After the prophet Elijah’s biggest, most profound victory of his ministry in 1 Kings 18, he did the strangest thing in 1 Kings 19–he ran and hid from Jezebel. This was right after he had just defeated hundreds of her prophets of Baal in an epic showdown and after he prayed to the Lord for rain three years after he asked the Lord for a three-year drought to punish Israel’s wickedness. Despite God showing up for him in a big way, he still felt discouraged after Jezebel threatened to have him hunted down and executed.
Elijah felt like he had been backed into a corner and ran to hide in a cave. When Jehovah asked him what he was doing there, 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). So God sent Elijah to a nearby mountain to observe a sign as a witness to reassure Elijah he wasn’t going to leave him hanging. Four monumental things happened at that point in 1 Kings 19:11-12, but Jehovah God was not in any of them. Instead, he made himself known in a still small voice.
It was to show Elijah that he wasn’t always going to fulfill his great works on Earth in epic, monumental occurrences. Sometimes his will was to be carried out in small, almost unnoticeable ways, like that still small voice. Well, Elijah still didn’t feel convinced and retreated back to the cave in v. 13. The Lord was patient enough with him to have the same conversation with Elijah again in vv. 13-14 as he did with him in vv. 9-10. When Elijah gave him the same discouraged answer, the Lord gave him two more witnesses to verify what he previously told Elijah. The second witness after the still small voice was the Lord’s directive to Elijah to appoint and anoint three men to three important positions–Hazael to rule Syria, Jehu to rule Israel, and Elisha to assist him and to ultimately continue his ministry after his departure.
The third witness was God’s reassurance that he still had 7,000 faithful believers in Israel who refused to bow down to the government-implemented Baal worship of Ahab and Jezebel. The numbers three (for Hazael, Jehu, and Elisha) and 7,000 were of great spiritual significance to shatter any remaining doubts within Elijah. Three was the number of divine completeness, or perfection, and of perfect testimony, as displayed in the Godhead who Elijah worshiped and in the fact the Lord gave him three witnesses to shore up Elijah’s faith. The number 7,000 when broken down to its simplest form is 7 x 103. Seven, based on the law of first mention from Genesis 2:2-3, is the number of bringing things to a close, godly rest, blessing, and sanctification in the spiritual sense. Ten is the number of law and order as well as restoration as is seen with the 10 commandments. When that is multiplied to the third power, God’s law and order has triple the portion of a perfect testimony.
Having been given all of this overwhelming evidence that God was still carrying out his will through Elijah, Elijah continued his powerful ministry with new vitality. He no longer felt like he was backed into a corner. I believe strongly the Lord can and will do the same types of things for us if we ever feel as discouraged as Elijah did. We just may find that God will approach us in some way that causes us to consider why we’ve stopped cold in our tracks from continuing the ministry he wants us to fulfill. Don’t be surprised if he rolls out three witnesses that may be just what is needed to get things back on track to dispel any discouragement.