Elijah had had enough. He left his servant at Beer-sheba, walked a day’s journey into the desert, and sat down to die. What was going through his head? “O Lord, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.” He prayed, then lay down under the juniper tree and waited. The sun beat down on the bare earth, and Elijah watched the shadows crawl. A dust devil drifted aimlessly by, then dissipated as it passed a grizzled bush. “Yes, just like that,” he thought, “back to dust.” Elijah was done. There was nothing left to do. Elijah was as close to God as a person can be on earth, right? What would explain this level of depression?
Elijah had proved to his people, in the most spectacular fashion imaginable, that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God who had led them out of Egypt, was the only true God and as real today as He had ever been. Elijah had gathered all the people to watch as he settled the question with the priests of Baal. Four hundred fifty priests of Baal had set their altar, prayed, danced, and yelled all morning and all afternoon, even let out their own blood, with no result but growing hoarse and looking foolish. Elijah then had walked to his altar, called to his God, and fire from the sky had consumed the offering, vaporized the water in the trench, and melted the rocks underneath. If that did not convince Israel, nothing would. He could turn the earth into a sea of glass, and the point would not be any more clear. Of course, the people had prostrated themselves and confessed. They had obeyed his order to kill the lying priests of Baal. Yet just hours later, it was as though none of this had occurred. A message came from Jezebel that she was going to kill him, as though Jehovah were merely a rival to her pathetic throne. Israel had wondered at his display, but still seemed utterly deaf to their covenant with God. What more could he possibly do? Elijah went to the desert and waited to die. Is this an example of sorrowing for the sins of the world? Elijah’s encounter with the grief that made the heavens weep?
An angel woke him, and bread appeared from nowhere: “Arise and eat.” “Very well,” Elijah said, “I am yours alive or dead, but I am ready to die.” He ate and lay back down. He ate again, walked forty days to Horeb without hunger, found a cave, and lay back down. “Go forth and stand,” said the Lord, and a wind rent the rocks, but Elijah knew the Lord like he knew his own breath. “Yes, Lord,” he said, but lay on the ground. “Go forth,” said the Lord, and the earth shook, but Elijah knew the Lord like he knew his own pulse. “Yes, Lord,” he said, but lay on the ground. “Go forth,” said the Lord, and sent a blazing fire, but Elijah knew the Lord like the heat of his own skin. “Yes, Lord,” he said, but lay still on the ground. Could it be that even to a prophet, such miracles eventually fail to leave an impression? Then came a still, small voice: “Elijah,” he heard, and it pricked his heart. He arose and went.
The Hebrews, after being freed from Egypt by the plagues and the parting of the Red Sea, build a golden calf in the wilderness because Moses takes too long, talking with God on the mountain. In 3 Nephi 1, even as greater and greater miracles are being performed among them, people doubt the prophecies of Christ’s birth. Christ comes, and they turn around. Then just three years later (3 Nephi 2:1-3), they “wax strong in wickedness”!