Week Twenty Seven: 1 Kings 17–19
Reading the daily news reminds us that we live in a day when there “shall be heard of wars and rumors of wars and the whole earth shall be in commotion and men’s hearts shall fail them…”[i] Paul saw our day and described it perfectly: “This know also that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers,… despisers of those that are good, traitors, …lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God….”[ii] I feel like Paul read this morning’s headlines. Sometimes we can become overwhelmed with the reality of all this wickedness and feel like we are all alone in the fight for right.
Elijah was in a very similar circumstance. King Ahab and his wicked wife Jezebel had killed all the prophets as well as others who still believed in the one true God rather than the idols of Baal. They were being hunted down like animals. The King and Queen, who had seemingly unlimited resources for doing evil, especially wanted to kill Elijah. Elijah was so depressed and overwhelmed by his situation that he even cried to the Lord: “O Lord, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.”
You may sometimes feel depressed when you are trying to live righteously and people around you criticize you or try to stop you from following the Lord. Elder David P. Homer analogized what this may feel like: “Mountain climbers commonly refer to altitudes above 8,000 meters as the “death zone” because at those heights there is not enough oxygen to sustain life. There is a spiritual equivalent to the death zone. If we spend too much time in faithless places, seemingly well-intended voices deprive us of the spiritual oxygen we need.”[iii]
So, how do we battle this lack of spiritual oxygen? In answer to Elijah’s spiritual suffocation and depression, the Lord reminded Him of three principles that all of us need to remember when we feel down or alone.
First, the Lord reminded Elijah to find and heed the Lord’s voice and to not be distracted by other voices that would stop Elijah from listening and hearing Him.
When Elijah was depressed, an angel of the Lord came to him and brought him up to stand upon the mount before the Lord. This was a temple experience for Elijah. When we go to the temple, we too are standing upon the mount before the Lord. “And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in wind; and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire but the Lord was not in the fire and after the fire a still small voice.”[iv]
There were three voices or forces Elijah experienced before hearing the still small voice: a wind, an earthquake, and a fire.
Think about your own life. What voices do you hear in your life that feel like a wind so strong that it might break your faith or knock pieces off your spiritual foundation, or like an earthquake that rocks your world, or like a fire that burns you and those around you? All three of these voices bring fear and chaos. But it is the still small voice that brought Elijah peace and that will bring us peace as well.
Elijah had to leave his cave where he was all alone in order to talk to the Lord. He wrapped his face in his mantle, symbolizing his calling from the Lord. Sometimes, we need to get out of our fearful caves to be in a place where we can hear the Lord’s voice and wrap ourselves in our callings as saints of God.
President Nelson counseled us: “We also hear Him more clearly as we refine our ability to recognize the whisperings of the Holy Ghost. It has never been more imperative to know how the Spirit speaks to you than right now…. I renew my plea for you to do whatever it takes to increase your spiritual capacity to receive personal revelation. Doing so will help you know how to move ahead with your life, what to do during times of crisis, and how to discern and avoid the temptations and the deceptions of the adversary.”[v]
Second, after the Lord had gotten Elijah’s attention and Elijah started listening and hearing the Lord’s voice, the Lord reminded Elijah that he was not alone. Elijah thought he was the only righteous person left – at least that was how he felt. But the Lord told him: “Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.”[vi]
No matter how bad the world becomes moving forward, the Lord has also promised us that we will not be alone, especially if we stand in holy places. Think of all the temples being built around the world. Each one of them is a refuge from the world – a place for us to go, to be with other saints, and to hear the Lord.
Third, the Lord gave Elijah an assignment. As he then strived to fulfill his prophetic calling, Elijah found a friend and fellow servant of God. He left his hiding place with renewed strength after hearing the word of the Lord and knowing that he was not the only righteous Israelite alive. He was led to Elisha, who was working out in the fields. Elisha was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, representing the twelve tribes of Israel. Elisha would eventually take up the work of the prophet Elijah, supporting and teaching Israel. Elijah cast his mantle upon Elisha, signifying Elisha’s call as a prophet of God, and after being so called, Elisha kissed his family goodbye and “arose and went after Elijah and ministered unto him.”[vii]
The names of Elijah and Elisha are easy mix up, yet these prophets’ names are representative of their mission in Israel. Elijah means “Jehovah is my God.” In the latter days, we still talk about the spirit of Elijah, which inspires us to bring our ancestors to a knowledge that Jehovah is their God. The name Elisha means “God of salvation” or “God shall save.” Just as their names were similar, their mission to save Israel was also the same. Elijah and Elisha strengthened each other in their callings.
When we receive a church calling, we are also being asked to strengthen others through our testimony and service. As we serve and minister to others in our wards and stakes, we gain the additional benefit, just as Elijah did, of finding friends and fellow servants who will buoy us up and minister to us as we minister to them, lifting our spirits.
May we find joy in the Lord this week as we strive to hear Him, find strength in temple worship, and minister to others.
[i] D&C 45”26
[ii] 2 Timothy 3: 1-5
[iii] David P. Homer, “Hearing His Voice,”April 2019, GC.
[iv] 1 Kings 19:11-12
[v] Russell M. Nelson, “Hear Him” April 2020, GC.
[vi] 1 Kings 19:15
[vii] 1 Kings 19:21