“And he [Elijah] said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.” (1 Kings 19:10)
Well, maybe not a nervous breakdown, exactly, but close enough. There certainly was an intensity about the prophet Elijah that drove him to mental and physical collapse. This we do know. The Word of God does not often open up to us the psychological bent of a man to the extent that it does this one. He was hasty in speech and exceedingly adept at sarcasm. He was capable of lofty and grandiose heights of drama (chapter 18), but susceptible to cowardly despair under certain kinds of intimidation, especially by a woman (19:2-3).
It would seem to me that verse ten of this chapter gives us a clue into what drove this man at such a pace, especially since he repeats it, word for word, in verse fourteen. It is a window into his thinking, as it were.
First, he says, “I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts.” I know our God is a jealous God; He has told us this in more than one place. But this would seem to me to be one of His attributes we should be careful of trying to emulate. Like omniscience—all-knowing. To see ourselves in either of these roles is to run the risk of over-reaching or over interference. Paul told the Corinthian believers that he was jealous over them, with a “godly jealousy”; but he never claimed to be jealous for God. God is capable of taking care of His own jealousy. And to show us the danger of the human kind, God, speaking through Solomon, said, “For jealousy is the rage of man: therefore he will not spare in the day of vengeance” (Prov. 6:34). Jealousy becomes a rage that doesn’t know when to quit.
Then, Elijah continues by saying, “…I, even I only, am left…” When you and I begin to feel like this—that no one is lifting a standard except us—our service to God will go beyond urgency to frenzy and condemnation. God then has to remind us, as He did Elijah in verse eighteen, that we are not the only soldiers on the frontline. And sometimes He has to sideline us before we can get the real picture. When we feel that everyone else has succumbed to the age and everything is left to us, we will either work ourselves to death or throw in the towel. The truth is, to assume more responsibility than God has assigned to us personally is to question His judgment; and exceeding the will of God is just as bad as falling short of it.
You don’t have to cover all the bases; you only have to catch the balls He pitches to you.