Here’s the saddest story in the life of the greatest prophet in the Old Testament. It’s from 1 Kings 19. This is where Elijah fails. As sad as it is, we can learn some lessons from him to help us in prophetic ministry today.
[Elijah] traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the
. There he went into a cave and spent
the night. mountain of God
And the word of the LORD came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.
When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
The LORD said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the
When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Desert of Damascus . Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Aram ,
and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. Jehu will put to death any who escape the
sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu.
Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel --all
whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.” Israel
Elijah had some reason to be afraid: Jezebel had threatened to kill him. Of course, this was right after he had called fire down from heaven, killed 450 false prophets, and ended a devastating drought in an afternoon’s prayer, so how much threat was she really?
Father has schooled me from this passage a number of times.
First, he contrasted Elijah on Mt Carmel (1 Kings 18) with Jesus feeding the 5000. Afterwards, Elijah takes on two more big and demanding projects: first, he prayed in a rainstorm, and second, he ran from Mt Carmel to Jezreel, ahead of a chariot (that’s a marathon distance!). Then he collapsed in a depression, and ended up in a cave whining at God.
By contrast, when Jesus had fed 5000 men (plus women and children: maybe 15,000 to 20,000 people), he dismissed the crowds, sent the boys home on a boat, and went up into the mountains to pray all night. Think about it: if the Son of God needed to get with God to get recharged after ministry, what makes us think that we can keep running?
The first lesson: when you’ve spent everything in ministry, don’t go do more ministry; get alone with God, and let him minister to you; debrief with him. After that, go walk on the water through the storm to the guys in the sailboat that’s swamping in the storm: miracles are easier then, and prophetic people work in the realm of the miraculous.
| “…I am the only one left,|
and now they are trying to kill me too.”
The second lesson that he emphasized was this: whenever our prayers sound like Elijah’s prayers sounded in that cave “…I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too,” then we’re in a very bad place. That’s a really good time to shut up, to stop arguing with God, and to listen. It’s a good time to let angels minister to your spirit. But it’s really NOT a good time to talk.
Elijah kept talking, and God let him talk. Then he asked him the same question again (that might not be a good sign), and Elijah gave him the same self-pitying answer: “…I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too!”
God gave Elijah some assignments: go anoint some people. Notice that he’s sent to “anoint Elisha … to succeed you as prophet.” Elijah is being fired as the prophet of
, and if
we can count on the context, he’s being fired because he won’t leave the place
of self-pity. From this day forward, Elijah never was the prophet he had been
before; he wasn’t completely left out, but he wasn’t involved in any
history-making events ever again. Israel
My point is not to bring fear that we’ll get fired as a prophet. My point is that when we start seeing ourselves like the tree in this picture, that we’ve gotten into a place where we can’t minister well. We need to shut up and sit still and let Father speak into our souls. In this place, we really need to NOT declare things from self-pity, not from hopelessness or fear or discouragement. In this place, we need to stop speaking until we can speak life.
This has been a heck of a season. A goodly number of people I know in the prophetic have been involved in big things. We need to learn the lesson of Jesus, and head up the mountain, not back into ministry.
And a goodly number of the prophetic people I know are as drained as Elijah was. (Some are on both lists.) In this place, we need to stop speaking and let him speak to us, until we can speak life again.