“The Lord said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by’.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. 1 Kings 11-13
I was finishing up my devotional when I saw the bible verse of the day pop up on my phone, 1Kings 19: 11-13. Despite all of the ways God could have revealed Himself, he showed up in a whisper. This led me to re-read 1 Kings 18 and then 19.
Elijah as God’s Vessel
In 1 Kings 18, Elijah is coming off of a powerful victory. During a time when God’s prophets were being murdered by Jezebel, the Israelites had turned away from God worshiping Baal instead. In obedience, Elijah presented himself to Ahab and created a challenge to the people: “I am the only one of the Lord’s prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets. Get two bulls for us. Let Baal’s prophets choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by fire—he is God.” 1 Kings 18:22-24 The people agreed to this.
God showed up in a big way bringing fire to a water entrenched alter, burning up the water, the sacrifice, and even the stones and soil. The Israelites turned their hearts back to God, claiming Him as the One True God. Imagine the faith it took in God, during a drought for Elijah to command the precious commodity of water to be used on an altar. Elijah was so certain that God was going to come through. Elijah then killed all of Baal’s prophets and the drought ended. Directly after it began to rain, God gave Elijah the strength to run on foot to the town of Jezreel. Throughout the process, Elijah acted in obedience to God only doing as He directed.
However, once Ahab reiterated what happened to Jezebel things took a turn for the worse. In 1 Kings 19:1, Ahab twists the truth the way one who is hard hearted would. He attributes the actions of Elijah to be of Elijah’s doing as opposed to God’s doing. Ahab refused to give God credit. 1 Kings 19: 1 states, “Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword.”
In verse 2, “So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.” Jezebel makes a threat to Elijah putting a contract out on his life, which sent him running to the wilderness and asking God to take his life.
Why Did Elijah Become Defeated?
Elijah, a great man of God, used by God as His mighty vessel ran away and lost his will to live. Elijah was physically and spiritually exhausted from the warfare he was engaged in. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. In 1 Kings 19:4, Elijah says, “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.”
There are many times when Christian warriors have faced the battlefield and become weary from the fight, but in this instance, Elijah had let this threat consume him. He did not ask God if he should flee to the wilderness, or seek His counsel on the next move. He was so devastated by this threat that he hid, and even asked God to take his life. After God showed such a Mighty display of power you would think Elijah would be more confident, but yet he wasn’t. He was human. If such a prophet as Elijah can become discouraged, it is no wonder that we can become weary and discouraged as well.
We can use Elijah’s example to see where human patterns come in. Even though Elijah was God’s vessel and saw God use him to end a drought, stand up against Jezebel and Ahab, and ran 20 miles to Jezreel on foot, he had a moment in time where he felt completely defeated by his Enemy and weary as well. When we are in those moments of defeat, it is so easy to make bad choices using our emotions rather than listening to God’s voice.
It started with Elijah having an expectation about how God was going to move. Defeat only exists when we expect a certain outcome. Rather than allowing God to decide what it looks like or how our situation will play out, we have an expectation. When that expectation is not met, we become utterly disappointed and begin to feel defeated. While God’s display of power in front of the Israelites was a victory, it did not turn out the way Elijah expected. If it had, then he would not have slipped into the slope of defeat strong enough to end his life. Elijah certainly didn’t envision things becoming WORSE after he obeyed God. Fear gripped Elijah in those moments and left him wiped out and relying on his strength. He asked God before falling asleep to end his life. What if we responded by expecting God to move but just released the conditional way we want Him to move?
How did God Respond?
While Elijah responded in his human strength, God responded in the way a loving Father would: He nursed Elijah until he was rejuvenated.
1.God sent an angel to minister to his physical needs. God did not engage Elijah in conversation about his shortcomings but fed him twice. 1 Kings 19: 5-9 states,
“All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. There he went into a cave and spent the night.”
2. God appeared to Elijah with a question, “What are you doing here, Elijah.” I love this in particular because as God He already knows, but our God is a relational God and is opening up a dialogue with His prophet. God is a God of intimacy and love. Elijah was still in the cave at this point.
3. God gently calls Elijah out of the cave telling him to come on the mountain top to experience His presence, but Elijah stays in the cave.
4. God reminds Elijah of His Holy power and His gentle Love through a whisper in 1 KIngs 19: 11- 13,“Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind, there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.” When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
5. God initiates conversation with Elijah again giving him the opportunity to vent his frustrations in His Holy presence not in hiding, which he does.
6. God gives Elijah clear instructions on how to proceed, allowing Elijah, a successor in Elisha.
God did not punish or condemn Elijah for his momentary weakness and weariness. He understood Elijah’s needs and ministered to him. He knew that Elijah’s heart was weary and compassionately and tenderly tended those needs. It’s so easy to question our Faith when we feel defeated or weary, but we serve a God who will minister to us in His still small voice through the Holy Spirit. In turn, we must respond in obedience. We too should respond the way God did to Elijah. When we encounter the brokenhearted and the weary soldiers, do we tell them to have more faith or do we minister to them? Are we compassionate and tender in our response to our fellow soldiers who are struggling and under enemy attack? This portion of scripture is a great reminder to trust and obey God even through trials and tribulations, but God’s response to Elijah is a phenomenal example of how to respond to fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who are suffering as well.
Prayer Starter: Lord, the battle is long, and my strength feels like it’s in short supply, I want just to run and hide in my cave rather than face the false accusations and threats against me. Instead, Lord, give me the strength to run to you rather than following my feelings. I want to live a life of obedience no matter what the cost. I thank You, Lord, for being so tender when I am weary. Thank you for nurturing me back to health spiritually, physically and emotionally. I thank You that You are a God that meets all of my needs. In Jesus’ name, I pray, Amen.