Grades 3-6 Sunday School Lesson
Elijah: Where God Guides, He Provides
Lesson 5: God Provides Encouragement
Author’s Notes: In last week’s lesson we climbed, with Elijah, to the top of Mount Carmel. There, we witnessed one of the greatest victories recorded in the Bible, as Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal with fire from the Lord. But on the heels of that great triumph, this week’s lesson will find Elijah caught in the depths of discouragement and despair. And just as we’ve found with each encounter with Elijah, God will be there, once again, to provide just what Elijah needs…some divine encouragement.
Allow your students to talk amongst themselves for a few moments. Then when you’re ready to begin, make a loud noise (for instance: drop a large book on a hard surface or shout someone’s name loudly). Once you have their attention, ask them this question:
What’s the best way to get another person’s attention? (let the students share their ideas, and suggest some of your own)
When we have something very important to tell someone else, we must first be sure that we have their attention. Otherwise they may not hear or respond to what we say. When God had something important to share with His people, He often did something to get their attention, to be sure they would hear what He had to say.
Can anyone think of an example of how God got someone’s attention, in the Bible? How about Moses, when he was a shepherd? God lit a bush on fire to get Moses’ attention. He was getting ready to call Moses to lead His people out of Egypt. And wanted to be sure Moses was listening.
And when those Israelites were fleeing from Pharaoh, God sent a great wind to blow back the waters of the Red Sea. You can be sure that got the attention of the Israelites, leaving no doubt which direction God was taking them.
Then, when the Israelites were encamped at the base of Mount Sinai, and God prepared to give His Ten Commandments to Moses, smoke surrounded the mountain, and the whole mountain quaked.
So God used earthquakes, wind and fire to get His people’s attention. But in today’s lesson, Elijah is going to experience all three of these only to find that God was not in any of them. This time, God was going to use something entirely different to draw Elijah to come listen. We’ll find out in a moment what that was.
But before we do, let’s learn today’s verse together. In today’s lesson, we’re going to see God providing for Elijah just as He has in the past. But this time, what Elijah needed was encouragement. We all get discouraged at one time or another. And when we do, we can remember this verse. It helps us to remember to just keep trusting and serving faithfully, and leave the results up to the Lord. He’s the one who will make sure all things work together for our good, in the end.
Memory verse: (Have the children repeat this verse with you several times, until they are able to say it themselves. And encourage them to repeat it to others several times during the week, so that it’ll have a place in their hearts.)
“And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” Galatians 6:9
Opening prayer: Lord, thank You for each student who’s here, today. And thank You for Your Word, The Bible, where we can learn new truths about You. Help each one of us here, today, to be attentive to what You would have us learn. Give us open ears and hearts, ready to listen to Your words. Amen.
This Week’s Lesson: Elijah Becomes Discouraged, But God Provides Encouragement (1 Kings 19:1-18)
Do you ever get discouraged? What makes you discouraged, and how does it make you feel? (Encourage the students to share things that have made them discouraged) It’s not much fun to feel discouraged. We feel sad, depressed, or sometimes lonely. There are many things that can lead to discouragement:
These are just a few of the things that can cause us to feel discouraged. Did you know that even some of the most spiritual people in the Bible became discouraged, too? For the last few weeks, we’ve been learning about the prophet Elijah. He was a man of great faith! And in last week’s lesson, we learned about a great victory the Lord gave him over the prophets of Baal. But today, we’re going to find that Elijah wasn’t much different than you and me. After his big day up on Mount Carmel, things got tough, and Elijah got discouraged. Let’s find out what happened to make him feel that way, and what God did to help.
(God provides for Elijah’s physical needs)
(1 Kings 19)
1And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain all the prophets with the sword.
2Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by to morrow about this time.
Let’s take a few minutes, here, to review what happened up on the mountain. Do you remember that Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal to a duel? He invited them to a showdown, to see whose god was real. They were each to call on their god to set fire to a sacrifice they had prepared. And from morning till evening, the prophets of Baal tried to get his attention. Do you remember some of the things they did? They cried out very loudly. They jumped up on top of the altar. They even cut themselves, hoping their blood would make him respond. And did any of those things work? No! Why not? Because Baal was just an idol, made by men’s hands.
But when Elijah prayed to the Lord, what happened to his sacrifice? The Lord sent fire from Heaven that burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, and even the water in the trench. And what was the response of the people when they saw what the Lord had done? They declared that the Lord truly is God. And once that was firmly established in their minds, Elijah called on the people to help him get rid of all those false prophets. They took the prophets of Baal down the mountain. And what did Elijah do? He killed them; all four hundred and fifty of them.
That was the news King Ahab shared with Queen Jezebel. And those were her prophets that Elijah had killed. So you can be sure she was pretty angry! What did she swear she would do? She said she would make sure his life ended just like the lives of her prophets did. And that if it didn’t happen, her gods should do the same thing to her. We won’t be looking at the end of Jezebel’s life in these lessons. But in case you’re curious, of course it wasn’t her gods that got her, in the end. The Lord brought her to a very violent death as a result of her wicked life. But that would be some time down the road. In the meantime, Jezebel was alive and well; and out to destroy Elijah.
3And when he saw that, he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beersheba, which belongeth to Judah, and left his servant there.
4But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.
How does Elijah sound in these verses? Does he sound like a man who was celebrating a great victory? Was he praising God for what He did to show all of Israel that He was the one, true God? No! Elijah was afraid of Ahab and Jezebel. So he ran for his life. And when he got far enough away, he looked at where he was and decided that life was no longer worth living.
Elijah had many reasons to rejoice. Yet he got so caught up in his circumstances – having to live on the run, not having food or a safe place to sleep - that he forgot about the God he had just fought for, up on the mountain. He forgot about all the miraculous things God had been doing in his life. And he just wanted to die. He had grown weary, as our verse said, and didn’t want to serve the Lord anymore.
Sometimes we let our physical needs get us down. We look around at what we don’t have, and wonder whether God has forgotten about us. We forget to look up, and remember all that the Lord has already done, and has promised to do. When our heads are down, looking at the troubles around us, instead of at God, that’s when discouragement really gets hold of us.
So what did Elijah do? He gave in to discouragement and laid down, ready to die.
5And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat.
6And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again.
7And the angel of the LORD came again the second time, and touched him, and said, Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee.
God always knows just what we need. And He’s the omnipotent God with the power to provide for each and every need. What happened before when Elijah needed food and water? God provided through ravens, and through a widow woman. God had never yet failed to provide for Elijah’s physical needs. And He remained faithful, this time sending an angel to supply food and water. Do you remember the verse that we learned: “My God shall supply all your need…?” That’s just what God did. And it was just what Elijah needed to shake off some of that discouragement, and get back to following the Lord.
(God provides for Elijah’s emotional needs)
8And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God.
9And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah?
Elijah was no longer feeling like he wanted to die. But he was still very discouraged. And God wanted Elijah to get his feelings out in the open, so God could help him deal with them. So He asked Elijah this question: what are you doing here? Do you think God was talking just about where Elijah was physically, in the cave? Perhaps there was more to His question. God wanted to know how Elijah got to where he was emotionally, too. God wanted Elijah to tell Him why he was so depressed.
Do you think God already knew the answer? Of course He did, because He’s God. His Word tells us that He knows our thoughts even before we think them. But perhaps God knew that getting Elijah to admit what was bothering him, and say it out loud, would help Elijah better deal with the emotions he was feeling. Let’s listen to what Elijah had to say:
10And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.
Why was Elijah feeling so discouraged? He was still having to run for his life. And he felt like he was all alone; that no one besides him was still serving the Lord. Elijah had truly grown weary of well doing, when he wasn’t seeing the results he expected or hoped for. There was no evidence he could see that what he was doing was really accomplishing anything for the Lord. But the Lord had some encouraging news for Elijah. If we jump ahead a few verses, we’ll find that Elijah was not alone, after all.
15And the LORD said unto him, Go, return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus: and when thou comest, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria:
16And Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint to be king over Israel: and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abelmeholah shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room.
17And it shall come to pass, that him that escapeth the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay: and him that escapeth from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay.
18Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.
God did two things, here, to encourage Elijah. The first thing He did was give Elijah more work to do. Sometimes when we’re feeling down, the last thing we think we want is to have to get up, and get back to our daily tasks. But oftentimes that’s just what we need. When we are busy, our minds are on our tasks rather than our troubles. And when we’re really busy, there’s no time to even stop to think about how we may be feeling. God didn’t just give Elijah one job to do. He gave him three. And that would keep Elijah very busy for quite some time.
What did God ask Elijah to do? He was to anoint two new kings; one in Syria, the other in Israel. And the final task was a special surprise for Elijah. God had chosen another prophet to take Elijah’s place. God was finally going to let Elijah rest from all he had been doing. A replacement was on the way.
For many who serve the Lord, this is a great concern. Oftentimes missionaries will not leave their field to go back to their home country until someone else is available to fill in for them while they’re gone. So for Elijah to know there would be someone to take his place when he was gone must have been a great relief. He would be able to rest, knowing that the Israelites would still be hearing from the Lord.
The other thing God did to encourage Elijah’s heart was to give him some company. It always helps to know that there is someone else who has gone through, or is going through the same things that we are. It’s especially helpful when we can look at their lives, and see just how wonderfully the Lord brought them through. Not only was God planning to provide another prophet to take Elijah’s place, but God also revealed to Elijah that there were another seven thousand Israelites who were still faithfully following the Lord.
We may not always know what’s going on in the hearts of those around us. We may, at times, think we’re going through something all alone. But God knows everyone’s hearts. And just when we need it most, He can reveal other Christians to us those who are also serving and loving Him.
(God provides for Elijah’s spiritual needs)
Yes, God knows our hearts. He knows when we have physical needs that need to be met, like food and shelter. He knows when our hearts are discouraged, and need the assurance that we are not alone. God was there to meet each of those needs for Elijah. And He was also there to meet one more. Elijah needed to be encouraged in his walk with God. So God prepared a special encounter, meant to get Elijah’s full attention, and minister to his heart.
11And he [the LORD] said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks 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:
12And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.
Could the Lord have come to Elijah in the wind? Yes. Could He have come in the earthquake? Yes. And what about the fire? Could He have come in that? Yes. We mentioned earlier that there were times in the Old Testament that the Lord came in all these ways. But when He wanted to encourage Elijah’s heart, He chose another way…
(whispering) He chose to use a “still, small voice.”
Now, at first you might wonder how a quiet voice is going to get someone’s attention. But think with me for a moment… what did you do the last time you saw or heard someone whispering, or speaking with a very quiet voice to someone else? Did you try to listen even harder? Did you get closer so you could hear what they were saying?
Maybe that’s just what the Lord wanted Elijah to do. Maybe He wanted Elijah to move even closer to Him, to hear what He had to say. God wants that from all of us! He wants us to be close enough to Him that we can always hear His voice when He speaks to us.
How do we do that? How do we move closer to a God who is already in our hearts? (allow the students to consider this question, and respond) One of the ways we can get closer to God is by spending more time talking to Him. When we spend time in prayer, not only do we bring our praise and requests to Him, but we can also take time to listen for what His still small voice might whisper back to our hearts. Maybe He wants to encourage us. Maybe He needs to convict of some sin we haven’t confessed, yet. Whatever the reason, God wants us to spend time, with Him, in prayer…getting close to Him.
We can also get closer to God by reading His Word. The Bible is God’s letter written to us. It’s full of encouraging words and true stories that help us get to know God even better. Sometimes when we’re reading His Word, God will make a particular verse really stick out to us. That’s His still small voice telling us to pay attention, and learn what He has written there, for us.
There’s also great Christian music to help draw our thought to God. And even sitting right here, in Sunday School, is a great opportunity to get a little closer to God as we spend time with His children, and hear His Word being taught.
Elijah didn’t have all of the opportunities that we do, today. But he was given a very special invitation. He was called out of the cave he was hiding in, to spend time alone with His Heavenly Father, hearing words of encouragement right from God’s own mouth! Spending time with fellow believers is wonderful. But time alone with God is even better! That’s really the way we get to know Him best.
So what do you think Elijah did when he heard that still small voice? Let’s find out.
13And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?
What did Elijah do when he heard that quiet voice? He moved closer, so he could better hear what God had to say. Do you think Elijah knew it was God talking to him? What’s a good clue to tell you that he did? We are told several times in the Old Testament that no man could see God face to face and live. God is just too holy for that. So perhaps Elijah covered his face knowing that He wasn’t holy enough, himself, to meet God face to face.
And then, God again asked Elijah what he was doing there. Elijah poured his heart out to God, there on Mount Horeb. And there, God encouraged Elijah by calling him to come close, speaking to him by name, and asking him what was wrong. Sometimes when we’re discouraged, that’s just what we need, too; someone to come along, put their arm around our shoulder, and ask what has happened that has brought us to the point of being so discouraged. Next time you’re feeling that way, look around you because there’s a pretty good chance God will be sending someone your way with just the right words of encouragement that you need to hear. And if He doesn’t, then you can be listening for that still small voice right in your own heart.
Maybe God is using a little discouragement in your heart today to make you draw closer to Him. If He is, then be sure to listen for His voice. He wants to encourage you, today. And if you’re not feeling discouraged yourself, why not look around and see if there’s someone else who is; someone who could use a friend to put an arm around their shoulder, and listen to what’s bothering them. Why not be an encourager, today!
As we close today’s lesson with Elijah up on Mount Horeb, we would be missing something if we didn’t mention that Elijah wasn’t the first man to have an encounter with the Lord on Mount Horeb. In fact, this isn’t the first time there had been a miraculous fire on the mountain, either. Mount Horeb is the place where God got Moses’ attention through the burning bush.
But the good news for us is that we don’t have to go all the way to Mount Horeb, or see a miraculous fire to hear the Lord speak to us. When we become His children, God’s Holy Spirit is right in our hearts. And He can speak to us anywhere, at any time.
So if you’re feeling discouraged, the first question is are you a child of God? If not, getting to know Him as your personal Savior is the biggest step you could take toward getting rid of any that discouragement in your heart.
And if you have already asked the Lord to be your Savior, then listen to His voice. He is there with you, all the time, whispering words of love and encouragement right into your heart.
Closing Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for including this account of Elijah and his time of discouragement in Your Word. And for reminding us that You are with us, to encourage us, no matter what we’re going through. If anyone here, today, does not know You as their personal Savior, and does not have Your Holy Spirit living in them, help them see that You are the answer to all their needs. For we pray in Jesus’ name, amen.
Activity: (Review Questions)
Fill in the Blanks
True or False
1. Elijah was not afraid of what Ahab and Jezebel might do to him. (false – Elijah was afraid and fled for his life)
2. Elijah was discouraged because he thought he was the only one left who still worshipped the Lord instead of Baal. (true)
3. Elijah went to Mount Horeb; the same mountain where Moses saw the burning bush. (true)
4. God decided that the best thing for Elijah was to let him die. (false – God gave Elijah some work to do)
5. God sent Elijah to anoint two new kings, and a new prophet to take his place. (true)