I Kings 19 – Week Eight
Does anyone else still love to watch Disney movies? I love the older ones like The Shaggy D.A. and Freaky Friday. I love some of the newer ones as well such as The Little Mermaid and Finding Nemo. I have watched some of the Disney movies multiple times because I enjoy them that much. One of my favorites is Monsters, Inc. In case you have never seen it or don’t remember what it’s about, let me refresh your memory. The storyline revolves around a common fear among children. Monsters who hide in closets and under beds. The premise of the movie is that there is a separate world from the human world and in this separate world are monsters of all sizes and shapes. It’s called Monstropolis. Since Georgia Power doesn’t service the monsters of Monstropolis, they must acquire their energy from another source: the screams of children. This is done by the monsters crossing over into the human world, hiding in children’s closets and under their beds, and at some point, during the night, jumping out and scaring the child so that they scream. The bigger and louder the scream, the more energy that is collected.
I just loved that Disney created this whole back story to a universal fear that most kids have.
Do you remember being afraid of monsters in the closet or under your bed? I do. But I don’t remember anyone ever telling me that it was something that I needed to fear. I don’t recall being told that monsters lived in my closet or under my bed. It seems as if it’s just a natural thing for children to be afraid of until they’re not. At some point in my life, I guess I realized there were no monsters either in the closet or under the bed and that it was just an irrational fear. I’m assuming all of you are no longer afraid of an imaginary monster in the closet. But I still, to this day, don’t sleep with the closet door opened.
My girls were both afraid of the nighttime monsters. I convinced them that monsters were terribly afraid of the smell of apples. I took cans of apple-scented air freshener and made labels that read something like “Monster Repellent” or “Monsters Go Away” and gave them each their own can. At night, after being tucked in, I could hear the “pssssssssstttt” of the cans going off to keep the monsters away. The scent of apples gave them a sense of protection from the imaginary monsters. All it took was a can of air freshener from the dollar store and they were brave enough to fight them on their own.
At some point in our lives, we come to realize that the fear of monsters wasn’t warranted. There were no such monsters. The dark creature we thought we were seeing was just a pile of clothes or toys or stuffed animals. For you, maybe it wasn’t monsters in the closet or under the bed. Maybe your monsters lived in the basement or the attic. But chances are, we all had irrational and baseless fears as children. Things that we can look back on now and wonder why we were so afraid. The fear was real, but the object of our fear wasn’t real.
We left Elijah on the top of Mount Carmel last week in a moment of victory. God had shown up and showed out! But when there is a victory for one, there is a defeat for another. While Elijah rejoiced in the victory, King Ahab and Queen Jezebel were having trouble with their defeat.
1 Kings 19:1 HCSB “Ahab told Jezebel everything that Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “May the gods punish me and do so severely if I don’t make your life like the life of one of them by this time tomorrow!”
3 Then Elijah became afraid and immediately ran for his life.”
I must admit. I’m a bit disappointed in Elijah. What happened to the Elijah who boldly stood before the wicked and evil King Ahab, proclaimed his allegiance to God in a Baal-worshipping kingdom, and confidently said, “No rain until I say so”? Where is the Elijah who trusted God enough to settle beside a brook and depend on scavenger and greedy birds to bring him food? What happened to Elijah – the one who approached a widow gathering sticks for her and her son’s last meal and asked for bread and water during a drought and famine and assuring her that neither the flour nor the oil would run out until God sent rain? Is this the same Elijah who cried out to God when the widow’s son died and witnessed the breath and life return to the son? What happened to the Elijah who challenged the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel? Where is the Elijah who believed in the authority of God so much that he asked that the altar be drenched in water before calling on God to send fire down to consume it all? What happened to the Elijah who had confidently and boldly trusted in God and solitarily served Him? Because it only took a threat from the queen to make Elijah afraid and run for his life.
I went back a few chapters, re-read Elijah’s journey, and wonder where Elijah’s faith went. Didn’t he trust God to protect him from Jezebel? But as I read on, I don’t think it was a question of Elijah’s faith after all.
1 Kings 19:4-5 CSB “but he went on a day’s journey into the wilderness. He sat down under a broom tree and prayed that he might die. He said, “I have had enough! LORD, take my life, for I’m no better than my ancestors.”
Scripture tells us that Elijah was afraid and had run for his life. He ran because he didn’t want to die. But now, sitting underneath the tree, Elijah asks God to cause him to die. It doesn’t make sense, does it? The truth is, he has lost his will to live.
Elijah is tired. Elijah is worn out. He has reached his limit and is ready to turn in his armor because he’s tried to be a good soldier for God, but he’s wearied. He had high hopes of making a difference and as he sits underneath the shade of the tree, he evaluates his impact.
“I am not better than my fathers – i. e., “I am a mere weak man, no better nor stronger than they who have gone before me, no more able to revolutionize the world than they.”[i]
Remember that Elijah had originally prayed earnestly for no rain. He obediently followed God’s promptings and went where God instructed. He listened for God’s voice and submitted himself to do what God asked him to do. He was persistently submissive to God. But then Jezebel uttered a threat. And this brave and confident prophet of God’s crumbled. That threat was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
I can identify with Elijah, can’t you? Our testimonies of what God has done in our lives, what He’s blessed us with, and what He’s kept from us for our own good remind us that He’s never failed us. We sing praises to Him, and we speak of His greatness. We pray to Him with overflowing thankfulness, and we call on Him in times of distress confident that He hears our pleas and will work all things out for our good because we love Him and are called to do His will. We go through days, weeks, months, and years of trusting Him, serving Him as best as we can, knowing that He cares about every detail in our life. We’re obedient even when it doesn’t make sense or when it’s not comfortable. We listen for Him, we seek His will. We have faith in His provisions, His protection, His power, and His providence. But then something happens and it’s just too much. It may be a small thing, a simple inconvenience. It may be an insult, a diagnosis, a loss, or an unexpected life interruption. It could be hurtful words, being overlooked, or a physical injury. It may be a disappointment, or it may be an irrational fear like a monster in the closet that one day you’ll look back on and wonder why that one thing is what broke you.
But help is already there. Even as little children we were taught:
“Jesus Loves me, this I know
For the Bible tells me so
Little ones to Him belong
They are weak but He is strong.”
Even when we are weak, God is strong. In fact, God’s presence is more evident in our weaknesses.
Elijah is weak. He’s tired. He’s overwhelmed. He’s feeling defeated. The ordinariness of Elijah the man starts to show. Elijah runs away. He doesn’t pray. He doesn’t even stop to think. He simply runs away and throws in the towel. Elijah is at his weakest and it’s the perfect scenario for God’s presence. Can you relate?
1 Kings 19:5 BSB “Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” Elijah 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. “
1 Kings 19:7 GNT “The Lord’s angel returned and woke him up a second time, saying, “Get up and eat, or the trip will be too much for you.” 8 Elijah got up, ate and drank, and the food gave him enough strength to walk forty days to Sinai, the holy mountain. 9 There he went into a cave to spend the night.”
He’s awakened by the touch of an angel, and he’s told to get up and eat. He finds water and bread and he does just what he was told to do. He goes back to sleep and is awakened once again and told to eat. Perhaps it was the unexpected visit of the food-bearing angel that reminded Elijah of God’s provisions in his past. The ravens had fed him. The widow with little to nothing had fed him. And now, an angel. All because of God’s providence. Maybe it was that simple gesture of bread and water from an unlikely source that shined a light on that irrational fear of Jezebel and reawakened Elijah’s trust in God.
When we find ourselves distraught and depressed and at the point of giving up, God will often send us an angel in some form or another to remind us to nourish ourselves with His Word. We must consistently be fed by God’s resources or else, the journey of life will be just too much for us.
The second time the angel visits, more information is given. There is a trip. Elijah gets up, eats, and drinks and for forty days he journeys to Mt. Sinai. He seeks refuge in a cave. But he soon discovers he is not alone.
“But the LORD said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:9b)
At this point, Elijah has traveled about 350 miles from Mount Carmel to Beersheba and from there to Mt. Sinai. We don’t know how long the first leg of his journey took, but the second leg took 40 days and nights. He’s a long way from Mount Carmel and we must assume that Elijah has chosen his own path to where he is. Elijah, when God told him to go to Cherith and settle by the brook, he went. When God told him to go to Zarephath and find the widow, Elijah went. When God told Elijah to go back and see King Ahab, he went. But this time, Elijah went a long way without God telling him to go.
Elijah went where God didn’t send Him. God still showed up. Elijah was doing what God didn’t tell Him to do. God still showed up. Elijah had forgotten the saving and protective capabilities of God and, instead, was focused on the threats and evilness of his enemy. God still showed up.
1 Kings 19:9b CEV “Lord asked, “Elijah, why are you here?”
We know that God knows why Elijah was there so why did He ask him? It’s as if God wanted to give Elijah a chance to vent; to get it all out. Sometimes we need to talk through our fears, and our emotions and we just need a listening ear. You may notice, however, that Elijah doesn’t give a straightforward answer to God’s question.
1 Kings 19:10 CEV “He answered, “Lord God All-Powerful, I’ve always done my best to obey you. [Elijah focused on himself. I’VE done MY best.] 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 be there when I pass by.”
Once again, God tells Elijah to go.
1 Kings 19:11b NLT “And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.”
Three acts of nature occur. Windstorm. Nahum 1:3 NLT “The LORD is slow to get angry, but his power is great, and he never lets the guilty go unpunished. He displays his power in the whirlwind and the storm. The billowing clouds are the dust beneath his feet.” Earthquake. Psalm 18:7 BSB “Then the earth shook and quaked, and the foundations of the mountains trembled; they were shaken because He burned with anger.” Fire. Isaiah 66:15 HCSB “Look, the LORD will come with fire— His chariots are like the whirlwind— to execute His anger with fury and His rebuke with flames of fire.” Three acts of nature; all indicative of God’s wrath and anger.
Elijah stands there as a mighty windstorm passes. Its force causes rocks to break loose and tumble. Then an earthquake occurs. There is shaking, and rumbling. Then the roar of an all-consuming fire. All acts of God that demonstrate His power and authority, His anger, His wrath. But God is in none of them. God isn’t angry with Elijah. God isn’t imposing His wrath on Elijah. Instead, God is with Elijah and speaks in a gentle, calm whisper. We aren’t told that Elijah reacted in fear or concern to these loud, destructive forces of nature probably because he wasn’t. But we are told that when there came a gentle whisper, Elijah recognized it as God Himself, and we are told that he wrapped his face in his cloak and went to be nearer to God.
We are, at times, so preoccupied with searching for God in the most dramatic of events, that we fail to hear His whisper. We watch for show-stopping, jaw-dropping, eyes-popping answers from God, but He sometimes simply whispers. We often see the catastrophes around us as being signs of God’s anger or God’s wrath and we are so distracted that we don’t see God standing right there beside us. Elijah, when hearing the gentle whisper, prepared himself to meet with God.
1 Kings 19:13b GNT “A voice said to him, “Elijah, what are you doing here?”
14 He answered, “Lord God Almighty, I have always served you—you alone. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed all your prophets. I am the only one left—and they are trying to kill me.”
Elijah gives the same answer as before. It’s as if he’s reminding God of how faithful he’s been to serve God and God alone, but now he’s suffering. He’s depressed and he doesn’t understand why. We naively will sometimes think that as long as we are faithful to God, we won’t suffer. “In fact, anyone who belongs to Christ Jesus and wants to live right will have trouble from others. (2 Timothy 3:12 CEV) 1 Peter 4:19 NLT “So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you.”
Elijah was being intimidated because he was doing what was right. Elijah’s life was threatened because he was going where God led him and doing what God told him. The bullying, the terrorizing, and the threats on his life weren’t new. He had encountered them before. But this time around, they were getting the best of him. He allowed them to cloud his vision of God. He let his human nature take over and he ran away to save his life. Our comfort, security, and peacefulness can be threatened simply because we are where God wants us to be, doing what God wants us to do. That’s when it’s most critical to keep our focus on God because He’s right there with us at the mouth of the cave.
Elijah knew that God had provided for him in the past. Elijah knew that God had directed his footsteps before. Elijah knew that God had been aware of all that was occurring, and Elijah knew that God had His eyes on him and His arms wrapped around him. What Elijah didn’t know caused him to be fearful. Elijah wouldn’t know that not only would he not be killed by Jezebel, but he also would never be killed by anyone. No disease, accident, war, or even old age would end his life. Elijah didn’t have a clue that his chariot awaited. Elijah didn’t know that God had planned a great finale for his life. If he had known, he wouldn’t have been afraid.
Just like we all now know there are no monsters in the closet nor under the bed and so, we are no longer fearful. But there are “grown-up monsters” that we do allow to frighten us when we don’t apply our faith in God.
The persecutions, the threats, and the bullying are still going to come our way. As long as we have breath and a heartbeat, we will have situations that come up that can cause fear.
Psalm 56:3-4 NLV “When I am afraid, I will trust in You. 4 I praise the Word of God. I have put my trust in God. I will not be afraid. What can only a man do to me?”
Elijah had become afraid, but Elijah had also grown tired. He had grown weary. God was listening and was ready to offer relief.
1 Kings 19:15 ERV “The Lord said, “Go back. Take the road that leads to the desert around Damascus. Go into Damascus and anoint Hazael as king over Aram. 16 Then anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel. Next, anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah. He will be the prophet who takes your place. 17 Jehu will kill anyone who escapes Hazael’s sword, and Elisha will kill anyone who escapes from Jehu’s sword. 18 I still have 7000 people in Israel who have never bowed down to Baal or kissed that idol.”
In these verses, God gives Elijah direction, assignments, relief, and encouragement.
Elijah is told to go back. Elijah had a long journey back because he had gone where he wasn’t supposed to be. But he was able to return. We are never too far away to return to God.
We are never too far away to return to God.
Elijah’s fear caused him to run; his faith caused him to return. Elijah grew tired and irrational fear took control. God stepped in and Elijah was restrengthened, and diligent obedience controlled his steps.
You too may be running, suffering, and finding yourself alone under the canopy of a tree exhausted and wearied by life’s events. God says it’s time to get up and feed on His Word. He knows you’re tired and He just needs for you to listen for His whisper. The journey back may be long but it’s worth every step.
“By perseverance, the snail reached the ark.” – Charles H. Spurgeon
[i] https://biblehub.com/commentaries/1_kings/19-4.htm (Barnes’ Notes on the Bible)