1: “Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword.” – Jezebel’s influence over King Ahab had resulted in the introduction of Baal, the storm god, throughout Israel. The nation had been suffering through a severe drought which gave Elijah opportunity to prove God’s sovereignty. A contest between Elijah and the prophets of Baal overwhelmingly proved that God was Lord of all and Elijah had all the Jezebel’s prophets put to death as a result.
3: “Elijah was afraid and ran for his life.” – Jezebel had threatened to kill Elijah in retaliation of the death of her prophets which he knew she was quite capable of doing.
4b-5a: “I have had enough, Lord; he said. ‘Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.’ 5Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep.” – Elijah was ready to quit even with the freshness of victory still lingering.
5b: “All at once an angel touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat.’” – In the pits and valleys of despair, God still insured that his prophet was cared for.
8b: “Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.” – Elijah was not called by God to Mount Horeb; he went there on his own volition.
10 & 14: “He replied, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.’” – Twice Elijah says this phrase. He is certain his ministry is done – that God had been defeated and the people of Israel were lost in their passions.
12: “After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.” – God was not present in these violent acts of nature as Elijah had expected. Retribution was not coming. Instead, a still small voice came to him – the voice of God.
15: “The Lord said to him, ‘Go back the way you came…” – There was work to do and Elijah time of doubt and fear came to an end.
Points to Contemplate:
Are you burned out? Do you feel like quitting?
Life in ministry had not been easy for Elijah. Everywhere he turned he witnessed the demise of his people as they turned from God. He wondered if his efforts were worth it. He wanted to quit. Do you ever get frustrated with the seemingly slow progress of your ministry? Are you ready to throw in the towel? Do you sometimes feel like curling up in a corner and just letting go? Do you want to run and hide; save your own skin and let the world have its way?
When you find yourself in the valley of despair, how recently had you been rejoicing? Have you noticed that frequently our deepest sorrows follow closely behind our greatest victories? Elijah had won. He had proven the sovereignty of God against the prophets of Baal and had them all killed. Things should have been good. He should have been rejoicing. And, yet, he was ready to die. Have you ever found your self in this same situation, where everything went extremely well with a program, worship service, or event and in the aftermath, a single disparaging comment has sent you reeling? Why? Have your emotions become too exposed? Have you made the success yours and not God’s? Have you put too much emphasis on the short term and lost sight of eternity?
Does God respond to your pleadings? When you are damaged by unfair criticism, when the desire for retribution fills your heart, how does God react? Elijah was looking for a violent god, a god that would wreak havoc on his enemies. Instead, “came a gentle whisper.” Are you able to hear His whisper when your mind is filled with self-righteousness? Have you learned how to set your agenda aside and listen for what God has to say, even if it is not what you want to hear? Do you argue with God? Do you provide Him a list of how you were wronged and unjustly treated? Do try to convince Him to respond to the situation as you see fit? Or do you allow His peace to enter your heart and His loving care to lift and guide you back where you belong? Promises of the Gospel:
We are sometimes hurt and angry; our lives are in turmoil. We have fled and we want to die. Nothing seems to be going the way we envisioned it. And then we hear softly spoken: “Go back the way you came.” Life in ministry can be difficult and challenging. We can experience great victories with resounding choruses of praise. We can also experience defeat, criticism, and lost causes. Dreams are shattered with the slightest remark. A giant redwood falls with a single ax. The story of Elijah shows us that God never leaves our side in these times of trial and tribulation. He cares for our needs. He provides sustenance and tenderness. Then, when we are ready to listen, He lifts us up in His tender, loving arms and sets us back on the pathway of ministry with another bag of tasks and list of duties to fulfill.
God has been reminding me that I'm not the only one that feels lonely in the middle of trial, big and small. He had been reminding me about Elijah. Then I came across this article today. Just what I needed to hear. I've had a break from children's church which has been nice since we have a nine month old son that is going through physical therapy...long story. But I wasn't sure if God still wanted me in children's church. Yes, He's saying, "Go back the way you came." I really do love the kids and the ministry. Thank you for letting God use you!! God bless!!