At first glance these words don’t sound all that encouraging. It’s like saying to someone running a marathon, “You’ll never make it to the finish line, the distance is too great for you.” Although that’s not want the marathon runner needs to hear, it was exactly what the prophet Elijah needed to hear. And, it’s what we need to hear in our journey as followers of Jesus.
At the lowest point in his life, Elijah needed a word from God. In spite of his awesome victory over the false prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, and the revelation of God’s power in answer to his prayer for rain to end the seven-year drought, Elijah sank into a dark hole of depression and self-pity. Feeling alone and worthless, he wanted to die. At that moment, God’s word came to him through the angel who said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” (1 Kings 19:7)
What journey? Where was the Prophet going? His destination was a cave on Mount Horeb – the place where he finally heard a “still small voice” calling him back into service, and back to the place where God would use him again. These words served as the Prophet’s wake up call! God provided exactly what he needed at that moment in his journey.
The Bible is full of stories of great men and women who have experienced something similar to what Elijah experienced. For example, Moses was on a course of certain burnout, when God provided a wise father-in-law by the name of Jethro. After seeing Moses attending to the needs of the people day after day, Jethro said, “What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.” Moses heeded his advice and set up a system of leadership to take care of the needs of the Israelites. (Exodus 18:13-27)
Simon Peter, the great Apostle of the early Church, needed something a little different when his journey was in danger of taking a wrong turn. After leading the Church to accept and welcome non-Jewish believers, and after standing firm against racial and religious prejudice, he caved in to the pressures of his peers by refusing to eat with the Gentiles. A younger and less experienced leader in the church by the name of Paul called him out. Boldly and courageously, Paul confronted Peter with his hypocrisy. (Galatians 2:11-21) When the journey became too much for Peter, God provided exactly what he needed, a firm rebuke from a loving brother.
I’m also reminded of one of the greatest figures in the Old Testament, King David. Although God described him as “a man after my own heart” (Acts 13:22), he too faltered in his journey. His adulterous affair with Bathsheba, and the brutal cover-up of his sin, was perhaps the lowest point in his journey. He was totally off course and out of fellowship with God. At that moment, God provided what David needed, a prophet to call him to repentance and restoration. David’s prayer in Psalm 51 reveals the impact of this divine intervention in his journey.
The journey we are on is too great for all of us; but God is faithful. He knows the journey we are on, and will provide what we need at the moment we need it. Whether our need is for food and rest, wise guidance and counsel, a loving rebuke from a friend, or soul wrenching call to repentance, His provision is always on time and on target.
If one day, we hope to say, as the Apostle Paul said, “I have finished the course, I have kept the faith,” we must, 1) embrace the truth that the journey is too great for us, 2) humbly receive God’s gracious intervention, and 3) remember God’s awesome promise, “Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go!” (Joshua 1:9)
Where are you on your journey? Where has God intervened in your life recently? Take a moment to thank Him for bringing into your life exactly what you needed to complete your journey. If perhaps you are at a crossroads where you need Him to step in, I invite you to “seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near.” (Isaiah 55:6)