Reading For Tuesday 1 Kings 19:1-21
Elijah expected that the triumph on Carmel would be followed by a great religious reformation in Israel, but this was not the case. Elijah had won a battle, but the outcome of the war against Baal was still in question. Upon learning of the defeat of her god and the death of her prophets, Jezebel publicly vowed that she was going to have Elijah killed, and a messenger was dispatched to the city gate to find the prophet. She wanted Elijah to know of her solemn vow. This unexpected turn of events caused great discouragement and in a moment of spiritual weakness, he fled the country. He seemed to experience a profound depression mingled with fear. Perhaps he thought that this would settle the Baal issue once and for all.
At Beersheba, ninety-five miles south of Jezreel on the southern boundary of Judah, the prophet dismissed his faithful servant. When Elijah came upon a broom tree, he sat down to rest, exhausted physically and depressed psychologically. He wanted to die perhaps feeling that his life was pointless and that he had failed in his mission. This prophet closed his eyes and prayed that he would never open them again, but God had other plans for this man. An angel directed him to get up and eat. His depression may have been due partly to physical weakness, so God first ministered to Elijah's physical needs. Elijah found a cake of bread and a jar of water. After consumption, the prophet again dozed off. He was awakened again by the angel and given nourishment again. With renewed strength, Elijah fasted for forty days.
At Horeb, Elijah took up residence in a cave and there asked him a question designed at once to reprove Elijah and to make him analyze his situation. He had left without a directive from God and was asked the probing question, “What are you doing here?” Elijah did not accept censure without some self-justification. Why would God look upon the deterioration in the northern kingdom for so long without intervening? Elijah resented the growing corruption of the age and the frustration of his efforts to reverse it, but if Elijah thought his depression and his desertion were justified, he was mistaken. The Lord directed him to stand at the entrance of the cave. As soon as he stepped from the cave, Elijah was confronted with a fierce wind that ripped rocks loose from the mountain and sent them crashing down to the valley below, but God was not in the wind. After the wind had subsided, the earth began to shake, but God was not present in the earthquake. Next came fire but God was not in the fire either. Finally came a still small voice and Elijah knew that he was standing in the presence of God. He wrapped his mantle about his face, lest he gaze upon God and stepped out from his cave. Once again, Elijah heard the voice of God raising the same question that had been asked previously, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Elijah repeated the same answer he had given God before. Elijah was commissioned to anoint Hazael, Jehu, and Elisha and see to it that these three individuals were made aware of their appointment. Hazael would be king of Damascus, Jehu would be king of Israel, and Elisha would be Elijah’s successor. The three would be God’s agents of judgment upon apostate Israel. This commission answered Elijah’s implicit criticism that God was not doing enough to thwart the sinners in Israel. God was suggesting that bold action was about to be taken against the ruling dynasty and the religion that it fostered. A ruthless foreign invader and a dynastic upheaval would be necessary to root out the apostasy in Israel. In a final note, God revealed that seven thousand still had not bowed the knee to Baal.
Upon returning to Israel, Elijah set about to carry out the assignment that God had given him. He came upon Elisha plowing in a field. Elijah passed by Elisha and cast his mantle upon the young man. This rough hairy garment had become the trademark of Elijah and the symbol of his prophetic office. To throw the cloak upon Elisha was the way of calling him to be his successor. After throwing his mantle upon Elisha, Elijah kept walking. He left it for Elisha to take or reject this call as he saw fit. Elisha made up his mind quickly and ran after his new master. His request to be allowed to give his mother and father a parting embrace is altogether fitting, even touching. Elijah granted the request. Elisha bid his parents and friends farewell at a hastily prepared meal and began to follow Elijah as his attendant.
Things To Consider:
- Why does a sudden change in our circumstances sometimes result in us forgetting years of God's faithfulness?
- How does the Bible address depression? Did God just tell Elijah to get over it?
- How should we as believers look at depression?
- What do you think God was communicating to Elijah through the forces of nature he encountered outside the cave?
- Did Elijah repent? How do you know?
- How does God address Elijah's accusation? Do you think he found comfort in it?