Summary: Swimming against the religious tide is a lonely business. Doubts may follow, but the LORD recalls us to duty.
STILLNESS AND THE POWER OF GOD
A. THE WILDERNESS OF DISSENT (1 Kings 19:1-8)
It is hard when we stand out in the crowd, but Christians are different. The Bible names us a ‘peculiar people’ - called out of darkness into His marvellous light (1 Peter 2:9). Privileges carry responsibility. Dissent is a lonely wilderness.
Sometimes we are most vulnerable in the full blush and head-rush of perceived victory. It was just at such a time that another ‘man of God’ let his guard down, disobeyed the LORD, and lost his life (1 Kings 13). Similarly, no sooner had Jesus pronounced the blessing over Peter’s famous confession of faith, than Peter had to be sternly rebuked for trying to divert Jesus from His destiny (Matthew 16:16-23). WE MUST REMAIN ALERT, EVEN AFTER BENEDICTION.
After the LORD’s victory on Mount Carmel, and Elijah’s slaying of the Baal prophets (1 Kings 18:40), Elijah may now have let his guard down. Queen Jezebel was furious! She swore under oath to her imaginary ‘gods’ that she would have Elijah slain by the very next day (1 Kings 19:1-2).
Is it not strange that, a day later, having escaped the wrath of the Queen, Elijah prayed that the LORD would take his life (1 Kings 19:4)? Elijah had plummeted from triumph to despondency, oblivious to the fact that the day had passed without the Queen fulfilling her vow. This is a classic case of burn-out, known to many involved in the spiritual warfare.
Exhausted, and sitting under a juniper tree, Elijah was overwhelmed with a sense of inadequacy: ‘I am not better than my fathers’ (1 Kings 19:4). Yet Elijah was in two minds. Both earlier (1 Kings 18:22), and later (1 Kings 19:10; 1 Kings 19:14), Elijah insisted that he was the only faithful one left.
This might be a good point in which to mention Obadiah. This man is like one of those unsung heroes of the church, quietly doing the LORD’s work without any fuss or drama. While Obadiah was caring for others in the land (1 Kings 18:4) - a thing known to Elijah (1 Kings 18:13) - Elijah was experiencing God’s presence and provision in the midst of the wilderness (1 Kings 19:5-8). While Obadiah was hiding others in a cave, Elijah hid himself in a cave (1 Kings 19:9; 1 Kings 19:13).
B. THE CAVE OF DOUBT (1 Kings 19:9-14)
Why are YOU here?
and fire -
and a thin, barely perceptible voice in the midst of the silence.
Why are you HERE?
We might insert here some comparisons and contrasts between Moses and Elijah.
1. The LORD passed by Moses (Exodus 33:19; Exodus 33:22; Exodus 34:6), just as he later passed by Elijah (1 Kings 19:11). But whereas Moses interceded for an idolatrous people (Exodus 32:11-14), Elijah was here wallowing in self pity (1 Kings 19:4; 1 Kings 19:10; 1 Kings 19:14).