Robert Wurtz II
And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel? And he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and thou hast followed Baalim. (1Kings 18:17-18)
Some 60 years after Israel divided into the northern and southern kingdoms, Ahab came to power in Israel. He was the seventh king in a succession of wicked men that grew increasingly evil with each regime change. Scripture describes Ahab saying, And it came to pass, as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took to wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Zidonians, and went and served Baal, and worshipped him. (1Kings 16:31) Jezebel was a usurper. This simply means that she jockeyed for power that was not her own. She used every means at her disposal to manipulate and control her husband Ahab, and afterward her sons. She is typically known for painting her eyes with heavy make-up, but this was only a symptom of a much greater power at work in her life.
All of this came to a head when Elijah proposed a showdown with Jezebel’s prophets of Baal. Elijah, in the power of the Holy Spirit, withstood Ahab for his idolatry. He slew the prophets of Baal and then prayed for the drought to end that had left the land in waste. This was an amazing demonstration of the power of God that should have opened Ahab’s eyes to his sinful behavior. In fact, the message was so clear and straightforward that a child could have understood it. Nevertheless, sin has a way of blinding the eyes and hardening the heart so that even obvious demonstrations of God’s power are explained away.
Apparently, Elijah believed that if God were to demonstrate his power and authority over the powers of Baal, and then bring the rain that the land desperately needed, then Ahab and perhaps Jezebel would amend their ways and repent of the Idolatry in Israel.
And the hand of the LORD was on Elijah; and he girded up his loins, and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel. (1Ki 18:46)
The fire had fallen and then the rain started. This is the pattern: fire and then rain. Fire to purify the sin and rain to bring new life. Then Elijah performs the third miracle in this sequence by out-running the horse-drawn chariot that Ahab was riding in. This brings to mind Jeremiah who heard the word of the Lord saying, If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? (Jer. 12:5a) Elijah contended with horses! That was the grace and power of God he was moving in. It seemed like nothing or no-one could possibly stand in his way. Or could they?
And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, also how he had executed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.” And when he saw that, he arose and ran for his life, and went 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 broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, “It is enough! Now, LORD, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!” (1Kings 19:1-4)
Obviously, Elijah believed that the three miracles in a row would have changed these wicked people. Who could resist the truth of what had just happened? Nevertheless, Jezebel, in her legendary hatred of God, did. She was not impressed bu the miracles. Why? Because she was completely under the influence and delusion of the demonic. She was empowered of the enemy to withstand everything that Elijah did. Her heart was as hard as a diamond towards God. She had no conscience. It is likely that she was demon possessed. In the book of Revelation, we have the expression, “that woman Jezebel” referring to a spirit or demonic influence that was at work in the local church. Clearly, it was the same type of demon that operated in the original Jezebel.
Judging from all that Elijah had done in the power of the Holy Spirit, it seems evident that he would have charged Hell’s gates with a water pistol if God told him to do it. Nevertheless, there was something depressing and disillusioning about seeing Jezebel and Ahab continue to withstand God in spite of His demonstrations of power. Once Elijah saw that God could move heaven and still Jezebel and her evil spirit went on unmoved and unchanged, he fled in fear. Perhaps he resolved that nothing can be done except to just die and get out of this wretched world? Whatever it was, Elijah was sorely depressed by what he saw.
And when he saw that, he arose and ran for his life, and went 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 broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, “It is enough! Now, LORD, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!” (1Kings 19:3-4)
Dealing with these people and the demonic spirit that empowered them wore Elijah completely out and left him for dead. Nothing was working. Jezebel and Ahab obstinately refused to repent and the people refused to quit following them. What is a man to do? Roll over and die, he figured. Who can say that we would not have felt the same? The situation seemed hopeless. These people greatly withstood Elijah and God Himself. What now?
Then as he lay and slept under a broom tree, suddenly an angel touched him, and said to him, “Arise and eat.” Then he looked, and there by his head was a cake baked on coals, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank, and lay down again. (1Kings 19:5-6)
Elijah was apparently so vexed he couldn’t even eat. He asked God to take his life. All he wanted to do was sleep — a clear sign of severe depression. The Lord sent His angel again to alert Elijah that the journey is too far not to eat. So he gave him food that carried him for the next 40 days. Finally, he ends up in a cave. The word of the Lord would come to Elijah, not once, twice, or three but four times.
And there he went into a cave, and spent the night in that place; and behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1Kings 19:9b)
God passed by him with a theophanic display — only to whisper to him again.
So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him, and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1Kings 19:13)
This was yet the fourth time God spoke to him and the second time that he asked him specifically, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Answer?
And he said, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God of hosts; because the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.” Then the LORD said to him: “Go, return on your way to the Wilderness of Damascus; and when you arrive, anoint Hazael as king over Syria. Also you shall anoint Jehu the son of Nimshi as king over Israel. And Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel Meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place. It shall be that whoever escapes the sword of Hazael, Jehu will kill; and whoever escapes the sword of Jehu, Elisha will kill. Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” (1Kings 19:14-18)
God’s cure for depression? Get back to work, Elijah! God had already determined how He was going to take down Jezebel and Ahab. Elijah was not part of that plan. He had other measures that would set the stage for His will to be performed. It was a long-term plan. God had to get Elijah out of his blue funk (so to speak) and back on track. So He gave Elijah three people to anoint, a practice that was part of his prophetic calling. In modern times we would say that He “put Elijah back into the game.”
Depression can be a real problem — even for men and women of God. It comes when the enemy oppresses us and our situation seems hopeless. Jezebel and Ahab refused to change in spite of all that God had done to effect that change. Moreover, she threatened to kill Elijah like she killed many other prophets. Elijah had no idea of God would allow her to kill him too. After all, nobody wants to become a statistic — especially at the hands of your nemesis. What happened? The uncertainty led to depression. He couldn’t take any more — so he fled to the cave. The cure came when God spoke to him and gave him fresh marching orders. When we find ourselves in a similar condition we can rest assured that God will give us ours too.