Entry Eighty-Three: Elijah the Prophet

Submitted by johnlo on Wed, 2008-06-04 10:28

 

 

ENTRY EIGHTY-THREE – JUNE 5, 2008

 

83 -THE DIVIDED KINGDOM - PART III (aka "Elijah the Prophet" I Kings 17-19

 

  • This entry, which is for one day of reading, covers topics such as ELIJAH ON MT. CARMEL, DOUBLE-MINDEDNESS, GREAT PRAYERS, and OVERCOMING DISCOURAGEMENT IN LEADERSHIP.

 

  • Elijah is recognized as one of the greatest prophets, perhaps because he did miracles similar to the ones done by Jesus centuries later (remember that he is mentioned by the apostles when Jesus asked them, “Who do people say that I am?”).  Or it could be because the final two verses of the Old Testament (Malachi 4:5-6) promise that God will send the prophet Elijah before the day of the Lord and that he will either turn the people’s hearts back to God, or they will be stuck with a curse!! Wow, no wonder the Jews mistook Jesus for Elijah!

 

  • His life was truly amazing. He basically went “one-on-one” with Ahab, lowly prophet from the farm against mighty king from the big city. Guess who won? Don’t you just love the “predictability” of the bible? <smile> (Obviously, it wasn’t “Elijah vs. Ahab” anymore than it is “You vs. your boss” or whoever – Satan is the enemy and we are fighting on God’s behalf, or at least, we are supposed to be.)

 

  • Anyway, Elijah kind of pops out of nowhere to give the evil king a message from God, “No more rain until I say.” Now you don’t threaten an evil king and stick around to watch, so he hid in a ravine, drank from a brook and ate food brought to him by ravens. (Nowadays we would be in a pickle if this were to happen – BIRD FLU!!) When the brook dried up (it would have had to, seeing as how there was no rain), no worries – an unsuspecting widow who also needed sustenance, was chosen by God to feed Elijah miraculously and to thereby save herself and her son from starvation. Not only does this show us the kind of faith Elijah had (we certainly don’t see him doubting), it also illustrates how dire the circumstances were at the time – the drought was causing real hardship. This is an example of how God sometimes allows physical suffering in order to facilitate spiritual repentance. 

 

  • The next section of scripture is one of the few examples in the bible of someone raising a dead person back to life. Elijah had such a BIG view of God’s power, as well as deep trust in God’s care and concern, that he thought it might happen! When was the last time that you or I thought that we could raise a dead person? Not very recently… This episode shows us Elijah’s heart of faith and love, and it must have encouraged him almost as much as it made the woman feel blessed.

 

  • Finally, almost three years after Elijah first delivered God’s edict, it was time for a showdown. He presented himself to a faithful man who worked for Ahab, named Obadiah, who was himself kind of a “Schindler”; i.e., he had hidden 100 of God’s prophets from Ahab’s wife, Jezebel, and fed them secretly. When they finally met, Ahab exhibited his arrogance from the first sentence, “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?” Now who was the real troublemaker? Not Elijah! He was just the messenger!!! (You’ve heard the saying, ‘Don’t shoot the messenger!’?)  How often do we blame others for circumstances, or even blame God, when it is our own fault that things are happening or not happening!?!?!?!?!  This is a major flaw in today’s world, and in today’s church – not taking personal responsibility!! I love reading the Cloud and Townsend books (Boundaries, Boundaries for Kids, etc) because they emphasize the need to take personal responsibility and to teach our children to do the same. I HATE blame-shifting, especially blaming God (who himself is the giver of every good and perfect thing, James 1:17). Yes, I do it, too, at times, but when I catch myself blaming others, I know I am in the wrong and I hate it in myself as well!!

 

  • Returning to the story…Elijah calmly and confidently asserted that it was not he who was bringing trouble on Israel but rather Ahab and his family. Elijah then did something amazing – he called all the people to come and witness a confrontation between himself and Jehovah-God vs. Ahab, the 850 prophets of Baal & Asherah and the so-called Baal-God. (A simplistic explanation - Baal was the male fertility god of the harvest and Asherah was his girlfriend. One of my earlier entries gives a longer description of this ancient religion.)  King Ahab agreed to assemble everyone at Mt. Carmel, confident that Elijah would be no match for the 450 prophets of his Baal-god. (By the way, I may have mentioned this before, but in the NIV, when you see the word LORD in capital letters, it means “Yahweh” or “Jehovah”, as opposed to Lord, which means “Lord and Master”, such as, “Jesus is Lord”. Older English versions, such as the American Standard Version, use “Jehovah” all the way through.)

 

  • When the people arrived, Elijah went through the crowd and asked a very important question, “HOW LONG WILL YOU WAVER BETWEEN TWO OPINIONS?”  He followed that with, “If Jehovah-God is God, follow him, but if Baal is God, follow him.” Of course, the weak willed people said nothing at that point.

 

  • I’m highlighting this verse for two reasons:  (1) we must ask ourselves if we are wavering between two opinions! Does the world have a hold on us? Are we standing up for God the way we should? As the old question reads, “If you were arrested for being a disciple of Jesus, would they have enough evidence to arrest you?” Are we buying into the world’s standards, instead of the standards of Jesus, the bible and the church? Meditate on this question and don’t be like the Israelites, who said nothing. If God is God, worship him!! Live for him!! In counseling, “all or nothing” is seen as a negative thing, but when it comes to Lordship, “all or nothing” is the only way.
  • (2) THIS MAKES A GREAT BIBLE TALK!! You have to do some historical teaching to set the context, but what a great convicting point. Email me if you want the questions.

 

  • On with the story…Elijah wanted to have a test of sorts. He told the crowd that he would represent Jehovah-God and the 450 priests of Baal-god could represent Baal. Then, they would each prepare a sacrifice (put a bull on some wood) and then pray to their “god” to send fire down on the sacrifice. The “god” who answered would be the true “god”, and the people all agreed to the test. Elijah even “graciously” allowed the Baal priests to go first. The priests prepared a bull for the sacrifice, set it on the wood, and called down fire from their so-called god. They shouted from morning til noon. They danced around the altar. The bible simply says, “There was no response; no one answered.” Duh!
  • King Ahab must have been getting a bit nervous! Elijah taunted them, “shout louder! Perhaps they are busy!” In fact, the word that the NIV translates as “traveling” is actually an idiom for “going to the toilet”, so Elijah is so cheeky, he was telling them, “Perhaps he is asleep or on the loo!” Not to be defeated, the priests of Baal slashed themselves with swords in desperation. They continued frantically until evening, but nothing happened. And again the bible records, “But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.

 

  • Does this sound like your life? Are you frantically dancing around, trying to make things happen, even to the point of hurting yourself, while not relying on God? You’ll get the same result as the priests of Baal – nothing!! You will only be frustrated and suffer physically and emotionally (not to mention spiritually)!

 

  • Elijah shifted into gear, and not only prepared a bull for sacrifice – he made a BIG show of it. He repaired the altar of Jehovah-God which had fallen into disrepair, he used twelve stones to represent the twelve tribes of Israel, he dug a huge ditch around the altar so that no one would be able to stand near the sacrifice (lest anyone accuse them of secretly starting the fire), and he poured water on the bull, over the wood and into the trench three times! By the time Elijah was supposed to ask God to send the fire, the whole thing was soaking wet! Why did he do it? Because he wanted to prove to everyone beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jehovah was the true God!! He was putting his life on the line because he so totally believed that God would answer him!

 

  • And then came his prayer (if I read this aloud I will cry!). “O LORD (Jehovah-God), God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”  WOW!

 

  • I hope you are moved, even before you see how God answers! This is so incredible!!
  • Amazing! Fantastic! I am talking about Elijah’s heart and his faith and his trust and his love. This is what we signed up for; this is why we became disciples!  And notice his motive for praying such a “big” prayer – he wanted to glorify God and he wanted the peoples’ hearts to turn back to God! You can’t get better motives than that!

 

  • The rest is almost an after thought, like the time that Shadrach and friends made their bold claim in Daniel 3. But God came through for Elijah in a big way – he sent fire from heaven the likes of which hadn’t been seen, probably since the days of Sodom and Gomorrah! It burned up not only the sacrifice but the wood, stones, soil and water! The people had no other choice than to fall to the ground and proclaim, “Jehovah is the true God!” This gives me chill bumps!

 

  • They slaughtered the prophets of Baal, which may sound cruel, but it is in keeping with the Law of Moses about what to do with those who worship false gods – see previous entry on Leviticus 18-20.  Now you would think that Ahab would join in the worship of Jehovah, but alas, he just went off to eat and drink, and to prepare for heavy rain, which he hadn’t seen for three years!  And the last amazing scene of the chapter is that Elijah tucked his cloak under his belt and miraculously legged it ahead of Ahab and his chariots. An ancient “Flash”, I suppose. We’ll have to ask to see that video in heaven!!

 

  • The crazy but very real and human episode which followed the unbelievable victory at Mt. Carmel is about how Elijah became discouraged when he heard that Jezebel wanted to kill him. I suppose that he thought that Ahab and Jezebel would also repent, so the victory seemed hollow to him somehow. He went off by himself to a lonely place, indulged in self-pity, (“stinkin’ thinkin’”, as some like to call it), and asked God to let him die. God sent an angel to feed him and encourage him, but even then, Elijah was still stuck in the negative zone. (Notice the tendency to exaggerate – Obadiah had saved 100 prophets but Elijah forgot about them.)  Then God taught him another lesson and appeared to him in a still small voice, as opposed to the fanfare of the previous day’s events. God’s simple message was twofold. First, he said, “Go back the way you came.” Many times, as leaders, we think we have given so much, only to be ignored, or even worse, unappreciated, or still worse, slandered/threatened. Of course, it doesn’t feel good. And it is as wrong for Christians to sin against their leaders as it is wrong for leaders to sin against the people they lead. But God would have us go back the way we came; do what you did when you first led. Pray, read your bible, love people, serve, put God first; love God with your heart, soul, mind and strength; turn the other cheek. This is the way of Jesus, and it is the way for us. The second part of God’s message was to show Elijah that he wasn’t alone. He told him to delegate different duties and to remember that there were other followers of Jehovah in Israel. God even gave him an attendant to train under him and be his companion – Elisha. When we isolate in self-pity and discouragement, we will naturally become lonely, which can lead to depression. However, if we, as leaders, are practicing One Another Christianity ourselves, there is no reason for us to feel lonely. Remember why you became a Christian in the first place, rely on God, love people, and rely on one another. These are the keys to overcoming discouragement.
  • I hope you enjoyed learning from Elijah! And don’t forget to write me for those bible talk questions.

 

karenlouis@seachurches.org