Taste and See – Pastor Donna Doutt – June 23, 2019 – 1 Kings 12:1-15a
A few weeks ago, 18 women from here, Faith on 68, Riverview, and a few friends of the Front Porch study group attended a retreat at Olmsted Manor. Our program title was “Taste and See” reflecting the scripture from our Psalter reading today in Psalm 34, verse 8 that invites us to ““Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is everyone who takes refuge in him” (Psalm 34:8).
Our study focused on foods that are literally found in the Bible. We took a look at scripture and how it tied together the fruits and fruitfulness, savored the salts of the earth, relished the olive and its oils, and chewed on the bread of life, hopefully pointing us to a “fruitful” way of life…and yes, that pun was intended.
When I saw the scripture for this week’s lectionary, most importantly our 1 Kings reading, it immediately threw me back to those days of retreat, where we…indeed, as Elijah did…were seeking to hear the voice of God come to us through a time of refuge and retreat from the world; a place of peace and quiet where we might here God’s voice speak above the din of our ordinary days. Unlike Elijah who was hiding for his life to escape the wrath of Jezebel, we weren’t hiding from our lives, just resting there.
But here we find Elijah in this scripture. He’s discouraged because his success and victory at Mount Carmel is short-lived. Remember he challenged the 450 false prophets of Baal to a sacrificial bull challenge. When the imposter prophets failed over and over again, calling on their God’s, Elijah had only to cry out to the Lord. He called out, “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command” (1 Kings 18:36). Fire immediately fell and consumed Elijah’s sacrifice, the wood, the stones, the soil, and even licked up the water in the trench that had been poured over the sacrifice.” (1 Kings 18:38). Those false prophets were seized and killed right there…on the spot. Oh wow! Jezebel was not happy!
So here we are meeting Elijah as his hunkered under the broom tree. He’s out in the middle of nowhere. He’s alone. He’s discouraged. He’s depressed. He can’t understand why when just a few days ago, he was a miracle worker for God, and now here he is on the lam, hiding out in the middle of nowhere. He’s curled up under the broom tree ready to roll over and die.
Remember our scripture said, “Get up and eat.” 6 He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again. 7 The angel of the Lord came a second time, touched him, and said, “Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.” 8 He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God. 9 At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there.
In this painting of “Prophet Elijah in the Desert” painted about 1464, we see Elijah sleeping away, as the scripture says, “Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, “Get up and eat.” He looked and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water.
He ate everything the angel provided. Now that he’s consumed this heavenly food… look over here…he’s revitalized and off he goes to begin his journey of forty days and nights to Mount Horeb, the mountain of the Lord.
This part of the scripture also reminded me of another moment of the women’s retreat. A woman who has suffered illness for many months, is not unemployed and pondering and wondering where her life is headed, asked me for advice about how to make decisions about her future. I suggested, Psalm 37:7 “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him…”
Isn’t that what Elijah is really doing here in his place of refuge?
Michael Zarling ask the question in his blog for “Bread for Beggers”, (and I paraphrase some of this), “Have you ever felt like Elijah under the broom tree? One of those days … or weeks … or years, where you just want to curl up under the nearest broom tree to die?”
Depression can cloud your mind and your mood so you don’t want to ever get out of bed.
The sadness and helplessness you feel when you visit your elderly parent and you see them withering away.
The discouragement from rejection.
The bitter disappointment you feel when the lifestyle choices your children and grandchildren make are not God-pleasing or what you hoped for in them.
“Ailing health, constant pain, broken family relationships, misunderstandings among friends, a downturn in income coupled with rising costs of living, and many other things have a way of shattering your dreams and opening the door of your heart to discouragement and despair.
You work, you pray, you expect visible success, some tangible results only to see everything you’ve worked for fall apart and come to nothing. Defeat from the mouth of victory. In a moment of hopelessness, you utter, “I just want to die.”
That’s you. That’s Elijah. But, it’s also more than Elijah.
Elijah was a man of God, but that did not prevent him from becoming discouraged. All through the Scriptures, we find people faithful to God and still becoming deeply depressed. John the Baptizer, was described by Jesus as the greatest man ever born of a woman. Yet, while he was in King Herod’s prison, he found himself battling dark questions about the Messiah. So, he sent messengers to Jesus looking for confirmation of Jesus’ mission.
Job had regrets about ever being born, “Why did I not perish at birth, and die as I came from the womb?” (Job 3:11) Jeremiah’s words are even harsher, “Cursed be the day I was born! … Why did I ever come out of the womb to see trouble and sorrow and to end my days in shame?” (Jeremiah 20:14, 18)
Even Moses experienced these dark moods. He prayed to God, “If this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me – if I have found favor in your eyes – and do not let me face my own ruin” (Numbers 11:15).
Does your present situation have you joining Moses, Jeremiah, Job, and Elijah?”
It is especially during these times when we find ourselves discouraged, depressed, and even wanting to die, that we need to remember that, though, we may want to give up on God … God does not give up on us.
We may feel alone, but we are never alone when we are Christians. We always have One who is with us. Sometimes, we just need to sit down and listen. Be still. Remember, our scripture said, “11 He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces 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 sound of sheer silence. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.
“The journey from the wilderness to Mt. Horeb was a long journey – approximately 260 miles on foot. One meal sustained Elijah for forty days and nights of travel. That’s quite a meal!
“Get up and eat, because the journey is too much for you.” These are good words for our ears, too. When we become discouraged, downtrodden, and depressed, we need to eat the bread that comes down from heaven.
We are on a journey through the wilderness of this world. It is a journey from this life to the next. It is a journey that is too much for us. But, it is not too much for God. The angel of the Lord that visited Elijah was the pre-incarnate Christ, the Son of God before He took on human flesh. As Christ came down from heaven to help His needy prophet under the broom tree and give him bread to sustain him for the journey, so Christ has come down to us needy people, to give us the bread of life to sustain us for the journey to heaven.
Jesus says about Himself: “This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that anyone may eat it and not die” (John 6:50). Elijah lasted forty days and nights on the strength of that bread and water in the wilderness. Forty days and nights. And that was only a foretaste. Jesus says that His living bread will sustain us for eternity. “I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats this bread, he will live forever. The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh” (John 6:51). “ TASTE AND SEE!
Elijah couldn’t do it alone … and neither can we. No matter how strong a Christian you are, no matter how strong you believe your faith to be. How easy it is for fear and despair to get the better of us. How quickly we can find ourselves under a broom tree!
If you are going to curl up and hide under a tree, don’t look for a broom tree! Curl up and hide under the tree of the cross! That’s where the Jesus gave His life for you. He gives that life to you in the bread that came down from heaven. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.” Eat this bread to sustain you for the journey.
“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is everyone who takes refuge in him” (Psalm 34:8).
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