1 Kings 19:3-8 3Elijah was afraid, and he ran for his life. He went to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and he left his servant there. 4But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. There he sat down under a broom tree, where he prayed that he would die. He said, “I’ve had enough, Lord. Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” 5Then he lay down and went to sleep under the broom tree.
Suddenly an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.”
6Then he looked around, and near his head there was a loaf of bread baking on coals and a jar of water, so he ate and drank, and then he lay down again.
7Then the angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, because the journey is too much for you.”
8So he got up and ate and drank. Then, with the strength gained from that food he walked for forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mountain of God.
Have you ever felt discouraged? Despair? Depression? Loneliness?
Depression is a fog that surrounds you. It clouds your mind. It saps your energy. It distorts your view of reality. When depression descends, you can’t see anything good, everything feels sad, everything appears gloomy and dark. Then, the loneliness can set in. Friends and family leave you alone because depressed people are not especially fun to be around.
In your discouragement, despair or depression, have you ever said, “I’ve had enough. I can’t take it anymore?”
That’s where we find Elijah, the Lord’s prophet. Sitting in the wilderness under a broom tree – alone, discouraged, and depressed. What could have led him to such a physically and emotionally barren place?
Just a few days earlier, Elijah had been on the top of his game. He had been on top of Mount Carmel exposing the prophets of Baal as imposters, pedaling a fake religion.
The challenge had been to take one bull for Baal, another bull for the Lord, and put each of them on an altar with wood but no fire. The 450 prophets of Baal danced and cut themselves and prayed to try to call down fire upon their sacrifice in the name of Baal. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention. (1 Kings 18:21)
Then Elijah prayed, “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command” (1 Kings 18:36). Fire immediately fell and burned up Elijah’s sacrifice, the wood, the stones, the soil, and even licked up the water in the trench that had been poured over the sacrifice. (1 Kings 18:38).
The 450 Baal prophets were seized and killed on Mount Carmel. What a victory for Elijah! What a vindication for the true God of Israel!
No doubt, Elijah was reveling in this triumph. That is, until wicked Queen Jezebel heard about what had happened to her favored prophets and her favorite fertility god. Elijah’s triumph turned into a threat against his life. The queen sent a messenger to terrorize Elijah, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them” (1 Kings 19:2)
That’s when Elijah became afraid and ran for his life. He left his servant in Beersheba and traveled another day’s journey into the wilderness. There he sat under a broom tree and prayed that he would die. He said, “I’ve had enough, Lord. Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” Then he lay down and went to sleep under the broom tree. (1 Kings 18:3-5)
That’s where we find Elijah – alone after ditching his servant, despairing of his life after being threatened by the queen, discouraged that the euphoria from the Mount Carmel victory hadn’t lasted more than a day, and depressed under the broom tree. Curling up, ready to die.
Have you ever felt like Elijah under the broom tree? One of those days … or weeks … or years, where you just want to curl up under the nearest broom tree to die?
The fog of depression clouds your mind and your mood so you don’t want to ever get out of bed.
The sadness and helplessness you feel when you visit your dad in the nursing home, just watching him slowly wither and become a shell of the strong man he once was.
The discouragement from having your work project rejected; the discouragement from having the offer you put on a home rejected; the discouragement from your body rejecting the chemotherapy.
The bitter disappointment you feel when the lifestyle choices your children and grandchildren make are not God-pleasing.
Ailing health, constant pain, broken family relationships, misunderstandings among friends, a downturn in income coupled with rising costs of living, and many other things have a way of shattering your dreams and opening the door of your heart to discouragement and despair.
You work, you pray, you expect visible success, some tangible results only to see everything you’ve worked for fall apart and come to nothing. Defeat from the mouth of victory. In a moment of hopelessness, you utter, “I just want to die.”
That’s you. That’s Elijah. But, it’s also more than Elijah.
Elijah was a man of God, but that did not prevent him from becoming discouraged. All through the Scriptures, we find people faithful to God and still becoming deeply depressed. John the Baptizer, was described by Jesus as the greatest man ever born of a woman. Yet, while he was in King Herod’s prison, he found himself battling dark questions about the Messiah. So, he sent messengers to Jesus looking for confirmation of Jesus’ mission.
Job had regrets about ever being born, “Why did I not perish at birth, and die as I came from the womb?” (Job 3:11) Jeremiah’s words are even harsher, “Cursed be the day I was born! … Why did I ever come out of the womb to see trouble and sorrow and to end my days in shame?” (Jeremiah 20:14, 18)
Even Moses experienced these dark moods. He prayed to God, “If this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me – if I have found favor in your eyes – and do not let me face my own ruin” (Numbers 11:15).
Does your present situation have you joining Moses, Jeremiah, Job, and Elijah?
It is especially during these times when we find ourselves discouraged, depressed, and even wanting to die, that we need to remember that, though, we may want to give up on God … God does not give up on us.
We may feel alone, but we are never alone when we are Christians. We always have One who is with us.
Though Elijah may have left his servant in Jezreel, he wasn’t alone. False gods, false prophets, and wicked kings and queens were no match for the One who accompanied Elijah. The One who was with Elijah on Mount Carmel; the One who was with Elijah when he received the death threat; and the One who was with him under the broom tree. He is the One who gives bread for the journey.
The angel of the Lord visited Elijah under that broom tree. He said to the Lord’s prophet, “Get up and eat.” Elijah looked around, and near his head there was a loaf of bread baking on coals and a jar of water, so he ate and drank, and then he lay down again. Then the angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, because the journey is too much for you.” So he got up and ate and drank. Then, with the strength gained from that food he walked for forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mountain of God. (1 Kings 19:6-8)
The journey from the wilderness to Mt. Horeb was a long journey – approximately 260 miles on foot. One meal sustained Elijah for forty days and nights of travel. That’s quite a meal!
“Get up and eat, because the journey is too much for you.” These are good words for our ears, too. When we become discouraged, downtrodden, and depressed, we need to eat the bread that comes down from heaven.
We are on a journey through the wilderness of this world. It is a journey from this life to the next. It is a journey that is too much for us. But, it is not too much for God. The angel of the Lord that visited Elijah was the pre-incarnate Christ, the Son of God before He took on human flesh. As Christ came down from heaven to help His needy prophet under the broom tree and give him bread to sustain him for the journey, so Christ has come down to us needy people, to give us the bread of life to sustain us for the journey to heaven.
Jesus says about Himself: “This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that anyone may eat it and not die” (John 6:50). Elijah lasted forty days and nights on the strength of that bread and water in the wilderness. Forty days and nights. And that was only a foretaste. Jesus says that His living bread will sustain us for eternity. “I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats this bread, he will live forever. The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh” (John 6:51).
But, Christ does not come to us as the angel of the Lord, as He came to Elijah. No, now He has come to us in an even greater way – this time as a man. God and man together in one person. God has come in human flesh as Jesus Christ to make the journey we could not make. To do what we could not do. To give us the life we need – in this world and the next. Christ comes to us who are curled up under the covers, living in the fog of despair and murky cloud of depression. The wicked king of this earth, the devil, has threatened our lives with an eternity in hell. We are terrified that he is going to catch us, claim us, and cast us into the fiery pit forever.
Christ comes to us, like He came to Elijah. He is not waiting for us to come to Him – for the journey is too great for us! No, He comes to us. With the bread of heaven for us to eat for the journey.
Christ calls for us to leave the wilderness behind and travel to the mountain of the Lord – the sanctuary of your church. There, in worship, is the food you need for the journey. Christ gives you a bread that is beyond any bread this world has to offer. He gives you a drink that is a heavenly vintage poured from the cross. For you to eat and drink with this promise: “I will raise him up on the Last Day” (John 6:44).
In worship, Christ pours living water over your head. This water sustains you with faith as you journey through the wilderness of this world.
Christ places onto your tongue the meal that sustains you week to week. You feast on Christ’s body and blood, the meal from heaven that will take you to heaven.
Christ puts into your mouth, your ears, your eyes, your mind and heart the bread of life, which is His holy Word. This Word convicts your prideful heart and comforts your fearful soul.
Elijah couldn’t do it alone … and neither can we. No matter how strong a Christian you are, no matter how strong you believe your faith to be. How easy it is for fear and despair to get the better of us. How quickly we can travel from Mount Carmel to the broom tree. How swiftly defeat can follow victory.
If you are going to curl up and hide under a tree, don’t look for a broom tree! Curl up and hide under the tree of the cross! That’s where the God-Man gave His life for you. He gives that life to you in the bread that came down from heaven. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.” Eat this bread to sustain you for the journey. Amen.
“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is everyone who takes refuge in him” (Psalm 34:8).