Eliyahu ~ Part 5

In my last post, we explored A Miraculous Resurrection in 1 Kings 17:17-24. In this post, we learn of God Ordering Eliyahu Back into Enemy Territory in 1 Kings 18:1-15.

Mission Impossible

Oh, no, Lord, why are you sending me back to King Ach’av? He will undoubtedly have me murdered! Why now? God had an important, but a positive message for Eliyahu to give to King Ach’av ~ the rain is coming.

1 A long time passed. Then, in the third year, the word of Adonai came to Eliyahu: “Go, present yourself to Ach’av, and I will send rain down on the land.” 2 When Eliyahu went to present himself to Ach’av, the famine in Shomron had become severe. 3 Ach’av called ‘Ovadyah, who was in charge of the palace. Now ‘Ovadyah greatly revered Adonai; 4 for example, when Izevel was murdering Adonai’s prophets, ‘Ovadyah took a hundred prophets, hid them in two caves, fifty in each, and supplied them with food and water. 5 Ach’av said to ‘Ovadyah, “Go throughout the land, and check all the springs and vadis; maybe we can find grass somewhere so that we can keep the horses and mules alive and not lose all the animals.” 6 So they divided between them the territory to be visited; Ach’av went one way by himself, and ‘Ovadyah went another way by himself.

7 ‘Ovadyah was on the road when suddenly Eliyahu encountered him. ‘Ovadyah recognized him, fell on his face and said, “Is it really you, my lord Eliyahu?” 8 He answered, “Yes, it is I; go, tell your master, ‘Eliyahu is here.’” 9 Ovadyah replied, “How have I sinned, that you would hand your servant over to Ach’av to kill me? 10 As Adonai your God lives, there can’t be a single nation or kingdom where my master hasn’t sent to search you out; and in each kingdom or nation where they said, ‘He isn’t here,’ he made them take an oath that they hadn’t found you. 11 Now you say, ‘Go tell your master, “Eliyahu is here.”’ 12 But as soon as I leave you, the Spirit of Adonai will carry you off to I don’t know where; so that when I come and tell Ach’av, and he can’t find you, he will kill me. But I your servant have revered Adonai from my youth — 13 wasn’t my lord told what I did when Izevel killed Adonai’s prophets, how I hid a hundred of Adonai’s prophets by fifties in caves and supplied their food and water? 14 Now you say, ‘Go tell your master, “Look, Eliyahu is here.”’ Why he’ll kill me!” 15 Eliyahu said, “As Adonai-Tzva’ot [Lord of Heaven’s Armies] lives, before whom I stand, I will present myself to him today.”  ~ 1 Kings 18:1-15 (CJB)

The Holman Christian Study Bible Notes says that:

“Chapter 18 describes one of history’s great power encounters between God and evil; it is comparable to the encounter between the Lord and the gods of Egypt before the Exodus. … The power encounter with Egypt freed the Israelites from physical bondage. One might expect that God’s confrontation with Ba’al freed Israel from spiritual bondage, but it is hard to find evidence for this. Neither Ach’av nor Izebel repented. The moral life of the northern kingdom was not noticeably influenced. But we cannot know how much worse things would have gone for faith in Yahweh without this encounter. … Humanly speaking, without such manifestations of God’s power as these, the Hebrew faith might have perished long before the exile.”

For three years, Eliyahu had hidden at the Vadi K’rit and then with the widow in Tzarfat, but now he was commanded to present himself to wicked King Ach’av. But along with God’s command was God’s promise that He would send rain and end the drought that He had sent to punish the idolatrous nation for over three years. Waiting on God is one of the hardest things we can do. That means virtually doing nothing until He gives us the signal. Part of the genius of Eliyahu is that he did nothing until God gave the word.

‘Ovadyah encountered Eliyahu before Eliyahu ran into King Ach’av. He was a man of great authority, he was the administrator of the royal palace as well as steward and supervisor of whatever estates the king possessed. But was he a courageous servant of God (his name means “servant of Yah”) or a timid compromiser who was afraid to let his witness be known? The text informs us that ‘Ovadyah greatly revered Adonai, and proved it during Izebel’s purge of Israel’s prophets by risking his life to rescue and support one hundred prophets of the Lord. That doesn’t sound like a man who was compromising his testimony! Why should he tell the king and queen what he was doing for the Lord? The Lord had put ‘Ovadyah in the palace to use his God-given authority to support the faithful prophets at a time when openly serving the Lord was a dangerous thing.

Ovadyah was probably one of the seven thousand faithful men of God, of whom Eliyahu was unaware we will read about in 1 Kings. 19:18.

The Lord led Eliyahu to the road that ‘Ovadyah was using and the two men met. ‘Ovadyah had such reverence for Eliyahu and his ministry that he fell on his face on the earth and called him, “My lord, Eliyahu.” But Eliyahu’s aim was to confront wicked King Ahab, and he wasn’t about to go looking for him; so he commissioned ‘Ovadyah to tell the king where he was. We can understand ‘Ovadyah’s concern lest the king come back and not find the prophet. During the three years Ahab had been searching for Eliyahu, no doubt he had followed up many false leads, and Ahab wasn’t interested in wasting time and energy at such a critical point in the nation’s history. Furthermore, Ach’av might punish ‘Ovadyah or even suspect him of being a follower of Eliyahu’s God. But when Eliyahu assured the officer that he would remain there and wait for the king, ‘Ovadyah went off to give Ach’av the message.

Not all of God’s servants are supposed to be in the public eye like Eliyahu and the other prophets. God has His servants in many places, doing the work He’s called them to do. Nakdimon [Nicodemus] and Yosef of Ramatayim [Joseph of Arimathea] didn’t make a big fuss about their faith in Yeshua, yet God used them to give a proper burial to the body of the Messiah (John 19:38-42). Ester kept quiet about her Jewish heritage until it was absolutely necessary to use it to save the life of the nation. Over the centuries, there have been numerous believers who have kept a low profile and yet made great contributions

In my next post, we will continue to explore the Biblical story of Eliyahu in 1 Kings 18:16-19. In this passage, we examine Eliyahu’s encounter with Ach’av setting the stage for Eliyahu’s Finest Hour ~ Let the Fire Fall.

Click here for PDF version.

Eliyahu ~ Part 4

In my last post, we explored The Obedience of Eliyahu and the Faith of a Goy in 1 Kings 8-16. In this post, we learn of A Miraculous Resurrection in 1 Kings 17:17-24.

A Miraculous Resurrection

17 A while later, the son of the woman whose house it was fell ill; his illness grew increasingly serious until his breathing stopped. 18 She said to Eliyahu, ‘What do you have against me, you man of God? Did you come to me just to remind me how sinful I am by killing my son?’ 19 ‘Give me your son,’ he said to her. Taking him from her lap, he carried him into the room upstairs where he was staying and laid him on his own bed. 20 Then he cried out to Adonai: ‘Adonai my God! Have you brought also this misery on the widow I’m staying with by killing her son?’ 21 He stretched himself out on the child three times and cried out to Adonai: ‘Adonai my God, please! Let this child’s soul come back into him!’ 22 Adonai heard Eliyahu’s cry, the child’s soul came back into him, and he revived. 23 Eliyahu took the child, brought him down from the upstairs room into the house and gave him to his mother; and Eliyahu said, ‘See? Your son is alive.’ 24 The woman replied to Eliyahu, ‘Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of Adonai that you speak is the truth.’” ~1 Kings 17:17-24 (CJB)

This is the first recorded instance in Scripture of the resurrection of a dead person. The evidence seems clear that the widow’s son actually died and didn’t just faint. He stopped breathing, and his soul left his body. According to James 2:26, when the soul departs, the person is dead. The great distress of both the mother and the prophet would suggest that the boy was killed, and both of them used the word “killing” concerning the event.

The mother’s response was to feel guilty because of her past sins. She believed that her son’s death was God’s way of punishing her for her misdeeds. It isn’t unusual for people to feel guilty in connection with mourning, but why would she point her finger at Eliyahu? She recognized Eliyahu as a man of God, and perhaps she thought his presence in the home would protect her and her son from trouble. Her words remind us of the question of the talmidim asked Yeshua, “Rabbi, who sinned — this man or his parents — to cause him to be born blind?” ~ John 9:2 (CJB)

Eliyahu’s response was to carry the boy to his upstairs room and to cry out to the Lord for the life of the child. He couldn’t believe that the Lord would miraculously provide food for the three of them and then allow the son to die. It just didn’t make sense.

Eliyahu didn’t stretch himself out on the boy’s dead body in hopes he could transfer his life to the boy, for he knew that only God could impart life to the dead. Indeed, his posture indicated total identification with the boy and his need, and this is an essential factor when we intercede for others. It was after Eliyahu stretched himself on the child for the third time that the Lord raised him from the dead, a reminder that our own Savior arose from the dead on the third day.

The result of this miracle was the woman’s public confession of her faith in the God of Israel. She now knew for sure that Eliyahu was a true servant of God and not just another religious teacher looking for some support. She also knew that the Word he had taught her was indeed the Word of the true and living God.

During the time he lived with the widow and her son, Eliyahu had shown them that God sustains life (the meal and oil didn’t run out) and that God imparts life (the boy was raised from the dead).

This miracle teaches us three crucial lessons:

  1. not all illness is the result of sin;
  2. God has power over sickness and death; and
  3. the purpose of the signs is to produce faith in the God’s Word.

Eliyahu hadn’t been in public ministry for a long time, yet his private ministry to the woman and her son was just as essential both to the Lord and to them. Eliyahu had proved the power of God in Ba’al’s home territory, so he was now ready to challenge and defeat Ba’al in the kingdom of Israel.

During these three years as an exile and a hunted man (18:10), Eliyahu has learned a great deal about the Lord, about himself and the needs of people. He has learned to live a day at a time, trusting God for his daily bread. For three years, people have been asking, “Where is the prophet Eliyahu?” Is he able to do anything to ease the burdens we carry because of this drought? But the Lord is more concerned about the worker than the work, and He has been preparing Eliyahu for the most significant challenge of faith in his entire ministry.

In my next post, we will continue to explore the Biblical story of Eliyahu in 1 Kings 18:1-15. In this passage, Eliyahu is ordered by God to return to Ach’av and meets up with ‘Ovadyah, who oversaw Ach’av’s palace.

Click here for PDF version.

Eliyahu ~ Part 3

In my last post, we explored Eliyahu’s prophesy of an extended drought in Israel and his being instructed by God to hide at the Vadi K’rit near the Yarden. In this post, we learn how he helped a widow in 1 Kings 17:8-16.

The Obedience of Eliyahu and the Faith of a Goy (Gentile)

8 Then this word of Adonai came to him: 9 ‘Get up; go to Tzarfat, a village in Tzidon; and live there. I have ordered a widow there to provide for you.’ 10 So he set out and went to Tzarfat. On reaching the gate of the city, he saw a widow there gathering sticks. He called out to her, ‘Please bring a little water in a container for me to drink.’ 11 As she was going to get it, he called after her, ‘Please bring me a piece of bread in your hand.’ 12 She answered, ‘As Adonai your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a pot and a little oil in the jug. Here I am, gathering a couple sticks of wood so that I can go and cook it for myself and my son. After we have eaten that, we will die.’ 13 Eliyahu said to her, ‘Don’t be afraid. Go, and do what you said; but first, use a little of it to make me a small loaf of bread; and bring it out to me. After that, make food for yourself and your son. 14 For this is what Adonai the God of Isra’el, says: ‘The pot of meal will not get used up, nor will there fail to be oil in the jug, until the day Adonai sends rain down on the land.’ 15 She went and acted according to what Eliyahu had said; and she, he and her household had food to eat for a long time. 16 The pot of meal did not get used up, nor did there fail to be oil in the jug, in fulfillment of the word of Adonai spoken through Eliyahu.” ~ 1 Kings 17:8-16 (CJB)

After Vadi K’rit near the Yarden dried up, God told Eliyahu to leave. God’s instructions may have shocked the prophet, for the Lord commanded him to travel northeast about a hundred miles to Tzarfat, a village in Tzidon. God was sending Eliyahu into Gentile territory. Tzarfat was not too far from Izevel’s home city of Tzidon. He would be living in enemy territory!

Yeshua Himself gave a theologically proper interpretation of this passage that God sent His messenger with beneficial signs and wonders to a Goy. It’s true, I’m telling you — when Eliyahu was in Isra’el, and the sky was sealed off for three-and-a-half years, so that all the Land suffered a severe famine, there were many widows; 26 but Eliyahu was sent to none of them, only to a widow in Tzarfat in the land of Tzidon.” Luke 4:25-26 (CJB) God’s witness through signs was not given to Israelites alone.

Even more, he was instructed to live with a widow whom God had ordered to provide for him, and widows were usually among the neediest people in the land. Since Tzidon depended on Israel for much of its food supply (1 Kings 5:9; Acts 12:20), food wouldn’t be too plentiful there.

But when God sends us, we must obey and leave the rest to Him, for we don’t live on man’s explanations ~ we live on God’s promises. ~ Warren Wiersbe

Note that the widow said: as Adonai your God lives. She readily discerned that Eliyahu was a Jew, but likely she probably worshiped Ba’al. We learn in 1 Kings 18:1 that it’s probable that Eliyahu remained with her for two years, and during that time, the widow and her son inevitably turned from the worship of idols and put their faith in the true and living God.

The woman’s assets were few: a little oil in a flask, a handful of meal (barley), and a few sticks to provide fuel for a fire. But Eliyahu’s assets were significant, for God Almighty had promised to take care of him, his hostess, and her son. Eliyahu gave her God’s promise that neither the jar of grain nor the flask of oil would be used up before the end of the drought and famine. God would one day send the rain, but until then, He would continue to provide bread for them ~ and He did.

Grain and oil were two of the major exports of the city of Tzarfat. The fact that they were in short supply is an indication of how severe the drought was. They are also two of the essential commodities for survival. The contest between God and Ba’al continues as God demonstrates that He can provide for “Ba’al’s people” in “Ba’al’s territory” just as quickly as He can provide for His people and just as soon as He can withhold from whomever He chooses.

This miraculous sign illustrated that God rewards faith and obedience, even that of a Gentile.

A couple of final thoughts on this passage. How did Eliyahu know that this widow was the one to whom God had instructed to provide for him? And, how did the widow realize it was Eliyahu was the person to care for? Note that in their brief dialogue both referred to Adonai the God of Israel. He confirmed this divine appointment.

In my next post, we will continue to explore the Biblical story of Eliyahu by looking at A Miraculous Resurrection in 1 Kings 17:17-24.

Click here for PDF version.

Eliyahu ~ Part 2

In my last post, I introduced a new series dealing with the ministry of Eliyahu. We explored some background information on him as well as the other two main characters in this saga: King Ach’av and Queen Izevel. In this post, we will begin to explore the actual Biblical story of Eliyahu.

God Stops the Rain

Eliyahu from Tishbe, an inhabitant of Gil‘ad, said to Ach’av, ‘As Adonai the God of Isra’el lives, before whom I stand, there will be neither rain nor dew in the years ahead unless I say so.’” ~ 1 Kings 17:1 (CJB)

How would like to be in his shoes? Here he has a word from the Creator of the Universe that he is to go to the King and proclaim that there will be a drought for the years ahead unless I say so. Living in the San Joaquin Valley of California, I can certainly relate to this story. In recent years, we have experienced devastating drought conditions.

The people depended on the seasonal rains for the success of their crops. If the Lord didn’t send the early rain in October and November and the latter rain in March and April, there would soon be a famine in the land. But the blessing of the seasonal rains depended on the people obeying the covenant of the Lord. God warned the people that their disobedience would turn the heavens into bronze and the earth into iron (D’varim 28:23-24). The land belonged to the Lord, and if the people defiled the land with their sinful idols, the Lord wouldn’t bless them.

It’s likely that Eliyahu appeared before King Ach’av in October, about the time the early rains should have begun. There had been no rain for six months, from April to October, and the prophet announced that there would be no rain for the years ahead! The people were following Ba’al, not God, and the Lord could not send the promised rain and still be faithful to His covenant. God always keeps His covenant, whether to bless the people for their obedience or to discipline them for their sins.

God had held back the rain because of the fervent prayers of Eliyahu, and He would send the rain again in response to His servant’s intercession (see James 5:17-18). For the next three years, the word of Eliyahu would control the weather in Israel! The three and a half years of drought would prepare the people for the dramatic contest on Mount Carmel between the priests of Ba’al and the prophet of the Lord. Like a faithful servant, attentive to his master’s commands, Eliyahu stood before the Lord and served him. An extended drought announced and controlled by a prophet of God, would make it clear to everybody that Ba’al the storm god was not a real god at all.

R.T. Kendall makes this interesting observation on Eliyahu:

What strikes me most about Elijah is that he was both extraordinary and ordinary. He was spectacular ~ stating boldly, for example, that it would not rain until he gave the word; and there was not a drop of rain for three and a half years. Yet James noted that Elijah was a man “just like us” because he was so very, very human (James 5:17). Elijah took himself too seriously; he felt he was the only prophet around who was worth a grain of salt and fancied he was a cut above all before him. He was very human indeed. This is what makes a study of Elijah so thrilling. If God could use a man as human as Elijah was, there is hope for all of us! [1]

Eliyahu, Get Out of Town

After delivering this message to King Ach’av, Eliyahu received the following message:

2 Then the word of Adonai came to him: 3 ‘Leave here, turn to the east, and hide in Vadi K’rit near the Yarden. 4 You are to drink from the stream, and I have ordered the ravens to feed you there.’5 So he went and acted according to the word of Adonai ~ he went and lived in Vadi K’rit near the Yarden. 6 The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the stream. 7 After a while the stream dried up because there was no rain in the land.” 1 Kings 17:2-7 (CJB)

After Eliyahu left the king’s presence, Izevel probably instigated her campaign to wipe out the prophets of the Lord. As the drought continued and famine hit the land, Ach’av began his search for Eliyahu, the man he thought caused all the trouble. In one sense, Eliyahu did cause the drought, but it was the sins of Ach’av and Izevel that led the nation into disobeying God’s covenant and inviting His chastening.

The Lord had a special hiding place for His servant by a brook east of the Yarden, and He also had some unusual “servants” prepared to feed him. The Lord usually leads His faithful people a step at a time as they tune their hearts to His Word. God didn’t give Eliyahu a schedule to follow. Instead, He directed His servant at each critical juncture in his journey, and Eliyahu obeyed by faith.

At the Vadi K’rit, Eliyahu had safety and sustenance. Until it dried up, the brook provided water, and each morning and evening the ravens brought him bread and meat. The raven was considered “unclean” and “detestable” on the Mosaic list of forbidden foods (Leviticus 11:13-15), yet God used these birds to help sustain the life of His servant. The ravens didn’t bring Eliyahu the carrion that they were accustomed to eating, because such food would be unclean for a dedicated Jew. The Lord provided the food, and the birds provided the transportation! Just as God dropped the manna into the camp of Israel during their wilderness journey, so He sent the necessary food to Eliyahu as he waited for the signal to relocate.

We can’t be sure how long Eliyahu was at the Vadi K’rit, but we do know it must have been pretty lonely hiding out. What would you do with that kind of solitude? Personally, I much too gregarious to tolerate much seclusion. Sure, I like my quiet times, but usually, a half-day here or there will do.

Kendall observes that:

A person who is highly gifted needs to pray more than anyone. You develop intimacy with your heavenly Father. You develop sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. You get to know God’s ways. You and I are required to know essentially two things: God’s Word and His ways. You know His Word by reading the Bible. You know His ways by spending time with Him. [2]

As the drought grew worse, the brook dried up, leaving the prophet without water; but he never made a move until the Word of the Lord came to tell him what to do. It has well been said that the will of God will never lead us where the grace of God cannot keep us and care for us, and Eliyahu knew this from experience.

In my next post, we will continue to explore the Biblical story of Eliyahu by looking at how he helped a widow in 1 Kings 17:8-15.

Click here for PDF version.

[1] These Are the Days of Elijah by R.T. Kendall.

[2] Ibid.

Eliyahu (Elijah) ~ Part 1

In my last post, we concluded our exploration of the Letter to the Messianic Jews. In this post, I am starting a new series with a new format. I have never done a character study before, but I want to do one on the prophet Eliyahu (Eliyahu).

Introduction

Eliyahu ~ Who is this guy and what gives him the right to confront the King of Israel? Once you meet him, you’ll never forget him. He is best known for his confrontational leadership style and incredible spiritual victories, Eliyahu was characterized by an unwavering tenacity. Despite experiencing periods of fearfulness, hopelessness, and depression, Eliyahu remained steadfast. The result? God used him to tear down Israel’s alters and idols and change the moral and political landscape of his day. Eliyahu is one of the most unforgettable men of the Bible. On the one hand, he dared great exploits for God. On the other hand, he experienced fear, loneliness, and dark depression. Despite Eliyahu’s flaws, God used him mightily and took him to heaven before he died.

Background

We first meet Eliyahu (“I AM is my God”) in 1 Kings. Eliyahu from Tishbe, an inhabitant of Gil’ad, said to Ach’av (Ahab), ‘As Adonai the God of Isra’el lives, before whom I stand, there will be neither rain nor dew in the years ahead unless I say so.’” 1 Kings 17:1 (CJB). Other than being identified as a Tishbe from Gil’ad (Gilead), his parentage and early history are unknown. Gilead was located east of the Jordan River and settled by the tribes of Manasseh and/or Gad. Tishbe is situated near the Wadi Chorath.


Graphics courtesy of Wikipedia

Eliyahu shows up on the scene during the reign of King Ahab (Ach’av) and Queen Jezebel (Izevel, we meet her in 1 Kings 19) in the Northern Kingdom of Israel in approximately 918-908 BCE.

My fascination with Eliyahu is best summoned up by this description by Henry H. Halley:

Elijah’s rare, sudden, and brief appearances, his undaunted courage and fiery zeal, the brilliance of his triumphs, the pathos of his despondency, the glory of his departure, and the calm beauty of his reappearance with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration make him one of the grandest characters Israel ever produced. [1]

That doesn’t include my belief that Eliyahu is one of the two witnesses in Revelation 11.

Before we get into an in-depth look at Eliyahu’s ministry, I want to lay a brief background of who he was dealing with in King Ahab (Ach’av) and Queen Jezebel (Izevel). Six chapters are given to Ach’av’s reign, while most of the kings of Israel are covered in only part of one chapter. The reason is that the story of Ach’av is mostly the story of Eliyahu. Eliyahu was God’s answer to Ach’av and Izevel. God sent Eliyahu to eradicate Baalism, a cruel religion.

Ach’av

Ach’av is a good mystery, combining in himself qualities both good and evil, but, primarily evil. His life and reign include: his marriage to Izevel, a heathen princess; his alliance with Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, by the marriage of his daughter Athaliah to Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat, by which union the two kingdoms were brought into peaceful relations with one another for nearly eighty years; his building enterprises; his prowess and success in warfare; his attitude in the matter of Naboth and his vineyard; and his contacts with Eliyahu.

Izevels character was uniformly and consistently wicked, but Ahab’s was not. That he never abandoned the worship of God is seen in the names of some of his children: Ahaziah, ‘God supports’; Jehoram, ‘God is exalted’; Athaliah, ‘God is strong’; and in the fact that his attendant, Obadiah, was, both by name (‘worshipper of God’), and confession a servant of God. His sin was not that he forsook God for Baal, but that he tried to serve them both.

Like a football at training camp, he was tossed about between Izevel and Eliyahu, between what was wrong and what was right.

Izevel


Photo borrowed from Patrick Hawthorne from SGM.

Izevel must be reckoned among the wickedest of women; in a class with Potiphar’s wife and Lady Macbeth, and with all who have used their femininity to seduce, and to oppose and persecute truth and those who proclaim it. She was reckless, fierce, and licentious, fanatical and subtle; a proud heathen Canaanite, who, when she came into the stream of Israel’s history, cursed it beyond recovery. Her arrogance, her thirst for power and her heartless cruelty, have given her a unique place in history. So obsessed in her attempt at killing Eliyahu or other prophets, Eliyahu thought he was the only one left.

With this background information, in my next post, we will begin to explore the Biblical story of Eliyahu.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Halley’s Bible Handbook, Deluxe Edition.