We might be surprised that God asks Elijah the same question twice (‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ 1 Kings 19:9,13) and gets the same rather self-pitying answer twice. God’s presence does not always instantaneously change our situations. Often, our perspective is clouded and we struggle to move on from hurt and situations which have crippled us. But despite getting 80% of the facts right, Elijah is wrong when he states, ‘I am the only one left’, and this one thing means that his story is not, in fact, the whole truth, however much he may feel it is. God tells him ‘I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.’ (1 Kings 19:18) This is the unseen part of the story, the part Elijah cannot see with his natural eyes. This is the part that requires divine revelation and God’s intervention. This is what happens when we are willing to lay down our opinions and feelings and reservations and doubts and actually listen to God.
God is the God who rescues us from the slimy pit, the mud and the mire, and sets our feet on solid ground. (Ps 40:2) He is the One who delivers us from the overwhelming floods (see Ps 18:16-19) 1 Kings 19:1-18 reminds us that Elijah’s perspective was all wrong. He had forgotten God’s sovereignty and control. In the end, it was not Jezebel who killed Elijah; Elijah was one of the few Old Testament characters to evade death altogether. God’s word came again to him, giving him instructions about whom to anoint king of Aram, Israel and as prophet. Ultimately, Elijah realised both Ahab and Jezebel would not prosper (see 1 Kings 21:17-23). He was given fresh purpose through his encounter with God and we see that God did not answer his prayer to die. He had much greater things left for Elijah to do!
The key to success with God – and Elijah is seen to be a hero of the Old Testament, conversing with Moses and the Lord Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration – is to listen, trust and obey. Elijah did what God commanded him to do. When we have the same responsive attitude as Elijah, our perspectives will be changed and our faith will rise.