1 Kings 19:1–18comment (0)
August 9, 2007
By Sigurd Bryan
Related Scripture: 1 Kings 19:1–18
Director, Samford Sundays, Samford University When You’re Discouraged
1 Kings 19:1–18
This lesson is about a time in the life of the prophet Elijah when he became discouraged. Elijah was active as a prophet in the northern kingdom of Israel during the reign of Ahab. Ahab married Jezebel who was a Phoenician princess and an ardent worshiper of the fertility god Baal. She had almost made Baalism the state religion when Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal to a contest on Mount Carmel to demonstrate who was god in Israel, Baal or Yahweh (the Lord). The result of the contest was a humiliating defeat for Baal and a resounding victory for Yahweh. When Jezebel learned of this, she threatened to kill Elijah by the following day.
Upon learning of this threat, the prophet Elijah who had been so fearless on Mount Carmel became afraid and fled for his life.
Two things we recognize here: even the strongest servants of God are subject to fear and discouragement and discouragement often sets in after a great spiritual experience.
Leaving his servant at Beersheba, Elijah went a day’s journey into the wilderness (desert). Finding a solitary broom tree, he sat down under it. There the discouraged and fearful prophet asked the Lord that he might die. He felt that his ministry was fruitless and in vain with the king and queen against him.
What Elijah needed most at that moment was physical refreshment and rest. He must have been completely exhausted after the long flight on foot. It is felt that the food given to Elijah by an angel was supernatural food, which gave him miraculous strength for the journey of 40 days and 40 nights to Mount Horeb (Mount Sinai). After the refreshment of food and rest, the prophet continued his journey southward until he came to Mount Horeb and a cave where he spent the night.
This experience in Elijah’s life teaches us that prolonged physical weariness and hunger can trigger discouragement and loss of one’s sense of purpose and calling. It emphasizes that rest and nourishment should not be neglected for long periods of time.
While Elijah was in the cave, the word of the Lord came to him in the form of a question, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” as if he were out of his territory or somewhere he should not be. In reply, the prophet spoke of the unfaithfulness of Israel and the persecution he faced as the only zealous person for the Lord who was left in Israel. The Lord responded by telling him to go and stand upon the mount.
The prophet had seen God act and speak in a spectacular way on Mount Carmel, but on this occasion, God did not speak in a mighty wind or an earthquake or a fire. This time, He spoke in a soft whisper. God knows what we need each time He speaks to us. God’s voice is often heard as He whispers gently in the quietness of a listening heart.
When Elijah heard the sound of the Lord’s presence, he hid his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Once again, he heard the voice of the Lord ask the same question, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He responded with the same answer he had given the first time.
The Lord then gave Elijah a new assignment, indicating clearly that He still had work for the prophet to do. To do it, he needed to return to Israel. His new assignment was to anoint Hazael as king over Aram (Syria), Jehu as king over Israel and Elisha as prophet in his place.
Verse 17 gives the impression that many will be killed in Syria and Israel as a result of the anointing of these persons. Yet, despite the bloody purge, God says in verse 18 that He will keep a remnant of 7,000 in Israel.
In this part of the Elijah story, we learn two additional things: even if we feel a let down after a great spiritual experience, know that God still has a purpose for our life and when there has been a temporary withdrawal for refreshment and re-evaluation, we should, as soon as possible, re-engage in ministry.
Director, Samford Sundays, Samford University
When You’re Discouraged