Ahab reported to Jezebel everything that Elijah had done, including the massacre of the prophets. Jezebel immediately sent a messenger to Elijah with her threat: “The gods will get you for this and I’ll get even with you! By this time tomorrow you’ll be as dead as any one of those prophets.”
When Elijah saw how things were, he ran for dear life to Beersheba, far in the south of Judah. He left his young servant there and then went on into the desert another day’s journey. He came to a lone broom bush and collapsed in its shade, wanting in the worst way to be done with it all—to just die: “Enough of this, God! Take my life—I’m ready to join my ancestors in the grave!” Exhausted, he fell asleep under the lone broom bush.
Suddenly an angel shook him awake and said, “Get up and eat!” He looked around and, to his surprise, right by his head were a loaf of bread baked on some coals and a jug of water. He ate the meal and went back to sleep. The angel of God came back, shook him awake again, and said, “Get up and eat some more—you’ve got a long journey ahead of you.” He got up, ate and drank his fill, and set out. Nourished by that meal, he walked forty days and nights, all the way to the mountain of God, to Horeb. When he got there, he crawled into a cave and went to sleep. Then the word of God came to him: “So Elijah, what are you doing here?” (THE MESSAGE)
One of the more disappointing situations in our faith journey is that we suffer setbacks after advances. A pandemic seems to have eased only to have it flare up again. A door seems to open but then slams shut. A relationship is healed only to be fractured again. Good news seems haunted by the prospect of bad news.
Elijah knew something about this. He had won a stunning and miraculous victory over the false prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. But he could scarcely savour the victory before he was confronted with a deadly threat. He had won the battle but had yet to win the war.
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Our faith can be severely tested when what we experienced as a great answer to prayer turns to dust. When that mountain we figured we had climbed turned out to hurl us down a crevice on the other side. When a beam of light is snuffed out by enveloping darkness.
Of course this is not an everyday occurrence, thank God. But it happens often enough to test us. We can take comfort from Elijah who was sustained by God in the midst of his setback. This side of heaven we will know advances and setbacks, light and darkness, good news and bad news. In the absence of uninterrupted success, we take refuge in the uninterrupted sustenance and presence of a God who has won the war even as we fight the battles.