1 Kings 19:1-15a
There is so much in this passage. So it is just crazy, that at the end of it, the very first thing that struck me was “Wow! Damascus must be a really OLD City!” And then I began trying to remember just how many times it appeared in the scripture. When was the first reference?
Just one example of my random mind and how if I let myself I would go chasing down that rabbit hole and not really get to the meat of this story that I remember even from my youthful Sunday School lessons. Still, cannot just let it lie. More on Damascus later.
Back to Elijah….
You may or may not have encountered this whole story. By the late 1970’s some had removed it from common Sunday School study for elementary aged students due to the level of violence.
God had not let it rain for three years, because of the worship by King Ahab and Queen Jezebel and the people. Elijah in the chapter before this one had just defeated 450 prophets of Baal, by calling down fire from heaven to light his sacrifice on the altar to God, while they had failed to get any response from Baal.
In the aftermath, the people bowed down before Almighty God and under Elijah’s instruction slaughtered the Baal prophets. Yep! It was a bloody scene.
And then it rained, after three years of drought, the rains came down from heaven. Ahab barely made it back to Jezebel before his chariots were completely bogged down in the mud. [Carolyn side note on Ahab–he was one hen-pecked piece of work]. Ahab’s account blamed Elijah for the whole mess, gave no credit to God, and stepped out of her way.
Jezebel wasted no time, tightening the pants of the family, and made sure Elijah and by association God KNEW who was in charge and that she was on the war path!
What did I expect Elijah to do here?
Well, he had just defeated 450 Baal priests by calling down fire from heaven, he had just seen God pour out rain after a 3 year drought, and he had been supernaturally strengthened to run all the way back.
So with not even 24 hours between those events and Jezebel’s threats, Elijah RAN clear out into the desert alone. Elijah sunk there on his knees and begged God to kill him. “I have had enough, Lord.”
WHOA! Know what, I have prayed that prayer. Have you?
Elijah was coming off the mountain top to be plunged into a valley so deep with the mud of his own self pity not to mention a very real threat to his life. So often I have experienced a mountain top with God, experienced His presence only to find myself knee deep in a house nobody else seems to think needs cleaning or to get a phone call with sad news or simply to have no one else who really wants to hear about God reigning down fire on my altar…or ….you get the drift.
“The majority of us are familiar with the infamous ‘spiritual highs’ we almost inevitably obtain in going to summer camp, spring break mission trips, and the like. I’ve experienced them a million times. It’s as if you’re on cloud nine when you come home to America. You see everything differently and you have that spirit pulsating through your veins that says, “I can change the world! I’m a spiritual giant!” And then after less than a week… you feel depressed… and anything but gigantic.”
Interestingly enough, God UNDERSTANDS just where Elijah was as he beat his chest and cried out to
God, “Just Kill me!” He doesn’t zap him with lightening or berate his faith or ignore him. Not at all!
Look at the passage
God’s gave him rest
God fed him
God gave him strength and direction
God supplied everything Elijah needed for a journey, one of those 40 day and 40 night Bible treks, to Horeb, the mountain of God. During this time, Elijah has plenty of time to consider all that has happened. Once situated in a cave on the mountain, The Lord questioned him,” Why are you here, Elijah?”
Having had my smart mouth moments, I might have retorted, “Because you dragged me across the wilderness for the last 40 days!” Thankfully, I do not respond like that often and Elijah did not respond like that to God, but he did grumble, just a bit. Face it, Elijah, Super Hero of God, was afraid, depressed, felt rejected and alone. He stated his case before The Lord.
I guess I expected God to answer him directly, but instead he sends Elijah out to the cliff to wait for God to pass by.
God was ushered in by a mighty wind, followed by an earthquake, and then a firestorm. Don’t know about Elijah standing out there waiting on God, but I would be cowering under a rock. But after this magnificent natural display, God whispered. Immediately, Elijah knew it was God. He covered his face and bowed down. God’s question did not change, nor did Elijah’s answer, but his attitude did. Shouting , storming children are often subdued when spoken to in a quiet voice. Elijah had seen a display in advance of God that reinforced his belief and God’s quiet voice speaking gently restored his confidence in God’s faithfulness.
Those precious moments between Elijah and God were concluded with again God sending Elijah on a mission to Damascus. Additionally, though not included in the lectionary scripture in verse 18, God lets Elijah know that there are 7000 others in Israel who have not bowed to Baal. He wants Elijah to know he is not the only God follower…but before God shared that He wanted Elijah to accept that with God he was never alone.
Wow! What an amazing story! But how does it apply to me this week. Well, one thing I gleaned is that sometimes when I am feeling alone and depressed, I may need to rest, eat and listen for God’s direction. I also want to apply the attitude of listening that allows me to hear God no matter what chaos is going on around me. And finally, I want to find a safe place to pray and discern where God wants me to join Him in helping others find rest, sustenance, and develop the ability to hear God.
Safe Travels—OFF to PSALM 42 and PSALM 43…for tomorrow
P.S. I am adding a post on Damascus….just could not shake that city from my mind. And with all that is happening in Syria today, I am praying for that ancient city, which God has allowed to stay on the earth for over 4000 years.