1 Kings 19:1 Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword.
A triumph like this could only come from God, so Elijah likely assumed that Queen Jezebel would come over to God’s side. The King and Queen would lead the nation in a revival, and true worship would be restored. It might even spread to the ends of the earth. Elijah must have been amazed at all that God was doing through him.
1 Kings 19:2 So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.
This was the opposite of what Elijah expected. The demonstration of God’s power and blessing were so obvious that they could not be denied. Elijah should have become an advisor to the king and queen as they reformed the nation. Instead, the queen was determined to kill him, just as she had killed so many other prophets of God (1 Kings 18:4).
We naturally assume that people want the truth, and all we have to do is tell them. The heart is so corrupt, however, that we would rather suppress the truth by [our] wickedness (Romans 1:18), wrote Paul. That is what Jezebel did, and that is what we all do by nature. Sinners do not want a holy God who punishes sin and makes demands on them. That is a truth we would rather suppress.
1 Kings 19:3 Elijah was afraid and ran for his life.
There was not much else he could do. When you fight with all you have, but it’s not enough, all you can do is run. Instead of being the winner, Elijah became the loser. The ecstasy of victory became the agony of defeat. Sadly, this is not unusual.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against . . . the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:12), wrote Paul. Christians are part of a greater battle than we can possibly grasp. Satan and his demons will never give up, but neither should we. God will help us win in the end, but like Elijah, we may have to run for our lives sometimes.
1 Kings 19:4 [Elijah] came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die.
This is the prophet at his lowest. He had been running for days to escape the queen’s wrath, and he was exhausted. The trauma of his struggle was so great that it took away his will to live. I have had enough, Lord . . . Take my life, he said.
Godly leaders are not exempt from feelings of despair. Moses (Numbers 11:15), Job (Job 6:8-9) and Jonah (Jonah 4:3) also prayed for death, but God had a future for each of them. As long as God keeps us alive, he has a reason for us to live.
1 Kings 19:5-6 Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, Get up and eat. He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.
This happened a second time, and strengthened by the food, Elijah traveled another forty days until he reached Mount Sinai. That is where God met with Moses to establish a covenant with Israel (Exodus 19-20). Elijah was hoping to encounter God there as well.
1 Kings 19:9 There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the Lord came to him: What are you doing here, Elijah?
Elijah poured out his complaint to God, and the Lord displayed his power. [A] great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper (1 Kings 19:11-12).
God was not working in the dramatic way Elijah wanted, but he was still speaking. If Elijah would pay attention to God’s word, he could still be used by God. This is not an invitation to listen to the voices in our heads, but a reminder to listen to what God has said in his word. We might wish for mighty acts, but God’s word is always mighty. Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces? (Jeremiah 23:29). If we continue to pay attention, we can still be used by God.
Reflection and Review
Why did Jezebel reject God?
Why do some people pray to die?
How does God speak to us?