The difference between Elijah and Jonah
As mentioned in this week’s sermon, when Jonah cried out that he wished he was dead, he was echoing another famous prophet named Elijah. We hear Elijah’s statement in 1 Kings 19:
Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.”
3 Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, 4 while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” 5 Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.
All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” 6 He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.
Elijah’s call to God came after he had defeated the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. The prophets of Baal were priests of the Queen Jezebel, who probably holds the title of the most evil queen in all of Israel’s history. She did many things to lead Israel astray and her husband, Ahab, was just as bad.
After Elijah had defeated the prophets, Jezebel was angry and threatened to kill him. On the run, Elijah collapses in the wilderness and cries out to God to end his life.
As we saw in Jonah, Jonah’s cry comes after Nineveh repented and God withdrew his threat of destruction. Jonah was upset by the fact that God would not bring the destruction that had been promised, and because God showed mercy, he wanted to die.
As we look at these prophets, it is very clear the difference that exists between the two. Elijah had done as God had called, was in danger, on the run, and out of fear cries that he can not go on. Jonah cried out to die because of sadness. Elijah was in danger. Jonah was safe. Elijah feared he could not live up to the prophets of the past who had persevered. Jonah simply cared about himself. Elijah’s cry was met by God’s angel strengthening him. Jonah’s cry was met by an object lesson from god about why Jonah should care about the Ninevites.
The question that this raises for us, is what is our reaction to the great work God is doing in our world?