Sunday, March 18, 2012

1 Kings 17-19 - Elijah and God's Provision, Power, and Persistence

The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament, page 523
LINK: 1 Kings 17-19 

BACKGROUND

1 Kings 17

Elijah, the prophet of the Lord, burst forth like a bright light in the darkness of King Ahab's reign. He was from Tishbe (#1 on map). He prophesied to King Ahab at the palace in Samaria that there would be a drought. God had warned that He would withhold the rain if His people turned away and served other gods (Deuteronomy 11:16-17), and Ahab had brought Baal worship and the Asherah pole.

After this pronouncement, he went to the Kerith Ravine (#2) and was miraculously provided for by God through the birds and the brook. Sometime during the three and one-half year drought (Luke 4:25; James 5:17), the brook dried up, and he went to Zarephath (#3) where he met a Gentile woman of Phoenicia who believed in the God of Israel and gave all she had to live on (As I read it today, I thought about another widow of faith who gave all she had in Mark 12:41-44; Luke 21:1-4.). God miraculously provided for Elijah, the widow, and her son. Note that God used unclean birds (ravens) and a Gentile woman to accomplish His work.  The widow would have to believe again as her son dies later, and God raises him from the dead. This is the first recorded resurrection in the Bible. 

1 Kings 18 

In the middle of the drought, God called Elijah to return to Ahab. Elijah went to gain access via God-fearing Obadiah, who had hidden 100 prophets in order to save them from the wrath of Jezebel. Obadiah was afraid that he would be executed if Elijah did not follow through in going to see Ahab, but Elijah was true to his word and met with Ahab. This eventually led to a showdown between the 450 prophets of Baal and one lone prophet of the God of Israel on Mount Carmel (#6). Of course, God won and proved to the nation that he was THE Lord God.

1 Kings 19

When news of this reached Jezebel, she vowed to end Elijah's life. So, he ran into seclusion in the wilderness past Beersheba (#9) where the angel of the Lord touched him and provided food and drink because the "journey was too great for him" (19:7). In Old Testament language the "angel of the Lord" is the second person of the Godhead, Jesus Christ (see Genesis 16:10, Exodus 3:1–4 and Judges 2:1–4 too. Note that later in Exodus 3, the angel of the Lord is called "God" and "the Lord").

Then, Elijah made his home in Horeb, the mountain of God where Moses saw the burning bush (Exodus 3). Elijah was exhausted and discouraged (He repeated "I alone am left, and they seek my life to take it away" twice in 19:10 and 14), but he hears God's still, small voice that has also been translated "gentle whisper, a tone of a gentle blowing." He was given his "marching orders" to accomplish three tasks (can you name them?), but he only performed the third one, but through that, the first two were accomplished!

The third task was to anoint Elisha (whose name means "My God is salvation") to take his place. He did this by throwing his prophet's cloak over Elisha. Doing this symbolized the passing of the power and authority of the office to another individual. Elisha responded immediately. All he needed to do was say good-bye to his family. Elijah's unusual response of "What have I done to you?" is an idiom meaning, "Do as you please" or "What have I done to stop you?"

Elisha slaughtered his oxen and burned his plough as a thank offering to God and a sign of leaving his old occupation behind to follow Elijah as his attendant.

WHEW, God is speaking to me in a "gentle whisper." So I will stop for now. Over the next two days, we will take a break from the narrative to look at three psalms associated with Elijah and this time of idolatry. 

REFLECTION

I love this story of the "gentle whisper." As I was meditating today, I was reminded of a time several years ago when God had accomplished great things through me, just like Elijah, only to have an "evil Jezebel" (no joke) come into my life and chase me away. Like Elijah, I fled and became depressed and discouraged. It had gotten so bad that George thought he was going to lose me. He said that during that time, he and the boys would joke and laugh at the dinner table and I would be somewhere else, off and distant. It was bad.

One day, I was hiding up in "my cave" upon my bed, and I cried out for the Lord's "still, small voice" of encouragement. I even prayed specifically that someone would call me that moment to encourage me. His voice came through a woman who called me at that exact moment to ask me to lead a study. She and some friends had heard I had led a study called "Marriage without Regrets" and they wondered if I might lead one for them too. That phone call opened the door into a FABULOUS group of women that I was privileged to lead in Bible Study for the next three years and are still some of my dearest friends today. Years later, this same woman wrote:
God threw me a LIFESAVER when our paths crossed again. I was drifting away from the Lord when you came along and reminded me that His way is the true and the best way. Thank you for helping me get back on course with the Lord and for challenging me to make my life count. Thank you for being my friend. "Greater love has no one that this that he lay down his life for his friends" (John
15;13).
Honestly, she was much more God's lifesaver to me than I could have ever been to her! Thank you my dear friend!

APPLICATION

Notice that Elijah fell into depression immediately after God had accomplished a great spiritual victory through him.

Maybe you have been depressed in the past or you might be depressed right now! What happened right before that low time? Maybe you are/were physically and emotionally drained from a giving out in ministry for the Lord. Maybe you need to come away and listen to His gentle whisper (19:12).

James 5:17 says that "Elijah was a human as we are . . . (NLT)" In our humanness, we all need quiet resting time where the Lord can refresh because sometimes the "journey is too great" for us (19:7).

I hear the Lord speaking to me right now. So, I am going away to rest in Him.

Come away, my beloved, and rest for a while! Sweet dreams BBC friends!

PRAYER

"Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28). Lamb of God, we come. Amen.
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