Lifeway “Explore the Bible” Lesson Overview of I Kings 19:9-18, for Sun, July 17, 2022: “Hope”

(A brief overview for Sunday school teachers and Bible study leaders of Lifeway’s “Explore the Bible lesson of I Kings 19 for Sunday, July 17, 2022)

Video version of this overview is available on YouTube at:

One way to introduce the lesson this week might be to ask your group to share:

— ??? What was one of the biggest emotional “highs” you ever experienced in your life — greatest victory, spiritual experience, emotional high (maybe marriage, birth of a child, or big promotion or award, spiritual experience)

— ??? and then after some of those have been shared, ask: Now what was one of the LOWEST times you ever went through? (Some might be hard to share, but can you share one of your worst?)  It might help your group to share if you will be prepared to lead the way with an experience of your own. And/or send a person or two from class an email and ask them to be ready to share an answer. (You could email your whole class this opening question — not a bad excuse to make a contact with everyone this week anyway!)

But after you’ve shared the stories of the highs/lows, then make the point: we ALL have both kinds of experiences, don’t we? Everyone has both “high” and “low” times in life. Nobody has all highs, or all lows; we all have both. Even those we think of as “super spiritual” people like Bible heroes have their “low” times — and we see that in Elijah in our passage for today in I Kings 19.

CONTEXT: this is just after the “big showdown” on Mt. Carmel, between Elijah and the prophets of Baal and Asherah, when God answered with fire from heaven. Elijah led the people in putting the false prophets to death, and he told King Ahab that rain was coming to end the drought, and it did.

Chapter 19 then opens with the wicked queen Jezebel promising to put Elijah to death like he did her prophets. Elijah ran for his life to Beersheba (a long way; in south Judah, then went a day’s journey into the wilderness — and he basically went into a “funk.” He says in :4, “It is enough; now O LORD, take my life …”. This was of course a really “low” time in his life. So God has an angel give him food and water, and he sleeps; the angel gives him more food, and then Elijah goes 40 days and nights to Mt. Horeb.

:9 opens our Focus Passage with a GREAT QUESTION from the Lord: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
The Lord knows how to really get us with the most searching questions. 

— Like to Adam in the Garden: “Adam, where are you?” God wasn’t asking for information. Where was he, spiritually? And why was he there? It was a very searching question.

— Of course Jesus was the master of that in the NT as well. “What do you want Me to do for you?” “Why do you call Me, ‘Good’?” “The baptism of John was from what source?” “Do you believe that I can do this?” And on and on. 

God knows how to ask us the questions that search our souls; the questions we really need.

This is the question Elijah really needed just then: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 

Obviously, Elijah was in a low place. Most likely, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually as well. Think about it:

— He’d just run and walked all the way from Israel (the Northern Kingdom) all the way to Beersheba and Horeb, so he had to be physically exhausted

— He had just confronted almost 1000 prophets of Baal & Asherah, and won a huge spiritual victory, so he was spiritually spent

— and of course his emotions had run the gamut, from a great victory on Mt. Carmel, to the slaying of the prophets, to the threat to his life by Jezebel, so he was emotionally exhausted.

Elijah was totally spent! He had come to the end of himself.

And he felt sorry for himself. He says in :10  “I alone am left” 

Does it seem unusual that after this great VICTORY at Mt. Carmel, Elijah hit this spiritual “low”? It shouldn’t. 

AND: It’s almost a “spiritual principle” or almost a “law,” that after great “highs,” great victories, there come “lows”, defeats or temptations.

— I always think ofJesus and the 3 disciples coming down from the Mt. Of Transfiguration in Mt. 17. What a spiritual high! Jesus made as white as light, a taste of His glory! And what did they come down to when they came down from the mountain? Everyone was in a commotion, the man’s son was demon-possessed, and the disciples couldn’t do anything about it; and Jesus says “You unbelieving and perverted generation; how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you?

It’s like He not only literally went from “the mountain to the valley” but also spiritually as well. 

The “valleys” often come right after the mountaintop! So we shouldn’t be surprised when that happens — and sometimes right after one another.

But we ALL have these “ups” and “downs.” This is something that some of your group members may really need to hear.

C.S. Lewis wrote of what he called “the law of undulation,” that our lives don’t always progress inevitably upward, even if we are growing spiritually, but rather we progress in a series of “ups and downs,” more of a “wavy” path, up and down. He said we all have what we might call “peaks” and “troughs.” The “peaks” are those “highs”, the spiritual victories. But we also have “troughs”, “lows” along the way too.  I remember reading where Lewis said to one person he was counseling by letter: “You’re in a ‘trough.’” You’re in a low spot. But remember, you won’t stay there; you’ll be out of it soon. It may help some of your group members to know that we ALL have “troughs,” down times — but it won’t always be that way. 

You/your group members can probably think of similar experiences like Elijah had,  in your own lives when this has happened. Maybe some would say they’re in a “trough” right now. 

What can we do when we’re in a “trough” like Elijah? Well we see  a couple of things here:

I Kings 19:8 says Elijah went to Mt. Horeb, “the mountain of God.” Horeb is the place where Moses met God in the burning bush in Exodus 3, it is generally believed to be synonymous with Mt. Sinai, where the 10 Commandments were given, etc., so this was a very special place, hence the tag: “the mountain of God.”

And this is a good point of application: when you really need help spiritually, it might help to go to a special place where you can have some extended time with God. OF COURSE we can meet God anywhere; His Spirit is in us. But sometimes it helps to go a special place to be with Him.

(??? Could ask your group: what might some of those places be for US?) Some answers might be:

— go to church

— go to your Bible study/small group

— a Christian camp or retreat center

— just out in creation like Jesus would go to be alone

— maybe a special place where you’ve met God before

— hopefully you have a place where you meet God every day in His word/prayer and hear from Him regularly. 

So it may help, when you’re “down,” to go to “the mountain of God”, go to a place where you can God. And you might reemphasize:  it CAN be “any” place; but sometimes having a special place helps. Get away from the confusion and tumult, and get to a place where you can hear from God, wherever that may be. 

While you are at it, you might encourage your group to have a special prepared place where you meet God every day in His word/prayer.

MasterLife discipleship shares 4 essentials of a daily time with God:

— a certain TIME

— a certain PLACE

— a certain PROCEDURE/PLAN.

— focus on meeting the PERSON, don’t just make it a ritual.

Having a certain PLACE is an important element in a daily time with God. 

(You might ask: ??? Why do you think having a certain place to meet God every day be important???  

Answers might include: having a set aside place facilitates the habit, going to the same place every day; also that place is away from distractions/people; and have everything you need there: Bible, notebook, prayer list, something to play worship songs on, etc.

Encourage your group: If you don’t have one, prepare a set place, so you can be ready to meet God in that special, prepared place every day this week.

Next, alone with God, Elijah gets a word from Him. 

19:11-13 is an interesting section. After Elijah’s first answer, God tells him to go stand on the mountain before Him, as we saw.

And when he does, three significant elements go before him:

— a strong wind that broke the rocks into pieces!

— then an earthquake

— then a fire

But after each of these, it says God was not in them.

Then :12 says there was a “gentle blowing”, and God spoke to Elijah in :13, and asked him again, “What are you doing here?”

??? MIGHT ask your group: what do you think was the point of the three things that God was not in — the wind, earthquake, and fire???

(One answer might be: we want God to speak to us in “dramatic” ways: we want Him to speak loudly to us, like a hurricane; tremble the ground with His voice; carve His words in rock with a fire, etc.    But more often, He does not speak that way. He most often speaks in the “still small voice” of His Spirit in our hearts, and especially as we quietly read His word. 

This is another reason why we need to get away, or get to a quiet place, when we spend time with Him, so that we can hear that “still small voice.” We’re not going to hear it with the tv on, or in a crowd of voices. We need to be alone with Him to hear Him. Make sure you give him that time, so you can hear Him.)

But the most important point is that God DID speak to Elijah in this time. In this “trough,” he needed to hear from God — and he did.

One thing God showed Elijah was that God’s work was going to go on, despite his personal tribulations.

He told him: Go anoint Hazael King over Aram, Jehu king over Israel, and Elisha prophet in your place/your successor. He was giving him instructions for what was going to happen next. He was showing Elijah that God’s work was going to go on. God was still on the throne:

— He was going to anoint Hazael as king over Aram (Aram is what we know as Syria)  Aram was not part of Israel or Judah, “God’s people.” But this shows that God rules ALL the nations! HE dictates who is on the throne even of the heathen countries.

— The wicked Ahab and Jezebel are going to be REPLACED by Jehu (whom we will see in II Kings, will lead a revival in the land and would have Jezebel killed). So these enemies who look so foreboding are temporary; they will be gone soon.

— and he’s going to anoint Elisha as the next prophet: so the work is going to go on after you. It is NOT “I alone am left.” It’s going to go on. There’s going to be another man of God after you. 

AND THEN GOD ADDS in :18 “Yet I will leave 7000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal …”. It’s like, Oh, and by the way, you AREN’T the only one; I have 7000 people in Israel who haven’t worshiped Baal. God always has a people.  

Sometimes we feel like we’re “the only ones” still serving God — but we aren’t. No matter how bad things seem, God’s Kingdom and God’s work will always go on. 

It reminds me of the old Bill Gaither song: “The Church Triumphant”: 

“God has always had a people. Many a foolish conqueror has made the mistake of thinking that because he had forced the church of Jesus Christ out of sight, he had stilled its voice and snuffed out its life, but 

God has always had a people. The powerful current of a rushing river is not diminished because it’s forced to flow underground. Now the purest water is the stream that burst crystal clear into the sunlight after it has forced its way through solid rock. 

There have been many a charlatan like Simon The Magician who sought to barter on the open market that power which cannot be bought or sold, but 

God has always had a people. Men who could not be bought and women who were beyond purchase. 

God has always had a people. There have been times of affluence and prosperity when the church’s message has been nearly diluted into oblivion by those who sought to make it socially attractive, neatly organized, and financially profitable, but God has always had a people. Yes it’s been gold plated, draped in purple and encrusted with jewels. It has been misrepresented, ridiculed, lauded and scorned but God has always had a people. And these followers of Jesus Christ have been, according to the whim of the times, elevated as sacred leaders and murdered as heretics. Yet through it all, there marches on that powerful army of the meek, God’s chosen people who cannot be bought, flattered, murdered or stilled. On through the ages they march, the church! God’s church triumphant!”

You might want to read these lyrics (or have a good reader in your class prepared to read them) OR play the song on an mP3 or YouTube video … 

It’s an inspiring song — and it reinforces the point that God makes here:  when you think you’re the only one, you’re NOT. “God has always had a people.”  He’s always got “7000 who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” In Revelation He’s got the 144,000. God always has a people, and He always will. You’re never alone. So stand firm; have hope — God’s church triumphant is alive and well! 

So at some point in your class, maybe somewhere along the way — or maybe here at the end — you might ask:

??? What would you say to someone who is in a “trough”? What counsel would you give them? 

(Answers could include:

— make sure you get enough rest and sleep. Elijah slept here.

Someone said never make an important decision when you are tired. That’s some good advice.

— make sure you have a good diet: God gave Elijah food here

— especially make sure you go somewhere where you can have quality time with God, and make sure you get from Him, as Elijah does here

— Remember that “troughs” are temporary. You won’t be in it forever! 

— And know that no matter how bad it seems, God’s Kingdom is always going forward!  

I hope that will help you some with this week’s lesson. God bless you as you encourage your people — some of whom may be “in a trough” this week — from His word!  

About Shawn Thomas

My blog, shawnethomas.com, provides brief devotions from own personal daily Bible reading, as well as some of my sermons, book reviews, and family life experiences.
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8 Responses to Lifeway “Explore the Bible” Lesson Overview of I Kings 19:9-18, for Sun, July 17, 2022: “Hope”

  1. Patricia Llewellyn says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your studies of the lessons. I watch them weekly. I really like how you offer suggestions on how to maybe start the BIBLE CLASS. I also like how you talk about ways to apply it to our lives now and not just a history lesson. I Love teaching a Women’s class weekly. By teaching I am learning and growing in the Lord. The women share so freely about themselves and applying God’s Word to their lives . It is such a blessing from God to teach and especially receiving your podcast regarding each lesson. God Bless and thank you! Patricia Llewellyn

    • Shawn Thomas says:

      Patricia; I am SO glad these are helpful to you — and especially that you’ve gotten the vision to apply the word, and not just make it a history lesson. It’s exciting that the ladies in your class share so freely; that is terrific. It makes for a great class — the way Sunday School/LIFE groups ought to be! Thank you for the encouraging words; it is a blessing to me!

  2. Cindy J says:

    I am so happy to have found this today. I am a substitute teacher in our small group class at Woodridge Baptist Church in Shreveport, LA. My Bible teaching skills are mediocre at best and I get extremely nervous each time I have to teach when our regular teacher is out of town. Your wonderful overview is going to help me tremendously this week. God. bless you for the work that you do to prepare and share this information. I thank God that he led me to this site so that I will better prepared this Sunday.

    • Shawn Thomas says:

      Ah, nice; our son-in-law grew up in Shreveport, and we served in Moss Bluff LA for a number of years. I’m glad the overview is helpful to you! Thank you for letting me know. I am praying for you tonight!

  3. Pat Conway says:

    Thank for your insights and explanations. I have taught Sunday school for many years but I am always looking for more information to prepare myself before teaching. I did not know that there was so much information designed by Lifeway and then of course other sources also. Thank you again.

    • Shawn Thomas says:

      You are very welcome Pat. I’m glad you are continuing to look for ways to improve your teaching – that is a great sign that you are not being complacent but continuing to grow! God bless you as you continue to walk with Him daily, and serve Him by sharing His word.

  4. Linda says:

    Thank you! Your explanation of these lessons each week are so helpful…and thought provoking. Thank you for sharing…and encouraging us, me, to share God’s Word each week. Praying for you and those you encounter Sunday and throughout the upcoming week. 🙏

  5. Lane says:

    Thank you for taking the time and effort to put this together in a thoughtful way. The questions you ask at the beginning are typically quite helpful, as well as the applications. I’ve often wondered if we over personalize Elijah’s encounter with God in the cave and look for God to speak with us personally INSTEAD of picking up our bibles to see what we know for sure that he says? I like the fact that you speak of getting quiet daily, and getting into His Word.

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