Suggested reading: 1 Kings 19:1-18
You can find this in the Old Testament of your Bible, or go to www.biblegateway.com and enter 1 Kings 19:1-18 in the ‘search’ box.
(Please note that this is being posted in its original form without being proofed or edited. I’ll be back later to ‘polish’ it. Please excuse any mistakes you might find until I return. Thanks! And blessings to all. – Renee)
When I read the Bible, my main purpose is to gain a better understanding and perspective of God, hear what He is saying, and learn about how He reveals Himself to us. Doing so helps me to recognize His presence in my life and the world around me.
The suggested passage was part of our Bible study reading for yesterday’s class. We were asked to think about how Elijah felt throughout this passage. As I continued to think this passage and our discussion about Elijah, I began to realize how much this passage also tells us about God.
Elijah was a prophet, a communicator of God chosen to confront King Ahab about his sinful ways. King Ahab was the current King of Israel and the Hebrew people. He was an evil King and was married to Jezebel. She is considered by many to be the most evil woman of the Bible.
In contrast to King Ahab and Jezebel, Elijah was a very righteous man who lived by the words and teachings of God. The Hebrew people were not as righteous as Elijah. In addition to worshiping God, they also bowed down to pagan gods and idols. This broke the commandment of the Lord to worship only him.
In 1 Kings 18:40, Elijah gathers all the prophets of the false god Baal and kills them all. This angers Jezebel and she threatens to kill Elijah. This begins the passage of 1 Kings 19:1-18. Elijah fleas from Jezebel, going into the desert alone. Eventually he lays down under the shade of a solitary tree and prays for God to go ahead and take his life. Then he falls asleep. Later he is awakened by an angel who told him to get up and eat, that there was a long journey ahead of him. Elijah ate the warm bread and drank the jar of water he saw before him. Then he traveled forty days and nights to Mount Sinai. There he spent the night in a cave.
The Lord spoke to Elijah in the cave, asking him what he was doing. Elijah told god that he had zealously served Him, but the people of Isreal had broken their covenant with the Lord by worshiping other gods, torn down His altars, and killed every one of the Lord’s prophets, leaving thim the last surviving prophet, and now they were trying to kill him, too. (1 Kings 19:10)
God called Elijah out of the cave to stand before him on the mountain. Mt Sinai is a tall rocky mountain, one that would not be easy to climb or comfortable for standing. Yet Elijah stood before God on the mountain. God passed by and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. Rocks were torn loose. Then there was an earthquake, and then a fire. Elijah remained on the side of the mountain. Then he heard a whisper, and God was speaking to him in the whisper.
Again God asked why Elijah was there. Again Elijah answered as he had before. Then God told him to go back the way he came and gave him orders to anoint three other men – two to be kings and Elisha to replace him as a prophet. God also told Elijah that he would preserve 7000 others who had never bowed down to Baal.
Looking back over this passage, we see a prophet who so wants to serve God and save His people that he becomes discouraged and wants to die when he feels there’s no more hope for Israel. He doesn’t despair for himself, but for the cause of God’s people. In response, God sends and angel to Elijah! God also shows provision by providing warm bread and water as Elijah sleeps in the desert. God provides enough to sustain Elijah as he travels for 40 days and nights – a time period associated with transformation in the Bible.
At the end of his journey he is in a cave on Mt Sinai, where Moses spent time with God. God listens to Elijah’s reasons for being there, then calls Elijah out to face him. While Elijah stood on the rocky ledge of Mt. Sinai, God passed by followed by a strong windstorm, earthquake and fire. Surely Elijah felt vulnerable standing on the side of the mountain, likely looking for God in each of those scary experiences. Then Elijah heard God’s whisper. God’s whisper! God did not scold Elijah or rebuke him with a booming voice. In fact, he did not scold or rebuke Elijah at all. He spoke in a whisper to say, “I see things have become difficult for you, but you must go back just like you came. I will send three others to help you and will preserve 7000 others – not just a few, but 7000! – who have not bowed down to pagan gods. Wow. Elijah, in his disparity, thought he was the only one left, but there were 7000 others!
So what does this story tell you about God and man and how we exist together? It tells me that even the best of God’s servants can become weak and discouraged. Even though God had just shown himself in a mighty way in a showdown against pagan gods, Elijah felt alone when Jezebel threatened to kill him. Elijah did not turn to God when he felt threatened. Instead he ran and sought God to take his life, for he felt he would soon be killed by Jezebel and then there’d be no one left to save God’s people. I interpret Elijah’s sense of hopelessness to be about the people of Israel, not his own self.
So God shows compassion by sending an angel to tend to him and feed him, then lead Elijah to Mt Sinai where God could meet with him. God patiently listened to Elijah, then called him out to stand before God and face him. I believe God sent the wind, earthquake and fire to remind Elijah of his power and might (since Elijah seemed to forget what God could do when he was threatened by Jezebel) and to show Elijah that, as he stood alone on the rockly ledge of that mountain, He was with him. Surely Elijah feared for his life, but God kept him from harm. Then God came in the most gentlest of ways – in a whisper – to tell Elijah that he needed to go back, but that it would be ok. God saw his needs and would provide for him. And God provided in a big way, preserving 7000 others to support Elijah.
This passage tells me that our God is a loving, patient, gracious and provisional God who is faithful to those who are faithful to Him. He is there in the times that make us feel vulnerable, and when needed, He lifts up and restores those who are righteous and who keep His commands.
Additional note written 1-5-11: Three other things this story tells us: 1) God might not speak to us when the storms are raging around us, but He is still there with us. Elijah could have been swept off the face of Mt. Sinai by the force of the wind, fire, or earthquake, but God kept Elijah in His care. 2) God could have stopped these occurances from happening, but it seems that God allowed them. Why? Possibly to humble Elijah, remind Elijah of God’s awesome power, and to show Elijah that He is in control. 3) Often we’re desparate to hear from God when we’re in the fearsome part of a storm, but that wasn’t when God spoke to Elijah. God spoke to Elijah in the calm that followed the storm. In that calm, Elijah was so still, and quiet, and listening, that God could speak to Elijah with just a whisper.
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank You for loving us despite the failures of our human ways. Thank You for reminding us of Your power and assuring us of Your presence and protection when we are weak and vulnerable. You truly are a loving God of compassion and provision. Amen.