This is a three-part series, learning life lessons through Elijah’s life, allowing this week between Christmas and New Year’s to be a time of savoring and reflection, and a time of preparation for what is to come.
Elijah’s story can show us how.
- Elijah’s Training by God in 1 Kings 17
- Elijah’s Triumph at Carmel in 1 Kings 18
- Elijah’s Trust in God Tested in 1 Kings 19
Elijah’s Trust in God Tested 1 Kings 19
What a picture, at the end of chapter 18, Elijah running like the wind in exultation, ahead of Ahab’s chariot, all the way to Jezreel! That was literally a mountain top experience. It didn’t last. Ahab took his fastest chariot to Jezreel and told Jezebel everything. But, rather than worship God in awe and wonder, Jezebel became enraged.
Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life like the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.”1 Kings 19:2 (NRSV)
Now, Elijah ran in terror, 120 miles, all the way from Jezreel to Beersheba, the southernmost town in Judah—God’s country—then another whole distance into the desert until he collapsed under a tree.
Totally spent, physically and emotionally, Elijah concluded that his work was fruitless and his life was not worth living. He had lost confidence in God’s recent triumph and was running away from any more conflict. He had become overwhelmed by the size of his opposition, and God was looking much smaller and weaker than Jezebel.
He just wanted to die.
In tender grace, God provided sleep, food, a warm fire and affectionate companionship being gentle with Elijah’s discouragement. Sometimes, when the last person waves goodbye, what you and I really need most is just that, some rest, a chance to step back, get perspective, have a meal, or a good sleep.
God prepared Elijah for the forty day’s journey to God’s holy mountain, Mount Horeb, where the Lord had first established God’s covenant with the people, nearly a thousand before. Once there,
Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”YHWH, 1 Kings 19:9 (NRSV)
It was as though God was asking “Why are you here, spiritually, instead of trusting me, and glorifying me?” Elijah needed a new vision of God, a more intimate relationship.
God said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”
Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces 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;
and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire;
and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.
When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.
Then there came a voice to him1 Kings 19:11-13 (NRSV)
God appeared to Elijah in all the ways that the earth manifests God’s great power, this was the God Elijah already knew, but now God’s presence was in what in Hebrew means “a sound of gentle stillness.”
Elijah had wanted to see God’s power executing justice, so God showed Elijah power, it was intensely mighty, yet God’s chosen method is to show tenderness to God’s people, to love them, to gently call them to the Lord in intimate relationship. God asked the question again, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” “What do you want of Me, Elijah?”
In answer to God’s questions, Elijah said,
I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.Elijah, 1 Kings 19:14 (NRSV)
1) “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty” yet unspoken, bitterly unrewarded – I go from one hard job to the next with no rest in between, I’m not able to do this hard work with no rest.
2) “The Israelites have rejected Your covenant, broken down Your altars, and put Your prophets to death” bitterly persecuted – why have You not exacted justice, Lord? Why is Jezebel free to persecute me, Your prophet, and hunt for my life?
3) “I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too” bitterly lonely – is it worth it? I did all this for You, I am the only one You have left, and soon they will kill me, too. I’m on the losing team.
Instead of condemnation, God’s answer was filled with reassurance of the Lord’s care and assurance of God’s justice.
God conditions us through heartache and confession to receive God’s encouragement and counsel.
- Everything Elijah did was worth it, and part of God’s overarching plan for God’s people
- There would be justice. God gave Elijah specific prophetic details of how God’s judgment would set all things right. King Hazael of Aram and King Jehu would put every wrongdoer to death, and all God’s prophesies would be fulfilled in the reigns of their sons, Joram and Jehoahaz.
- There were 7,000 believers whom God had set aside for the Lord all throughout Israel.
- One of those believers was Elisha, who would become Elijah’s closest friend, and would come after Elijah, so he would have rest.
At Elijah’s lowest point came God’s greatest comfort, deepest encouragement, broadest prophetic counsel, and preparation to begin the training of Elisha, and the strengthening of those faithful God had already set aside.
What were your mountain top experiences this week?
And maybe you have had some moments in the pits, too. Those peak and valley experiences can come back-to-back and catch us totally off-guard.
Either way, we have a week between festivities, a time when we can on purpose be quiet, listen to God’s voice, and receive God’s life-bringing encouragement, and God’s wise counsel, as we prepare for whatever God has in store for us in 2021.
[Elijah fed by God | Agustín Salinas Teruel, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons]