From 1 Kings 18-20
Elijah is fearful for his life and flees Jezebel when she swears vengeance. He runs all the way to mount Horeb where the LORD reveals himself in a strange and unexpected way. In the gospel, it’s the calm after the storm that gets the disciples attention, awe and fear. In what ways are you most likely to look for the LORD to reveal himself?
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comments
Elijah has just been involved in a massive confrontation with the prophets of Baal. The LORD revealed himself as LORD and won an amazing victory over the hearts of the people. Afterwards Elijah slaughtered all the prophets of Baal.
One might think after this event Elijah would be confident in his future prospects. This is where our passage picks up.
19 Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” 3 Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. (1 Ki 19.1-3)
Ahab runs home and tells his wife Jezebel. You might say she wears the pants in the family.
Jezebel swears revenge on Elijah for killing all the prophets of Baal and for some unknown reason sends a couple of her servants to give Elijah advance notice that she is going to kill him.
Elijah hears the news and flees. After the great victory of the LORD he is scared to death.
4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” 5 And he lay down and slept under a broom tree.
And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.” 6 And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again.
7 And the angel of the LORD came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” 8 And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God. (1 Ki 19.4-8)
After a day’s journey, Elijah rests and prays. He reveals his heart in his prayer. He has had enough. The effort is too much, he wants to die. Exhausted, he falls asleep.
The LORD hears his prayer. He does not end his life. He sends an angel to provide for him.
Sometimes what we need most is the opposite of what we ask for.
Elijah eats and drinks. Still exhausted he goes back to sleep. When he wakes up he eats and drinks again. The food the LORD provides him with fills him with supernatural strength and endurance. He goes on for another forty days and nights. Enough to reach a significant landmark in Israel’s history. Mount Horeb, where the law of Moses was given.
9 There he came to a cave and lodged in it. And behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
10 He said, “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” (1 Ki 19.9-10)
What are you doing here, Elijah? Elijah is discouraged.
Elijah, still fearful and on the run is questioned by the LORD. He reveals his doubt and fear. Is he the only one left? Are all the rest dead? Will he die soon?
It might be easy to condemn Elijah after all the LORD had done. At times are we any different? The LORD works with his people and reveals himself to Elijah.
11 And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the LORD.”
And behold, the LORD passed by, and
a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind.
And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake.
12 And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire.
And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. (1 Ki 19.11-12)
The LORD passed by, but in which way. First came the wind, then the earthquake, then the fire, but the LORD was in none of these. Finally Elijah hears the sound of a soft whisper.
Sometimes the LORD does not work in dramatic displays of power. He can also reveal himself in the background. The quiet. Things that can easily escape notice.
How has the LORD revealed himself to you?
13 And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
14 He said, “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” (1 Ki 19.13-14)
What are you doing here, Elijah? There is still more to learn.
The LORD asks the same question again and Elijah repeats his same answer. The LORD responds to his fear and doubt.
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.” (1 Ki 19.15-18)
He commands him to anoint three people:
- Hazael to be king over Syria,
- Jehu to be king over Israel (to replace Ahab), and
- Elisha to be prophet in your place.
These three will bring judgment and put people to death.
At the start of the passage Jezebel vowed vengeance on Elijah. At the end of our passage, the LORD turns the tables. He vows to put an end to all his enemies.
The only people remaining from the bloodbath will be those who have not been idolatrous. Elijah is given rest from his ministry.
The passage ends on a surprising note. The LORD will judge and kill all those who oppose him. The only one left alive are those who do not worship other gods. The LORD faithful to his promises worked through Hazael and Jehu bringing temporary reprieve to Israel’s idolatry. Elijah was succeeded by Elisha. The prophet with double his Spirit.
The LORD is not always working in the soft whispers. But he answers Elijah’s prayer.
In the passage one might think the wind, earthquake and the fire would capture most people’s attention. But it was the low whisper. The quite that made the most impact on Elijah that made him come out of the cave.
In the gospel, it’s the not the storm which gets the disciples attention. It’s the calm that followed.
22 One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So they set out, 23 and as they sailed he fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger. 24 And they went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm. 25 He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?” (Lk 8.22-25)
Sometimes we can get discouraged and fearful like Elijah. We need to remember that sometimes it’s in the calm the LORD is doing amazing work. We just need to be attentive to what he is doing.
Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2016. All Rights Reserved.