1 Kings 19 has become one of my favorite Old Testament readings. I know it's a little small-minded of me, but it comforts me when I see spiritual heavy hitters like Elijah struggling with their faith and obedience like the rest of us slobs.
I have to confess up front, though, that I have a bad (quirky?) habit of cartoonizing certain Bible stories, and this is one 'em. (Sorry, Elijah.) Maybe if you've never been marked for dead by an evil queen it's tough to imagine a tale like Elijah's as entirely "real" instead of something from a fractured fairytale.
I sort of imagine Mel Brooks as Elijah and Cloris Leachman as Jezebel. Maybe Jack Black as the angel, and Bill Cosby as God.
Can't you just see and hear Elijah (complete with Brooklyn Jewish/Yiddish accent) saying, "Enough; now, O LORD, take my life!" and then collapsing into sleep, only to wake up and find a chubby, zany angel staring down at him?
Poor Elijah. He goes back to sleep and wakes to find the angel still hanging around.
Desperate to find safety and sanity, Elijah heads for the hills, only to hear the voice of God booming down on him and asking, "Elijah what are you doing?"
I can just see Elijah's face, half scared to death and half annoyed, as he looks up to Heaven as if to say, "You're kidding, right?"
But it must have been quite a dilemma for Elijah.
On the one hand, if a murderous queen has signed your death warrant, you're probably pretty relieved if God Almighty shows up to rescue you. Yet, at the same time, you'd be kinda miffed that God wasn't up-to-date on your drama and was asking you to fill Him in.
Still, it's God...your hero...your only chance, so if you're Elijah you just start pouring your heart out about how you were running for your life in the wake of dead prophets who weren't half as faithful.
Filled with the terror of his own drama, Elijah tried to play on God's sympathies crying, "I alone am left!" But God's answer...? Well...in more contemporary terms...God just said...essentially...
"Stop it!" And Elijah must have been like, "Uhhh...what? What do you mean go climb a mountain???"
But if you're Elijah, what are you gonna do?
If God says go climb a mountain...you go climb a mountain...and then stand out in a fiery, windy earthquake. Nice. But then God has the nerve to question Elijah again!
“What are you doing here, Elijah?” (translation..."Stop it!")
If I'm Elijah in this situation, I'm gonna lose it. I'm gonna start mouthing off like, "What? Are you INSANE??? YOU sent me here!!!"
But, bless his heart, Elijah tries to explain it to God one more time...with feeling.
Elijah cries out to God, "I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.”
In other words, "They're out to get me and I'm a sitting duck!"
But God, though patient and restrained, simply says, "Go, return on your way to the wilderness." In other words...
S-T-O-P (new word) I-T
Elijah must have been so deflated, but from God's perspective the whole Jezebel situation was NBD...No. Big. Deal. And anyway, He had plans to use Elijah to forward His eternal agenda. Elijah's drama was insignificant by comparison. You don't read about God trying to comfort Elijah...do ya?
I think that's how it is with us too. We face a situation that threatens to wipe us out, but instead of getting to God quickly and approaching Him with the belief that he's already got us covered, we panic and fall off task. We run from our calling. We look too long at the situation and not long enough at Him, so we lose faith, and then finally lose courage.
In His mercy, God just says, "Stop it!" and insists that we keep to our calling...doing His work to advance the kingdom...anointing and discipling those He has chosen to place in our path along the Way.
When God says, "Stop it," there's really only one answer..."OK."