COMPASSION AND MERCY
Lord, help me especially when I’m down.
Read 1 KINGS 19
Elijah Flees to Horeb
19 Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.”
3 Elijah was afraid[a] and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, 4 while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” 5 Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.
All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” 6 He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.
7 The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” 8 So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. 9 There he went into a cave and spent the night.
The Lord Appears to Elijah
And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
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.”
11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
14 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.”
15 The Lord said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. 16 Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. 17 Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. 18 Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.”
The Call of Elisha
19 So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat. He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him. 20 Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. “Let me kiss my father and mother goodbye,” he said, “and then I will come with you.”
“Go back,” Elijah replied. “What have I done to you?”
21 So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant.
a 1 Kings 19:3 Or Elijah saw
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“O love that wilt not let me go, / I rest my weary soul in thee” (George Matheson, 1842–1906).
The Lord has just worked several miracles in answer to Elijah’s prayers. He has sent the longed-for rain. Even more importantly, he has turned the hearts of his people away from Baal, and they are once more acknowledging that “The Lord—he is God!” (1 Kings 18:39). Elijah, however, can see only Jezebel’s threat to kill him. He flees to the relative safety of Judah, where he indulges in a serious bout of complaint to the Almighty. What has happened to him? How could he so quickly forget the power of the Lord to control all things, even life and death? How could he forget the way the Lord has protected and provided for him thus far? If you have the time, you might ﬁnd a word study on “Remember… Do not forget” helpful.
Here we see exempliﬁed in God’s prophet the frailty of all humankind, especially when exhausted. Think of anyone you know who might be exhausted in the Lord’s service. Yet, even in this state Elijah still prays. In the depths of despair, he turns toward the Lord, not away from him. In his paternal mercy, the Lord denies the request to die and instead directs him to eat, sleep and travel to Horeb, the mountain of his presence. There they can spend some time alone together in a bit of healing conversation. Note how gentle and patient the Lord is with his hurting prophet, even when the latter’s repeated, exaggerated protests serve only to demonstrate his forgetfulness (10,14; cf. 1 Kings 18:4,39). Still, the Lord blesses Elijah with a restorative, strengthening word (12; not silence—the Lord is speaking!). The word prescribes the cure for Elijah’s condition: continued obedient service (15,16), but in fellowship rather than solitude. The Lord has taken Elijah’s feelings seriously; from now on he will no longer work alone—he will have Elisha as his constant and trustworthy companion.
To what service is the Lord calling you? What blessings has he provided to help you in it? Thank him and pray for those exhausted in his service.
Lord, keep me from falling into the quicksand of despair and even further into the iron grip of depression; help me to remember Your past faithfulness (cf. Jas. 5:11).