Thursday, 12 March 2015

The Prophet Elijah

So, this Month I have been reading about the Prophet Elijah. Although, he is one of the most famous Prophets in the Bible, I have never really read up on him. I usually read Parables or a certain story and take what I can from that story. But, reading on Elijah, I have fallen in love with him. He is funny, quirky, interesting and very vibrant, yet his life was filled with a lot of sorrow, which today would be seen as turmoil. There is SO much to learn from Elijah because he was so bold and decisive, and sometimes fearful and hesitant to do things, we can (well, I know I can), learn a lot from this prophet. He had so much faith and demonstrated the power of God and there is a lot we can take from him.

Let's begin with his name. I was surprised to learn that the name Elijah means 'My God is Jehovah'. I wouldn't mind naming my Son that name now that I know what it means. Also, from the research I have done and even the reading, there is not much about his background either. In 1 Kings 17:1, we are just told that he came from Tishbeth in Gilead.

The Problem

There is a reason why the Prophet Elijah came into being. The whole problem was that, the King at the time, Ahab, 'did what was evil in the eyes of the Lord, even more than ANY OF THE KINGS BEFORE HIM.' This guy was crazy. Not only that, as if THAT wasn't bad enough anyway, he went on to marry Jezebel. He started worshipping 'Baal'. He even built a temple and an altar for Baal. He did more than provoke the anger of the Lord, than ANY of the other Kings of Israel before him. Okay, let me just enlighten those who do not know why God would be upset or who don't even have any IDEA who Baal is. Baal was a fertility god (and is still worshipped up to today) and people believed back then that he would help them produce children. Others, such as the Canaanites, worshipped him as the sun god and as the storm god. How he even came about, that's another story, but the whole point is, God was not pleased that His people were worshipping other gods and all this idol worship was not pleasing to Him. (1 Kings 16)

The Solution

Now, God being God, He will obviously offer a solution. He uses Elijah, which ironically means 'HE is Jehovah', I find it ironic because the people back then, under the reign of Ahab, were worshipping Baal. But God sends a Prophet called 'ELIJAH', a man, whose name praises HIM. So, Elijah confronts the King. See how BOLD he was. Imagine...okay, let's say President Obama (as an example), passes a law stating that we must worship a god called 'Baal'. Would YOU as a Christian confront him and challenge him to say 'God, Jehovah, will not be happy with this? The whole land is in danger because of this law?'. Depends on how prayerful you are, because that's what Elijah did. He challenged Ahab and even prophesied to him telling him that there will be 'no dew or rain during the next few years until I give the word'. He was warning Ahab that a drought would come upon his nation because of his evil choices. Because they chose to worship Baal.

After warning Ahab of this, Elijah was told by God to hide near the Brook of Kerith, near the Jordan River. He was even fed by ravens as the drought and the famine in the land got worse. To be fair, from the human mind, I can't even begin to imagine how a raven would fly back and forth to bring food for a person. It's just something I can't even fathom. But the ravens brought Elijah bread and meat, each and every morning and evening. But, after a while, there was no rainfall anywhere in the land so it was all dried up. (1 Kings 17:6). 

The first thing I have learned is that Elijah had faith. He was told by God to go and hide and he left, without food or water. If I was him, I'd try and stash up as much food as I could so I could survive, but he trusted that God would provide for him.

The Widow - 1 Kings 17:8

So, obviously, as Elijah is in hiding, the famine is still going on. He hasn't got food left. God then tells him to 'go and live in the village of Zarephath, near the city of Sidon'. At this stage, knowing myself, I'd probably be sick of hiding and start complaining. I wonder if Elijah did that? He had a lot of faith because God told him to travel again. It was quite a long way from there and I am guessing he has never been before. He didn't know anybody, he had no relatives, but he followed God's word and went anyway. God sent a widow to provide food for Elijah. Now, this widow was a poor woman, she was out by the town gathering a few sticks for fire. He asked her for a drink, but she started to leave. He had to assure her that she would have enough to eat and they would not run out. She insisted that it would be impossible as she only had a small amount of flour and oil to cook for herself and her son. Once it was finished, she'd die. She was expecting to die because of the drought. There was no rain, the crops would not grow and obviously there was no food. 

I wonder...what did God see in this widow? Was it faith? He favoured her for a reason for Him to choose her. God would have provided for Elijah in other ways, but I wonder, why this widow in particular? But, anyway, just as the Lord had promised, they had food. She also had a tremendous amount of faith. Imagine going through a drought, you have no food, you're taking care of your only child, you're expected to die soon and you don't have enough food to feed a third person, yet when a stranger comes to you and promises that you won't run out of food, would you stand on that promise? She had faith because how did she know where that food would come from? Maybe God heard her struggle, maybe He heard her prayer. I just wonder. 

Sometime later, the widow's sun became very sick. In fact, he grew so ill that he died. She lay the blame on Elijah. Even though she always had food, and the flour and oil never got to be empty, the widow and her son had enough to eat, she ended up blaming Elijah when her son died. She was wondering whether Elijah was sent by God to curse her for her sins. I don't know what she was going through personally. What sins she had committed. But it makes me think of us today. Maybe she had lost her faith in God at that point; but she truly believed after her son was brought back to life by Elijah.

The Face-Off - 1 Kings 18:17-40

THREE years LATER...this is a LONG time for a drought...the Lord told Elijah to go to King Ahab. I wonder what been happening during those three years in that Kingdom. Was King Ahab looking for Elijah? I mean, if Baal was so powerful, how come he hadn't found Elijah? I wonder if Elijah ever got discouraged being in hiding. But, the famine was so bad in Samaria. Elijah got in touch with Obadiah, who was also a follower of God. They had a meeting and Elijah instructed Obadiah to inform the King that he wanted to have a word with him.

Once Elijah got in touch with the King, he made a deal with him. The prophets of Baal would call upon their god and ask him send down the rain. Then, Elijah would call upon HIS God, Jehovah, to send down rain. The God who answers is the true and living God. 

Elijah mocked the prophets of Baal, asking them to call upon their god. They did this all day long to send rain from heaven but nothing happened. Elijah mocked them, telling them to 'dance more' or 'shout louder' and funnily enough, they did this.

I love Elijah's sense of humour. He is hilarious. He said that Baal was maybe 'talking to someone else' or 'taking a walk or sleeping and needed to be woken up'. Well, they danced even more and cut themselves until evening but Baal did not answer them.

When they gave up, Elijah built an altar to God, put the sacrifices on the top of that altar and called for water to be poured over his sacrifice three times. HE called upon God to send fire from heaven and burn the sacrifice. God had proven that He was more powerful than any false gods. Of course, nowadays, we cannot see this sort of evidence of God's power BUT we have the same access to God and same power through the Holy Spirit in our lives. 2 Corinthians 4:7 - 'we now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves'.

Elijah had so much faith. Of course, there are many Prophets that had the courage to act on God's word. But, nevertheless, Elijah had the courage to act on God's word and show these idolaters that they were not doing right in praying to the false god. We do need to stand up for what's right, we need to be brave. Act on His WILL.

The Aftermath

After the whole victory over the false prophets, in spite of the victory and the provisions from God, Elijah enters a period of depression. He gets depressed after hearing that Jezebel was planning on killing him. He hides in a cave and starts to feel sorry for himself. He focuses on everything else but God. That's when the fear of what Jezebel would do to him and his feelings of being alone crept in. 

Of course, it's normal seeing as we are humans. When we start to focus on the NOISE and CLUTTER of this world, we get our eyes of the Lord. If we continue to walk in obedience to His Word, we will be rewarded. Elijah is a great example. He was filled with so many human failures and weaknesses, but he was used so much by God. God saw the potential in him. 

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