You can’t pour from an empty cup, as the saying goes.
Most of us are familiar with this saying. More to the point, we are familiar with this feeling. We’ve been there. We know what it is like to be running on empty.
That’s where Elijah is in 1 Kings 19. He’s been through three-and-a-half years of intense spiritual warfare with King Ahab, Queen Jezebel and the prophets of Baal who are leading the people of Israel into all sorts of destructive behaviors. God gives Elijah a tremendous victory over them at Mt. Carmel (chapter 18), but no sooner has this happened then Elijah hears that Jezebel has a contract out on him (19:1-2).
That’s it for Elijah. He’s done. He finds a broom tree, takes refuge under it and asks God to take his life.
But God isn’t done with Elijah.
He sends an angel who ministers to Elijah with cycles of sleeping and eating. That makes sense because when we’re running on empty one of the reasons is usually that we haven’t been taking care of ourselves physically. Elijah is then sent on a 40-day trip to Mount Horeb — which provided him with lots of fresh air and exercise. But man does not live by bread alone and like us, Elijah needs more than just physical renewal. The spa day, retail therapy, the ballgame, the hunting trip are all fine as far as they go — they just don’t go far enough. They can’t. We have been created in the image of God and there is that significant part of us that cannot be fulfilled apart from communion with our Creator.
That’s why when Elijah arrives at Horeb God tells him, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by (v. 11). And with that, we get to what Elijah really needs — to spend time in the presence of the Lord — there’s just no substitute for it.
To come before the Lord in worship, prayer, praise, through His word, with His people or in whatever form it takes is rejuvenating and renewing in a way that nothing else is. It takes our eyes off ourselves and puts them on the One who is everything.
Remember this the next time you’re down and out like Elijah or you’re just in need of a recharge. There’s no substitute for it!

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