1 Kings 17-19
Don’t you love Elijah! The showdown at Mount Carmel is one of my all-time favorite Old Testament stories! Elijah makes a bold, strong, fast, quick-witted hero for the LORD. We love to see how he repeatedly stands firmly for God and how God takes care of him, over and over again. Even though his king (Ahab), his queen (Jezebel) and his nation (Israel) are making some really bad decisions following a man-made god (Baal), Elijah doesn’t back down and his deep faith in God allows him to display God’s power in amazing and miraculous ways. He prays and God holds back the rain for 3 and a half years. During the drought he is fed by ravens. (Don’t worry, there are no sanitation problems when God provides the birds to bring you your daily breakfast and supper). He is the first person recorded in Scripture through which God raises the dead! Never-before seen miracles – at the hand of Elijah! He prays and God sends fire from heaven to burn up the absolutely drenched sacrifice, wood, stones and soil. With God’s power he outruns Ahab’s chariot – I bet that was fun to do. Can you imagine the face and heart of Ahab who had just been bested on Mount Carmel by his enemy Elijah, and then here comes Elijah running past his royal chariot that is trying to outrun the storm clouds that Elijah predicted? Triple whammy! It is like Elijah is untouchable! A super-human spokesman and miracle maker for God.
But no, he was not super-human. In case anyone was wondering, James sets the record straight many years later in the New Testament that, “Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly…” (James 5:17). He was a regular man like us. But he sure knew how to pray!
But being a regular man like us, he grew tired, too. And fearful sometimes as well. Ministry can be exciting and exhilarating. And, tiring and scary. Sometimes the results aren’t quite what you were hoping for. Instead of a dramatic conversion – now the ones you were trying to convince of God’s majesty are trying to hunt you down to destroy you!
When Elijah hears that Jezebel has vowed to take his life he is so ready to give up. Maybe you have been there too, sitting under a broom tree telling God you are done. But God provides for him again and sustains his long journey (40 days) to a safer (and holy) spot and then reveals himself in a gentle whisper. Elijah knows he has had a special, one-of-a kind moment with God. God asks, “What are you doing here, Elijah” (1 Kings 19:13). Elijah answers, saying he has done so much for God, but the people still won’t listen, and now he is the only one left who speaks for God and they are trying to kill him, too. It is a little bit of a pity party perhaps – that’s where we go when we are tired and worn out and fearful for the future.
God could be angry. After all that God has done for Elijah, how dare he mope? But God doesn’t respond with anger and condemnation; instead, the loving, compassionate, faithful God gives Elijah specific action steps as well as correction. He says – “Go Back”. You have had your 40 day sabbatical – you have encountered me in a gentle whisper – I have provided for you – now return, your work isn’t done.
God knows the world is broken and rough and a difficult place to speak for God. But He says don’t give up. Keep at it. He still has more people for you to influence – more people for you to anoint with God’s words and purpose. The evil king (Satan) may not be brought down in your lifetime. That’s okay, God will still take care of him, God’s rule will prevail, and He is lining up the people (including His Son the Messiah) and the events to bring it to be. In the meantime, it is still your job to pass along the good news and the words and power of the Almighty. And in this way the faithful chain continues through the generations – each one doing their part to proclaim the greatness of our Heavenly Father and prepare the way for His ultimate Kingdom rule.
And, no, Elijah – you are not alone. Yes, you felt alone. But you were never alone. We know that Obadiah (a God-believer in charge of Ahab’s palace) had risked his life by saving the lives of 100 prophets of God in caves (1 Kings 18:2-4). And God himself corrects Elijah by telling him He had personally reserved 7,000 in Israel who had not worshipped Baal. It was far from a majority – you don’t need to be a majority to continue speaking God’s word. But know that you are not a lonely army of one. God sees you – and He sees all those He has given the most important task of speaking for Him. Don’t bend your knee to evil. Don’t give up. God sees and provides. Keep speaking for Him.
Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Kings+17-19&version=NIV
Tomorrow’s reading will be 1 Kings 20-21 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan