Elijah's Singular Request
1 Kings 19:4
But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree…

These words every way are remarkable. They proceed from a certain state of the mind, which is not common. The words are remarkable, considering the person who uttered them. They were uttered by the bold and brilliant Elijah. If we consider further the time the words were uttered, they are equally remarkable. It was just after the extraordinary manifestation of Carmel. One would have thought, after such a manifestation of the Divine presence and decided triumph, that he never would have been so shorn of courage, and cast down into such deep depression. These words, though spoken in ancient days, and come down to us through many ages; yet they contain certain pictures in human thought and feeling, which are found more or less everywhere. They are true expressions of the human soul in certain conditions, and our business here will be to mention some of the things which are common to all ages, and more or less to all people.

I. THE SOUL'S SIGH IN THE SEARCH AFTER SOLITUDE. Sometime or other all sigh for solitude; you cannot destroy the feeling, it is planted deeply in the human soul. There are certain circumstances in life which develop this feeling, until it becomes strong and all-powerful, governing the whole soul. It is possible to allow this sentiment to grow wild and overleap its natural limit; but in itself, and within its proper limit, it is right and necessary. Before men can be strong they must be much with God and themselves; before they can be rich and mature, they will have to live much in the garden of their mind to weed and manure it. The conditions under which solitude is sought are various.

1. The soul seeks solitude in the pangs of disappointment. We are born to disappointments — all meet them, only some are more sensitive to their point and bitterness than others. We are often either too confiding, or lofty in our wish, or sanguine in our expectation, that disappointments cannot but come. They come from foes and friends — from prosperity and adversity.

2. The soul often sighs for the solitary in life, when deeply convinced of the vanity and falsehood of society; when the soul sees and feels the faults and follies of the world, it often feels a wish to live in some place where they are not seen or heard.

3. The absence of congenial society not unfrequently turns the face of the soul towards solitude. There may be times when our companions are too numerous, as well as too few. The soul wishes to shake itself from them and be free, and often goes beyond civilisation for this freedom it longs for so anxiously. This is often the case from superior refinement, advanced piety, nobler aspirations than those of neighbours and friends.

4. The soul often sighs for the solitude in life under the influence of religious feeling. The danger is for the thing that is right in itself to become a blind sentimentality.

5. The soul is apt, in a condition of great sorrow, to sigh after solitude.

6. This feeling may and sometimes does proceed from a morbid state of mind.

II. THE SOUL'S TIME OF DESPONDENT DEPRESSION. There is a shade sometime or other to cross every flowery bed, and a gloom to cover every sunny path. There are occasions in the history of most men when life, the most precious and the first to be desired, is a burden. In this state of the soul all power of enjoyment is gone, and all power and courage have taken their departure. The horizon of the soul is obscured with darkness, so that there is neither beauty nor prospect in view anywhere.

1. Sometimes this state of despondent depression comes upon the soul from a sense of its own sinfulness.

2. The thought of our own individual insignificancy has a tendency to the same result.

3. The conscious vanity of the surroundings of our present existence is another depressing element in life.

4. The darkness and uncertainty surrounding human life has a tendency to make us despondent. The simplest things are lost in mystery; the clearest things are covered with uncertainty.

5. Failure in realising our noblest plans and most cherished wishes is another depressing element which often presses us below the level of right standing.

6. The ills that men are subject to is another frequent means of human depression.

III. THE SOUL'S DEPRECIATION OF ITSELF. Some people constantly depreciate themselves, and they are thought sincere and humble persons, whereas it may be nothing more than a habit, or worse, an affected self-depreciation, that others may have occasion and scope to raise them on high.

1. A sense of self-depreciation takes hold of the mind when it is filled with the conception of the Divine Majesty and His presence.

2. The feeling of self-depreciation pervades the soul in the presence or recollection of some higher examples in matters of life and ambition. An artist of sensitive appreciation of superiority in the presence of a genuine piece of art depreciates to the dust his own performances. A poet with a true poetic sense, when he reads or hears some grand poetry like Paradise Lost, feels very low in his own view. So is it in other things in life.

3. The same feeling takes hold of the mind of man often when comparing himself with the material universe and its different creations in his outward form and physical capacities.

4. This sentiment also proceeds frequently from a review of the past conduct of one's own life.

5. Self-depreciation is often the depressed language of the soul, when persecuted and cast out of society.

6. Once more, when the ills and miseries of life are calmly and seriously viewed, we ourselves being subjects of the same, the little we have done, or can do to diminish them, tends to self-depreciation.

IV. THE SOUL'S WEARINESS OF LIFE, and its special desire to be released from its burden. In many cases life is a burden, but it is a rare thing, nevertheless, to wish to get rid of the burden by being relieved of life. There are cases where it appears almost natural and religious for men to wish to die, which appear almost beyond the suspicion of wrong.

1. When a person thinks that his work is done in this life, and he cannot be of much use any longer.

2. When an individual becomes helpless, and requires the time and attention of others to attend to him, he feels he is in the way, and cannot compensate for the least done to him.

3. When, by his close communion with the Divine and the heavenly, the soul is more at home from the world than in it.

4. When it is submitted, as in the case of Elijah, to the hand and will of God.

(T. Hughes.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.

WEB: But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die, and said, "It is enough. Now, O Yahweh, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers."

The Flight to the Wilderness
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