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

Eliyahu ~ Part 9

In my last post, we explored Eliyahu’s confrontation with the Prophets of Ba’al in Eliyahu’s Finest Hour ~ Let the Fire Fall in 1 Kings 18:30-40. In this post, we learn that the Rain Returns to Israel in 1 Kings 18:41- 46.

Let It Rain, Let It Rain, Let It Rain

41 Then Eliyahu said to Ach’av, “Get up, eat, and drink because I hear the sound of heavy rain.” 42 Ach’av went up to eat and drink, while Eliyahu went up to the top of the Karmel. He bowed down to the ground and put his face between his knees. 43 “Now,” he said to his servant, “go up, and look out toward the sea.” He went up, looked, and said, “There’s nothing there.” Seven times he said, “Go again.” 44 The seventh time, the servant said, “Now there’s a cloud coming up out of the sea, no bigger than a man’s hand.” Eliyahu said, “Go up, and say to Ach’av, ‘Prepare your chariot, and get down the mountain before the rain stops you!” 45 A little later, the sky grew black with clouds and wind; and heavy rain began falling; as Ach’av, riding in his chariot, made for Yizre’el [Jezreel]. 46 The hand of Adonai was on Eliyahu; he tucked up his clothing and ran ahead of Ach’av to the entrance of Yizre’el.” ~ 1 Kings 18:41-46 (CJB)

Two final miraculous events occur on this day: (1) the coming of the rain as a result of Eliyahu’s prayer and (2) Eliyahu’s supernatural strength in leaving the scene and passing Ach’av’s chariot before the storm. Typically, the act of preceding the king’s chariot could have been a friendly overture. It was an act of honor to the king and a tribute to the runner to be permitted to run before the king. But if this was Eliyahu’s intent, it was lost on Ach’av and was his word that stopped the rain and only his word could start it again (17:1). He was referring to the power of his prayers, the words that he spoke to the Lord (James 5:17-18). It had been a long and disappointing day for King Ach’av, and Eliyahu sent him to his retainers to get something to eat. Eliyahu went to the top of Carmel to pray and ask the Lord to send the much-needed rains.

Eliyahu’s unusual posture was almost a fetal position and indicated the prophet’s humility, his great concern for the people, and his burden for the glory of the Lord. Unlike the answer to the prayer at the altar, the answer to this prayer didn’t come at once. Seven times Eliyahu sent his servant to look toward the Mediterranean Sea and report any indications of a storm gathering, and six of those times the servant reported nothing.

Imagine how disappointed the servant and Eliyahu must have been.

The prophet didn’t give up but prayed a seventh time, and the servant saw a tiny cloud coming from the sea. This is an excellent example for us to follow as we “watch and pray” and continue to intercede until the Lord sends the answer. We have to be persistent in our prayers.

The little cloud wasn’t a storm, but it was the harbinger of the rains that were to come. Eliyahu commanded the king to mount his chariot and return to his palace in Yizre’el as soon as possible. We aren’t told how he broke the news to Izevel that Baal had been publicly humiliated and declared to be a false god, and that the prophets of Baal that she supported had been slain. But neither the drought nor the famine had brought Ach’av and Izevel to repentance, and it wasn’t likely that the fire from heaven or the coming of the rain would change their hearts (Rev. 9:20-21; 16:8-11). All the evidence notwithstanding, Izevel was determined to kill Eliyahu (19:1-2).

Strength for the Journey

Soon the heavens were black with clouds, and great torrents of rain began to fall on the land. The Lord not only proved that he was the true and living God, but He also put His approval on the ministry of His servant Eliyahu. Eliyahu had neither chariots nor retainers to drive them, but he did have the power of the Lord, and he ran ahead of Ach’av and reached Yizre’el ahead of the king. This was quite a feat for an older man and in itself was another sign to the people that God’s mighty hand was upon His servant.

Yizre’el was between fifteen and twenty miles from the Karmel area. This fifteen-acre site was situated at the southeastern entrance to the Jezreel Valley between the Hill of Moreh and Mount Gilboa. It was here that Ach’av had built a winter capital. Excavations have unearthed a sizeable royal enclosure from this period occupying a significant portion of the mound. [1]

God had chastened His people with drought and famine but had cared for His special servant Eliyahu. God had sent fire from heaven to prove that He was the true and living God. Now He had answered the prayer of His prophet and had sent the rains to water the land. You would think that Eliyahu would be at his very best spiritually and able to face anything, but the next chapter records just the opposite. As great a man as Eliyahu was, he still failed the Lord and himself.

In my next post, we continue to explore the Biblical story of Eliyahu. In this passage, we encounter The Enemies Message of Danger in 1 Kings 19:1-4.

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[1] The IVP Bible Background Commentary – Old Testament.

Eliyahu ~ Part 8

In my last post, we explored Eliyahu’s encounter with Ach’av setting the stage for Eliyahu’s Finest Hour ~ Let the Fire Fall in 1 Kings 18:20-29. In this post, we continue to examine Eliyahu’s encounter with the Prophets of Ba’al in Eliyahu’s Finest Hour ~ Let the Fire Fall in 1 Kings 18:30-40.

30 Then Eliyahu said to all the people, “Come here to me.” All the people came up to him, as he set about repairing the altar of Adonai that had been broken down. 31 Eliyahu took twelve stones, in keeping with the number of tribes of the sons of Ya‘akov, to whom the word of Adonai had come, saying, “Your name is to be Isra’el.” 32 With the stones, he built an altar in the name of Adonai. Then he dug a trench around the altar large enough for half a bushel of grain.
33 He arranged the wood, cut up the bull and laid it on the wood.

34 Then he said, “Fill four pots with water, and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.” They did it. “Do it again,” he said, and they did it again. “Do it a third time,” he said, and they did it a third time. 35 By now the water was flowing around the altar, and it had filled the trench. 36 Then, when it came time for offering the evening offering, Eliyahu the prophet approached and said, “Adonai, God of Avraham, Yitz’chak, and Isra’el, let it be known today that you are God in Isra’el, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. 37 Hear me, Adonai, hear me, so that this people may know that you, Adonai, are God and that you are turning their hearts back to you.”

38 Then the fire of Adonai fell. It consumed the burnt offering, the wood, the stones and the dust; and it licked up the water in the trench. 39 When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “Adonai is God! Adonai is God!” 40 Eliyahu said to them, “Seize the prophets of Ba‘al! Don’t let one of them escape!” They seized them, and Eliyahu brought them down to Vadi Kishon and killed them there.” ~ 1 Kings 18:30-40 (CJB)

Let the Fire Fall

Image courtesy of Google

Eliyahu now turned from the false prophets to the people. They were the ones he was determined to win over from Ba’al. He had already humiliated the prophets of Ba’al with the shenanigans they pulled trying to get Ba’al to burn up their offering. It’s interesting to me that Eliyahu called for a total of twelve large jars of water be poured on the altar, the wood, and the bull until the trench around the altar was filled. During the draught, where did that much water come from? A miracle? Eliyahu took steps to avoid any appearance of trickery or fraud. If his God could get a drenching wet sacrifice to burn, his God was God indeed.

At the time of the evening sacrifice, he lifted his voice in prayer to the God of the covenant, the God of Avraham, Yitz’chak, and Isra’el. He requested that God be glorified as the God of Israel, the true and living God, and make it known that Eliyahu was His servant. But even more, by sending fire from heaven, the Lord would be telling His people that He had forgiven them and would turn their hearts back to the worship of the true God. Eliyahu may have been thinking of God’s promise to Solomon in 2 Chronicles 7:12-15.

Eliyahu‘s prayer was a powerful statement of the theology of God’s great works. Just as the temple singers declared God’s great works so the world could know God (Psalm 66:3-4), Eliyahu prayed for a miraculous sign, so this people would understand that Adonai is God. The simplicity of Eliyahu‘s procedure is impressive. The prophet prayed, and the sacrifice was miraculously burned.

Suddenly, the fire fell from heaven and entirely devoured the sacrifice, the altar, and the water in the trench around the altar. (I picked the image above specifically because it visualizes this description.) There was nothing left that anybody could turn into a relic or a shrine. The altar to Ba’al still stood as a monument to a lost cause. The prophets of Ba’al were stunned, and the people of Israel fell on their faces and acknowledged, “Adonai is God! Adonai is God!”

But Eliyahu wasn’t finished, for he commanded the people to take the false prophets of Ba’al and slay them. This was in obedience to the Lord’s command in Deuteronomy 13:13-18 and 17:2-5. The test had been a fair one, and the prophets of Ba’al had been exposed as idolaters who deserved to be killed. The law required that idolaters be stoned to death, but Eliyahu had the prophets killed with the sword (1Kings 19:1). This action, of course, angered Jezebel, from whose table these men had been fed (v. 19), and she determined to capture Eliyahu and kill him.

In my next post, we continue to explore the Biblical story of Eliyahu. In this passage, we learn that the Rain Returns to Israel in 1 Kings 18:41- 46.

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Eliyahu ~ Part 7

In my last post, we explored Eliyahu Reencounters King Ach’av in 1 Kings 18:16-19. In this post, we continue to examine Eliyahu’s encounter with Ach’av setting the stage for Eliyahu’s Finest Hour ~ Let the Fire Fall in 1 Kings 18:20-29.

20 Ach’av sent word to all the people of Isra’el and assembled the prophets together on Mount Karmel. 21 Eliyahu stepped forward before all the people and said, “How long are you going to jump back and forth between two positions? If Adonai is God, follow him; but if it’s Ba‘al, follow him!” The people answered him not a word. 22 Then Eliyahu said to the people, “I, I alone, am the only prophet of Adonai who is left, while Ba‘al’s prophets number 450. 23 Let them give us two young bulls, and they can choose the bull they want for themselves. Then let them cut it in pieces and lay it on the wood but put no fire under it. I will prepare the other bull, lay it on the wood and put no fire under it. 24 Then, you, call on the name of your god; and I will call on the name of Adonai; and the God who answers with fire, let him be God!” All the people answered, “Good idea! Agreed!”

25 Then Eliyahu said to the prophets of Ba‘al, “Choose one bull for yourselves, and prepare it first; because there are many of you. Then call on the name of your god, but put no fire under it.” 26 They took the bull that was given to them, prepared it and called on the name of Ba‘al from morning till noon — “Ba‘al! Answer us!” But no voice was heard; and no one answered, as they jumped around on the altar they had made. 27 Around noon Eliyahu began ridiculing them: “Shout louder! After all, he’s a god, isn’t he? Maybe he’s daydreaming, or he’s on the potty, or he’s away on a trip. Maybe he’s asleep, and you have to wake him up.” 28 So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and knives, as their custom was until blood gushed out all over them. 29 By now it was afternoon, and they went on ranting and raving until it was time for the evening offering. But no voice came, no one answered, no one paid any attention.” ~ 1 Kings 18:20-29 (CJB)

The Prophets of Ba’al Meet the God of Israel

Representatives were present from all ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom, and it was this group that Eliyahu addressed as the meeting began. His purpose was not only to expose the false god Ba’al but also to bring the compromising people back to the Lord. Because of the evil influence of Ach’av and Izevel, the people were vacillating between two opinions and trying to serve both God and Ba’al. Like Moshe (Exodus 32:26) and Y’hosua (Joshua 24:15) before him, Eliyahu called for a decision on their part, but the people were speechless. Was this because of their guilt (Romans 3:19) or because they first wanted to see what would happen next? They were weak people, without real conviction.

Eliyahu weighted the test in favor of the prophets of Ba’al. They could build their altar first, select their sacrifice and offer it first, and they could take all the time they needed to pray to Ba’al. When Eliyahu said he was the only prophet of the Lord, he didn’t forget the prophets that ‘Ovadyah had hidden and protected. Instead, he was stating that he was the only one openly serving the Lord, and therefore he was outnumbered by the 450 prophets of Ba’al. But one plus God is a majority, so the prophet had no fears. Surely the prayers of 450 zealous prophets would be heard by Ba’al, and he would answer by sending fire from heaven! (See Leviticus 9:24 and 1 Chronicles 21:26.)

By noon, Eliyahu was taunting the prophets of Ba’al because nothing had happened. The prophets of Ba’al were dancing frantically around their altar and cutting themselves with swords and spears, but still, nothing happened. Eliyahu suggested that perhaps Ba’al couldn’t hear them because he was deep in thought, or busy in some task, or even traveling. His words only made them more fanatical, but nothing happened. I loved how Stern stated in verse 27 that Ba’al might have been on the potty. [1] Very visual.

At three o’clock, the time of the evening sacrifice at the temple in Jerusalem, Eliyahu stepped forward and took charge. We are now approaching Eliyahu’s finest hour. It would become the high-water mark of his ministry. Eliyahu was waiting for the holy fire to fall. God would use this frail prophet to show the people of Israel that He is still a consuming fire.

In my next post, we continue to explore the Biblical story of Eliyahu. In this passage, we continue to examine Eliyahu’s encounter with the Prophets of Ba’al in Eliyahu’s Finest Hour ~ Let the Fire Fall in 1 Kings 18:30-40.

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[1] It should be noted that Stern has paraphrased the Jewish Publication Society’s edition of the Tanakh. That said, several modern English translations render the phrase as “relieving himself.”

Eliyahu ~ Part 6

In my last post, we explored A Mission Impossible in 1 Kings 18:1-15. In this post, we learn that Eliyahu Reencounters King Ach’av in 1 Kings 18:16-19.

Eliyahu Reencounters King Ach’av

16 So ‘Ovadyah went, found Ach’av and told him; and Ach’av went to meet Eliyahu. 17 When Ach’av saw Eliyahu, Ach’av said to him, “Is it really you, you troubler of Isra’el?” 18 He answered, “I haven’t troubled Isra’el, you have, you and your father’s house, by abandoning Adonai’s mitzvot and following the ba‘alim. 19 Now order all Isra’el to assemble before me on Mount Karmel, along with the 450 prophets of Ba‘al and the 400 prophets of the asherah who eat at Izevel’s table.” ~ 1 Kings 18:16-19 (CJB)

Everything that Eliyahu did was according to the Word of the Lord (1 Kings 18:36), including confronting the king and inviting him and the priests of Ba’al to a meeting on Mount Karmel. Ach’av called Eliyahu the troubler of Israel, but it was Ach’av whose sins had caused the problems in the land. Surely Ach’av knew the terms of the covenant and understood that the blessings of the Lord depended on the obedience of the king and his people. Both Yeshua and Sha’ul would be called “troublemakers” (Luke 23:5; Acts 16:20; 17:6), so Eliyahu was in good company.

Mount Karmel was located near the border of Isra’el and Phoenicia, so it was a good place for the Phoenician god Ba’al to meet the God of Israel. Eliyahu told Ach’av to bring not only the 450 prophets of Ba’al but also the 400 prophets of the Asherah, the idols that represented Ba’al’s “wife.” It seems that only the prophets of Ba’al showed up for the contest (1 Kings 18:22, 26, 40).

One unanswered question remains for me from this passage. Why didn’t King Ach’av just run Eliyahu through with his sword; especially after Eliyahu accused the King of being the real troubler of Israel? Of course, if he had, we wouldn’t have the story of Eliyahu’s Finest Hour.

In my next post, we will continue to explore the Biblical story of Eliyahu in 1 Kings 18:20-29. In this passage, we continue to examine Eliyahu’s encounter with Ach’av setting the stage for Eliyahu’s Finest Hour ~ Let the Fire Fall.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

[2] Ibid.