A STUDY OF 1 KINGS: God Wants to Refresh us for Service 1 Kings 19

Dr. Jerry A. Collins


Think about refreshment for a moment. We all need it from time to time. To provide new vigor and energy by rest or food. To stimulate and make fresh again. To be restorative. To revive. So do you take a nap? Or maybe sit back with a favorite beverage. Or comfy yourself with a good read. And Jesus said ‘Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give your rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30). Paul told us ‘… let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary’ (Galatians 6:9).

—some things take longer to reap than other things. Some things take a shorter time to reap. But in due time, we will reap. It may not be until eternity. It’s a promise of rewards, or lack of rewards, in heaven, too.

—if we do not grow weary [if we do not give up]—for the believer, the opposition they meet is constant and the good they are trying to do is hard to accomplish. How much does it take to break a habit? One time. How much does it take to make a habit? Weeks or months? A long time. It seems like anything good takes much longer than anything bad. Ahhhhhh……



Verses 1-2— Now Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done. — The report came as a great shock to this champion of Baal and Astarte worship in Israel. She thought so much of these priests that she supported them from the royal treasury, and now they were dead at the hand of Elijah.

and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, "So may the gods do to me and even more, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time."Instead of her accepting Elijah as the man of God, she sends him word she intends to kill him. She responded with a vow to kill within 24 hours the man who exposed the lie of Baal worship and displayed the glory of the Lord. She is taking revenge for the death of the prophets of Baal. She made a bad mistake in her reply, when she said, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time. “Jezebel” was a Phoenician princess (a daughter of Ethbaal, king of Sidon), who married King Ahab of Israel and enticed him to sin. She was a tyrant who corrupted her husband, as well as the nation, with pagan idolatry. A worshiper of the Phoenician god Baal and a zealous missionary, she supported some 850 prophets of Baal and Asherah (18:19), and sought to suppress the worship of the Lord (18:4, 13). 

Verse 3— And he was afraid and arose and ran for his life— (Or… He probably thought that the miracle at Carmel would have been the means of effecting the conversion of the whole court and of the country, but, finding himself mistaken, he is greatly discouraged). His hope shattered, Elijah fled as a prophet, broken by Jezebel’s threats and her unrepentant Baalism, and her continuing power over Israel. Elijah expected Jezebel to surrender; when she did not capitulate, he became a discouraged man (verses 4, 10, 14). Elijah was surprised that the revival he had just witnessed was not more effective in eliminating Baal worship. Apparently Jezebel’s threat drove the lessons of God’s power and provision that he had been learning at Cherith, Zarephath, and Carmel out of his memory.

Application— We cannot expect belligerent and spiritually blinded human hearts to just capitulate whenever the evidence against their perspective surfaces. It is a spiritual warfare first. When we serve God’s interests, that is the righteous thing to be doing.

—and came to Beersheba which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. — Beersheba: A city located 100 miles south of Jezreel in the Negev. It marked the southern boundary of the population of Judah.

Verse 4— Then he traveled an additional day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree; and he requested for himself that he might die— Thankfully, this was a prayer not answered for Elijah. In fact, Elijah was one of the few men in the Bible to never die! To receive a no answer from God can be better than receiving a yes answer. People reject God despite the evidence, not because of the evidence.

—and said, "It is enough— We sense that Elijah meant, “I can’t do this anymore, Lord.” The work was stressful, exhausting, and seemed to accomplish nothing. The great work on Mount Carmel did not result in a lasting national revival or return to the Lord. Elijah had especially hoped that the events on Mount Carmel would turn around Ahab and Jezebel and the leadership of Israel in general. So it was not enough; how could he know that it was? It is God alone who knows when we have done enough, and enjoyed enough; but we do not know. Plan to stay at your calling as long as God Has you at that calling.

—now, O Lord, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers."—This seems extreme but reveals the intensity of need he has. He had fled into the wilderness to get away from the rejection he had encountered. The juniper tree protects from the wind and the sun. It gives a nice shade and a place to rest. We will find that Elijah never really dies, but is transported into heaven without going the way of the grave. Not being better than my fathers meant they had no revivals either in the land! He felt as if all he had worked for in life had been pointless and futile. This is a common problem for those of us who try to overcome the sins of our fathers. We have a fervent desire to do better than they, not because we hate our parents, but because we know how much we have suffered because of what they did in fear and ignorance and insecurity and brokenness, and even love that was not understood and recognized.

An Application— Don’t get depressed if your nation or community or group etc., is rejecting God, truth, and the Bible. Minister to those who are believers, reason and give evidence to those who will listen. But thinking about converting a nation to move away from idolatry and back to God will only lead to discouragement and depression.

Verse 5— He lay down and slept under a juniper tree; and behold, there was an angel touching him, and he said to him, "Arise, eat." So far was the Lord from granting his request to take away his life, that he made provision to preserve it. So careful was he of him, as to give an angel charge to get food ready for him, and then awake him to eat of it. God is a very present help to those who do His will. He is with Elijah, and sends an angel to minister to him. Probably one of the reasons Elijah was so tired, was because he had not taken the time to eat. When we are tired, things look much worse than they do after we are rested. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1).

Verse 6— Then he looked and behold, there was at his head a bread cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank and lay down again. Elijah received this rest and replenishment repeatedly from the Lord. One quick nap and one quick meal wasn’t enough.

Verse 7— The angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, "Arise, eat, because the journey is too great for you." God set Elijah on a 200-mile, 40-day trip to Mount Horeb, also known as Mount Sinai. He was probably so tired at first that he ate very little. Now, he is told by the angel to eat heartily for the journey is hard. Angels are ministering spirits sent by God to help His children. For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways. They will bear you up in their hands, that you do not strike your foot against a stone (Psalm 91:11-12). But to which of the angels has He ever said, "Sit at My right hand, Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet"? Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation? (Hebrews 1:13-14).

Verse 8— So he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mountain of God. As the children of Israel had a notable spiritual failure and so were to wander forty years in the wilderness, so a defeated Elijah was to spend forty days in the desert. Forty days: Elijah’s trip took over double the time it should have taken. Therefore, the period had symbolic meaning as well as showing literal time (Numbers 14:26-35). As Moses had spent 40 days on the mountain without bread and water, sustained only by God as he awaited a new phase of service (Exodus 34:28), so Elijah was to spend 40 days depending on God’s enablement as he prepared for a new commission from the Lord.

Verse 9— Then he came there to a cave and lodged there. The Hebrew text has “the” cave rather than “a” cave suggesting that this may have been the very spot where God had placed Moses before He caused His glory to pass before him.

PTOnce again we are reminded of God working in obscurity with His servants and this time it is in a cave. God uses the wilderness to prepare and utilize His people so they can focus themselves on the realities of life.

—and behold, [Elijah] the word of the Lord [prophet] came to him, and He said to him. "What are you doing here, Elijah?"God knew the answer to this question, but it was good for Elijah to speak to the Lord freely and to unburden his heart. Elijah’s zeal for God’s covenant, altars, and prophets was admirable, but he became too discouraged because he underestimated the extent of commitment to the Lord that existed in Israel. He was not alone in his stand for the Lord (v. 10; cf. 18:13). God asked him what he was doing there (vv. 9, 13) because He had not sent him to Horeb as He had to Cherith, Zarephath, and Samaria.

Verse 10— He said, (1) "I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. Indeed, he sure had been. And the reason for such zealous devotion to the Lord follows. The word hosts is a translation of the Hebrew word sabaoth, meaning “armies”—a reference to the angelic armies of heaven. Thus, another way of saying “LORD of hosts” is “God of the armies of heaven.” There is a myriad of angels in the heavenlies. Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands (Revelation 5:11). A myriad is 10,000 and here is an innumerable company of them possibly speaking of nine hundred and six thousand millions around God’s throne. As the LORD of hosts, God is the all-powerful Ruler over the entire universe. All power and authority are His. He alone intervenes to provide victory for His people. He alone brings world peace. At the same time, He is available to hear the prayers of His people (Psalm 80:19). There is no other God like this.

(2) for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant. This had been going on for generations. It is what prompted the withholding of the rain the past three and a half years. God takes seriously our agreements with him.

Application— We should never make vows with anyone. Our words should be yes or no. However, God had made a covenant with this people and the stipulations are serious.

(3) torn down Your altars. Which had been built in times past for the worship of God, to sacrifice thereon to him, but were now demolished, that those that would not bow the knee to Baal, and could not go to Jerusalem, might make no use of them.

(4) killed Your prophets with the sword. Which was done by Jezebel, the Israelites conniving at it, and consenting to it, and not daring to oppose her. Slain all she had knowledge of, or even were known by the prophet: hence it follows.

(5) And I alone am left. This was not accurate, but it reflected how Elijah felt. Even back at the confrontation at Mount Carmel, Elijah said I alone am left a prophet of the Lord (1 Kings 18:22). Discouraging times make God’s servants feel more isolated and alone than they are.

(6) and they seek my life, to take it away." Strangely, the reasons Elijah provided were actually important reasons for him to remain alive. If he really was the last prophet or believer alive, should not he seek to live as long as possible? If the enemies of God like Jezebel wanted him dead, should he not seek to defeat her wicked will? Elijah, here, powerfully showed the unreasonable nature of unbelief and fear.

Application The spirit of the age is against the Christian faith. It was reported that the Taliban were killing people found with Bibles on their phones for instance. We are at a dangerous tipping point with permanent changes in view never before having to address as followers of Jesus.  

Verses 11-12— So He said, "Go forth and stand on the mountain before the Lord." God knew what the depressed and discouraged Elijah needed. He needed a personal encounter with God. 

—And behold, the Lord was passing by! And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. — God brought His presence before Elijah, but first, to show where He was not. The Lord was not in the wind; He was not in the earthquake; He was not in the fire. Like many others, Elijah probably only looked for God in dramatic manifestations. 

—and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing. God proceeded to reproduce demonstrations of His power that He had given Israel at Mt. Sinai (Exod. 19:16-18) and to Elijah at Mt. Carmel (18:38, 45). Nevertheless, God was not in these in the sense that they were not His methods now. Rather, God was in the gentle blowing. The Lord’s self-revelation to Elijah came in a faint, whispering voice. The lesson for Elijah was that Almighty God was quietly, sometimes imperceptibly, doing His work in Israel. Not rough, but gentle, more like whispering than roaring; something soft, easy, and musical. Our God is a consuming fire for sure. Elijah had experienced that at Mount Carmel. But He is a still quiet voice to bring peace to Elijah here.

PT— The Lord is whatever we need at the time of our crises. Zechariah 4:6 "Then he answered and spoke unto me, saying, this [is] the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, said the LORD of hosts."

Verse 13— When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. He attempted to come forth out of the cave upon the divine order (1 Kings 19:11), but was stopped by the terrible appearances of the wind, earthquake, and fire. A little within it; but now he came out, and stood at the mouth of it, to hear what the Lord would say unto him.

And behold, a voice came to him and said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" Elijah was aware that you could not look upon God and live. He wraps his face with his mantle. He came out when he heard the still quiet voice. God’s question was the same question as earlier. The difference is the first time the Word of the Lord came to him. This time it is the audible voice of God.

Verse 14— Then he said, "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." Elijah was to learn that whereas God had revealed Himself in dramatic ways in the past, He would now work in quieter ways. Instead of Elijah continuing to stand alone for God, God would now put him into the background while the Lord used other people. Elijah evidently got the message, but he still felt depressed. God was dealing with him gently too. Elijah wants to do God's will, but he has lost confidence in his own ability to change things. God was showing Elijah in the wind, earthquake, fire, and the still quiet voice that God works in many different ways.

Application So, how did God help Elijah out of his depression? First, God gave Elijah a lesson in how God works in quiet ways. Sometimes God speaks in a gentle voice with a light tap on the shoulder, patiently listening to us even if we are speaking in sincere, but misguided ignorance. God is both just and merciful, both strict and loving. Second, God gave Elijah a task. God reminded Elijah that the work of guiding and encouraging a righteous remnant and judging a wicked and rebellious people is not the work of a day on Mount Carmel, or even a generation. Godly leadership requires godly succession, and so Elijah, whose life was nearly done, would be given the charge to anoint three successors



Verses 15-16— The Lord said to him, "Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus, and when you have arrived, you shall anoint Hazael king over Aram; and Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint king over Israel; and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place. The Lord instructed Elijah to anoint Hazael of Aram (see 2 Kings 8:8), Jehu (see 2 Kings 9:2), and Elisha (verse 19), for the purpose of commissioning them to destroy Baal worship in Israel. Through these 3 men, the Lord completed the execution of Baal worshipers that Elijah had begun. Actually, Elijah commissioned only the last of these 3 men directly, the other two were indirectly commissioned through Elisha. Elisha was involved in Hazael’s becoming Syria’s king (2 Kings 8:7-14), and one of Elisha’s associates anointed Jehu (2 Kings 9:1-3). By the time the last of these men died (2 Kings 13:24), Baalism had been officially barred from Israel.

Verse 17— It shall come about, the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall put to death. This was another source of encouragement to Elijah. With this promise he knew that ultimately justice would be done, and God would not allow the institutionalized persecution and promotion of idolatry to go unpunished. We see in this, that God had established Hazael to destroy the children of Israel, who had completely turned away from God. His sword was a physical sword, which killed the people. Elisha was a prophet of God, and he did not physically kill the people. Elisha's sword was the Word of God. This is speaking of slaying their beliefs with the Word of God.

Verse 18—Yet I will leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him." This was a final encouragement to Elijah. This both assured Elijah that he was not alone and that his work as a prophet had indeed been fruitful. This is a small percentage of the mass of the people. These represent the remnant, which had never stopped worshipping God. They had not followed the ways of the masses. They had never bowed to Baal. It appears it must have been the custom to kiss the hand of the idols. Sometimes they even kissed the idols on the mouth. This was their way of showing great admiration for the idol. This showed Elijah that his quiet ministry over the years actually bore more fruit than the spectacular ministry at Mount Carmel.

Verse 19 So he departed from there and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, while he was plowing with twelve pairs of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth. And Elijah passed over to him and threw his mantle on him. “Elisha” did not mistake his prophetic summons. His response was decisive. He burned his past behind him. How different are those whose profession is merely external (Matthew 8:18-22; Luke 9:57-62). In serving Elijah, much as Joshua had served under Moses, Elisha would learn that the secret to a successful ministry lies in having a servant’s heart (Mark 9:35).

Verse 20 He left the oxen and ran after Elijah and said, "Please let me kiss my father and my mother, then I will follow you." And he said to him, "Go back again, for what have I done to you?" He must have greatly admired him. He perhaps knew what was meant by the mantle of Elijah being thrown upon him. He wasted no time. He came immediately to Elijah, and then asked for permission to go back and tell his parents goodbye. Elijah had done what the Lord wanted him to, but he had not asked the young man to give up his family to follow him.

Verse 21— So he returned from following him, and took the pair of oxen and sacrificed them and boiled their flesh with the implements of the oxen, and gave it to the people and they ate. Then he arose and followed Elijah and ministered to him. This demonstrated Elisha’s complete commitment to following Elijah. He destroyed the tools of his trade in a going-away party for his family and friends. His sacrifice of his oxen as a burnt offering to God symbolized his total personal commitment to God. Perhaps his 12 pairs of oxen (v. 19) represented the 12 tribes of Israel whom Elisha would now lead spiritually.


How do we avoid being like Elijah though?

First, Elijah cut himself off from others whom he knew were believers. Being a believer of Jesus Christ means that we need to build, repair, and maintain relationships with other godly people and not let ourselves be divided for silly reasons.

Second, we must learn patience. Elijah thought that one single victory against the priests of Baal would signal the repentance of Israel and the restoration of Israel’s place in God’s covenant. It was not to be. A nation of individuals had to be converted one believer at a time, and each of us who has committed to God have to grow in grace and knowledge on a day by day basis, wrestling with our demons, and developing virtue and patience. This is not easy, but nothing worthwhile happens overnight. 

Third, the depression of Elijah was caused by mistaken conclusions drawn from mistaken evidence. By cutting himself off from other people, Elijah cut himself off from an adequate understanding of Israel’s spiritual state. He did not understand the depth of Israel’s moral corruption, which invited God’s judgment on a rebellious people who refused to choose God’s way in their hearts, no matter what miracles God provided them with. But on the other hand, Elijah also did not understand that there was a solid and strong righteous remnant that God was still working with. 



·         Service for the Lord was never meant to be done by means of burning out or rusting out. That is a mistaken idea. God attempted to correct Elijah’s idea about how God should be working.

·         Our service for the kingdom is meant to be lived out consistent with how God has gifted us and wired us up in life.

·         Take time to refresh yourself in your spiritual life so that you are walking in the fullness of the Spirit. Don’t grieve (Eph 3:20) or quench (1 Thess 5:19) the Spirit.