Last time we covered the back ground for this story: what was going on in the Nation in that day, and the little we know about Elijah. Now, it’s time to progress forward, as we see God preparing The Prophet for his ultimate mission. Blessings and enjoy.
1 Kings 17:1
And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the LORD God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.
Well, here he is. Elijah the fiery prophet with a blazing heart and a blazing tongue. What a sight this must have been to all watching. Here suddenly we have this previously unknown man, Elijah, showing up on the King’s doorstep to make a pronouncement of judgment upon the King and his nation. “Hey King! You and all of your people have been living in evil, and it’s about to stop raining, and it won’t start again until I say so! Oh, by the way, I speak for God here, in case you wondered.”
We have to understand that this was a pretty dire pronouncement for any people of that time. This was predominantly an agricultural society, so no rain meant starvation ultimately. This was much more than not being able to take long showers or wash the chariot here. Drought in this day was extremely serious.
Another thing to note here is that God didn’t just wake up, so to speak, and feel cranky and decide to judge the people of Israel. God is not arbitrary, and is never randomly capricious. In fact, God is shown time and time again to be patient and long suffering towards a people who constantly drift away and reject him. We never see God exercising judgment without the people being given ample warning and opportunity to repent.
Ahab was the seventh king to reign over the Norther half of the divided Kingdom of Israel. We all know the story, as we know that back when Solomon ruled as the last king of the unified Kingdom, God told Solomon that after his death that his Kingdom would be taken from him and divided. Why? Well, for the sin and idolatry Solomon had turned to personally, and leading his people in that same direction. Things didn’t get any better as the years went on, as not a single one of the Northern Kings was a Godly man. Ahab just happened to be the worst of the lot.
Just a quick discussion of the theology of the day is in order. It seems that worship of the god Baal was the primary direction the nation had gone under the influence of the evil Jezebel, with worship of Asherah running a close second. Between the two of them, they had 850 prophets serving them. The One True God had one: The man Elijah. It seems almost unimaginable to even consider how Elijah must have felt, and Scripture really never tells us. We can ask ourselves, however, how we would feel? How would we respond?
Apparently Elijah was fully confident in where he stood, and for whom he stood. He said as much, referring to the Lord God of Israel, before whom I stand. Then Elijah made God’s pronouncement: There will not be rain again until I speak it. That is pretty powerful stuff.
Here I am, and I stand for God. Here I am, and I speak for God. Here I am, and I speak with the power of God behind me.
Why drought? It was no accident that rain(or lack thereof) was the chosen judgment on Israel. Baal was noted for being the God of the storm. In other words, Baal controlled the rain. This was like a theological dagger into the heart of Baal, this declaration that the rain would stop. This would prove who REALLY controlled the rains.
Elijah confronted Ahab, and the gauntlet was cast down. Armed with the power of God’s Word, Elijah boldly proclaimed it to a hostile audience.
Who is our Ahab? Are we willing to do the same thing Elijah did?
1 Kings 17:2-4
And the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan. And it shall be, that thou shalt drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there.
Scripture never says this explicitly, but there is little doubt that Ahab was, to put it mildly, angry after Elijah’s visit. So, God warned him to go hide by the brook Cherith where He would be safe.
Why would Ahab have been angry? Well, we know by now Ahab was doing wrong in many, many ways. He had married a idolatrous woman and she had turned Ahab, and subsequently the entire nation of Israel away from the True God. It is doubtful that Ahab was simply clueless about the state of his heart and his actions. Even today, how do we act when confronted with our sin? How does the non believing world react today when confronted with there sin? Written anything on WordPress lately of a Christian nature? Chances are you have felt anger from a non believing world, and perhaps even believers.
Was Elijah the first time Ahab and Jezebel had heard God’s Word preached? Maybe, maybe not. We see later in 1 Kings Chapter 18 that the two of them were at some point so angry about Elijah’s announcement and the subsequent drought that they began to systematically kill off the prophets of God in the Kingdom. We see how Obidiah, one of King Ahab’s servants, and a man of God, had hidden 100 prophets of God in caves to protect them. If he hid 100, surely there were many more than that. I personally suspect Elijah was not the first time they had heard God’s Word preached.
Other than protection, why would God instruct Elijah to go off and hide in the desert? Well, there was nothing else for Elijah to do at the moment. He had preached The Word, and perhaps others had as well. The difference was, Elijah had not only preached The Word, but had pronounced judgment. There was really nothing else to do now but wait and watch the truth of God’s Word unfold. “I told you what was coming, now watch and see!“
Not only did God protect Elijah, but we will see later that He provided for him as well. And that is our point here. We have discussed several times the similarities between society in the day of Ahab and Jezebel and our society today. We have discussed the need today for those willing to step up and boldly proclaim God’s Word. Even the reaction is the same to the preaching today as it was then. People have heard it, but they do not want to hear it. Are you a Christian? Is anybody angry at you for your proclamation of your faith? Great, then you might be doing what God wants. Is your life as a Christian just peaceful with not strife or issues whatsoever? Maybe it’s time to step out some.
Okay, I understand not everybody is called to be an Elijah; not everybody is called to stand on the street corner and preach the Gospel. We are all called to boldly proclaim God’s Word in different ways; however, we are all called to proclaim it in SOME way. And the reaction is likely to be anger, perhaps strong anger. But, as we can see from Elijah’s story,
God will keep us safe.
1 Kings 17:3-6
Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan. And it shall be, that thou shalt drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there. So he went and did according unto the word of the LORD: for he went and dwelt by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan. And the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening; and he drank of the brook.
Well, Elijah has made his proclamation of God’s judgment to King Ahab. God had subsequently given Elijah his marching orders so to speak. Elijah was to go to the brook Cherith and simply hide and wait. As we covered earlier this may have been due to Ahab’s anger at being called on the carpet. It may also have simply been for the sake of waiting itself; Elijah had promised drought, now he just had to wait for God to bring that promise of judgment to bear.
God did provide for Elijah’s need, As we see in the text, God commanded ravens to bring food to Elijah, and Elijah then drank from the brook. It is interesting to see how God provided for His Prophet.
God provided for Elijah emotionally it seems. God could have just dropped manna from Heaven or something like that so that Elijah could eat; instead he had Elijah’s needs provided by a raven. In other words, sustenance was provided by another living creature. I can’t help but think that must have been somewhat of a comfort to Elijah, sitting out there alone by the brook. Elijah was not alone.
God provided completely, in that He provided bread and meat. God provided something resembling a balanced diet for His Prophet.
By using the raven, God showed us that He can use the unworthy to accomplish His works. The raven was considered and unclean bird according to Jewish dietary law; even today we would look at a raven as no more than a common scavenger, hardly what we would pick ourselves to perform this mission. But, God still chose this unworthy vessel to be His chosen way.
Again, what is the point? The point is, Elijah was willing to step out and do what God wanted even when he must have wondered what would happen to him when he did. We see what happened.
Elijah stepped out, and God then protected and provided for him. Just as He will us.
1 Kings 17:7-9
And it came to pass after a while, that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land. And the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee.
Of course, as readers we all know the big climactic event of the Elijah story. That would be the Prophet’s “showdown” with the prophets of Baal atop Mount Carmel. I put that word in parentheses because, as my friend Colorstorm pointed, out, it really wasn’t a contest at all. The point here is that, although we all know the end of the story, Elijah did not. There is not any evidence that God had revealed just what was to be done eventually by Elijah.
Elijah had not come out of the box, so to speak, ready to use. That is true for most of us really. We may be willing to go where God sends, but few of us are ready. God makes us ready. If we are to be a vessel ready for God’s use, sometime we have to be fired, or tempered a bit before we are ready for use.
We see that with Elijah now, and we will see more of it in the future as this story progresses. Note that the drought not only arrived, but the effects of it are being seen. The brook Cherith where God had provided sustenance to Elijah for some period of time, had dried up. That must have been somewhat of a shock to Elijah, as God had been providing his every need for some time. Suddenly God’s own promise of a drought in the land was not only happening, but was affecting this man of God.
That is very true, by the way. Sometimes when judgment comes, even God’s people suffer the consequences of it. But, that is exactly the point. God is in the process here of molding Elijah into a vessel suitable for his use.
God has provided for Elijah, and Elijah has seen God’s Word come to pass as promised. God is teaching Elijah to trust Him. Although he doesn’t know it yet, the biggest challenge of Elijah’s life is coming up, and he will need to be even stronger and more resolute than he has already shown himself to be. He will have to learn that God will take care of business even under the direst of circumstances.
God’s instructions to Elijah are simple: Go to Zarepath, where I have prepared a widow woman to sustain you. After reading this numerous times it finally hit me that this must have sounded quite odd to Elijah. There is a drought in the land. His creek had dried up and his raven friend was gone. Now, he was to go into the city where the one person mostly likely to be truly suffering in a national time of need, a widow, was going to take care of this grown man. I wonder if Elijah was wondering what God was planning at this point?
Maybe he was, maybe he was not; nonetheless he simply executed God’s instructions to him without skipping a beat. God had provided for him once, and He would do it again.
How about us? Do we trust God that much? Will we speak boldly regardless of the perceived threat? Do we believe God will take care of us? More importantly, do we believe God will take care of us when things get even worse?
Next…a change of scenery for the prophet