I think today we will wrap up our study of the story of the Prophet Elijah and the prophets of Baal.I am not sure where we are doing next, but hopefully the Holy Spirit will point me in the direction He wants me to do next. Well, allow me to amend that. He will certainly point, but I hope I am listening.
1 Kings 18:41-46
And Elijah said unto Ahab, Get thee up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of abundance of rain. So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he cast himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees, And said to his servant, Go up now, look toward the sea. And he went up, and looked, and said, There is nothing. And he said, Go again seven times. And it came to pass at the seventh time, that he said, Behold, there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea, like a man’s hand. And he said, Go up, say unto Ahab, Prepare thy chariot, and get thee down, that the rain stop thee not. And it came to pass in the mean while, that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode, and went to Jezreel. And the hand of the LORD was on Elijah; and he girded up his loins, and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel
We started our study with Elijah handing a prophecy to King Ahab that, due to the sin and idolatry of both him and the nation, that God would withhold rain from the land or Israel as judgment upon them.
Elijah then spent three years basically keeping out of sight while the drought unfolded in the land, first living alone at the brook Kidron, then living in the home of a widow woman and her son. We learned that not only was God giving time for the drought to unfold in the land so that the people would understand the judgment they were under, but that God was shaping and molding Elijah for a great, great mission.
That mission, of course was the great confrontation on mount Carmel between Elijah and the prophets of Baal. Of course we know there was really no showdown or contest in reality, as we know it was all merely an opportunity for God to showcase His awesome power and bring the people to repentance and forgiveness.
That is where we stand in our story. The “contest” on mount Carmel is over. God has shown to all the assembled just who is God and who is not; the prophets of Baal are all dead. At this point it is only Elijah, the people of Israel(who have immediately begun obeying God, as we see by the execution of the prophets of Baal at Elijah’s command), and King Ahab. What’s next?
It almost seems anti climactic at this point in some ways. Elijah seemingly said to Ahab; “Hey go get something to eat.”; however, Elijah did add some interesting words here: for there is a sound of abundance of rain. Basically, Elijah was telling the King to go celebrate the coming of the rain. Did Elijah actually hear rain here? Did Elijah have really good ears? Given what happened next, it doesn’t seem likely Elijah actually heard or saw anything to physically indicate rain was coming. What did Elijah hear?
Elijah has just spent three years relying on the promises and provision of God. He was fed by a raven, watched food refill itself for two years, and watched a young boy come back from the dead; Elijah had come to recognize the sound of God’s promises. While Elijah may not have physically heard or seen the signs of rain, he did know God had promised the rain would come. In 1 Kings 18:1 we see that: And it came to pass after many days, that the word of the LORD came to Elijah in the third year, saying, Go, shew thyself unto Ahab; and I will send rain upon the earth. Elijah heard and heeded the promise of God to bring the rain.
Note what the great prophet did now. The great man who had only moments before been standing with strength and confidence now prostrated himself in supplication and prayer to his God. Elijah didn’t just pray once, as we see. He sent his servant to scan the horizon seven times looking for signs on impending rain. On the seventh persistent prayer, Elijah’s servant reported rain on the horizon.
The interaction between Elijah and King Ahab is very interesting. Why wasn’t the most evil King in Israel’s history slain along with his idolatrous prophets? Well, I certainly don’t know. But it apparently was in God’s sovereign plan, and Elijah knew it. He sent the servant to Ahab to tell him the rains were coming, and to head quickly back to his home in Jezreel before the deluge stopped him. Filled with the strength of the Holy Spirit, Elijah ran before the King’s chariot the entire distance back. This certainly showed Elijah’s loyalty to the man ordained by God to be the leader of the country, as the custom was for runners to precede the chariots of kings. It again also showed the empowering of Elijah for this mission as this was likely in the range of 15-25 miles back to the palace.
The story of Elijah, Ahab, and Jezebel is not over yet; there is still an important episode left to record in relation to this story, and we will head there next time. The lessons we can learn from Elijah continue to show themselves to us.
We see by Elijah’s prayer that he was bold before men, yet humble before God,, just as believers today should be.
We see that Elijah was persistent in his prayer. Seven times he prayed for God to deliver what He had promised that he would.
Elijah’s loyalty to King Ahab show the prophet’s continued willingness to act in accordance with God’s plan and be loyal the the man God had place in leadership, even when he certainly had personal feelings that would have prompted him otherwise.
1 Kings 19:1-4
And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain all the prophets with the sword.Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by to morrow about this time. And when he saw that, he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beersheba, which belongeth to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.
As we left our previous discussion, Elijah had run ahead of King Ahab all the way back to Jezreel, and seemingly dropped him off at the gate of the city, more or less. As was typical of Ahab, the first thing he did was run in and tell his evil wife, Queen Jezebel, what had happened back on mount Carmel. As was typical of Jezebel, she immediately took control of things and came up with a solution. As was typical of Jezebel, her solution was simply to get rid of the problem!
When informed of how Elijah has slain all the prophets of Baal, she immediately sent word to Elijah that his fate would be the same. “By this time tomorrow, you will be dead too!” is what she informed the great prophet of. Immediately, Elijah returned to the palace and boldly proclaimed a message of repentance and forgiveness to Queen Jezebel, right? He fearlessly confronted her with the Word of God, knowing that his God would continue to protect him, right?
Since we all have the book, we know that none of that happened. For three years, Elijah had trusted God; for three years Elijah had done all that God had called him to do. Elijah had stood bold and alone against the dancing prophets of Baal on mount Carmel. Elijah had mocked and defeated(in God’s power, or course), the 450 prophets of the false god. Elijah had chased the false prophets down and killed them all. Now, when given a message from Queen Jezebel of his imminent demise, he tucks tail and runs; Elijah heads for the hills! What has happened to the great man of God?
We really do not know exactly why Elijah reacted the way he did to Jezebel’s threat, as Scripture never comes right out and tells us, We can only theorize; so let’s theorize a little bit. As we theorize, let’s consider how many of these thoughts apply to believers today, even as we do The Lord’s work.
This threat was personal; it was aimed directly and personally against Elijah. He had just been the channel by which God showcased His amazing power and proved just who He was. But think about the conversation between Ahab and Jezebel. No doubt, Ahab gave a blow by blow description of what happened, with every intention of making Elijah look as bad a possible and himself as good as possible. He told Jezebel about all that Elijah had done. The responsibility for these things had been laid squarely at Elijah’s feet; God was not acknowledged as the source for them. That must have hurt! There was Elijah, just doing God’s called work, and all of these horrible things had been laid at his feet. Does that happen today?
Elijah was tired. He had maintained focus for three long years, and had done all things God had asked of him. Think about this: that day on mount Carmel must have been a long one. This all started early in the morning, continued into the evening, and was capped by a 25 mile road march! Elijah was no doubt exhausted. How often do we push so hard in God’s service that we become exhausted?
Perhaps Elijah was disappointed. Surely he expected everybody to see the great thing God had done and react in repentance and faith. Perhaps he even expected Jezebel to react this way. Her heart, however, was so hard she did not. Have we ever been disappointed to see our best efforts, often at personal cost to us, fail when they confront a hardened heart?
Elijah was simply a human being, just like the rest of us. Elijah was nothing special; his only notable characteristic is that God called him. He tells us himself, that I am not better than my fathers. Elijah was a human, with human emotions and weaknesses. He, and any of us, can fail to rely on the presence of the Holy Spirit on our lives and slip into a slump.
It’s not far from the Penthouse to the outhouse. I used to know a fellow who said that quite often, and it is a true statement. Just like Elijah, we can all be used greatly and mightily by The Lord. Just like Elijah, even at the height of our God given successes, we can find ourselves quickly in trouble.