The genuine Christian life is never easy. And if your desire is to increase your number of friends, don’t look to the unbelieving world… it will only ‘love’ you insofar as you do what they do and say! And don’t look to superficial ‘Christians’ within the churches! To put it in modern terms, this chapter shows the ‘nitty-gritty’ of being a believer, one who acts as he should before unbelievers. You end up with death threats, violence and social shunning. I know all about this personally; it can be frightening, but I also know that doing nothing is not an option. Indeed, cowardice infuriates enemies anyway.
Believers who stand up and be counted can expect an opposition that can be vile and frightening. But, we MUST stand firm. It is better to be attacked than to be silent in the face of foul activity by enemies, after you have already attempted to maintain peace. (Do not, like so many superficial believers, think that ‘turn the other cheek’ applies to the current disorder and mayhem in the world!).
And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain all the prophets with the sword.
Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by to morrow about this time.
And when he saw that, he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beersheba, which belongeth to Judah, and left his servant there.
The king (who did nothing at the time) went home and told his queen, Jezebel, that Elijah had all her priests of Ba’al put to death. Furious, she sent a message to Elijah, to say that if she does not have him killed by tomorrow, the gods should come and kill her instead. The threat was very clear. Note how she did not look at the reality – that her hundreds of false prophets could not cause her false gods to act! Her violent reaction is much like the reaction of our enemies today, including those who are Islamic or homosexual. They cannot win by ‘selling their wares in the market place’, so they skip over argument and just kill or abuse the law!
On receiving the message, Elijah immediately left his servant, and travelled to Beersheba just over the border in the southern kingdom, seeking refuge. We are not told if this was a direct instruction from God, but we do know that a believer who lives by faith will make his own paths straight when God does not speak to him directly. This is because his mind and heart are already holy, and so his thoughts will be used by the Spirit to guide him. It happens today, but few realise it.
But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.
And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat.
And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again.
And the angel of the LORD came again the second time, and touched him, and said, Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee.
And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God.
The journey to the southern kingdom was hard and hot in the desert sun. So, Elijah eventually sat under a juniper tree (a ‘broom’ plant; an evergreen conifer) for shade. He felt alone and miserable and asked God to end his life there and then, because he was “not better than (his) fathers” - sinful. He went to sleep under the tree. An angel “touched him” so that he woke up. This was an actual visit by an angel, not a vision or dream.
The angel told him to get up and eat. Elijah looked and saw bread just cooked on a coal fire, and a jug of water nearby. He ate and drank and lay down again to resume sleeping. But, the angel soon did the same again, saying that he had to eat and drink more, because otherwise the journey would be too hard for him. So, Elijah obeyed, eating and drinking a second time. After that he was able to sustain his life for forty days and nights as he travelled to God’s mount Horeb (Mount Sinai, on which God gave His commandments to Moses).
God always provides strength for things He has Himself commanded. If we are called by God to either good or harm, plenty or nothing, He will always give us strength, if not the means, of survival or help. It also shows us that just a small ‘infusion’ of God’s strength is sufficient for a very long time.
And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah?
And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.
And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake 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:
And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.
On Mount Sinai Elijah called out to God. If this was where God spoke to Moses then perhaps He would talk with him, too. He entered a cave part way up the mountain, and hid there from Jezebel. It was there that God spoke to him… we are not told how long Elijah had been living in the cave by that time. God asked him ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’
Elijah was in an anxious state and said that previously he had done everything asked of him by God, and on behalf of the Israelites, who had forsaken their duties and love for the Lord. They broke down God’s holy altars and killed the real prophets. Then, Elijah made the mistake of saying that now, only he was left, and the king and queen wanted to kill him. It is an error made by way of anxiety, not by a word from God. We all panic at times and live anxiously, waiting for the worst to happen, instead of trusting in God. While God understands the weakness of our human frame, such a response is always an insult to Him, and unhelpful to ourselves.
God commanded him to go to the mouth of the cave “before the Lord”. That is, ready for the presence of God, to wait for something new. What follows is reminiscent of what happened with Moses: “the LORD passed by…”. This was literal, and as He passed by, there was a wind so strong that it split the rocks of the mountain. This was followed by an earthquake. Then came a mighty fire. But, unlike the Moses’ incident, God was NOT IN any of these things! They were just powerful signs of His presence.
When these mighty and frightening things took place, there was silence, and Elijah heard a “still small voice”. That is, God spoke to Elijah in a calm whisper. Some years ago I reported on a local electrical storm that produced a large thunder-bolt that destroyed the church tower at the end of my street. The cracking sounds of the lightning and then the blast were very loud. The bolt knocked down the tower and went through the house next door, leaving blocks of masonry over my road, the road in front of the church, and beyond. It looked as if a bomb had exploded. But, when it ended, there was an eerie silence.
This is what Elijah experienced. After the destructive forces of wind, earthquake and fire, there was absolute, eerie silence. Then came God’s voice, so quiet Elijah would have to strain to hear Him.
Many years ago I realised that if God proves Himself anywhere it would be in a very small way (to us), in what is regarded to be minor. God wanted to show Elijah that He did not need to prove Himself before men in amazing or spectacular events. If His people sat still and listened intently, God would speak to them, even in a whisper. If we cannot make ourselves live in this way, then we will completely miss His interventions and claim that God does not hear us. We look for something greater, as we suffer misery because of life’s circumstances, but what is greater than God speaking to us in a whisper? The whisper from God is as powerful as an earthquake!
And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?
And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.
And the LORD said unto him, Go, return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus: and when thou comest, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria:
And Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint to be king over Israel: and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abelmeholah shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room.
And it shall come to pass, that him that escapeth the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay: and him that escapeth from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay.
Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.
When Elijah heard the voice, he hid has face in his cloak. At the entrance to the cave, the cowering Elijah again heard God, Who repeated His question: ‘Why are you here?’ Elijah again complained about the unholy Israelites, adding that only he was left, so God might as well kill him. At that time God did not tell him that others were also in the same position. Instead, God commanded him to go back into the deserts around Damascus: He was to anoint Hazael as king over Syria. (It seems Hazael later killed Ben-hadad the king and went to war against both Israel and Judah).
Then, after that, he was to anoint Jehu as king of Israel; Jehu was grandson to Nimshi (though here referred to as ‘son’). He would later take over the kingship from Omri. Also, Elijah was to hand over the task of prophet to one named Elisha. God prophesied that Hazael would kill many, and if he missed any, Jehu would finish the killings. But, if any remained of the idolaters, Elisha the new prophet would put them to death. This is timely, for how many Christians think it is their role to be doormats to evil men, and willing victims of wicked people who obey Allah? The idea that Christians must always just lay down and die is erroneous… many prophets had a hand in slaying enemies and godless people! And Israel often had to war against enemies and kill them.
Then, God told Elijah that 7000 men had not bowed their knee to Ba’al, thereby defying Jezebel. Those men refused to obey when the king was godless, and they worshipped the true God, perhaps in secret. Elijah was not alone! Nor are we today. It is true that a majority in our times have disobeyed, and are being as evil as those around them, but there are also more who remain faithful, even if they are forced to be silent for the moment.
So he departed thence, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth: and Elijah passed by him, and cast his mantle upon him.
And he left the oxen, and ran after Elijah, and said, Let me, I pray thee, kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow thee. And he said unto him, Go back again: for what have I done to thee?
And he returned back from him, and took a yoke of oxen, and slew them, and boiled their flesh with the instruments of the oxen, and gave unto the people, and they did eat. Then he arose, and went after Elijah, and ministered unto him.
Elijah left the cave immediately, strengthened by God’s word, and made his way to the desert to find the man God named, Elisha. He was a farmer, and was ploughing with twelve pairs of oxen. Elisha was guiding the front ox. As Elijah walked past, he threw his cloak over Elisha’s shoulders. The cloak was evidently recognised to be a special cloak worn by a prophet, consisting of fine linen and/or fur. The significance of this act was immediately understood by the farmer. It was known that a man who was to become prophet firstly had another prophet to put his cloak over the new man’s shoulders.
As Elijah walked on, Elisha ran after him, asking permission to go home to say goodbye to his parents (similar to the request made by Jesus’ new apostles) before following Elijah. Elijah gave permission.
Elisha went back home and took two of the oxen for a feast. He boiled the meat using utensils usually used for preparing meat, and fed the people on his farm. After this farewell, he then went after Elijah, giving him meat, bread and drink. No man called to a task by God may reject the call, but must follow and do whatever is commanded. The consequences of doing so are not to be contemplated. What matters is that we obey.
© November 2015
Published on www.christiandoctrine.com
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