When Elijah heard the earthquake, fire, and wind, “he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.” (1 Kings 19:13)
You wouldn’t know it, to look at him.
His hair wild, his eyes filled with fear, his soul crushed by the loss of hope. Depression shrouded him like a thick dark cloak. This was the one, people referred to as The Prophet.
This was the man who shut up the skies and stopped the rain for over three years.
This man called a nation to choose which God they would serve and even called down fire from heaven.
This man was now hiding in a cave in the desert. This man was Elijah the Prophet.
It’s hard to imagine that a threat from the wife of a disobedient king would have this prophet of God running for his life. How could he be the hero of little children’s stories? Let alone be raised to a place of honor as the herald of the Messiah himself?
“See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.” (Micah 4:5–6)
It can happen to each of us. As men and women of God, we can lose sight of the vision and callings that God has given to us. We get depressed, stumble, and even quit.
While others might leave us in despair, God doesn’t
He cares for us, comforts us, strengthens us, raises us up without shame, and invites us to continue in His mission, without skipping a beat!
Let’s see how God not only redeemed this man from his despair, but also chose him to help redeem His Chosen People.
With the infinite resources of the LORD of Hosts (YHVH Shabaot) on his side, Elijah stands up to 450 prophets of Baal, the god of wicked Queen Jezebel, 400 prophets of the god Asherah, and kills them all (1 Kings 18:19, 40).
Jezebel and her army are now seeking to kill him. Elijah thinks no one is left to carry on the work of the Lord; he runs for his life to the wilderness region of Mount Horeb and hides in a cave.
There at the mountain where God gave Israel the Torah and came into covenant with them, as a husband with a bride, God speaks to Elijah in his desert experience.
But before we look at what God said to him, let’s pause to consider how the body of Messiah (the church) might respond if Elijah were alive today.
After all, you may know of some Elijah’s, too.
Would church leaders send an army of congregants with the gifts of mercy, hospitality, and encouragement to go after this Elijah and restore him back into service for God?
Or would they leave him 100 miles away in his cave and look for another prophet in town?
Sadly, too often, the choice is the latter.
We tend to see a setback, an episode of despair, or even a sin in a person’s life as a sign that he or she is no longer worthy to serve God or that He has given up on His servant.
In Elijah’s case, he didn’t merely take a few weeks off, he cried out, “I’ve had enough, Lord. Take my life!” (1 kings 19:4)
Let’s now see how God handles Elijah’s condition.
Lying under a broom tree in the wilderness wishing to die, God sends an angel to comfort and re-energize Elijah’s body with heavenly cake and water. (1 Kings 19:5–8)
After journeying forty days to Horeb in the depths of the inhospitable desert, God speaks, not in anger through the earthquake, wind and fire, but in a quiet shout, asking him about his distress: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:11–13)
Hearing the despair in Elijah’s heart, God gives him a temporary reprieve by choosing another man, Elisha, to carry on his work.
But that doesn’t mean God is done with Elijah.
Like Elijah, we sometimes get burned out from stress, fear, and our own short-sightedness, hiding under the covers of our bed for hours, even days.
When others take our place, we might feel that we no longer have any value to God, especially when other Believers tell us so.
If we believe that lie, the days under the covers can turn into years of uselessness. Yet, if we are willing to be restored and remain in His service, God is never finished with us. He clearly wasn’t finished with Elijah, either.
Elijah left the cave to fulfill more assignments for the Lord. In one of his final prophetic acts, God sent Elijah to warn Jezebel’s husband, King Ahab, of certain destruction, and Elijah obeyed.
Ahab “tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and fasted. He lay in sackcloth and went around meekly.” Because of his humility upon hearing the words of God’s prophet Elijah, destruction did not befall Ahab. (1 Kings 21:17–29)
Elijah could have done much more impressive feats on earth, but God took him home early, in a chariot no less.
Yet that still wasn’t the end of his service for the kingdom. Elijah stood with Moses on Mount Tabor near the Sea of Galilee, as Yeshua (Jesus) revealed the manifest glory of God within Himself on the Mount of Transfiguration!
And God still wasn’t done with Elijah!
The Book of Malachi is the last book in the Tanakh (Old Testament). It prophesies about Elijah receiving the grand honor of accompanying the Messiah when He comes to reign as King in His Messianic Kingdom on earth.
“Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the Lord Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them. But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves. Then you will trample on the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I act,” says the Lord Almighty.
“Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel.
“See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.” (Malachi 4)
The Messianic kingdom is the great hope of the Jewish People every day, every Shabbat, and every Passover.
And the return of Elijah, this once downcast, discouraged, and depressed prophet whom God redeemed out of the caves of Horeb is an integral part of that Messianic hope.
“May he soon come to us, with the Messiah son of David,” the Jewish People sing. (lyrics from Eliyahu HaNavi)
The Hope of Elijah’s Return
As the Biblical Festival of Passover starts next Friday night, Jewish families, Messianic Believers, and even some Christians will retell the story of Israel’s redemption from slavery in Egypt, as God instructed each generation to do (Exodus 13:3–16).
This telling (haggadah) happens at a ritual dinner known as a Seder. According to Jewish tradition, some families set an empty seat at the Seder table for Elijah. The door of the house is opened and they call out to Elijah — Eliyahu, Eliyahu! expecting the spirit of Elijah to enter and dine with the family.
In all households, a cup of wine is poured. It is the Cup of Elijah, but they do not drink it. Some children intently watch for ripples in the wine, a sign that Elijah has visited.
The family and friends at the table then sing Psalms 115–118 that, in part, express how they long for their final redemption:
“I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord.” (Psalm 116:13)
“The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; … Hosanna!—Lord, save us now! We beseech Thee. Lord, grant us success! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” (Psalm 118:22–26)
Waiting for Elijah All Year Long
At the closing of each Shabbat (Sabbath), there is a traditional ceremony called Havdalah (separation), which closes off the Shabbat and ushers in the new week.
Elijah and the coming Messianic Kingdom are remembered again in singing this prayer about him:
May Elijah the prophet,
Elijah the Tishbite,
Elijah of Gilead,
quickly in our day come to us
And every day, Orthodox Jews say prayers from a siddur (prayer book) after their meals which include a petition for Elijah:
“May the Merciful One send us Elijah the prophet—may he be remembered for good — and let him bring us good tidings, deliverance, and consolation.”
God redeemed and restored a victorious yet dejected servant into even higher service, and He wants to do the same for you. Elijah came out of his cave, and God is asking each of us to come out from under the covers and get back on the path God has for us.
If we continue hiding away, our service for the Lord is over.
But when we allow God to rebuild us through the talents, skills, and spiritual gifts that He has provided within the Body of Messiah, the church, we can find fulfillment or new vision. And we can see God’s healing power and give Him the praise.
Our passions may change, but our service is still for the Kingdom of God and that’s all that truly matters.
God has redeemed you, so that you can play a role in helping to redeem others. This starts with your families, neighbors, co-workers, and people you run into whether it is in the supermarket, coffee shop, or a parking lot.
The people you meet may call themselves “Christians” because they grew up with that title. Yet, as with most Jewish People, no one told them what God really did for them through the death and resurrection of Jesus.
They have never been reconciled to God through Yeshua (Jesus), nor have they been baptised in the Holy Spirit.
Elijah was sent to His people to reconcile them with God, so pray each day for God to give you boldness to reach the lost and even those who think that they are not lost — Jew and Gentile alike.
God wants to use you.
“We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us.” (2 Corinthians 5:20)