Elijah runs away from Ahab and Jezebel
1Ahab told his wife Jezebel what Elijah had done and that he had killed the prophets.2She sent a message to Elijah: “You killed my prophets. Now I'm going to kill you! I pray that the gods will punish me even more severely if I don't do it by this time tomorrow.”
3Elijah was afraid when he got her message, and he ran to the town of Beersheba in Judah. He left his servant there,4then walked another whole day into the desert. Finally, he came to a large bush and sat down in its shade. He begged the LORD, “I've had enough. Just let me die! I'm no better off than my ancestors.”5Then he lay down in the shade and fell asleep.
Suddenly an angel woke him up and said, “Get up and eat.”6Elijah looked around, and by his head was a jar of water and some baked bread. He sat up, ate and drank, then lay down and went back to sleep.
7Soon the LORD's angel woke him again and said, “Get up and eat, or else you'll get too tired to travel.”8So Elijah sat up and ate and drank.
The food and water made him strong enough to walk forty more days. At last, he reached Mount Sinai, the mountain of God,9and he spent the night there in a cave.
The LORD appears to Elijah
While Elijah was on Mount Sinai, the LORD asked, “Elijah, why are you here?”
10He answered, “LORD God All-Powerful, I've always done my best to obey you. But your people have broken their solemn promise to you. They have torn down your altars and killed all your prophets, except me. And now they are even trying to kill me!”
11“Go out and stand on the mountain,” the LORD replied. “I want you to see me when I pass by.”
All at once, a strong wind shook the mountain and shattered the rocks. But the LORD was not in the wind. Next, there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake.12Then there was a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire.
Finally, there was a gentle breeze,13and when Elijah heard it, he covered his face with his coat. He went out and stood at the entrance to the cave.
The LORD asked, “Elijah, why are you here?”
14Elijah answered, “LORD God All-Powerful, I've always done my best to obey you. But your people have broken their solemn promise to you. They have torn down your altars and killed all your prophets, except me. And now they are even trying to kill me!”
15The LORD said:
Elijah, you can go back to the desert near Damascus. And when you get there, appoint Hazael to be king of Syria.16Then appoint Jehu son of Nimshi to be king of Israel, and Elisha son of Shaphat to take your place as my prophet.
17Hazael will start killing the people who worship Baal. Jehu will kill those who escape from Hazael, and Elisha will kill those who escape from Jehu.
18But seven thousand Israelites have refused to worship Baal, and they will live.
Elisha becomes Elijah's assistant
19Elijah left and found Elisha ploughing a field with a pair of oxen. There were eleven other men in front of him, and each one was also ploughing with a pair of oxen. Elijah went over and put his own coat on Elisha.
20Elisha stopped ploughing and ran after him. “Let me kiss my parents goodbye, then I'll go with you,” he said.
“You can go,” Elijah said. “But remember what I've done for you.”
21Elisha left and took his oxen with him. He killed them and boiled them over a fire he had made with the wood from his plough. He gave the meat to the people who were with him, and they ate it. Then he left with Elijah and became his assistant.
It doesn’t make sense. Elijah had successfully eliminated 450 religious opponents. He was king of the hill! Yet threatened by one woman, his faith turns to fear. Admittedly, Jezebel was a heartless, blood thirsty, Baal loving priestess and queen who had the political power and means to kill Elijah. But Elijah had proven himself – triumphing in the terrible intensity of the Mount Carmel conflict. Surely he was a prophet to be reckoned with? So why did he end up in the back side of the desert with a death wish?
Faith sees God’s cause in the day to day contests of life. Maybe it was the enormous strain of the struggle that clouded Elijah’s view of God. Faith sometimes flags when the going gets tough. When our eyes are fixed on our struggles, and not on God, despair can gain the upper hand.
Thankfully, God’s grace reaches beyond our sufferings or sense of abandonment. He doesn’t leave us alone in our sorrows. He sustains us, whispers, and tells us what to do. Elijah is miraculously strengthened for 40 days and nights by ‘Angel Cake’. Wandering through the wilderness he moves from fighting the Lord’s battle to fighting his own.
Like Joshua before him and Jesus after him, Elijah finds strength in the wilderness. To his newfound strength, God adds stillness – whisper/breeze/hardly a sound (v 12). Wrapping his cloak around his face, Elijah drinks it in, and discovers the “peace that no one can completely understand” (Philippians 4:7).
Elijah is then summoned to exercise faith once again. God tells him to anoint a military commander, anoint the next king, and appoint Elisha as his successor. What mattered was the kingdom of peace. His strength restored, Elijah knew that in every future struggle he could be assured of the triumph of God’s grace.
Lord thank you for the strength that comes from the stillness found in resting in you. Amen.