The Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost
August 12, 2018
I Kings 19:3-8
Enough is Enough!
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.” Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep. 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. 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.” So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. (NIV1984)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Forget it! I don’t want to do this anymore! Enough is enough! Depending on who you are there are any number of situations that could lead you to think or to say something like that. For some of us our jobs might lead us to say such things. For others it might be school. For still others it might be a relationship that is causing us nothing but heartache. No matter who we are, sooner or later we all tend to come face-to-face with some situation that is so overwhelming that we feel like just giving up, throwing in the towel and locking ourselves in our room with an entire gallon of Breyers ice cream.
While it would be nice to say that such things never happen to us as the dearly beloved adopted children of God we all know it would not be true. Even as Christians there are times when we feel overwhelmed by situations that are completely out of our control. Even as Christians there are times when we become sad— yes, perhaps even depressed. Our text for this morning is proof of that.
Today, my friends, we are going to look back at an event that took place some 2,800 years ago and what we are going to see is that Scripture is absolutely correct when it tells us, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Today we will see how Elijah— one of the Lord’s most powerful prophets— got to a point in his life where he cried out in anguish: Enough is Enough!
Elijah had been given a very difficult ministry to carry out. Elijah had been sent by the Lord to confront and to denounce the people of the northern Kingdom of Israel for turning away from worshiping the true God and worshiping the false god Baal. At the command of the God of heaven Elijah went to King Ahab and said, “As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word” (I Kings 17:1). For the next three years the land of Israel endured a very severe drought and consequently a very severe famine. And yet every day for those three years the Lord God saw to it that Elijah drank from the brook in the Kerith Ravine. Every day for those three years the Lord used ravens to bring Elijah both bread and meat every morning and every evening.
Three years after the drought began Elijah challenged King Ahab to a showdown. The showdown took place on Mount Carmel between Elijah, the prophet of the Living God, and 450 prophets of the false god Baal. You may remember how that showdown turned out. As a prophet of the true God Elijah “won” that showdown and the 450 prophets of Baal were put to death. When King Ahab told Queen Jezebel that her god had lost and that her prophets had been put to death she was beyond furious! She sent word to Elijah that she would personally see to it that he was dead within 24 hours. How did this powerful prophet, the prophet who had been miraculously fed for the last three years, the prophet who had just won this “spectacular showdown” on Mount Carmel, how did this powerful prophet react to Jezebel’s threat? We are told in our text, “Elijah was afraid and ran for his life.” Elijah scurried off into the desert, crawled underneath a broom tree and said, “I have had enough, LORD. Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.”
How could this powerful prophet fall so far so fast? How could Elijah become so depressed that he simply wanted to die? I think it was because Elijah lost his focus! Listen to what Elijah says to the LORD just two verses after our text, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. 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.” Where was Elijah’s focus? Elijah was focused on himself, wasn’t he? And when Elijah focused on himself what did he find? He found fear. He found failure. He found a feeling of futility. That fear, that failure, that feeling of futility led Elijah to cry out: “Enough is enough! Take my life Lord. I am no better than my ancestors.”
There have been times when I have been Elijah, my friends. No, I have never caused a three-year drought. No, I have never been miraculously fed by ravens. No, I have never called down fire from heaven to consume the false idols of this world and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the LORD is God. But there have been times when I have lost my focus. For example, when I was growing up my Grandpa was my buddy. Whether it was riding up to the lake with him or sitting in a boat with him hoping to catch some fish, whether it was out in a field picking strawberries or sitting at his kitchen table enjoying the rhubarb we just picked from his garden— I loved spending time with my Grandpa. When my Grandpa died it felt like a little part of me died along with him. Satan quickly seized that opportunity to invite me to sit under a broom tree and dwell on how much pain I was feeling. Whenever someone does something or says something to hurt one of my children Satan whispers in my ear, “Here is a broom tree just for you.” When I do something or don’t do something, when I say something or don’t say something and one of the members of the congregation gets upset and stops coming to church guess what Satan has waiting just for me? A broom tree! Yes, my friends, there have been times when I have lost my focus, when I have looked inside of myself and found only fear and failure and a feeling of futility, when I have crawled under my own personal little broom tree and said with Elijah, “I have had enough LORD. Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.”
How about you? Have you ever felt like Elijah here in our text? Have you ever gotten to a point in your life where nothing seems to be going right? There are tensions and conflicts at home. There are problems and setbacks at work. Just when you think you are getting a little bit ahead of the bills the car breaks down or the kids need new shoes. You find out that the person that you thought was your friend has been talking trash about you behind your back. Things that you used to love to do, things that you used to be able to do so easily and so well are now almost impossible for you to do because your health is failing. Maybe you’ve started to realize that all those hopes and all those dreams that you had concerning how your life would turn out have somehow evaporated and you don’t know how or even when it happened. Have you ever gotten to a point where you looked inside of yourself and found nothing but fear and failure and a feeling of futility? If so, my friends, remember our text for this morning! This portion of God’s holy Word shows you how to come out from underneath your broom tree!
There are three seemingly minor things in our text that I think are absolutely essential for you to take home with you today. Each of these three things enables and encourages us to look outward instead of inward. Each of these three things empowers us to leave behind our broom tree and live confidently in the light of another tree— the tree of the cross of Jesus Christ. (Pointing to the cross)
The first of these three seemingly minor things is found in verse five and again in verse seven of our text. We read, “All at once an angel touched him…The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him….” When we leave behind the broom tree and live in the light of the tree of the cross, when we look outside of ourselves to what the good Lord has done and can do for us instead of inside of ourselves at what we are unable to do then we are going to see that God still uses His angels to help us. Now while Scripture does indeed teach that we have guardian angels (Matthew 18:10; Hebrews 1:14) I am certainly not going to stand here today and guarantee to you that the next time you are overwhelmed by a feeling of sadness that God is going to send the angel Gabriel down from heaven to cheer you up. What I will say is that if you keep your eyes open you will see “angels” all around you. Your “angel” might come in the form of a trusted Christian friend— someone who can and will help you bear your burdens in life (Galatians 6:2). Your “angel” might come in the form of a person whose smile brightens up your day or someone whose hug quietly reassures you that someone cares. Look for the angels that God sends to you, my friends. They are there! (See Hebrews 13:2)
Now look at verses 6-8 of our text. We are told that God provided Elijah with food and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” Many of you already know where I am going with this one, don’t you! In His grace and in His mercy the good Lord has provided you with the most amazing “food” there is— His holy Word and His holy Sacraments. When we come out from underneath our broom tree and live in the light of the tree of the cross then we know, then we understand, then we experience exactly what Jesus promised us in our Gospel lesson for today when He said, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever” (John 6:51).
When we are overwhelmed by fear God’s holy Word and God’s holy Sacraments focus our hearts on the cross of Jesus Christ and strengthen us for the journey with words such as: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1). When we are overwhelmed by failure God’s holy Word and God’s holy Sacraments focus our hearts on the cross of Jesus Christ and strengthen us for the journey with words such as: “’Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Corinthians 15:55-57). When we are overwhelmed by a feeling of futility God’s holy Word and God’s holy Sacraments focus our hearts on the cross of Jesus Christ and strengthen us for the journey with words such as: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). So if ever you are feeling sad, my friends, come out from under the broom tree and feast on the spiritual food that God Himself has provided for your soul— the food that keeps you focused on the cross of your Savior, food that strengthens you for the journey ahead of you!
Finally, look at verse eight of our text. Where did the Lord have Elijah go? That’s right! Elijah traveled “forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.” You may remember from your own reading and studying of Scripture that when Elijah reached the “mountain of God” the Lord God came down from heaven and spoke to His hurting servant Elijah. Did the Lord God speak to His hurting servant in that powerful wind? Did the Lord God speak to His hurting servant in that earthquake? Did the Lord God speak to His hurting servant in that fire? No, the Lord God spoke to His hurting servant in a “gentle whisper,” in a “still small voice.”
This house of worship is your personal Horeb. This sacred building is your personal “mountain of God.” The hymns, the liturgy, the lessons, the sermons, the people— this is a place where you can always come to hear the “gentle whisper,” the “still small voice” of your God. So if you ever get to a point in your life when God’s voice seems to be getting harder and harder to hear stop by the church. If no one is here to let you in call me on my cell. Come sit quietly in the house of your God and read Psalm 23. Kneel before the altar of the God of heaven and say the Lord’s Prayer. Lift up your eyes to the cross and listen. Listen to the “gentle whisper” of your Savior God as He assures you, “It is finished! Your sins are forgiven!”
There are any number of things in life that can indeed cause us to look inside of ourselves. But when we look inside of ourselves we will easily find fear and failure and a feeling of futility. When we look inside of ourselves we can easily get to a point where like Elijah of old we cry out: Enough is enough! Therefore, my encouragement to you is to consciously strive to look outside of yourself. Focus on what your God has freely done for you. Focus on what your God has graciously given to you. Focus on what your God has lovingly store up waiting for you in His eternal heavenly home. No matter how overwhelmed you might feel don’t crawl under a broom tree. Stand instead at the foot of the tree of the cross and then no matter what is going on in your life you will always be able to say:
To God be the glory!