An Embarrassing Moment (Just A Minute #112)

Andy Bonikowsky
Written by Andy Bonikowsky

Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by to morrow about this time. 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. (1 Kings 19:2-3)

Don’t you think Elijah would have preferred God not include this incident in the book of Kings?!

It was embarrassing by almost anybody’s standards, especially if you look at the context.

Sure, Jezebel was a wicked and experienced killer of prophets. For months she had been hunting down and butchering every man of God she could find. And although Obadiah, one of her husband’s confidants, had been able to sneak a hundred prophets into two caves, it was only a matter of time before she sniffed them out. She was pure poison, the nightmare of any who still tried to follow the ways of Jehovah.

But we need to remember that Elijah was no wimp. As odd as it sounds, he was a killer of prophets too. The blood of 850 priests of Baal was still flowing into the Mediterranean when the messenger arrived at Elijah’s door with the death threat from Jezebel.

Ironically, she sent her threat in the name of false gods that hadn’t been able to answer a single prayer earlier that day! Yet Elijah panicked.

How could that be? What would make one of God’s rugged and experienced warriors spook like that? Had he not just called down the fire of God before thousands of witnesses? Had he not kicked up dust in the faces of the steeds that raced Ahab’s chariot towards Jezreel?

Yes he had. And it’s this very answer that should raise my eyebrows at his flight into the desert. The scene begs for a closer look, a look that should shake me and stir up a disturbing realization.

I am no more immune to a shameful defeat than the prophet of God.

Now, the Biblical record helps us diagnose Elijah’s mistake, but it doesn’t necessarily protect us from making it. We can question his neglect in finishing the cleanup job in Israel; should he not have gone on to eliminate the queen, especially since God helped him arrive in Jezreel before Ahab? Or we can point a finger at his focus on lack of success or on his own loneliness. All of these probably contributed to his fall.

But identifying the mistakes and deciding to avoid them is not enough. We are all so vulnerable. Elijah’s story should serve to send us to our knees in prayer to God for humility and determination to keep our eyes on Him. Around any curve we can come face to face with a Jezabel who will make us act like a fool.

We have all shamed our Master many times. How dangerous and foolish it is to ever think we are strong! Let’s look to God for grace, to handle every surprise correctly, that we not cause the shadow of disappointment to cross His loving face.

Paul’s word to the Corinthians was, “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”

Dear Father, how easy it is to become cocky after just a few small victories. Thank you for the life and ministry of Elijah, and even for showing me his failure. Help me follow his good example and avoid his mistakes. Amen.