-Sylvan A. Lashley
Scripture: 1 Kings 19:1-8
"And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done…then Jezebel sent a messenger…saying, ‘so let the gods do to me and more also, if I make not thy life as one of them…he arose and went for his life..O Lord, take away my life, for I am not better than my fathers…as he slept under a tree…an angel touched him anmd said, arise and eat".
Jezebel, oh Jezebel, thou voluptuous and tawdry woman of Ashtoreth and Astarte, daughter of Ethbaal, ancestor of Hannibal, worshipper of Baal, beautiful and forceful, reminder of fair but foul Cleopatra, who conquered the might of Caesar and Antony, thinkest thou to prevail against the Lord’s anointed? High point versus low point, in epic struggle, represents the picture in the great controversy of good versus evil in an evil world.
Today, we take a lesson from the story of Jezebel and Elijah, that wicked and beautiful woman whose life juxtaposed Elijah’s at the high point of his career. It is the crux of the saga, when high point meets low point, the high point of God’s grace and the low-point of Satan’s cunning, the high point of spiritual exhilaration and the low point of Elijah’ discouragement. It is the unfolding drama that gives us courage to carry on. We know how the story will end—a prophet whose exploits on Carmel have catapulted him upward, only to be challenged by a low point. It is at the high point of blessings sometimes that the low points of discouragement assail. Yet, we are assured that despite our running and retreat, there is a catchment at the end of the road, another high point, a veritable mountain of support and consolation. Elijah begins at a high point in Carmel, reaches a low point in the wilderness and an ultimate high point at Mt. Horeb where God speaks to him.
The details of the story are stark—Elijah has just conquered the evil and idolatry in Israel by the miraculous fire that comes down from heaven and consumes the sacrifice. The prophets of Baal are in disordered retreat; the camp is in righteous uproar, and Elijah singly metes out divine judgment by slaying 400 prophets; the rain begins to fall as the blessings return. He runs alongside the king’s chariot, but then alas that wicket despot of a woman, Jezebel enters the scene, at the highpoint of his career, at a time when God is with Him. “So shall it be with thee tomorrow as it was with the prophets today”, she says. Elijah cowers and runs hard to the wilderness. His courage fails. Like Peter, who began walking on the water, he saw self in his humanity and not Jesus and begs to die, until an angel revives him, twice with food and drink. He then runs again but this time to the Rock, to Horeb. An epic struggle, from Carmel to Horeb, a wilderness of despair between.
So is it in the Christian life. At our times of illustrious high points, the devil is wont to tempt and snare, to entrap. Let us guard the portals of our soul with care, lest the moments of victory be snatched away. Yet, if we begin at Carmel, and enter the wilderness of discouragement, remember that there is a Mount Horeb where God awaits, at the end of our journey. I take a leaf from an unknown author:
“Let conquerors boast of their fields of fame. He who in virtue arms
A young warm spirit against beauty’s charms
Who feels her brightness, yet defies her thrall
Is the best, bravest conqueror of them all”
Elijah prevails in the end, prophet versus queen, good versus evil, for in the end, good always triumphs. Yet it is he who reaches the tape that gains the reward, for the race is not for the swiftest, but he who endures to the end shall be saved. Duly, our reward is in heaven.
Today, at USC, I take my encouragement from this story. What about you in your moment of high point? Remember that at the edge of every high point, there can be a lowpoint, but after the lowpoint, comes Horeb, where God awaits you.