Explore the Bible Study: Hope

11:42 AM

 

Many of us have at least thought about walking away from a job at some point. The stress, conflict with a coworker, customers who are never pleased, or a lack of appreciation can cause us to daydream about walking away. Add to that the situations we personally face or that we observe in our culture, and we might be tempted to pack our things and escape to a place where life is simpler. The prophet Elijah had one of those moments; then God spoke to Him. The Explore the Bible Study: Hope, will focus on how Elijah’s experience might help you continue to remain faithful to Christ, with hope, even though the pressures of life might tempt us to quit.

After Elijah confronted the prophets of Baal, God displayed His amazing power. One would think that Elijah would have walked away from this with a new confidence in God but, as many do, he struggled because he faced ongoing pressures, threats, and challenges to his faith.

1 Kings 19:1-3 tells us what happens to Elijah next: Ahab told Jezebel everything that Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “May the gods punish me and do so severely if I don’t make your life like the life of one of them by this time tomorrow!” 3 Then Elijah became afraid and immediately ran for his life. (CSB)

Elijah, the one who boldly and faithfully challenged the prophets of Baal, the one who God used to call down fire to consume the sacrifice, the one who God used to purge Israel of the Baal prophets, was now so afraid that he fled. As he was fleeing, God continued to comfort and encourage him; yet he continued to run. Finally, he quit running, and hid in a cave located on Mount Horeb. This is where we can learn how God works when we are tempted to give up and quit.

Elijah was honest with God when he felt alone and afraid – 1 Kings 19:9-10

When Elijah decided to quit because he was afraid, he ran.  His running took him on a journey from Jezreel to Mount Horeb--about 340 miles--to escape Israel’s evil queen, Jezebel. While he found a cave in which to hide, he couldn’t hide from God. Notice that God came to him with questions instead of accusations. Most interpreters believe the question challenged Elijah’s faith.

Elijah naturally had hoped the contest on Mount Carmel would bring spiritual renewal, but clearly it had not. Instead of seeing Israel turn back to God, they rejected God further. Instead of turning the hearts of King Ahab and his queen, Queen Jezebel pursued Elijah with the intent to kill him.

What did Elijah leave out of his response to the questions from the word of the Lord? Did he include any of the things God had done? Would you describe Elijah’s response as self-centered? What did Elijah want from God?

What was wrong with Elijah’s perspective and expectations? (He expected a different outcome. Is this wrong?)

How can we avoid feeling and responding to God as Elijah did?

Believers can feel alone when they are discouraged, afraid, or face opposition. Indeed, spiritual low points can follow spiritual high points. Nevertheless, we must remember God is always with us. We are not alone, as Elijah soon would discover.

When we feel alone God will speak – 1 Kings 19:11-14

While God demonstrated His power in the wind, earthquake, and fire, it wasn’t the way God would speak to Elijah. It would be through a soft whisper! When Elijah heard the soft, whispering voice, he wrapped his face in his mantle, probably to humbly cover himself before God. Then God asked the same question again, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” God was challenging Elijah to consider his actions. The God who had protected him on Mount Carmel was still with him. Elijah’s response suggests that he still didn’t get it!

When we are fearful and discouraged and God speaks to us, how easy is it to still not “get it”? Would you “get it” after God demonstrated His power to Elijah or would you still be afraid?

God pursued Elijah and met him when he really needed Him. Perhaps you are experiencing the same feelings Elijah did because of life’s circumstances. While God demonstrates His power to us every day, He desires to speak to those who love Him in ways that bring comfort and perspective. It is those still, quiet moments when we should realize God is holy, yet is speaking to us personally regarding our circumstances. Hopefully when He speaks, we will “get it” and be comforted and renew our trust in Him.

You can’t stay where you are when God speaks – 1 Kings 19:15-18

God said, "go back the way you came." While God comforted Elijah, God challenged Elijah to continue to serve Him, no matter the difficulties:

  • He said "go and return by the way you came." Elijah’s journey to Mount Horeb had encompassed approximately three hundred and forty miles. His return trip would require him to journey about four hundred miles.
  • Elijah was to anoint Hazael as king over Aram (modern day Syria). This task implies God’s power even over nations that did not recognize His sovereignty.
  • The Lord instructed Elijah, "anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel." God used Jehu to exterminate Ahab’s rebellious line (2 Kings 9–10). However, Jehu would commit much evil as well, going beyond God’s commands. 
  • The Lord instructed Elijah to anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel-meholah as "prophet in your place." God’s purpose for His people would continue even after Elijah was gone. 

God noted some of the responsibilities each person Elijah anointed would have. These responsibilities would include judgment on people who rejected God.

If you had been Elijah, how difficult would it have been to go back into the environment you just left? How difficult would it be to continue to obey God even though the tasks would be difficult?

God will give you hope

This passage ends with an important statement that should bring comfort to Elijah as he faced the challenges that lay ahead: "I will leave seven thousand in Israel — every knee that has not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him.” (v.18)

How could God’s assurance to Elijah help him to remain strong?

What promises from God give you hope and can help you remain faithful and strong even though you might be discouraged, afraid, or tempted to quit?

According to a Christianity Today article in January of 2022, a lot of churches lost their long-term, reliable, go-to people and were left with no one. That’s been the challenge. According to Gallup, 35 percent of Americans reported volunteering for a religious organization last year, down from 38 percent in 2020 and 44 percent in 2017. 

For some reason, many who professed to follow Christ are now missing. Perhaps they were discouraged like Elijah and just escaped to a cave, or perhaps they didn’t have an authentic relationship with Christ. Only they can answer this question.

Have you ever thought about quitting your job? Quitting your family? Quitting your church? Quitting your relationship with Christ? Have you ever thought about running, hiding, or moving somewhere to escape whatever circumstances you are facing? Has God ever spoken to you when you had those feelings?

The apostle Paul faced hardship and rejection on numerous occasions including when he ministered in Corinth (Acts 18:1-6). Nevertheless, after he had been there some time, the Lord encouraged Paul with the words, “No one will lay a hand on you to hurt you, because I have many people in this city” (Acts 18:10). Encouraged by this, Paul continued to share the gospel. 

When Jesus sent out His disciples to preach, He sent them out in pairs (Luke 10:1). He knew one could support the other and help his fellow disciple to stand strong. In the same way, having others partner with us can encourage us in our own faith journeys. Knowing others are also remaining faithful to God can encourage us when we face discouragement. 

Perhaps in your daily walk with the Lord or in the ministry God has given you, you are seeing little spiritual fruit. Perhaps you are discouraged or even afraid of what you are facing in this world because of your faith. God’s assurance to Elijah reminds us His work is not finished. It was not finished in Elijah’s day, and it is not finished in our day.

The downloadable teaching helps provide more details for this study, along with some tools you can use in guiding a group Bible study. Be sure to use this as a supplement to your study of the Explore the Bible Study resources provided by LifeWay.

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