Have you ever been soaring so high in life that you couldn’t imagine any better feeling? I mean, have you ever had a week that felt like everything was going right--like you had the golden touch? Then suddenly, everything changes. Your electricity bill is delivered, the car breaks down, and your kids get sick. Could things possibly get any worse? Yes. You get a letter in the mail that someone wants to kill you. Literally.
I imagine this is the sensation Elijah experienced in the Bible. One day, he’s the “great prophet of God”, and the very next day he’s running for his life. After all, what do you do when Jezebel sends you a mail-order kill-o-gram? You run to the wilderness to cry and sleep. (see I Kings 19)
The contrast in Elijah’s demeanor from one day to the next is striking. Before receiving Jezebel’s death threat, we find a very powerful and confident prophet single-handedly battling 450 false prophets of Baal.
And Elijah came to all the people, and said, "How long will you falter between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him." 1 Kings 18:21
The stage was set. The lines were drawn: God versus Baal. One prophet standing for truth against 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah. Israel had come out like the people of New Orleans to Super Bowl XLIV. Who would remain standing, Jehovah or Baal? In an almost laughable way, Elijah put forth major smack talk with the false prophets of Baal. Elijah pressed them further in I Kings 18:27 by saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god; either he is meditating, or he is busy, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is sleeping and must be awakened." That’s pretty bold. To paraphrase, “Looks like your God must have better things to do!” That must have been chilling considering the stakes.
Then came Elijah’s turn to deliver. Elijah built an altar and did the unthinkable: he drenched it with water not once, but three times. There was so much water that it filled a custom built ditch that they had dug around the altar. Then he called on the God of Israel to answer. Fire poured from Heaven and devoured the wet altar, including the water in the ditch. All of the onlookers were awestruck and immediately began praising God. Then, in a very Old Testament way, Elijah had all of the false prophets executed immediately.
Elijah was at the peak of success… until Jezebel heard what he had done.
Now we find ourselves where we began. Being incensed by Elijah’s destruction of her pet religion, she ordered a message sent to Elijah. It wasn’t a note of repentance or sadness, it was a classic mafia-style “let’s go for a ride.” Tit for tat, eye for eye… death for death. “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.” (see I Kings 19:2) And what does our mighty man of God do?
Elijah ran. He ran as fast as he could to the wilderness and hid in a cave. Doesn’t make much sense does it? I mean, Elijah, you just killed almost a thousand prophets. You just called down fire from Heaven--literally!
In an instant, the once confident and powerful prophet of God had been reduced to a scared and frightened fugitive, wishing to die. What happened? What changed in Elijah to transform this once authoritative annihilator into a withering wanderer? One word: Fear.
It is no coincidence that Jezebel is written about in both I Kings and Revelation. From the beginning of the Bible to the end, from the start of time to today, Jezebel represents an evil presence, an evil spirit, if you will. The spirit of Jezebel is a spirit of control, manipulation, and, more than anything, fear. This spirit affected Elijah in a very harmful way. The once inspiring, dogmatic pillar of God was running and hiding, wishing to die because of the fearful threat against his life. Does this seem odd to you? At first, maybe. But if you think about it a little more, it will begin to make sense.
We all want to be like Elijah at some point in our lives. Who wouldn’t? But when we look at his story, the hero persona fades when we see weakness because, perhaps, we have a false idea about what it means to be a hero.
I contend that Elijah’s fear of Jezebel was exaggerated and invalid, like many of our fears. If Jezebel really wanted to kill Elijah, could she not have sent a ten-man assassin team? Instead she chose to send a messenger. Certainly Jezebel, working through a spirit of fear, was even more successful by causing the man of God to fear her threat, stop his prophetic ministry, and run for his life. She acted like a spiritual terrorist. Isn’t that the goal of Satan? To get a child of God to be afraid enough to stop fulfilling the purpose of God, thus walking in fear and disobedience.
Look at God’s loving response to Elijah’s fear. He sent an angel of the Lord to come and touch Elijah, feed him spiritual food, and lead him to the Mountain of God where Elijah could experience the God’s presence. (see I Kings 19:5-8)
While Elijah may have thought his ministry, and certainly his life, was over, God proved, yet again, that He has the final word over Satan’s plans for us. God’s touch, spiritual nourishment, and presence are all God’s answers to our fears in life and in ministry.
When was the last time you spent time with God? When was the last time you ate from His Word or basked in His presence? I challenge you, fellow Christian worker, not to give up on the dream that God has given you. Yes, I know it’s hard. Yes, I know that the Spirit of Jezebel is active and working and may even have paralyzed you! But whether you are at the top of your game, or struck out, there is a place of restoration that keeps providing. It’s waiting where your journey began: at the feet of Jesus.