To Live or To Die?
1 Kings 19:4-8
This passage is a little startling because we do not expect prophets to act like this. Here is Elijah giving up and asking to die because he feels worthless. It is even more surprising considering what has just happened (1 Kings 18). Elijah just had the showdown with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. He showed the people who is the true God, he destroyed the prophets of the false god, and then he announced the sending of rain which was three years in the making. What power! What goodness! Why does he now feel that it would be best for him to curl up and die? Is this how prophets act?
In our Wednesday night class this week, we encountered another prophet of God (if you will) who also faced death. In Philippians 1, Paul seems to be facing some sort of dilemma. Does he live or does he give into death? It is a tough choice for Paul because he knows that dying means going to be with Christ in heaven; but living means advancing the Gospel even more and encouraging the Philippian congregation in their walk. Both things are wonderful in the mind of Paul. Surely he has earned the right to go and be with Christ, but he sees that there is still more that he could do. Which to choose?
These two provide an interesting contrast with each other. Both have done great things, and both face a dilemma of continuing in that path or dying and receiving their reward. Ultimately, both continue living, but Paul does so of his choice and Elijah gets chastised by God (1 Kings 19:9-18). What we see is that Paul was unafraid to continue doing his work even though it might result in his death, and Elijah was afraid of dying for the work that he was doing (1 Kings 19:1-3). One’s faith emboldened him in the face of death, and the other’s faith was not enough to sustain him in that same moment. (We should not be too hard on Elijah for his moment of weakness. Clearly, God was pleased with him overall.)
These examples come to us, and we are encouraged to ask ourselves, “Which of these am I like?” In the face of death, am I going to quiver and quake, shrinking back from the task and begging God just to take my life quickly and painlessly? Or will I press forward regardless of the obstacles and the threats which I face, continuing to spread the Gospel and live out my faith until whatever end may come? As Paul goes onto encourage, we ought to have a mind like Christ, who became obedient even to the point of death—even death on a cross (Phil 2:8)! I hope that you can have such a faith, and I pray that God will strengthen you all the way until your journey’s end. -TL