Summary: 1) The Straining from a lack of Solitude (1 Kings 19:1-4), 2) The Strengthening from Solitude (1 Kings 19:5-8), 3) The Searching from Solitude (1 Kings 19:9-14), &, 4) The Sending from Solitude (1 Kings 19:15-18)
With the conclusion of the Olympics and Paralympics, one of the most trying adjustments that athletes and spectators alike claim is an emptiness after the games. With such preparation and excitement, it really means a change of gears for people.
Likewise, the prophet Elijah in 1 Kings 19 was coming off a great high. Through God, he had just defeated 450 prophets of Baal, performed great miracles and even brought someone back from the dead. But now, he was facing an enemy desiring revenge. He was physically and mentally exhausted and desired solitude.
Solitude brings together all the previous spiritual disciplines that we have seen thus far in Bible study, giving, prayer and fasting. But its practice is so foreign in our interconnected busy culture.
Elijah is a case study in the need for solitude and what God can accomplish in someone through it. In 1 Kings 19:1-18 we can see 1) The Straining from a lack of Solitude (1 Kings 19:1-4), 2) The Strengthening from Solitude (1 Kings 19:5-8), 3) The Searching from Solitude (1 Kings 19:9-14), and finally, 4) The Sending from Solitude (1 Kings 19:15-18)
1) The Straining from a lack of Solitude (1 Kings 19:1-4)
1 Kings 19:1-4 [19:1]Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, "So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow." Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, "It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers." (ESV)
Elijah was won a mighty battle on the mountain, but a still more formidable opponent than Ahab awaits him in the form of Queen Jezebel. Victory now becomes defeat as Elijah retreats, both physically and mentally, and ultimately arrives not a Mount Carmel but at another mountain to confront not Baal but the Lord himself, whom Elijah serves but whose ways he only partly understands and accepts (ESV Study Bible. 1 Kings 19:1-21. Crossway Bibles. 2001).
In verse two we see that Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to threaten him that by this time tomorrow if he did not depart out of the kingdom, the same thing shall be done to him as he had done to her priests on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:20-40).
• The need for solitude comes from various circumstances. Some of the most dramatic, in the form of a crisis point.
In verse three, Elijah saw clearly how matters stood; he perceived that he could no longer remain here, as he had wished and hoped, and that he could not carry his work of reformation through to the end.
Since he did not as on a former occasion (chap, 18:1) receive a divine command to hazard his life, i. e., to remain in spite of the threat, he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba., which is a city located 100 miles. S of Jezreel (18:45, 46) in the Negev, it marked the southern boundary of the population of Judah (MacArthur, J. J. (1997). The MacArthur Study Bible (electronic ed.) (1 Ki 19:3). Nashville: Word Pub.).
“He arose and ran for his life” can also be translated “he arose and went for his soul.” Since in the next verse Elijah pleads with God to take away his life, he obviously was not afraid to die. He may have fled to the wilderness not so much to escape Jezebel’s threat as to engage in a spiritual retreat for the benefit of his soul. He wanted to be alone with God in order to pour out his troubles, recommit his soul to the Lord, and see what God would say to him (C. F. Keil, The Books of the Kings, Biblical Commentary of the Old Testament, ed. C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, vol.4 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1950), 252.).
It is difficult to believe that the man who a few hours earlier had witnessed God’s convincing fire at Carmel, who could vividly remember the miraculous drought, the providential ravens, the widow’s oil and her risen son. Elijah has shown himself to be a man of faith and courage who trusts God for miracles and, above all, moves to locations only in response to God’s commands (cf. 17:2-5, 8-10, 18:1-2). But the world of the Lord is absent and does not reappear until verse 9 when it takes the form of a question, clarifying that Elijah’s journey on this occasion was not divinely initiated (ESV Study Bible. 1 Kings 19:3. Crossway Bibles. 2001)..