Elijah Wants to Quit

from Ian Toone

In 1 Kings 18, we read about a powerful prayer that Elijah prayed, calling down fire from heaven – and God was pleased to answer that prayer. However, soon after that, Elijah prayed another prayer which God chose not to answer – or, rather, the answer was a firm ‘No’.

The request is found in 1 Kings 19:4 – But he went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a juniper tree and asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough! Now, O Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”

Elijah was totally drained – physically, emotionally and spiritually, from the contest on Mount Carmel, and he was terribly discouraged. He had won the contest, but Jezebel had threatened to have him killed, and he didn’t seem to have any support from the people – he still thought that he was the only one remaining faithful to God. He didn’t know about the other 7000 people who were also remaining faithful.

Elijah wasn’t the only prophet to find himself in this position. Moses had also, at one point, asked God to take his life (Numbers 11:11-15). So had Jonah (Jonah 4:3). Jeremiah cursed the day of his birth (Jeremiah 20:14-18), as did Job (Job 3:1-16).

These were all great men of God, yet, even at their greatest, they were still human beings, just like us (James 5:17).

God understood Elijah’s heart. He knew that Elijah’s life was in danger. He knew that, being tired, hungry and emotionally drained, Elijah’s mental state was such that he was likely to say things that he didn’t really mean. He loved Elijah, and knew what was best for him, even when Elijah didn’t.

So, instead of granting Elijah’s request to die, He sent an angel to strengthen him, and He allowed him to rest; then He got him to continue his calling by getting him to anoint a couple of kings and a prophet, and to face his enemies (Ahab and Jezebel).

In the end, he didn’t die at all – he was taken up into heaven in a chariot of fire.

I recall a time when I was feeling ‘weary in well-doing’ (Galatians 6:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:13). I had been working very hard helping people, and I felt tired and unappreciated. It was late at night, and I received a phone call from someone whom I hadn’t heard from for several years. He was calling because he needed my help. My initial reaction was to feel a bit resentful, but then I felt the Lord rebuking me. He reminded me that He had gifted me in particular ways, and here was an opportunity for me to use those gifts, so I should stop feeling sorry for myself and continue with fulfilling God’s call on my life. After that, I was grateful for the opportunity to help my friend. In the process, it brought us closer together as friends and it brought both of us closer to the Lord.

“Thank You, Lord, that You are mindful of our flaws and our frailty, and that You gently encourage us when we are feeling low, and You raise us up and restore us to continue serving You. Thank You that You allow us time to rest and recover our strength, but, also, that You recommission us to re-engage in battle and accomplish exploits in Your name and by the power of Your Holy Spirit. Thank You that we are never left alone. Your presence is always with us. Amen!”