By Kayla Johnson
When I think of the men and women God used in the Old Testament, I tend to think of them as being mighty and special, a bit like super-heroes. They did incredible things. Moses led the Israelites to the promised land. David shot down Goliath with a sling and a stone. Elijah called down fire from heaven. Crazy, amazing things.
But then I remember the other stories. This same Moses never saw the promised land because he struck the rock instead of speaking to it like God told him to. Moses also killed a man. David, of course, was an adulterer and a murderer. And Elijah, that mighty man of God? Once he was so scared of the threat of death from a queen named Jezebel that he ran for his life into the desert and asked God to kill him. (I Kings 19)
Elijah had seen miracles. Elijah had seen the power of God. And now we find this courageous man, sitting under a broom tree, despondent, despairing, and pleading with God to die. All because of the threat of danger from a queen.
And I’m thankful for stories like this, because I relate to this Elijah. I don’t know a lot about calling down fire from heaven, but I do know about sitting under a broom tree with my head in my hands. And I think about those dark times in life that come along every now and then, when the world goes upside down and you feel the ground falling out from under you. And how much I can be just like Elijah, sitting under a broom tree, despairing.
In I Kings 19:4 Elijah says, “It is enough! Now, LORD, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!”
But God doesn’t kill him. Instead, the angel of the LORD came and touched him, said “Arise and eat,” and provided him with a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. Elijah lay down to sleep again, and the angel came back and said, “Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you.” (I Kings 19:7)
Sometimes, the journey is just too great for me too. And that’s why I’m so encouraged by God’s kindness here. Elijah was faithless and exhausted and discouraged, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. God let him rest, woke him, fed him, and gave him water. And isn’t that like our Jesus? Jesus, who fed his disciples fish and bread after they had caught nothing (John 21.) Jesus, who called himself the bread and the water of life.
In John 6:35 he says, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” And in John 4:14 he says, “but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” And in those times when I’m sitting under the juniper tree, exhausted and discouraged and feeling defeated, God offers bread and water to me too, to sustain me on the rest of my journey. He offers for us to cling to Him, the source of life, and to eat the daily bread of His word.
So Elijah arose, ate and drank, and went on the strength of that food for forty days and forty nights until he got to Mt. Horeb (Mt Sinai) the mountain of God, where he would hear the still small voice of the LORD. The bread and water he received from God at the broom tree nourished him and gave him incredible strength to go on.
The truth is, Elijah was a man with a nature like ours. (James 5:17) But we see amazing things happen in his life and through his life not because of who he was, but because he relied on the power of our mighty God. He prayed fervently that it wouldn’t rain on the earth, and it didn’t, for three and a half years. Why? Because he was a perfect man, with perfect faith? No, but because of Who his God was.
The thing is, sometimes my problems just can seem so overwhelmingly big. But then I remember, in the face of the larger story, what is my life anyway, more than the flicker of a candle? So, when things get dark let’s lift our eyes up to just behold who He is and reflect on His magnificence and watch our problems shrink. Let’s marvel at a God who uses the earth as a footstool, and who makes the waters afraid and the depths tremble, and remember that a God that big was willing to stoop so low to die for us. And if He was willing to die for me, surely I can trust Him with the details, and even the little hurricanes, of my life. Let’s say yes to the bread and drink the water, and let Him sustain us on the rest of our journey.