“But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and 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 KJV)
The question is often asked, by a surface reader, why such a change in Elijah after such an extreme display of the power of God in the previous chapter? This often leads to a discussion of “mountain top” verses “valley” experiences that we may have in our daily walk. To think this is to misunderstand what walking with God really is. To best understand why the sudden change in how Elijah responds you need to dive into an understanding of God’s presence. God spent the last three years (or so) preparing Elijah for the event on Mount Carmel. As mentioned in other articles that I have posted, Elijah was learning about God’s provision. Learning about humility and what it means to be fed by ravens and by a widow. Learning what God’s inner voice sounds like so that he knew when God was in something and when he was not, i.e. presence. The entire event on Mount Carmel was orchestrated by God. Elijah simply had to follow what he saw God’s hand doing. None of the seemly “bold” things that occurred seemed “bold” to Elijah.
This contrasts greatly with the wrath he hears from Jezebel. There is a huge vacuum in the evil, vengeful, and hateful words delivered to him. This is very much an enemy who knows that they have suffered a great blow and is now on the hunt. Until he can figure out what it is that God wants to do next, the smartest thing that Elijah can do is to get out of Dodge. Elijah knows, just like he said in 1 Kings 18:37, that this was all God. He did the turning back of the hearts. He lit the fire. To attempt a stand in the presence of retaliatory evil without knowing what God wants to accomplish next is very dangerous. A walk with God, is not an average of ups and downs, highs and lows, or mountain tops and valleys. A walk with God is listening to the content of what He is telling you. It is waiting for His presence. It is being very open with what is on your heart to Him whether in prayer or directly (see 1 Kings 19:14). To an outsider, this may appear on the surface to be ups and downs. In reality, God makes your paths straight as you walk with Him (see Matthew 3:3). For what it’s worth, notice that Elijah’s “death wish” never is answered. He is one of the very few people who come into the presence of God without what we would consider a death experience.
“Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” (Psalms 16:11 KJV)