Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets; a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory; and in his name the Gentiles will hope. – Matthew 12:18-21
The ESV says in verse 3 that Elijah was afraid. The NKJV translates the same word as ‘saw’ and I think it’s correct. It is not that Elijah became unhinged and ran in terror. It’s closer to reality to say that Elijah determined from Jezebel’s obstinacy that there wasn’t much hope for change amongst God’s people. Despite the people’s confession, Ahab’s weakness and Jezebel’s opposition led Elijah to conclude that there was no sense continuing his ministry in Israel.
In a quest to understand what has happened, Elijah intends to go back to where it all began, to Mount Horeb, where the covenant Lord had first met with His people. We meet up with Elijah in the desert where, exhausted and discouraged, he lies down under a broom tree and asks God to sweep him away. He feels ill-equipped for the ministry of turning the hearts of God’s people back to Him. In a sense he’s right. A greater Prophet than him or his fathers was needed, one Who could baptize with the Spirit. Elijah is too hard on himself.
But God doesn’t rebuke him and neither should we. There is something holy about his lament. Paul wept over the Jews (Romans 9:1-3) and Jesus did over Jerusalem (Luke 13:34-35). Don’t you think we’re too casual about the plight of millions who go to a Christless eternity?
The angel ministers to Elijah in his discouragement and provides food for his continued journey to Horeb. Elijah might think he’s finished but God has further plans for him just as Jesus did for the Christ-denying Peter. How tender He is to His often discouraged servants.
Suggestions for prayer
Pray that God would encourage His ministers as they preach the gospel today with evident fruit for their labours. Ask that God would give us a concern for Christ’s honour and the plight of the lost that we might be engaged in evangelisation here and among the nations.
This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. John van Eyk is the Senior Pastor of Trinity Reformed Church (United Reformed) in Lethbridge, Alberta.