Sunday, July 3, 2022 0 comments

Lessons from Elijah’s time of discouragement, 1 Kings 19


1 And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain all the prophets with the sword.

2 Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by to morrow about this time.

3 And when he saw that, he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beer-sheba, which belongeth to Judah, and left his servant there.

4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.

5 And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat.

6 And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again.

7 And the angel of the Lord came again the second time, and touched him, and said, Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee.

8 And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God.

9 And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah?

10 And he said, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.

11 And he said, Go forth, and stand 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 the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:

12 And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.

13 And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?

14 And he said, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.

15 And the Lord said unto him, Go, return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus: and when thou comest, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria:

16 And Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint to be king over Israel: and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room.

17 And it shall come to pass, that him that escapeth the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay: and him that escapeth from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay.

18 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.

19 So he departed thence, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth: and Elijah passed by him, and cast his mantle upon him.

20 And he left the oxen, and ran after Elijah, and said, Let me, I pray thee, kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow thee. And he said unto him, Go back again: for what have I done to thee?

21 And he returned back from him, and took a yoke of oxen, and slew them, and boiled their flesh with the instruments of the oxen, and gave unto the people, and they did eat. Then he arose, and went after Elijah, and ministered unto him. (1 Kings 19)

This chapter happens after all the dramatic events of the Diety Duel between Jehovah and Baal, wherein Jehovah sends fire to burn up the sacrifice of the altar that Elijah builds and there is no response from Baal.  


Elijah evidently hoped that this miraculous demonstration of fire from heaven would change things and bring the people of Israel back to the worship of Jehovah. Sadly, it turned out that it didn’t solve the systemic problem of a queen that was hostile to the worship of Jehovah and who now wanted to kill the prophet of Elijah.


Understandably, this was very discouraging to Elijah. And not only that, he’d been under a lot of physical stress. He’d been traveling hither and yon keeping out of King Ahab’s and Queen Jezebel’s clutches.


It is interesting to see this series of interchanges between Elijah and the Lord in this chapter. You don’t see much of this in other chapters; most of the time the Lord tells Elijah to do something, and Elijah just goes to do it.   But here, it’s almost like he “goes off the reservation” because at least twice the Lord asks him what he’s doing there. (I’m sure the Lord knew, but He wanted Elijah to tell Him.)


The place Elijah is at has great meaning and significance. His destination turns out to be mount Horeb, one of the mountains at which Moses receives commandments from the Lord. This would be like if President Nelson got in blue funk and decided to go back to the Sacred Grove or Palmyra, New York to the Joseph Smith farm and sit around there for a while.


I love that the Lord sends an angel to Elijah while he’s stopped in his journey, to bring him food and drink. And not just once, but twice. I love that the angel says to him, “Arisen and eat, because the journey is too great for thee.”  That validation of Eijah’s difficulties shows the Lord’s awareness of what Elijah is going through. He knows it is hard, and sometimes talking about the hard really helps.


I also love that Elijah really tells how he feels. “I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword: and I , even I only, am left; and they seek my life to take it away.” (v10) 


What can we see that Elijah wants, based on what he says to the Lord in this chapter?

·      He wants to die (v4)

·      He wants to rest.

·      And yet he doesn’t like that other people (especially Jezebel) want to kill him

·      He’d rather have the Lord take his life.

·      When he says “for I am not better than my fathers” (v4) it seems like he hoped he could be a better prophet than those that came before him and he hoped to be more successful in bringing the people back to the Lord, but found that he wasn’t any better and was disappointed by that. (This is another instance of what Jesus taught that “if they reject me, they will reject you too.”)

·      When Elijah says he is alone, we get the sense that he wanted some help, someone to stand with him.

·      When he tells of how the Israelites forsook the covenant, gotten rid of the altars, and slain the prophets, we get the sense that he really wants to change things and bring them back to God.


How does the Lord respond to Elijah and the things he wants?

·      He nourishes Elijah with food and drink twice through the angel

·      He gives emotional comfort and validation through the angel

·      He reaches out and asks Elijah questions about why Elijah was there. (Encouraging conversation so as to get to the root matter.)

·      He demonstrates power with a spiritual lesson to teach and edify Elijah. (it seems like the stuff about the big wind, earthquake, and fire were meant to show that the big dramatic displays are not as powerful and penetrating as Elijah would have thought. Up to that point, Elijah’s miracles were the big stuff of drought, fire, reviving life, and continual food supply. But the still, small voice reaches Elijah’s heart, showing that the Lord can do His own work of convincing, while still allowing man agency.)

·      The Lord gives a mission for Elijah to go anoint Hazel to be king over Syria and Jehu to be king over Israel.

·      He gives intelligence that Elisha will be prophet in Elijah’s place. V19-21 show that Elijah got right on that and found Elisha and called him to be part of the Lord’s work.

·      He tells Elijah that there are still 7000 faithful in Israel that have not worshipped Baal.

·      Ultimately, in 2 Kings 2:1-11, we read that later the Lord took Elijah into heaven and made him a translated being.


Let’s compare those two lists side by side now and see how they match up.


What Elijah wants

The Lord’s matching response

To die

(Later gift of translating Elijah)

To rest

Food, drink, letting him travel to mount Horeb for a while to ponder the spiritual significance of that place and the miracles that occurred there.

 (Might translation also be considered a rest of some sort?)

For other people to not kill him

(The translation of Elijah will prevent anyone from ever killing him)

For the Lord to take his life

(The Lord will take him up into heaven, translate him,

To be a better prophet than those who came before

Demonstration that the still, small voice has penetrating power.

To have someone to stand with him

Information that Elisha will take his place (which sends Elijah to him to start training and then he isn’t alone)

Information that there are still 7000 faithful in Israel.

To change things, to bring Israel back to God

Mission to set in place regime change by anointing a new king of Syria and a new king of Israel.  This will shake things up a bit and the new conditions may encourage Israel to return to God.

(Ultimately, the translation of Elijah will enable him to be part of other important events relating to moving the Lord’s work forward and recover Israel, such as being present on the Mount of Transfiguration, and coming to the Kirtland temple to give sealing keys to Joseph Smith.)


We can see that in one way or another, the Lord addressed all of Elijah’s requests, whether explicitly stated or implicit. Some of them He fulfilled in very unique ways. Some of the requests were not granted immediately, but over the longer term (even over thousands of years).


This chapter teaches that we can go to God when we are discouraged and lay it all out with Him and that He will strengthen us in all the ways we need.  Let’s remember to take our problems to God.

Sunday, April 10, 2022 0 comments

The Lesson for Us from the Israelites’ Battle with the Amalekites

8 Then came Amalek, and fought with Israel in Rephidim

9 And Moses said unto Joshua, Choose us out men, and go out, fight with Amalek: to morrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in mine hand.

10 So Joshua did as Moses had said to him, and fought with Amalek: and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill.

11 And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed.

12 But Moses’ hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.

13 And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.

14 And the Lord said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua: (Exodus 17:8-14)

We usually make this story about the importance of sustaining our leaders. It’s a good lesson, since our good leaders have many demands on them and need help accomplishing the work they are inspired to do.


However, I noticed another lesson in this story today, a larger one for all of us, whether we’re leaders or not.


Remember, the children of Israel have already had one battle with the Amalekites and it isn’t over when the day is over. They’re going to have this battle the next day too. This is strenuous work, and they are not trained warriors. They do the best they can by choosing out men to go fight, but their chosen men were still not trained.


So on the second day, Moses holds up his hand—he was probably inspired to do this—and when he does it, he can see from his elevated position on top of the hill that Israel succeeds when he does that. So you do more of what works, right?  If holding up your hand brings success, then you keep doing that as long as it takes, until the job is done.


Think about how much endurance it takes to hold up your hand. Compare that to the amount of endurance it would take to swing a sword all day while fighting with an enemy. Those are very different kinds of activities, but they both take strength and endurance.


Side note story: I once was visiting with my little nieces and nephews and got two of them into a contest to see who could keep their arm up the longest while holding a 5 lb weight. It was fascinating how competitive they were and all the machinations they went through to relieve their weariness while still keeping their arms up. I think they got to 30 minutes before it was time for lunch and their mom forced a stop to the contest.


How long do you suppose that battle took? How long did Moses have to hold his arm up? We see in the text that he got tired after a while and that’s when his brother Aaron and this other fellow Hurr had him sit on a rock while they held his hands up.  They did this the whole day, “until the going down of the sun.”   That’s a super long time.


Now, here’s the two-million-dollar question: While we know who held up Moses’ hands, who held up the hands of the Israelites in the battle? 


It was the Lord. The Lord gave them the strength, the endurance, the energy, the determination, the perseverance, all of it, to keep swinging that sword and keep swinging that sword and dodging and darting and jabbing and running and pushing and on and on…


That was the miracle that we’re supposed to learn and remember from this story. While the prophet got tired and had two persons who held him up, the Lord upheld the people in battle. 


So when we need strength and endurance and perseverance and energy because we are just not cut out for the job in front of us, we know who we can turn to and ask for help.

Friday, February 25, 2022 1 comments

A picture can affect our understanding of the scriptures

 One of my church callings that I've had for the last two years has been ward bulletin specialist. A small part of the calling that I particularly enjoy is the opportunity to choose the pictures and a scripture to go on the front of it.  I usually like to choose a scripture that fits with the theme of the meeting, but sometimes I don't know what the theme is, so I get to freestyle a little.

Sometimes I've found a picture and then searched for a scripture to match it. Sometimes I have a scripture in mind and I have to choose a picture to match it.  (Google images is not recommended, unless I can find an appropriate image free of copyright restrictions.)

Something I've noticed is how the choice of picture can affect how I interpret the verse I choose. This particularly hit me this week. 

After putting that scripture with this image, I found myself staring at it. I felt my heart begin to yearn to embrace my Savior and my Heavenly Father. I also felt their love for me in a powerful way.  It seemed to me that commandment would be the easiest thing in the world to keep. 

 That verse of scripture lost all its abstraction and has became deep and tender. All because of a picture I paired with it.