Elijah the prophet instructed the wicked king Ahab to assemble the nation of Israel - "Now therefore, send and gather all Israel to me on Mount Carmel, the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal, and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel's table" (I Kings 18:19). It was time for a show-down between the real God and the idols! Elijah addressed the nation by stating - "How long will you falter between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him" (18:21). The people remained silent. Elijah felt as if he were the only one left who followed Jehovah. He suggested the following test, which was accepted - "Therefore let them give us two bulls; and let them choose one bull for themselves, cut it in pieces, and lay it on the wood, but put no fire under it; and I will prepare the other bull, and lay it on the wood, but put no fire under it. Then you will call on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the LORD; and the God who answers by fire, He is God" (18:23,24).
The prophets of Baal prepared their bull and called on the name of Baal vainly all day. Nothing happened. "And it came to pass, at the time of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near and said, 'LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word. Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that You are the LORD God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again.' Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and the stones and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench" (18:36-38). The people responded by falling on their faces and worshiping Jehovah. "The LORD, He is God! The LORD, He is God!" (18:39).
Elijah commanded the people not to let the prophets of Baal escape. He executed them all on that occasion. This was a great victory and yet there wasn't much celebration. Jezebel, after learning what had happened, was infuriated and vowed to get even with Elijah. She sent a messenger to Elijah to threaten him - "'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.' And when he saw that, he arose and ran for his life, and went to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there." (19:2,3). Clearly, Elijah lived in a difficult time. Servants of God were hated and hunted!
Elijah miscalculated in thinking he was the only one faithful.
As mentioned above, when Elijah received Jezebel's message "he ran for his life." He and his servant went to Beersheba. That was approximately one hundred miles from Jezreel where Jezebel was. He left his servant there and went a day's journey into the wilderness.
An angel fed him and he traveled for forty days on that food, all the way to Horeb or Sinai (which was another two hundred miles). At Sinai he went into a cave and spent the night there. "And behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and He said to him, 'What are you doing here, Elijah?' So he said, 'I have been very zealous for the LORD God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life'" (19:9,10).
Those who are wise will ask themselves the same question regularly: "What are you doing here?" Whether we have foolishly chosen to go somewhere we have no business being or are engaging in a more general reflection upon our life and purpose here on Earth, the question "What are you doing here?" is always appropriate. And what was Elijah doing in that cave? Why had he fled hundreds of miles?
Elijah was afraid and despondent. He had achieved a great victory, but circumstances changed rapidly! He didn't want to die, and he was alone in a cave where he believed he'd be safe. He was safe, but the stress he was under and the loneliness was affecting his analytical ability. He wasn't thinking properly. He hadn't consulted God's will on the matter; his fear drove him to flee. He gave the Lord his assessment (again) of his situation in 19:14 and essentially thought, "I am the only one who wants to do right." He had forgotten Obadiah and the hundred prophets he had saved (cf. 18:3,4,13). Elijah was depressed and needed help.
We will consider the cure God will provide him in our next lesson.