“Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had slain all the prophets [of Baal] with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, ‘So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow!’ Then he was afraid, and arose and went for his life, and came to Beersheba of Judah [over eighty miles], and out of Jezebel’s realm] and left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat under a lone broom or juniper tree, and asked that he might die. He said, ‘It is enough; now, O Lord; take away my life; for I am no better than my fathers.’ As he lay asleep under the broom or juniper tree, behold, an angel touched him, and said to him, ‘Arise and eat.’ He looked, and behold, there was a cake of bread on the coals, and a bottle of water at his head. And he ate and drank, and lay down again.” - 1 Kings 19:1-6
Elijah the Tishbite, might have accomplished very little during his time by the brook of Cherith (17:3) but he made up for it in Zarephath and Mount Carmel. Now, the tired prophet, very much aware of the Queen’s decree, escapes and flees into the wilderness.
Why is it that our first inclination is to focus upon the prophet’s fear rather than his faithfulness? We tend to immediately assume a sudden weakness has overcome the prophet. It would appear that he has lost faith and has fled the very power of God that had sustained and protected him. We must be careful or we may miss the message, the personal nature of God, and our private time with the Creator of the universe.
It was more than the fear of Queen Jezebel that caused Elijah to flee. Consider the circumstances. Elijah had just been in the very presence of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. He had been totally exposed and vulnerable to their desire to do him harm. Why now, after having been the instrument of the One and Only True God, and after killing every false prophet, why now would Elijah flee? Because he was afraid?
Have you noticed that from 1 Kings 17, through 1 Kings chapter 19, Elijah was simply going about life - until he heard the voice of God!
Think about that for a moment.
You wouldn’t have picked him out in the crowd. He was just another one of hundreds, going about their daily lives. There was nothing significant about Elijah - until he heard the voice of God!
Time and time again we read how Elijah was busy about life and and suddenly, his plan was interrupted by the voice of God, the direction of God, the instruction of God and the provision of God! Elijah had grown totally dependent upon the awesome power of God! God told him when to move, where to go and what to do. God had always provided miraculous sustenance to strengthen Elijah.
Now, after a mighty display of power - there was no voice.
Now, after the judgement and slaying of the false prophets - there was no direction.
Now, after hearing the chilling decree from a Godless Queen - there was no instruction.
Now, in the face of imminent peril - there were no provisions.
No voice, no direction, no instruction, no provision ... none!
How would we respond to this sudden silence?
Perhaps Elijah assumed his mission accomplished. Thinking he was without Devine guidance, perhaps Elijah reasoned it better to vanish and die alone in the wilderness than be made a spectacle, defeated by the hands of Queen Jezebel. Perhaps, not hearing the mighty voice of God, not feeling the mighty presence of God, not experiencing the mighty power of God, Elijah fled to protect the work God had just accomplished.
And so we read in verse 4 of chapter 19:
“...He said, ‘It is enough; now, O Lord; take away my life; for I am no better than my fathers’”.
Elijah fell asleep but his slumber was interrupted by the sudden shout of a mighty angel of God! No. The angel grabbed Elijah by his cloak and shook Elijah into reality! No.
“As he lay asleep, under the broom or juniper tree, behold, an angle touched him, and said to him, ‘Arise and eat.’” - 1 Kings 19:5
Oh my goodness! Can you imagine the thrill that must have come over Elijah?
“He looked, and, BEHOLD, there was a cake of bread on the coals, and a bottle of water at his head. And he ate and drank, and lay down again.” - 1 Kings 19:6
JUST LIKE HOME!
Oh, to feel alone in the wilderness of life and have a messenger of God gently touch us! Oh to lift our eyes to recognize that not only is God’s provision always available to us, it is already on the coals, prepared perfectly according to God’s specific plan! Oh to then relax in the knowledge that we have not been forgotten!
“The Angel of the Lord came a second time, and touched him, and said, ‘Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.’ So he arose, and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and nights to Horeb, the mount of God.” - 1 Kings 19:7-8
This does not sound like a man fleeing from God. Rather, it sounds like a man fleeing in search of Him. There is no tone of judgement from the angel. There comes no rebuke. There is no charge to turn back - but Divine provision to carry on! And where does Elijah go? Elijah reviews and retraces God’s plan thus far and goes to a very familiar place.
“There he came to a cave, and lodged in it; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him and said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’” - 1 Kings 19:9
Elijah does not recoil in fear. This is a familiar voice.
This is the voice of One Whom Elijah could depend.
This is the voice Elijah was seeking.
This is the voice of Almighty God! THIS is the One and Only One Elijah could pour his heart out to, share his most personal feelings with and lay bare his soul. And so he does. It is a conversation. It is a confession. Most important, it is communion. And do you hear what God is asking? Read it again.
“I know why I brought you here Elijah; but why do you think you are here?”
God knew why. God is more up to date than tomorrow’s headlines. God wanted Elijah to empty himself - so that he could be Divinely filled!
God then gives Elijah a directive:
“... Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord. And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, and after the fire [a sound of gentle stillness and] a still, small voice. When Elijah HEARD THE VOICE, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went and stood in the entrance of the cave.” - 1 Kings 19:11-13
God was not in the wind, not in the earthquake, not in the fire. Unlike the non-existent false gods whom so many had attributed these powers, the One True God has power over all!
It is vitally important that we take notice of what is missing! We have no record of Elijah’s awe at the splendor of God’s power. We read of no reaction whatsoever! God systematically and miraculously provides Elijah with unimaginable power. Put yourself in Elijah’s place! Wind powerful enough to actually tear the mountains apart and break into pieces the remaining rocks! Not only was there unimaginable wind, there was an earthquake shaking the very ground upon which Elijah stood. And after these two spectacular events, FIRE; incomprehensible fire such as only God can create! And Elijah stands witness to these events without response; that is, until, perhaps for the first time, Elijah experiences the power of God’s gentle stillness, and hears a still, small voice. In that moment Elijah is overcome with such a reverent awe and wonder that he is compelled to hide his face in his mantle!
There It is; FINALLY! The still, small voice. And yet, as I review these three chapters of 1 Kings, I now see evidences of the voice at work. Who spoke to the widow’s heart that she would give the last portion of her sustenance to Elijah? Who directed the parting steps of Ahab and Obadiah and the proceeding steps of Elijah so that Elijah and Obadiah would meet on the road? Who directed Obadiah to care for the remaining prophets of the Lord exactly in the manner God Himself had been providing Elijah? Who lovingly and quietly merged Elijah’s flight into the wilderness with the perfect will of God, bringing him to this revelation?
“... Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit says the Lord of hosts!” - Zechariah 4:6
Elijah, having experienced the power of God’s Holy Spirit, was prepared to be the instrument of God’s continuing love and care for Israel. And so, without rebuke, without condemnation, without bringing to mind Elijah’s weaknesses, God says to his prophet,
“Go!” - 1 Kings 19:15
Are you ready to take the next step? Where have you placed your confidence? Do you find yourself standing in the door of the cave? If so, in which direction are you facing? Are you facing into a cave of darkness and unknown danger, or, are you facing out of the cave but depending upon the wind, earthquake and fire to fulfill your quest for evidence that God Almighty still has a plan for your life?
Stand in His sweet silence; shhhh; listen for the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit, and then go in His power!