by Jaron Melin
The semester is almost a month away from finishing up. Despite changes and challenges, we are doing our best to finish up well. Let’s say for the sake of the argument that all does go well. We pass our papers and exams, then we go on to the new year. That would be an awesome accomplishment! What if things don’t work out after that? What if we fail? What if we don’t graduate? What if we do graduate, but everything falls apart anyway? What would we do if we failed right after succeeding? This is what Elijah faces in 1 Kings 19:1-8.
Trouble in the Text
Recall that right before this text, Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel. Their prayers were unanswered, but Elijah’s prayer was answered by fire. Elijah was on top of the world, vindicated as God’s true prophet. However, in our current text, Elijah finds himself in trouble. When King Ahab brings news to Jezebel that her precious prophets were killed by Elijah, she becomes furious. Jezebel makes a vow to kill Elijah, and Elijah flees out of fear for his own life. Elijah flees as far as he can away from his problems and then even farther into the wilderness. He sits under a tree and pleads to God, “Take my life! For I am no better than my fathers.” Perhaps, he thinks himself as just another failed prophet. Once, Elijah was on top of the world at Mt. Carmel; but now, he is in the depths of despair, alone in the wilderness.
Trouble in the World
I knew someone at Wichita State University who felt fear and despair somewhat like Elijah. He initially blossomed in his faith and became very successful in school. He wrote a thesis for his masters degree, which led to a published paper. He then continued to go for a PhD. He was on top of the world like Elijah at Mt. Carmel. However, his life went downward. Even though he tried harder and harder to do the work, he just couldn’t do it. He had even received an F in a course. He was afraid of failing, and it was actually happening. He was burned out and anxious for his life.
After being anxious for so long, he felt hopeless for the future and went into despair. What kind of fears and despairs do we have in life? What if we get a dead-end job? What if we end up alone in life? What if we can’t have children? What if we fail here? If we can’t graduate, then what does that mean? Are we not good enough? When we are afraid and anxious, what do we do? In the midst of fear and despair, where can we find hope and courage?
Grace in the Text
Where does Elijah find hope and courage? Although Elijah fled out of fear and went into despair, God provides for him. The Angel of the Lord gives him bread and water. Elijah is strengthened and led for 40 days and 40 nights to Mt. Horeb, God’s holy mountain. This is where God gave His teachings to Moses and made His covenant with Israel. As Elijah goes back to this mountain, he is returning to God. Consider the phrase “40 days and 40 nights”. This phrase occurs only a handful of times. The first time was the Flood, where it rained for 40 days and 40 nights. The second time was when God gave Moses the Ten Commandments. Moses waited on the Lord at Mt. Horeb for 40 days and 40 nights, neither eating bread nor drinking water. The next time is Elijah’s journey here in our text.
When is the last time that this phrase is used? It is in Matthew’s gospel where Jesus is led into the wilderness and fasts for 40 days and 40 nights, neither eating bread nor drinking water. Therefore, Jesus is the fulfillment of Moses and Elijah. In fact, all three of these characters met each other on the mount of Transfiguration. On that mountain, Elijah saw his hopes and dreams realized in Jesus.
Grace in the World
Where did my friend find hope? His prayer-life had been essentially dead. He later realized that he needed to be immersed in God’s Word, to return to God. In his devotions, he discovered that he found peace in Jesus. He found courage and hope in Jesus so that he could keep going in life. His identity was not wrapped up in his studies and the pursuits of this world but rather wrapped up in the person of Jesus.
You may find this same courage and hope in Jesus. Whenever you face troubles in the world, turn back to Jesus and find peace in Him. Turn in prayer, connect with His community, and cling to His Word. Your identity is in Him. No matter what happens in the world, God has claimed you as His baptized child. Nothing can ever change that.
What has become of my friend? That man writes to you now. I am that man. Or rather, I was that man, but I am now a new man in Christ. No matter what happens to me, I know that I am a child of God through Jesus. May you have the same hope as I do in Christ. Amen.
1 Kings 19:1-8 (NIV)
Elijah Flees to Horeb
19 Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.”
3 Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, 4 while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” 5 Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.
All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” 6 He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.
7 The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” 8 So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.
Jaron Melin is a seminary student at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO. Additionally, Jaron is an alumnus of Wichita State University and the Lutheran Student Center/Fairmount Ministries. Jaron was a very active student-leader in our ministry and we are thankful to partner with him again in ministry in bringing you this devotion.