Ahab told Jezebel everything that Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “May the gods punish me and do so severely if I don’t make your life like the life of one of them by this time tomorrow!”
Then Elijah became afraid and immediately ran for his life. When he came to Beer-sheba that belonged to Judah, he left his servant there, but he went on a day’s journey into the wilderness. He sat down under a broom tree and prayed that he might die. He said, “I have had enough! Lord, take my life, for I’m no better than my fathers.” Then he lay down and slept under the broom tree.
Suddenly, an angel touched him. The angel told him, “Get up and eat.” Then he looked, and there at his head was a loaf of bread baked over hot stones, and a jug of water. So he ate and drank and lay down again. Then the angel of the Lord returned for a second time and touched him. He said, “Get up and eat, or the journey will be too much for you.” So he got up, ate, and drank. Then on the strength from that food, he walked forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mountain of God.1 Kings 19:1-8
Elijah went from the heights of success to the lowest point of depression in a short amount of time. If Elijah had hoped that Ahab and Jezebel would repent after such a clear demonstration of the power of Yahweh, the response he received was the opposite. Robbed of the power that the control of the state religion gave her over the people, Jezebel responded by threatening Elijah’s life. Even though Elijah had seen great victory in the past, his response to this threat was to run and beg for the ending of his own life at the hand of God.
God’s response was not to judge but to comfort Elijah. He sent an angel to make sure Elijah got rest and received the nutrition he needed. It wasn’t just to help him cope with his current situation. God was preparing Elijah for a 40-day walk to Mt. Horeb where he would receive further instructions and words of encouragement from God. It was a response of grace and not judgment.
There are times when we may find ourselves in the pits of despair, even after a period of great success. The cycles of life can move our emotions up and down rather quickly. In times of despair, we may expect that God will punish us for our doubt. Instead, though, he often responds with grace and gives us the strength we need for the next step on the journey.
- Where do you go for encouragement in times of despair?