The angel of the Lord came...and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, else the journey will be too great for you.” And Elijah arose, and ate and drank, and went on in the strength of that food.
—1 Kings 19:7, 8
The great prophet Elijah seems to have been completely worn out, body and soul, by his flamboyant rout of the priests of Baal and his long exultant race before the chariot of Ahab. He was apparently unnerved by the unexpected threats of the powerful Jezebel, and in reaction fled into the wilderness in fear. By the time he got to Beersheba, all he could do was lie down in the shade of a broom tree to sleep, and wish to die.
God, however, had other plans for Elijah. The prophet may have thought his life was as good as over, but God sent an angel to rouse him from his self-pitying sleep and send him on his way to Horeb. Miraculously, there in the empty desert, Elijah found by his head a loaf of bread and a jar of water. The angel had to wake Elijah twice and order him to eat the bread and drink the water, but finally Elijah obeyed, and traveled in the strength of that food for forty days and forty nights to the mount of God.
And so it is with us. Sometimes, when we are worn out and sunk in a kind of self-destructive lethargy, God must wake us up and insist that we strengthen ourselves, and then send us on the road again.
Of course, for Christians, the most sustaining food for the journey is the Eucharist—the miraculously-provided bread is the Body of Christ.
The Uniting Church of Australia expresses this life-saving mystery in its Eucharistic liturgy: “We are a pilgrim people, always on the way toward a promised goal. On the way Christ feed us with word and sacrament...in order that we may not lose the way.”
Holy and life-giving God, you sustain us on our way as you sustained your prophet Elijah in the desert. You have given us the food and drink we need to remain your people. May we continue on the journey we have begun toward you, and go in the strength of what you give us.
Copyright ©2005 Deborah Smith Douglas.