This portion begins with a prophet on the run. No, he wasn’t necessarily running from his ministerial calling and no, he didn’t get swallowed by a large sea mammal. This prophet is Elijah, and Jezebel, the idolatrous queen of Israel, was seeking to take his life. Now, if one were to read this relatively small portion of scripture without the backdrop of recent events, one is destined to miss the significance of the story at hand. I assume that many are familiar with the story in the previous chapter, where Elijah proves that Yahweh alone is God by defeating the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel. This results in the people repenting and proclaiming, “Yahweh, He is God! Yahweh, He is God!” and the execution of the false prophets.
Joan Comay, in her biographical encyclopedia of biblical figures, calls this victory, “the most dramatic moment in the centuries of struggle between Hebrew monotheism and the seductive pagan cults that constantly eroded it.” This is a colossal victory for the prophet and for the Yahwistic faith.
Knowing the story that precedes chapter 19, it seems rather odd that after such an iconic victory, the victor tucks his tail between his legs and chooses to run from the one whom he has just defeated. As he is fleeing death from Jezebel, Elijah ironically wishes death upon himself. It seems as though the prophet has just experienced a crisis of faith, a personal meltdown, and an anxiety attack that has left him with suicide-like inclinations. While Elijah’s perception is that he is still alone even after his victory at Mount Carmel, it is clear that he is not alone. Elijah also fails to remember the 100 prophets that Obadiah hid from Jezebel in the previous chapter. As Elijah’s mind begins to veer off of reality, he becomes encapsulated by a pessimism that colludes the truth of his situation. In doing so, he emphatically states his perceived spiritual solitude, twice.
Psychological research provides fascinating insight into both positive and negative thoughts occurring in the human brain. Positive thoughts can easily slip through the brain insignificantly unless intently reflected upon. We might think of these as Teflon-like, analogously speaking. Negative thoughts, however, can have much more of an effortless impression on our psyche, thus could be thought of as Velcro material. They stick much easier. Knowing that our thoughts have immense influence on our attitude and actions, it is important that we remember to focus and meditate on the positive and truthful things. Paul seems to exhort believers in a relevant way, “...whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise; think about such things,” (Phil. 4:8) and similarly, “…we take every thought captive to obey Christ” (1 Cor. 10:5b).
This Haftarah portion of scripture speaks to feelings of aloneness one might have in their life. In Elijah’s struggle of pessimism, Yahweh reassures him that there are others like him that have not succumbed to the sin of idolatry. Not only does Yahweh bring hope by reminding Elijah of the truthfulness of his situation, that in fact Elijah is not alone, but the chapter ends by Yahweh going a step further and manifesting this truth to Elijah in the form of Elisha. A physical sign of hope that will prompt Elijah to remember that he is not alone. Elisha will become the prophetic scion that inherits Elijah’s ministry. One whom Elijah has discipled himself and one whom Elijah trusts will be faithful in keeping his vision of seeing Israel prosper and remain faithful to Yahweh.
In our walk with Messiah, there will be times of perceived loneliness. When our closest friends, extended family members, or peers might not be on the same walk as us, thoughts of spiritual loneliness become easy to cling to and can in many cases become intrusive. These feelings of aloneness and isolation can become a normal thing in our lives. However, when we encounter the promises of the God of Israel and the faithfulness of Yeshua, the narrative we find ourselves within tells us a completely different story. This story tells us that Yeshua, God in the flesh, is amongst us, living in us, will not leave us, and has gone above and beyond to show us that we are not alone.