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1 Kings 19:1-18 Study Guide: Seasons of Discouragement

Community Group Study Guide — Seasons of Discouragement
1 Kings 19:1-18

Study Information:
Seasons of discouragement can often follow moments and milestones of success. In our previous study guide we learned how Israel had spiraled down into idol worship and wicked practices as they followed a false god named Baal. Baal was the god of dew and agriculture and promised prosperity but failed to bring it. These worship practices included things tantamount to child abuse like sacrificing children and sexual immorality. God responded to this situation as he promised in his covenant, God withheld rain as a way to wake them up from their stupor. King Ahab and his wife Jezebel led this charge towards Baal. God raised up the prophet Elijah to call the people back to faithfulness and this led to a showdown at Mount Carmel where the prophets of Baal and Elijah faced off. Whoever’s god responded by sending fire to burn up the offering on the altar won. The prophets of Baal danced around, cut themselves, and cried out to Baal but there was no response, this lasted for almost the full day. Elijah took his turn at the altar, doused it with so much water that the ground saturated and water pooled up around the altar because Elijah wanted to remove all doubt of this being some random chance. Next, Elijah called on God and God responded by sending fire down to consume the offering. The people of God repented and this led to a massive slaughter of the prophets of Baal. 

You’d think the next passage in scripture would be something like Elijah riding off into he sunset having fulfilled his call, or a massive reform movement in the nation to worship God. Neither of those things happened. Instead we get a story of discouragement, despair and weakness. What led to that moment and how did God respond?

1 Kings 19:1-8
Jezebel threatened Elijah’s life which caused him to run. Elijah could have been confident that God would have protected him, but he gave into fear and ran. The text tracks the word “life” as Elijah “ran for his life,” wanted his “life taken from him,” and then commented on how others “sought his life.” The journey from Mount Carmel to Beersheba was around 100 miles with all the travel on foot. He was discouraged and physically exhausted. God responded to this discouragement and despair by taking care of his physical needs with food and rest. Many things can lead to seasons of discouragement including our physical bodies and we should not ignore the role they play in our emotional health and how we perceive the work of God around us. At the same time, this was also a faith issue. Elijah had seen this incredible move of God and yet doubted God’s ability to do that again in his personal life. This is not abnormal to the life of Elijah, but something we all can experience. Notice God’s care for Elijah and God provided for his needs and did not respond with distancing himself or criticizing Elijah. God also spoke real truth that Elijah needed to hear, “this journey is too great for you.” Each one of our lives is too great for us, we need God’s presence to be with us and alongside us. 

“I Alone am Left”
1 Kings 19:9-14
Elijah went on another 100 mile journey to a place called Mount Horeb, which is also known as Mount Sinai. This is the place where God had appeared to Moses in the burning bush and the place where the people of God received the Law. It was a place known for spiritual encounters with God. We do not know explicitly that Elijah was searching for an encounter with God or if that is just where the Lord directed him, but the location was significant. Elijah made a home in a cave and God called him out to stand before him. This followed with a succession of powerful events including a wind that ripped apart the mountain, an earthquake and a fire. All of these events are connected to the Moses story like the burning bush, the wind that held back the Red Sea or how Mount Sinai quaked when they received the Law. After each successive event we’re told “the Lord was not in it.” God did not respond with the extraordinary event, rather after all of those things there was the sound of a low whisper. Elijah was at the mouth of the cave waiting on God and God asked a question “what are you doing here?” Elijah voiced his concern… he was the only one jealous for God, the people of God had killed the prophets and that he was the only one left and they sought his life. None of that was actually true, but discouragement can lead to distorted views of reality and to real feelings of loneliness. 

Seeing God and Remembering Your Call
1 Kings 19:15-18
God responded to Elijah’s discouragement by reminding him of his call as a prophet and that he was not really alone. God gave him three jobs to do: anoint the next king of Syria who would be used to judge Ahab, anoint he next king of Israel who will be used to judge Jezebel and anoint Elisha who will replace Elijah as prophet. Finally, God reminded Elijah of his own sufficiency that God has kept a remnant of people who have not bowed down to worship Baal. Things were not spiritually great in Israel, but God had kept a group that was faithful to him. 

Fighting through discouragement to see what God has been doing is important for two reasons from this text. First, Part of believing the gospel is that we have an answer for seasons in our lives where we feel spiritually dry and weak. We do not earn our salvation, we are not saved by how great our faith is, we are saved by faith in a great God. We also see examples of how God is gentle with those who are struggling; a bruised reed he will not break. Jesus Christ drew near to the hurting, so they could be saved and restored to God. 

Second, the necessity of remembering our calling. One of the best things we can do during a season of discouragement is to remind ourselves of our calling as followers of Jesus. We can feel aimless especially when things do not play out the way we think they should, and in those times we can go back to remember who God is and what he has called us to do. God has given us a calling to follow him and to put into practice all he has taught and commanded. 

At your community group:

Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.

How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week? 

Discussion Questions:
Read 1 Kings 19:1-18

Why was Elijah in such a deep season of despair? Do you think this is warranted given how God had just been at work in Elijah’s life and ministry?

How did God care for Elijah?

What was significant about Mount Horeb? 

What was Elijah’s complaint against God and how did God respond?

What typically causes the seasons of discouragement you go through and what has helped you remember God during those times?