What’s Elijah Doing under a Juniper Tree Praying to Die?

It’s a pitiful picture—Elijah under a juniper tree praying to die. How did he get there?

Ahab had become king of Israel, and he was a bad actor, doing “more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him.” His wife, Jezebel, was a good match for him—wicked through and through.

Elijah enters the scene, a mighty prophet sent by God to inform Ahab there would be no dew or rain for a few years. After Elijah confronted the king, the Lord told him to hide in a ravine east of the Jordan River. He’d ordered ravens to feed him, and he could drink from the brook.

When the brook dried up from lack of rain, the Lord told Elijah to relocate to Zarephath of Sidon, where he had commanded a widow to provide him with food.

Huge problem: the widow had no bread and only a handful of flour and a little oil. She planned to make a meal for herself and her son, expecting they would then die.

Elijah instructed her to make a small cake of bread first and bring it to him before making something for herself and her son. “For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord gives rain on the land.’”

The widow did as the prophet said, and every day Elijah, the woman, and her family had food.

Later, in a surprising turn of events, the son died! While the mother’s heart blamed the man of God, Elijah carried the boy to the room where he was staying and cried out to God to let his life return. And that’s what happened.

Pretty incredible stuff, don’t you think? And Elijah just kept making a name for himself. You’ll want to read the story (1 Kings 17-19), but here’s the short version.

The Lord sent Elijah back to Ahab with another message: “I will send rain on the land.” Jezebel had been killing the Lord’s prophets, unaware that Obadiah—who was in charge of the palace and a devout believer in the Lord—had hidden 100 prophets and provided them food and water.Brave Elijah, thinking he was the only prophet left, called on Ahab to summon 850 prophets of his false gods to Mount Carmel for a test to determine whether those gods were true. The prophets would prepare a bull and put it on wood on an altar but not set it afire. He would do the same. He said, “The god who answers by fire—he is God.”

From morning till time for the evening sacrifice, the prophets called on their god. “But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.”

What Elijah did could be called overkill. After building an altar to the Lord, he dug a large trench around it, cut a bull into pieces, and laid it on the wood. He then commanded the people to bring four large jars filled with water and pour on the offering and the wood—three times. Water ran down and filled the trench.

It was time to call on his God. “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command…Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.

“When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, ‘The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!’” Elijah commanded them to seize the prophets, bring them to the Kishon Valley, and slaughter them. He told Ahab to expect rain…and soon a heavy rain fell.

When Ahab told his dear wife what Elijah had done, she sent a messenger to Elijah saying he would be dead “by this time tomorrow.” What did this mighty spokesman do, this prophet who had just won a major victory declaring the power of God?

“Elijah was afraid and ran for his life.” In the desert he sat under a juniper tree praying. “I have had enough, Lord…Take my life…” Then he fell asleep.

A pitiful picture. But Elijah isn’t frozen in that scene, like Jonah under the withering gourd vine (see last week’s post https://diannebarker.com/?p=928).

An angel awakened him and told him to get up and eat. He saw a cake of bread and a jar of water. After his meal, he took another nap. Again the angel awakened him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.”

He traveled forty days and nights to Horeb, the mountain of God, where the word of the Lord came to him, giving him another assignment. He had more work to do!

Have you had that conversation? “I’ve had enough, Lord!” Sometimes the journey is too much for us. Click To Tweet

Have you had that conversation? “I’ve had enough, Lord!” Sometimes the journey is too much for us. We’ve been faithful, following the Lord wholeheartedly, only to be left baffled by the outcome and weary of the task. Enough!

I’ve had that feeling…but here’s what I know. God is God. And he’s doing something that will ultimately work for my good. When my way seems dark and confusing, I can wallow in despair or I can keep moving forward, trusting the voice that assures me, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it’” (Isaiah 30:21).

I’ve staked my life on that assurance. And the Lord has never failed me. Or forsaken me. Isn’t that what he promised?

“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

So what are you doing under that juniper tree?

*Scriptures from NIV

Would you tell me about your experience under the juniper tree? Please leave a comment. And I’d appreciate your sharing this with your friends!

2 responses to “What’s Elijah Doing under a Juniper Tree Praying to Die?”

  1. Thank you, my sweet forever-friend! You have blessed my journey. I pray for an abundance of joy as you keep walking with Jesus, knowing his almighty hands hold you securely and his love is unending!

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