Scripture reading – 1 Kings 19; 1 Kings 20

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Our study of Elijah’s life continues following one of the great spiritual contests and victories recorded in the Scriptures…the destruction of the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:40). The prayers of Elijah were answered, and the LORD elevated not only Himself but His prophet in the eyes of the people.

Yet, the life of Elijah became an illustration of what occurs to believers when we take our focus off the LORD and forget his providences and provisions. Today’s Scripture reading reminds us that even the most dedicated servants of God can fall victim to discouragement and depression. The focus of this first of two devotionals is 1 Kings 19.

1 Kings 19 – From the Pinnacle of Victory to a Plight of Despair

Following Elijah’s contest with the prophets of Baal, King Ahab retreated to his palace in Jezreel (1 Kings 18:45). There he “told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain all the prophets [of Baal]with the sword” (1 Kings 19:1). Furious at the news, the queen sent a messenger to Elijah and threatened to slay him the next day (1 Kings 19:2).

The LORD’s Response to Elijah’s Depression

What was Elijah’s response? (1 Kings 19:3-4)


“He arose, and went for his life, and came to Beer-sheba, which belongeth to Judah [fleeing south of Israel’s southern border], and left his servant there” (1 Kings 19:3). Knowing Jezebel would seek to kill him, Elijah dismissed his servant and continued his journey another day into the wilderness. There he “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” (1 Kings 19:4). Why did Elijah, a man of faith and a spiritual victor, become so depressed that he welcomed death as an escape from his troubles and plight?


The LORD’s Response to Elijah’s Depression (1 Kings 19:5-14)

God employed several things to get Elijah out of his “spiritual funk.” He allowed the prophet to rest, for he laid down “and slept under a juniper tree” (1 Kings 19:5). The LORD then sent an angel, who provided the prophet with nourishment, “a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water. And [Elijah] did eat and drink, and laid him down again” (1 Kings 19:6). Lastly, the angel came to Elijah a second time and counseled the prophet, saying, “Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee” (1 Kings 19:7).

Then, with rest, nourishment, and spiritual counsel, Elijah journeyed to “Horeb the mount of God” (1 Kings 19:8), for there he had a divine appointment and mission.

Finding shelter in a cave at Horeb, “the word of the Lord came to [Elijah], and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:9)

Elijah answered the LORD, but his protests revealed he was not spiritually and emotionally where he needed to be. The prophet 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” (1 Kings 19:10), and repeated the same in verse 14 after Elijah had witnessed a violent storm, an earthquake, and fire (1 Kings 19:11-12). Finally, the LORD spoke to his prophet in “a still small voice,” and asked, “What doest thou here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:13).


Elijah’s Threefold Mission (1 Kings 19:15-18)

The LORD commanded Elijah to begin his journey to Israel, and along the way, he was to anoint three men who, in the sovereignty of God, were destined to take the place of other men. In Syria, Elijah was to “anoint Hazael to be king over Syria,” thereby taking the throne from Benhadad, king of Syria (1 Kings 19:15). The prophet was also directed to anoint Jehu to succeed Ahab as king of Israel (1 Kings 19:16a). Lastly, he was to anoint “Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah” who would take Elijah’s place as a prophet in Israel (1 Kings 19:16).

In answer to Elijah’s exaggeration that he alone was a faithful prophet in Israel, God revealed, “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” (1 Kings 19:18).

The prophet was physically and emotionally exhausted.

Closing thoughts


As we conclude this first of two Bible studies for today, I invite you to consider several factors that contributed to not only Elijah’s flight and despair but are also factors we face when we are tempted to be depressed. The first issue was that the prophet was physically and emotionally exhausted after his contest with Ahab and the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 19:3-7). Then, his physical fatigue skewed his thoughts and emotions.

When he received news of Jezebel’s threats, Elijah took his eyes off the LORD. Finally, Elijah exaggerated his circumstances (1 Kings 19:10). In his despair, he forgot that Obadiah had sheltered and sustained one hundred prophets of the LORD (1 Kings 18:13). Physically and emotionally exhausted and fearing for his life, Elijah fell victim to a negative critical spirit and an unbiblical view of God (1 Kings 19:10, 14).

Renewed in his spirit, Elijah obeyed the LORD, arose, and in his journey came to Elisha, the young man chosen by the LORD to become the next prophet in Israel (1 Kings 19:19). Understanding the LORD’s call meant he would never return to his former life, Elisha slew the oxen with which he had been plowing, and “then he arose, and went after Elijah, and ministered unto him” (1 Kings 19:21).

In the words of an old Gospel song, for those who serve the LORD, there is “No Turning Back, No Turning Back.”

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith 

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