Posts Tagged '1 Kings'


Elijah listening to the gentle voice of God

1 Kings 19:9—18

Invigorated by the food sent from Heaven, Elijah was able to get up and run some more.  This time, the prophet isn’t running from anybody, he is running to a meeting with God, although he doesn’t know it yet.  God had just called him to Mount Horeb, the exact same place where Yahweh met with Moses; the location of the bush that was unconsumed by God’s fire.

Isaiah 40:31 helps us understand why Elijah was able to run another 200 miles—

But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles;  they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

We have no idea whether or not Elijah had even an inkling about what was to happen to him on the mount of revelation.  Would God manifest Himself to the weary prophet?   We do know that all those who seek Him find Him, and Elijah was on a quest for God.  If people who claim to want to be in God’s presence would go to the “house of the Lord” as Elijah went to the “Mount of God,” they would be surprised at what they would find!

1.  A burning question, verse 9

And the word of the LORD came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

After spending the night in a cave, the word of the Lord finally came to Elijah with a very penetrating question that called the prophet to a moment of self-evaluation.  The literal reading of the question is, “Why are you here?”  That may seem like a silly question given that technically Elijah was there because God told him to be there!  But the real sense of the question is this:  Why are you here when you should be back in Israel encouraging the believers there to stand firm in their faith?

God always seems to get to the root of any matter; unlike people who walk around on egg shells afraid of offending someone, God’s piercing words always strike the heart and expose our motives.

It is interesting that throughout the Old Testament, God’s questions are frequently followed by amazing revelations from Heaven.

2.  An open answer, verse 10

He replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

Elijah responded as honest as he could to God’s question, although his facts were completely wrong.  The prophet seemed to have been almost bitter at God; he had served the Lord so earnestly and spectacularly and yet now here he was, running for his life, completely alone.

Though Elijah was honest and sincere, his defense was a weak one.  He had been very zealous for the Lord.  He had been energetic in his ministry.  But now he was afraid for his life.  Supposedly all Israel had fallen away; as far as he was concerned, he was the only man of God left in the country.   Of course he was completely exaggerating; he was not the only believer left by a long shot.  Why did he say the things he said to God?  Like so many of us, Elijah answered God in impatience; God had not stopped the worship of Baal, even though Elijah called down fire from heaven and water from heaven.  God should have stopped the worship of Baal after all Elijah had done!  Or so Elijah thought.

3.  A special manifestation, verses 11—12

The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.

God commanded His prophet to “stand before” Him.  You will recall that earlier (17:1) we commented that Elijah lived and ministered in the presence of God; this was the only way he could do his work faithfully.  It is through unbelief that one loses their standing before God, and if one has no standing before God, one cannot stand in the world.

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  (Ephesians 6:13)

The reason there are so many weak and mealy-mouthed Christians in the world today is because while they claim to have faith, they really have none at all for they are spiritually naked.

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.  (Romans 10:17)

If you are not immersed in the Bible, you will have very little faith, if any, because faith doesn’t come from any other source.  You can sing worship courses until your voice is gone, but that is not where your faith will come from.  You can read Christian self-help books until you have square eyeballs, but you won’t get any real faith.

Elijah, standing before God where he belonged, was now witness to the power of God like none other.   He saw the power of God in a fourfold manner.  The first three “manifestations” of God’s power probably put Elijah in mind of the way he thought God should always appear:  in spectacular fashion.  Wasn’t this what Elijah was used to in the past?  After all, God didn’t sing at the priests of Baal on Mount Carmel!  Yet in each of the spectacular manifestations of nature in which Elijah expected to see God, God was nowhere to be found.

  • The wind—God was not in the wind.
  • The earthquake—God was not in there.
  • The fire—God was nowhere to be found in the fire.

God was teaching Elijah a lesson we would do well to take notice of.  There is something more to God than just a mere display of natural powers or natural abilities.  God is not always present in the strong wind of words or the earthquake of clever debate or even in the fire of enthusiasm.   We might be very surprised at what the presence of God really “looks like.”  Elijah was no doubt taken aback when God finally showed up:  in the form of a gentle whisper.  There was not a burning bush in sight when God visited Elijha!  We serve a God of infinite variety; why do we want to dictate to Him how He should act?

4.  Elijah’s response, verses 13—14

When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.   Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

He replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

It seems like the wind, the earthquake, and the fire had driven Elijah back into his cave, but when the quiet, calm, gentle voice of God spoke, the prophet came out from his hiding place.   What we are witnessing on top of Mount Horeb, is real victory.  The victory was not on Mount Carmel; the victory occurred when God came to Elijah in gentle whisper.  Our God moves in mysterious ways; God uses small things to teach great lessons.  The old saying is true, “Even a big door swings on small hinges.”  God uses small things to accomplish great things.  This is what Elijah needed to learn.

Elijah pulled his prophet’s cloak over his face and stood fearfully and reverently before God.  There was no whining or bitterness, even though Elijah responded to God’s familiar question the same way as before.

What a slow learner!  Yet, his feelings are totally understandable, are they not?  Most of us can probably relate to how Elijah felt.  How many of us are surrounded by unbelievers all day, every day, in our day-to-day lives?  They could be unbelieving family members or colleagues at work; an unbeliever is an unbeliever, though.  And sometimes we feel alone; as though we are the only faithful servants of God.

In asking the prophet the same question a second time, God is giving Elijah a second chance.   Had His prophet profited from this new and surprising manifestation of God?  Even though Elijah used the exact same words, God did not let him go.  God would not let Elijah shipwreck his own faith over his feelings of the moment.  God knew Elijah’s heart.  He may have failed, but he was no failure and God knew that.

4.  A  humbling task, verses 15—16

The LORD said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram.  Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet.

God dealt with Elijah graciously.  Elijah thought he was all alone, but that was far from the truth.  He was walking by sight, not by faith.  God commanded the prophet to make the long journey back to where he came from; the very place where he left the straight and narrow.  God would not let Elijah off the hook.  There was still work to do that only Elijah could do.  Specifically, there were three things he had to do:

  • First, in the area of international relations, Hazael was God’s choice to succeed Ben-Hadad, Israel’s adversary in Damascus. It was up to Elijah to go and anoint Hazael.
  • Second, in the area of national affairs, Jehu needed to be anointed as the next king of Israel.
  • Lastly, in the spiritual realm, Elisha was to be commissioned as successor to Elijah.

Now the first two seem to make sense.  But can you imagine being told to go anoint your own successor?  What does that say about you?  Was Elijah being fired because of his unbelief?  It must have been a humbling job to go and call a man to take your place so soon after accomplishing so many great things for God.  Given what we know of Elijah, God could have easily equipped him to do the work of all three of the men he was about to anoint.

There is a price to pay for unbelief, even if your name is Elijah.  Past successes in the work of the Lord don’t count for the present or the future.

So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!   (1 Corinthians 10:12)

Our society today is pretty forgiving.  In some circles, in fact, you can’t get fired no matter how incompetent you may be!  Children aren’t disciplined any more.  But God hasn’t changed; and He holds us responsible for our failures and our careless words. He is gracious and merciful and always forgiving.   He will never throw us over and He will never let us go, but we will all pay a price for our disobedience, and even our for our careless words.

Even Jesus warned His followers in Revelation 3:11—

I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown.

Don’t lose your faith!  Don’t walk by sight!  Trust in the Lord.

(c)  2010 WitzEnd


1 Kings 18:1—39

This chapter of Kings ranks among the most spectacular of all the chapters in the Bible.  We all know the story of how Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal and called down fire from heaven.  The odds were in Elijah’s favor:  it was Elijah against the 450 prophets of Baal!   The odds are always in the believer’s favor no matter how lopsided the contest may appear.

The chapter opens either in the third year of Elijah’s stay with the widow of Zarephath or during the third year of the drought and famine; scholars are divided.  It doesn’t really matter for the drought and famine were running their course and the people of Israel were hurting.  During most of this terrible natural disaster, God was completely silent; Elijah had no word for the people.  We might say that Yahweh had bypassed His prophet and was speaking to the godless nation through the barren, parched fields and the cloudless skies.  God was speaking loud and clear, and His message was one that called for confession and repentance.   God speaks to people in many different ways; by His Word, or the words of a sermon, or through some circumstance of life.

In this chapter, we are given a graphic picture of the faithfulness of Elijah in six areas.

1.  He was ready to obey, verses 1, 2

After a long time, in the third year, the word of the LORD came to Elijah: “Go and present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the land.” So Elijah went to present himself to Ahab.

By now the effects of the drought were severe.  Times were tough for all the citizens of Israel, and King Ahab was fit to be tied.  In spite of the certain danger that lay ahead of Elijah, the man of God obeyed the command of God to “go and present” (literally “show himself”) himself to Ahab.  Previously Elijah was told to “hide himself” from the king, and now he was commanded to do the exact opposite.  God is nothing if not unpredictable!  We would do well to remember this; only a fool would try to anticipate how God would work in any given situation.  God’s ways are fresh and unique and always exactly what may be needed.

It is amazing that Elijah obeyed so quickly; to obey God meant putting himself in front of a firing squad, so to speak—

Haven’t you heard, my lord, what I did while Jezebel was killing the prophets of the LORD ?  (verse 13)

Despite the danger, Elijah forged ahead, reminding us of Proverbs 28:1—

The wicked man flees though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.

2.  He was bold, verse 18

“I have not made trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “But you and your father’s family have. You have abandoned the LORD’s commands and have followed the Baals.”

Only one with total confidence in God could speak this way to a powerful king!

Elijah went before King Ahab, and the king, trying to show his superiority over this mere prophet, greeted him with an accusation—

When he saw Elijah, he said to him, “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?”  (verse 17)

Ahab was probably accusing Elijah of being behind the drought and famine.  Calling Elijah “the troubler of Israel” is typical of the sinner’s blindness.  It is next to impossible for a person to admit that they are a sinner and as such deserving of judgment and punishment from God.  This kind of person would rather see the faults, imagined or otherwise, in others.  Such is the case with Ahab.  In fact, HE was the real troubler of Israel; judgment was being visited upon the land because of him and people like him.  Elijah made this very clear in verse 18.  How this must have galled Ahab!  How this blunt indictment must have incensed the king!

In Ahab we see what a real “troubler” is to the Body of Christ:  a believer who has forsaken the Word of God.  Every backslider is a “troubler” in the Church.  Remember Achan?  His secret sin brought grievous trouble into the whole camp of Israel.   Ahab and Achan and people like them today bring to mind the words of John—

Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work.  (2 John, verses 9—11)

It is always the “liberals” in the Church; the ones who think they are so progressive in tolerating what has always been intolerable in the Church, namely sin, who accuse the “conservatives” in the Church; those of us who actually believe in the Bible and its doctrines, of being “divisive.”  In fact, it is they who are dividing the Body of Christ.   It is not accurate to say that the Church has always “debated” the acceptance of homosexuality, for example, or any other sin.  It is only in recent years that the liberals within the Church have sought to legitimize their sinful agendas in the guise of Biblical Christianity, thus driving a wedge into the heart and soul of the Church.  If the Church of Jesus Christ is derided and mocked it is not the fault of so-called “conservatives,” but rather those wolves in sheep’s clothing.  People like Ahab and Jezebel.

3.  He was decisive and he called for a decision

In the face of a man full of hatred and violently opposed to God and God’s people, Elijah issued a command!

Now summon the people from all over Israel to meet me on Mount Carmel. And bring the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.  (verse 19)

We wonder why Ahab would go along with such a challenge, but we need to understand his mindset.  To him, his god, Baal, was being challenged.  Baal was angry.  Baal was withholding the rain because of Elijah.  To prove to Elijah and to the people of Israel that Baal was all-powerful, he had to meet the challenge; he had no choice.

When the people had all assembled on Mount Carmel, he did not give the prophets of Baal an opportunity to put him on the defensive.  Instead, he issued another command: he demanded that the people make a decision—

“How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.”  (verse 21)

The spiritual situation in Israel at the time was dire.  The people were attempting to make a place for both God and Baal in their lives and they were suffering for it.  This kind of religious dualism, so prevalent in the Church today, is destructive; it cripples whole churches when it is allowed to flourish.  The people had to make a decision.  What Elijah challenged the people to do was exactly what Joshua challenged his people to do centuries earlier—

But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”  (Joshua 24:15)

God demands this kind of single-minded devotion from His Church today.  Being a Christian is an all-or-nothing proposition.  You are not allowed to mix and match your beliefs or Christian-ize your sins.  This was the decision Elijah had confronted the Israelites to make.

4.  He let God prove Himself, verses 23, 24

Get two bulls for us. Let them choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD. The god who answers by fire—he is God.

A person of faith is never afraid to risk all on the honor of God.   To the wavering group gathered in front of him, Elijah proposed a test that actually had its roots in an incident back in Leviticus 9—

Moses and Aaron then went into the Tent of Meeting. When they came out, they blessed the people; and the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people. Fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar. And when all the people saw it, they shouted for joy and fell facedown.  (verses 23, 24)

So, really, what Elijah was proposing was nothing new, and here we have an excellent illustration of what faith really is.  Faith is not, as some people think, groping around in the darkness, hoping to find what you are looking for.  In back of faith are facts; facts as enumerated in the Word of God.  Know the Word of God—as Elijah obviously did—and you will have the kind of faith that moves mountains!

5.  His prayer was powerful, verses 36, 37

“O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”

This is certainly not the longest prayer in the Bible, but it is one of the greatest.  Notice first that Elijah did not invoke the familiar phrase:  “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” when addressing God; he used the name “Israel” instead of “Jacob.”  Why?  “Israel” is the name that was given to one nation, not to twelve tribes.  This was a personal prayer for the people of Israel.  He pled with the covenant God of Israel to prove that He alone was still God in Israel and the Elijah was really His servant.

There was no fuss or muss in this prayer; no wasted words.  Elijah knew what he needed and he simply asked God to come through for him.  He did not, however, make it easy for God to answer the prayer by doing most of the work himself; he wanted there to be no doubt that when the answer came, it came from God and God alone.

There were four components to this prayer:

  • Make it known that You are God;
  • Make it known that I am Your servant;
  • Make it known that I have done everything according to Your Word;
  • Make the hearts of the people turn back

Really this prayer was a call for the vindication of God’s own honor, and it was answered immediately—

Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.  (verse 38)

Heavenly fire fell and consumed not only the wood and sacrifice, but the stones, the dirt, and even the water!  The pitiful prophets of Baal did not stand a chance.  They spent almost a whole day wailing and crying out to their god to perform.  And Elijah took just two verses.  There was no contest at all.

This was like a day of Pentecost for Israel!   If you are a true believer then you should expect God’s power to fall all the time.  What stops heavenly “signs and wonders” in our lives is simple:  unbelief and a lack of faith.

5.  He brought others to confession, verse 39

When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The LORD -he is God! The LORD -he is God!”

There are those who would attribute the people’s response to the demonstration of God’s power, manifested in the fire from heaven.  The people’s response ought to be attributed, however, to the faithful obedience of ONE man.  Had Elijah not placed his full faith and trust in God, none of these people would have uttered such a positive confession of faith.

The influence of a genuine believer is powerful and can never be underestimated.  When we live by faith, when we are bold in our witness, when we courageously stand up for our faith in the face of both the enemy and the undecided, and when we allow God to work through us, we will see the lives of those around us change.

Some of us may wonder why we don’t see God’s power manifested more in our lives.  Perhaps it is something as simple as us letting Him.  Let’s stop singing the dreadful old hymn, “Jesus use me, O Lord don’t refuse me,” and let’s stop thinking about what we may do and actually do the work Christ has called us all to do. We have all received our commissions in the service of the Lord.  Will we be as courageous and as inspirational as Elijah was when he fulfilled his?

(c)  2010 WitzEnd


Elijah restores the widow's son

1 Kings 17:17—24

So far in our in study of Elijah’s life, we have witnessed God’s gracious provision.  The Lord kept the prophet safe when the King of Israel was out to get him.  The Lord kept the prophet well fed during a terrible drought that ravaged the whole nation of Israel.  The Lord’s care for Elijah was so great that it actually overflowed and impacted the life of a lonely, poor widow; she and her family were blessed on account of Elijah.

You may never know how God’s care for you affects the lives of those around you.  His blessings are so abundant that your life cannot contain them all!  This is just one way a child of God may be a blessing at his place of work or to the rest of his family.

There were, according to Jesus Himself, many widows in the days of Elijah, but the man of God was sent to just one of them—

I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land.  (Luke 4:25)

What was Jesus’ point?  He was illustrating that salvation is through the grace of God; God is delighted to lift up the lowly and despised and to exalt them to a seat in the heavenlies with His Son.  What God did for this widow was a singularly marvelous work, not only in supplying her whole household with food for the duration of the drought, but also in the raising of her son from dead.

It is wonderful to live in the grace and blessing of God.  But it is by no means easy.  You may be the recipient of great blessings from God, but that doesn’t mean you are exempt from pain and tragedy, as this story illustrates.

1.  Another trial, verse, 17, 18

Sometime later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill.  He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing. She said to Elijah, “What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?”

If these verses teaches us one thing it is simply this:  God’s presence is no guarantee hard times will never come.  Elijah was a man who lived and walked in God’s presence.  Scholars believe that Elijah had been staying with this widow for almost a year before the boy became sick.  Apparently the sickness was lingering until it finally took his life.  We may well imagine how Elijah prayed for the boy to recover, yet recovery was not part of God’s plan.

The comment of the young lad’s mother is often misunderstood, leading many to conclude that she was crying out in angry bitterness to the prophet; that she was blaming him for the death of her son.  But her response in faith later seems to indicate this may not have been the case.  She clearly saw the hand of the Lord in this terrible situation and she clearly recognized her position in God.  She was a sinner, and it seems as though the death of her son revived some memories of her past; bad memories, full of regret and embarrassment.

Very often tragedy does this to us.  For example, when we get into financial difficulties all of a sudden nothing in our life is right; we never made a right decision, and we have a warped view of our situation.  This is how this woman was reacting.  But she did recognize that God had something to do with this.

2.  A special request, verse 19

“Give me your son,” Elijah replied. He took him from her arms, carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his bed.

Elijah was calm in the face of the widow’s anguish.  It was not that he was uncaring it was that he was a man of faith, and all believers need to remember this—

We live by faith, not by sight.  (2 Corinthians 5:7)

We can’t risk basing our faith on what we see because what we see is a mere fraction of reality.  There is a spiritual realm completely hidden from us; we are incapable of seeing what is going on round about us.  This is why we need to live by faith; faith in God’s Word; faith in what He has promised to us.  Regardless of what we see, God’s promises are settled.

For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven.  (Psalm 119:89, KJV)

Your word, LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.  (Psalm 119:89, tNIV)

Nothing can shake God’s Word!  A true child of God will always act and react differently than someone without faith.  What is it that looms on your horizon?  Do you see a tragedy?  Or do you see God?  Do you see the precipice or the possibility?  It all has to do with your perspective.

Elijah’s perspective was spiritual, and so he faced a very difficult situation with a calm spirit, taking the corpse of the boy his upper room.  This would have been a kind of small, humble, attic room, converted into a guest room for the prophet.  There was nothing special about this room, other than it was out of the way and it was private.  What Elijah did illustrates what Jesus taught in Matthew 6:6—

But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

God wants us to pray in secret!  Most of us are quite adept at doing other things in secret, but if we want God’s undivided attention, then He deserves ours.

The question arises; did Elijah know what God was going to do?  For that matter, what was in the widow’s mind when she handed her dead son over to him?  Did they suspect the boy would be raised to life?  When we consider when this story took place in history, we must realize that there was no precedent for such an occurrence.   In the entire Bible, only nine individuals were ever raised to life, and this boy was the very first.

  • Elijah raised the son of the Zarephath widow from the dead (1 Kings 17:17-22).
  • Elisha raised the son of the Shunammite woman from the dead (2 Kings 4:32-35).
  • A man was raised from the dead when his body touched Elisha’s bones (2 Kings 13:20, 21).
  • Many saints rose from the dead at the resurrection of Jesus (Matt. 27:50-53).
  • Jesus rose from the dead (Matt. 28:5-8; Mark 16:6; Luke 24:5, 6).
  • Jesus raised the son of the widow of Nain from the dead (Luke 7:11-15).
  • Jesus raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead (Luke 8:41, 42, 49-55).
  • Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-44).
  • Peter raised Dorcas from the dead (Acts 9:36-41).
  • Eutychus was raised from the dead by Paul (Acts 20:9, 10).

So, neither the prophet nor the widow had anything to “hang their faith on.”  They both seemed to believe something would happen, though.

3.  Powerful prayer and strange actions, verses 20, 21

Then he cried out to the LORD, “LORD my God, have you brought tragedy even on this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?” Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried out to the LORD, “LORD my God, let this boy’s life return to him!”

The first thing that must be noted is that Elijah was not angry with God nor blaming God for the death of the boy, he was simply stating something he believed in because he had witnessed it:  the sovereignty of God.  Even though it is phrased as a question, it was really a statement of belief.   Life and death are in the hands of God.  Elijah was acknowledging what we all know.  The boy was dead, and it seemed as though this was the Lord’s will.

But that didn’t stop Elijah from asking God to revive the boy.  Elijah’s prayer was brief but to the point.  Regardless of what he saw with his eyes, and the fact that nobody had ever been raised to life before, Elijah asked God for exactly what he wanted.

All too often our prayers are like rambling requisitions that go on and on, unfocused and dull because we don’t know what we are praying for.   This must surely be the main reason why Christians feel like God doesn’t hear their prayers; He hears them, He just doesn’t understand them!   Before we pray, we must settle in our hearts and minds what we need.  We must know God’s Word and pray according to it.  God’s character is revealed in His Word and when we know it, we know God, and will always ask according to His will.

Not only did Elijah pray, but he also did a very strange thing:  he stretched himself out over the boy three times.  Why did he do that?  What Elijah did was full of symbolism.  First, as it applies to the Church, there is a great principle at work here.  Today, the Church must be in full contact with its Head, Jesus Christ.  Right now, large segments of the Church are not in contact with Christ and are spiritually dead.  When the Church is out of contact with Jesus, it does bizarre things; it makes unscriptural decisions; it wanders in spiritual wasteland; the blind leading the blind.

Secondly, on a personal level, when Elijah prayed he prayed with his whole being, mind, soul, spirit, and body.   His whole being was concentrated on reviving the boy.  A lot of people pray for spiritual revival, but they don’t go beyond their words; they don’t stretch so much as their little finger to revive one soul in the ditch of sin, even if that soul is their own.  In stretching himself out over the boy, Elijah gave himself wholly to the work at hand.  Paul did exactly the same thing when he raised Eutychus to life—

Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “He’s alive!”

Prayer must be more than words.

4.  Confession of faith, verse 24

Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the LORD from your mouth is the truth.”

When Elijah brought the boy down stairs to his mother she uttered a great confession of faith in God and in God’s man, Elijah.  But this is a curious thing.  The miracle of provision—the miraculously materializing flour and olive oil that never ran out—apparently didn’t do it for this woman!   She needed something more to tip the scales in Elijah’s favor, and God provided it:  the death and reviving of her son.  It was that tragedy and subsequent miracle that finally convinced this immature believer that Elijah was a man from God and that God could be taken at His Word.

Out of the deepest trials of life often come the greatest blessings from God.  Faith that is tested is faith that is vindicated, and of all the blessings a believer may receive, the vindication of his faith must surely one of the most encouraging.

Don’t fear the inevitable testing of your faith.  Recall the experience of Job.  At his lowest point, he looked and looked for God and it seemed as though God had all but deserted him.  In spite of how he felt, Job held fast to what faith he had and uttered one of the most moving confessions of faith ever–

When he is at work in the north, I do not see him; when he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him. But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.  (Job 23:9, 10)

(c)  2010 WitzEnd


1 Kings 17:7—16

Elijah had a long rest in the Lord’s secret place—maybe up to a year.  During his stay there, the Lord cared for the prophet and he was kept safe from the evil king and He provided for his every need.  During the national drought, Elijah had all the food and water he needed, at least as long as he remained in that secret place.

But Elijah was human, just as we are.  Though we are not told so, both the prophet’s faith and patience must have been tested.  Nobody likes to wait.  Nobody likes to be left “out of the loop.”  But we, like the prophet Elijah, must learn to wait on God before we can hope to “walk by faith, not by sight.”  Moses, if you will recall, had to wait 40 years in the deserts of Midian before God could use Him to deliver the Israelites from Egypt.  One reason so many Christians today seem to fail in living by faith is because they refuse to sit still and wait on the Lord.  The curse of the 21st century is that we want everything right away.  Service is everything; we want our phones fixed fast.  We want our cable installed right away.  We want our food immediately.  But God is not our servant; we are His.  If we would “stand in God’s presence” as Elijah did, then we must learn to be patient as He speaks to us through His word.  We must realize that we did not receive everything the moment we were saved—God wants us to grow in our faith and work out our faith, and the requires, among other things, waiting on Him.

Faith, like gold, must be refined in the fiery furnaces of life.  After these many months in hiding, Elijah was about to receive another call.

1.  When the call came, verses 7, 8

Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land.  Then the word of the LORD came to him.

How Elijah must have been surprised the morning he got up and saw his brook no longer flowed!  Had we been in his shoes, we might have gone off on some kind of tangent, railing at God.  Why would God lead a person to live by a flowing brook, only to take that brook away from him?  We might accuse God of playing some kind game.  But God does not play games.  Remember what happened to another prophet?

Then the LORD God provided a vine and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the vine.  But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the vine so that it withered.  (Jonah 4:6, 7)

As we say during the funeral service, “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.” God gave both prophets something and then He took them away.  But He did so for a purpose.  In the case of Jonah, we read this—

But the LORD said, “You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight.  But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?”  (Jonah 4:10, 11)

In other words, Jonah was all concerned about something he no part in.  He was all concerned about a plant when he should have been concerned about what God was concerned about:  sinners and their need for salvation.  Jonah needed perspective and God gave it to him as only He could!

Elijah no doubt had gotten comfortable in his seclusion.  He was completely safe there; safe from the evil king out to get him and safe from the drought that was afflicting everybody else in the country.  But while Elijah may have been obedient to God in staying by the brook, there was work to be done and God needed to prod the prophet out of his comfort zone.

People who are comfortable will seldom put themselves out for anybody, even God.  God understands this quirk of human nature, so He has a way to move us:  He makes us uncomfortable!  God might take something away, like He took Elijah’s water away; whatever door God may close, we may be sure He will open another.  God may dry up our brooks of prosperity or health or the brook of self-confidence in order that He move us along in His will for us.   The old saw holds true:  Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity.

2.  God’s command, verse 9a

“Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there…”

When the water became silent, God spoke.  This incident might be considered the “second stage” of Elijah’s preparation for what was to come.  It is noteworthy that God would want Elijah to go to a place called “Zarephath,” which means “place of fiery trials or furnaces.”  Here God’s man would undergo a fiery time of testing; his faith being purified.  This was also Jezebel’s homeland—the wicked wife of the evil king!  It must have taken some faith indeed for Elijah to walk purposely into the land of Jezebel!  Think about it;  would you walk headlong into a fiery trial if God asked you to?  Before you answer, remember what you’d be giving up to do that.

Zarephath was about 100 miles from the Kerith Ravine; Elijah would have to walk through 100 miles of famine and drought stricken land, possibly encountering representatives of the king just to get to his fiery furnace.

Elijah must have been a remarkable man of faith, even at this early stage of his career.  God had asked the prophet to something that, on the surface of it, defied common sense and seemed to go against the plans God had already revealed to Elijah.  If keeping the prophet safe was the plan, then walking 100 miles out in the open made no sense; if hiding the prophet from the king was the plan then making him live in enemy territory certainly made no sense either.  Elijah could have dickered with God like Lot did back in Genesis 19:20—

“Look, here is a town near enough to run to, and it is small. Let me flee to it—it is very small, isn’t it? Then my life will be spared.”

But Elijah was not like Lot; Elijah was a man of God and he simply obeyed the Lord and got up and went to his fiery furnace.

3.  God’s promise, verse 9b

I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food.”

God is ever gracious, and to help Elijah out, He gave the prophet this promise.  We may be sure that when God moves on our hearts to step out in faith, we may given a promise of provision, as well.

And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 4:19)

We may also be sure that when God calls us to a task, He has not called us alone.   Somehow, we are not told how, God must have communicated to this widow her part in His plan.  And, of course, she had to be obedient in order for God’s plan to work out.  There is a real lesson here.  Not all believers are called to “front line” ministries.  In fact, most of us will probably serve the Lord in a “support” capacity all our lives, like the widow helped to support the prophet.

When he heard God’s promise, Elijah must have felt a sense of relief.  Surely this widow must be wealthy if she is going to keep him for a time!   Another surprise awaited the prophet.

4.  A test of circumstances, verse 12

“As surely as the LORD your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.”

Once Elijah arrived in town, he was led to the widow God had mentioned.  Immediately, he put her to the test—

“Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?”  As she was going to get it, he called, And bring me, please, a piece of bread.”  (verses 10, 11)

Circumstances must have appeared confusing to the prophet.  A widow out gathering sticks couldn’t be rich!   Why would God send him to her?  And her response to his request for food and drink must have appeared as though either Elijah had made a mistake or God did!  How could this woman take care of Elijah when she couldn’t even take of herself?

But Elijah was faithful to his God and his mission, just as Abraham was.  Life’s circumstances didn’t affect his faith—

Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God.  (Romans 4:20)

Stepping out in faith is what strengthened Abraham; it strengthened Elijah; and stepping out in faith will strengthen your faith, too.

5.  Obedient faith, verses 14, 15

For this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the LORD gives rain on the land.’ ”  She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family.

The widow’s response to Elijah indicated that she was a believer in Yahweh, so Elijah gave her this astounding promise.  The promise was astounding, yes, but before the promise could be fulfilled, she had to submit to simple test:

“Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son.” (verse 13)

For a woman on the brink of starvation, this was quite an audacious request to make!   But the promise was unmistakable:  God would honor her faith with a supply of flour and oil as long as the drought would last only after she took God at His word.  She had neither precedent nor example for such an act of faith, but she had hope and she had faith in the Word and power of God.

As Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed”  (John 20:29).

6.   God keeps His promise, verses 15, 16

So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family.  For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the LORD spoken by Elijah.

For at least a year, this was the case.  Like the manna that miraculously appeared and sustained the Israelites, and like the ravens that fed Elijah, so God made sure this woman, her family, and the prophet were looked after.  But remember:  God provided after they had stepped out in faith and obedience.  There is nothing quite as rewarding as living by faith!

The problem with modern believers is that they want the miraculous provision with first offering to be obedient.  God has not changed and He is more than willing and capable to meet all our needs, but the cost of such divine provision is our complete obedience.  Sadly, that is too high a price to pay for so many believers in need.

What happened to this widow must have been a source of great comfort to her, this simple, godly non-Jewish woman.  It also served to strengthen Elijah’s faith in God’s ability to both keep him safe and provide for his every need.  It reminds us of what Isaiah wrote—

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

(c)  2010 WitzEnd

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