Study 16 - He restores my soul
When David was chasing the Amalekites, he and his followers came across an exhausted man in a field. They gave him food and water and then asked him why he was there. He replied, ‘I am an Egyptian, the slave of an Amalekite. My master abandoned me when I became ill three days ago’ (1 Sam. 30:13).
Elijah’s Master could so easily have done the same. If God were like us, Elijah would probably have been fired, but that isn’t his style. When Elijah ran out of gas, he ran straight into grace! And grace never gives up, never ignores, never backs off. Whenever wounded people run into grace, they run into the arms of God, who knows exactly what to do.
Before giving him spiritual instruction, God remembered that Elijah needed rest, food and time, so he gave him all three before saying a thing.
The God of the Bible ‘makes me lie down in green pastures … he restores my soul’ (Ps. 23:2,3) and ‘grants sleep to those he loves’ (Ps. 127:2). So often we can be tempted to think that relating to God is all spiritual gymnastics – a frenzy of praying, fasting and witnessing. But that’s not true. We must get to know the God who lets us lie down and gives us sleep.
Having slept soundly, Elijah awoke to the touch of an angel who’d prepared a meal for him. Having given the prophet rest, God now provided nourishment. The Lord knows our body’s needs. He created those needs and he fulfils them. Beware the super-spirituality that looks exclusively for the supernatural answer and ignores the human side, including a good rest and nourishing food.
Notice, the meal was prepared by an angel. When Elijah was at the centre of God’s will at the Kerith Ravine, he was fed with bits of food by ravens. When he ran for his life, disobedient and dejected, God didn’t dispatch another raven but commissioned an angel. That’s grace.
The devil tells us that when we fail God, we have to suffer for it. ‘You’ve really done it this time,’ he tells us. ‘You can’t expect any more provision from God. Face it, you’re on your own. What a shame. You were showing such potential.’
What lies! When we fail, Jesus doesn’t keep us at arm’s length; instead, he comes to us. Look at Peter. He cursed and swore that he didn’t know Jesus. Did Jesus reject him? No. After the Resurrection, Jesus stood on the seashore and called to the disciples in the boat, ‘Come and have breakfast’ (John 21:12). He didn’t say, ‘Peter, you disowned me so you can’t join us.’
The good shepherd was lovingly regathering his flock. The disciples had been in a boat all night. They needed food and Jesus was there to give it to them. Elijah, too, had been working hard. He also needed refreshment and God was there to give it to him.
Once Elijah had slept and eaten, God didn’t immediately close in on him. He let him run. He gave the prophet space – forty days and nights – to get the whole thing out of his system. ‘Come on, Elijah,’ he said. ‘Just run. Work out the tension. You’ll feel better for it.’ And Elijah ran.
‘The bow cannot be always bent without fear of breaking. Repose is as needful to the mind as sleep to the body… Rest time is not waste time. It is economy to gather fresh strength.’
C.H. Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students.