Author Topic: Elijah (1 Kings: 17)  (Read 234 times)

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Elijah (1 Kings: 17)
« on: October 17, 2018, 11:57:22 AM »
The Cherith brook dwindled and finally dried up, yet Elijah refrained from questioning God and becoming anxious regarding his sustenance, but remained patient, faithful, and obedient, until God commanded him to go to Zarephath again, as in verse 4 (commanded the ravens to feed thee there), He said "I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee". The power of God is again strongly shown here.
With famine rife in the land, and many dying of starvation, the widow woman only had enough food left for one final meal, for herself and her son. Yet, Elijah, a stranger in the land, asked her to bring him that food, with the blessing "Fear not...the barrel of meal will not waste, nor the cruse of oil fail". Both Elijah and the widow had faith in God's promises. It is to be noted that the barrel and cruse were not filled to the brim, but God gave a sufficient amount each day; ensuring that they continued to rely upon His goodness, and to be thankful in prayer for His mercy and grace. We also need to remain faithful and trusting in the sufficiency of God in all aspects of our lives, particularly in times of trial and tribulation.

Part 3: "And immediately the Spirit driveth Him into the wilderness, and he was there 40 days, tempted by Satan" (Mark 1:12-13). Elijah was commanded by God to go into the wilderness, totally isolated from any human contact/help. No doubt he was tempted continually by Satan. Do you trust God? In 1 Kings 17:17, following God sustaining the widow and her son during the period of famine, we read that the son fell ill and died. Would Elijah question God "Why have You provided for the boy to keep him alive, and then let him die? What's the point?" DO YOU TRUST GOD? Elijah cried unto the Lord "..I pray thee, let this child's soul come into him again. And the Lord heard the voice of Elijah (his faith), and the boy revived" (v 21/22). The sore famine had lasted 3 years, King Ahab had sent men to scour the land in search of Elijah, and Jezebel had slain all the prophets in the land. Then "the word of the Lord came..go, show yourself unto Ahab". DO YOU TRUST GOD when He places you in difficult situations/ tribulations, when it seems that He isn't listening to you or seems no longer with you, when His sure promises of deliverance appear empty words? God sent His only son into the wilderness, alone, to be tempted, to find out if Jesus would continue to trust in Him, even to the cross.

Part 4: "Father, if You be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done" (Luke 22:42). We saw in the previous part that God was testing Elijah's faith. When the crunch came, would Elijah remain steadfast? Crunch time had now come on Mount Carmel; on the one side was the king, his princes, noblemen, soldiers, 450 prophets of Baal, 400 prophets of the groves, and the spiritual aid of all the idol gods. On the other side stood Elijah, alone with no human helper at his shoulder (Jezebel had slain all of the Lord's prophets in Israel). "Elijah spoke to the people and said I, even I only remain a prophet of the Lord" (1 Kings 18:22). So, here we are again; Moses and Pharoah, David and Saul/Goliath, Daniel and the lion's den, Paul and Agrippa, Jesus and the cross (among many others throughout scripture). What would have been going through Elijah's mind at this time? Perhaps "Will I make it through the day?", "What if it all goes pear-shaped?", or "What am I doing here?". Or, was it more likely "If God is for me, then who can stand against me?", "I will never leave or forsake you?", or did he see clearly the sovereign, faithful, all- powerful covenant God?
One day, we may face a "crunch time". It may be face to face with a street robber, on an aircraft that is losing height, an unexpected fog/storm suddenly descending on a motorway, or a million and one other things. How will we react?

Part 5: Why didn't Jesus begin His ministry as a youth or in His 20's? Simply because He wasn't ready (as a man); He needed strengthening. This is a very important point for us; to be totally obedient and fully confident in God takes time and maturity. These things don't happen overnight. We see in this study of Elijah this development of faith/trust in God and obedience without questioning. In 1 Kings 18: 30-33 we see Elijah following the pattern God had given to Moses regarding sacrifices to Him: the timing - the evening sacrifice, building the alter NOT with hewn stones, putting the wood IN ORDER, cutting the sacrifice in pieces and placing it correctly. Look at the difference between this and the Baal prophets: "they leaped on the alter...cutting themselves til blood gushed out...from morning til night". What a picture this is, of the godly and ungodly of history and of today!!! one displaying a calm assurance and the character of the Lord in his behaviour/work, and the other...well words fail; I'm unable to form an adequate description (laughable/futile/ludicrous/pitiable). The phrase "God will sit in the Heavens and laugh" springs to mind. It doesn't take a lot of thinking to see what the end result of these two opposed "behaviours" will be, does it? especially when you look at the people around you, and in your neighbourhood, town, country, world. Be patient, and let God, through His Holy Spirit, do His work in you.

Part 6: "The Pharisee stood and prayed with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men...even as this publican" (Luke 18:11). The best day of Elijah's life had come; his faith in God had been totally vindicated; God had revealed His power to the people of Israel, and now Elijah, exalted, was the most important/influential person in the entire nation. He commanded the people to take the prophets of baal and slew them all (450), and gave a command to the king, to eat and drink (1 Kings 18:41). If he had asked the people to build him a palace, or give to him all their goods they would have obeyed without question (either through fear or veneration). No doubt Satan, who would have been watching proceedings nearby, would have come near and whispered in his ear things of self-interest or self-will. How would he react? Proud & boastful? Not at all!!!
"And Elijah went to the top of Carmel; casting himself down on the ground, putting his face between his knees". He realized his nothingness without God. What a lesson this is to us now; when we are surrounded by people today who believe they are something when, in fact, they are nothing. This may be the best week of your life; you may have received a promotion at work, had a financial windfall, or treatment for a health issue had been successful. You run to church on Sunday, full of joy, to tell everybody your good fortune. Ah, but wait!! Maybe the person you speak to has had the worst week of their life; they might have lost their job, been diagnosed with a serious illness, suffered a bereavement, or some unexpected bill has made serious inroads into their financial resources. Elijah couldn't even lift his face up to God; acknowledging his own smallness, and God's greatness. Someone once said "The Christian Church is just a bunch of nobodies trying to exalt somebody". Remain humble, even when circumstances elevate you to a new height.

Part 7: "..But when Peter saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid" (Matt 14:30). This next small section is arguably the most difficult to comprehend; Elijah, within a few hours, had gone from one extreme (total faith/trust in God, and steadfastness against the king and his multitude of prophets) to the other (running away;in fear of his own life by one person - 1 Kings 19:3). How can we explain this complete turnaround in behaviour, especially as we have been reiterating God's work in strengthening him for the work he was being prepared to do? I suggest 2 possible combined reasons:
1. Elijah lost his focus upon the Lord; putting himself in the centre of his life, and thereby revealing to himself his own weakness.
2. Human nature - A personal analogy: I am quite happy to board an aeroplane and be suspended 60,000 feet in the air for several hours, but put a house-spider on the wall of my apartment and I turn to jelly. There is no reason for this anomaly regarding fears, only that certain things that we come across, face to face, have this debilitating effect upon us. Clearly, Elijah had such a fear regarding Jezebel; that she conjured up more fear in him than the entire human race (he feared her more than fearing God's anger/disappointment toward him). Before we move on, it may be profitable to consider God's response to this behaviour, with His response to Jonah's rebellion and David's great sin, and to ponder how weak we actually are.

Part 8: Though the whole of scripture is for our learning, there are particular sections within it that are vital to understand with regard to our walk with God in this life, and these few verses we've taken a brief look at is one of those sections.  We have already noted that, although loathe to admit to, we are essentially weak, frail, useless creatures without the aid of God. We now come to another essential point: SUDDEN AND UNEXPECTED EVENTS CAUSE US TO TURN AWAY FROM GOD TO VIEW OUR OWN CIRCUMSTANCES. Elijah had passed through a long period of tribulations, and now it appeared, following the manifestation of God on mount Carmel, that troubles were over for the present time; the entire nation of Israel, as one man, would now turn from idolatry to serve the living God, the rains had arrived to bring joy and prosperity (both natural/spiritual) to the people, and Ahab's rule and domineering control would soon come to an end. To Elijah, everything in the garden now looked rosy; as the mountaineer who had set up base camps along the way, and had finally reached the summit of Mt. Everest, the descent would be easy; nothing to be concerned about. "Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto take away his life that very day...and Elijah ran for his life" (1 Kings 19:v2-3). A sudden unexpected event that caused him to view his own circumstance. It may be profitable here, in order to ram this message home to us, to give a handful of possible situations that will occur/have occurred in our own lives:
1. After years of study (and burning of the midnight oil), you pass your final exam and attain the qualification ('A Level/Degree/ Diploma etc) that now enables you to land that job/career that you've sought for. You find a suitable position, but the job isn't as you expected; the work itself is harder than you thought, your work colleagues are un-sympathetic, gossiping backstabbers, and your boss is a hard taskmaster, who finds fault in everything you do.
2. After many driving lessons (and maybe a failure or two), you finally pass your test, and have saved up sufficient funds to purchase a second-hand car. You now have a sense of freedom; able to get away, and new opportunities now open up. But one day you are involved in a traffic incident; someone is seriously injured, your car is severely damaged, a road-rage driver is pounding on your car window.
3. A blossoming relationship has now reached a point whereby through scrimping and scraping you are able to place a deposit on your first house/flat. Despite a few ups/downs you begin to settle down and view a lifetime together, children etc. Then, suddenly, your partner walks out on you for whatever reason, or they lose their job and suddenly serious financial difficulties surface, with the possibility of repossession of your home.
4. You have been having treatment (medication/therapy/operations) over a period of time for a long-standing medical condition. The treatment is eventually successful, and you look forward to a sustained period of good health; looking forward to doing all those things your ailment had prevented. A few weeks/months down the line and the symptoms/pain suddenly return.
Unexpected turn of events that cause us to look at our own situation. "What am "I" going to do now?", "What will happen to "ME"?". We can respond in two ways: Firstly, as Elijah, run away and hide behind the sofa. Irrational, contradictory behaviour (we will see in the next section that Elijah passed from "running for his life" to "asking God to let him die"). Or, secondly, we can maintain our focus on the Lord, and remain steadfast in His promises : "Cast your burdens upon me; for my yoke is easy", "Come to me and I will give you rest", "I will never leave you or forsake you", "I will keep you from falling", and the list goes on and on. I pray earnestly (from my own personal experiences) that this will bring comfort/encouragement to all who are presently going through unexpected difficulties in their lives.

Part 9: "For my thoughts are not your thoughts,neither your ways my ways, saith the Lord" (Isa 55:8). We have been looking at this very important part of scripture regarding losing our focus on God, the manner/results of it, and the realisation that we are not solid gold, unbreakable objects but, in fact, cracked earthen vessels in the hands of the potter. Now we come to another vital point. Elijah had disobeyed/forsaken/dishonoured God; he had left his post, abandoned God's people at a most vital time (to bring them out of idolotry), placed his own life above God's honour, thereby bringing shame upon himself, and upon his Lord. Surely, after all God had done for him, and now this betrayal of his trust/faith, the Lord would punish/chastise Elijah severely; in His righteous anger? But, what do we now read? "BEHOLD, an angel touched him, and said "Arise and eat". BEHOLD, a cake ...and a cruse of water. And the angel of the Lord came a second time, touched him, and said "Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee" (1 Kings 19: v5-7). God is fully aware of our frame/infirmities/weaknesses and, because of His love, He cannot deny His mercy and goodness toward us. Elijah had asked for death to fall upon him, yet God sent rest for his tired mind, and food/drink for his worn out body (Do you give thanks daily for God's provisions, even sleep?). Notice, that earlier, Elijah had been fed by ravens, and then by the Zarephath widow, but here a ministering angel, and then "an angel of the Lord" (Christ himself) had come. A ministering angel, who surrounds the throne of God in heaven, willingly comes to earth, to bake a cake for a sinful man!! Let us not despise/murmur at any menial task God asks us to do in His name. How condescending, faithful, and kind God is towards failing man!!! Has Moses been cast out of His presence for smiting the rock, or Jonah for going to Tarshish, or Peter for denouncing Jesus three times? Take a closer look at God, and a lesser glance at yourself, and Satan's whispered denouncements.

Part 10: "There is a voice more dear to me, than man or woman's e'er could be,
              A still small voice that cheers, the woes of these my darker years" (J.R. Ridge).
1 Kings 19: v11-12 has a number of varied interpretations by the expositors so, rather than expressing a personal opinion, I will list a few; in order that the individual can meditate/choose (maybe there is some truth in all of them). We have reached the point where Elijah, despairing that there has been no sudden change in the situation regarding Israel, despite the manifestation of God's power and authority (Ahab hasn't repented, Jezebel has hardened her heart, and the people remain undecided about God or idolotry), has given up hope (even in God). Yet God reveals His steadfast love/kindness to His weary servant. In 1 Kings 19:v11 we now read "...a great wind rent the mountains, and after the wind an earthquake, and after the earthquake a fire. But, the Lord wasn't in any of these manifestations. And after the fire, A STILL SMALL VOICE". What does this verse mean?
1. Noise can drown out God's voice. We need to quieten our own hearts and listen for Him; only in stillness, can we hear His word.
2. Elijah is given a glimpse of the future for the nation; God is going to punish Israel for their sin/idolatry prior to reconciliation.
3. Elijah is shown that he isn't the central character in Israel's present/future conduct. God shows that He can use any number of instruments in order to perform His will.
4. God was demonstrating the old/new dispensation. God coming down from Heaven upon Mount Sinai in a flame of fire, the giving of the Law, compared to the new dispensation of salvation by grace.
5. God was displaying, in general, the ORDER in which He does things; mercy follows wrath (the rainbow follows the rain).
6. God was displaying the WAY, in general, He does things. We often look for God to do amazing feats for all to see (for instance, a massive revival), yet He often works secretly/quietly through His Spirit, continuing to unobtrusively build/strengthen His church.
Elijah didn't respond to the violent wind, earthquake, or fire, but to the still small voice of calm ("When Elijah heard IT, he covered his face with his mantle (ashamed), and went out" 1 Kings 19:v13).
Listen for God to speak to our hearts, and trust that, despite appearances of nothing happening, God is quietly working out His purposes for us and the world.

Part 11: Though it isn't stated how long God spent in rebuilding Elijah's physical/spiritual strength, it was probably a long time; as Israel fought off two battles against the Syrian army (as a side issue, it may be questioned why God didn't pass judgment on King Ahab, but allowed him to be victorious? One can only answer that things happen in God's time). God, in His mercy, gave Elijah a companion (Elisha) to share his burdens and, it is presumed, that they journeyed together throughout Israel at this time re-establishing the prophets (Jezebel having slain the 70). This is something else worth noting, that in vital work, God rarely sends one person alone (Moses & Aaron, Saul & Timothy, and "Jesus, when He had called the twelve, sent them out two by two" (Mark 6:v7)), and is a fore-shadowing of the sending of His Holy Spirit to His elect to help/guide/comfort them in the struggles of living in this ungodly world. God hadn't given up on Elijah, even though, to a certain extent, Elijah had given up on himself; there was still important work for him to do, in which he needed to be fully committed. God was about to send him unto Ahab, to pronounce personal judgment upon him for all his wickedness, and upon his consort Jezebel.

Part 12: We now come to the final instalment of this study of the prophet Elijah, returning full circle to see the representative of God's judgment (as stated in part one of this study). Having regained both physical and spiritual strength, he was sent out to pass judgment on King Ahab "In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth, shall dogs lick thy blood" (1 Kings 21:v19), on Jezebel "The dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel" (1 Kings 21:v23, and Ahaziah "Thou shalt not come down from that bed...but shall surely die" (2 Kings 1:v4). It is to be noted that these three wicked people completely disregarded Elijah's judgment upon them; hardening their hearts even more against God. How true this is of the wicked today. Also, the judgment pronounced came to pass. God doesn't make idle threats.
Elijah knew that his work on earth was now completed, he would be taken to be with his Lord, and Elisha would begin his ministry. But first, he had to test Elisha's faithfulness. Elisha had promised not to leave him ( 2 Kings 2:v2), and Elijah had gone from place to place (Bethel,Jericho, and the river Jordan) to see if Elisha would remain with him.
Elijah's passing reflected his life; he didn't pass away quietly on his bed, surrounded by loved ones, but was taken up in the wilderness by a whirlwind and chariot of fire. He wasn't resurrected from the grave, but was given as an example that a living body can be accepted into Heaven. This should be great encouragement for us, should Jesus' return occur during our lifetime.  Like David, his life was one of great faith with one blemish on his record. His life should be a great encouragement and comfort to us as we struggle through this ungodly, evil, and corrupt world.

Offline John

Re: Elijah (1 Kings: 17)
« Reply #1 on: October 30, 2018, 08:46:09 AM »
Trust in God.

So easy to say, but it is an active faith, one that has to be exercised.

Trust is not passive, it requires that we determine to do this and in the face of reality do it.

I have no confidence in those who blithely say, ' Have faith's or worse 'Only believe!'.

It take courage to trust God.