King Ahab was the tenth last king to reign in the land of Israel before God brought His promised judgment on the land, for their evil ways. |
It wasn't bad enough that Ahab did evil in the sight of the Lord, but to make matters worse, he married Princess Jezebel, the daughter of Ethbaal, king of Sidonia, the center of Baal worship. Ahab accepted the worship of the false god, Baal, and dragged Israel down the path of idol worship as well, forsaking the God of Israel, and breaking the First Commandment: "Thou shalt have no other gods before me". Exodus 20:3 God used Elijah to carry His message of judgment to Ahab and Jezebel. I Kings 17 - II Kings 2
Israel, God's people had wandered from God, their Lord.
He'd given several warnings, which the nation all ignored.
So God called in Elijah to declare: "God's sending drought!"
King Ahab and Queen Jezebel said: "What's that Prophet on about?"
But soon the waters all dried up and folks began to die.
Queen Jezebel called Baal in, and to it she did cry.
But still the rains, they didn't come. Her god just did not hear.
And as the days grew into years, the worst that queen did fear.
"Where is that man Elijah?" Queen Jezebel then said.
"I will not stop my searching until that Prophet's dead.
It's all his fault this drought has come. He's ruined all our land.
So get out there and find him. This is the king's command."
Elijah then was frightened. He took off on a trot.
God led him to Brook Cherith, to a very secret spot.
For days the ravens fed him, and from Cherith did he drink.
But then to his great horror, the stream began to shrink.
God pointed him to Zarephath, to hide at a widow's place.
He stayed there 'til God told him: "The King now you must face:
Arise! Go stage a contest. Call in the prophets of Baal.
And you and I will sit and laugh when we hear those seers wail."
The challenge now was over. Fire from heaven had come.
And all the folks who witnessed it were suddenly struck dumb.
And then with one accord, they cried: "We've seen God here today!"
God said then to Elijah: "Those false prophets you must slay."
Jezebel knew about the contest, but she had not heard of the results, except she knew that anything to do with her enemy, Elijah, would not be good news for her. "Well, spit it out," she demanded of Ahab, as he stood quivering before her. "What happened today?"
Giving as few details as possible, Ahab unfolded before his queen the events of the day. He closed his eyes, expecting the explosion that was to follow. He did not have to wait long. As violently as the rain poured down from the sky, so did the words spew from Jezebel's mouth.
When Ahab told Queen Jezebel: "Baal's prophets have been slain!"
She yelled, "How could that happen? That prophet is to blame!
Where is that man Elijah?" Queen Jezebel then said.
Get out there now and find him. I want that prophet's head!"
Someone from the palace, hearing the angry outburst from the queen, quickly got word to Elijah. And Elijah knew that he could no longer remain in Israel. He knew that as soon as it was morning, Ahab would have forgotten all about his near-repentance, and would be scrambling around obeying Jezebel's orders, preparing an army to pursue him, to find him, and to have him killed.
From Jezreel, where Ahab and Jezebel had their summer palace, to Beersheba, in the southern part of the once-united kingdom, was anywhere from eighty to one hundred miles, depending on what route was followed.
So Elijah started running, running for his life.
He knew the vicious wickedness of weak King Ahab's wife.
He ran and ran until he found a place where he could hide.
He lay down so exhausted that he thought he may have died.
Knowing that the danger was now over, Elijah said to his faithful servant, "You stay here. You will be safe now. I must go on farther." Elijah felt that he wanted to be alone. He needed to seek God without any outside distractions. For a further day he wandered southward, over rough terrain, across rocky creek beds, dry for three years, but now trickling with water. The further south he went into the wilderness, the scarcer the trees were becoming, exposing him more and more to the sun's scorching rays. He had been under a strain for a long time, having carried on without sufficient food or rest. The intensity of the past days, with the contest on the mountain and the meeting of Ahab, had taken its toll. He was exhausted, not only in body, but also in soul and spirit.
As he trudged onward, his mind reviewed his life of the past twenty-odd years as a prophet. Had he failed in his mission? Was his long, rugged life for naught? Why hadn't God's people listened to him? Why was he the only one left, of the believers in God? Why was God treating him like this? And WHERE was God? What was the use of carrying on any further? What was the use of carrying on? What was the use?
By this time the growth of trees had diminished. Before him lay a vast wasteland of rocks and dried shrubs scattered here and there. His eyes stretched over the prairie, searching for shade, for a place to sit down. At last, off in the distance, he saw a lone juniper tree--a bush of desert growth, reaching to the height of six or eight feet. He hastened his steps. Reaching it he flopped by its trunk. It afforded little shade, but he didn't care. It would be a good place for him to die.
"Oh God, will you not help me? Do you not even care?
You are the Lord, Jehovah! Can't you hear my desperate prayer?
"Where are you God?" he cried aloud. "Why have you hid from me?
I've done Your will the best I could. And now I've had to flee?"
This dejected man, who fell instantly asleep under the juniper tree, was a far cry from the bold, robust Elijah that dared go before the most wicked and violent king and queen that Israel had ever had; or the courageous man who challenge the king to a contest of fire to prove that his God was the true God. This dejected loner, now sleeping the sleep of exhaustion, under the lone juniper tree, was a man who needed special attention. God had not forgotten him, as the despondent Elijah had feared. God had a special medicine for this soul-sick, body-wearied servant of the Lord. God sent His special "angel" down to minister to him. While Elijah slept a troubled sleep, the special "nurse" from God was preparing him a remarkable meal.
Elijah dreamed a dream just then. He was sure he'd really died...
An angel came with food and drink. Elijah soon revived.
Elijah smelled the most wonderful smell, the smell of fresh bread baking. He felt cool, refreshing water on his tongue. This was just too good to be true. He was sure he had truly died. He never wanted to wake up and face the real world again…But then he felt a touch on his shoulder. Rubbing his eyes, and floating slowly back to reality, he looked into the most beautiful eyes he had ever seen. He shut his eyes again, sure now that he was truly dead. But again he felt the soft touch, and this time the glorious creature was bending over him, holding a cup to his lips. Elijah took a sip, slowly rising to a sitting position. There beside him, sitting on a rock that he hadn't noticed before his sleep, was the cake he had dreamed about.
The angel spoke: "Arise and eat."
Elijah felt refreshed after his heavenly meal, but was still very tired. He dropped again into a peaceful sleep. When he awoke, the same angel was there with the same special meal. The angel spoke again: "Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee." (verse 7)
Not only did the meal of the angel of God bring life back to Elijah's physical body, but it refreshed his spirits too. Elijah was ready to go again.
Again he started running, Mount Horeb was his aim.
He next fell down, exhausted--until he heard his name.
He started off, headed for Mount Horeb. For forty days he travelled over rough terrain, under scorching heat, without food or water. But the meal of the angel sustained him. He did not even think of food. All he wanted to do was get to the mountain where he knew no one would find him.
By the time Elijah reached the mountain, once again he was physically and spiritually drained. He entered a cave, and flopped. He just wanted to die. How could his existence be labeled "life"? He had a price on his head if he ever went back to Israel; he alone was left of the servants of God, or so he thought; no one cared if he lived or died. So why not just die. He slept.
Elijah opened his eyes. He was sure he had heard his name being called.
"Elijah! Elijah!" There. He heard it again.
"Elijah! What are you doing here, sitting in a dark cave feeling sorry for yourself?"
Elijah sat bolt upright. This time he knew he had heard a voice, and he knew whose voice it was.
He answered. "Lord, you know that I have been very zealous for You. I have done what I could to bring back to You, the children of Israel, who have broken Your laws. I have broken down the altars of Baal and killed with the sword all the false prophets. I have done all this single-handed. I am the only one left who worships and serves You, and now they seek my life. Lord, what's the use in my living any longer?
"Elijah, faithful servant. I've heard your prayer and cry.
I'm always right beside you. I will not let you die.
Go now into the mountain. A lesson you will learn.
Just stand still there and listen 'til My power you can discern."
Elijah stood waiting. A strong wind came up, tearing up rock and swirling dust into the air. Elijah listened...but God did not speak from the wind. Just when things had quieted down again, Elijah felt the earth quake. He watched the mountain shake, witnessed the rocks cascading down the side, tumbling to the valley below. God must be in the earthquake...but all was still. Elijah turned, hearing a roaring, crackling sound. He felt the heat of a raging fire behind him. He stood watching the fire consume the brush and trees. He listened to hear God's voice come booming from this spectacular fire...but all was silent. He gave a sigh. Where was God? He was not in the wind. He was not in the earthquake. He was not in the fire.
A dust storm, earthquake, fire, came roaring through the air.
Elijah stood and waited. But God's presence wasn't there.
And then he heard a whisper: A voice so soft and clear.
"Elijah, my good servant, what are you doing here?"
He knew that was the voice of God. Wrapping his face in his mantle, Elijah approached the mouth of the cave.
"What are you doing here, Elijah?" the voice said.
"Oh Lord, you know that I have been very zealous for You. I have done what I could to bring back to You, the children of Israel, who have broken Your laws. I have broken down the altars of Baal and killed with the sword all the false prophets. I have done all this single-handed. I am the only one left who worships and serves You, and now they seek my life to kill me."
And still in that soft whisper, he heard the voice again:
"I am not finished with you. Keep tuned to hear My plan."
And God's plan for Elijah was this: I Kings 19:15-17 – God told him to go back the way he had come. When he got to Damascus he was to anoint Hazael to be king of Syria, and Jehu he was to anoint king of Israel. Furthermore, God gave Elijah a special commission: he was to go find a man named Elisha and anoint him to be a prophet in Elijah's place.
And then, as a gentle reprimand, God reminded His tired old prophet that he, indeed, was not the only one left who served and loved God. He said to Elijah: (verse 18) "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."
So Elijah, rousing himself from his self-pity, headed to the wilderness of Damascus to fulfill his last mission.
© Helen Dowd