Bible Angels: The Angel of the Lord Wakes Up Elijah

Prophet Elijah Sleeps by a Tree, Wakes Up to Angel with Food and Water for Him

Angel of the Lord with prophet Elijah
The painting "An Angel Awakens the Prophet Elijah" by Juan Antonio Frias y Escalante. Public Domain

Overwhelmed by the challenges he faces, the prophet Elijah asks God to let him die so he can escape his circumstances, the Bible says in 1 Kings, chapter 19. Then Elijah falls asleep under a tree. The Angel of the Lord – God himself, appearing in angelic form – wakes Elijah up to comfort and encourage him. “Get up and eat,” the angel says, and Elijah sees that God has provided the food and water he needs to recharge.

Here’s the story, with commentary:

Elijah Receives an Alarming Message from Queen Jezebel

Angry that Elijah, with God’s miraculous intervention, had defeated 450 men from her nation that were trying to force people to worship a false god, Queen Jezebel sent Elijah a message saying she would have him killed within 24 hours.

“Elijah was afraid” verse 3 says even though he had just experienced a dramatic victory in his efforts to do the work God called him to do – to defend faith in the living God. Stressed by his circumstances, “… He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. ‘I have had enough, Lord,’ he said. ‘Take my life…’. Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep.” (verses 4-5).

God Shows Up in the Form of an Angel

God answers Elijah’s prayer by showing up personally, as the Angel of the Lord. The Bible’s Old Testament describes many of these divine angelic appearances, and Christians believe that the Angel of the Lord is the part of God who is Jesus Christ, interacting with humans before his incarnation later, on the first Christmas.”

“All at once an angel touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat,’” the story continues in verses 5-6. “He looked around, and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water.” Elijah ate and drank a bit before lying down again.

Apparently Elijah hadn’t taken enough nourishment, because verse 7 describes the angel coming back “a second time” to urge Elijah to consume more, telling Elijah that “the journey is too much for you.”

Just like a parent who is taking care of a beloved child, the Angel of the Lord makes sure that Elijah has everything he needs. The angel follows up a second time when Elijah doesn't eat or drink enough the first time. God wants the people he loves to have everything we need for complete wellness in our bodies, minds, and spirits, which all work together as an intricately connected system. As any good parent would point out to his or her children, it's important to address hunger and thirst, because those needs should be fulfilled in order for us to strong enough to handle stress well. When Elijah's physical needs are met, God knows, Elijah will also be more at peace emotionally, and better able to trust God spiritually.

The supernatural way that God provides food and water for Elijah is similar to how God performs miracles to provide manna and quail for the Hebrew people to eat in the desert and to cause water to flow from a rock when they were thirsty while traveling. Through all of these events, God is teaching people that they can trust him, no matter what -- so they should place their trust in God rather than in their circumstances.

The Food and Water Strengthens Elijah

The story ends by describing how the nourishment God had provided gave Elijah remarkable strength – enough for Elijah to complete a journey to Mount Horeb, the next place God wanted him to go.

Even though the journey took “40 days and 40 nights” (verse 8), Elijah was able to travel there because of the Angel of the Lord’s encouragement and care.

Whenever we rely on God for what we need, we will receive gifts that will empower us to do everything God wants us to do -- even far more than we had imagined it would be possible for us to do in that situation. No matter how discouraged or depleted we become, we can count on God to renew our strength when we pray for his help.