Queen Jezebel was furious. While the rest of the nation rejoiced that the rain had come and the drought was over, she had killing on her mind. She missed the point of Elijah’s victory on Mount Carmel and she was unwilling to join the others in admitting that her gods were false and Elijah’s God was true (see 18:39). Elijah, as the human agent of God’s judgment, had executed Jezebel’s prophets, and she wanted revenge. She sent word to Elijah that she was going to kill him — and he knew that it was no idle threat.
So the great prophet, the rugged man of God who had boldly stood against the majority and gone toe-to-toe with evil, “ran for his life” (v.3). Really? After what Elijah had experienced, why would he run away like a frightened child? What a contrast: the prophet standing on the mountain praying down fire from heaven and the fearful man curled up under a tree praying to die. What happened?
My opinion is that Elijah was tired and discouraged. The physical and emotional fatigue of Mount Carmel had left him vulnerable to depression. I love the fact that the Lord did not rebuke Elijah for that, but rather understood it and helped him through it by giving him four things he would need to recover and continue with his ministry.
First, the Lord gave Elijah rest (sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is take a nap and eat a good meal). He even sent an angel to cook for him! Second, the Lord gave Elijah a fresh encounter with Him. At Horeb (a.k.a. Mount Sinai), a place where He had historically spoken to His people, the Lord led Elijah through a process of verbalizing the grief, loneliness, and discouragement he was feeling (twice, v.10, 14). Then He spoke to the man — not in a fire like He had on Mount Carmel, but in a low whisper, the gentle, comforting voice of the Holy Spirit that can only be heard in the quietness of a humbled heart.
Third, the Lord gave Elijah a plan (v.15-18): he was to anoint two kings who would be the human instruments of divine judgment. Elijah was not going to be alone in God’s sovereign plan. Fourth, the Lord gave Elijah an assistant, a man named Elisha who would be his successor. Elijah learned quickly that Elisha was the kind of man who was willing to make a strong commitment of faith; killing his oxen meant that he was following Elijah with no option of turning back. When Elijah was down and out, God gave him just what he needed. What a good, good God!