I have written on this chapter twice before – both in the same vein. Harsh on Elijah, critical of his self-pity, and portraying God as disciplining him for his poor, ungrateful attitude. One morning on WMBI’s Breakfast for the Soul, they spoke on this chapter from the Military Devotional Bible and from a much different perspective, so I’m writing again.
Elijah was frightened (verse 3) because of Jezebel’s threat, so he leaves his servant behind not to keep him from interfering with his downward spiral, but to keep him from being killed by Jezebel’s men.
Elijah wants to die. He’s had enough. He sees his sinfulness as greater than his accomplishments for God (verses 4-5). He’s exhausted; therefore Satan’s attack has greater effect. God tenderly provides for him, sending an angel to bake bread and give him water. Elijah eats and drinks, and immediately falls back to sleep. The angel wakes him a second time with food and water – just what he needs to travel forty days and nights to Horeb.
God comes to Elijah where he is (in a cave) and gently asks what he’s doing there. Elijah recognizes God for who he is, calling Him Lord God of Armies/Hosts. Elijah is in the depths of despair. He sees Himself as a failure. He’s been alone for over forty days, and sees himself as the only one left.
God tells Elijah to stand in front of Him on the mountain, but Elijah doesn’t have the strength or desire. A fierce wind doesn’t lure him out of his cave. Neither does an earthquake or a fire, so God uses a quiet, whispering voice to lure him out. God asks Elijah the same question again and Elijah is still stuck in hopelessness and gives the same answer, so God gives him specific instructions for the future: two new kings (one that replaces his enemy) and Elisha to come and work alongside him. God takes care of everything for Elijah: the past – go back the same way you came. The present – 7,000 Israelites have not worshipped Baal. The future: God will get His justice through the two new kings and Elisha.
God meets Elijah where he is, accepts him, provides for him, encourages him, and gives him what he needs at the moment – just as He does for us.
God gave Elisha to Elijah not in anger or impatience, but in love to be a help to him. And so God does for us.