Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life like the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” Then he was afraid; he got up and fled for his life, and came to Beer-sheba, which belongs to Judah; he left his servant there.But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, “Get up and eat.” He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again. The angel of the LORD came a second time, touched him, and said, “Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.” He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God. **************************************************************************************** Elijah, the great prophet of God, was under a broom tree, scared and wanting to die. "It's enough, Lord... take my life!" Just the day before he had the one of the best days of his life, and had crushed the followers of the foreign god Baal in a battle- unprecedented in his ministry thus far... "My God’s bigger than your God," Elijah says.. "and to prove it, I challenge you Baal followers to a contest. Here are the rules: I'll build an altar over here- you build an altar over there... I'll get a bull- you get a bull I'll cut my bull in half and lay him on my altar- you cut your bull in half and lay him on your altar Then we'll each pray to our God, and whichever God can send a flame first, wins!"
And the Baal followers agree...
So, Elijah builds an altar over here- Baal guys build an altar over there... Elijah gets a bull- Baal guys get a bull... Elijah cuts his bull in half and lays him on his altar- Baal buys cut their bull in half and lays him on their altar
And the contest begins...
Baal’s people start calling on their god... and calling on their god.... and calling on their god... and after a few hours of cheerleading and chanting and singing (maybe resembling a Door's tune? "Come on Ba-al light our fire" ... sorry, I couldn't resist) and praying... there is still no fire. Elijah, sitting one the ground with his back leaned up against his altar, watching this spectacle like he is at a Saturday afternoon matinee, starts heckling... "Hey, Baal guys.... is your God asleep? Is Baal on vacation?" (Another sermon would parse the etiquette of heckling.... but that is for another day...)
Eventually the Baal guys get frustrated… of course… cause there’s no fire, and in an attempt to show their sincerity and devotion to Baal, they start cutting themselves with knives and rocks (ick!)… so now there’s blood everywhere and people are crying and carrying on and finally Elijah says.. "Enough!" And when the bleeding stops he motions to the followers of Baal and to everyone else in the theater... “Come Close… Watch this…”
Now, Elijah knew God would come through...God always comes through! And it would have been easy enough to just pray a simple prayer and God would have set the Elijah's altar ablaze! But in a stunning act of showmanship, and I think this part was strictly his idea… (we love to do that, don’t we? Add our own stuff to God’s plan?)... Elijah has his attendants soak his altar with water... and then he has them soak it with more water.... and then even more water! And then he stands back and says in a loud stage whisper... “Ok God, do your stuff!” And of course the altar goes up in flames, all the Baal followers are slaughtered, just another day in the life of a prophet comes to a close... and that was that.
Can you imagine being Elijah at that moment? How great would you feel... being the one to conduct God's well orchestrated production... especially after adding your own personal theatrics to the show? Can you hear his thoughts that night? "Wow! God really worked through me! Oh MAN!" And he prays, "It’s you and me God! … we are such a great team! And I am sooo hot! What a show! We can take this on the road, God! And EVERYBOY can see me... um...I mean, you working through me of course..."
But Elijah's dreams of stardom are brought to a dramatic end when Jezebel, the queen (and Baal follower) sends word to Elijah that because he killed all of her Baal priests, she was going kill him within the next 24 hours!
And Elijah, the same Elijah who, just yesterday, had a banner production day with God... looses it! And scared for his life, he runs, crying into the wilderness. What a difference a day makes, right?
But I get it... because I have had phenomenal experiences with God one day, and then the next day, I'm questioning... and scared... and running... and all the things I saw God do the day before aren't even a factor. It happens... I can't be too hard on Elijah... I've been there... and so understand why he runs into the wilderness....
Where’s your wilderness? We all have them... some people escape into the wilderness of TV, or the internet, or shopping, or working, or drinking or drugging or working out or sleeping or eating... the wilderness is the place(s) where we go to run away from stress and fear and worry, or even to manage our anger.... One of my wilderness things is cleaning. When I'm mad about something (or at someone) I clean... and clean...and God help the person who comes in while I'm doing it! My husband learned quickly if he comes home and he smell Lysol... he should back slowly out the front door....
But you can only keep up that kind of intensity for so long... you can only clean so long, or watch so many games on TV, or drink so long, or eat so long. (Notice I didn't say shop too long... that's another story) But sooner or later your energy runs out and you collapse.... That’s just what happened to Elijah... After a day of running he's tired, thirsty, scared, and hopeless.
Sound familiar? You can run yourself ragged into the wilderness of your choice, but in the end, you just can't see any way out, and even if you did, you don’t have the energy to WANT to work it out... and you lay down on your bed, feeling sorry for yourself, scared, frustrated, hopeless, pitiful really, and you say, "I give up....I don’t want to go on any more....I’m done with all of this."
Or, for Elijah... he lays down under and tree and says to God... "Take my life... Just kill me now.... I'm done." And he cries himself to sleep... a great hard sleep... its the only peace he can find, and he takes it.
But God doesn't leave him there... God doesn't say, “Oh Elijah... rest... rest.. Sleep my child, you’ve had a hard day...” No... instead, God sends and angel to wakes him up and say, “Get Up! Eat Something!”
Now, I don’t know about you, but if I were Elijah, and I had just run myself into the ground for a whole day in the wilderness, and finally fell asleep, I think I might be a little annoyed at being disturbed. “What are you kidding me, God? I’m done! I told you I’m done with all this. Leave me alone! Just let me sleep!”
But Elijah does get up, and he does eat the bread and drink the water that the angel gives him... but he’s not quite done with his pity party yet.. When he finishes eating, he lays right back down. At least he is persistent.
Again, the angel speaks... “Come on Elijah, get up... get up and eat.”
You see, Elijah wasn’t done yet. His journey with God wasn't over, and he would need strength to continue... beginning with a 40 day journey to Mt. Horeb... And notice this as well: God didn’t send an angel to yell at him, or to tell him that he shouldn’t feel scared, or to say, “Hey, don’t you trust God? Weren't you paying attention yesterday with the water and the fire? What did you forget how powerful God is? Where’s your faith?” Thank God that we never get to hear a "tsk, tsk" of disappointment from God when we are afraid and fall short of God's design for us...
I believe God sent the angel for two reasons: First as a sign that God was still present with Elijah. Elijah wasn’t alone; and he was protected. And whatever Jezebel had planned for him- God would faithfully see him through.
Second to supply Elijah with everything he needed for what would come next, and to let Elijah know that there would BE a "next."
And I get this! We can come to a place in our journey, or our call, or our lives, where things don't look like we had hoped they would. We can have one version of what our future (or our call) is supposed to look like, but sometimes God has another. And that's scary! I don't like uncertainty! And I don't like anything too difficult or God forbid, painful!
Yet, once we realize that God has placed a call on our lives, and we say "yes" to that call, then as long as we live on this earth, we'll never be done. Our call isn't over until God says its over and takes us home. Until then, all of us, no matter what our age, or health, or ability level, or energy level... have vital, vibrant ministry to do... All of us, no matter what our age, or health, or ability level, or energy level have something unique to add to the kingdom. Does that mean that we’ll never be afraid or worried or tired or want to just crawl under the covers and say, “I’m done, God!”? No.... it just means that ministry isn’t always what we plan.
Our journey with God sometimes calls us to do things and be things that we may not want to do, or didn’t ever see ourselves doing. There might be times when things get scary. But what we can learn, through Elijah, that when things happen, and when the road gets hard… that it's ok to be afraid, or worried, or frustrated; its even ok to feel like giving up.
But know that when you can’t take one more step, God can... you’re not left alone. Know that God has sent angels to minister to you... (they could even be sitting right next to you this morning). And that angel challenges you even now... "Get up, and eat... you’ll need strength for the journey that is ahead of you..." It’s ok to feel uncertain, but take the nourishment that God offers... because no matter how it feels, or what you've lost, or what you're dreading, or what you've done, God has a plan for you... You’re not done yet Elijah... Get up... Eat.