Eliyahu ~ Part 19

In my last post, we saw Eliyahu riding a fiery chariot into heaven as God’s Reward for Service. In this post, we explore other references to Eliyahu in the Tanakh and Brit Hadasah.

There are a few more references to Eliyahu about Elisha’s ministry in 2 Kings 2:13-15 and 3:11. (I’m still not sure whether I will dig into Elisha after the conclusion of this series.)  There are also a few references in conjunction with King Ach’av that we previously examined in 2 Kings 9:35; 10:10 and 10:17.

In 2 Chronicles 21:12, we come across another word of God through Eliyahu before he ascended in the fiery chariot.

12 A letter came to him [King Y’horam] from Eliyahu the prophet which said, “Here is what Adonai, the God of David your ancestor, says: ‘You have not lived by the examples of Y’hoshafat your father or Asa king of Y’hudah. 13 Instead you have lived by the example of the kings of Isra’el and have caused Y’hudah and the people living in Yerushalayim to prostitute themselves, just as the house of Ach’av caused [Isra’el] to prostitute themselves. Moreover, you killed your brothers from your father’s house, men better than you. 14 Because of all this, Adonai is going to strike your people with a terrible disease, also your children, your wives and everything you have. 15 You will be very ill from a disease in your intestines, until your intestines protrude, because of the effects of this disease, day after day.’” 2 Chronicles 21:12-15 (CJB)

 Eliyahu was alive and ministering during the early part of Y’horam’s reign. We don’t know how much time elapsed between the accession of Y’horam, King of Israel, and the ascension of Eliyahu. Writing this letter to the king of Y’hudah may have been one of Eliyahu’s last ministries.

The prophet reminded Y’horam of three great kings of Judah: David, who founded the royal dynasty; Asa, a godly king who purged the land of evil; and Y’horam’s father, Y’hoshafat. Instead of following in the ways of these kings, Y’horam patterned himself after Ach’av. As a consequence, the people followed his bad example, and it wasn’t difficult for him to make Ba’al worship famous in Y’hudah, the one place where Adonai should have been worshiped without compromise.

Not only was Y’horam an idolater, but he was also a murderer and killed his brothers; so the Lord would now cause him to reap what he had sown. The enemy would invade and loot the kingdom of Y’hudah and take Y’horam’s treasures as well as his wives and sons. Then, the king would be afflicted with an incurable bowel disease that would give him great pain and ultimately take his life. Both of these predictions came true.

The Philistines and the Arabs invaded Y’hudah, robbed the palace of its treasures, and took Y’horam’s wives and sons, except for young Achazyah. The king contracted a painful, lingering bowel disease and died after two years. But the people didn’t mourn his death, nor did they stage the traditional “royal bonfire” in his honor. But perhaps the most humiliating thing was that his body wasn’t placed in a royal tomb, although he was buried in the city of David.

Was Y’horam’s compromise worth it? Of course not! There can be a way which seems right to a person, but at its end are the ways of death.” ~ Proverbs 16:25 (CJB)

We may be more familiar with the last reference to Eliyahu in the Tanakh:

“Look, I will send to you Eliyahu the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible Day of Adonai.” ~  Malachi 4:5 (CJB)

The promise in Malachi 4:5 was often discussed and debated by the Jewish rabbis who asked, “Who is the Y’hoshafat whom the Lord will send?” The Jewish leaders interrogated Yochanan the Immerser about it (Yochanan 1:19-21), and Kefa, Ya’akov, and Yochanan asked Yeshua about it (Matthew 17:10).

The prophet Eliyahu is mentioned at least thirty times in the Brit Hadashah, and ten of those references relate him to Yochanan the Immerser. But Yochanan the Immerser said that he was no Eliyahu (Yochanan 1:21, 25). He did come in the “spirit and power” of Eliyahu and turn the hearts of fathers and children (Luke 1:16-17). Like Eliyahu, Yochanan was a courageous man, a man of prayer empowered by the Spirit, a man who lived alone in the wilderness, and a servant who turned many people back to the Lord, but he was not Eliyahu returned to earth.

However, for those who believed in Yeshua during His earthly ministry, Yochanan the Immerser performed the work of Eliyahu in their lives: he prepared them to meet the Lord. Yeshua declared: Indeed if you are willing to accept it, he is Eliyahu, whose coming was predicted. ~ Matthew 11:14 (CJB) Yeshua also said: On the one hand, Eliyahu is coming and will restore all things; 12 on the other hand, I tell you that Eliyahu has come already, and people did not recognize him but did whatever they pleased to him. In the same way, the Son of Man too is about to suffer at their hands.” ~ Matthew 17:11-12 (CJB)

But Malachi 4:5 promises that Eliyahu himself will come, and that his coming is related to the great and terrible Day of the Lord that will burn the wicked like stubble (v. 1). That’s why Yeshua made the declaration in did in Matthew 17 above. Since the great and terrible Day of the Adonai has yet to occur, we have to believe that Yochanan the Immerser was not the promised Eliyahu, even though he ministered like Eliyahu. Therefore, this prophecy is yet to be fulfilled.

In my next post, we will explore additional passages in the Brit Hadashah that relate to Eliyahu.

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Eliyahu ~ Part 18

In my last post, we continued in 2 Kings 2:1-6 where we learn what God Wants Us to Remember. In this post, we examine 2 Kings 2:7-12 as we see Eliyahu riding a fiery chariot into heaven as God’s Reward for Service.

7 Fifty of the guild prophets went and stood watching them from a distance, while they stood by the Yarden. 8 Then Eliyahu took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it; and the water divided itself to the left and to the right; so that they crossed on dry ground. 9 After they had crossed, Eliyahu said to Elisha, “Tell me what I can do for you before I am taken away from you.” Elisha said, “Please! Let a double share of your spirit be on me!” 10 He replied, “You have requested a hard thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, you will get what you asked for; but if not, you won’t.”

11 Suddenly, as they were walking on and talking, there appeared a fiery chariot with horses of fire; and as it separated the two of them from each other, Eliyahu went up into heaven in a whirlwind. 12 Elisha saw it and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Isra’el!” Then he lost sight of him. Seizing his clothes, he tore them in half.” ~ 2 Kings 2:7-12 (CJB)

God’s Reward for Service

As Eliyahu and Elisha stood by the Yarden River, they were watched by fifty of the guild prophets, men who stood afar off. They knew that Eliyahu was going to leave that day, but they didn’t know how he would depart or when God would call him. It’s likely that only Elisha saw Eliyahu go up into heaven, and after the prophet disappeared, the fifty students thought he hadn’t left them. They saw Eliyahu open the waters of the Yarden and close them again, and they saw Elisha repeat the miracle, but they didn’t see what Elisha saw when the whirlwind took Eliyahu to heaven. The fifty men were spectators that saw only part of what happened, but Elisha was a participant in the miracle and the heir to Eliyahu’s ministry.

Eliyahu didn’t give his successor three wishes; he merely asked him to name the one gift he wanted more than anything else. Every leader needs to be right in his priorities, and Elisha had a ready answer: he wanted a double portion of the spirit of his master. This was not a request for twice as much of the Holy Spirit, or for a ministry twice as great as that of Eliyahu, but for a greater degree of the inner spirit that motivated the great prophet. The request was based on Deuteronomy 21:17, the law of inheritance for the firstborn. Though there were many guild prophets, Elisha saw himself as Eliyahu’s firstborn son who deserved the double inheritance that Moshe commanded. Like a firstborn son serving a father, Elisha had walked with Eliyahu and attended to his needs, but the only inheritance he desired was a double measure of his master’s inner spirit of courage, faithfulness, faith in God, and obedience to God’s will. In saying this, Elisha was accepting the prophetic ministry that Eliyahu had begun and declared that he would carry it on to completion, with God’s help.

Up, Up and Away

Eliyahu was honest with his friend and told him that such a gift was not his to grant, for only the Lord could do it. However, if the Lord allowed Elisha to see his ascendance from earth to heaven, that would be proof that his request had been granted. Then it happened! As the two friends walked along talking, a fiery chariot drawn by fiery horses came between them, and a whirlwind lifted Eliyahu out of sight—and Elisha saw it happen! This meant his request had been granted and the Lord had equipped him to continue the ministry of Eliyahu. Eliyahu was undoubtedly the prophet of fire, for Scripture records at least three instances of his bringing fire from heaven (1 Kings 18:38; 2 Kings 1:10 and 12), so it was right that God sends fiery horses and a chariot of fire to accompany His servant to glory.

Elisha’s response was one of grief, like a son mourning over the loss of a beloved father. But he paid high tribute to Eliyahu when he called him the chariots and horsemen of Isra’el. This one man was the equivalent of a whole army! In His covenant with Israel, the Lord promised that, if the nation obeyed Him, He would enable a hundred Israelites to chase ten thousand enemy soldiers (see Leviticus 26:6-8), and Moshe promised that God would cause one man to pursue a thousand and two men to chase ten thousand (see Deuteronomy 32:30). One plus God is a majority.

To me, this is one of the most fascinating passages in scripture. While it is reminiscent of Moshe parting the Red Sea at the Lord’s direction and the Yarden parting when the priest carried the Ark of the Covenant stepped into the river so that the Israelites could cross on a dry river bed into the promised land, the fiery chariot with horses of fire transporting Eliyahu into heaven ~ WOW!

Now, you may be thinking that we have completed our character study of Eliyahu since he has ascended into heaven, but scripture has more to say about him. In my next post, we continue to explore the Biblical story of Eliyahu. We will be looking at both the remainder of the Tanakh and the Brit Hadashah for references to this fascinating prophet of God.

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Eliyahu ~ Part 17

In my last post, we rejoined Eliyahu in 2 Kings 1:1-17 where once again God Judges Sin. In this post, continue in 2 Kings 2:1-6 where we learn what God Wants Us to Remember. This post is a little longer than usual because of the historical significance of the content. You may want to print out the PDF version below.

1 The time came for Adonai to take Eliyahu up into heaven in a whirlwind. Eliyahu and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal, 2 when Eliyahu said to Elisha, “Please wait here because Adonai has sent me all the way to Beit-El.” But Elisha said, “As Adonai lives, and as you live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Beit-El. 3 The guild prophets of Beit-El came out to Elisha and said to him, “Do you know that Adonai is taking your master away from you today?” “Yes, I know,” he answered; “say no more.”

4 Eliyahu said to him, “Elisha, please wait here, because Adonai has sent me to Yericho.” He replied, “As Adonai lives, and as you live, I will not leave you.” So they came to Yericho. 5 The guild prophets of Yericho approached Elisha and said to him, “Do you know that Adonai is taking your master away from you today?” “Yes, I know,” he answered; “say no more.”

 6 Eliyahu said to him, “Please wait here because Adonai has sent me to the Yarden.” He replied, “As Adonai lives, and as you live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them went on.” ~ 2 Kings 2:1-6 (CJB)

God Wants Us to Remember

King Achazyah died, but Eliyahu won’t die! He will be taken up into heaven in a whirlwind, accompanied by fiery horses drawing a chariot of fire. Like Hanokh (Enoch) of old, he walked with God and then suddenly went to be with God (Genesis 5:21-24). Both men illustrate the catching away of the saints when returns. But before Eliyahu left Elisha to carry on the work, he walked with his successor from Gilgal to beyond the Yarden, and what a walk that must have been!

Wow! Now that is an example of true discipleship. Elisha has been under Eliyahu’s tutelage for some time, and he didn’t want to miss out on any new revelation or experience.

The Lord had at least three purposes in mind when He led these two servants to walk together.

Taking Advantage of the Present

It appears that Eliyahu wanted Elisha to tarry behind and let him go on alone, but this was merely a test of Elisha’s devotion. When Eliyahu threw his mantle on Elisha and made him his successor, the younger man promised, I will follow you (1 Kings 19:20), and he kept that promise.

We never know when a friend and fellow worker will be taken from us. God told Elisha that Eliyahu was leaving him, but we don’t know when it is our time or a friend’s time to go to heaven. What great opportunities we miss by wasting time on trifles when we could be learning from each other about the Lord and His Word!

These two men represented different generations and opposite personalities, yet they were able to walk together. Should we not emulate them in our walk?

Preparing for the Future

At Beit-el, Yericho, and Gilgal, the two men visited the guild prophets, companies of dedicated men who were called of God to study the Scriptures and teach the people. Sh’mu’el led one of these guilds at Ramah. These groups would be similar to the discipling groups in our churches, or even like our Bible schools and colleges. The work of the Lord is always one generation short of extinction. We must be faithful to obey 2 Timothy 2:3: And the things you heard from me, which were supported by many witnesses, these things commit to faithful people, such as will be competent to teach others also.

The Lord didn’t record for us what Eliyahu said to his beloved students. Indeed he told them to obey Elisha just as they had obeyed him, to remain faithful to the Word of God and to do everything God told them to do as they battled against idolatry in the land. It was their responsibility to call the people back to obeying God’s covenant (see Deuteronomy 27-30) so that He might be pleased to bless and heal their land.

God has different ways of training His servants, but He still expects the older generation (that’s me) to pass along to the younger generation the treasures of truth that were given to them by those who went before. “Dear friends, I was busily at work writing to you about the salvation we share, when I found it necessary to write, urging you to keep contending earnestly for the faith which was once and for all passed on to God’s people.” Jude 1:3 (CJB)

Reviewing the Past

Gilgal, Beit-el, Yericho, and the Yarden were essential places in Jewish history, each of them carrying a significant message. Before he left the land and went to heaven, Eliyahu wanted to visit these sites one last time and take Elisha with him. Our eternal God doesn’t reside in particular places, but we who are creatures of time and history need these visible reminders to help us remember and better understand what God has done for His people. The past is not an anchor to hold us back but a rudder to guide us, and the Lord can use these tangible memories to strengthen our faith. All throughout the Torah, God directs His people to erect memorials for the younger generation to learn how He worked in the older generation’s time.

Gilgal was the first place the Israelites camped after they crossed the Yarden River and entered the Promised Land. It was there that the new generation of Jewish men submitted to circumcision and officially became people of Israel (Joshua 5:29). Gilgal was the place of new beginnings, and Eliyahu wanted his successor to remember that.

From Gilgal, the two men walked to Beit-el, about fifteen miles west of Gilgal. Avraham worshiped there, and so did Ya’akov. It was at Beit-el that Ya’akov saw the angels ascending and descending the ladder that reached to heaven. There he heard God promise to be with him and care for him. Beit-el means “house of God,” and there Ya’akov worshiped the Lord and vowed to obey Him. Years later, Ya’akov returned to Beit-el and, like Avraham, made a new beginning in his walk with the Lord.

At Beit-el, the students spoke to Elisha about his master’s departure. Perhaps they thought they knew something that nobody else knew, an attitude not uncommon among some students. The same scene was repeated when Eliyahu and Elisha arrived at Yericho. In both cities, Elisha politely assured the students that he was aware of what was about to happen, but that their discussing it only added to the pain of his separation from his master. Their approach to what God was doing was purely cerebral, but to Elisha, the loss of his beloved master brought pain to his heart. “The mark of a true student of the Scriptures is a burning heart, not a big head.” [1]

The two men then went fifteen miles west to Yericho, the site of Y’oshua’s first victory in the Promised Land. It was also the place where ‘Akhan disobeyed and took of the spoils that belonged to the Lord alone, a sin that led to Israel’s defeat at Ai. The incredible victory at Yericho showed Israel how to conquer the land: get your orders from the Lord; obey them by faith, no matter how foolish they may seem; give all the glory to Him alone. The two times Yoshua failed to follow this formula, he experienced defeat. Yoshua had put under a curse anybody who rebuilt Yericho, but during the reign of evil King Ach’av, the city was rebuilt (see 1 Kings 16:34). Yericho would remind Elisha of the victory of faith, the tragedy of sin and the majesty of the Lord who deserves all the glory.

Eliyahu and Elisha walked five miles east and came to the Yarden River, and surely the record in Joshua 1-4 came into their minds and their conversation. The Lord opened the Red Sea to let His people out of Egypt, and then He parted the Yarden River to let them into their inheritance. What good is freedom if you don’t claim your inheritance? As the nation followed the Ark of the Covenant, the Lord opened the swollen waters of the river, and the people passed over on dry land! To commemorate this miracle, Joshua built a monument in the midst of the river and another one on the shore. Nothing is too hard for the Lord, for, with God, all things are possible! And Eliyahu duplicated that great miracle!

Eliyahu is a good model for Believers to imitate when it comes to the inevitability of one day leaving this earth, either through death or the rapture of the church. He didn’t sit around and do nothing, but instead visited three of the prophetic schools and no doubt ministered to the students. He didn’t say to his successor “I’m going to leave you” and thus dwell on the negative, but said, “I’m going to Gilgal, Beit-el, to Yericho, and to the Yardenand kept busy until the very moment the Lord called him. Even more, he didn’t ask his successor to give him anything, because we can’t take anything in our hands from earth to heaven, but instead, he offered to provide Elisha with a gift before the end came. One of the best gifts we can leave is a prepared servant of God to take our place!

In my next post, we continue to explore the Biblical story of Eliyahu. We examine 2 Kings 2:7-12 as we see Eliyahu riding a fiery chariot into heaven as God’s Reward for Service.

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[1] Warren Wiersbe in Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – Old Testament.

Eliyahu ~ Part 16

In my last post, we looked at God’s Sentence to Ach’av in 1 Kings 21:17-29. In this post, we rejoin Eliyahu in 2 Kings 1:1-17 where once again God Judges Sin.

“1 After Ach’av’s death Mo’av rebelled against Isra’el.

2 When Achazyah fell through a latticed window of his upper room in Shomron and lay injured, he sent messengers and said to them, “Go, consult Ba‘al-Z’vuv the god of ‘Ekron, and ask whether I will recover from this injury.” 3 But an angel of Adonai said to Eliyahu from Tishbe, “Get up, and intercept the messengers of the king of Shomron, and ask them, ‘Is it because there’s no God in Isra’el that you’re on your way to consult Ba‘al-Z’vuv the god of ‘Ekron? 4 Therefore Adonai says, “You will never leave the bed you are lying on; you will certainly die.”’” Then Eliyahu left. 5 The messengers returned to Achazyah, and he asked them, “Why have you come back?” 6 They answered him, “A man came to meet us. He told us to go and return to the king who sent us, and tell him, ‘Here is what Adonai says: “Is it because there’s no God in Isra’el that you’re sending to consult Ba‘al-Z’vuv the god of ‘Ekron? Therefore you will never leave the bed you are lying on; you will certainly die.”’” 7 He asked them, “The man who came to meet you and told you these things, what kind of a man was he?” 8 “He was a hairy man,” they answered him, “with a leather belt around his waist.” He said, “It was Eliyahu from Tishbe.”  [That sure sounds a lot like Yochanan the Emmmerser in Matthew 3:4. No wonder he was thought to be Eliyahu.]

9 Then the king sent a commander of fifty to Eliyahu, together with his fifty men. Eliyahu was sitting at the top of a hill. The commander climbed up to him and said, “Man of God, the king says to come down.” 10 Eliyahu answered the commander of fifty, “If I am in fact a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and burn you up, along with your fifty men.” Fire came down from heaven, and it burned up him and his fifty men. 11 The king sent him another commander of fifty, together with his fifty men. He said to him, “Man of God, the king says, ‘Come down immediately!’” 12 Eliyahu answered them, “If I am in fact a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and burn you up, along with your fifty men.” Fire came down from heaven, and it burned up him and his fifty men. 13 The king sent a third commander of fifty, with his fifty men. The third commander of fifty climbed up, approached Eliyahu and fell on his knees before him. He pleaded with him: “Man of God, please! Have some regard for my life and the lives of these fifty servants of yours! 14 I know that fire came down from heaven and burned up the two other commanders with their fifty men; but now, have some regard for my life.” 15 The angel of Adonai said to Eliyahu, “Go down with him; don’t be afraid of him.” So he got up and went down with him to the king.

16 Eliyahu said to the king, “Here is what Adonai says: ‘You sent messengers to consult Ba‘al-Z’vuv the god of ‘Ekron. Is it because there’s no God in Isra’el you can consult? Therefore, you will never leave the bed you are lying on; you will certainly die.’” 17 So he died, in keeping with the word of Adonai spoken through Eliyahu.” ~ 2 Kings 1:1-17a (CJB)

God Judges Sin

After the death of wicked King Ach’av, the nation of Moav took advantage of Achazyah, his son, and successor, and broke the bonds of vassalage that had chained them to Israel. Years before, David had defeated Moav (2 Sam. 8:2) and Achazyah‘s successor, Y’horam, would join with Y’hoshafat, king of Judah, to fight against the Moavites (3:6ff). But the Lord oversees the nations of the earth and His decrees determine history. Achazyah was an evil man, but when the Lord isn’t allowed to rule, He overrules (see Psalm 33:10-11).

A decade or so before Achazyah’s accident, Eliyahu had won his great victory over Ba’al, but Ach’av and Izevel hadn’t been convinced or converted and neither had their family (1 Kings 22:51-53). When Achazyah was severely injured by falling through a lattice, he turned for guidance to Ba’al and not to the Lord God of Israel. Ba’al means “lord,” and Ba’al-Z’vuv means Ba’al is “prince.”

Why did the king decide to send messengers forty miles away to ‘Ekron to consult the priests of Ba’al? True, Eliyahu had slain the 450 prophets of Ba’al, but that was ten years ago. Surely other priests of Ba’al were available in the land. Note that Achazyah asked the priests of Ba’al for a prognosis and not for healing.

God keeps His servants informed about matters that other people know nothing about. When God’s servants are walking with their Lord, they can be confident of His directions when they need them. This had undoubtedly been Eliyahu’s experience. Eliyahu intercepted the royal envoys and gave them a message that would both rebuke and sober the king. Why did he want to consult the dead god of ‘Ekron when the living God of Israel was available to tell him what would happen? He would surely die! This ominous declaration was made three times during this event ~ twice by Eliyahu (vv. 4 and 16) and once by the messengers (v. 6). Instead of being spokesmen for Ba’al, the messengers became heralds of God’s Word to the king!

The announcement that he would die should have moved Achazyah to repent of his sins and seek the Lord, but instead, he tried to lay hands on the prophet. [Sound familiar? This reminds us of King Herod’s seizure of John the Baptist in Matthew 14:1-12.] Achazyah knew that Eliyahu was a formidable foe, so he sent a captain with fifty soldiers to bring him to the palace, but he underestimated the prophet’s power.

Did Achazyah think that he could kill the prophet and thereby nullify the prophecy? Or perhaps the king hoped to influence Eliyahu to change the prophecy. But Eliyahu took his orders from the King of Kings and not from earthly kings, especially a king who was an idolater and the son of murderers. Years before, Eliyahu ran away in fear when he received Izevel‘s threat, but this time, he remained where he was and faced the soldiers unafraid.

When Eliyahu was confronted by the commander the fire that came from heaven killed all fifty-one men. This judgment was repeated when the second company of fifty arrived. Note that the second captain ordered Eliyahu to come down immediately. Don’t keep your king waiting! The memory of the contest on Mount Karmel should have warned the king and his soldiers that Eliyahu could bring fire from heaven. [Yet another example of not learning from history.]

These two episodes of fiery judgment were dramatic messages from the Lord that the king and the nation had better repent or they would all taste the judgment of God. The people had forgotten the lessons of Mount Karmel, and these two judgments reminded them that the God of Israel was a consuming fire (see Deuteronomy 4:24 and 9:3; Hebrews 12:29).

Insisting that Eliyahu obey him, the king sent a third company of soldiers, but this time the captain showed wisdom and humility. Unlike the king and the two previous captains, he submitted himself to the Lord and His servant. The third captain’s plea for himself and his men was evidence that he acknowledged Eliyahu’s authority and that he would do God’s servant no harm. The Lord’s words in verse 15 suggest that the danger lay in the hands of the captains and not in the hands of the king.

The king was in bed when Eliyahu confronted him and for the second time told him he would die. How many times must the Lord repeat His message to a wicked sinner? The king would leave this world with you will certainly die to ring in his ears, yet he refused to obey the Word of God. After about two years on the throne, Achazyah did die, just as Eliyahu had predicted.

In my next post, we continue to explore the Biblical story of Eliyahu. We continue in 2 Kings 2:1-6 where we learn what God Wants Us to Remember.

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Eliyahu ~ Part 15

In my last post, we looked at a Synopsis of Chapters 20 and 21:1-16. In this post, we finally get back to Eliyahu who hears God’s Sentence to Ach’av in 1 Kings 21:17-29.

We pick up our story of Eliyahu shortly after Ach’av and Izevel plotted to defraud and murder Navot to steal his vineyard.

17 But the word of Adonai came to Eliyahu from Tishbe: 18 “Get up, go down to meet Ach’av king of Isra’el, who lives in Shomron. Right now he is in the vineyard of Navot; he has gone down there to take possession of it. 19 This is what you are to say to him: ‘Here is what Adonai says: “You have committed murder, and now you are stealing the victim’s property!” ’Also say to him, ‘Here is what Adonai says: “In the very place where dogs licked up the blood of Navot, dogs will lick up your blood— yours!”’”

20 Ach’av said to Eliyahu, “My enemy! You’ve found me!” He answered, “Yes, I have found you; because you have given yourself over to do what is evil from Adonai’s perspective. 21 ‘Here,’ [says Adonai,] ‘I am bringing disaster on you! I will sweep you away completely; I will cut off from Ach’av every male, whether a slave or free in Isra’el. 22 I will make your house like the house of Yarov‘am the son of N’vat and like the house of Ba‘sha the son of Achiyah for provoking my anger and leading Isra’el into sin.’ 23 Adonai also said this about Izevel: ‘The dogs will eat Izevel by the wall around Yizre‘el. 24 If someone from the line of Ach’av dies in the city, the dogs will eat him; if he dies in the countryside, the vultures will eat him.’”

25 Truly, there was never anyone like Ach’av. Stirred up by his wife Izevel, he gave himself over to do what is evil from Adonai’s perspective. 26 His behavior in following idols was grossly abominable; he did everything the Emori had done, whom Adonai expelled ahead of the people of Isra’el.

27 Ach’av, on hearing these words, tore his clothes, put sackcloth on himself and fasted. He slept in the sackcloth and went about dejectedly. 28 Then the word of Adonai came to Eliyahu from Tishbe: 29 “Do you see how Ach’av has humbled himself before me? Since he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring this evil during his lifetime; but during his son’s lifetime I will bring the evil on his house.” ~ 1 Kings 21:17-29 (CJB)

Adonai, God, does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets.” ~ Amos 3:7 (CJB) We have heard nothing from or about Eliyahu since he called Elisha to be his successor, but now God brings His servant into center stage to confront the king. He always does when He gives an assignment; He told Eliyahu just what to say to the evil king. Ach’av had shed innocent blood, and his guilty blood would be licked up by the dogs. What a way for the king of Israel to end his reign!

To me, verse 22 is reminiscent of 1 Kings 15:29 and 1 Kings 16:3,11.

Previously, Ach’av called Eliyahu the troubler of Israel, but now he makes it more personal and calls the prophet my enemy. By fighting against the Lord, Ach’av was his enemy and brought upon himself the sentence that Eliyahu pronounced. Ach’av would die dishonorably, and the dogs would lick his blood. Izevel would die and be eaten by the dogs. All their posterity would eventually be eradicated from the land. They had enjoyed their years of sinful pleasure and selfish pursuits, but it would all end in judgment.

Instead of going home to pout, Ach’av repented! What his wife thought about his actions isn’t recorded, but the Lord who sees the heart accepted his humiliation and told it to His servant. The Lord didn’t cancel the announced judgments but postponed them until the reign of Ach’av’s son Yoram (see 2 Kings 9:14-37). Ach’av was slain on the battlefield, and the dogs licked his blood at the pool of Samaria (22:37-38). Because of the postponement of the judgment, the dogs licked his son Yoram’s blood on Navot’s property, just as Eliyahu predicted (2 Kings 9:14-37). Later events proved that Ach’av’s repentance was short-lived, but the Lord at least gave him another opportunity to turn from sin and obey the Word. How much more evidence did Ach’av need? But the influence of his wife couldn’t easily be broken, for when Ach’av married her, he sold himself into sin. {I don’t think I will say any more on that point.}

In my next post, we continue to explore the Biblical story of Eliyahu. We next meet up with Eliyahu in 2 Kings 1-17 where once again God Judges Sin.

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Eliyahu ~ Part 14

In my last post, Eliyahu hears The Lord’s Message of Hope in 1 Kings 19:15-21. In this post, I had intended to focus on God’s Sentence to Ach’av in 1Kings 21:17-29. However, the Lord had a different plan. As you can see, we are skipping over Chapter 20 and the first half of Chapter 21. The apparent reason is that Eliyahu doesn’t make an appearance in these passages. However, I wanted to give you a brief synopsis of what we missed since it will come into play down the road. The following are highlights from Warren Wiersbe’s Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – Old Testament. I encourage you to read the text for yourselves.

Synopsis of Chapters 20 and 21:1-16

This was the first of two occasions when wicked King Ach’av showed a glimmer of spiritual understanding. Israel was coming out three years of famine when Ben-Hadad, King of Syria, decided to attack and take advantage of their plight. King David had defeated these northern nations, but these nations had gradually regained their independence.

Ben-Hadad gathered thirty-two other kings along with horses and chariots to wage war against Samaria. Ben-Hadad subdued Samaria and sent a messenger to Ach’av that he was next. Ach’av quickly capitulated to turn over the royal family and his wealth. Naturally, Ben-Hadad wanted more, and Ach’av found a backbone and said NO.

In opposing Ben-Hadad, Ach’av had nothing to stand on, but God in His grace sent him a message of hope: the Lord would give Ach’av the victory. The Lord wasn’t doing this because Ach’av deserved it but because He wanted to honor His name before the wavering king of Israel and his people.

The Lord selected the district governors to lead the attack against Syria, and Ach’av was to lead the small army of 7,000 men. Ach’av’s men caught the Syrian guards by surprise and proceeded to wipe out the Syrian military. Ben-Hadad jumped on his horse and escaped with his life. But because Ach’av believed God’s Word and acted upon it, God gave him a great victory.

Another anonymous prophet spoke to Ach’av and cautioned him to strengthen his forces and be prepared for another invasion. While Ach’av was listening to God’s message, Ben-Hadad was listening to his officers to explain Syria’s great defeat.

Ben-Hadad‘s officers were bright men who knew it was worth the risk to appeal to Ach’av’s pride. God had given the victory, but Ach’av would take the credit and claimed the spoils. Ach’av certainly enjoyed the “honor” he was receiving after the great victory, but not once did he give the glory to the Lord. To hear that Ben-Hadad was his servant made his heart glad, and he was more than willing to spare the man’s life. Later, Hazael would kill Ben-Hadad and become the king (2 Kings 8).

Ben-Hadad immediately entered into a treaty with Ach’av and gave back to Israel the cities his father had taken (1 Kings 15:20). He also gave Ach’av permission to sell Israel’s produce and wares in the market at Damascus, which amounted to a trade agreement. That the king of Israel should make such a treaty with the enemy is remarkable, but Ach’av had no convictions (except those of his wife) and always took the easy way out of any situation. This treaty lasted three years (22:1).

The Lord couldn’t allow Ach’av to disobey and get away with it, so He instructed one of the sons of the prophets to confront the king about his sin. The “sons of the prophets” were young men who had special prophetic gifts and met in groups to study with elder prophets like Sh’mu’el, Eliyahu, and Elisha. Knowing that he would have to catch Ach’av by surprise to get his attention, the man wisely set up an “action sermon” that would arouse the king’s interest. The young man told a fellow student about God’s orders and asked him to strike him with a weapon, but the man refused. We can understand a friend not wanting to injure a friend, but like Ach’av, the young prophet was disobeying God, and it cost him his life. This certainly puts the fear of God into the other students, because the next one the young man approached was only too willing to comply. Disguised as a wounded soldier, he was ready to deliver his message.

In those days, a person could approach the king to help decide matters that needed legal clarification; and when Ach’av saw this “injured soldier” sitting by the side of the road, his curiosity was aroused. Hearing that the “soldier” had lost an important prisoner of war and would have to forfeit his life or pay an enormous fine, the king replied, “So shall your judgment be; you yourself have decided it.” The king could have granted the man a pardon and saved his life, but he preferred to let him die. But in so doing, Ach’av was declaring his guilt and passing sentence on himself. This is reminiscent of David and Natan regarding Bat-Sheva.

How did Ach’av not recognize that the young man was one of the sons of the prophets? It’s not likely that Ach’av was that close to Eliyahu’s followers to know them personally. When the bandage was removed, did it reveal some identifying mark? Had Ach’av seen the man on Mount Karmel? We have no way of knowing, but the sight must have shocked the king. The man that Ach’av judged now became Ach’av’s judge and announced that one day the Syrians would slay Ach’av. But instead of repenting and seeking the Lord’s forgiveness, Ach’av went home and pouted like a child.

Breaking God’s Laws

Ben-Hadad was the man Ach’av should have killed, but he set him free, and Naboth was the man Ach’av should have protected, but Ach’av killed him! When you sell yourself to do evil, you call evil good and good evil, light darkness and darkness light (Isaiah 5:20). The infamous episode of Naboth’s vineyard reveals the lawlessness of King Ach’av and his evil wife, Izevel. Consider the sins they committed and consequently the commandments of God that they disdained and disobeyed. Not only where they idolaters, but they also coveted after their neighbor’s vineyard leading to Izevel plotting his death to take his land.

If ever two people were guilty of blaspheming God and breaking His laws, it was Ach’av and Izevel, and judgment was about to fall.

In my next post, we continue to explore the Biblical story of Eliyahu. We will return to Eliyahu as he hears God’s Sentence to Ach’av in 1Kings 21:17-29.

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Eliyahu ~ Part 13

In my last post, EliyahuCreator’s Message of Power in 1 Kings 19:9-14. In this post, Eliyahu hears The Lord’s Message of Hope in 1 Kings 19:15-21.

The Lord Gives Eliyahu His Marching Orders

15 And the LORD said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria. 16 And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place. 17 And the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha put to death. 18 Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”

The Call of Elisha

19 So he departed from there and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yokes of oxen in front of him, and he was with the twelfth. Eliyahu passed by him and cast his cloak upon him. 20 And he left the oxen and ran after Eliyahu and said, “Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.” And he said to him, “Go back again, for what have I done to you?” 21 And he returned from following him and took the yoke of oxen and sacrificed them and boiled their flesh with the yokes of the oxen and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he arose and went after Eliyahu and assisted him.” ~ 1 Kings 19:15-21 (ESV)

Eliyahu had nothing new to say to the Lord, but the Lord had a new message of hope for His frustrated servant. The Lord had many reasons for rejecting His servant and leaving him to die in the cave, but He didn’t take that approach.

First, the Lord told Eliyahu to return to the place of duty. When we’re out of the Lord’s will, we have to retrace our steps and make a new beginning (Genesis 13:3; 35:1-3). The honest answer to the question “What are you doing here, Eliyahu?” (verse9) Was “Nothing! I’m having a personal pity party!” But Eliyahu was called to serve, and there were tasks to perform.

When Yoshua was brokenhearted because of Israel’s defeat at Ai, he spent a day on his face before God; but God’s answer was, “Get up! Why do you lie thus on your face?” ~ Joshua 7:10. When Sh’mu’el mourned over the failure of Saul, God rebuked him. “Adonai said to Sh’mu’el, ‘How much longer are you going to go on grieving for Sha’ul, now that I have rejected him as king over Isra’el? Fill your horn with oil, and set out; I will send you to Yishai the Beit-Lachmi because I have chosen myself a king from among his sons.’” ~ 1 Samuel 16:1. Sh’mu’el went and anointed David to be the next king.

No matter how much or how often His servants fail Him, God is never at a loss to know what to do. Our job is to obey His Word and get up and do it!

Eliyahu‘s first responsibility was to anoint Hazael to be king of Syria. This was a Gentile nation, but it was still the Lord who chose the leaders. Then he was to anoint Jehu to be king of Israel, for even though the nation had divided, Israel was still under the divine covenant and was responsible to the Lord. His third task was to anoint Elisha to be his successor. Eliyahu had complained because the past generation had failed and the present age hadn’t done any better (v. 4). Now God called him to help equip the future generation by anointing two kings and a prophet. This is the Tanach version of 2 Timothy 2:2.

The people the Lord named weren’t especially significant in the social structure of that day. Hazael was a servant to King Bed-hadad, Jehu was a captain of the army, and Elisha was a farmer. But by the time Elisha and Jehu completed their work, Ba’al worship was almost wiped out in Israel (2 Kings 10:18-31). No one generation can do everything, but each generation must see to it that people in the next generation are called and trained and that the tools are made available for them to continue the work of the Lord. God was calling Eliyahu to stop weeping over the past and running away from the present. It was time for him to start preparing others for the future. Could that be an early example of God’s plan for discipleship? When God is in command, there is always hope.

But the Lord did more than send His servant out to recruit new workers. He also assured him that his work and their work would not be in vain. God would use the swords of Hazael and Jehu, and the words and works of Elisha, to accomplish His purposes in the land. Even more, He assured Eliyahu that his ministry hadn’t been a failure, for there were still 7,000 people in the land who were faithful to Adonai. The Lord didn’t command Eliyahu to gather all 7,000 faithful people together in a mass meeting and preach a sermon. There’s certainly a place for sermons and large meetings, but we must never underestimate the importance of working with individuals. Yeshua spoke to huge crowds, but He always had time for individuals and their needs.

Without delay, Eliyahu retraced his steps and returned to the place of duty. It was approximately 150 miles from Sinai to Abel-meholah where he would find Elisha plowing a field. Elisha’s name means “God has salvation.” The fact that Elisha was using twelve yoke of oxen—twenty-four expensive animals—indicates that his family was probably better off financially than most Israeli. Eliyahu didn’t say a word to the young man but merely cast his mantle (outer garment) over him to indicate that the Lord had called him to serve the prophet and then be his successor. Elisha and his family were part of that “remnant of grace” that God had set apart for Himself. No matter how bleak the days may seem, God has His people and knows when to call them.

As you review the chapter, you can see the mistakes that Eliyahu made and how the Lord overruled them and accomplished His will. Eliyahu walked by sight and not by faith, yet the Lord sustained him. He looked at himself and his failures instead of at God’s greatness and power. He was more concerned about doing more than his ancestors had done in the past instead of calling and preparing new servants for the future. He isolated himself from God’s people and thereby lost the strength and encouragement of their fellowship and prayers. But let’s not be too hard on Eliyahu, for he did have a sensitive ear to the still, small voice of the Lord, and he did obey what God told him to do. The Lord rebuked him gently and brought him out of his cave and back into active service. Let’s keep these things in mind and recall them the next time we’re under our broom tree or in our cave!

Finally, let’s be among those who look to the future and seek to enlist others to serve the Lord. To glamorize or criticize the past accomplishes little; what’s important is that we do our job in the present and disciple others to continue it after we’re gone. God buried His workers, but His work goes right on.

In my next post, we continue to explore the Biblical story of Eliyahu. In this passage, we will skip chapter 20 and the first half of chapter 21 before we pick back up with Eliyahu were he delivers God’s Sentence to Ach’av in 1Kings 21:17-29. To keep the flow of the story going, I will briefly summarize what was happening in 1 Kings 20:1 to 21:16.

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Eliyahu ~ Part 12

In my last post, Eliyahu hears The Angels Message of Grace in 1 Kings 19:5-8. In this post, Eliyahu hears the Creator’s Message of Power in 1 Kings 19:9-14.

The Creator’s Message of Power

9 There he went into a cave and spent the night. Then the word of Adonai came to him; He said to him, “What are you doing here, Eliyahu?” 10 He answered, “I have been very zealous for Adonai the God of armies because the people of Isra’el have abandoned your covenant, broken down your altars and killed your prophets with the sword. Now I’m the only one left, and they’re coming after me to kill me too.” 11 He said, “Go outside, and stand on the mountain before Adonai”; and right then and there, Adonai went past. A mighty blast of wind tore the mountains apart and broke the rocks in pieces before Adonai, but Adonai was not in the wind. After the wind came an earthquake, but Adonai was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake, fire broke out; but Adonai was not in the fire. And after the fire came a quiet, subdued voice. 13 When Eliyahu heard it, he covered his face with his cloak, stepped out and stood at the entrance to the cave. Then a voice came to him and said, “What are you doing here, Eliyahu?” 14 He answered, “I have been very zealous for Adonai the God of armies; because the people of Isra’el have abandoned your covenant, broken down your altars and killed your prophets with the sword. Now I’m the only one left, and they’re after me to kill me too.” ~ 1 Kings 19:9-14 (CJB)

It was about 250 miles from Be’er-Sheva to Sinai, a journey of perhaps ten days to two weeks. It had been three weeks at the most since Eliyahu fled from Yizre’el, but the trip expanded to consume forty days (19:8)! If Eliyahu was in such a hurry to put miles between himself and Izevel‘s executioners, why did he take such a long time to do it? Perhaps the Lord directed his steps (Psalm 37:23) – and his stops – so that he would spend one day for every year the Israelites had been in the wilderness after they were delivered from Egypt.

Perhaps, Eliyahu made the cave his home and waited upon the Lord. We might say he was “making a retreat” to solve some problems and get closer to the Lord. He was so depressed that he was willing to give up his calling and even his life.

When the Lord finally came and spoke to Eliyahu, it wasn’t to rebuke him or instruct him but to ask him a question: “What are you doing here, Eliyahu?” The prophet’s reply didn’t answer the question, which explains why God asked it a second time. Eliyahu only told Adonai that he had experienced many trials in his ministry, but he had been faithful to Adonai. But if he was a faithful servant, what was he doing hiding in a cave located hundreds of miles from his appointed place of ministry?

In this reply, Eliyahu reveals both pride and self-pity, and in using the pronoun they, he exaggerates the size of the opposition. He makes it look as though every last Jew in the Northern Kingdom had turned against him and Adonai when it was Izevel who wanted to kill him. The I’m the only one left refrain makes it look as though he was indispensable to God’s work when no servant of God is indispensable. God then commanded him to stand on the mount at the entrance of the cave, but it doesn’t appear that Eliyahu obeyed him until he heard the still, small voice (v. 13). Another possibility is that he did go out of the cave but fled back into it when God began to demonstrate His great power.

When Adonai went passed it reminds us of the experience of Moses on the mount (Exodus 33:21-22). All Eliyahu needed to get renewed for service was a fresh vision of the power and glory of God. First, Adonai caused a great wind to pass by, the wind so strong that it broke the rocks and tore the mountain, but no divine message came to the prophet. Then Adonai caused a great earthquake that shook the mount, but nothing from God came out of the earthquake. Adonai then brought fire, but it, too, gave Eliyahu no message from Adonai. Certainly, the prophet must have thought of the giving of the law as he witnessed this dramatic display of power (Exodus 19:16-18).

Try to place yourself in this scene. How would you react to these supernatural displays by the Creator? What was God trying to accomplish in Eliyahu’s life using these remarkable and frightening object lessons?

For one thing, He was reminding His servant that everything in nature was obedient to Him (Psalm 148)the wind, the foundations of the earth, the fireand He didn’t lack for a variety of tools to get His work done. If Eliyahu wanted to resign from his divine calling, Adonai had someone else to take his place. As it turned out, Eliyahu didn’t quit but was given the privilege of calling his successor, Elisha and spending time with him before being taken to heaven.

The wind, the earthquake, and the fire are all means that Adonai has used to manifest Himself to humanity. Theologians call these demonstrations “theophanies,” which means “the manifestation of God.” The pagan nations saw these great sights and worshiped the powers of nature, but when the Jews saw them, they worshiped the God who created nature. Perhaps Adonai was saying to Eliyahu, “You feel like you’ve failed to judge the sin in Israel, but one day I will judge it, and my judgment is final and complete.”

After this dramatic display of power, a quiet, subdued voice. When the prophet heard that voice, he stepped out of the cave and met Adonai. The mighty power and the great noise of the previous exhibitions didn’t stir Eliyahu, but when he heard that quiet, subdued voice, he recognized the voice of God. For the second time, he listened to the same question, what are you doing here, Eliyahu? And once again, Eliyahu repeated the same self-centered evasive answer.

God was saying to Eliyahu, “You called fire from heaven, you had the prophets of Baal slain, and you prayed down a terrific rainstorm, but now you feel like a failure. But you must realize that I don’t usually work in a manner that’s loud, impressive, and dramatic. My still, small voice brings the Word to the listening ear and heart. Yes, there’s a time and place for the wind, the earthquake, and the fire, but most of the time, I speak to people in tones of gentle love and quiet persuasion.”[1]Adonai wasn’t condemning the courageous ministry of His servant; He was only reminding Eliyahu that He uses many different tools to accomplish His work. God’s Word comes down like the gentle shower that refreshes, cleanses, and produces life (Deuteronomy 32:2; Isaiah 55:10).

In my next post, we continue to explore the Biblical story of Eliyahu. In this passage, Eliyahu hears The Lord’s Message of Hope in 1 Kings 19:15-21.

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[1] Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – Old Testament by Warren Wiersbe.

Eliyahu ~ Part 11

In my last post, Eliyahu encounters The Enemies Message of Danger in 1 Kings 19:1-4. In this post, Eliyahu hears The Angels Message of Grace in 1 Kings 19:5-8.

Don’t Worry Eliyahu; I Have Your Back

Recall that in our last passage Eliyahu ran from Izevel, sat under a broom tree, prayed and pouted and ask God to relieve his misery by taking him home. I can certainly relate to him given his immediate circumstances.

5 Then he lay down under the broom tree and went to sleep. Suddenly, an angel touched him and said to him, “Get up and eat!” 6 He looked, and there by his head was a cake baked on the hot stones and a jug of water. He ate and drank, then lay down again. 7 The angel came again, a second time, touched him and said, “Get up and eat, or the journey will be too much for you.” 8 He got up, ate and drank, and, on the strength of that meal, traveled forty days and nights until he reached Horev the mountain of God.” ~ 1 Kings 19:5-8 (CJB)

God’s miraculous provision was resumed, this time purely for the prophet. After Eliyahu ate and rested, he returned to the place where the covenant had been given to Moshe, Mount Horev. There, Eliyahu would have his faith renewed by God’s presence.

When the heart is heavy, and the mind and body are weary, sometimes the best remedy is sleeptake a nap! Nothing seems right when you’re exhausted. But while the prophet was asleep, the Lord sent an angel to care for his needs.

The angel had prepared a simple but adequate meal of fresh bread and refreshing water, and the prophet partook of both and lay down again to sleep. We aren’t told how long the Lord permitted Eliyahu to sleep before He awakened him the second time and told him to eat. The Lord knew that Eliyahu planned to visit Mount Horev [1], one of the most sacred places in all Jewish history, was located about 250 miles from Be’er- Sheva, and he needed strength for the journey. Eliyahu obeyed the messenger of God and was able to travel for forty days and nights on the nourishment from those two meals.

When we review God’s ministries to Eliyahu as recorded in 1 Kings 18 and 19, you see a parallel to the promise in Isaiah 40. “But those who hope in Adonai will renew their strength; they will soar aloft as with eagles’ wings; when they are running, they won’t grow weary, when they are walking they won’t get tired.”~ Isaiah 40:31 (CJB)

For three years, the prophet had been hidden by God, during which time he waited on the Lord. When the Lord sent him to Mount Karmel, He enabled Eliyahu to soar aloft as with eagle’s wings and triumph over the prophets of Ba’al. After Eliyahu prayed and it began to rain, the Lord strengthened him to run and not be weary (18:46), and now He sustained him for forty days, so he could walk and not get tired (19:8). Eliyahu wasn’t wholly living in the will of God, but he was smart enough to know that he had to wait on the Lord if he expected to have the strength for the ministry and for the journey that lay before him.

In my next post, we continue to explore the Biblical story of Eliyahu. In this passage, Eliyahu hears the Creator’s Message of Power in 1 Kings 19:9-14.

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[1]Horev is another name for Mount Sinai. If Sinai is to be found down in the southern region, he must travel another two hundred plus miles and could therefore easily take forty days. It is true that a caravan could often make seventeen to twenty miles a day, but Eliyahu is not accustomed to this type of travel and is traveling on his own. Five miles per day under such conditions in this climate would not be unusual. ~ The IVP Bible Background Commentary – Old Testament.

Eliyahu ~ Part 10

In my last post, we learned that the Rain Returns to Israel in 1 Kings 18:41- 46. In this post, Eliyahu encounters The Enemies Message of Danger in 1 Kings 19:1-4.

Danger, Danger Eliyahu

“1 Ach’av told Izevel everything Eliyahu had done and how he had put all the prophets to the sword. 2 Then Izevel sent a messenger to say to Eliyahu, “May the gods do terrible things to me and worse ones besides if by this time tomorrow I haven’t taken your life, just as you took theirs!” 3 On seeing that, he got up and fled for his life. When he arrived in Be’er-Sheva, in Y’hudah, he left his servant there; 4 but he himself went a day farther into the desert until he came to a broom tree. He sat down under it and prayed for his own death. “Enough!” he said. “Now, Adonai, take my life. I’m no better than my ancestors.” ~ 1 Kings 19:1-4 (CJB)

Before getting into our passage, let’s pause for some historical perspectives. It encourages me when I read Eliyahu was only a human being like us, yet he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and no rain fell on the Land for three years and six months.” ~ James 5:17 (CJB) When James wrote those words, he undoubtedly had 1 Kings 18 and 19 in mind, for in these chapters we see Eliyahu at his highest and at his lowest.

We can learn from our defeats as well as their successes. Furthermore, by studying passages like 1 Kings 19, we’re reminded to give glory to the Master and not to His servants (1 Corinthians 1:27-29). We’re also told to prepare for what may happen after the victories God gives us. How quickly we can move from the mountaintop of triumph to the valley of testing! We need to humble ourselves before the Lord and get ready for the trials that usually follow the victories.

Warren Wiersbe opines:

If Eliyahu could have described to a counselor how he felt and what he thought, the counselor would have diagnosed his condition as a textbook case of burnout. Eliyahu was physically exhausted and had lost his appetite. He was depressed about himself and his work and was being controlled more and more by self-pity. “I only am left!” Instead of turning to others for help, he isolated himself andworst of allhe wanted to die. The prophet concluded that he had failed in his mission and decided it was time to quit. But the Lord didn’t see it that way. He always looks beyond our changing moods and impetuous prayers, and He pities us the way parents pity their discouraged children (Psalm 103:13-14). The chapter (19) shows us how tenderly and patiently God deals with us when we’re in the depths of despair and feel like giving up. [1]

The chapter begins with Eliyahu running away and trying to save himself. Then the prophet argues with the Lord and tries to defend himself. Finally, he obeys the Lord and yields himself and is restored to service. In all of this, Eliyahu was responding to four different messages.

The Enemy’s Message of Danger

When the torrential rain began to fall, Izevel was in Yizre’el and may have thought that Ba’al the storm god had triumphed on Mount Karmel. However, when Ach’av arrived home, he told her a much different story. Ach’av was a weak man, but he should have stood with Eliyahu and honored the Lord who had so dramatically demonstrated His power. But Ach’av had to live with Queen Izevel, and without her support, he knew he was nothing. If ever there was a strong-willed ruler with a gift for doing evil, it was Izevel. Neither Ach’av nor Izevel accepted the clear evidence given on Mount Karmel that Adonai was the only true and living God. Instead of repenting and calling the nation back to serving the Lord, Izevel declared war on God and His faithful servant Eliyahu, and Ach’av allowed her to do it.

Why did Izevel send a letter to Eliyahu when she could have sent soldiers and had him killed? He was in Yizre’el, and the deed could have been easily accomplished on such a wild and stormy night. Izevel wasn’t only an evil woman; she was also a shrewd strategist who knew how to make the most of Ba’al‘s defeat on Mount Karmel. Ach’av was a quitter, but not his wife!

Eliyahu was now a very popular man. Like Moshe, he had brought fire from heaven, and like Moshe, he had slain the idolaters (Leviticus 9:24; Numbers 25). If Izevel transformed the prophet into a martyr, he might influence people more by his death than by his life. If Eliyahu disappeared, the people would wonder what had happened, and they would be prone to drift back into worshiping Ba’al and letting Ach’av and Izevel have their way.

Izevel may have suspected that Eliyahu was a candidate for a physical and emotional breakdown after his demanding day on Mount Karmel, and she was right. Her letter achieved its purpose and Eliyahu fled from Yizre’el. In a moment of fear, when he forgot all that God had done for him the previous three years, Eliyahu took his servant, left Israel, and headed for Be’er-Sheva, the southernmost city in Y’hudah.

For three years, Eliyahu had not made a move without hearing and obeying the Lord’s instructions (17:2-3, 8-9; 18:1), but now he was running ahead of the Lord to save his own life. When God’s servants get out of God’s will, they’re liable to do all sorts of foolish things.

But why flee to Y’hudah, especially when Jehoram, king of Y’hudah, was married to Ach’av‘s daughter Athaliah (2 Kings 8:16-19; 2 Chronicles 21:4-7). This is the infamous Athaliah who later ruled the land and tried to exterminate all of David’s heirs to the throne (2 Kings 11). The safest place for any child of God is the place dictated by the will of God, but Eliyahu didn’t stop to seek God’s will. He traveled 90 to 100 miles to Be’er-Sheva and left his servant there. If the enemy came after Eliyahu, his servant would be safer someplace else. Furthermore, if the servant didn’t know where Eliyahu was, he couldn’t inform against him.

Be’er-Sheva had a special meaning to the Jews because of its associations with Abraham (Genesis 21:22, 33), Isaac (26:33), and Jacob (46:1). The broom tree flourishes in the wilderness and provides shade for flocks and herds and travelers. The branches are thin and supple like those of the willow and are used to bind bundles. The roots of the plant are used for fuel and make excellent charcoal (Psalm 120:4). As Eliyahu sat under its shade, he did a wise thinghe prayed, but he didn’t pray a very wise prayer. “Enough!” he said. “Now, Adonai, take my life.” Then he gave his reason: “I’m no better than my ancestors.” But God never asked him to be better than anybody else, but only to hear His Word and obey it.

The combination of emotional burnout, weariness, hunger, and a broad sense of failure, plus lack of faith in the Lord, had brought Eliyahu into a deep depression. But there was also an element of pride involved, and some self-pity, for Eliyahu was sure that his courageous ministry on Mount Karmel would bring the nation to its knees. Perhaps he was also hoping that Ach’av and Izevel would repent and turn from Ba’al to God. His expectations weren’t fulfilled, so he considered himself a failure. But the Lord rarely allows His servants to see all the good they have done because we walk by faith and not by sight, and Eliyahu would learn that there were 7,000 people in Israel who had not bowed to Ba’al and worshiped him. No doubt his ministry had influenced many of them.

In my next post, we continue to explore the Biblical story of Eliyahu. In this passage, Eliyahu hears The Angels Message of Grace in 1 Kings 19:5-8.

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[1] Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – Old Testament