Sometimes we think of the famous characters in the Bible as great moral heroes or exemplars. Certainty there are many heroic people in the Bible and many good examples to follow, but mostly the Bible is full of people just like us making the same kind of mistakes that we make. That’s one reason why I love this story about Elijah. In this famous story, Elijah has experienced career failure and the shattering of a hope. After a triumphant victory over the prophets of Baal, he is being hunted down by a pagan queen and he feels abandoned and alone. He is scared, tired, discouraged, burned out, at the end of his rope. He wants to quit it all. This is a very human story about a very ordinary man, and about what God does to care for him and renew him.
We see God doing at least three things with Elijah in this story. First, God comforts him. He comes to Elijah in his need and provides food, rest and retreat. God is tender with a broken man. Second, God confronts him. He shows Elijah that the reason he is upset is because he didn’t get what he wanted. He exposes the prophet's self-centeredness and reveals that his despondency flows from his thwarted desires. Finally, God commissions him. He renews him and calls him back into the important call on his life. All three movements- the comfort, the confrontation, and the commissioning, are all acts of love to bring renewal to a man who needs it. This is the same work that God seeks to do in all of our lives, whether in big ways or small.
In preparation for worship, try reading 1 Kings 18 and 19 and pay attention to the ups and downs of Elijahs emotions and circumstances. Think about your own life and how you may relate to Elijah. Ask God to meet you in the ways he met Elijah and to renew you in the same way.
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1 Kings 19:1-18
Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 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.”
3 Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, 4 while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.”5 Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.
All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” 6 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.
7 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.” 8 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. 9 There he went into a cave and spent the night.
The Lord Appears to Elijah
And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
11 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. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
14 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
15 The Lord said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. 16 Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. 17 Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu.18 Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.”