But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, “It is enough! Now, LORD, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!”
Then as he lay and slept under a broom tree, suddenly an angel touched him, and said to him, “Arise and eat.” Then he looked, and there by his head was a cake baked on coals, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank, and lay down again. And the angel of the LORD came back the second time, and touched him, and said, “Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you.”
So he arose, and ate and drank; and he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights as far as Horeb, the mountain of God. And there he went into a cave, and spent the night in that place (1 Kings 19:4-9 NKJV).
The dry and arid wilderness south of Beersheva where Elijah traveled is harsh and inhospitable. God takes people into the wilderness in the Bible. It serves as His classroom. Yet, often before they encounter Him in the wilderness, they find themselves overcome with the despair of their situation.
The wilderness functioned as a place of self-confrontation. Elijah came face-to-face with himself in the wilderness. How? Because in the wilderness, one meets silence. It brings you into contact with yourself. Sometimes we have to confront ourselves before we can encounter God.
Have you noticed that our world fills our lives with noise and busyness? God often had to lead the prophet outside of civilization to quiet the noise; then the prophet could hear Him.
We don’t need much in life. We think we do, but when we lose our health, source of support, and/or shelter, we realize what really matters. The desert reduces one to the bare essentials. It returns us to soft, malleable clay that God can shape.
There are no self-made people in the desert. Elijah had just called fire down from heaven. He ran to Jezreel before the chariot of Ahab thinking that he would have a warm reception. Instead, Jezebel threatened to kill him, so he ran to the desert.
He needed to be reminded that a self-made person does not exist in the desert. The angel of the Lord provided His nourishment. A person who has spent time in the desert realizes how small and powerless they truly are.
The desert can also remove our sharp edges. Once we confront ourselves, we can finally hear God—and return to allowing Him to teach and shape us. We can learn the lessons He desires to impart to us. But we have to go into the wilderness.
Father, no one likes the hardship of the wilderness, but that’s where You teach and shape us. May we learn what You want to impart. May we hear Your voice and grow into the servants You want us to be. Amen.