1 Kings 19 finds the great prophet Elijah in the wilderness. He is fearful and on the run. He is despondent and discouraged. His perspective is challenged and even asks the Lord to take his life. It seems an almost unbelievable turnaround from the bold prophetic witness we read of in the previous two chapters. What shakes the faith of Elijah is the unexpected turn of circumstance. Following the spectacular victory at Mt Carmel over the false prophets surely national revival will follow. In contrast, the king betrays him and his life is under immediate threat. Sometimes, when we struggle to know that God is at work in our lives it is good to ask ourselves whether our trust is in God himself, or is it in how we feel God ought to act. Disappointment comes from unmet expectation, and the greater the expectation the deeper the disappointment. As objective readers we see the reality that Elijah couldn’t feel. We see the God who seeks: the “angel of the Lord” comes to Elijah in the wilderness (vv4,5). We see the God who sustains: the angel of the Lord provides food and drink (vv6-8). And finally, we see the God who sends: he sends him to see the LORD (v11), and he re-sends him on mission (vv15-18). It is important to understand that Elijah does not see the LORD in the ways he would expect: he is not in the wind; he is not in the earthquake; and he is not in the fire. Elijah finds the LORD in something translated variously as: a still small voice, a low whisper, a gentle blowing, and even the sound of sheer silence.
The news from Jezebel’s messenger crushed Elijah. He lamented the complete absence (in his view) of covenantal faithfulness in his nation. He stooped about as low into hopelessness as one can go. I trust you can see the encouragement offered to Elijah is also for us: even when we are not at our best, God does not let us go. Even when it feels as though the Lord is absent or silent, he remains. He sought Elijah. He sustained Elijah. He even sent him out again on mission. It reminds me of the great encouragement we receive from the words of Christ himself:
“For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. (John 6:38-39, NIV)