The Expository Files

Elijah: Are You Listening?

Elijah’s first job involved great divine power but he delivered a message to a very unpleasant human audience. Elijah said to Ahab: “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word,” (1 Kngs. 17:1). This was the beginning of roller coaster ride for the prophet from Tishbe in Gilead.

During the days that followed, he was briefly exiled in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, fed by the ravens and the brook. When the brook dried up, the Lord sent him to Zarephath of Sidon. He was fed by a widow, in keeping with the Lord’s promise. When the widow’s son became ill, she blamed Elijah: “What do you have against me, man of God? did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?” (1 Kngs. 17:18). Elijah petitioned the Lord to restore his life, “and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived.” In an extraordinary moment of celebration, the widow said, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth,” (1 Kngs. 17:24).

After that, Elijah answered the Lord’s call again, to present himself to Ahab. It was a time of great famine and Ahab had summoned Obadiah to help find some way to keep the livestock alive. As Obadiah traveled through the land on this mission, Elijah met him. Obadiah recognized the man of God, and Elijah said to him, “Go tell your master, ‘Elijah is here’,” (1 Kngs. 18:8). Obadiah was upset with Elijah. “What have I done wrong,” he said. He reminded Elijah of how he had protected the prophets from the cruel hand of Jezebel. Obadiah feared for his life.

“Elijah said, ‘As the Lord Almighty lives, whom I serve, I will surely present myself to Ahab today’,” (1 Kngs. 18:15). Obadiah carried the message to Ahab, and when Ahab saw Elijah, he said to him, “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?” Elijah responded by telling Ahab the truth: “I have not made trouble for Israel … but you and your father’s family have. You have abandoned the Lord’s commands and have followed the Baals.”

This exchange led to the great contest with the gods of Baal on Mt. Carmel (1 Kngs. 18:16-46). The false prophets were publicly humiliated, utterly defeated and slaughtered in the Kishon Valley. Elijah then said to Ahab, “You and go eat and drink now!” (see James 5:18). As the writer concludes the record of the event: “The power of the Lord came upon Elijah and, tucking his cloak into his belt, he ran ahead of Ahab all the way to Jezreel.”

Meanwhile, Jezebel was so furious, she threatened to put Elijah to death (1 Kngs. 19:1-13). He fled to Beersheba, sat down in despondency under a juniper tree. The account says, “Elijah was afraid and ran for his life.”

“When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the desert. he came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. ‘I have had enough, Lord,’ than my ancestors.’ Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep,” (1 Kngs. 19:3-5).

Asleep and depressed, an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” He arose and found a provisions miraculously supplied, then went forward. He traveled forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God, where he took up residence in a cave.

Here the Lord appeared unto him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” In answer to his despondent words God manifests to him his glory, and then directs him to return to Damascus and anoint Hazael king over Syria, and Jehu king over Israel, and Elisha to be prophet in his room (1 Kings 19:13–21; comp. 2 Kings 8:7–15; 9:1–10). Some six years after this, Ahab and Jezebel suffered the violent deaths Elijah had prophesied. He dealt with Ahaziah, who had succeeded his father Ahab. Finally the time came for Elijah to be taken up into heaven (2 Kngs. 2). Elisha was his successor.

Elijah had to learn to experience the extraordinary, while living in the ordinary. He had to learn to be exhausted, but not discouraged; blamed but not blameworthy. He overcame discouragement by getting up, listening to the Lord and doing His will. God can mend the broken heart and restore us to usefulness, when we listen to Him. Are you listening?
[1]Easton, M. 1996, c1897. Easton's Bible dictionary. Logos Research Systems, Inc.: Oak Harbor, WA

By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 11.12; December 2004