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The Lord’s messenger sustained an exhausted prophet

November 29, 2023
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Daily Scripture

1 Kings 19:1-16

1 Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, how he had killed all Baal’s prophets with the sword. 2 Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah with this message: “May the gods do whatever they want to me if by this time tomorrow I haven’t made your life like the life of one of them.”
3 Elijah was terrified. He got up and ran for his life. He arrived at Beer-sheba in Judah and left his assistant there. 4 He himself went farther on into the desert a day’s journey. He finally sat down under a solitary broom bush. He longed for his own death: “It’s more than enough, LORD! Take my life because I’m no better than my ancestors.” 5 He lay down and slept under the solitary broom bush.Then suddenly a messenger tapped him and said to him,
“Get up! Eat something!” 6 Elijah opened his eyes and saw flatbread baked on glowing coals and a jar of water right by his head. He ate and drank, and then went back to sleep. 7 The LORD’s messenger returned a second time and tapped him. “Get up!” the messenger said. “Eat something, because you have a difficult road ahead of you.” 8 Elijah got up, ate and drank, and went refreshed by that food for forty days and nights until he arrived at Horeb, God’s mountain. 9 There he went into a cave and spent the night.
The LORD’s word came to him and said, “Why are you here, Elijah?”
10 Elijah replied, “I’ve been very passionate for the LORD God of heavenly forces because the Israelites have abandoned your covenant. They have torn down your altars, and they have murdered your prophets with the sword. I’m the only one left, and now they want to take my life too!”
11 The LORD said, “Go out and stand at the mountain before the LORD. The LORD is passing by.” A very strong wind tore through the mountains and broke apart the stones before the LORD. But the LORD wasn’t in the wind. After the wind, there was an earthquake. But the LORD wasn’t in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake, there was a fire. But the LORD wasn’t in the fire. After the fire, there was a sound. Thin. Quiet. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his coat. He went out and stood at the cave’s entrance. A voice came to him and said, “Why are you here, Elijah?”
14 He said, “I’ve been very passionate for the LORD God of heavenly forces because the Israelites have abandoned your covenant. They have torn down your altars, and they have murdered your prophets with the sword. I’m the only one left, and now they want to take my life too.”
15 The LORD said to him, “Go back through the desert to Damascus and anoint Hazael as king of Aram. 16 Also anoint Jehu, Nimshi’s son, as king of Israel; and anoint Elisha from Abel-meholah, Shaphat’s son, to succeed you as prophet.

Daily Reflection & Prayer

Often the biggest challenge comes, not in a crisis with adrenalin flowing, but in the letdown. God gave Elijah a great public victory over Canaanite “god” Baal (cf. 1 Kings 18). But foreign queen Jezebel, angry about Baal’s defeat, used a clearly not heavenly “messenger” to threaten Elijah’s life. Afraid, exhausted and depressed, the bold (but still human) prophet ran. Now the true God of lightning sent a “messenger” (same Hebrew word) with godly caring for Elijah’s physical and mental fatigue.

  • Canaanite images always showed Baal, their god of rain, with a lightning bolt in his fist. To support Elijah’s challenge to Baal worship, God sent real lightning on Mt. Carmel. But when the worn-out prophet prayed, “It’s more than enough, LORD! Take my life because I’m no better than my ancestors,” God knew it wasn’t time for lightning. God’s messenger brought food, rest and caring. How has God, directly or through people, offered you caring support when you have needed it?
  • Scholar John J. Bimson wrote, “The translations ‘a gentle whisper’ and ‘a still small voice’ (RSV) do not do full justice to the enigmatic Hebrew expression, which may be better rendered ‘a brief sound of silence.’ The text…implies that God was at last passing by in the silence which followed the storm…. a vivid demonstration that God is not always at work in ways which are visible and dramatic.” * When have you heard God, not in sound and spectacle, but in silence?
Prayer

Lord, still the chatter and restlessness of my mind and heart. Teach me how to sense you in the quiet moments, as well as the times when you make me want to stand up and cheer. Amen.

GPS Insights

Elijah Herrell

Elijah Herrell

Elijah Herrell is a worship leader, musician and songwriter originally based in Hickory, NC before moving to the Kansas City area in 2013. Over the last 10 years, he’s served with various churches and ministries all over KC as well as recorded multiple albums with his band “Familiar.” He currently serves as the modern worship leader at Resurrection’s Downtown campus. He loves most all things Dolly Parton, has strong feelings about cereal and looks forward to fostering a dog as soon as his landlord allows.

As a new contributor to the GPS insights, I find it lovely and even a bit laughable that my first Scripture passage talks about my biblical namesake and his mental health. Elijah is often remembered for his incredible faith and fearsome zeal for the God of Israel in light of much opposition. However, we often forget about the moments of doubt and hopelessness that many “heroes of the faith” experienced. In this moment, we see the prophet Elijah at one of the lowest places of desperation–desiring for his own life to end.

In my journey with the Lord, there have been a handful of “rock bottom” instances where I struggled to see reason to continue living. Interestingly enough, there have been even fewer moments where the shocking, loud, intense supernatural work of the Lord rescued me from my pain. I have a couple stories, sure, but I find it beautiful how often the Lord’s response to my depression’s desperate plea could be described as gentle. Subtle even. The Lord refuses to force my mood to flip or demand a smile in my mourning. Often, I feel like God simply makes me aware of his patience and willingness to meet me in the dust.

There’s a particular visual that the Lord brings to mind over and over when I feel indignant or confused at divine leadership. In my mind’s eye, I see a strong parental figure, standing tall with compassionate eyes, looking at the toddler in their arms. The toddler is screaming, flailing and doing everything in their power to wiggle free from the parent’s caring embrace but they remain safe inside. When angry, I often pray that I would feel the Lord’s strong arms holding me despite my anger and resistance. I’ll finish with some lyrics of a song I wrote in one of those “thrashing” seasons of faith:

“You stare me down, watch me thrash around
I’ll give you a fight – all through the night
And I can’t fake a smile.

Despite my rare disease, you’re not afraid of me.
You say it’s alright and I think that I might
Try to believe you.”

(Click here to listen to “Try to Believe,” by Familiar)

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
References

* John J. Bimson, comment on 1 Kings 19:1-18 in The New Bible Commentary, fourth edition. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1994, p. 360.