Imitate Their Faith
He Took Comfort in His God
ELIJAH ran through the rain as the darkness deepened. He had a long way to go before he would reach Jezreel, and he was no young man. Yet, he ran on tirelessly, for “the very hand of Jehovah” was upon him. The energy coursing through his body was surely unlike any he had ever known. Why, he had just outpaced the team of horses that was pulling King Ahab in his royal chariot!—1 Kings 18:46.
Now King Ahab was far behind him, and the open road lay before him. Imagine Elijah blinking the raindrops from his eyes as he ran, thinking back over the most eventful day of his life. Without question, it was a glorious victory for Elijah’s God, Jehovah, and for true worship. Far behind him now, lost in the gloom of the storm, lay the windswept heights of Mount Carmel, where Jehovah had used Elijah to strike a mighty and miraculous blow against Baal worship. Hundreds of Baal prophets were exposed as wicked frauds and justly executed. Then Elijah prayed to Jehovah for an end to the drought that had afflicted the land for three and a half years. The rains fell!*—1 Kings 18:18-45.
As Elijah splashed along those 19 miles (30 km) to Jezreel, it may have seemed to him that a real turning point had come at last. Ahab would have to change! After what he had witnessed, surely he had no choice but to abandon Baal worship, to restrain his queen, Jezebel, and to stop the persecution of Jehovah’s servants.
When things seem to be going our way, it is only natural that our hopes rise. We may imagine that our lot in life will continue to improve, perhaps even thinking that our worst problems are finally behind us. If Elijah thought that way, no wonder, for he “was a man with feelings like ours.” (James 5:17) Actually, though, Elijah’s problems were far from over. In fact, within hours Elijah would be so fearful, so low in spirits, that he would wish to die. What happened? And how did Jehovah help his prophet to renew his faith and his courage? Let us see.
An Unexpected Turn of Events
When Ahab reached his palace in Jezreel, did he give any evidence of being a changed, more spiritual man? We read: “Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done and all about how he had killed all the prophets with the sword.” (1 Kings 19:1) Notice that Ahab’s account of the day’s events left out Elijah’s God, Jehovah. A fleshly man, Ahab saw the day’s miraculous events in strictly human terms—what “Elijah had done.” Clearly, he had not learned to respect Jehovah God. And how did the vengeful Jezebel react?
She was furious! Livid with rage, she sent this message to Elijah: “So may the gods do, and so may they add to it, if at this time tomorrow I shall not make your soul like the soul of each one of them!” (1 Kings 19:2) This was a death threat of the worst kind. In effect, Jezebel was vowing that she herself should die if she could not have Elijah killed within the day to avenge her Baal prophets. Imagine Elijah being awakened from sleep in some humble lodging in Jezreel on that stormy night—only to hear the queen’s messenger deliver those awful words. How was he affected?
Overcome by Discouragement and Fear
If Elijah cherished any notions that the war against Baal worship was all but over, his hopes came crashing down at that moment. Jezebel was undeterred. A great many of Elijah’s faithful colleagues had already been executed on her orders, and now, it seemed, he was to be next. The Bible tells us: “He became afraid.” Did Elijah picture in his mind’s eye the terrible death that Jezebel had in store for him? If he dwelled on such thoughts, it is no wonder that his courage failed him. At any rate, Elijah “began to go for his soul”—he ran for his life.—1 Kings 18:4; 19:3.
Elijah was not the only man of faith ever to be overcome by fear. Much later, the apostle Peter had a similar problem. For instance, when Jesus enabled Peter to join Him in walking on water, the apostle began “looking at the windstorm.” He then lost his courage and started to sink. (Matthew 14:30) The examples of Peter and Elijah thus teach us a valuable lesson. If we want to maintain our courage, we must not let our mind dwell on the dangers that frighten us. We need to keep our focus on the Source of our hope and strength.
“It Is Enough!”
Driven by fear, Elijah fled southwestward some 95 miles (150 km) to Beer-sheba, a town near the southern border of Judah. There he left his attendant behind and struck out into the wilderness alone. The record says that he went “a day’s journey,” so we may picture him starting off at sunrise, evidently carrying no provisions with him. Depressed, spurred ever onward by fear, he struggled over the rough and wild terrain under the blazing sun. As that glaring disk gradually reddened and sank to the horizon, Elijah’s strength gave out. Exhausted, he sat down under a broom tree—the closest thing to shelter in that barren landscape.—1 Kings 19:4.
Elijah prayed in utter desperation. He asked to die. He said: “I am no better than my forefathers.” He knew that his forefathers were then mere dust and bones in the grave, unable to do any good for anybody. (Ecclesiastes 9:10) Elijah felt just as worthless. No wonder he cried out: “It is enough!” Why go on living?
Should it be shocking to learn that a man of God could become so low in spirits? Not necessarily. A number of faithful men and women in the Bible record are described as feeling so sad that they wished for death—among them Rebekah, Jacob, Moses, and Job.—Genesis 25:22; 37:35; Numbers 11:13-15; Job 14:13.
Today, we live in “critical times hard to deal with,” so it is not surprising that many people, even faithful servants of God, find themselves feeling low at times. (2 Timothy 3:1) If you ever find yourself in such a dire situation, follow Elijah’s example in this respect: Pour out your feelings to God. After all, Jehovah is “the God of all comfort.” (2 Corinthians 1:3) Did he comfort Elijah?
Jehovah Sustained His Prophet
How do you think Jehovah felt as he looked down from heaven and saw his beloved prophet lying under that tree in the wilderness and begging for death to take him? We do not have to guess. After Elijah sank into sleep, Jehovah sent an angel to him. The angel gently woke Elijah with a touch and said: “Rise up, eat.” Elijah did so, for the angel had kindly set out a simple meal of fresh, warm bread and water for him. Did he even thank the angel? The record says only that the prophet ate and drank and went back to sleep. Was he too despondent to speak? At any rate, the angel woke him a second time, perhaps at dawn. Once more, he urged Elijah, “Rise up, eat,” and he added these remarkable words, “for the journey is too much for you.”—1 Kings 19:5-7.
Thanks to God-given insight, the angel knew where Elijah was headed. He also knew that the journey would be too much for Elijah to carry out in his own strength. What a comfort to serve a God who knows our goals and our limitations better than we do! (Psalm 103:13, 14) How did Elijah benefit from that meal?
We read: “He rose up and ate and drank, and he kept going in the power of that nourishment for forty days and forty nights as far as the mountain of the true God, Horeb.” (1 Kings 19:8) Like Moses some six centuries before him and Jesus nearly ten centuries after him, Elijah fasted for 40 days and 40 nights. (Exodus 34:28; Luke 4:1, 2) That one meal did not make all his problems go away, but it sustained him in a miraculous way. Imagine that older man laboring through the trackless wilderness day after day, week after week, for nearly a month and a half!
Jehovah sustains his servants today as well, not with miraculous physical meals, but in a far more vital way. He provides for his servants spiritually. (Matthew 4:4) Learning about God from his Word and from publications that are carefully based on the Bible sustains us spiritually. Taking in such spiritual nourishment may not make all our problems go away, but it can help us endure what might otherwise be unendurable. It also leads to “everlasting life.”—John 17:3.
Elijah walked nearly 200 miles (320 km) until he finally reached Mount Horeb, where Jehovah God through an angel had long before appeared to Moses in the burning thornbush and where Jehovah had later made the Law covenant with Israel. Elijah found shelter in a cave.
How Jehovah Comforted and Strengthened His Prophet
At Horeb, Jehovah’s “word”—evidently delivered by a spirit messenger—posed this simple question: “What is your business here, Elijah?” The question was likely spoken in a gentle way, for Elijah took it as an invitation to pour out his feelings. And pour them out he did! He said: “I have been absolutely jealous for Jehovah the God of armies; for the sons of Israel have left your covenant, your altars they have torn down, and your prophets they have killed with the sword, so that I only am left; and they begin looking for my soul to take it away.” (1 Kings 19:9, 10) Elijah’s words reveal at least three reasons for his low spirits.
First, Elijah felt that his work had been in vain. Despite years of being “absolutely jealous” in serving Jehovah, putting God’s sacred name and worship above all else, Elijah saw that conditions seemed only to have grown worse. The people were still faithless and rebellious, while false worship was running rampant. Second, Elijah felt alone. “I only am left,” he said, as if he were the last man in the nation who still served Jehovah. Third, Elijah was scared. Many of his fellow prophets had already been killed, and he was convinced that he was next. It may not have been easy for Elijah to admit to those feelings, but he did not let pride or embarrassment hold him back. By opening his heart to his God in prayer, he set a good example for all faithful people.—Psalm 62:8.
How did Jehovah address Elijah’s fears and concerns? The angel told Elijah to stand at the mouth of the cave. He obeyed, not knowing what was in store. A mighty wind sprang up! It must have emitted a deafening roar, for it was so powerful that it tore mountains and crags apart. Picture Elijah trying to shield his eyes while clinging to his heavy, rustic garment of hair as the gusts whipped it about him. Then he had to struggle to keep his footing, for the very earth began to heave and toss—an earthquake shook the region! He had barely recovered when a great fire swept through, forcing him back into the cave to shield himself from the searing heat.—1 Kings 19:11, 12.
In each case, the account reminds us that Jehovah was not to be found within these spectacular displays of nature’s power. Elijah knew that Jehovah was not some mythical nature god, such as Baal, who was hailed by his deluded worshippers as the “Rider of the Clouds,” or bringer of rains. Jehovah is the real Source of all the awesome power found in nature, but he is also vastly greater than anything he has made. Even the physical heavens cannot contain him! (1 Kings 8:27) How, though, did all of this help Elijah? Remember his fear. With a God like Jehovah on his side, with all that overwhelming power at His disposal, Elijah had nothing to fear from Ahab and Jezebel!—Psalm 118:6.
After the fire was gone, a hush fell and Elijah heard “a calm, low voice.” It invited Elijah to express himself again, and he did so, pouring out his concerns a second time.* Perhaps that brought him further relief. Undoubtedly, though, Elijah found even more comfort in what the “calm, low voice” told him next. Jehovah reassured Elijah that he was far from worthless. How so? God revealed much of his long-range purpose regarding the war against Baal worship in Israel. Clearly, Elijah’s work had not been in vain, for God’s purpose was moving inexorably forward. Furthermore, Elijah still figured in that purpose, for Jehovah sent him back to work with some specific instructions.—1 Kings 19:12-17.
What, though, about Elijah’s feelings of loneliness? Jehovah did two things about that. First, he told Elijah to anoint Elisha as the prophet who would eventually succeed him. This younger man would become Elijah’s companion and helper for a number of years. How practical that comfort was! Second, Jehovah revealed this thrilling news: “I have let seven thousand remain in Israel, all the knees that have not bent down to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” (1 Kings 19:18) Elijah was far from alone. It must have warmed his heart to hear of those thousands of faithful people who refused to worship Baal. They needed Elijah to keep up his faithful service, to set an example of unshakable loyalty to Jehovah in those dark times. Elijah must have been deeply touched to hear those words through Jehovah’s messenger, the “calm, low voice” of his God.
Like Elijah, we may be awestruck by the immense natural forces evident in creation, and rightly so. Creation vividly reflects on the power of the Creator. (Romans 1:20) Jehovah still loves to use his limitless might to help his faithful servants. (2 Chronicles 16:9) However, God speaks most fully to us through the pages of his Word, the Bible. (Isaiah 30:21) In a sense, the Bible is like that “calm, low voice,” whereby Jehovah guides us today, corrects us, encourages us, and reassures us of his love.
Did Elijah accept the comfort Jehovah gave him on Mount Horeb? Without a doubt! Soon he was back in action, once more the bold, faithful prophet who stood up against the wickedness of false worship. If we likewise take to heart the inspired words of God, “the comfort from the Scriptures,” we will be able to imitate the faith of Elijah.—Romans 15:4.
The source of this “calm, low voice” may have been the same spirit who was used to deliver “Jehovah’s word” mentioned at 1 Kings 19:9. In verse 15, this spirit is referred to simply as “Jehovah.” We might be reminded of the spirit emissary whom Jehovah used to guide Israel in the wilderness and of whom God said: “My name is within him.” (Exodus 23:21) We cannot be dogmatic on this point, of course, but it is worth noting that in his prehuman existence, Jesus served as “the Word,” the special Spokesman to Jehovah’s servants.—John 1:1.
[Picture on page 19]
Jehovah blessed Elijah mightily, both in good times and in bad
[Picture on page 20]
In deep distress, Elijah poured out his heart to Jehovah
[Picture on page 21]
Jehovah used his awesome power to comfort and encourage Elijah