Elijah in the Wilderness

In 1 Kings 19, the prophet Elijah fled into the wilderness because he had received word that Jezebel, the wicked queen of Israel, had sworn to have him killed. This threat against his life came shortly after he had defeated the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel and had slain 450 of them. After that mighty feat, which God had done through him, Elijah should have realized that God would continue to be with him and would allow no harm to come to him. Yet, Elijah feared for his life and failed to trust in God whole-heartedly and as a result, he tried to run away from his problems.

In 1 Kings 19:13, we find Elijah hiding in a cave in the Sinai Desert. God speaks to him and says, “What doest thou here Elijah?” “Why are you in hiding?” seems to be the question God is asking. In verse 14 Elijah answers, “I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.” What Elijah was really saying is, “Nobody else is doing anything, nobody else is as faithful as me and everybody has turned against me, so I’ll just take my things go away.”

What was Elijah really doing, when he was hiding in a cave in the wilderness? He was pouting! He was feeling sorry for himself and was sulking because of it. When I was a child and would go off and pout, my mother would find me pouting and would tease me saying, “Nobody loves me, everybody hates me, I’ll go and eat some worms.” She did this to demonstrate how ridiculous I sounded, sulking over some little bit of nonsense. That is what God does to Elijah – He shows Elijah how ridiculous he sounded, thinking that he alone was faithful. God said in verse 18, “Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.”

Elijah was pouting because he thought himself to be the only one who was faithful. This kind of thinking led him to do nothing. Elijah’s sulking caused him quit working for the Lord and to sit on his hands and do nothing. His fear and despair coupled with his mistaken belief that he alone was faithful, caused this great man of God to be paralyzed into inactivity.

The same thing happens to many Christians today. The erroneous belief that no one else is being faithful has led many to become unfaithful themselves. This attitude is without excuse. Even if there were only one man or one family who was faithful, God would still expect those individuals to be working. Look to the example of Noah and his family. They really were the only faithful family left on the face of the earth, yet we have no record of them despairing and becoming despondent. Noah was a “preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5) for one hundred years while the ark was being built. He never converted anybody outside of his immediate family, yet we do not read of him pouting or sulking as we do read of Elijah. Noah never gave up, he never quit, and he never hid himself away in despair.

Many times faithful Christians are made to feel like they are alone. They feel that no one else is willing to work, or that they will be alone if they take a stand against error and the result is that no work is done and the truth is not defended. It is at those times that we need to place our trust in God and know that He will be with us. We will not be alone! When we feel alone, like Elijah felt, we need to realize that we are not truly alone. Somewhere else, in another town or another country, there is a faithful Christian facing the same trials and fears that we face. Perhaps, he too, feels alone. Yet the knowledge that there are other faithful Christians elsewhere gives him hope and drives him to continue in the work of righteousness.

If every faithful Christian, in every town and in every country (even if there were only one such Christian in a given location) were to be like Noah and simply do the best he can where he is and not worry over what another person is doing, or not doing, then the church as a whole would be in much better shape. If there is one thing that is bringing the church down more than any other, it is the inactivity and passivity of the faithful, who have been stricken with the Elijah in the Wilderness Syndrome. The only cure for this disorder is trust in God and perseverance. “Let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” (Galatians 6:9).

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