Under the Broom Tree

What are you doing here?” – 1 Kings 19:9 (NIV)

“I have had enough, LORD,” Elijah whined as he dropped under the broom tree, “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors” (1 Kings 19:4).

What was it that reduced a powerful man of God to a sniveling wimp cowering in the caves of the Mid-Eastern wilderness? He’d just come off an astounding victory against 850 false prophets in a daylong mountaintop duel, then ran 16 miles, on supernatural strength, preceding the thundercloud that would end a three-and-a-half-year drought.

Why, after such a dazzling display of God’s power, was he ready to throw in the mantle?

An evil queen threatened to kill him.

So why didn’t he trust God to take care of this situation, as he had all the other times?

Because Elijah was human. Because he was discouraged and depressed. The Mount Carmel victory wasn’t a shutout. Queen Jezebel, although she lost all her prophet puppets, still spewed evil from the throne. The source of the nation’s corruption was still alive and threatening.

Discouragement and depression can weaken the strongest—even those who count on God to provide victory against a world of sin. Elijah was in the midst of an effective, powerful ministry when he fled.

Perhaps he thought the Mount Carmel episode would put an end to the depravity that blighted Israel. Perhaps he thought he’d finally “arrived”—and was, by his own words, “better than my ancestors.” Perhaps he forgot that the miracles wrought and the triumphs won were not achieved through his own power. He was but a conduit of El Shaddai.

What he didn’t see was that his ministry wasn’t an end in itself—it was a link in a chain.

God, in His mercy and compassion, was gentle with his overwrought servant. First He sent an angel to nourish Elijah’s worn-out body. Then, after Elijah plodded hundreds of wilderness miles on foot, after 40 days and 40 nights with no food, as he huddled in a dark, damp cave on Mount Horeb, God asked him a simple question: “What are you doing here?”

The omniscient God didn’t ask because He needed an answer. When God asks a question, it’s because He wants to point something out to us.

Elijah had abandoned the ministry field and was in full retreat. Rather than chastise the discouraged prophet, God reminded him that, contrary to what he thought, he was not alone: seven thousand Israelites remained faithful.

“Go back,” God commanded Elijah. Then He gave him a vision for the future: two others would provide political leadership in the next generation, and Elijah would be given an assistant, a prophet-in-training to take over when the time came to pass on the mantle of ministry.

I, too, can get so discouraged at times I want to quit— quit teaching Bible study, quit writing, quit the ministries God has called me to. I don’t see the results I expect for all my efforts, and it seems I’m expending precious time and energy for nothing.

Ministry is a heavy mantle, and God has called us all to be His ministers in one way or another (Matthew 25:35–40; 28:18–20). Times of deep discouragement and despair will come, and our wilderness caves invite us to retreat in self-imposed solitary confinement.

But the One who called us will not leave us there alone. He will nourish us, comfort us, encourage us, and, when we are ready, send us back to the ministry He has called us to.

Thank You, Lord, for the wilderness experiences that remind me that You and You alone are the source of the power I need to serve You. Amen.

Read and reflect on 1 Kings 19.

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea: 101 devotional readings to savor during your time with God © 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

Wanna Get Away?


Mount Horeb
Photo courtesy of Getty Center [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
He traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. –1 Kings 19:8 NIV

Twice in my adult life I ran away from home. I just needed to get away by myself for a while and hide from the disappointments, ongoing issues, life pressures, and perceived failure that had driven me to an all-time low. The issues, I knew, wouldn’t magically disappear when I returned, but a time-out, I hoped, would refresh, renew, and restore my energy, enthusiasm, and dreams.

The first time I went to my brother’s home in Alabama for a week. There I read, rested, ate nutritional food (the only kind they keep in the house), prayed, and rested … oh, wait, I said that. But resting my body, mind, and soul were vital to recovery, restoration, and renewal.

The second time I fled to a mountain cabin that was a special place when I was growing up. Now owned by close friends, the cabin is a healing place. There I rested, sat on the porch swing and listened to the wind in the trees and the birds squawking, put together a jigsaw puzzle, read, and ate microwave meals because I didn’t want to cook. After only three days, I was ready to return home.

The thing about running away: there’s something you’re running away from and something you’re running to.

I wonder—when Elijah fled Queen Jezebel, did he consciously set out for Mount Horeb?

Also known as the mountain of God, Horeb, better known as Mount Sinai, was the place where God called to Moses out of the burning bush with a challenging assignment and where, not too long after, He gave Moses the Ten Commandments. And it was here He met Elijah.

He was gentle with his overwrought, exhausted servant.

Exhaustion affects us not only physically, but also mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Exhaustion skews our perspective and judgment. So God addressed Elijah’s exhaustion first by giving him rest and refreshment.

Then He asked him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Note that when Elijah answered God, he magnified the problem and minimized the good. Isn’t that what we tend to do when we’re exhausted and overwhelmed?

Then God gently corrected him, instructed him to return to his ministry, and gave him a helper.

Notice what God didn’t do:

  • He didn’t desert him.
  • He didn’t chastise him for lack of faith.
  • He didn’t tell him to man up.
  • He didn’t preach a sermon.
  • He didn’t tell him that things weren’t as bad as he thought, that he had a lot to be thankful for, that he should be ashamed of himself . . . yadda, yadda, yadda.
  • He didn’t release him from his calling.

What God did do was nourish him, sustain him, counsel him, and instruct him.

Just as God met Elijah at his point of deepest need, He’ll meet you at yours.

What are you running from? Who are you running to?

Where is your Mount Horeb?

Thank You, loving God, for meeting me at my point of deepest need. Amen.

Read and meditate on 1 Kings 19:1–18.

© 2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.