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By , on July 18th, 2012

Crisis after Carmel: Comfort

Elijah has been plunged into despair at the events that have happened in Israel with Ahab and Jezebel hardening themselves even after God’s merciful rain upon drought-stricken Israel. Not even that would soften their hearts. Elijah is now alone, or at least he thinks he is alone. But God never leaves His people alone. He finds Elijah dejected and mourning and He grants marvelous comfort.

The LORD grants physical comfort. The LORD amazingly does not confront Elijah and reprove him for his behavior. The LORD is the wisest counselor; He is Wisdom. Notice how the LORD allows Elijah to sleep. He has traveled 200 miles in a very short time. He has spent much energy defending God and His glory. He commanded and participated in the execution of 450 priests of Baal. His body, mind and soul crave rest. The LORD answers Elijah’s complaint by letting him rest. He then comes himself in pre-incarnate state as the angel of the LORD to minister to Elijah! The LORD tells Elijah, “Arise, eat.” There is no rebuke, no harsh reply, just this simple command, “Arise and eat.”

What mercy and grace we see here in that Christ himself comes to minister to depressed and disillusioned people, those weak in faith, whose faith is faltering.  A jug of water, a cake baked on the coals, a fire – everything is provided.  It speaks first to Elijah’s dire condition.  He is devoid of physical strength, devoid of desire to eat because he is commanded to eat, and he lacks the desire to continue living.  It also indicates Christ’s merciful ministry in his people when they find themselves in such a condition as Elijah.  Christ does not break the bruised reed, or quench the smoking flax.  No, he works through different means, which may include medication, to restore a person physically strong enough to respond to gracious and restorative counsel.

Alongside this physical comfort, God grants spiritual comfort to Elijah.  He says, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.”  This implies that God has something else in store for Elijah. Elijah is being strengthened for an encounter with God himself as the LORD passes by him while he stands in the cave.  The LORD commissions him to go and anoint Jehu as king over Israel and Elisha was to be anointed as prophet – a king for justice and a prophet for a helper.  In his own perceived loneliness and depression the LORD encourages Elijah further by saying that there are still 7,000 faithful people who have not bowed the knee to Baal. What encouragement the LORD gives here to Elijah’s troubled spirit!

We see that the LORD deals very tenderly with his people.  He does not crush those cast down and despairing of themselves, but He leads them in His own way and time.  He brings physical comfort through physical and medical means. He comes alongside his despairing people with his Paraclete and seeks to nurture them back to health.  He seeks to reassure His people that in His providence He still has usefulness for us no matter how dark the way might be.  He says, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.”  He comes in mercy, restoring those bowed down.  He restores faith where faith has been broken down.   He knows exactly how much his people can bear and slowly brings back to vibrancy and faith, revealing who He is in the ministry of Christ to the downcast.

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