1 Kings 19:1-3
“Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.”
Elijah was a courageous and heroic prophet. He was a man of strong faith. In addition, he was a man of great humility. However, he was also just a man, subject to the human condition. There were times when Elijah suffered discouragement, despair, and fear.
This was one of those times.
For several years Elijah trusted God and stood strong against insurmountable odds and circumstances. But now, after a great victory, he falls under a cloud of discouragement and despair. He gets caught in the grip of fear. He was courageous and strong when he did battle and defeated the prophets of Baal. But now, confronted with the wrath of Jezebel, Elijah is afraid and runs for his life.
How did Elijah shift so quickly from faith to fear?
I think that following the dramatic defeat of the prophets of Baal on Mt Carmel, Elijah expected the battle to be over. He thought Ahab would repent and the people of Israel would return to worshiping the Lord God. It had been three and a half years of trusting God: the first confrontation with Ahab, the drought, the training and miracles east of the Jordan, the battle on Mt Carmel, fire from heaven, the elimination of the prophets of Baal, the return of rain … surely the battle was now over!
But it was far from over. Unfortunately, Elijah underestimated the tenacity of the enemy, and he let down his guard and made himself emotionally and spiritually vulnerable.
Elijah had also forgotten about Jezebel. She was thoroughly committed to the worship of Baal, and the killing of the prophets of Baal infuriated her. Therefore she sought to exact revenge on Elijah.
Mentally and spiritually, Elijah was not prepared to do battle with Jezebel. Her defiance and vindictiveness caught him by surprise, and he reacted based on fear, not faith. He stopped trusting God and instead focused on himself and his circumstances. It is that shift of focus that caused his fear.
The forces of darkness in our world do not give up easily; therefore, the agents of God’s kingdom must be relentlessly persistent. We cannot lose focus, and we must be prepared for the attacks of the enemy. When we focus on self and circumstances, we experience a disruptive emotional state that weakens us. When we focus on God and trust his word, we experience a productive emotional state that strengthens us.
We can choose to live by faith, or we can choose to live by fear. Living by faith requires that we discipline our mind to focus on what matters. And what matters is God and his word, and faithful action in response to the situations we experience. Elijah did this when he first confronted Ahab, and when he was east of the Jordan, and when he did battle with the prophets of Baal on Mt Carmel.
Elijah did not do this when he was challenged by Jezebel.
Here, then, is a very important question: What is the Jezebel in your life? What situations in your life tend to trigger fear because your focus drifts away from God and onto self and circumstances? The challenge is to stand strong when we are confronted with these situations; to trust the presence and power of God; to live by faith, not fear.
“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26.3)
“I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.” (Psalm 18.1-3)
The Lord is calling. Coram Deo.