by Tony Nester

A Sound of Sheer Silence
Tony Nester
1 Kings 19:1-18
February 23, 2003

Today we have another favorite passage from the Bible
to explore. This one is a story about one of the
greatest prophets of our Old Testament, Elijah, and
given to us in 1 Kings 19:1-18.

Let me tell you what Elijah has been up to. He has
just won a great victory over the priests of a rival
god named Baal. Baal had been brought into Israel
through a woman named Jezebel. Jezebel was a princess
from a neighboring country. Ahab, one of Israel's
worst kings, became attracted to her and married her.
Ahab found Jezebel irresistible. And when she decided
to bring her priests and her religion into Israel Ahab
acquiesced to her desires. Jezebel soon decided to
replace the worship of the LORD with the worship of
her god, Baal.

Elijah challenged the priests of Baal to a contest on
Mt. Carmel. Two bulls were sacrificed and placed on a
wood pyre. But no match lit the wood. Instead, there
was a contest to see who could pray and which god
would send fire from heaven. After watching the
futile attempts of Jezebel's priests, Elijah called
down fire from heaven. Lighting struck with a holy
fire that consumed the sacrifice. Then Elijah rallied
the Israelites to kill all the priests of Baal. It was
an astounding, brutal, and exhilarating moment of

But then everything changes. And that's where we
begin today's Scripture reading in 1 Kings 19, verse

(Read 1 Kings 19:1-18 NRSV)

How could Elijah go from the exhilaration of his
success on Mount Carmel to the discouragement that
sent him running to hide out in cave where he hoped no
one, including God, would find him? On Mt. Carmel he
feels triumphant. On Mt. Horeb he is in the grip of
depression. How can it be?

Part of the answer has to do with what we sometimes
call "burn out". Elijah had called down fire from
heaven on Mt. Carmel but his own inner ...

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