The desert was barren, save for a few shrubs. He sat on the sand, knees hugged to his sinewy chest. His bony shoulders heaved, his face hidden in the hollow of his body, the tears dripping unheeded onto the coarse sand. The emaciated man rocked back and forth.
Alone. One broken man in a vast desert. Despised, hated, feared, and deserted even by his trusted servant. He’d done nothing wrong. He had been zealous for his God. Yet now he was incredibly, awfully, completely alone.
It was not simply the loneliness and betrayal which grieved this broken godly man. His own flesh and blood had rejected their God. They had smashed down the altars of the Creator, turning to foreign idols. There was even a warrant out for the death of this prophet who had tried so hard to turn the people back to God.
Between gasping sobs, Elijah stammered a plea to the God whom he had so ardently served … to Jehovah, in whose service he had come to this breaking point.
“I have had enough, LORD … Take my life…..” (1 Kings 19:4 NIV).
Elijah opened his eyes. Somebody had touched him. Was death near? Yet he was still here. Why, oh why, hadn’t God allowed him to die?
The blazing figure of a man stood over him. His heart leapt into his mouth as he squeezed his eyes shut in disbelief. The authoritative voice penetrated his swirling confused mind. “Get up and eat.”
Opening his eyes again, heart racing, Elijah looked around. Mouth open in amazement, he saw the red embers of a campfire on which rested a loaf of freshly baked bread, and a jar of water sitting near his head. The fearsome angel was gone. Alone again, Elijah tentatively took a sip of water … chewed a small piece of bread … then realized how ravenous he was. Within five minutes, the meal was gone, and Elijah curled up on the sand again.
Déjà vu. Elijah was wakened by the angel’s touch and commanded to eat. Food and water was there, ready for Elijah. This time, however, after he’d finished the meal, he stood up and brushed the sand off his clothes.
Resolutely, he set out for the Mountain of the Lord. There was no going back. Step after weary step, for forty days and nights, Elijah moved towards the mountain, a lone figure in the vast desert. A broken man, desperate for something, his spirit empty.
Elijah sat alone in the mountain cave, waiting for what, God alone knew. But it was God’s mountain, of that, Elijah was sure.
Then he heard the voice.
“What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:9 NIV)
The Almighty knew. The Creator and Sustainer of Life was here. Jehovah had called Elijah by name.
Heart pounding, Elijah cleared his throat and spoke up in a wavering voice.
“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.” (1 Kings 19:10 NIV)
A broken man, alone in a rebellious nation, the land filled with broken, desolate altars.
The Lord spoke again. “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” (1 Kings 19:11a NIV)
Exposed, a man alone on the side of the mountain, Elijah clung to the rock face as the devastating wind howled, the earth itself quaked, and the destructive fire whooshed over the rocky platform. But the LORD was not in them.
Then came that gentle whisper.
“What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:13b NIV)
Heart pounding, yet mind calm, Elijah repeated his explanation.
Ready now to listen, Elijah received instructions from God Almighty, beginning with words he could scarcely have believed possible … “Go back the way you came….” (1 Kings 19:15b NIV).
The broken man was restored. He was given a fresh purpose, renewed courage, new responsibilities and reassurance that there were many who stood for God.
Best of all, Elijah was given a fellow worker … a man who would love him ardently and refuse to leave him even when life itself seemed at stake … a man who would be his disciple and also his friend.
The altars of Israel remained broken.
Elijah was a broken man no longer.
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