Elijah – from the Pinnacle of Success to the Depths of Despair

Elijah is at the pinnacle of his career. He has just defeated 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of the Asherah (I Kings 18:19). He has rebuilt the altar of Yahweh and seen God’s fire come down and engulf and consume an ox drenched in over 120 gallons of water.  He has preached to the people of Israel and watched them progress from saying nothing (I Kings 18:21), to “the contest is a good idea” (18:24) to “Yahweh is God! Yahweh is God!” (18:39). He’s cleaned out idolatry (18:40). He’s prayed the drought-ending rain in (18:42-45) and outrun the king’s chariot over 25 miles.  He’s on top of the world, floating on air.

Then a pagan queen named Jezebel threatens him and pops his balloon.  He runs for his life 985 miles (19:3). He leaves his servant behind so he won’t interfere with his downward spiral. He goes into the desert and plops himself down under a broom tree and asks God to sweep his life away (19:4). Elijah tells God he’s not better than his fathers (19:4), going from “I alone am left” to I’m just like every other idol-worshipping Israelite – from one extreme to the other.

An angel ministers to him (19:5-7), but it has no effect on his attitude. He travels forty days and nights in strength (19:8), but it has no effect on his attitude. At the mountain of God, God asks him what he’s doing there. Instead of replying “obeying/serving You”, he lists his accomplishments, states he alone is left (forgetting the 100 hidden by Obadiah), and that they are seeking his life (“they” are a pagan queen). Since the angel and God’s provision had no effect, God Himself passes by trying to show Elijah that it’s not in strong winds, earthquakes or fire that God is found.  God isn’t power, but a gentle blowing.  And in the gentle blowing, God asks Elijah the same question and Elijah gives the same answer.

Elijah is stuck in Himself, in depression and self-pity, so God takes His ministry and passes it on to another (19:16).  We have to focus on God and not ourselves, or the same may happen to us.  We must instead ask, “What would You have me do next?”


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