Elijah on Horeb (1Ki 19)
James calls Elijah "a man of like nature with ourselves"
(James 5:17, RSV)         and nowhere is this more evident than in Elijah's
confrontation with God on Mount Horeb. This austere prophet of the Lord had just
been instrumental in a great victory for the honor of Yahweh over Baal, on Mount
Carmel (1Ki 18). But from the heights of spiritual exaltation Elijah was plunged
into the depths of despair when he realized that his great accomplishments had
not softened the heard of Ahab, and had served only to intensify Jezebel's
hatred of him. Fleeing for his life, and yet in his despondency losing all
desire to live, he came into the wilderness, to Horeb (1Ki 19:8). In a pathetic
prayer Elijah reveals that he has given up on Israel, and that he sees himself
as the only true believer remaining:
"I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel
have forsaken Thy covenant, thrown down Thy altars, and slain Thine prophets
with the sword, and I, even I only am left; and they seek my life, to take it
away" (v 10).
We have all heard such laments as this, generally for much
less reason than Elijah's. In the circumstances we may understand his pessimism,
but God saw fit to dispel the mistaken notions that led to his negative state of
mind. A contemplation of this incident might also cure the state of mind of any
brother who, more or less self-righteously, isolates himself from "less-worthy"
God called Elijah forth from his cave, and paraded before his
awestruck eyes a tremendous panorama of God's power -- strong winds, earthquake,
and fire. But the Lord was not in these; Elijah saw that something was missing.
At last came a still small voice, and Elijah, bracing himself up, came out of
the cave whence he had fled for fear at the previous manifestations. The soft
voice had a soothing effect; now at last the frightened prophet felt the
presence of God. Thus was the message driven home to him that God is best known,
not in works of judgment, but in the still small voice which calls His people
when properly prepared by adversity, to repentance.
And Elijah was to be that voice!
"Go, return on the way" (v 15).
Like Samuel before him, Elijah was carefully taught that
wickedness is preeminently an affront against God, not against any individual
(1Sa 8:7), and consequently no man (no matter how righteous)         has any prerogative
to turn his back on his brethren. Elijah must minister to the remnant that
remains in Israel; in the midst of gross apostasy he is not to flee in fear, but
rather to stand firm for God and provide a rallying point for the sheep of
"Yet I have left Me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed
unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him" (v
How wrong, how seriously wrong, had been Elijah's estimation
that there were no righteous remaining in Israel. He had let his despair get the
better of his judgment and he had forgotten his responsibility. It was one thing
to stand strong against entrenched error on Carmel, but he had not been
perceptive enough to see his duty afterward, to strengthen those who remained
faithful against the evil in the midst of the nation.
This verse is cited by Paul in his epistle to the Romans, with
the comment that "God hath not cast away His people" (Rom 11:2). It is a though
worth remembering for all time. God knows in every age who His "seven thousand"
are. In many Scriptural lessons He directs those who would flee in despair from
troubles, to turn around, to "go, return on thy way" to find their brethren and
strengthen them. Those who would hold firmly to the Truth in the midst of trials
must combine their forces, strengthening and upbuilding one another in God's
service, sharing in good times and bad the fellowship of the saints.