1 Kings 19:1-4 (NIV) Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 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.” Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Read more here
Fleeing for Life (19:1-8)
After a powerful demonstration of God’s power (by fire), defeat of Baal’s prophets, and the end of a three and a half years of a dry spell which had been pronounced by him (chapter 18), Elijah now faces a death threat from Jezebel, Ahab’s wife. Jezebel’s reputation for being a nasty and deadly queen is unmatched. Not wanting to take chances, Elijah flees for his life. He feels helpless, hopeless and suicidal.
On the one hand, this story reveals Elijah’s humanness; he is a prophet but he is also human. It is easy to underestimate our humanness, especially when God is powerfully using us. Elijah’s life is threatened precisely because he is doing God’s will. On the other hand, it reveals God’s concern and care for Elijah (vv. 5-8). Serving God and being in His will does not necessary insulate us from life’s challenges and threats. Yet God cares for us even in the most difficult experiences.
A Gentle Voice of God (19:9-21)
At mount Horeb, Elijah has many things to complain about: Israel’s worship and religious systems are dead; there has been severe persecution and killing of God’s prophets. Elijah feels alone and rejected. Here is a stack contrast between the Elijah at Mount Carmel—confident, bold, in charge (chapter 18); and the one at Mount Horeb—distraught, unsure, and desperate (vv. 10, 14).
Elijah encounters God, not in the spectacular phenomena of powerful wind, earthquake and fire, but in “a gentle whisper” (v. 12). The God of Mt. Carmel who answers by fire is the same God of Mt. Horeb who answers in a gentle voice. God works in and through ordinary people like Elijah (and you and me for that matter) to accomplish His purposes (cf. James 5:17-18). Elijah has been faithful to God; it is now time for a transition: he is to anoint other kings—Hazael and Jehu, and a successor—Elisha (vv. 15-21).
Have you ever realized that God’s purposes are bigger than you—than your accomplishments or even failures? As His servants, we are not in charge; He is.