And Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there,
I. THE OCCASION OF THIS PRAYER.
1. Jezebel had threatened his life.
(1) Ahab had reported to his queen what Elijah had done at Carmel, and in particular recounted how he had slain all the prophets. In this statement we notice two capital faults. He did not recount what Jehovah had done; he did not properly distinguish the "prophets" slain as idolatrous and false. The gospel may be variously preached.
(2) Instead of reflecting and repenting, Jezebel was filled with resentment, and resolved upon the destruction of Elijah. Miracles will not do more than reason with a corrupt and prejudiced heart. (See Luke 16:31; John 12:10, 11.)
(3) She accordingly sent messengers to Elijah with an oath, declaring that within twenty-four hours she would revenge upon his life the slaughter of her priests. Wickedness is not always politic: by giving him this notice she gave him an opportunity to escape.
2. To save his life hefted.
(1) Was this wrong? Some have blamed him for it because he did not first ascertain the will of God. Had he no voice of God in the instinct of self preservation? Had he no voice of God in the providence which apprised him of his peril? Would he not have tempted the Lord his God to have waited for another voice? Had he remained and forfeited his life, would he not have been to blame? God gives us our reason, and if we follow its light, together with that of an upright conscience, we shall do well.
(2) But who can say that Elijah had no direction from the word of the Lord? Certainly there was a plan for his journey recognized by the angel with which he was familiar (see ver. 7). The distance from Beer-sheba to Horeb was about 150 miles.
(3) In his flight he came first to Beer-sheba, where he was under the pro. tection of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, who feared the Lord. There he left his servant in safety, and might have abode himself in safety had he not acted under the promptings of inspiration to proceed alone into the wilderness.
3. Alone with God he asks to die.
(1) The Hebrew phrase is, "He requested for his life that he might die." There is life in death to the righteous.
(2) "It is enough." This is the language of disappointment. He looked for better fruit of his ministry than he found. He thought, surely this demonstration on Carmel will extinguish idolatry; but he finds Jezebel swearing against his life, and apparently in a position to carry out her purpose. "Now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers." I am no more useful here than they have been who are gone hence. Let me join them.
II. THE ANSWERS GIVEN TO IT.
1. They come in the form of physical refreshment.
(1) Elijah's prayer was evidently uttered under the influence of physical exhaustion and discomfort. His sitting under the "juniper" is mentioned, not to suggest that he derived comfort from an ample shade, but rather to show how little shelter he could find. The word (רתם) is construed as in the text by the Hebrews, by Jerome, and the Vulgate; yet it is rather the genista (broom), a shrub with yellow flowers which grows in the desert, and which has its name (from רתם to bind) from the toughness or tenacity of its twigs, which were used for withes. Not only was he wayworn with his journey and exposure to the sun, but faint also for want of food and drink.
(2) The answer came to his prayer, therefore, in the blessing of refreshing sleep. Out of this also he was seasonably aroused by an Angel to find a cake on the coals (as bread is sometimes baked in the East) and a cruse of water at his bolster. God knows our frame, pities us, and makes due allowance for our frailties. When we find our spirits in a morbid state let us look to our health. Hygiene may come, even to the soul, as an angel of God.
2. They came to him in spiritual blessing.
(1) The refreshment which Elijah received was supernatural in its source. The bread and water came to him with the word and touch of the Angel-Jehovah (מלא יהוה). This was no common angel, but one of the Persons of the Godhead.
(2) It was supernatural also in its effects (ver. 8). In these he is brought intimately into association with Moses and Jesus. (Compare Exodus 34:28; Deuteronomy 9:9, 18; Matthew 4:2.) It is also noteworthy how these three appear in glory together on the holy mount. (See Luke 9:30, 31.) The spiritual life we derive from God's word is set forth in the mystery of the manna which for forty years nourished the people of God in this wilderness. It is also set forth in that new life of Jesus in which after His resurrection He appeared to His disciples during forty days. (See Romans 6:11; Galatians 2:20.) - J.A.M.
I. RELIGIOUS DEPRESSION FOLLOWING GREAT PUBLIC EXCITEMENT.
1. We may well learn, from this sad crisis in Elijah's history, the lesson of our own weakness, and our dependence on God's grace. In the Divine life, often the most dangerous and perilous time for the believer, is after a season of great enlargement; when he is saying to himself, "My mountain standeth strong." The spiritual armour is loosely worn; — he gets supine after the flush of victory: the bold, bounding river, that we have just witnessed taking leap after leap in successive cataracts, loses itself in the low, marshy swamps of self-confidence.
He arose and went for his life.
(F. S. Webster, M. A.)
2. Beware of taking any step without the Divine sanction. Let us be careful not to follow our own paths; not to take any solemn and important step unless it be divinely owned and recognised. "In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths." "Blessed is the man whose strength is in Thee, in whose heart are Thy ways."
3. Beware of murmuring under trial. Each of us has, or may yet have, his day of trial — sickness, bereavement, crushed hopes, bitter disappointments, crossed wishes — stings and arrows from quarters least expected. How are we to meet them? Are we to give way to peevish, fretful repining? Are we to say, "I am wearied of life. I would I were done with all this wretchedness. What pleasure is existence to this wounded, harassed, smitten spirit?" Nay, take courage. It is not "enough." The Lord has work for you still to do. It is not for you, but for Him, to say, at His own appointed time, as He said to Hezekiah, "Thou shalt die, and not live." If we have ever been guilty of uttering such a rash prayer as that of Elijah — "Take away my life" let us be thankful God has not given us the fulfilment of our own wish — the ratification of our own desire — and allowed us to die, unmeet and unprepared!
(J. R. Macduff, D. D.)
1. It is a natural reaction. As a matter of mental and moral law, such depression must follow such excitement.
2. It is a needful discipline. Continual conquests on Carmel would not be good for the prophet's own soul. He must have sometimes more of introspection and self-communing and less of challenge of foes, or of the applause of friends.
II. RELIGIOUS DEPRESSION PRODUCING THE FEELING OF UTTER LONELINESS. Under the juniper-tree he longs to sob out his life and afterwards thrice over utters the pathetic "alone, alone, alone."
III. RELIGIOUS DEPRESSION CAUSING MISTAKEN VIEWS OF LIFE. He, in his present passing loneliness, had two wrong notions clouding his vision. He thought, first of all, that his life-work had been a failure, whereas he had stirred the religious life of the people to its very centre, and his name ever lives as a symbol of heroic single-handed conflict with evil.
2. And he supposed the generation of godly seers was extinct. This mood of mind often leads men to see failure written on their labours, and to feel the number of the Christly a narrow instead of an ever-widening circle of men and women and children.
IV. RELIGIOUS DEPRESSION DIVINELY REMOVED BY FITTING MEANS. Here Elijah was lifted from his depression through the instrumentality —
1. Of nature.
2. Of new occupation. There was fresh work to be done.
3. Fresh companionship. An Elisha was waiting for him.
4. Unveiling of forgotten facts. In the existence of the 7000 faithful men there was a fact of hope and encouragement he had forgotten. So every exiled spirit needs, and, if true to God, has, an Apocalypse.
(U. R. Thomas.)
II. HE WAS KEENLY SENSITIVE TO HIS LONELY POSITION. "I only am left." Some men are born to loneliness. It is the penalty of true greatness. At such a time the human spirit is apt to falter, unless it is sustained by an heroic purpose, and by an unfaltering faith. The shadow of that loneliness fell dark on the spirit of our Divine Master Himself when He said: "Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me." If our Lord shrank in the penumbra of that great eclipse, it is not wonderful that Elijah cowered in its darksome gloom.
III. HE LOOKED AWAY FROM GOD TO CIRCUMSTANCES. Up to that moment Elijah had been animated by a most splendid faith, because he had never lost sight of God. "He endured as seeing Him who is invisible." Faith always thrives when God occupies the whole field of vision. Let us refuse to look at circumstances, though they roll before us as a Red Sea, and howl around us like a storm. Circumstances, natural impossibilities, difficulties, are nothing in the estimation of the soul that is occupied with God. They are as the small dust that settles on a scale, and is not considered in the measurement of weight. O men of God, get you up into the high mountain, from which you may obtain a good view of the glorious Land of Promise; and refuse to have your gaze diverted by men or things below!
(F. B. Meyer, M. A.)I. ELIJAH'S WEAKNESS.
1. He was a man of like passions with us. He failed in the point wherein he was strongest, as Abraham, Moses, Job, Peter, and others have done.
2. He suffered from a terrible reaction. Those who go up go down.
3. He suffered grievous disappointment, for Ahab was still under Jezebel's sway, and she was seeking his life.
4. His wish was folly: "O Lord, take away my life." He fled from death, and yet prayed for death! He was never to die. How unwise are our prayers when our spirits sink.
5. His reason for the wish was untrue.
II. GOD'S TENDERNESS TO HIM.
1. He allowed him to sleep. This was better than medicine, or inward rebuke, or spiritual instruction.
2. He fed him with food convenient and miraculously nourishing.
3. He made him "perceive" angelic care: "An angel touched him."
4. He allowed him to tell his grief (ver. 10). This is often the readiest relief. He stated his case, and in doing so eased his mind.
5. He revealed Himself and His ways. The wind, earthquake, fire, and still small voice were voices from God.
6. He told him good news: "Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel." His sense of loneliness was thus removed.
7. He gave him more to do — to anoint others, by whom the Lord's purposes of chastisement and instruction should be carried on.Let us learn some useful lessons.
1. It is seldom right to pray to die. We may not destroy our own lives, nor ask the Lord to do so.
2. For the sinner t is never right to seek to die; for death to him is hell!
3. For the saint it is allowable only within bounds.
4. When we do wish to die, the reason must not be impatient, petulant, proud, insolent.
5. We have no idea of what is in store for us in this life. We may yet see the cause prosper and ourselves successful.
6. In any case, let us trust in the Lord and do good, and we need not be afraid.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)I. THE PROPHET'S DESPONDENCY.
1. Its intensity. For the time his depression seems almost overwhelming. Why this: that we must not expect that the sincerest piety, or the highest service for God, will preclude the possibility of our being bowed down beneath the burden of depression and discouragement. It may consist with genuine religiousness to be so circumstanced. Those children of God, in old time, whose faith rose to the loftiest altitudes, and whose courage paled not before the extremest perils, knew well the painfulness of such experience. It is well for us to bear in mind that the ground of spiritual security is distinct and separate from any state of mere feeling. Frames are uncertain, fluctuating, affected by innumerable causes over which our control is but limited, and must not, therefore, be made to determine character, standing, safety before God. The heart may sink when the soul's grasp is the strongest.
2. The causes of the prophet's despondency. People forget the closeness of the connection that subsists between their material and their spiritual part, and often connect with an imagined wrong condition of the latter, what more properly belongs to a morbid or deranged state of the former. They send for the minister, when they ought to send for the physician. They charge upon the mind a fault that really attaches to the body. Not even religion can cure some persons of melancholy; they are gloomy or pensive by natural temperament, and must await the resurrection-morn to be made otherwise,
3. Its effects upon his conduct. It had led him from the scene of actual service, bold and faithful testimony, earnest confronting of Jehovah's foes, to hide himself in wilderness solitudes.
II. GOD'S METHOD OF RELIEF.
1. God recruits his exhausted strength by a timely supply of sustenance.
2. But observe, again, in God's method of relief, that He rouses His servant to exertion. Having afforded Him needful refreshment and repose, He gives him work to do; He bids him journey to the distant Mount of Horeb.
3. God's method of relief includes a manifestation of Himself in glory and grace. The journey to Horeb was not its own end. Elijah was brought thither that he might commune with Deity.
4. In God's method of relief there was a correction of the prophet's misjudgment, as to the effects of his own labours, and the cause of truth. He had thought that he had "laboured in vain, and spent his strength for nought, and in vain."
(C. M. Merry)
I. SOME OF THE CAUSES OF ELIJAH'S DEPRESSION.
1. Physical weakness.
2. Rampant wickedness.
3. Want of occupation.
4. The apparent failure of his mission.
II. WHAT LESSONS SHOULD THIS SUBJECT TEACH US?
1. That great men are subject to sudden changes in their mental moods.
2. That these seasons of depression do not unchristianise a man. John Bunyan tells us that the pilgrims were as surely progressing towards the Celestial City, when climbing the hill Difficulty, passing through the valley of Humiliation, and engaged in a hand-to. hand encounter with Apollyon, as when transported with the visions of the Delectable Mountains, fanned with the balmy breezes, and regaled with the fragrant odours of the land of Beulah, where the sun always shines. "If needs be," says Peter, "ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations.
3. That God comes to the succour of His servants in seasons of depression.
4. Severe trials are fruitful of good to God's people.
5. That labour is an essential condition of enjoyment.
(D. L. Moody.)
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