I have wandered a day’s journey into the wilderness and have sat down, discouraged and empty, under a broom tree. I’ve enjoyed a great few weeks of holiday, rest, time with family and friends. I’ve been greatly encouraged seeing the Lord at work in me and in others. I’ve sung my heart out with that deep, from the guts kind of bursting feeling, and gladly and happily shared with people how kind and good Jesus is. It’s been wonderful… But as I think about the coming weeks, I’m fearful. I don’t want to face the challenges that lie ahead, and I know I don’t have the resources and skills I need! I would rather just stay here, right where I am, in the dusty, dry wilderness, and let life pass me by. I feel sleepy…
Somewhere along the way, in all my joyful praising and delighting and enjoying and serving, I’ve taken my eyes off Jesus. I know that is the case, because I am sitting under a tree, thinking it would be better to stay here and rest in the shade.
Whilst Elijah slept under his tree, exhausted and afraid, and as I hide away under mine, the Lord doesn’t sleep. He comes to the tree – not to hastily disrupt the sleeper – Elijah, me, anyone else who identifies with these sleepy, fearful moments – not to get us on the road. He doesn’t come to give us a sharp talking to, or motivate us to get to work. He comes and he lights a fire, fetches some water, flour and oil. He gets down on his knees, and over hot stones, he bakes some cakes. Gently he wakes the sleeper and invites us to eat our fill and drink water. When we lie down and drift off to sleep again, he wakes us a second time and speaks words of comfort – ‘I know the journey is too great for you. Here, eat this, and drink a little of this water.’
Here’s how the Bible tells it.
And he [Elijah] lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.” And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again. And the angel of the LORD came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.
(1 Kings 19:5-8)
Isn’t that so like him? Jesus who is for you, for me, for fearful people like Elijah. He is the Lord who gives us what we do not have. The Sent One who stoops to serve the weak and doubting, even as we resist the joyful walk with him that he has called us to. And what a difference that makes to looking ahead! Where does my strength come from? Who is my hope in? What hope do I have?!