"Where a Desolate Soul Finds God"
Francis Frangipane, Elijah Liste, September 25, 2008
Added to the increasing stress of our times is the decreasing desire of government and society in general to restrain moral decadence. We live in a time when a significant portion of our society is in open and defiant rebellion toward God. The prophetic words of Psalm 2 are being fulfilled before our eyes: World and local leaders "take their stand and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His Anointed" (verse 2). As they renounce moral values, their militant cry is, "Let us tear their fetters apart and cast away their cords from us!" (verse 3).
Jesus gave the last hours of this age a poignant headline. He called this period "The Great Tribulation." The word rendered tribulation means "grievous affliction or distress; pressure or burden upon the spirit." As we move closer toward the end of this age, we should expect that catastrophic distresses and pressures on man shall increase.
Jesus warned of this day, saying, "Because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold" (Matthew 24:12). If you are one who has resisted the increasing darkness, you know how intense and multifaceted the battle is. Whether you are fighting to remedy an injustice in your community or just trying to keep your family together, barely do we make headway in one area before five other areas are breeched.
In spite of breakthroughs occurring in several cities, many good people have grown weary. They are just going through the motions. The prophet Daniel warned of a time when the enemy would "...wear down the saints of the Highest One" (Daniel 7:25). To emerge victorious in this day, we must climb into the reality given to us by God in Psalm 91. There is a place of replenishing life - a fountain of eternal life where we can abide. The Bible calls this place the shelter of the Most High.
Elijah: a Man Like Us
Elijah was a man with passions like ours, and he fought in a spiritual war similar to ours. In his battle for the soul of Israel, he stood against the wiles of Jezebel and her husband, King Ahab. Yet his most intense battle was not against visible foes but against personal discouragement.
As bold as Elijah was, he lived as a fugitive moving in and out of caves and places of hiding. Jezebel had murdered nearly all of the Lord's prophets, replacing their godly influence with the dark, satanic oppression accompanying the priests of Baal and the Asherah. A new initiative, however, had come from the Lord: Both Elijah and the prophets of Baal were to build altars, each to the deity they individually served. The God who answered with fire would be acknowledged as Lord over the nation.
King Ahab and all Israel came to the confrontation. Try as they may, the priests of Baal could draw no response from their demonic idol, Baal. In dramatic contrast, at Elijah's prayer, fire immediately fell from Heaven and consumed his sacrifice. This was Elijah's greatest victory. And when the Israelites saw the display of God's power, they bowed to the ground saying, "The Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is God" (1 Kings 18:39).
But the Lord was not finished. After Elijah had the priests of Baal executed, he went to the top of Mount Carmel, and, kneeling face down, he prayed seven times for rain until the Lord brought a great downpour that ended a devastating three-year drought. On this one day, both fire and rain miraculously fell from Heaven!
Perhaps if this tremendous day had occurred at almost any other time in Israel's history, the nation would have repented, but it did not. Baal worship should have ended, but it continued. In fact, nothing changed. Instead of the revival that Elijah envisioned, the opposite occurred: an enraged Jezebel vowed to kill the Lord's prophet, spurring Elijah to flee into the wilderness. There Elijah collapsed, exhausted and despondent, beneath a juniper tree. "'It is enough; now O Lord,' the weary prophet prayed, 'take my life, for I am not better than my fathers'" (1 Kings 19:4).
Elijah had offered the Lord his very best effort. This day had been the culminating event of his life. Elijah had prayed that Israel would know the Lord was their God and that, in response, the Lord would turn Israel's "heart back again" (1 Kings 18:37). Yet, like the prophets before him, Elijah could not trigger revival for Israel. Discouragement overwhelmed him. He had had enough.
Have you been to the point of spiritual or emotional exhaustion where you too have said, "It is enough"? Perhaps you were frustrated by your own inability to effect positive change in your family or you've fasted and prayed for your church or society but no visible change occurred. You gave your all but found little success. Disheartened and weary like Elijah, all your resources were spent.
Elijah laid down and slept. As he did, an angel touched him and said, "Arise, eat" (1 Kings 19:5). At his head were bread and water. Elijah, weary with life itself, ate and withdrew back into sleep.
Once more the angel touched him. "Arise," he said "Eat, because the journey is too great for you" (verse 7). For all our visions, plans, and programs, the journey before each of us is also "too great." Indeed our journey is divinely designed to be too great for us. The Lord has no plan where we succeed without Him. Life is so constructed to drive us to God.
Back to Our Foundations
"So [Elijah] arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mountain of God" (1 Kings 19:8).
The Lord gave Elijah strength, not to send him back to battle but to bring him back to basics. If we become more consumed with our task than we are with our love for God, our lives will eventually become brittle and desolate. To restore our souls, the Lord brings us back to the essentials of our faith. Indeed, He might even stop our labors completely and direct us to the simpler realities of prayer, time in the Word, and worship. He reminds us that, of all He calls us to accomplish, His greatest commandment is to love Him with all our "heart...soul...mind...and... strength" (Mark 12:30). Without this focus, we lose touch with God's presence; we are outside the shelter of the Most High.
The Lord brought Elijah to "Horeb, the mountain of God." In Hebrew, Horeb means "desolation." [Hebrew: Charab - to make desolate.] The barren environment mirrored Elijah's soul. Yet to God, Horeb was actually a place where the issues of a man's heart were flushed to the surface. There is no theater at Horeb, no acting. It is the place of unembellished honesty and core-to-surface transparency.
How Did You Get Here?
Perhaps Elijah's greatest virtue was his zeal. Indeed, twice in his communication with God, Elijah speaks of having been "very zealous" for the Lord. But zeal unaccompanied by wisdom eventually becomes its own god. It compels us toward expectations that are unrealistic and outside the timing and anointing of the Lord.
To remain balanced, zeal must be reined in and harnessed by strategic encounters with the living God. Otherwise we become frustrated with people and discouraged with delays. We step outside our place of strength and spiritual protection.
Elijah had come to Horeb and lodged there in a cave. Soon the Word of the Lord came to him: "What are you doing here, Elijah?" (1 Kings 19:9). This is one of the most important questions God will ever ask us. His question probes the reality of our spiritual state: "How did your service to Me become dry and desolate?" God wants us to know that when we fail to esteem Him as our first love, we will always find a desert awaiting us.
Our primary purpose in life must be to abide in Christ. Otherwise we can become so consumed with the deteriorating condition of the world that we fail to see the deteriorating condition of our own soul. In His love, the Lord stops us and forces us to look honestly at our heart: Is this existence that I now live the abundant life promised me from Christ?
Let's speak candidly. We have nothing to prove and no need to pretend. We can abandon the internal mechanisms of defensiveness and pride. If we are disappointed, we are free to express it; if frustrated, we can admit it. We must simply and truthfully evaluate, without rationalization, our true spiritual condition.
Lord, reveal to me my heart. Bring to the surface of my consciousness those disappointments and heartaches, as well as my sins and failures. Remove the cargo of oppression from my soul. Help me, Master, to lie still as You perform heart surgery on me.
Transparency is the outer garment of humility, and humility draws the grace of God to our hearts. Is not intimacy with God the very thing we most neglect? And is not the Lord alone our source of strength in battle? If the enemy can distract us from our time alone with God, he will isolate us from the help that comes from God alone.
Let us, therefore, approach the living God without any garment other than transparency.
A Fresh Anointing
As the pressures of this age escalate, we will soon discover that yesterday's anointing will not suffice for today's battles. The Lord brought a new beginning to Elijah's life at Horeb - one that would ultimately release a "double portion" of power to Elijah's successor, Elisha. Under this new anointing, Jezebel would be destroyed, Baal worship abolished, and the only period of revival the northern tribes ever experienced would begin.
To reach a similar place of breakthrough, it will take more than the momentum of our own zeal. We should not be surprised if God calls us to pass through our own Horeb.
How will we recognize this place? Horeb is the voice of personal desolation; it is the desperate compelling of our heart to possess more of God. We must now listen carefully to the voice of God. For it is at Horeb that He brings us deeper into Himself. It is here, under the canopy of His compassion, that we discover the purpose of our brokenness: our desolation is, in fact, a time of preparation.
The Lord is about to bring a new beginning to you. When you return to the battle, you shall war from the shelter of the Most High.
Lord Jesus, apart from You, my life is dry and desolate. Forgive me for trying to do Your will without abiding in Your presence. I desperately need You, Lord. This day, I commit my heart to return to my first love. Teach me, Lord, to consider intimacy with You the greatest measure of my success. Let me see Your glory; reveal to me Your goodness. Guide me, Oh Holy Spirit, into the spiritual fortress of the presence of God. Amen.
Ministries of Francis Frangipane