The Prophet Series: Elijah, part 4Posted: Wed. Dec, 21 2016
The Prophet Series: Elijah, part 4
After healing the Gentile widow’s son and witnessing her faith and the transformation it brought upon her, Elijah is bid by God to leave the area of Sidon and return to Samaria in order to confront Ahab, the king of Israel for the second time. The last time Elijah faced the king he boldly prophesied to him that it would not rain in Israel until Elijah himself gave the word. The drought, of course, has occurred and the kingdom is suffering a severe economic depression. Naturally Ahab, and the real ruler in Israel, his wife Jezebel, have blamed Elijah for this, when the reality is that Ahab and Jezebel's worship of Baal, along with the many in the nation who have accepted it is the cause of God’s discipline. At this stage in their history, the worship of Baal is at its zenith.
The excessive drought did not open their eyes to their sin and so lead them to turn from their ungodly ways. They only have exasperation towards Elijah - the messenger and man of God. We can imagine the hatred that Jezebel and Ahab have for the prophet, yet God commands Elijah to walk right into the thick of the battle and on their home turf.
1KI 18:1-15 Now it came about after many days, that the word of the Lord came to Elijah in the third year, saying, "Go, show yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the face of the earth." So Elijah went to show himself to Ahab. Now the famine was severe in Samaria. And Ahab called Obadiah who was over the household. (Now Obadiah feared the Lord greatly; for it came about, when Jezebel destroyed the prophets of the Lord, that Obadiah took a hundred prophets and hid them by fifties in a cave, and provided them with bread and water.) Then Ahab said to Obadiah, "Go through the land to all the springs of water and to all the valleys; perhaps we will find grass and keep the horses and mules alive, and not have to kill some of the cattle." So they divided the land between them to survey it; Ahab went one way by himself and Obadiah went another way by himself.
Now as Obadiah was on the way, behold, Elijah met him, and he recognized him and fell on his face and said, "Is this you, Elijah my master?" And he said to him, "It is I. Go, say to your master, 'Behold, Elijah is here.'" And he said, "What sin have I committed, that you are giving your servant into the hand of Ahab, to put me to death?" As the Lord your God lives, there is no nation or kingdom where my master has not sent to search for you; and when they said, 'He is not here,' he made the kingdom or nation swear that they could not find you. And now you are saying, 'Go, say to your master," Behold, Elijah is here."' "And it will come about when I leave you that the Spirit of the Lord will carry you where I do not know; so when I come and tell Ahab and he cannot find you, he will kill me, although I your servant have feared the Lord from my youth. Has it not been told to my master what I did when Jezebel killed the prophets of the Lord, that I hid a hundred prophets of the Lord by fifties in a cave, and provided them with bread and water? "And now you are saying, 'Go, say to your master," Behold, Elijah is here"'; he will then kill me." And Elijah said, "As the Lord of hosts lives, before whom I stand, I will surely show myself to him today."
We meet the man Obadiah, Ahab’s aide-de-camp, who is a man who truly fears Jehovah. It is hard to imagine that a man of such prominence would have been able to successfully hide their worship of the Lord, for as we can see, Jezebel would have certainly had him executed. We might conclude that Ahab is protecting him, and I think that’s a good conclusion. When we read of Ahab, he has hints of being a good man, but his love of personal pleasure outweighs everything else that pulls upon his soul, and Baal worship (and Jezebel; so long as he plays nice) provides that pleasure in full. As a servant of Ahab, Obadiah is able to hide his worship of Jehovah just as he hid the hundred prophets.
We also note that there are many prophets in Israel and not just Elijah. We would conclude that Elijah is the chief prophet, but also that God is using many prophets at this time. Baal worship is at its height, and before all remembrance of the Lord is erased from the land, God counters Satan’s lies with the beginnings of a prophetic deluge. All over Israel there are men who are prophesying, warning, and communicating truth while Jezebel attempts to hunt them down. It would be well known throughout the land that the long drought of three and a half years was foretold by Elijah and this fact would have likely caused many in Israel to once again fear Jehovah. And still the weary days crept on as before; the sun rose and sank on a cloudless sky over an arid land; and there was no sign of change, nor hope of relief.
Many of the prophets die a martyr’s death, but not all. There are thousands of them in every corner of the nation, and any one of them can be called by God at any time to be the chief prophet, and in fact, one of them is on a path to become exactly that. Any of us who are faithful to God’s plan carry within ourselves that same potential. In grace God calls forth His vessels of honor and uses them where and when He sees fit. It is true that all of the faithful are used by God in some capacity, no believer's plan is idle, but it is also true that if the faithful are ever called to do something prominent and “big” as God did with Elijah, they possessed the capacity to do so before they received the call, and it is that capacity glorifies God, whether it is used for something "big" or something "small". (I "highlight" these descriptions since no one can truly measure them.) We never have to seek for our opportunities, but only to be aware of them when they come; our availability and our faithfulness are all that are needed and with them we have glorified God. If we are truly faithful, why wouldn't we heed the call when it comes? Hence, we never need be jealous or desirous of a spotlight that another of God’s servants may have. Whether we were ever in the spotlight or not, we glorified God.
COL 4:5-6 Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person.
As Obadiah is out looking for water and vegetation by order of the king, he runs into Elijah. Obadiah is naturally afraid to announce this to the king. Elijah is public enemy number one and any messenger who brought word of his existence would literally not keep his head. Obadiah states: "And it will come about when I leave you that the Spirit of the Lord will carry you where I do not know." Ahab had so long and systematically sought for Elijah, that Obadiah could only imagine the prophet had been miraculously removed from shelter to shelter, just in time to save him from being detected by the messengers of Ahab. In point of fact, we know that such was not the case; but those who have lost the habit of seeing God in the ordinary Providence of every-day life - as is the case with all who are conformed to the world - are too often in the habit of looking for things strange, or for miracles, and thus become at the same time superstitious and unbelieving. We know that God did not "beam up" Elijah, but that God provided for him in his everyday life just as He does for you and me.
However, Elijah is unafraid. Recall that he has just witnessed the miracle of healing the widow’s son, the power of prayer to accomplish such power, and the greater miracle of the widow’s conversion to faith. If God can snatch a boy back from the clutches of the grave, if He can answer such prayers, if He can save a Gentile woman from the land of Jezebel - then He can protect Elijah’s life.
1KI 18:16-19 So Obadiah went to meet Ahab, and told him; and Ahab went to meet Elijah. And it came about, when Ahab saw Elijah that Ahab said to him, "Is this you, you troubler of Israel?" And he said, "I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father's house have, because you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and you have followed the Baals. Now then send and gather to me all Israel at Mount Carmel, together with 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of the Asherah, who eat at Jezebel's table."
It was summer. Jezebel had left the palace of Samaria and retired to her delicious cool summer residence at Jezreel. Ahab would still be in the capital city trying to administer the poor kingdom and so he could meet Elijah without the "queen mother" knowing. The king was in danger of losing every horse and mule he owned. The kingdom was poor and destitute and his popularity with the people was at an all time low. He had to meet Elijah personally in his very capital and without doing him violence. God had brought Ahab to rock bottom.
Many read in Ahab's words, "Is this you, you troubler of Israel?" as an attempt to frighten Elijah while others think that Ahab is appealing to Elijah for help. Perhaps it is a little of both. It may be that Ahab is trying to frighten Elijah with his power and position but deep in his heart he knows that it likely won't work, while at the same time, Ahab likely knows that Elijah is the only one who can bring the rain again. Either way, Elijah is not intimidated, but replies boldly, "I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father's house have, because you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and you have followed the Baals."
Ahab could not have anticipated Elijah's request to bring 950 so-called prophets who serve Jezebel and to send out word to all of Israel that Jehovah would face Baal in the region of Mt. Carmel. Whether believers or unbelievers, how could any in Israel able to make the trek, resist such an invitation? Ahab cannot resist it either. He can't even feed his mules at this point. He has been forced by the mighty hand of God to comply.
When David could not help but witness that those in Israel who had forsaken Jehovah seemed to prosper, he thought that maybe he should have also lived in such a way, but then he thought about it and sought God's counsel, of which he wrote: PSA 73:15-17 If I had said, "I will speak thus," Behold, I should have betrayed the generation of Thy children. When I pondered to understand this, It was troublesome in my sight Until I came into the sanctuary of God; Then I perceived their end.
Every evil person eventually reaps what they sow, without exception.
"Now then send and gather to me all Israel at Mount Carmel, together with 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of the Asherah, who eat at Jezebel's table."
Asherah, the moon goddess, is Baal’s female counterpart. Their priests served in the temple of Baal under Jezebel's strict watch. Now they are summoned and when Jezebel heard about Elijah's request she must have been overjoyed. Finally she will have him within reach. What could this one man do against a thousand of her own? But as all tyrants know, they still have to impress the population. Even when Hitler possessed complete power over Germany, he still had his propaganda machine running around the clock. Jezebel cannot just grab Elijah and slay him in front of all the people. That might make them sympathetic to him and cause rebellion. She must let whatever Elijah does play out and then search for a way to kill him.
That day Carmel witnessed one of the grandest scenes in all of Israel's history. Carmel (meaning fruit-garden), is a mountain ridge with many peaks, intersected by hundreds of larger and smaller ravines. It is one of the most beautiful spots in all of Israel. Its valleys are covered with the most resplendent flowers of every description, and the heights are adorned with myrtles, laurels, oaks, and firs. It is almost certain that the place chosen by Elijah for the display of God's power is one of the peaks called El-Mahrakah, "the place of burning." On whichever side of this mountain one ascended, the scene is one of unsurpassed beauty. Numerous springs trickle along the foot of the mountain. Cliffs descend sheer down to the plain. We reach a plateau where at the edge of the steep slope is a perennial well, filled with water even in the driest season, and from this well the water for Elijah's sacrifice would be drawn. A little higher up is another plateau shaded by olives which leads us to the highest point, a knoll upon which the two altars will be built. On one side will stand the stern figure one man, Elijah dressed in his upper garment of black camel hair girt with a leather girdle, and on the other Ahab, and with him, flowing down to the near plateau, all the false prophets, standing out in their white dresses and high pointed caps. Below them, up the gentler slopes and down in the valley are thousands of Israelites who have come out to satisfy their curiosity. All of them have felt the ravages of the three year drought. Poor, hungry, angry, saddened; the faithful and the unfaithful fill the gallery of this befitting theater and they will see what they could have never anticipated. Instead of destroying the nation of idol worshippers, Jehovah will once again reveal to them that He alone is power and life and that these demon gods can do nothing.
I look forward to another great year of searching the Scriptures with you. Until then, Merry Christmas and a most happy New Year.
In His love,
Pastor Joseph Sugrue
Grace and Truth Ministries.