Elijah is one of the most famous prophets of the Old Testament. 1 Kings chapter 18 tells the story of how he called on God to defeat the prophets of Baal who served the wicked Queen Jezebel and King Ahab. When Elijah called on God saying, “’Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back [to you]’” (1 Kings 18:37 ESV), God sent fire from heaven to obliterate the altar Elijah built on Mount Carmel while all of Israel stood by, amazed.
After this great victory which caused the Israelites to abandon pagan worship and proclaim “’The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God!’” (1 Kings 18:39 ESV), the enraged Jezebel vowed to murder God’s prophet. Exhausted from his mighty labors, Elijah fled into the wilderness and hid himself under a broom tree, crying out to God, “…’It is enough, now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am not better than my fathers’” (1 Kings 19:1-4 ESV).
Have you ever been so worn out from serving that even after experiencing a wonderful success you were just too tired to go on and felt that you wanted to quit? Have you ever cried out to God and said, “Lord, I love you, but I just can not handle another thing”? Or maybe simply cried out, “Help me, Jesus!” when you felt you couldn’t manage to take another step in the direction the Lord was leading you?
If so, Beloveds, you are not alone. Think of Elijah, who suffered from prophetic burn-out; Naomi, the mother-in-law who wanted to change her name to “bitterness” (Ruth 1:20); John the Baptist, losing his cool before he lost his head in prison (Matthew 11:1-6); and Martha, who worked her fingers to the bone, threw her sister Mary under the bus and fussed at Jesus for being so hard to serve (Luke 10:38-42). Even Solomon, the most powerful king and wisest man in the world, wrote the book of Ecclesiastes to remind us that though there is a time for everything in its season, nevertheless life is full of vanity and there’s nothing new under the sun.
But listen, here’s how God responded to Elijah’s desperate plea:
“And [Elijah] lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, ‘Arise and eat.’ And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again” (1 Kings 19:5-6 ESV).
God sent an angel from heaven with a hot meal and plenty of fresh water, and after Elijah ate and then slept for a while, God sent the angel again…
“And the angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, ‘Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.’ And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God (v. 7-8).
Beloved Friends, God knows that there will be times when the journey is too hard for us to manage. When the broken roads we sometimes travel seem too long and full of potholes, God wants us to come to him to be nourished and refreshed.
Our Creator knows that it’s important for us to make time to eat and rest. We need spiritual food that we find in the Word of God, and we also need earthly food. We need spiritual rest and we need earthly rest.
As Jesus walked beside the sea of Galilee, a great multitude of the lame, blind and sick came to him to be healed. “Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, ‘I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way’…and Jesus said to them, ‘How many loaves do you have?’ They said, ‘Seven, and a few small fish’…he took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up seven baskets full of the broken pieces left over” (Matthew 15:32,34,36-37 ESV).
Of course, this story of the miracle of Jesus feeding four thousand men, in addition to women and children, with just a few loaves and fishes is a Bible study all its own. But notice here that Jesus took the earthly bread that his followers brought to him and through it manifested heavenly food for the crowds. Jesus pulled bread from the storerooms of heaven to feed his people. God sent an angel with bread and water to feed his prophet Elijah.
God is the source of our heavenly food and our earthly food, and he wants to provide for us everything we need to strengthen us for the journey ahead. He knows that earthly life can be difficult and that sometimes it is too hard for us to handle.
But Jesus said, “I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.”
Jesus is the Word of God, and the Word of God is fresh bread and pure water, straight from heaven, that nourishes our souls and our spirits.
God created the heavens and the earth and all that is in them, and he gives us all good things to enjoy (1 Timothy 6:17).
So when you feel exhausted, like Elijah; or you’re starting to feel a little bitter, like Naomi; or you want to blame everybody around you because you’re working too hard, like Martha, it’s time to stop, eat a good meal and get some rest. Then pick up your Bible and let God feed your spirit. Jesus doesn’t want to send us away hungry. He wants us to be strong and rested for the journey, because he doesn’t want us to miss out on any of the treasures that he has hidden for us along the way. After all, Elijah ultimately got to take a ride in God’s chariot (2 Kings 2:11).
But even with all the miracles he witnessed, what he really needed to keep going was a snack and a nap.