*Happy Friday! Yesterday we looked at the account where the Prophet Elijah proved to the people that the storm god Baal was a phony. Four-hundred and fifty of Baal's prophets were then executed and the drought that plagued Israel for years ended. Yahweh proved to be the deity who sent the rain and made the crops grow. How well did this go over with King Ahab? Well, it really didn't matter how well it went over with him, the question is: "How well did it go over with Ahab's wife, Jezebel?" The answer:
"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.'" (I Kings 19:2)
Jezebel determines to kill Elijah. Now, remember, Elijah has just called fire down from heaven, and he has overseen the execution of 450 prophets of Baal. He has stood up to the king of Israel, Ahab, who was one of the most evil kings on all of Israel. So, why should he fear the king's wife? I don't know, but guess what?
"Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. He came to a broom tree, 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.'" (I Kings 19:3,4b)
What in the world is happening here? How could Elijah possibly be fearing one woman when he has witnessed the power of God? Why is he running when he has just called fire from heaven? Well, there is a lot going on here. So, let's attempt to unpack it.
First of all, this is a retracing of the steps of the Israelites back to Mt. Sinai.(also known as Horeb) If you recall, Sinai is the sacred spot where Israel's first covenant was made. (Exodus 19-34) It is where the Ten Commandants were handed down. During his journey Elijah is fed miraculously just as the people were while on their journey through the wilderness. "All at once an angel touched him and said, 'Get up and eat.' He looked around, and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water." (I Kings 19:5b) We are then told that Elijah "traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb." (Mt. Sinai) (verse 8) The number "forty" recalls both Israel's forty years in the wilderness as well as Moses' time spent at Sinai where he did not eat or drink until he had written down the covenant. (Exodus 34) So, Elijah is now being compared with Moses. (biblical comparisons continue through the New Testament) O.K., so Elijah is going back to where the covenant was first made. Sinai/Horeb is where God promised to be Israel's God and they his people. *Remember I said it was like a marriage. So, something is going to happen back at Sinai.
While all that is going on we also discover Elijah's "personal" reason for going away. Elijah says: "I have been very zealous for the Lord Good Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken 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." (I Kings 19:10) Well, was Elijah the only prophet left? Most likely not. Remember, Elijah had earlier requested that God just take his life for he had had enough. I would propose that Elijah is suffering from depression. This is not a far fetched proposal. Here we see a prophet who has been so close to God, but now suffers from his own "dark night of the soul." In my ministry I have had the privilege of knowing some very fine ministers who were very near the end of their journey. (In one instance I was able to officiate the funeral service for one of these men.) There was one of these individuals who was a beloved figure near and far. However, I got to visit with him during his final years, then months, then hours. It occurred to me from the beginning that this man of God suffered from depression. There were many stories of how God worked through his ministry, but there were also many "what if's" and many regrets. But, along with all that he was clearly depressed. How can this be? How can a Christian suffer from depression? How can this prophet suffer from such thing? Because in the end, Elijah was a human being.
O.K., I'm going to make this a short "blog." Because of time I will wait until Monday to continue this particular "chapter" of the life of Elijah. He goes to Sinai/Horeb and that is where we will find him on Monday. Have a great weekend. -Pastor Rick