- 1 Kings 17:1-24; 18:1-46; 19:1-21
Today's reading begins our look at the prophet Elijah. A lot happened in this reading so our devotional is more lengthy than usual, but this is among my favorite stories in GOD's word.
The recorded account of Elijah begins with GOD sending him to Ahab, king of Israel, with a message: There will be no dew nor rain in the next few years except when I say so. As you might imagine, this made Elijah very unpopular with Ahab. GOD provided food and water for Elijah, taking care of his needs as the good Father He is. He told Elijah to go east to the Kerith Ravine, where He would send Ravens to bring bread and meat for Elijah to eat, and he could drink from the brook. Elijah did as GOD said. Things got really bad in the land without rain, and eventually the brook dried up, so GOD told Elijah to go to the town of Zarephath and there GOD would provide him with food.
When Elijah arrived at the town's gate there was a widow gathering sticks. He asked her for a drink and a piece of bread.
So she said, “As the LORD your God lives, I do not have bread, only a handful of flour in a bin, and a little oil in a jar; and see, I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.” 13 And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said, but make me a small cake from it first, and bring it to me; and afterward make some for yourself and your son. 14 For thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘The bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the LORD sends rain on the earth.’” 15 So she went away and did according to the word of Elijah; and she and he and her household ate for many days. 16 The bin of flour was not used up, nor did the jar of oil run dry, according to the word of the LORD which He spoke by Elijah.
(1 Kings 17:12-16 NKJV)
In time, the widow's son got sick and died. She asked Elijah if he had come to her to remind her of her sin and kill her son. Elijah took the dead child in his arms and carried him to Elijah's room in her house. He stretched himself out on the boy three times and prayed to GOD and the boy came back to life. The widow rejoiced and said that she knew that Elijah was from GOD.
After a long time, in the third year of no rain, GOD told Elijah to go to Ahab and He would send rain upon the land. When Ahab saw Elijah, he said:
“Is that you, O troubler of Israel?” 18 And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father’s house have, in that you have forsaken the commandments of the LORD and have followed the Baals. 19 Now therefore, send and gather all Israel to me on Mount Carmel, the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal, and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.”
(1 Kings 18:17b-19 NKJV)
20 So Ahab sent for all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together on Mount Carmel. 21 And Elijah came to all the people, and said, “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people answered him not a word.
(1 Kings 18:20-21 NKJV)
Then Elijah proposed a test. They would get two bulls, kill them, cut them up and place them upon the altar. Whomever answered by consuming the bull with fire would be the true God, whether Baal or Jehovah. The prophets of Baal went first. So they called on Baal and danced around, but there was no response. Elijah began to mock them, saying perhaps Baal couldn't hear them because they weren't loud enough, or he was deep in thought, sleeping, busy, or away traveling. The prophets of Baal started to cut themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, and they continued all of this until the time of the evening sacrifice.
Elijah then called all the people near to him. He repaired the altar of the LORD by taking 12 stones (one for each tribe). He dug a trench around the altar. He placed the wood upon the altar, cut up the bull and placed it upon the wood. Then he had them pour four jars of water on the offering and wood. They repeated this twice more, so that the water filled up the trench.
And it came to pass, at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near and said, “LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word. 37 Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that You are the LORD God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again.” 38 Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and the stones and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench. 39 Now when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, “The LORD, He is God! The LORD, He is God!” 40 And Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal! Do not let one of them escape!” So they seized them; and Elijah brought them down to the Brook Kishon and executed them there.
(1 Kings 18:36-40 NKJV)
Then Elijah told Ahab to hurry and go down the mountain before it rains. The power of GOD came upon Elijah and he ran ahead of Ahab to Jezreel. When Ahab's wife Jezebel heard what Elijah did to the prophets of Baal, she vowed to kill him. Elijah was afraid, so he ran for his life. He went to Beersheba in Judah where he prayed to GOD that he might die. He lied down under a tree and fell asleep, but an angel awoke him and told him to get up and eat. GOD had provided baked bread over hot coals for Elijah, along with a jar of water. Then Elijah went, powered by that meal, for 40 days to Mount Sinai in the desert.
9 And there he went into a cave, and spent the night in that place; and behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 So he said, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.” 11 Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces 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 a still small voice.
13 So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him, and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 14 And he said, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God of hosts; because the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.” 15 Then the LORD said to him: “Go, return on your way to the Wilderness of Damascus; and when you arrive, anoint Hazael as king over Syria. 16 Also you shall anoint Jehu the son of Nimshi as king over Israel. And Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel Meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place. 17 It shall be that whoever escapes the sword of Hazael, Jehu will kill; and whoever escapes the sword of Jehu, Elisha will kill. 18 Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”
(1 Kings 19:9-18 NKJV)
Elijah was human just like you and me. He had strengths and weaknesses, triumphs and slip-ups. GOD used Elijah to accomplish major victories for His name's sake in Israel. Elijah saw the power of GOD in numerous situations. Today's reading told of how GOD fed him on three separate occasions. He saw GOD's power as He consumed the sacrifice and brought rain upon the land at Elijah's word. Elijah ran with super-human quickness, even passing Ahab's chariot, on his way to town. Yet after all of this Elijah still got down and despaired. He was weak and ready to give up.
I don't know how this makes you feel, but it gives me hope. I know my weakness and frailty and how needy I am for GOD's strength. I am encouraged when I see the lengths to which GOD went to care and sustain one of His children who was trying hard to obey and serve Him in the mission to which he was called. Life is full of mountains and valleys. Flat stretches are few and far between. Thankfully GOD is the God of both the mountain and the valley! Praise Him for this truth.