Jezebel threatened and Elijah ran for his life. This was despite the fact that just days earlier God had given him a great victory over the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel, causing the people of Israel to turn back to the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, and declare “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!”
Not only did God perform a mighty miracle through Elijah, witnessed by the king and the people of Israel but at Elijah’s word a three and a half year drought came to an end and a heavy rain began to fall. On top of this the power of the Lord came upon Elijah and gave him superhuman speed enabling him to run a distance of approximately 14 miles at a speed faster than King Ahab in his chariot.
And yet upon hearing Jezebel’s threat to kill him, the great prophet Elijah feared for his life.
What is it about fear that can cripple a strong man? In this case it was merely a threat. Elijah should have known that this wicked queen had no power in comparison to the living God in whose Hands his future lay but fear often produces irrational responses. And so Elijah ran for his life. Leaving his servant behind he ran to the wilderness, sat down under a broom tree and prayed to die; then he lay down and fell asleep. The fear triggered a cascade of negative emotions. Elijah was afraid; Elijah was discouraged; Elijah was depressed; Elijah was tired; Elijah wanted to die.
Jezebel’s threat had been unexpected. No doubt Elijah had thought that following the great defeat of the prophets of Baal and the revelation of the power of the Lord God, both Ahab and Jezebel would repent of their idol worship and turn to the follow the living God. Sometimes after we have seen God move in power in our lives and in the lives of others, we expect to see a dramatic shift in circumstances. This was very likely the case with Elijah, but when he saw that there had been no change of heart in the leadership of Israel, he became very discouraged. People are often stubborn and rebellious; God is long-suffering and gracious. But in fact there would be fruit that Elijah couldn’t yet see.
Thank God that when we become discouraged and faint-hearted like Elijah, God comes to us and refreshes us!
After Elijah had prayed to die and fallen asleep under the broom tree, twice the angel of the LORD came to him, spoke to him and gave him food. In Elijah’s case it was bread and water. In our case, though of course we need physical food and water, the bread Elijah ate represents the Word of God and the water he drank represents the Holy Spirit. By feeding on Jesus’ word and being filled with His Spirit, God will strengthen us in our times of fear and discouragement. Elijah’s part was to eat and drink God’s provision. Ours is too.
Strengthened by the food and water, Elijah went to Horeb, the mountain of God. Horeb means waste or desolate. And it was here in this place of desolation that Elijah had one of his most powerful encounters with the Lord.
If you are a lover of God, then He will work out all things for your good, even when you are in a place of waste and desolation. In fact with God, nothing is ever wasted:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
On the mountain of Horeb, the mountain of desolation, Elijah experienced a great and powerful wind, an earthquake and a fire. But the Lord wasn’t in any of those. Then came a gentle whisper. And the Lord was in the whisper.
God wasn’t done with Elijah. His best days were yet to come. Because of his victory at Mount Carmel, the prophets of the Lord began to reemerge and Elijah was not the only one. No more prophets of the Lord were put to death during the rest of Ahab’s reign and later after Elijah had pronounced judgment from the Lord over him because of Naboth’s vineyard, Ahab even humbled himself before the Lord (1 Kings 21:29)!
Elijah never again lost courage in the face of threats following his encounter with the Lord at Mount Horeb. He was able to train up his successor Elisha such that Elisha received a double portion of the Spirit. Finally Elijah was the second of only two recorded individuals in the bible to never experience death because the Lord took him to heaven in a whirlwind (2 Kings 2).
So if you have been shaken by great winds, earthquakes and fires in your life possibly even following great victories and are in a desolate place today, know that those things have not come from the Lord. Today, as he did for Elijah, He wants to feed you with His word, strengthen you by His Spirit and restore you with a gentle whisper. He still has much for you to do!
see 1 Kings 18 and 1 Kings 19