot saw that the whole plain of Jordan was well watered and he chose to live in Sodom. But that wasn't good for Him. God rescued him from Sodom before it was destroyed. Lot was wrong to set his heart on the area of Sodom.

Joseph's brothers hated Joseph. Some of them wanted to kill him. Some of them wanted him to live out his years as a slave. They wanted Joseph out of their lives for good. Yet, as it worked out, if it wasn't for Joseph, they would have perished. He ended up saving them.

In the wilderness some of the people wanted to go back to Egypt. After the spies explored the land and said that the people who lived there were giants—some of the people wanted to stone Moses and Aaron and chose a new leader to bring them back to Egypt.

Peter asked to be cursed when he denied the Lord. How thankful that God did not grant His request.

How good for us that God doesn't give us what we sometimes desire or ask for. How true Proverbs 16:25 is!

"There is a way that seems right to a man,
but in the end it leads to death."

You Christians have a Good Shepherd, in whom, according to Colossians 2:2-3,

"are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge."

Trust Him. In Isaiah 55:8-9 God said,

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,
declares the LORD.
As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."

In Romans 8:28 we read about His plan.

"And we know that in all things
God works for the good of those who love him,
who have been called according to his purpose."

Isaiah 40:11 speaks of the leadership of our great Savior. It says,

"He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young."

Christians, trust Him.

Secondly, there's a great lesson here about how we should treat other people.

We've all heard the expression,

"He asked for it."



That's usually in a context of someone suffering because of something that they did wrong. Their sin was blatant, so much so that when it turned on them and bit them, we say that they were asking for it and they got it. So we say, "He asked for it."

That expression is usually used by unsympathetic people as an excuse for their uncaring, unloving attitude. It's like we don't have to feel sorry for them because they asked for it.

Thankfully, that's not the way that God treats us. You and I have asked for a lot of bad things that we haven't gotten. We've sinned and, and far as punishment has gone, have 'asked for it'—but God has not given it to us. Rather than treating us as we asked, He treated us with forgiveness, kindness, love and grace.

That's the way that you should treat people who have asked for it. Don't treat them as they deserve. Don't give them what they ask for. Rather, treat them with love and kindness. As Jesus said in Matthew 5:43-48,

"You have heard that it was said,
'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'
But I tell you: Love your enemies,
bless those who curse you,
do good to those who hate you,
and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.
He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good,
and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
If you love those who love you,
what reward will you get?
Are not even the tax collectors doing that?
And if you greet only your brothers,
what are you doing more than others?
Do not even pagans do that?"

The second thing we see about God's grace to Elijah here is that

He sent an angel to help Elijah.

God dispatched an angel to minister to Elijah. An angel came and woke him up and provided him with a meal. Arthur Pink writes, (Elijah, p. 221)

"Not only did Elijah receive unmistakable proof of the constancy of God's love at this time, but it was manifested in a specially tender manner. He had drunk of the brook Cherith, but never of water drawn by angelic hands from the river of God. He had eaten of bread foraged for him by ravens and of meal multiplied by a miracle, but never of cakes manufactured by celestial fingers."



Pink goes on to say that this incident reminds him of the scene portrayed in John 21, (p. 222)

"where we behold a breakfast prepared by the risen Savior and a fire of coals to warm the wet seamen; and He did this for the very men, who, on the night of his betrayal, all forsook Him and fled, and who refused to believe in His triumph when the women told them of the empty tomb and of His appearing to them in tangible form!"



How remarkable that Jesus did that. What grace Jesus gives to sinners. There are three lessons for us here.

First, Christians,

when you're down, when you feel terrible because you have sinned or done something wrong—you should remember this.

God loves His people even after they sin. He loves us with an everlasting love. (Jeremiah 31:3) He has promised that He will never leave us and never forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5) The Bible tells us that Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever. God doesn't change. His love for us doesn't change—even when we are sinful and rebellious. Jesus is not a fair weather friend. Arthur Pink writes, (Elijah, p. 218)

"Though Elijah had fled from his post of duty, the Lord did not now desert the prophet:"



Jesus loved Elijah even when he abandoned his post. Jesus loved Jonah even when he ran away from his calling. Jesus loved Peter even when he was denying Him and calling down curses on himself.

(I'm not saying that so that anyone will look lightly on sin and plan to commit some sin. If someone thinks in those terms I would doubt very much that they know the Lord at all.)

Christians, recognize that Christ's love for you is not based on your obedience to Him. Arthur Pink writes, (p. 220)

"grace… takes no account of our worthiness or unworthiness, of our undeservedness, or ill-deservedness. No, grace is free and sovereign and looks not outside itself for the motive of its exercise."


After Christians sin, they're very vulnerable. At that point Satan will emphasize that you're no good, that you've been fooling yourself about being a Christian, and that God doesn't care about you because of your sin.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus said if a man has 100 sheep and one goes astray, he will leave the 99 and go and find the one what is missing. Jesus is the Good Shepherd. If we go astray, He still loves us and will come for us. He will come for us to help, to refresh, to bring us back to the right way. Arthur Pink wrote, (Elijah p. 221)

"Most necessary is it for our peace and comfort to know and believe that the love of God abides unchanging as Himself."



Secondly, when you sin, you need to realize that God is helping you in ways that you may not even see.

Elijah saw this angel. But normally we don't see and aren't aware of the ministry of angels on our behalf. Hebrews 1:14 provides the proper balance. It says,

"Are not all angels ministering spirits
sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?"

Angels serve us. They have been sent by God to serve us. We need to recognize that ministry and thank God for it.

In the Scripture we have many instances of angels helping the saints. In Genesis we read that angels rescued
Lot from Sodom. You'll remember that at Dothan, when the Syrian army came to capture the prophet Elisha, he told his servant, (2 Kings 6:16-17)

"Don't be afraid.
Those who are with us are more
than those who are with them."

Then Elisha prayed,

"'O LORD, open his eyes so he may see.'
Then the LORD opened the servant's eyes,
and he looked and saw the hills
full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha."

In Daniel we read that an angel protected Daniel while he was in the lion's den.

In the gospels we read that angels told Mary and Joseph about the upcoming birth of our Savior. Angels announced his birth to the shepherds. An angel warned Joseph to flee to Egypt and told him when it was safe to return. Angels were at the empty tomb and told the disciples that Jesus was risen. In Acts we read that when Jesus ascended into heaven, angels told the disciples that Jesus would come back the same way they saw Him go into heaven. In
Acts 12 we read about an angel leading Peter out of prison to safety. In that same chapter we read about an angel striking Herod so that he died. Thus the church was protected from his murderous plans. In Acts 27 we read that an angel told Paul that he would survive the great storm that engulfed the ship and would testify about Jesus before Caesar.

In
Matthew 18:10 Jesus warned people about despising His little ones. He said,

"See that you do not look down on one of these little ones.
For I tell you that their angels in heaven
always see the face of my Father in heaven."

In the parable of Lazarus and the rich man Jesus said, (Luke 16:22)

"The time came when the beggar died
and the angels carried him to Abraham's side."

In Revelation 7:1-3 we read,

"After this I saw four angels
standing at the four corners of the earth,
holding back the four winds of the earth
to prevent any wind from blowing
on the land or on the sea or on any tree.
Then I saw another angel coming up from the east,
having the seal of the living God.
He called out in a loud voice to the four angels
who had been given power to harm
the land and the sea:
Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees
until we put a seal on the foreheads
of the servants of our God."

What we must remember is that there is a great spiritual war going on. We see only part of it—that which is visible to our eyes. But we must not forget what Jesus said to Peter, (Luke 22:31)

"Simon, Simon, Satan has asked
to sift you as wheat."

We must remember Peter's words, (1Peter 5:8)

"Be self-controlled and alert.
Your enemy the devil prowls around
like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour."

In 1 Thessalonians 2:18 the apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonian Christians,

"For we wanted to come to you—
certainly I, Paul, did, again and again—
but Satan stopped us."

Spiritual forces of evil are arrayed against us. As Paul warned us in Ephesians 6:11-12,

"Put on the full armor of God
so that you can take your stand
against the devil's schemes.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood,
but against the rulers, against the authorities,
against the powers of this dark world
and against the spiritual forces of evil
in the heavenly realms."

Spiritual forces are arrayed against us. How thankful that spiritual forces are also arrayed for us. You do not see them. But they are there.

How thankful we ought to be for that. Elijah was part of that great struggle. At this particular point he was discouraged and disheartened. God sent an angel to help him. What grace God gave Elijah.

Thirdly, this teaches us that you should not refuse to stoop to help someone who has sinned, someone who has messed up.

We're lower than the angels. Yet they are sent to serve us and they do not shrink from that duty even when we have sinned. If that's the case, you should not shrink to serve those who have messed up and gotten themselves into difficulty. Jesus stooped to help us—we should not refuse to stoop to help others.

The third point that we see in our text is that God gave grace to Elijah

in enabling him to prefigure Christ.

In the New Testament we read that the teachers of the law said that the Messiah would not come until Elijah came first. (Matthew 17:10) To that Jesus replied,

"To be sure,
Elijah comes and will restore all things.
But I tell you,
Elijah has already come,
and they did not recognize him,
but have done to him everything they wished.
In the same way the Son of Man
is going to suffer at their hands."

Elijah prefigured Christ. He took 40 days to get to Horeb. In the Bible the number 40 is significant. A quick word search will show you that. There are so many connections with the number 40. But for our purposes we should remember that the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, one year for each day that the spies were in the land.

It's interesting that according to Deuteronomy 1:2 it takes
eleven days to go from Horeb to Kadesh Barnea. Elijah was near Beersheba when he began this journey, and Beersheba about 40 miles from Kadesh Barnea, which should only be a three or four day journey. So it appears that Elijah took about 3 times longer to get to Horeb than he should have. M.B. Van't Veer writes, (My God is Yahweh, p. 367)

"We must therefore conclude that Elijah was wandering in the wilderness."



Elijah seems to have retraced some of the journey of the Israelites in the wilderness. He then come to Horeb, the mountain of God.

We should also remember that Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Spirit and that He fasted for 40 days and nights before He was tempted by the devil. He then left the wilderness and preached in Galilee, most notably delivering the Sermon on the Mount.

Now, I don't know the full significance of these things—but I will say that Elijah was prefiguring Christ and also that He was retracing the steps of the Israelites in the wilderness.

I'm sure that some of this was to help Elijah. He was reminded of the Israelites sin. He was reminded that God did bring His people to the promised land. He was reminded that He, like Moses, was not able to do that—only God could do it. But God is faithful and He did do it.

Elijah retraced their steps. His doing so reminds me of Hebrews 12:1. We read,

"Therefore, since we are surrounded
by such a great cloud of witnesses,
let us throw off everything that hinders
and the sin that so easily entangles,
and let us run with perseverance
the race marked out for us."

He goes on to tell us,

"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus,
the author and perfecter of our faith,
who for the joy set before him endured the cross,
scorning its shame,
and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Consider him who endured
such opposition from sinful men,
so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."

God was showing Elijah how He works things out. Elijah did learn the lesson. He was the one who was going to come to prepare the way for the Messiah. John the Baptist was called Elijah. But the reference to Elijah was not exhausted in him. Elijah became known as the restorer of all things. Elijah's forty days in the wilderness was a throwback to the spies exploring the land of Canaan and Israel's forty years in the wilderness because of their sin. His forty days was a prefigure of Christ in the wilderness—after which Jesus did battle with the devil and won a great victory over him. Jesus won the promised land for us. Elijah prefigured these things. What grace God gave to him.

Christians, love Jesus. Trust Him. He does not treat us as our sins deserve.

Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians, this shows you

how much you need grace.

Elijah was a great man. He was a great prophet. But he would have been lost without grace. The same is true of you. You need Jesus. You need His grace to save you. Without it you'll be lost. Go to Jesus now.