I KIngs 18 is an exciting read.
The people of God are living in a time of mixed allegiances. In Judah, King Asa is faithful to God, but in Israel, Ahab reigns with his idolatrous wife Jezebel. In Judah, idol worship is being abolished, while in Israel, Ahab "did more to provoke the Lord to anger than did all the kings of Israel before him." (I Kings 16:33)
This courageous prophet of God proclaims a drought in Israel, and vows in God's name that no rain will fall until he gives the word. (I Kings 17:1) The drought indeed occurs, and Elijah rides it out by the brook in the Kerith Ravine, being fed by ravens who bring him food twice a day. When the brook dries up because of the drought, Elijah moves on and meets a widow who supplies him with food. Despite having only enough flour and oil for one last meal, her supplies miraculously never run out, and last until the drought is over. Elijah also raises this woman's son from the dead, by the power of God.
In I Kings 18, Elijah's most memorable moment occurs, when he openly challenges the people of Israel to no longer "waver between two opinions" and to make a choice between God and Baal. Elijah proposes a contest to see whose God responds to a call to burn up a sacrifice left out on an altar.
The stage is set for one of the most powerful moments witnessed by the people of God: Mt. Carmel, with Elijah on one side, opposed by 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah on the other.
1 vs. 850, with a standing-room-only crowd in attendance, hanging on each moment.
The outcome is an exhilarating victory for God's faithful, and a humiliation for the 850 idol-worshipers. When it's over, Elijah does not spare the prophets of Baal and Asherah, but puts them to death.
Elijah calls an end to the drought and tells King Ahab to hitch up his chariot and get back to the town of Jezreel before the rain comes. Elijah gives Ahab a head start, then runs at a dead sprint, outpacing Ahab's chariot, and beating him back to town.
Up to this point, Elijah's ministry has been a more or less uninterrupted string of successes: Calling and ending a drought, supplying miraculous food, raising a son from the dead, proving God's supremacy in front of an entire nation, going Jesse Owens on King Ahab. No challenge has proven to be too great, not even 850 enemies all gathered together against him at once. He was undefeated, and unbeatable.
Then came Jezebel.
The pagan wife of King Ahab gets wind of what happened to the prophets of Baal and Asherah, and swears in the name of her idols that Elijah will pay with his life by the same time the next day. And...
Elijah laughs with scorn.
Elijah mocks the queen.
Elijah marches straight into the throne room and dares the queen to do her worst.
Elijah counters her idolatrous threat with a threat of his own, in the name of Jehovah.
The queen swallows her threat and drops dead by the power of God.
Israel returns to her faithful Father!
The fact is, Elijah receives word of Jezebel's threat, and is scared out of his wits. He runs out into the desert alone, sits under a tree, and prays for death. An angel of God leads Elijah another 40 days' walk, until he arrives at Mt. Horeb, the place where God had provided water from a rock for the children of Israel as they escaped Egypt.
Once there, Elijah cries out to God that, after all he has done, he alone is left faithful to God, and that now his life is sought by his enemies.
God shows Elijah His presence, assures him that 7,000 remain faithful to God in Israel, and gives Elijah instructions: Anoint Hazael king over Aram, anoint Jehu king over Israel, and anoint Elisha to replace you as prophet. Not long after, Elijah is taken to heaven in a whirlwind, and Elisha becomes the new prophet of God.
If only one part of this story could be different. If only Elijah had not been afraid of Jezebel! Why was he so afraid of her? Why did he run and avoid the confrontation with her? Why did he not see that the same God who had supplied all his victories, the most recent of which had just occurred that very day, would also supply all his need against this pagan queen?
What is the worst that could have happened? Jezebel could indeed have killed Elijah, and he would have gone to the presence of God, which is exactly where he went anyway. The worst-case scenario still lands him in heaven! Why did he not see this?
It's easy for us to judge, all these years later, but why? Why did he run? Why was he afraid?
Scripture doesn't explain this; we're simply told that he was afraid.
In reality, most of us can relate. Most of us have experienced a fear of something or someone that was so intense, it eclipsed all of God's previous victories on our behalf. A fear that caused a quick reaction to flee, without even a moment's thought of God.
Most of us have Jezebels of our own.
What does it say about us, that we are so prone to fear things God has already overcome in our lives? So prone to forget the strength that comes with having the presence of God in our lives?
How do we explain to God:
*The wrong we refuse to right, because we are afraid of the conversation we would have to have with someone?
*The temptation we refuse to separate ourselves from, because we are afraid of alienating someone?
*The stand we refuse to take, because we are afraid of what people will say?
*The soul we watch destroying itself, because we are afraid of getting involved?
*The victories we forget, and the fears we preserve?
*Listening to Satan more than we listen to Him?
Who is your Jezebel?