The Prophet Series: Elijah, part 2Posted: Thu. Dec, 1 2016
The Prophet series: Elijah part 2
We left off in our last article with king Omri of Israel. I feel the gravitational pull to review the history of kings in the north, “Israel,” but I will resist it. If you really want to have that history down pat you have to read it over and over. Omri built the beautiful capital of Samaria, of the same name, and after a twelve year reign, his son Ahab became king. Ahab lives on in infamy as one of the worst kings to ever rule Israel, and he had a lot of competition for that title. Ahab sought a matrimonial alliance with the most wicked dynasty then in power, by marrying the infamous Jezebel, the daughter of Ethbaal ("Baal is with him").
It appears that Ethbaal was originally the high priest of the temple of Astarte in Tyre, a great city on the Mediterranean which had not been conquered by Israel. The first century historian Josephus tells us that Ethbaal murdered his king, and usurped the throne, which he occupied for thirty-two years; and that his dynasty continued for at least sixty-two years after his death. It was in this atmosphere that Jezebel was raised. A clever, strong, bold, and unscrupulous woman, she was by conviction a devotee to the most base and revolting idolatry which the world has ever known, combining with this the reckless contempt of the rights and consciences of others, and the utter indifference as to the means employed, which characterize the worst aspect of Eastern despotism. That she would hate the religion of Jehovah, and fully seek to destroy it, would be of no surprise. Whatever would not bend to her imperious will, whatever claimed to be pious, true, and immovable; and especially whatever claimed a freedom derived from a source above her and her demon god would move her to wholesale murder. Anyone who resisted her will felt the wrath of a spoiled brat who was never imbibed with any moral character and who was basically a sociopath.
As one might expect with such a woman, she's the one who really runs the kingdom and not her husband Ahab. She is stronger willed than Ahab. She deprives the people of the worship of Jehovah, the temple in Jerusalem (if they so choose to make the trip), the Levitical priesthood, and on top of that, the rites of Baal (the sun god/storm god) and Astarte (the moon goddess) are imposed on the people. Under Jezebel the worship of Baal and Astarte are at their height. She desperately wants all worshippers of Jehovah to die, and of course, when Elijah arrives on the scene he becomes her number one target.
Ahab, son of Omri, is a living tragedy. He actually had good traits such as bravery and chivalry. He even had a conscience and under the right influences he might have been a good or even great king, but like all tragic figures, he had a tragic flaw. His fatal weaknesses were selfishness and uncontrolled self-indulgence. Such selfishness numbs any inner desire for God and so Ahab had no desire for the worship of Jehovah. He was fully influenced by his wife and he didn't care, as long as he could continue to indulge his selfish desires. Up to this point in the history of Israel, he is the worst.
1KI 21:25-26 Surely there was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do evil in the sight of the Lord, because Jezebel his wife incited him. And he acted very abominably in following idols.
1KI 16:30 And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord more than all who were before him.
God answers this deep apostasy with a great extension of prophetic order in order to keep alive the knowledge of Jehovah in the land. This begins with the prophet Elijah. Suddenly there is a display of divine power and an unparalleled frequency of miracles, all of which is intended to show the vainness of idols and the authority that God had given His messengers. The patriarchal period, Abraham to Jacob, has little of the miraculous, but then it appears in the wilderness amongst the new-born of Israel. It disappears again for quite an extended period of time until it reappears here, when the moral relationship of the people to God is at such a dangerous point that it may disappear altogether. But God will have none of that. He spills out His great power and His miracles upon the stage of the earth at the precise time when it may appear that His people are going to leave Him forever. So to speak, the miraculous interpositions are now not so much for Israel as they are to Israel; not so much on behalf of Israel as such, but in judgment and in mercy towards them with direct reference to their moral and spiritual condition. In this war where Ahab, Jezebel, Baal, and Israel have taken their stand against Jehovah, Jehovah is going to decide it with deeds and not words.
Last time we noted the dramatic entry of the prophet of God, Elijah, into the capital city of Samaria. In his stern words to Ahab he prophesied that there would be no rain in Israel until he gave the word. In an agricultural economy, a drought is cause for an economic depression. It's going to be so dry that there won't even be any dew on the ground in the mornings. This will greatly damage the wealth of Ahab and Jezebel.
1KI 17:1 Now Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the settlers of Gilead, said to Ahab, "As the Lord, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word."
Drought was foretold to Israel as a means of divine discipline.
DEU 11:16-17 Beware, lest your hearts be deceived and you turn away and serve other gods and worship them. Or the anger of the Lord will be kindled against you, and He will shut up the heavens so that there will be no rain and the ground will not yield its fruit; and you will perish quickly from the good land which the Lord is giving you.
One has to wonder if Ahab knows any scripture at all.
After his proclamation to Ahab, Elijah is bid by God to flee and to hide by the brook Cherith where God commands the ravens to provide for him.
1KI 17:2-7 And the word of the Lord came to him, saying, "Go away from here and turn eastward, and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. And it shall be that you shall drink of the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to provide for you there." So he went and did according to the word of the Lord, for he went and lived by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. And the ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he would drink from the brook. And it happened after a while, that the brook dried up, because there was no rain in the land.
Ravens are voracious creatures, but they did not eat the meat that was divinely chosen for Elijah's strength. Even these base creatures are subject to God to do His bidding. "Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?" (MAT 6:26) God can use any means to supply us with what we need, not only for the need of the moment, but also for our greater needs to come. Elijah is going to face the greatest power of idolatry that has ever been seen in Israel, which is a greater trial than being hungry, but God's miracle of the ravens is strengthening him and preparing him for that contest.
Once the brook is dried up, God sends Elijah to the most curious place - to Jezebel's own home country. God sent him to the one place on the earth that was most hostile to him. God can protect His people in the most unlikely places, in fact, God has always had His own in places where one would least expect them. There, God commanded a widow to provide for Elijah. She is a Gentile woman and an unbeliever. She knows very little of Jehovah. The Rabbis have concluded that she was a Jew and a believer, but that is only because they fail to see the grace of God, believing that only a Jew would be called by God to help the great prophet. The fact is that she is an unworthy, unknowing, poor Gentile who is about to have a life changing encounter with God. Isn't that what happened to you and me? So our story now leaves the focus of the evil king and queen of Israel and turns its light upon this woman.
The Lord used her as an example of the fact that a prophet is not accepted by his own people.
LUK 4:24-26 And He said, "Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his home town. But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land; and yet Elijah was sent to none of them [apostate Israel], but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow."
Elijah meets the woman at the gate.
1KI 17:10-13 So he arose and went to Zarephath, and when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks; and he called to her and said, "Please get me a little water in a jar, that I may drink." And as she was going to get it, he called to her and said, "Please bring me a piece of bread in your hand." But she said, "As the Lord your God lives, I have no bread, only a handful of flour in the bowl and a little oil in the jar; and behold, I am gathering a few sticks that I may go in and prepare for me and my son, that we may eat it and die." Then Elijah said to her, "Do not fear; go, do as you have said, but make me a little bread cake from it first, and bring it out to me, and afterward you may make one for yourself and for your son."
In part three we will see the miracles of God and how they affect both this woman and Elijah.
May you all be blessed this Christmas season by continuing to behold the greatest miracle of God unto His people, the birth of His Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Pastor Joe Sugrue
Grace and Truth Ministries