1 Kings 19:9-10

Sermon preached on October 30, 2007 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2007. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

I remember one beautiful spring day when one of my friends said that he and his buddies were going for a drive and asked me if I wanted to come. I said sure and hopped in the car. It was great getting off campus and being able to see some of the surrounding countryside. After driving around for awhile we pulled into the driveway of this old estate. It was somewhat run down but beautiful nonetheless. When we arrived there was another car in the driveway and I recognized a few of them. We chatted outside for awhile and looked around and I thought that one of the guy's families must have owned it. One of the guys led us to a stairway that went from the outside to the basement. In the basement there was a huge room with lots of old office equipment in it—big filing cabinets, desks and lots of rolls of paper. We looked around for awhile and then, all of a sudden, a couple of guys started trashing the place. They started tipping over filing cabinets and throwing the rolls of paper all around. I was horrified and couldn't believe what they were doing. When I asked them, they just laughed and kept trashing the place. It was horrible. When I saw that they weren't going to stop—I ran outside and started walking down the driveway. Just then my roommate pulled in and I stopped him and told him that we needed to get out of there. We drove away and I never saw the place again.

I was really afraid of getting thrown in jail. I'm sure if the police had come along before I got there I told them that I wasn't involved, that it totally surprised me, they would have replied,

"Yeah, we've heard that before."

I might have gotten thrown into jail, kicked out of school and deported from the country—all because I was in the wrong place.

It's important that we not find ourselves in the wrong place. Elijah knew about that. When he reached Mount Horeb and went into a cave there, God said to him,

"What are you doing here, Elijah?

This morning I want to ask you that question. What are you doing here? Are you in the place that God wants you to be physically? Are you where God wants you to be—so that you can serve Him and bring glory to His name. But I also want to consider it on a higher level. What are you doing here? Are you in the place where God wants you to be spiritually? These are important questions because if you're going to hear words of commendation from our Lord on the last day—words like,

"Well done, good and faithful servant…"

you need to be serving Him well in the right place.

God's question to Elijah here is best taken as a rebuke. Elijah had abandoned his post. When he was in Zarephath God had told him to go back to Israel. He had done so but when Queen Jezebel threatened his life he fled and left the land of Israel. He had no warrant for doing so. Elijah shouldn't have been there. He should have been in Israel.
Matthew Henry writes on God's question, 'What are you doing here, Elijah?"

"This is a reproof, 1. For his fleeing hither. "What brings thee so far from home? Dost thou flee from Jezebel? Couldst thou not depend upon almighty power for thy protection? … 2. For his fixing here. "What doest thou here, in this cave? Is this a place for a prophet of the Lord to lodge in? Is this a time for such men to retreat, when the public has such need of them?"

The thing about being in the wrong place is that it's bad. It's never good. It's bad for you. It's bad for other people and it's bad for God's kingdom.

But before I begin, I do want to make one
disclaimer so that no one will misunderstand my point here. I'm going to be speaking about being in the wrong place—but by that I don't want anyone to think that there is no place that doesn't belong to the Lord and can't be redeemed by Him. As we read in Psalm 24:1,

"The earth is the LORD'S,
and everything in it,
the world,
and all who live in it;"

God owns this earth. It is His. It was all created for His glory. He is redeeming it. The whole creation is groaning, waiting (Romans 8:19)

"in eager expectation
for the sons of God to be revealed."

It is going to be made new. Thus in 1 Corinthians 10:25-26 the apostle Paul could write,

"Eat anything sold in the meat market
without raising questions of conscience,
'The earth is the Lord's,
and everything in it."

So we are to be looking to redeem this world. We can go anywhere and preach the gospel. In Revelation 2:13 Jesus commended the church in Pergamum and said,

"I know where you live—
where Satan has his throne.
Yet you remain true to my name.
You did not renounce your faith in me,
even in the days of Antipas,
my faithful witness,
who was put to death in your city—
where Satan lives."

They lived in the midst of great evil and were proclaiming the gospel there. Jesus commended them for it.

So today I'm not suggesting that we have to limit ourselves and where we go with the gospel. I'm more suggesting that we examine ourselves to see if we're where God wants us—not only physically, but as it relates to our spiritual well being.

So let's look at the Lord's question to Elijah and see what lessons we can learn from it.

The great lesson we learn from it is that

you should never be in the wrong place because being in the wrong place can lead you into sin.

We see that with King David. Do you remember how the chapter that details his sin with Bathsheba begins? 2 Samuel 11 starts with these words,

"In the spring,
at the time when kings go off to war,
David sent Joab out with the king's men
and the whole Israelite army.
They destroyed the Ammonites
and besieged Rabbah.
But David remained in Jerusalem."

That's verse 1. The very next words are, (verse 2)

"One evening David got up from his bed
and walked around on the roof of the palace.
From the roof he saw a woman bathing.
The woman was very beautiful…"

The implication seems to be that David should have been out with his troops. He was in the wrong place. That led to his adultery with Bathsheba.

So much better was
Joseph. When Potiphar's wife had eyes for him he took steps to ensure that he was never alone with her. In Genesis 39:10 we read,

"And though she spoke to Joseph day after day,
he refused to go to bed with her
or even be with her."

Joseph took steps to make ensure that he was never in the wrong place, as far as Potiphar's wife was concerned.

Lot's wife? She was in the wrong place. She lived in Sodom. She looked back at Sodom. She had set her heart on things or people in Sodom. It led to her being turned into a pillar of salt. You need to be very careful about being in the wrong place. It can so easily lead to other sins.

Now with Elijah it's a little more complicated. Being in the wrong place wasn't the beginning of his sin. It was fear that led to him it. But in essence when he fled from Jezebel and went into the desert a days journey he put himself in the wrong place.
And that contributed to other sins. He left Israel and the next thing we know he's discouraged. He asks to die.

He mistakenly thinks that he's the only one left who is faithful to God. He doesn't give Obadiah and the other faithful credit. The Lord has to tell him that He has 7000 who have not bowed the knee to Baal. If he had stayed in Israel he would have known that.

Elijah doesn't want to do any more work for the Lord. He mistakenly thinks that God has no more work for him to do—yet God has plans for Elijah to anoint Hazael as king of Syria, Jehu as king of Israel, Elisha as his successor, etc. etc. God still had lots for Elijah to do. If he was as zealous for God as he thought he was—he wouldn't have been asking God to take his life.

Thus we see that

if you commit one sin, it will almost inevitably lead to another.

Being in the wrong place can lead you into other sins.

One of the great problems we as fallen human beings have is that we look on sin as being isolated. We have the idea that we can commit one sin, and that it won't lead to others. That's what David seemed to think. He didn't go to war with his men as he should have. When he couldn't sleep and he went up on his roof and he saw Bathsheba bathing. Perhaps he intended to commit just one sin. He looked lustfully at Bathsheba. Perhaps he thought that it wouldn't go any farther than that. One look. But once he gave into it, it lead to adultery. Then it led him to trying to cover up. He led to him trying to get Uriah drunk. It led to him having Uriah murdered.

The way many people view sin is that it's separate from us and isolated from other sins. Their viewpoint is that committing a sin is like picking an item to eat out of the refrigerator. You open the door, put the one item you want out, and take it out of the refrigerator and eat it.

But that's not the way it is with sin.
You don't take a hold of sin—sin takes a hold of you. Choosing to commit one sin is like picking an alligator in a pool full of alligators. Thinking that sins are isolated is like going to the edge of that pool and trying to coach one alligator out, imagining that he was friendly and would cuddle up to you like a little kitten. No, that alligator will leap out of the water, grab you and drag you back into the pool with all the other alligators. You're not only in danger from him—but also from all the other alligators.

Sins are not isolated. When you choose to commit one, there are others that are clinging to it. Did you ever go walking in a field and afterwards find that your pant legs had some
burrs on them. Sometimes there will be two or three stuck together. The best way to get them off is to pick the whole bunch off because the individual burrs really stick together. That's what sin is like.

Don't look on sins as things that are isolated from one another. As
Sir Walter Scott wrote,

"Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practice to deceive."

The second great lesson we see from our text is that

you always need to keep your eyes on the Lord, and be assured that He knows what He is doing and that you need to trust His leading.

There's something very important that Elijah lost sight of when he went out into the desert—that God is God.

Elijah was in the desert, disheartened, discouraged. He had given up. He was so disappointed by how things had worked out. He was in the wrong place—so God brought him to Horeb, the mountain of God. There He reminded Elijah that He is the lawgiver. He is the Lord. It is His right to make the rules. What He says goes. In the desert Elijah was in the wrong place. He had abandoned his post. He was discouraged. But here at Horeb He is brought face to face with the reality of God's rule.

Remember how the law was given? The people were near the foot of the mountain. They were warned not to go up on the mountain or touch the foot of it. We read, (Exodus 19:16-19)

"On the morning of the third day
there was thunder and lightning,
with a thick cloud over the mountain,
and a very loud trumpet blast.
Everyone in the camp trembled.
Then Moses led the people out of the camp
to meet with God,
and they stood at the foot of the mountain.
Mount Sinai was covered with smoke,
because the LORD descended on it in fire.
The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace,
the whole mountain trembled violently,
and the sound of the trumpet
grew louder and louder."

God was showing that He was powerful, holy, majestic and full of glory. But even more than that—when He gave the law He was showing His character and one of the things that He showed was that He is full of wisdom and knowledge. He knows what is best for us. His words are our life.

Christians, as you live your life you are to keep this in mind. God knows what He is doing. Jesus described Himself as the Good Shepherd. In
Colossians 2:3 the apostle Paul told us that in Christ,

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

Christians—remember that. If that's the case there is never an occasion to be discouraged. Jesus rules. He is bringing everything to it's proper end. In the end He will received glory and honor.

One of the great things Elijah teaches us here is that as Christians the eyes of our faith must always be open.

Even when he was at his lowest, asking God to take his life—there was much that was commendable in Elijah. He had been extremely zealous for the Lord and His glory. Part of the reason he was discouraged was because the people of Israel were not honoring God. You can't say that he didn't have the big picture in mind—because he did.

But he temporarily lost sight of the fact that God had a glorious plan and that what was happening to him was part of that plan.

Christians, you need to be everything that God wants you to be, everything that He has called you to be.

Christians, there are so many ways for you to mess up.

It's not enough to be zealous for God
—Elijah was that. But he wasn't in the right place and that led to the sin of discouragement.

But it's not even enough to be in the right place doing the right thing. Jonah eventually went to Nineveh and warned them about the city's impending destruction. But he was disappointed when God spared the city. His will was not one with God's will.

It's not enough to love God passionately. Peter loved Jesus and didn't want Him to die on the cross. (Matthew 16) Even in the midst of all of Peter's love for Jesus—Jesus had to rebuke him and tell him that Satan was using him.

It's not enough to be
fearless for three and a half years and then give in to fear when Jezebel threatens you. You need to persevere in fearlessness.

It's not enough to be zealous, to be in the right place, to love God. All of those things are good. But they're not enough. You need all of those characteristics and all the others that God has commanded you to have.

You Christians need to be well rounded, balanced—knowing God's Word and implementing every part of it into your life.

Part of our problem is that we're like Elijah in his weakness. We think that we've done enough. We love God. We've been zealous for him in some things. We've worked hard in some ways. But there are some things that we haven't wanted to face—just like Elijah didn't want to face Jezebel.

Are there commands of God that you haven't wanted to face?

For example, are you hospitable? The Bible commands Christians to exercise hospitality. But many Christians ignore such commands. Perhaps they rationalize it by thinking,

"If God wanted me to serve in such a way, God would have gifted me with the spiritual gifts that I need to exercise those gifts."

But the fact is that if God commands you to do something—He gives you the ability to carry it out. In other words, God has gifted you enough.

Moses didn't think he was qualified to lead the people of Israel. Remember his excuses. He said that he wasn't eloquent. But God replied, (Exodus 4:11-12)

"Who gave man his mouth?
Who makes him deaf or mute?
Who gives him sight or makes him blind?
Is it not I, the LORD?
Now go; I will help you speak
and will teach you what to say."

If you're not a good cook—get take out and serve it to your gusts.

Or perhaps you're a Christian who doesn't go to church very much. Not long ago a friend told me about an old acquaintance. She said that he's a devout Christian—but that he doesn't go to church. He doesn't obey all of God's commands. He ignores Hebrews 10:25 which says,

"Let us not give up meeting together,
as some are in the habit of doing,
but let us encourage one another—
and all the more
as you see the Day approaching."

Or perhaps you're a Christian who doesn't give to the church. From everything I know, our church is in good financial shape. I'm not saying this because the church needs more money. If you think that, or don't believe me- send your money directly to some missionary, or some other worthy Christian cause, like the Gideons. But if you don't think that you can afford to give to the church—consider the poor widow that Jesus commended for putting her last two pennies in the temple treasury. Jesus said that she put in more than anyone! (Mark 12:43) She didn't rob God like the people that Malachi spoke about. (Malachi 3:8)

But what about you? Are there commands in the Bible that you haven't wanted to face?

Can God say to you about some things,

"What are you doing here!"

If you're going to live a successful Christian life, you need to take all of God's commands seriously. You need to be a well rounded Christian. If there are holes in your Christian life that you don't fix—they'll come back to bite you. Obey God. Obey Him in all things.

Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians, I ask you,

what are you doing here?

You're in a good place right now in a physical sense—you're in our church building. That's good. But there are so many other things in your life that are all wrong. What are you doing here on earth? You were created for God's glory. The whole purpose of your existence, your time here on this earth—is to glorify God. You're not doing that. You're not living for Him, you're not praising and thanking Him like you should. What are you doing here? You're missing the boat. You need to repent of your sins and turn from them and go to Jesus—for salvation, for fulfillment, for satisfaction, for true meaning in your life. Do it now. Until you do, let these words ring in your ears, What are you doing here?