(NIV1984) 1 Kings 19:10-11a – “He replied, ‘I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.’
“The LORD said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.'”
Elijah starts with his zeal, with the probably best aspect of himself. As we have seen, other than the moment of running away, he has always seemed to obey the LORD without question. He isn’t lying when he says he is zealous.
But then he switches to the first part of his problem, and here is where things get interesting. He does not put blame on Ahab or even Jezebel, who is actively trying to kill him. He puts the blame on the Israelites. They are the ones who rejected God’s covenant and broke down His altars and they are the ones trying to kill Elijah with the sword. Now, I don’t have information on the first two points, but I believe him. The Israelites had turned away from God, probably mostly at the commands of their rulers. But that – that revelation on the mountain! Didn’t that start to turn the Israelites’ hearts back to God? Isn’t that part of what Elijah said in his prayer – “‘Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again'” (NIV1984, 1 Kings 18:37)? So why would he say that the Israelites are trying to kill him with the sword? And wasn’t Jezebel the one who put the other prophets to death, not the Israelites? (Although they could have stepped in to save them.) And Elijah isn’t the only prophet left – Obadiah told him he’d saved a hundred of the prophets from Jezebel. Why does he keep saying that he is? Because he’s the only active prophet?
It is obvious from these verses that Elijah has an interesting slant on what’s going on, and in his words he’s speaking from a broken and despairing heart. You can almost hear him asking what he’s supposed to do, that plea for death from only a few passages earlier.
What is surprising and comforting is God’s reply. He doesn’t bop him on the head. He does not yet tell him what to do or how wrong he is about being the only prophet left, although (SPOILER ALERT) He will comfort Elijah with that soon (END SPOILERS). The first thing He does is call Elijah back into His presence. He invites Elijah to come back out and see Him for Who He is and be refreshed in His presence. God has not abandoned Elijah, He is still right there with him even in these trials, and this is a reminder of that. Elijah’s hurt and scared and lonely and God calls him back into His presence where every need will be fulfilled.
And honestly? That’s where I need to be, too.