THE FEARFUL PROPHET
1 Kings 19:1-21
In the last chapter we saw
As we come to the next chapter, we find that the false prophets were dead, the drought was over and the people had turned back to God. At this point we are tempted to conclude, “And they all lived happily ever after.” But that is not what it says. The story does not end here. Elijah doesn’t ride off into the sunset.
This is important for you to know. Many Christians have had some sort of mountaintop experience. Perhaps it was the day you trusted in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Or maybe it was the first time you led someone else to the Lord. Or once when you stood up for your faith in a mighty way in the face of open hostility. Or a time when a special prayer was answered.
It was a mountaintop experience. You felt as though you had been lifted up and carried into the presence of God. It was a spiritual high. But you soon found that you cannot live on that mountaintop. Eventually you have to come back down. And it is at this point that you will be at your weakest.
1 Kings 17-18
1 Kings 19
Elijah is strong in the power of God and his divine operating assets‑‑the Word and prayer
Elijah is weak‑‑weak in himself and operating out of his own tactics or solutions.
Elijah is ministering to others.
Elijah’s attention is focused upon himself.
Elijah is bold and confident in the face of 450 prophets of Baal.
Elijah is fearful of Jezebel, running scared.
Now 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 even more, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.” (1 Kings 19:1-2).
Imagine the scene. Ahab gets home late. It is after midnight and it is still drizzling outside. It has been a long, discouraging day. He had gone out to deal with this troublesome prophet and instead he had stood there while 450 of his pagan priests were put to death. He rather hopes that Jezebel will be asleep. After all, they were her prophets from her country worshiping her god. Perhaps he even takes off his sandals and tiptoes across the palace. But a sharp voice catches him mid-step.
“Ahab, come and tell me all of the details of what happened today. Have you finally gotten rid of that nasty old prophet Elijah?”
“Well dear, it’s like this... uh, perhaps you ought to sit down.”
“Elijah called fire down from heaven and all the people have turned back to God and they took all of your prophets and put them to death.”
Jezebel is furious. She doesn’t wait for Ahab. She immediately sends a letter to Elijah, promising to put him to death for what he has done.
Her real enemy is the Lord. But she cannot get at the Lord. God is “un-gettable.” So she does the next best thing. She tries to get at the man of God. That is what Satan always does.
And what is Elijah’s reaction? He has just seen the mighty hand of God at work, bringing fire down from heaven and then bringing rain upon the parched land. Will he trust in God? He does not. Instead he becomes afraid. As a result of this fear, we see him running from the land in retreat.
ELIJAH’S FEARFUL RETREAT
Chapter 18 ended with Elijah
coming to Jezreel. Why did he come here
And he was afraid and arose and
ran for his life and came to
From Jezreel to
ELIJAH’S FOOLISH PRAYER
But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree; and he requested for himself that he might die, and said, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers.” (1 Kings 19:4).
This is the prophet who stood up against the multitude, the king and all of the prophets of Baal. Yet one woman said, “I’ll get you!” and he is off and running. Was this because Jezebel was so greatly to be feared? I don’t believe so.
If Jezebel had felt secure in her ability to kill Elijah, she would not have threatened. She would have pretended indifference or even invited him to the palace and then put him to death. She was bluffing. And in this case, her bluff worked.
Why did it work? Why did Elijah believe her lie? Because it came at a time when he was vulnerable. There is a principle here. It is that victory often makes us vulnerable. At the moment of your highest success, you are in danger of your greatest failure.
· Simon Peter found that out. Jesus asked the disciples, “Who am I?” and Peter spoke up and answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Jesus commended Peter and pointed out that it was the Holy Spirit who had taught him this and that he would be the rock on which the church would be built. Then the next thing you see is Jesus telling Peter, “Get behind me, Satan!”
Moses faces down
the Pharaoh of Egypt, leads the Israelites through the Red Sea, has a face to
face encounter with God on
David is at the
height of his career, king of a
Why is it that we are so vulnerable when we are at the height of success? I think that is because with victory there comes the temptation to be proud. In the midst of victory, I am prone to tell myself, “John, old boy, you have really done a terrific job. You’re hot stuff!” And in doing so, I fail to watch for Satan’s attack.
I think that Elijah did that. And now he is on the run. He finally comes to the end of himself. He throws himself to the ground under a bush and he prays that he might die.
This is a stupid prayer. It is stupid because Elijah did not really want to die. If he had wanted to die, he could have remained in Jezreel and Jezebel would have been glad to accommodate him. The good news is that God is faithful. He is faithful even when we are fearful and afraid. He is faithful even when we do not know how we ought to pray.
GOD’S PROVISION FOR HIS PROPHET
5 He lay down and slept under a juniper tree; and behold, there was an angel touching him, and he said to him, “Arise, eat.”
6 Then he looked and behold, there was at his head a bread cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank and lay down again.
7 The angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise, eat, because the journey is too great for you.”
8 So he arose and ate and
drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to
In verse 2, Jezebel had sent
a messenger with a death threat for Elijah.
Now the Lord sends a heavenly messenger with food and water to care for
his physical needs. This food must have
been something special, for it provided Elijah with enough nourishment to take
him on a 40-day journey. He continued
southward all the way to the Sinai, coming at last to
Moses and Elijah. They are the two greatest prophets of the Old Testament. But they didn’t feel so great at the time. Each one went through periods of depression. Each one faced times when he felt like a total failure. Each one was brought to this mountain. And it was here that each one found strength for the journey.
ELIJAH IN THE
9 Then he came there to a cave and lodged there; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
10 He said, “I have been very
zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the sons of
Perhaps you had a difficult
time identifying with Elijah as he stood on
Elijah is discouraged. He seems to have come to the conclusion that he is indispensable in God’s plan. He says, “Lord, I’m the only prophet You have left and if something happens to me, You won’t have anyone left.” God is going to handle Elijah’s depression. And in doing so, we are given some excellent lessons in dealing with depression.
1. Before He dealt with Elijah’s spiritual condition, He rejuvenated Elijah physically with rest and nourishment. A certain amount of depression is caused by physical ailments. We are physical creatures and can be affected by poor diet or a lack of rest. I personally try to make it a rule never to make important decisions when I am tired.
2. He questions Elijah, forcing him to face the real issues. Twice we will read the Lord asking Elijah, “Why are you here?”
3. God spoke to him personally. We need to be in the Word in order to listen to the still small voice of God.
4. The Lord got Elijah active and involved in ministry again. The temptation in depression is to merely sit and do nothing. But doing nothing only reinforces the depression. On the other hand, we ought not to use activity to narcotize the pain. Give it to the Lord and rest in Him, balancing that rest with an involvement in work and ministry.
5. God provided Elijah with a companion. He will be commanded to find and commission Elisha. One of the cures of depression is companionship.
11 So He said, “Go forth and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord was passing by! And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking 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.
12 After the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing.
13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. And behold, a voice came to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:11-13).
God says to Elijah, “You have
come all the way down here to
And so, Elijah climbs to the top of the mountain. The jagged desert mountains spread out below him. The great dome of the sky stretches over him. Once again Elijah is ready for a mountaintop experience. Once again he is ready to stand in the presence of God and to see the greatness of God at work.
Elijah must have had a sense of deja vu. Not that he had ever been here before, but he had read the stories of Moses and how the Lord appeared to him that he might catch a brief glimpse of the afterglow of the glory of God. Now Elijah is on the same mountain and standing before the presence of the same God. As the presence of God had passed by Moses, so now it would pass by Elijah.
What shape would it take? A blinding light? A thunderous roar? A great wind? A rumbling earthquake? A consuming fire? All of these things passed by, each heralding the coming of the Lord. But the Lord did not come in any of these.
He comes instead in the sound
of a gentle blowing. I prefer the King
James translation - “a still small voice.”
There is a lesson here. It is
that God doesn’t always speak in the dynamic and with the mighty thundering
voice and the dramatic earth-shattering events.
Usually He speaks in the gentle blowing.
You can spend your life looking for the dramatic. But you don’t have to climb a mountain to
find God. He is here with you
today. He is not just on
If you have never placed your faith in Him, He is speaking to you in that same gentle voice. He calls for you to come to Him. He offers to you a place of rest. You can trust in Him and have eternal life. You can become one of God’s children right now.
But for those of you who are already of God’s people, there is also a message for you. It is that you also have a place of rest. You can trust in the Lord for your daily needs. You don’t have to climb a mountain or stand in a pulpit or travel as a missionary to another country to walk with the Lord.
He isn’t only to be found in the mountaintop experience. He is also with you in the office and at home and on the highway. He is the God who answers prayer. And He is the God who cares for you.
Then he said, “I have been very
zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the sons of
This is a rehearsed speech. The reason that I know it is a rehearsed speech is because Elijah gave exactly the same speech in verse 10. I have a feeling that Elijah has been rehearsing this speech for the past 40 days - ever since he set out upon this flight.
Elijah is in the midst of a pity party. He feels abandoned and alone. He worships the “God of hosts,” but none of those hosts have been around to lend him a hand. He has watched...
· The covenant of the Lord forsaken.
· The altar of the Lord torn down.
· The prophets of the Lord put to death.
It is as though he is saying, “Lord, I’ve been faithful. Where have YOU been?” He has been looking for the presence of the Lord to come like a great storm or a mighty earthquake or a raging fire, overturning evil and establishing righteousness. God is showing Elijah that He has been there all along, not only when fire is coming down from heaven, but also when things are still and quiet.
THE LORD’S PROMISE
15 The Lord said to him, “Go,
return on your way to the wilderness of
17 “It shall come about, the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall put to death.
18 “Yet I will leave 7,000 in
The promise of God comes in the form of a series of commissions. Elijah is given some new instructions. They will include...
a. New marching orders.
b. A promise.
c. A new companion.
We have been given the same thing. We have new marching orders involving a great commission to take the gospel to the nations. We have the promise of victory in this endeavor. And we also have a new companion -- the very Spirit of God to go with us.
Elijah is to travel to
Jehu the son of Nimshi
Elisha the son of Shaphat
Prophet to replace Elijah
The Religious leadership of the nation
Elijah had thought that he
was alone. He is wrong. He is not the only one who is left of the
THE CALLING OF ELISHA
19 So he departed from there and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, while he was plowing with twelve pairs of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth. And Elijah passed over to him and threw his mantle on him.
20 He left the oxen and ran after Elijah and said, “Please let me kiss my father and my mother, then I will follow you.” And he said to him, “Go back again, for what have I done to you?”
21 So he returned from following him, and took the pair of oxen and sacrificed them and boiled their flesh with the implements of the oxen, and gave it to the people and they ate. Then he arose and followed Elijah and ministered to him. (1 Kings 19:19-21).
To plow with 12 yoke of oxen implied considerable wealth. Elisha was from a family of great substance and it is likely that he stood to inherit it all. But he was willing to leave it all to follow the call of God.
1. A Man at Work.
Though he was from a wealthy family, Elisha was not afraid to get his hands dirty. He was a working man and he was involved in his labors when the Lord called him. This seems often to be the case in God’s call.
Moses was pasturing the flock of Jethro his father‑in‑law.
David was tending sheep for his father.
Peter was a fisherman.
Paul had a trade making tents.
The Lord Himself was a carpenter by trade who was trained by Joseph.
I have seen quite a number of young men go through Bible school and/or seminary and then immediately embark into a career in full-time ministry without the beneficial experience of having worked in the work place, been in the military or learned a trade. Then we wonder why they have problems in the ministry when faced with its rigid demands. It could be that this is one of the causes.
As parents, we need to teach our children to work, first at home around the house and then encourage learning a trade as a part of their education.
2. The Prophet’s Mantle.
This mantle was the official garment of a prophet. It designated Elijah as a spokesman for God. It was not fancy. Just the opposite, it was a hairy garment, perhaps of camel’s hair as John the Baptist later wore. As such, it symbolized a life of sacrifice and commitment.
The act of throwing it over the shoulders of Elisha was a symbolic act denoting his summons to the office of prophet. It denoted that the gifts of a prophet would be placed upon Elisha.
God does the same thing to us today. He places upon our shoulders a spiritual gift which we are to use in ministering to the church. Every believer is called to be a priest of the Lord (1 Peter 2:5, 9). You are called to serve Him with your gifts.
3. Elisha’s Response.
His response was immediate. He asked only permission to kiss his father and mother good-bye. Elijah gives him permission to make his farewells and Elisha takes the opportunity to offer a sacrifice of celebration to the Lord, commemorating his new entrance into ministry.
The calling of Elisha does not mark the end of Elijah’s ministry. Elijah would have several more years of active ministry. But now he had a PARTNER and a DISCIPLE in ministry. They would BOTH benefit from this relationship.
· Elijah would no longer have to feel as though he were alone. It is true that he had the still, small voice of the Lord, but sometimes we need more.
· I love the story of the little girl who had been sent to bed for the night. She called out to her mother from the bedroom, “Mommy, I’m afraid to be alone in my room!” Her mother replied, “It’s okay, honey. The Lord is in your room with you.” Came back the plaintive call, “But I want someone with skin on.”
There are times when we need someone “with skin on.” That is why Jesus came. He was God “with skin on.” And today we have the body of Christ for the same reason.
· Elisha would also benefit from this ministry. He would have the advantage of on-the-job training alongside an experienced man of God.