Elijah Flees Jezebel
19 Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.
But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.” And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again. And the angel of the LORD came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.
The Lord Speaks to Elijah
There he came to a cave and lodged in it. And behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He said, “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore 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, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He said, “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” And the LORD said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria. And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place. And the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha put to death. Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”
The Call of Elisha
So he departed from there and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen in front of him, and he was with the twelfth. Elijah passed by him and cast his cloak upon him. And he left the oxen and ran after Elijah and said, “Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.” And he said to him, “Go back again, for what have I done to you?” And he returned from following him and took the yoke of oxen and sacrificed them and boiled their flesh with the yokes of the oxen and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he arose and went after Elijah and assisted him.
1 Kings 19 Commentary
by Hank Workman
“Elijah failed in the very point at which he was strongest, and that is where most men fail. In Scripture, it is the wisest man who proves himself to be the greatest fool; just as the meekest man, Moses, spoke hasty and bitter words. Abraham failed in his faith, and Job in his patience; so, he who was the most courageous of all men, fled from an angry woman.” -Charles Spurgeon
After a stunning victory for God that day on Mount Carmel, we find Elijah not only fled for his life from a threat of Jezebel, he ended up longing to be done with life itself. It’s always been a baffling thing.
“It’s enough. Now Lord take my life for I am not better than my fathers.” -Elijah
What in the world happened? We look at the past history of what we know of Elijah. God had emboldened him to speak to Ahab and call a drought. God held to His word and the rains stopped. During that time in hiding God provided for him through the ravens, then a widow and her son. Miracles abounded there in that household. God strengthened him when it was time to confront Ahab, and he did when the showdown was set. The unreal outpouring of God’s strength and wonder came that day on Mount Carmel where He showed up in a mouth dropping way. Besides that, the land was cleaned up of the false prophets. So what happened? What would get Elijah to this point of wanting his life over? To be done with ministry?
Maybe we should not be so quick to judge here.
Very possibly besides the stress he had just endure, the exhaustion he had played into his feelings. But also there is potential that this great event on Mount Carmel did not bring the results in Elijah’s eyes he had thought it would. There was no real national revival or return to God. His disappointment grew as he drew further into himself in isolation. He gave way to his thoughts of failure. As we read of his interaction with God his thoughts had become skewed. Depression had set in and Elijah was in a very dark place.
The same thing happens to us. When God does not move the way we thought He would or at least the outcome we had thought He would make happen doesn’t, we withdraw. We can take the mindset of ‘What’s the use?’
The beauty of the story here in 1 Kings 19, however, is God. He met Elijah exactly where he was. He spoke comfort and tended to his physical needs. He challenged his thoughts. He reiterated there was still work for him to do. He provided someone to help him – Elisha. And Elisha, after he had buttoned down his responsibilities at home he came alongside and as the NASB states, “Ministered to Elijah.”
We all go through disappointments with God at times. We perceive things that did not go the way we thought they should. Depression can set in. The longer Elijah was alone and in isolation, the darker his thoughts became. This happens to us as well.
As God questioned Elijah in the cave, “What are you doing here?” Is He asking the same thing to us? Be honest with your feelings. Let Him tend to your brokenness. But also allow Him to challenge your thoughts with His truth. Let Him lead others to you who can help through this time.
1 Kings 19 Commentary
by Brad Boyles
The events in 1 Kings 19 could be known as “The Pastor’s Chapter.” After the triumphant, cataclysmic fire-from-the-sky victory over the prophets of Baal, Elijah found himself defeated. The smoldering flames of God burned on the altar but what would follow would only leave Elijah physically, emotionally, and mentally burned out.
Everything had gone according to plan. Elijah threw down the gauntlet. The prophets of Baal were utterly humiliated. The nation of Israel along with their evil prophets and dysfunctional leaders witnessed firsthand the mighty power of God on display. Elijah went all in and God showed up. It seemed to be the perfect ending… until Jezebel opened her mouth.
She sent a message to Elijah: “May the gods strike me dead if by this time tomorrow I don’t do the same thing to you that you did to the prophets.” 3 Elijah was afraid and fled for his life; he took his servant and went to Beersheba in Judah. Leaving the servant there, 4 Elijah walked a whole day into the wilderness. He stopped and sat down in the shade of a tree and wished he would die. “It’s too much, LORD,” he prayed. “Take away my life; I might as well be dead!”1 Kings 19:2-4 GNB
You see, this is ministry. This is my life. Maybe this is your life. You plan and work to see God’s glory on display. You take risks for His Kingdom. You stand up to the obstacles hindering others from experiencing His presence. You put yourself out there full-tilt with the intention of seeing others drop their idols and return to God. You go all in. Absolutely, unequivocally all in. Then, the miraculous happens. You witness the incredible victory of God!
And then you wait expectantly for the revival to commence.
The enemy strikes back.
“He saw it was best to give place to this storm, and go to a place of safety. He probably thought that the miracle at Carmel would have been the means of effecting the conversion of the whole court and of the country, but, finding himself mistaken, he is greatly discouraged.”Adam Clarke
Running From God
When things don’t turn out the way we envisioned, what is our response? Where do we go when God doesn’t work according to our plan? For one of the most prolific prophets in Scripture, he would decide to run away. His journey was not a short distance. He left from Jezreel to the southern city of Beersheba. It was 100 miles… on foot. Sound familiar? Have you ever been so defeated you simply stopped reading the Word? Have you ever been so depressed, you struggled to utter one prayer to God? Have you ever felt as if your work for the Kingdom was wasted?
I can’t do this anymore. It’s too much. I’m stressed, disappointed, and depressed. We have all been there. It is a familiar and fatalistic thought pattern of God’s people.
How does God respond to such defiance? Elijah walked away from his ministry, his calling, and his purpose as a prophet of the Lord.
The God of Grace and Truth
When God comes to Elijah in the storm, earthquake, and fire, it would have made sense for Him to be there. Elijah would have known this. He had just seen His power on display. He knew the stories of old when God worked the most incredible and miraculous events in all of history. Where was God when he needed Him most?
He was not in the storm, the earthquake, or the fire. He was not in the sensational elements of nature. He held Himself back and this forced Elijah to lean every so slightly in His direction. As God veiled Himself, He whispered. Elijah came out from the cave.
What was God doing?
Elijah had to believe that God was present and working outside of the dramatic displays of power. But this wasn’t just true in the lives of others, this was true of Elijah’s personal relationship with God. God made it personal. The mighty display of power, wrath, and anger are pieces of evidence we all need to see, but they didn’t produce Salvation. For Elijah, his relationship with God could not be solely reduced to a sensational, emotional experience. In fact, God’s best work takes place in the hearts of people who respond to the still, small voice of His love and grace. This was exactly what Elijah needed.
And then, God reveals something very interesting. In all of Elijah’s depression and doubting, God shares with him the truth of the situation.
Yet I will leave seven thousand people alive in Israel—all those who are loyal to me and have not bowed to Baal or kissed his idol.”1 Kings 19:18 GNB
7000 people had been faithful to the Lord. Although Elijah believed that the big events had not accomplished what he wanted, he failed to see that the small details of his ministry had produced more fruit than he could have imagined. It was a strong message that many times God is doing his work silently, sometimes imperceptibly. We look for Him in the spectacular but His Spirit moves behind the scenes.
So he answered me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by strength or by might, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of Hosts.Zechariah 4:6 HCSB
This is such an important message for us today! We must cling to the truth that He is still working and doing more than we could imagine even when “big things” aren’t happening. It will not be by the strength of individuals or by the might of many, but only by God’s Spirit. He will strengthen us personally with His still, small voice when we need it the most. For anyone struggling in this same way, be encouraged by the acts of God in 1 Kings 19.