Elijah was unaware of this, but life was about to change. Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and that he had put all the prophets of Baal to death with the sword. Jezebel was furious. She “sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by to morrow about this time.” (19:2) Elijah’s happy world came crashing down upon him. All his excited hopes that the nation was now on the path to return to God were dashed, and he got up and fled for his life.
When Elijah got to Beersheba, he left his servant there and then went a day’s journey into the wilderness and sat down under a juniper tree. He was done; he was giving up. “And he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.” (19:4b) Then he lay down and slept and waited for death to come.
As Elijah slept, an angel came and “touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat. And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again.” (19:5,6) Elijah was physically exhausted. This seemed to magnify the turmoil in his mind. The Lord knew this and allowed Elijah to eat, drink, and rest before dealing with his spiritual problems.
After Elijah slept a while longer, “the angel of the LORD came again the second time, and touched him, and said, Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee.” (19:7) Now that Elijah had rested a while, God had something else for him to do. Elijah was depressed and wanted to quit, but God would not allow him to quit at this time. Rather, God was going to take Elijah on a journey so He could teach him some special things.
The food Elijah ate came form the angel of the LORD, or from God Himself, and it was very good food. It would give him strength for many days. Verses eight and nine say, “8And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God. 9And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there.”
Elijah went forty more days into the wilderness, up to Mount Horeb, the mountain of God. But he did not go talk to God. He found a cave and set up his lodging there. Even after God’s special care for him, Elijah was still upset. Perhaps he thought he could just hide away in this cave and die. He had tried the desert, but God sent him food and water. Now he was “hiding” in a cave. The only problem was that he was “hiding” in the mountain of God.
It was not long after he was settled in that “the word of the LORD came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah?” (19:9b) Elijah’s depression had lasted more than forty days. God had given him special food and drink and special strength. Now God was going to take care of Elijah’s spiritual needs. He went to talk to Elijah, “Elijah, what are you doing here?” Why was he hiding in a cave and just sitting around waiting to die?
Elijah answered, “I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.” (19:10)
Elijah had been obedient; he had willingly served the Lord. He stood alone against 850 prophets of Baal. When the pressure was on after the victory on Mt. Carmel, no one stood with him. Elijah set his focus on these things, and he began to feel very alone. He had forgotten about Obadiah, the governor of Ahab’s house, who had risked his life to hide one hundred prophets of God and feed them bread and water. Why were those prophets hiding? Jezebel wanted to kill them. Here was Jezebel, the king’s wife, trying to destroy the prophets of God; and all the while God was making sure these prophets were nourished with food and water from the king’s own house. Elijah had forgotten that he had at least one hundred and one friends, one hundred of whom were hiding for the same reason he was hiding.
When God asked Elijah why he was in a cave on Mt. Horeb, Elijah poured out his complaint to God. He did not use the word “why,” but the “why” was there. It as if her were saying, “I was faithful to You. I obeyed You. I stood alone for You. Why has all this happened to me? I spoke for you. What happened? Did people listen to You and follow You? No. They all left when the going got tough. Is this the reward I get for serving You? Everyone leaves me; and now I am alone, and they are trying to kill me!”
It seems that Elijah was angry as well as afraid. He was not asking the same kind of question “Why?” that Job had asked. Elijah had a bad attitude. However, he did one thing right. He poured out his heart to God and told him what was on his heart.
What was God’s response? Was he angry with Elijah for his bad attitude? Did he chide Elijah for his lack of faith? Did He say, “If that is how you feel, Elijah, you might as well go ahead and quit. I have no place for deserters in My work?” No. God looked upon Elijah in pity as a father looks upon his children. He remembered that Elijah was but dust. Dust is frail and is easily blown around by the wind. It has no strength of its own. It is useless without some other power. (See Psalm 103:13,14)
We are like dust. We have no strength of our own. God made us and gives us life and breath and health each day. Our strength comes from Him. Without God we are useless, for without Him we can do nothing. (See John 15:5) God knows our frame. He remembers that we are dust and has compassion on us.
The way God dealt with Elijah reveals the vastness of God’s love and mercy. In great tenderness, He showed Himself to Elijah and helped to turn Elijah’s focus off himself and his troubles and back onto God.
“11And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: 12And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. 13And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?” (I Kings 19:11-13)