I Kings 19:1-4 “Now 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 even more, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.’ And he was afraid and arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree; and he requested for himself that he might die, and said, ‘It is enough; now, O LORD, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers.’”
Matthew 14:28-31 “Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.’ And He said, ‘Come!’ And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’”
I know of no one who can rightfully judge Elijah in this passage. At times I personally have responded in identical fashion. I have also acted just like Peter more times than I care to admit. How humbling that can be! I grew up wondering how one could transition from having such valiant courage and intrepid faith so as to stand against 450 prophets, a king, and a nation of doubting citizens one moment, and hours later run for one’s life from the queen. Life has its way of teaching us lessons – now I know from personal experience how that transition happens! It doesn’t convey much common sense, but that is our frail human nature at work.
In a nutshell Elijah lost focus and perspective. I have done the exact same thing. Let’s look at Queen Jezebel for a moment. Had she really wanted to kill Elijah, she could have done so quite easily and without a warning. She had the authority and the manpower to do it in a moment’s notice. However, with the new-found favor that Elijah had gained with the citizens upon his grand victory at Mount Carmel, that option would probably not be the wisest for her. Therefore her next best alternative was to strike fear with the choicest weapon she had at the moment, and one she was quite proficient at using – deadly words that are nothing but idle threats. If successful then the victory accomplished by God and Elijah at Mount Carmel would by discredited. Elijah responded by playing into Jezebel’s hand, and compromised the conquest.
Then the great and invincible Elijah threw a pity party and prayed for God to take his life. He was deathly afraid of Jezebel and became severely depressed. He left the country by running about 80 miles south; and as if that wasn’t enough he went another day’s journey into the wilderness and hid. The indomitable Elijah viewed Jezebel’s response as his failure – a measure of his unworthiness – “I am not better than my fathers.” Evidently Elijah momentarily lost the perspective of God’s sovereignty and his servanthood. He seemed to have forgotten that God was the Great Accomplisher on Mount Carmel, and he simply was the instrument that God used to execute a great victory. God was in charge of the outcome … not him. It was God’s stage and show – not his. He knew that well on Mount Carmel, but hours/days later he seems to be owning a bit of it himself – otherwise why would he take responsibility for the failure of the king and queen to turn to God? He seems to have had expectations as to what should have happened – things over which he had no control. Oh how often I do the very same thing!
The truth of the matter, and one that is easily seen from a “fly on the wall” perspective, is that all work and results are totally in God’s hands … always … they are His responsibility. Our job each and every day is to walk lovingly and humbly in submission to Him, and to obey Him out of a heart of gratitude for His great love for us. We must understand that we have no jurisdiction over others’ choices and decisions. People will make decisions despite the evidence presented them and not because of it, even when it is as clear as day – another example of the foolishness and frailty of man. We should never base our success or failure, or our value and worthiness, on other people’s opinions and choices. They are not the judge – God is. This is much easier said than done. When we take our eyes off what God is doing, and we assume His role as opposed to our own, our faith will soon be replaced by fear. We were never equipped to play God or handle His load of work and responsibility. Elijah did just that … and almost 900 years later Peter did it blatantly on the Sea of Galilee. Two thousand years later I continue to do it as well.
God will use us mightily to accomplish things much bigger than ourselves if we will submit humbly to Him and trust Him with our lives. Elijah was just an ordinary man like you and me, and God used him greatly. When He does work through us, may we never think it is our strength that accomplished the task – may we never assume we know exactly what God is doing – may we never be tempted to take the credit or responsibility for the outcome. Let’s keep our eyes always on Him, and not on the daunting task God is doing through us. It may be too big for you and me, but it will never be too big for Him! This will help us live by faith and not by fear.