Saturday, June 18, 2016

Elijah

Elijah
by Bryan Neva

“Shout louder, Baal may be meditating, or retired, or on vacation, or asleep and needs to be awoken.”  The great Prophet Elijah taunted the 450 prophets of the false pagan god Baal as they danced around flailing themselves all day long calling on their god Baal to send down fire to consume their offering. But nothing happened!

Earlier that day on top of Mount Carmel, Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal to a contest: two offerings would be set up; they would call on Baal and Elijah would call on the Lord; whichever god consumed the sacrifice with fire would be declared the one true God (1 Kings 18:20-39).

Finally it was Elijah’s turn. He built an altar of 12 stones and dug a deep trench around it; next he arranged the wood on top of the altar and placed the offering on top of the wood; then he did something completely unexpected: he completely doused it all with water completely filling the trench.

Then Elijah prayed, “Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things by your command. Answer me, Lord!  Answer me, that these people may know that you, Lord, are God and that you have brought them back to their senses.”

And then a dramatic miracle happened, the Lord God sent fire down from heaven and not only consumed the offering, but the wood, the stones, the dust and ashes, and evaporated all the water in the deep trench around the altar.  After seeing this, all the people fell prostrate on the ground and said, “The Lord is God!  The Lord is God!”

Elijah was one of the greatest Prophets and miracle-workers who ever lived, and he's venerated in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. During the 9th century B.C. in the northern Kingdom of Israel during the reign of the wicked King Ahab and his wife Jezebel, Elijah defended the worship of the one true God against the false pagan god Baal. (See the map at the right.)


On one occasion, in order to teach the wicked King Ahab and the people of Israel a lesson, he prayed and it did not rain in Israel for three years (1 Kings 17:1-6).  Elijah then went east of the Jordan River and hid in the wilderness by a stream of water, he drank from the stream, and God sent Ravens to bring him bread and meat every morning and evening to survive (another miracle).  After awhile the stream of water ran dry, so the Lord told him to go stay with a poor widow and her young son (1 Kings 17:7-16). The widow told Elijah that she was destitute and near starvation, but Elijah told her that until the drought ended, she’d never run out of flour or oil (another miracle), and the widow, her son, and Elijah had plenty to eat for over a year.

Sadly while Elijah was staying with the poor widow, her young son fell very sick and died (1 King 17:17-24). The widow was distraught and felt Elijah had brought a curse to her home. Elijah prayed to the Lord over the body of the widow’s son and raised him from the dead and returned him to his joyous mother (yet another miracle).  

After three years, Elijah prayed to the Lord and a heavy rain returned to the land (1 Kings 18:41-46).  The drought was finally over (another miracle).

By now Elijah was getting old and discouraged and went up on Mount Horeb and lived in a cave (1 Kings 19:9-16).  God told him to go outside the cave and He would pass by.  Elijah did this and strong heavy winds were rending the mountains causing rockslides—but the Lord wasn’t in the heavy winds.  After the heavy winds, there was a great earthquake—but the Lord wasn’t in the earthquake.  After the earthquake there was a fire—but the Lord wasn’t in the fire.  Finally after the fire, there was a tiny whispering sound, and a still small voice said to him, “Elijah, why are you here?”  Elijah replied, “I’ve been very zealous for you Lord, but the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, torn down your altars, and killed all your prophets…and I’m the last one left and they’re still trying to kill me!”

Not long after this happened, Elijah anointed a young man named Elisha as his protégé and successor (2 King 2:1-14).  Elisha’s last request to Elijah was that he would receive a double portion of his prophetic powers.  They walked beyond the Jordan River, and a flaming chariot and horses arrived from heaven and took Elijah away in a whirlwind!  Elisha did receive the double portion he asked for and in his lifetime went on to perform twice as many miracles as the great Prophet Elijah.

Elijah’s mission was the conversion of the people of Israel: to stop worshiping false pagan gods, worship the one true God and follow His commandments in order to live good lives pleasing to the Lord.  Many times along the way, Elijah experienced dejection, despondency, and loneliness, but each time he learned something new about God.  

Against all odds, he dramatically won the contest against the 450 prophets of the false pagan god Baal.  He learned that God does in fact exist and sometimes dramatically performs miracles in order to convert people.  Elijah hides in the wilderness and God supplied his need for water and food through Ravens.  The poor widow who sheltered Elijah for over a year discovers that her flour and oil never run out and they had plenty to eat during the drought.  Elijah learns that God even takes care of our physical needs for water, food, and shelter.  Then the son of the poor widow died and Elijah learns that God answers prayers and even raises the dead.  I think the poor widow learned that God loved her and her son and had the foresight to miraculously send Elijah to live with them so they wouldn't starve and her son wouldn't die.  When he was old, Elijah became so discouraged and despondent that he goes up on a mountain and hides out living in a cave. Maybe he (like many of us) just wanted to give up on life and the cruelty of the world and live alone.  He learns that God was always with him through the all the trials, tribulations, and tumults of his life (as demonstrated in the wind, the earthquakes, and the fire) and speaks to him in a peaceful still small voice.

Unfortunately, the people of Israel never really learned their lesson and eventually returned to worshiping pagan gods and idols and living wicked lives.  Was Elijah's life a failure?  I don’t think so!  Everything that Elijah learned about God taught him to trust in God’s eternal plans, even if that meant that it would take a lot longer than Elijah’s lifetime.  He learned that God’s timeframe is a lot longer than our lifetimes. God is very patient with people and keeps calling them to conversion and a change of heart.

Maybe God has called you to be a prophet in your own family, workplace, or life circumstances and to stand up for what is right and just?  You know there are just as many pagan gods and idols today as there were in Elijah's day.  The god of money, the god of materialism, the god of power, the god of popularity and prestige, the god of worldly success, the god of pleasure, the list could go on and on.  

Don’t worry that you have failed or will fail in what God is calling you to do in your life.  Remember that God is more concerned about your faithfulness than in your successes or failures.  Listen to that still small voice of God speaking to you. Don't be distracted by the trials, tribulations, and tumults in your life. God won't ever leave you or forsake you. He's right there with you helping you along the way. Trust Him! 

Strive to stay close to God, even in the face of discouragement, despondency and loneliness and you will come to know Him more and more just like the great Prophet Elijah did in his faith journey.  And with that deepening relationship with God, you'll come to know peace, joy, faith, hope, and love.


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