Explore the Bible: Faith Over Fear

The Explore the Bible Lesson for July 17 focuses on 1 Kings 19:9-18.

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  • The Explore the Bible Lesson for July 17 focuses on 1 Kings 19:9-18.

Fear is a compelling human emotion, and it is paralyzing at times. I experienced this paralyzing fear over one Thanksgiving break. The morning of travel started great; we were headed to Utah for a ski trip with some family. We stopped briefly to take in some sights. The Grand Canyon was grand, and the Horseshoe bend was a breathtaking sight. By that evening, the snow had begun to fall, and daylight was fading quickly as we started our way up the mountain.

Snow chains were placed firmly on our tires by some kind-hearted fireman who knew I had no clue how to put them on. I was determined to take my family up the mountain to the cozy cabin we rented for the week. I did not know a major snowstorm had begun, and white-out conditions ensued. It was becoming challenging to drive as the winding mountain road became treacherous. I remember being paralyzed with fear, thinking our van could get stuck on that mountain during the night. Thankfully some locals showed up and warned me of snow drifts ahead and advised us to head down the mountain instead and wait for better weather to head back up. We took their advice and were able to join our family the next day.

Why is fear sometimes challenging to overcome? I think it is because fear for humans is our default emotion in many situations. Faith is harder to express in scary or difficult moments. Faith requires supernatural power. Fear, it seems, operates so efficiently from our human nature. I believe this is why the enemy also uses fear to suppress our faithful trust in God.

In this week’s text, Elijah is gripped with fear, having just defeated the 450 prophets of Baal. He finds out Jezebel wants him killed. Apparently, not everyone in Israel was impressed with Elijah’s demonstration of Yahweh’s power and presence. Filled with fear and feeling alone, Elijah leaves that literal mountain top experience to escape on a six-week trek towards Mount Sinai to hide.

Fear (1 Kings 19:9-10)

Elijah is running for his life due to the sinister death threat by Jezebel. On his trek, he is overcome with fearful emotions and exhaustion and needs to be strengthened by the food an angel provides him.  He finally makes it to Mount Horeb, and Yahweh confronts the fearful prophet hiding in a cave with an interesting question. “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Being the all-knowing God, Yahweh is not asking for information but wants to confront Elijah with the truth of his situation. Maybe today, we need to be asked a similar question. Where has fear taken us? What are we running from?

Elijah responds to the question very dramatically. He seems to understand he has been caught in his fear. And like most of us, when we get caught, we blame our circumstances and others in hopes of not having to face the truth. He states he is very zealous for Yahweh. Elijah even uses Yahweh’s warrior name (Sabaoth) to make his case. He then blames the Israelites for rejecting Yahweh’s covenant and states that he is the only prophet left. Elijah apparently forgot about the 100 prophets Obadiah had saved (1 Kings 18:13) and the numerous others Yahweh had protected. Elijah desperately tries to talk his way out of his situation, but sadly he winds up contradicting himself.

A Faithful Whisper (1 Kings 19:11-14)

God moves Elijah out of his hiding place and from his struggles and confronts him with a strong wind, earthquake and fire. Yahweh shows Elijah that true might and power are not in the hands of a corrupt queen but in his presence.  These expressions of power would have been fearful to anyone experiencing them. However, the text shows Elijah is not afraid in Yahweh’s presence. He already is gaining newfound courage and strength in Yahweh’s presence.

Yahweh was not in the wind, earthquake and fire, but his presence was in a whisper, a soft voice. We do not know what was said; however, it was reaffirming for Elijah nonetheless. He wrapped his face in his cloak and went out further from the cave to meet face to face with Yahweh. Again, Yahweh asks him the question he had asked previously, and Elijah repeats his answer. The truth is Elijah is afraid for his life, yet he remains zealous for Yahweh. He is conflicted. When we are conflicted, it is always best to quiet the voices around us and seek to listen to the still small voice of Yahweh that is always there to strengthen us and bring us clarity.

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The Reaffirming Reality (1 Kings 19:15-18)

After hearing Elijah’s same response to his question, Yahweh redirects him and sets him on a mission to anoint some kings and his successor, Elisha. Elijah finds courage in his purposeful call to execute Yahweh’s commands. He will return to dangerous territory; however, understanding his call and purpose has allowed him to refocus on service. Yahweh reminded Elijah he was not alone, and he found what he needed in his obedience to Yahweh. Serving others gives us a reaffirming reality in which we can take comfort and find purpose as the people of God.

Dr. Joe Rangel is the associate dean of the School of Christian Studies and teaches Christian ministry at Wayland Baptist University

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