Succour for the Strong

Frederick Leighton’s Elijah in the Wilderness from around 1878 hangs at Liverpool’s Walker Gallery. Perhaps I have a sullied mind, but it seems mildly pornographic to me, with the feminine angel offering a rather erotically slumbering and muscular Elijah a discreet glance. In the actual account of the scene, in 1 Kings 19, we read:

But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, “It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!”’

It was not just physical weakness and Jezebel’s taunts that so maimed the Man of God, but the similarity between him and his wicked ancestors. Shortly afterwards, the angel returns, saying

“Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you”, so he ‘arose, and ate and drank; and he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights’. Some food, that kept him going so long. I do not know if Elijah was as toned and beautiful a figure as that portrayted by Leighton, but I can vouch for the huge reserves of strength God made available to him at his weakest moments. Sometimes it is the mighty who need help, and not just the weak.