Dissecting a Prophet’s Fears

Prophets, like most people, are hounded by fears and insecurities. The prophet Jonah, fearing the all-out embarrassment, ridicule, and fall-out that would result from his unrealized prophecy on the destruction of the Assyrian city of Nineveh, asked God for death. One might scoff at the over-reaction but it is what fear does. It fills a person’s whole being and sometimes robs him of rational thought. Even great prophets fall victim to the ravages of fear.

The fear of bodily harm and death is most common because God asks prophets to preach in hostile places. The hostility is further fanned when the prophet makes a scathing condemnation of the inhabitants’ scandalous behaviors and warns of dire consequences. Getting a severe beating, imprisonment, or being sentenced to death is par for the course for the lonely prophet. At worse, the prophet’s punishment can extend to relatives who live nearby. Jonah nearly bolted when he found out that he was to be assigned to the city of the merciless Assyrians. It took short of drowning in a raging ocean and three days and nights of discernment inside the fetid belly of a big fish to convince him to change his mind. The prophet Elijah had a vision of death when he received a threatening message from false god worshipper, Queen Jezebel of Israel:

Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets [of the false god] with the sword. So, Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever be so severely if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.” Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. – 1 Kings 19:1-3

Elijah hid in the wilderness to escape the danger and nurse his weary heart. God, in His infinite goodness, sought him out and restored his physical and mental health.

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