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1 Kings 19:4-8

There’s a phrase that is often thrown around in Christendom that really has no Biblical validation. Honestly it doesn’t even have much of a place in our Wesleyan-Arminian tradition. And yet, from time to time some well-meaning pastor or lay person will fill the need to let someone in the midst of a chaotic or tragic time know that, “God will not give you more than you can handle.” I’m sure in our passage from 1 Kings today that this is exactly what Elijah needed to here, “Don’t worry Eli, God will not give you more than you can handle.” But before we jump into how this is a Biblical misnomer, let’s set the stage a bit.

Elijah has just come off of an amazing spiritual/political victory at Mt. Carmel. He has challenged the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah who sit at Jezebel’s table to a showdown. Not only that but he embarrassed them in what can only be conceived as the first documented case of trash-talk and then had the people of Israel help to put them to the sword. As if that weren’t enough he then ascends the mountain and announces the end of a three-year drought and sprints ahead of Ahab’s chariot just for kicks. All in all, a pretty incredible day for the prophet of YHWH. But then the threat comes. Jezebel, the pagan wife of the king of Israel, hears of what Elijah has done from her husband and makes the following threat in verse two, “Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah with this message: “May the gods do whatever they want to me if by this time tomorrow I haven’t made your life like the life of one of them.”[1]

This messenger or, mal’ak in Hebrew, and the tidings he brings cause Elijah to fear for his life and he takes off. He leaves the territory of Israel to the safety of Beer-sheba so he is safe from Jezebel’s wrath and then leaves his servant there. The text tells us he goes even further and then files this complaint before God, “It’s more than enough, Lord! Take my life because I’m no better than my ancestors.”[2] No better than your ancestors? Didn’t you just call a three-year drought into existence? Didn’t you just witness the greatest prophetic showdown in the history of prophetic showdowns? (For that matter it may be the only prophetic showdown in history) Didn’t you just put eight-hundred and fifty prophets to death in the Kidron valley? Didn’t you just witness the end to this drought and outsprint a chariot on the breath of God? And yet, “I’m no better than my ancestors.” It’s amazing what fear and anxiety can do to a person.

Our text continues with God’s provision. Elijah falls asleep under a bush and is suddenly awakened by a mal’ak, a heavenly messenger who has provided food and drink. Elijah gets up, eats, and then goes back to sleep. This happens a second time, but this time the address is a little different. I appreciate the NRSV translation at this point because the messenger says, ““Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.”[3] This journey will be too much for you. Not, “don’t worry, God won’t give you more than you c