“Then he [Elijah] was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life…into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, ‘It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.’ And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, ‘Arise and eat.’ And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again. And the angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, ‘Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.’ And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God” (1 Kings 19:3-8).
Stories in the Old Testament are often hard to mine for little “nuggets” that would fit well in a short devotional. Even as I wrote the above passage, there is so much more to the story that is important as to why it is included in the book of Kings, why it comes where it does, and what its meaning is in that context. Ever so briefly, let me provide the context. Elijah has just defeated the prophets of Baal in a spectacular display of God’s power and might, he has engaged with Ahab and again seen the power of God displayed in the removal of the drought. Talk about your spiritual highs.
So we would expect Elijah to be zealous in his labors as a prophet. But the opposite is true. These events left Elijah exhausted, and more significantly, vulnerable to the things that were pressing in on him. Particularly, it was Jezebel’s threat that would undo Elijah. Rather than face his enemy, Elijah flees into the wilderness.
I say all of that not to exegete the passage and its implications for Elijah, Ahab, Jezebel, and the people of Israel, which is what it is about. What I want us to see is the particular way God reveals his character to Elijah. It is a great reminder to each of us in these difficult days that our God is gracious and merciful to us.
Elijah needed to be corrected for his faltering faith, and God would eventually do that. But before Elijah would be prepared to continue his role as prophet to Israel, he needed care and nourishment. How wondrous that as Elijah is fleeing, God goes with him. He runs and finally falls asleep from exhaustion. God’s angel then wakes him up and provides bread and water for him there. Then Elijah goes back to sleep, and is awakened a second time by “an angel of the Lord,” a reminder to us that God’s presence is always with us. And again, there is bread and water provided for him.
Notice what the angel says the second time. “The journey is too great for you.” How many of us are experiencing that in our lives right now? Some of us even have friends who have decided that because it is too great, they just packed up and moved on.
It is here that I start singing “Jesus Loves Me.” Most of us have sung it from the days of our childhood. “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong, they are weak, but he is strong.” Now, we all know and understand that children are weak and vulnerable, and that we have an obligation to protect them. But that is not what this song is conveying. It is a song about us. “And calling to him a child, he [Jesus] put him in he midst of them and said, ‘Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven’” (Matt. 18:2-4).
Oh, it is so hard to be humble. Even in our humility, we feign greatness. In these days post-Ian, we must all come to understand that we are weak and needy creatures. And that it is okay to admit that and ask for the help that we need. We cry out to God, knowing that he is ready and willing to help, but we often miss his help when we don’t allow others to serve us.
Life doesn’t ever get easier. But we are assured of this: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9a). Bravado and “can-doism” are not the answers to pulling ourselves up out of this morass we are in. It is responding as Paul does to this wondrous promise of Jesus. “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:9b-10).
And in that we can take courage. Jesus’ grace to us is sufficient for whatever we face in the coming days, weeks, months and years. He is enough.