“And the angel of the LORD came again the second time, and touched him [Elijah], and said, Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee.” (1 Kings 19:7)
Do you ever feel tired and grumpy? Maybe you have heard your mom or dad make excuses for your little brother’s or sister’s bad behavior (or maybe even your own!) with phrases like these: “He’s just tired. It’s way past his bedtime.” Sometimes our bodies are so worn out that it becomes hard to keep from acting in grumpy and sinful ways.
The prophet Elijah understood the feelings of tiredness, hunger, and depression. In 1 Kings 19, he was so down in the dumps that he wanted to die – and he told God just that. There he was, sitting in the middle of a dry, rugged wilderness, his only shelter one lone juniper tree. He had no food for his next meal, and he could not go back to civilization to find any, because wicked Queen Jezebel had her soldiers out waiting to snatch him up and deliver him dead on her doorstep. Elijah felt sorry for himself and complained to the Lord. Maybe he was thinking to himself phrases like these: I can’t take it anymore! Just take my life. I’ve got nothing to look forward to, so I might as well lie in a grave next to my ancestors.
It is not hard to feel sorry for Elijah. He was not just tired or hungry; someone was even trying to murder him! But this is the same prophet Elijah who in just the previous chapter had boldly asked God, in front of thousands of people, to send down fire from heaven and had seen God answer his request. This is the same Elijah who had pleaded with God to send rain on a famine-stricken land, and God had answered! And now what does Elijah do? Does he confidently ask God to protect him from Queen Jezebel? Does he boldly ask God to provide him with just a little something to eat? No! Elijah forgets all about God’s past deliverance and instead, complains.
Because God is holy, He never condones sinful behavior. But the way God responded to Elijah teaches us a lot about His patient character. God could have easily struck Elijah down with an immediate and painful death for the way he sinned by faithlessly complaining. But instead, verse 5 tells us that God treated Elijah gently, waiting, allowing Elijah to sleep, in the meantime sending an angel to give Elijah freshly baked bread and a jar of cool water.
Then God showed his might to Elijah through a strong hurricane-like wind, and then an earthquake, and then a huge fire. But when God finally did speak to Elijah, he didn’t yell angrily, or even lecture him sternly. Instead, 1 Kings 19:12 tells us that God’s answer to Elijah came in “a still, small voice.” God had patiently waited for Elijah to regain some physical strength. And when He finally did correct Elijah for his “pity party,” He simply gave Elijah his next assignment with hardly a rebuke at all.
God is often patient with people, even when they deserve a sharp rebuke.
» Have I thanked God for being patient with me today?
» Am I being patient with others, even if I think they are reacting wrongly to their circumstances?