This time we are going to look at a very interesting passage of Scripture. The prophet Elijah is one of the best-known characters from the Old Testament. You might be familiar with the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal in I Kings 18. Elijah challenges the prophets of the false god Baal to a showdown. Elijah and the prophets of Baal will each build and altar and have a bull prepared for sacrifice. They will then each pray and the god who answers the prayer by fire will be recognized as the true god. The prophets of Baal pray and go through their rituals for hours. No answer. Elijah, just to prove he hasn’t rigged the competition, has jars of water poured on his altar. Then he prays. His sacrifice, including the bull, wood, stone, dust and even the water around the altar is consumed by fire from God. Elijah then has the false prophets arrested and executed. Immediately after this, the long drought in Israel ends. This is an astonishing story of the power and victory of God and Elijah got to be part of it all. But we’re not going to talk about that story. We’re going to talk about what happens right after that story. Let’s look at I Kings 19.
The miraculous victory over the idolatrous prophets of Baal has demonstrated God’s power. Baal is a powerless god. This victory is the type of ministry moment just about every prophet, pastor or leader would long for. You would think Elijah would be singing God’s praises with his head held high. However, the evil Queen Jezebel threatens his life and Elijah flees for his life and slips into despair. His circumstances were intimidating, and he had every right to be afraid physically. Yet, Elijah has just seen God win a major victory over hundreds of false prophets, now he is afraid of one human queen. The problem was that Elijah had shifted his view from God to his circumstances. Elijah’s response is actually not uncommon in our human experience and we shouldn’t be too hard on him. It seems we are often vulnerable after a major victory or accomplishment as we have put so much time and energy into it, that we experience a significant let down after the adrenaline leaves our system.
Let’s look at what happens next. Elijah sleeps and then an angel provides him with food and water. How many times have you experienced a situation where you are totally overwhelmed, then you have a good night’s sleep, some food and water, and you wake up refreshed and suddenly yesterday’s insurmountable problem is manageable? God provided just what Elijah needed after his emotionally and physically draining experience with the prophets of Baal. Yet Elijah’s despair ran deeper than a need for food and rest. He continues fleeing for 40 days and nights. It is likely that he was communicating with God this whole time. Maybe God was reminding him of his love and faithfulness. Even the greatest prophet of the OT just needed to get away for a while. Elijah is heading for Mt Sinai, the mountain where God revealed himself to Moses and the Israelites. Mt Sinai is symbolic of God’s presence and it is no accident that Elijah flees there.
Finally, after the flight of 40 days and nights Elijah arrives at Mt Sinai. As Elijah retreats into a cave God appears and asks him “What are you doing here Elijah?” (I Kgs 19:9). Elijah expresses his complaint: “10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn 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.” (I Kgs 19:10). In other words he seems to be saying: “I have worked hard for you God, I have done what you told me to do, I’ve preached, I’ve been faithful, I’ve put my life on the line; but it seems like nothing positive is happening. The Israelites are not responding. In fact, they seem to be rejecting God, the prophets, and me. Finally, an evil and maniacal Queen is trying to kill me.” Elijah seems to be wondering: Where are the results? Where are the good things you’ve promised? Here I am alone and rejected. Is this the life God offers?
God does not answer his complaint directly but instructs him to go stand on the mountain. A powerful wind, a dramatic earthquake, and a raging fire all pass by Elijah. God directs these displays of power, but his presence is not in them. Instead God reveals his presence in a whisper.
God repeats his question: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Elijah repeats his response. “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn 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.” It seems like God and Elijah are at an impasse.
Finally, God responds but instead of explaining things to Elijah he gives him a to do list. Almost as an aside there are explanations for all of Elijah’s questions. The two kings he was to anoint would be God’s instruments to eradicate Baal worship in Israel. Then he is to anoint Elisha to succeed him as prophet; he will not be alone, and his ministry will carry on past his own lifetime. Finally, God says, by the way, you’re not alone in Israel. There are 7000 who remain worshippers of the true God. Elijah’s despair, while based in difficult circumstances, was not as bad as he believed and indeed, he was not alone. The devil would have us believe that we are isolated. God says to Elijah and to us:
- My power is sufficient for today, tomorrow and for any problem
- My presence is with you
- I have a plan for your today, for your tomorrow and for events far beyond your lifetime
- You are not alone
 Constable, T. L. (1985). 1 Kings. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 528). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
 Barker and Kohlenberger III eds, Expositors Bible Commentary Abridged Edition: Old Testament, 1994, pg 532