1 Kings 19:9–18
Immediately after God accomplished a mighty victory through Elijah on the top of Mount Carmel, Elijah fled into the desert to escape the wrath of Queen Jezebel. There he prayed God would take his life.
It can be tempting to criticize Elijah for this attitude. God had just shown up big through him. The people had returned to worship the One True God. He’d slain the prophets of Baal. And best of all, the three-year drought was over. If anyone felt like he was on top of the world, it should have been Elijah, right?
Instead, Elijah was afraid, exhausted and depressed. Beneath the broom tree, he threw himself a pity party and complained to God that in spite of his zeal, the people of Israel had forsaken God, killed all God’s prophets except for Elijah and now wanted to kill him too.
Anyone who has ever planned a big event, such as a wedding or fundraiser, knows a little of the emotional letdown that follows it. I’ll be honest: As a pastor, I feel a little of that every Sunday afternoon, no matter how well I think the worship service went that morning. A crash comes after the adrenaline rush, and that could very well be what Elijah felt underneath the broom tree.
He felt alone. But the truth is he was not alone.
He wasn’t the only prophet left, for Obadiah had hidden 100 prophets from Queen Jezebel and kept them alive through the drought. And as Elijah was about to find out, God had not left him alone either.
The Whisper (11–14)
After Elijah complained he felt all alone, God directed him to stand on the mountain before the Lord.
There Elijah got a personal concert by wind, earth and fire. Ironically, though, given Elijah’s complaint he was “the only one left,” the text makes the point the Lord was not in the wind, the earthquake or the fire. However, following the fire there was a gentle whisper, and that’s where God was — in the whisper.
Oftentimes we look for God in the big events — the megachurch worship service, the Christian music festival, the conference with thousands of attendees.
God will often work through events like those. But just as often, if not more so, God speaks to us in times of quiet.
Have you ever wondered why that is? It’s actually pretty simple: When everything else is quiet, it is easier to hear God. It isn’t always that the Lord isn’t present in the big events, we just have a harder time hearing Him.
Reality Defined (15–18)
God’s tender mercies are on full display in this passage. Recall Elijah’s two complaints. First, he told God he’d had enough (v. 4). He was ready to quit.
So God directed him to leave his hiding place in the wilderness and anoint three men: a new king of Syria, a new king of Israel and a successor for himself, Elisha, the son of Shaphat. Together these three would end the reign of Ahab and Jezebel.
Elijah’s second complaint was he was “the only one left” in Israel who was faithful to God (v. 14). So God assured Elijah there were 7,000 faithful followers of Yahweh in Israel. The Lord encouraged Elijah by defining reality for him. Elijah had let his exhaustion, loneliness and depression distort reality.
Today if you are feeling discouraged and alone, there is a good chance you also have distorted reality. Make the decision now to allow God to define what is real in your life.
By James Jackson
James Jackson is pastor of Glynwood Baptist Church in Prattville, Alabama.