FOOD FOR THE JOURNEY
1 Kings 19:4-8
The vengeful Queen Jezebel had the power and the authority to have the prophet Elijah executed, and let him know so (1 Kings 19:1-2). Hearing this, Elijah fled (1 Kings 19:3). There are times when flight is not so much cowardice as wisdom - and it is in keeping with what Jesus would later teach (Matthew 24:16).
Heading south from the kingdom of Israel/Ephraim, Elijah crossed the border into Judah and left his servant there. However, it was not enough for the prophet that he had arrived in God’s country: before he could recover from his despondency he needed to seek out the LORD Himself. We cannot just ‘go to church’ and think that that is all that is required - ‘church’ is only ever one step in a longer journey.
Spiritual warfare can be tiring, and even victory can sometimes leave us weak and vulnerable. Then the journey becomes too much for us, and we become inward looking, distracted - and morbid (1 Kings 19:4). Do not give up: ‘take up your cross daily, and follow Jesus’ (Luke 9:23).
It is reassuring to note that the LORD knew Elijah’s situation better than the man himself. Twice an angel awoke the burnt-out prophet, providing sustenance, and instructing him to eat (1 Kings 19:5; 1 Kings 19:7). Angels also came and ministered to Jesus, after His temptation and victory over the devil in the wilderness (Matthew 4:11).
There is a similarity here to Abraham’s experience with the mysterious ‘king of Salem’ (Genesis 14:18). This seems to add an almost sacramental significance to Elijah’s experience. For us, too, a first step to recovery can be to eat, even when we don’t feel like it - but our spiritual ‘feeding’ is of far deeper significance (John 6:30-35).
The Apostle Paul spoke of those who eat and drink the cup of the Lord unworthily, not discerning the Lord’s body. Such, he said, eat and drink judgment to themselves: and ‘for this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep’ (1 Corinthians 11:27-30). Perhaps the flip side of that teaching is that there is an efficacy in the Communion which equips us not only spiritually, but also physically, for our ongoing journey with the Lord.
Elijah ate, and then lay down again (1 Kings 19:6). The LORD knew that the onward journey to the mountain of God would otherwise be too much for him (1 Kings 19:7), so again the angel touched him - and Elijah was able to go in the strength of that spiritual refreshment forty days and forty nights (1 Kings 19:8). Then he would reach the place of encounter, restoration, renewal, re-commissioning, and reassurance (1 Kings 19:9-18).