The Road to the Juniper Tree

📅 February 20, 2022

This is Part III of the series on Elijah, which began on January 23 [I Kings 17], and continued with Part II on January 30 [I Kings 18], which concluded with abundant rain falling, ending the years-long drought, and with Elijah’s outrunning King Ahab’s chariot.

The story might have ended there with Elijah’s triumph. After years alone at the brook Cherith, and then facing down 850 prophets of Baal, and calling down fire from Heaven at Mount Carmel, what more did Elijah have to prove?

He was at the top of his game. He was a man of faith, a man of prayer, a man of courage and conviction, bold, and intrepid.

Yet, all it took was one mean woman to undo him.  

Act III [I Kings 19], unfortunately, begins with Jezebel.

I Kings 19 begins with Ahab telling Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had slain the prophets of Baal. Jezebel promptly dispatched a message to the prophet, which stated:

v. 2-4 …So let the gods do to me…if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time. And when [Elijah] saw that, he arose, and went for his life…and went a day’s journey into the wilderness and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might; and said, It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.

Have you, friend, “been there”?

Did you reach a certain milestone…say, the age of 30 or 40 perhaps…and analyze your life, and conclude: “This is not how I thought things would turn out. I don’t feel secure. I don’t feel wise. I don’t feel strong. I thought I would. In fact, I’m surrounded by people, but I feel alone.”

Feeling alone, while surrounded with people, is far worse than “feeling alone,” when you actually are alone.

This is how Elijah felt. We know that because he said so…more than once.

I Kings 19:10 “I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life to take it away.”

He had been saying that to himself for a long, long time.

Look back to the brook Cherith. There is Elijah…alone by the brook. He doesn’t state the fact here. At least, it is not recorded that he did. But is it not logical to conclude at the end of a day as the sun went down and the sky grew dark, and even the ravens which had brought his dinner, had flown away, that Elijah sat down by the brook, which was drying up, by the way, and thought,

“I, even I only, am here by the brook.”

This is likely, is it not?

Look back to Mount Carmel in I Kings 18:21, when Elijah addressed the children of Israel, and demanded to know, “How long halt ye between two opinions?”

He followed with:  

I Kings 18: 22 I, even I only, remain a prophet of the Lord.”

Now look at Elijah under the juniper tree.

I Kings 19: 5-10 He is so exhausted he sleeps. An angel wakes him and tells him to get up and eat. Elijah finds a cake baked for him. [Here is another cake, baked for him to meet his need. This time an angel bakes it, rather than a widow.] He eats, and goes back to sleep. The angel wakes him again. He eats again, and goes on in the strength of that meal for forty days and nights till he reaches Horeb, and he finds a cave and settles down there. And the Lord appears to Elijah, and asks him what he was doing there.

Elijah tells the Lord he has been very jealous for Him, because the children of Israel have forsaken their covenant with God, thrown down his altars, slain his prophets with the sword,

I Kings 19:11. “And I, even I only, am left: and they seek my life to take it away.”

He repeats this word-for-word in verse 14.

Here again Elijah repeats the same message he’s been repeating through victory and defeat, through good times, and bad, when he has plenty and when he has nothing, when it’s raining, and when there’s a drought, when he’s outrunning Ahab, and running from Jezebel.  

“I’m alone.”

And God tells him in I Kings 19:18:

Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel which have not bowed to Baal.

This story eventually ends with Elijah’s anointing of Elisha to take his place, and the grisly death, not of the prophet, but of the wicked queen Jezebel.

In short: Elijah was not the only one left, he had many more victories ahead. He was one of the few men who went to Heaven without dying.

There is much to be learned and embraced from these three chapters, which are particularly relevant at the present time, when we are still reeling to some degree from the way we have had to live for the past two…now going on…three years.

Lessons to be learned:

I Kings 17 When your “brook dries up,” there is a good reason. If you can’t figure out what it is, trust God. Someday you will find out, and when you do, it will make perfect sense. If you never find out,  then accept that “the secret things belong to the Lord our God.” Deuteronomy 29:29  

Just about the time you are gathering “two sticks” so you cake bake a cake and “eat it and die,” as the poor widow woman said, “bake a cake” for your visitor first. Your “oil and meal” will be resupplied.

I Kings 18 Remember: “you have to be fed by the birds before you can outrun a horse.”

I Kings 19 Even at the peak of success, you may face another trial you are too exhausted to face. When you do, be careful how you talk to yourself. You’re not “the only one left.” If you have to withdraw to a tree or a cave (figuratively speaking), as Elijah did, then do so. He felt better after he slept. He felt better after he ate. And God did not chide him for his exhaustion. He had more and better days ahead for his beleaguered servant. And in spite of all Elijah’s doubts and misgivings, God allowed him the privilege of standing alongside Moses and Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration.

Are you under the juniper tree today?

Talk to God, rather than talking to yourself. Or, if you must talk to yourself, follow David’s example. Like Elijah, David repeated the same problem many times, but he also repeated the solution.  

Psalms 42:5 Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.

Psalms 42:11  Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.

Psalms 43:5 Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.

When you are convinced you’re “the only one,” but hope in God, and yet praise Him.

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Holly Bebernitz

Native Texan Holly Bebernitz moved to Jacksonville, Florida in 1967. After thirty years of teaching speech, English, and history on the secondary and college levels, she retired from classroom teaching to become a full-time grandmother. The change in schedule allowed the time needed to complete the novel she had begun writing in 1998. When Trevorode the Defender was published in March 2013, the author realized the story of the Magnolia Arms was not yet complete.

 

Semi-Finalist - 2021 Royal Palm Literary Award Competition - Florida Writer's Association