It had been quite a day. The prophets of Baal had been thoroughly embarrassed; their manic wails for Baal to send down fire had gone ignored. For hours, they had screamed, pleaded and inflicted wounds upon themselves in desperate attempts to move their apparently disinterested god.
Then Elijah stepped up and offered a simple prayer. The words were few, but the request was powerful—God, show Yourself for the sake of Your own glory. And fire came. The fire consumed the ox provided as the sacrifice, but it didn’t stop there. Its veracious heat consumed the altar itself—stone, wood and dirt all gobbled up by the flames.
And for Elijah, it only got better. The fickle people turned against Baal’s prophets, following his instructions for a slaughter. When it was over, not a single prophet of Baal was alive. Then Elijah spoke an end to the drought which had been plaguing Israel for years, and sure enough, rain clouds began to form. And as if that weren’t enough, Elijah was given supernatural strength and raced King Ahab’s chariot back to the city of Jezreel…and won.
Quite a day indeed.
Yet when Elijah arrived in Jezreel, the tables turned. The queen Jezebel hadn’t changed her mind. She still followed Baal, and she still despised Elijah. So she sent word to Elijah that he was finished; his days were numbered.
We wouldn’t expect this to affect Elijah much. He had just seen fire fall, stones consumed and 450 prophets slain at his request, watched rain form at his command and experienced a sprint that would be retold in stories for years. What was another threat after a day like this?
But he ran. Elijah ran. He grabbed his stuff, slipped out of town and headed for the desert. Not only did he run, but he completely gave up. He dropped off his servant, walked into the desert and told God he just wanted to die. He was finished.
How could he have fallen so far so fast? How could we?
You may not have seen fire fall, but you can connect with Elijah’s angst. God moved, God spoke, and things were good. He provided a job, led you into a relationship or offered you hope. You were thankful, even overwhelmed with His goodness. But then things went sour. The job grew hard, the relationship headed south, and your hope faded. And you began to ask, “What is God doing now?” Eventually, the questions grew darker, and you began to question whether God really ever did anything to begin with—maybe you just imagined it.
And so here we find Elijah…alone…in the desert…waiting to die. And it all started so well. Apparently, God had disappointed Elijah. This wasn’t the way the game was supposed to end. He was supposed to get home, greeted by repentant followers. He was supposed to be able to spend his remaining years as the prophet “who brought down Baal.” That was how He expected God to finish the story, and God refused.
Even as God blesses—maybe especially when God blesses—our expectations can become our master. Rather than enjoying His favor, we often begin to expect it. And then disappointment comes; for the God who thunders with fire also echoes in silence.
Dig Deeper: 1 Kings 18-19
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