“I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” – 1 Kings 19:4b
This statement is made by Elijah shortly after he has witnessed the power of the Lord in remarkable ways. In 1 Kings 18, Elijah faced off against the prophets of Baal in a contest to prove who the true God was, Baal or the Lord. The Lord proved Himself in dramatic fashion sending fire from heaven to consume the altar and sacrifice that Elijah erected. Then Elijah instructed the people watching to kill the prophets of Baal, which they did. Afterwards, through the power of the Lord, Elijah knows that the drought that has afflicted Israel for three years is about to end and told his servant and the wicked king Ahab that rain is coming. Finally, the Spirit of the Lord came upon Elijah and he miraculously out ran Ahab’s chariot to the city of Jezreel.
After Elijah has seen fire from heaven, seen the drought ended, and outrun a chariot, Jezebel–Ahab’s queen–threatens him for killing the prophets of Baal and he becomes afraid and runs away.
“Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 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.’
Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, 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.” -1 Kings 19:1-4a
Not only did Elijah flee the northern kingdom of Israel to seek safety in the southern kingdom of Judah, he also left his servant behind and went out into the wilderness. Even after seeing God perform miracles through him, his fear drives him to flee instead of relying on the Lord to protect him.
“I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep. – 1 Kings 19:4b-5
There are lessons we can learn from Elijah here. We must be wary even after seeing a great victory of the Lord in our lives lest we fall victim to fear and relying on ourselves shortly after. We can often let our guard down after seeing God’s hand move. Our reliance and dependence on the Lord and trust in His might must be just as intentional–perhaps more so–after witnessing a victory.
Another lesson we can take from Elijah is that when following the Lord, even when we are seeing His hand at work, it can be draining. Elijah has been battling against Ahab and Jezebel for years and even though he has seen victories, he has been worn down. He was not strong enough in his own power to stand against his fear and the opposition of Jezebel.
Elijah realizes that he has given into fear and his lack of faith in the Lord’s protection is a failure saying, “I am no better than my ancestors”. At this point Elijah is ready to give up. You could say that he was “burned out”, something we are all capable of doing.
But what does the Lord do with his worn out and broken down prophet?
He has compassion on him and restores him, physically, spiritually, and emotionally and He gives him hope for the future.
The Lord provides food, water, and rest for Elijah so that he can regain his strength. The provisions supplied by the Lord to Elijah not only help him regain his strength, but also enable him to travel forty days and nights to Mount Horeb. God’s supernatural power is at work even in Elijah’s physical restoration and enables him far beyond his own natural power.
“Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.
All at once an angel touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat.’ 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.
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.’ 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. There he went into a cave and spent the night.” – 1 Kings 19:5-9a
Though Elijah has been physically restored and strengthen, his spirit is still discouraged. Elijah feels that he is alone in the work he is doing and does not have hope for the future.
“And the word of the Lord came to him: ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’
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.” – 1 Kings 19:9b-10
The Lord responds to Elijah’s statement by making His presence known to Elijah.
“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. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.” – 1 Kings 19:11-13a
God then repeats His earlier question of what Elijah is doing and Elijah responds with the same statement about being alone in following the Lord and that his life is in danger as well. God responds to Elijah in this way,
“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. Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. 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. Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.” – 1 Kings 19:15-18
Elijah has felt alone in serving the Lord and trying to be faithful to Him. The Lord tells him that he is not alone, in fact there are seven thousand people in Israel that have not followed Baal. While seven thousand people may only be a small percentage of the population, it is a faithful remnant that lets Elijah know he is not alone. Additionally, when Elijah leaves the mountain, the first thing the Lord leads him to do is to anoint Elisha as his successor (vs. 19-21). Elijah now has a companion for the remainder of his ministry.
The Lord also tells Elijah what is going to happen in the future. Through Hazel, Jehu, and Elisha, the Lord’s judgement will come upon Ahab, Jezebel, and their followers. Elijah has been feeling like all of his work was going to be for naught and eventually Jezebel and Ahab were going to triumph over him and kill him. The Lord reveals to Elijah that the opposite will happen. It will be Jezebel, Ahab, and all who follow Baal that will be defeated. Not only will the Lord complete the work He has been doing through Elijah, but the work will continue after Elijah in the form of Elisha who will take up the role of prophet after Elijah is gone.
This is what the Lord can do for us to when we feel we have “had enough” and are ready to give up. Whatever ministry we may be in, from leading congregations to simply trying to follow Him faithfully in our daily lives, we can all reach points where we feel worn out and ready to give up, even after seeing God do great things.
When we feel we are approaching that point, what we must do is seek our rest in Christ. Sometimes we need physical rest, other times we need to be filled up in His presence, still other times what we need is to be among His people and encouraged by their community. Maybe we need all of them in the same way Elijah did. We also need to pick our eyes up from the challenges in our lives and look ahead to our future hope in Christ and realize that He will be victorious and everything will be made right in the end.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30