After his first appearance to Ahab, denouncing upon him the judgments of God because of his and Israel's apostasy, God directed his course from Jezebel's power to a place of safety in the mountains, by the brook Cherith. There He honoured Elijah by sending food to him morning and evening by an angel of heaven. Then, as the brook became dry, He sent him to the widow of Sarepta, and wrought a miracle daily to keep the widow's family and Elijah in food. After he had been blessed with evidences of such love and care from God, we would suppose that Elijah would never distrust Him. But the apostle tells us that he was a man of like passions as we, and subject, as we are, to temptations.
Ahab related to his wife the wonderful events of the day and the marvellous exhibitions of the power of God showing that Jehovah, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, was God; also that Elijah had slain the prophets of Baal. At this,
Jezebel, who was hardened in sin, became infuriated. Bold, defiant, and determined in her idolatry, she declared to Ahab that Elijah should not live.
That night a messenger aroused the weary prophet and delivered the word of Jezebel, given in the name of her pagan gods, that she would, in the presence of Israel, do to Elijah as he had done to the priests of Baal. Elijah should have met this threat and oath of Jezebel with an appeal for protection to the God of heaven, who had commissioned him to do the work he had done. He should have told the messenger that the God in whom he trusted would be his protector against the hatred and threats of Jezebel. But the faith and courage of Elijah seem to forsake him. He starts up from his slumbers bewildered. The rain is pouring from the heavens, and darkness is on every side. He loses sight of God and flees for his life as though the avenger of blood were close behind him. He leaves his servant behind him on the way, and in the morning he is far from the habitations of men, upon a dreary desert alone.
"And when he saw that, he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beersheba, which belongeth to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers. And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat. And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again. And the angel of the Lord came again the second time, and touched him, and said, Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee. And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God. And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and He said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah?"
Elijah should have trusted in God, who had warned him when to flee and where to find an asylum from the hatred of Jezebel, secure from the diligent search of Ahab. The Lord had not warned him at this time to flee. He had not waited for the Lord to speak to him. He moved rashly. Had he waited with faith and patience, God would have shielded His servant and would have given him another signal victory in Israel by sending His judgments upon Jezebel.
Weary and prostrate, Elijah sits down to rest. He is discouraged and feels like murmuring. He says. "Now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers." He feels that life is no more desirable. He expected after the signal display of God's power in the presence of Israel that they would be true and faithful to God. He expected that Jezebel would no longer have influence over the mind of Ahab and that there would be a general revolution in the kingdom of Israel. And when the threatening message from Jezebel was delivered to him, he forgot that God was the same all-powerful and pitiful God that He was when he prayed to Him for fire from heaven, and it came, and for rain, and it came. God had granted every request; yet Elijah is a fugitive far from the homes of men, and he wishes never to look upon man again.
How did God look upon His suffering servant? Did He forsake him because despondency and despair had seized him? Oh, no. Elijah was prostrated with discouragement. All day had he toiled without food. When he guided the chariot of Ahab, running before it to the gate of the city, he was strong of courage. He had high hopes that Israel as a nation would return to their allegiance to God and be reinstated in His favour. But the reaction which frequently follows elevation of faith and marked and glorious success, was pressing upon Elijah. He was exalted to Pisgah's top, to be humiliated to the lowliest valley in faith and feeling. But God's eye was still upon His servant. He loved him no less when he felt broken-hearted and forsaken of God and man than when, in answer to his prayer, fire flashed from heaven illuminating Carmel.
Those who have not borne weighty responsibilities, or who have not been accustomed to feel very deeply, cannot understand the feelings of Elijah and are not prepared to give him the tender sympathy he deserves. God knows and can read the heart's sore anguish under temptation and sore conflict.
As Elijah sleeps under the juniper tree, a soft touch and pleasant voice arouse him. He starts at once in his terror, as if to flee, as though the enemy who was in pursuit of his life had indeed found him. But in the pitying face of love bending over him he sees, not the face of an enemy, but of a friend. An angel has been sent with food from heaven to sustain the faithful servant of God. His voice says to Elijah: "Arise and eat." After Elijah had partaken of the refreshment prepared for him, he again slumbered. A second time the angel of God ministers to the wants of Elijah. He touches the weary, exhausted man, and in pitying tenderness says to him: "Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee." Elijah was strengthened and pursued his journey to Horeb. He was in a wilderness. At night he lodged in a cave for protection from the wild beasts.
Here God, through one of His angels, met with Elijah, and inquired of him: "What doest thou here, Elijah?" I sent you to the brook Cherith, I sent you to the widow of Sarepta, I sent you to Samaria with a message to Ahab, but who sent you this long journey into the wilderness? And what errand have you here? Elijah mourns out the bitterness of his soul to the Lord: "And he said, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: for 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. And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: and after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the
fire a still small voice. And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah? And he said, 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."
Then the Lord manifests Himself to Elijah, showing him that quiet trust and firm reliance upon God will ever find Him a present help in time of need.
I have been shown that my husband has erred in giving way to despondency and distrust of God. Time and again has God revealed Himself to him by remarkable evidences of His care, love, and power. But when he has seen that his interest and jealousy for God and His cause have not been understood or appreciated, he has at times given way to discouragement and to despair. God has given my husband and me a special and important work to do in His cause, to reprove and counsel His people. When we see our reproofs slighted and are repaid with hatred instead of sympathy, then we have frequently let go our faith and trust in the God of Israel; and, like Elijah, we have yielded to despondency and despair. Here has been the great error in the life of my husband--his becoming discouraged because his brethren have brought trials upon him instead of helping him. And when his brethren see, in the sadness and despondency of my husband, the effect of their unbelief and lack of sympathy, some are prepared to triumph over him and take advantage of his discouraged state, and feel that, after all, God cannot be with Brother White or he would not manifest weakness in this direction. I refer such to the work of Elijah and to his despondency and discouragements. Elijah, although a prophet of God, was a man subject to like passions as we are. We have the frailties of mortal feelings to contend with. But if we trust in God,
He will never leave nor forsake us. Under all circumstances we may have firm trust in God, that He will never leave nor forsake us while we preserve our integrity.
My husband may take courage in his affliction, that he has a pitying heavenly Father who reads the motives and understands the purposes of the soul. Those who stand in the front of the conflict, and who are reined up by the Spirit of God to do a special work for Him, will frequently feel a reaction when the pressure is removed, and despondency may sometimes press them hard and shake the most heroic faith and weaken the most steadfast minds. God understands all our weaknesses. He can pity and love when the hearts of men may be as hard as flint. To wait patiently and trust in God when everything looks dark is the lesson that my husband must learn more fully. God will not fail him in his integrity.