A Study Of Elijah #1 Saturday, June 24, 2017 Top
From The Book Running In The Rain
By, James L. Thornton
Elijah The Tishbite
A Messenger From A Forsaken God
By James L. Thornton
In this study #1 we will study the ministry of Elijah who was a special messenger sent from God during a time of apostasy of the nation of Israel.
We will put this study on our web site in several stages. Following his ministry in the books of the Kings, from his introduction in 1 Kings 17:1, to him being taken away into heaven in a whirlwind in a chariot of fire pulled by horses from heaven, 2 Kings 2:11-12.
The ministry of Elijah left an impact on Israel which is still reverenced in Israel to this day, so we hope you will follow with us as we retrace his footsteps in the Holy Scriptures.
This lesson #1 will include the following areas of his ministry.
1 Kings 16:29; 17:24
1. Introduction To Elijah
2. The Secret Of His Fitness
3. Elijah’s Ministry
4. The Secret Of His Strength
5. The Completeness Of His Consecration
6. Running In The Rain
7. A Message For An Apostate People
8. The Brook Cherith
9. When The Brook Dries Up
10. God’s Sure Guardianship Over His Servants
11. The Widow Of Zarephath
12. The Promise To The Widow Of Zarephath
13. The Promise Fulfilled
14. The Honor God Puts On The Lowly
15. When Death Comes To The Door
16. An Example Of The Power Of Faith
17. An Example Of Intercessory Prayer
(1.) INTRODUCTION TO ELIJAH:
Some say that Elijah is the grandest and most Romantic character that Israel ever produced. (Stanley, S. & P. P. 328) He appears suddenly and disappears miraculously, thus the imagination of Israel has played its part.
Some believe that he was Phineas, the grandson of Aaron, and others believe that he was an angel from heaven. The impression his ministry made upon the minds of the people reappeared again and again even after the passing of many centuries.
His ministry was reincarnated in John the Baptist. (Matthew 11:14) and some mistook Jesus for Elijah. (Luke 9:8)
Elijah’s physical appearance made a lasting impression on everyone who saw him. (1 Kings 18:7; 2 Kings 1:7-8) He was probably above the ordinary height and of great physical strength, clothed with a leather girdle about his loins, and a sheepskin cloak over his brawny shoulders, and long thick hair and beard streaming down his face and shoulders.
The "Tishbite" means "the converter," and would fitly describe Elijah’s calling and work.
He may not have been an Israelite. He may have been an Ishmaelite or a heathen by birth, as God sent him to anoint a king in Syria. (1 Kings 19:15) To the people he would seem to come more directly from God.
The human element was ever overshadowed by the divine.
(2.) THE SECRET OF HIS FITNESS:
Elijah had his constitutional strength and courage fostered by his rugged surroundings. Gilead was a wild unsettled country, compared to Ephraim and Judah. Instead of stately palaces and flourishing towns, it boasted tent villages and mountain castles. Desperate and frequent were the fights between the surrounding tribes.
A ROUGH MAN WAS NEEDED TO DO ROUGH WORK. You don’t send a clerk to dig trenches, move rock, or build towers, and God needed some obstacles moved.
The Roman army sent men known as "woodcutters" ahead of the fighting forces. These men cut trees and cleared the way for the army, moving obstacles, and building bridges across streams and chasms.
John the Baptist was a "divine woodcutter." (Matt. 3:1-6; Mark 1:2-3; Luke 3:4-6)
Amid scenes of conflict, of loneliness, and probably of poverty, Elijah’s strong character was formed. This was not forged in an hour, or a day, but developed gradually among the mountains of Gilead.
Compare this with Moses in Midian watching sheep for forty years,
with John the Baptist in the wilderness of Judaea,
with the Apostle Paul in the desert of Arabia, and our Lord himself in the wilderness for forty days.
The wilderness has been called, "God’s school for prophets."
God gives each servant the right training for the service appointed for him.
(3.) ELIJAH’S MINISTRY:
It Was A Ministry Of Silence.
How few are Elijah’s recorded words, and those few are utterances of less than a dozen occasions, all these to something less than a dozen people.
He no sooner delivers his first brief message than he disappears, and for three years and a half Israel hears him no more.
He speaks for a moment: he is silent till God calls again. And when he reappears, it is for a day. with that one days ministry ended, he thrice more he reappears in history, but each time it is for a day, then he goes into the silent heavens, and save on the night of transfiguration, speaks no more to man.
It was a ministry of deeds. His words were few but explosive.
Yet we will find he had a tender side also. (1 Kings 17:17-24) "He spake and it was done." The works that he did bore witness of him.
How many of our sermons, full of sound and fury, leave not a trace behind them? But the almost silent Elijah accomplished the regeneration of his country.
(4.) THE SECRET OF HIS STRENGTH:
"…. As the Lord God of Israel liveth, …" (1 Kings 17:1)
He had an overpowering conviction that Jehovah lived, that he was near, that he was the God of this people, and that he would assert supremacy over all false gods. This is the secret of spiritual strength in all ages. The revelation of God’s presence and power is what all churches now need.
(5.) THE COMPLETENESS OF HIS CONSECRATION:
"..., Before whom I stand, ..." (1 Kings 17:1)
This he said, not with a sense of God’s nearness only, nor of his favor, but to express that he was the Lord’s consecrated servant, through whom, and by whom, he might do what he willed.
Standing is an attitude of attention, of expectancy, of readiness. In Scripture servants are represented as all standing, looking towards the King, with loins girded, eyes intent, and ready to do his will.
We cannot stand before the Lord until we have knelt before him in penitence and humility and prayer. This Elijah had done in Gilead. (James 5:16-18)
If we would have divine strength to use in the greatest conflict with sin around us, we must prove its miraculous energy in our private life.
In this study we will meet, and study, some other people who played a part in his ministry, such as Ahab and Jezebel, a widow of Zarephath and her son, Obadiah, Ahab’s governor, and Elisha.
(6.) RUNNING IN THE RAIN:
1 Kings 18:44. And it came to pass at the seventh time, that he said, Behold, there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea, like a man's hand. And he said, Go up, say unto Ahab, Prepare thy chariot, and get thee down, that the rain stop thee not.
45. And it came to pass in the mean while, that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode, and went to Jezreel.
46. And the hand of the LORD was on Elijah; and he girded up his loins, and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.
This story has thrilled me ever since I heard it as a small boy. What a sight this must have been!
Ahab, with the finest steeds in Israel hitched to his chariot, their nostrils flaring, and straining every muscle in their bodies during the twenty five miles back to Jezreel, yet could not keep pace with Elijah running before them in the driving rain.
We will come back to this later:
This story actually begins in the last part of chapter sixteen of 1 Kings when Ahab became king of Israel, and married Jezebel, the daughter of a heathen king.
Such a marriage was unprecedented in the kingdom of Israel, and was the more fatal because of the character of the queen, recognized throughout scripture as the archetype of evil. (Revelation 2:20)
She was reckless and licentious, fanatical and cruel, with a temper as vindictive as her will was resolute. (1 Kings 21:7-16)
Ahab became a mere tool in her hands and, by his marriage to the establishment of idolatry, was on his road to ruin.
The scriptures tell us that "Ahab did evil in the sight of the Lord above all that were before him." (1 Kings 16:30)
He reared up altars to Baal in Samaria, and worshiped the gods which Jezebel and her people served. (1 Kings 16:32)
Ahab allowed Jezebel to establish four hundred fifty prophets of Baal,
and four hundred prophets of Ashere, another Canaanitish idol, after she had killed all the prophets of the Lord she could find. (1 Kings 18:13)
In fact Ahab provoked the Lord God of Israel to anger more than all the kings of Israel that were before him. (1 Kings 16:33)
Ahab represents the culminating point of the perversity of the kingdom of Israel. He fostered to an unprecedented degree the corruption of morals, private and public injustice, and idolatrous practices.
At this period of the national history of Israel arose the greatest of the prophets, Elijah, who well bore out his name, “The strength of God" and "My God is Jehovah." and who was the faithful type of John the Baptist, the immediate forerunner of Jesus.
It was the unprecedented corruption of that age which necessitated such a mission, and a mission armed with such credentials as his.
The age demanded the messenger;
the messenger must have credentials;
the credentials could only be miraculous.
If the one lamp (Israel) which cast a ray of light on the thick darkness of the world was not to be utterly extinguished, then God must send special messengers, and arm them with special authority, and with super-human powers.
As always, God has reserved the greatest prophet for the worst age.
God’s man is always equal to the task before him.
(7.) A MESSAGE FOR AN APOSTATE PEOPLE:
We are introduced to Elijah in the first verse of chapter seventeen of First Kings.
1 Kings 17:1. “And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, as the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.”
Elijah was born in Tishbe, in the wilderness district of Gilead, just east of the Jordan River. He, no doubt, was a wild looking man, "He was a hairy man, and girt with a girdle of leather about his loins." (2 Kings 1:8)
We know nothing of his call from God. We first read of him as he fearlessly strides into the great hall of Samaria, into the very heart of idolatry, declares that the God of Israel still lives, and then gives Ahab the weather report.
Elijah proclaims to Ahab that there will be no rain, in fact, there will be no dew fall, until he himself gives the word. His words probably did not strike fear into the heart of Ahab and he, no doubt, snickered and laughed it off as some crazy fool from the country, after all, the priests of Baal claimed absolute control over nature, including the clouds and rain.
But Elijah had declared, "There shall not be rain nor dew these years, but according to my word." this was revealed in prayer.
According to James 5:17 Elijah had prayed earnestly that it might not rain.
The mystery of prayer is revealed in 1 John 5:14-15.
This man, Elijah, would affect all classes of the people.
They had shared the sin, and therefore must share the penalty.
The loftiest are not beyond God’s reach, the lowest are not hidden from God’s notice. The tiny garden of the peasant was cursed, as well as the splendid park of the king.
National Sin Brings National Calamities.
The message, not to some, but to all, is,
"repent and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out." (Acts 3:19)
It was to be "according to the word" of God’s servant.
The change in the weather would be foreseen and foretold, not by false priests, but by the praying prophet.
The curse came because of sin, as had been proclaimed by the law.
(Leviticus 26:19-21; Deuteronomy 11:16-21, & 28:23-24)
It would be vain to cry, "O Baal, hear us." (1 Kings 18:26)
The curse would be removed only by repentance. (1 Kings 18:39)
(8.) THE BROOK CHERITH:
1 Kings 17:2. And the word of the LORD came unto him, saying,
3. Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan.
4. And it shall be, that thou shalt drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there.
5. So he went and did according unto the word of the LORD: for he went and dwelt by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan.
6. And the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening; and he drank of the brook.
Elijah disappeared back into his home country, and hid himself by the brook Cherith, where he would have water to drink, and God "commanded" the ravens to bring him food to eat.
God Guarantees Us Necessities, Not Luxuries.
Jesus tells us to pray in this manner,
"give us this day our daily bread." (Matthew 6:11)
"Bread for the day," "Bread that I need."
The months went by "and the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening; and he drank of the brook," (1 Kings 17:6) probably between one year and eighteen months. (1 1/2 years)
Now the word Cherith means separation. Its location is uncertain, but it is somewhere among the rocky ravines and caves of his home.
Elijah is hid away, away from usefulness, for a total of three years and a half, most of the time in a strange land, "forty two months"—"times and times and half a time" (Revelation 11:2-2; & 12:6, 14).
We could call them wasted years when Elijah was hid away from the people. We may ask, could he have not done better service for God and the people by staying among them and preaching or prophesying to them?
Now this section consequently may fittingly speak to us of the need of separation, of the uses of solitude and retirement in the discipline of the saints.
How many souls have perished because they would not "Enter into their chambers and shut their doors about them, and hide themselves until the indignation be overpast," (Isaiah 26:20) and perished because they had not the courage to disappear for a while, if only into their closet?
Solitude was necessary for his soul’s health, and ours. All men who are much before the world need their times of retirement. (Matthew. 6:6)
It is remarkable how God’s elect messengers, each in his turn, have been sent "apart into a desert place to rest awhile." (Mark 6:31)
Moses must spend forty years in the great and terrible wilderness;
must spend forty days and forty nights in Horeb, the Mount of God.
Elijah himself only emerges from the Cherith to go to another hiding place at Zarephath, and from Zarephath he passes almost directly to the same wilderness and the same mount where Moses was.
John the Baptist’s life was almost divided between the desert and the prison.Paul must learn his gospel in Arabia.
And our Lord must begin his ministry by a forty day fast and from time to time must seek a quite place to rest and pray.
Here is a chorus from a song we used to sing,
"Shut in with God, in a secret place.
There in his presence, beholding his face.
Gaining new power to run in this race.
O, how I love, to be, shut in with God."
Elijah drank from the brook and the "ravens brought bread and meat" with unfailing regularity, and in earnest prayer to the God of Israel, "before whom he stood," he would get refreshment and strength for the coming conflict and conquest.
(9.) WHEN THE BROOK DRIES UP:
1 Kings 17:7. And it came to pass after a while, that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land.
Picture Elijah sitting by the brook Cherith, watching its waters becoming shallower day by day under the grip of the drought.
From a stream to a trickle, then drop by drop from barren rock, until, where pools of refreshing water were before, there was nothing left but sand and stones.
He knew not what he should do next, but he waited and prayed. He had done the will of God, what next?
God could have used miraculous means to keep the brook flowing, but he did not. God could have opened an underground spring to furnish enough water for Elijah, but he did not.
It is time for Elijah to look to God for further directions.
How different are the resources of the believer from those of the worlding! When the Cherith of the worlding fails he has nothing further to look to, but when, from the believer, one comfort is withdrawn another is at hand.
1 Kings 17:8. And the word of the LORD came unto him, saying,
9. Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee.
"Zarephath," Why Zarephath?
One hundred twenty miles from Cherith, and over harsh terrain, dry rugged, dangerous territory, and what about provisions? Did the ravens follow him?
Zarephath itself would be a dangerous place for Elijah. It was near to the birthplace of Jezebel, and her father was king there, and further it was the very home of Baal worship.
But Ahab would scarcely dream of looking for Elijah there, so Elijah would spend almost two years and a half there.
Jesus gives us the answer to our question.
Luke 4:24. And he said, Verily I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country.
25. But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land;
26. But unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow.
Elijah Was Not Welcomed In Israel.
The "prophet was not accepted in his own country," but found a confiding welcome and generous hospitality at the hands of an alien.
(10.) GOD’S SURE GUARDIANSHIP OVER HIS SERVANTS.
Elijah is perfectly safe under the shield of divine protection, as safe in the region of Sidon as he was by the brook Cherith.
He who commanded the ravens to feed him can put in the heart, and into the power of the Phoenician woman to do the same.
When one resource fails God can provide another.
God allows one and another to fail that he may show how boundless his resources are. There is absolutely no limit to the possibilities of God’s sustaining and protective power.
There is absolutely nothing which God cannot use to be the instruments of his purpose, and the vehicle of his power. The angels of God are many and various. (Luke 2:13; Revelation 5:11)
"He shall give his angels charge concerning thee." (Psalms. 91:11)
He causes them (angels) to wait in duteous ministry on those whom he has called to high and holy service in his kingdom.
God has a grand mission for Elijah to accomplish in Israel and will take care that he shall be able to fulfill it.
"Man Is Immortal Till His Work Is Done."
(11.) THE WIDOW OF ZAREPHATH; Nameless, but not forgotten.
We could entitle this passage,
"Doing The Will Of God Unawares."
1 Kings 17:9. Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee.
"…, I have commanded..." This is to show that God has complete control of all the avenues which lead to our emotions, our wills, and our actions. This woman was "commanded," or "controlled by God," as the ravens were "commanded" (1 Kings 17:4), even though she did not suspect it.
Many people, even unbelievers, are moved by God to help the believers in times of crisis (Acts 27:43). God knows all things and controls all things. He can do whatsoever he wills with whomsoever he wills.
Elijah went to Zarephath at God’s bidding.
1 Kings 17:10. So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, the widow woman was there gathering of sticks: and he called to her, and said, Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.
11. And as she was going to fetch it, he called to her, and said, Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand.
12. And she said, As the LORD thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die.
13. And Elijah said unto her, Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son.
14. For thus saith the LORD God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the LORD sendeth rain upon the earth.
15. And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah: and she, and he, and her house, did eat many days.
16. And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by Elijah.
Arriving in Zarephath, after walking many days over, and through, some of the harshest conditions on earth, no doubt sustained still by ravens, Elijah saw a widow woman (identified no doubt by her manner of dress) gathering sticks.
At this moment Elijah did not know whether this was the woman that God had spoken to him of.
He asked her to bring him a drink of water. Even though the drought had affected the whole region the water still flowed down from the mountains of Lebanon which are over eleven thousand feet high and snow capped all year.
Jesus, no doubt, was referring to this incident when he says,
Matthew 10:42. and whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily i say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.
The gift of water is still regarded as a sacred duty in this region, and most will share to the last drop.
"As she was going to fetch it, …
" She immediately went to get Elijah a drink of water.
I feel that is the moment that Elijah recognized that this was the woman to whom the Lord was sending him.
Let us look for a moment at this incident from another point of view.
This is the way that Abraham’s servant was guided to Rebecca (Genesis 24:14). Both were found at the entrance of the city.
The woman of Zarephath was there on an errand of her own, viz., to gather a few sticks to kindle a fire to cook her last meal in this world.
She was also, though unknown to herself, on an errand from God. She was "commanded" to sustain the prophet of Israel.
Yet these two errands harmonize. God uses man’s purposes to work out his own will.
Has God ever used an incidental trip of yours as an opportunity to be a witness for him? Or to help someone who needed help?
Elijah asked her for water, which, with promptitude she went to fetch.
This is the sign by which Abraham’s servant identified Rebecca. (Genesis 24:14-27)
The cup of cold water has its promise of reward. (Matthew 10:42)
"As she was going….he called to her, and said, bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand."
Elijah asked for a little water and a little bread.
We can only use our imagination to guess with what means the prophet was sustained for the long, hot, journey from Cherith, which took many days. Did the ravens follow him? Did angels feed him? (1 Kings 19:5-8)
The famine had already extended to Phoenicia because it was almost totally dependent upon Israel for grain. (1 Kings 5:9-11)
1 Kings 17:12. “And she said, As the LORD thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die.”
Elijah needed help, he needed food and shelter, and more yet, a hiding place. Why would God send him to the poorest of the poor? Why not to Egypt or somewhere that the famine had not reached? She too had come to extremity—to the last handful of meal.
What A Touching Spectacle.
Picture that widow at the gate of Zarephath gathering a few sticks to prepare the last meal for herself and her son.
Had she not prayed? No doubt she had, and sincerely. She knew about the God of Israel.
Jehovah was not unknown in the land of Hiram, who "was ever a lover of David," and so materially aided Solomon in building the temple. (1 Kings 5:1-12)
But she was not an Israelite "To whom were the promises." (Romans 9:4-5)
So in addressing Elijah her words were, "As the lord thy God liveth."
She believes in the "living god," but cannot presume him to be her God. What right has she, a poor widow of Zarephath, a "stranger" to the God of Israel, to look for any special favor, or consideration, from the Lord?
But "He that giveth grace unto the humble", and He that "readeth the heart," saw that she would if only she had a promise to authorize her faith.
Many centuries later another widow of her city would seek, and find, relief from her great anxiety when Jesus came there. (Matthew 15:21-28; Mark 7:24-30)
(12.) THE PROMISE TO THE WIDOW OF ZAREPHATH:
1 Kings 17:13. And Elijah said unto her, Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son.
14. For thus saith the LORD God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the LORD sendeth rain upon the earth.
Let us look at this for a moment. A stranger demands a share of her last meal. Or, rather, he demands the first share. "Make me a cake first." (v.13)
Now consider her position. She is reduced to her last morsel. So sore is the famine that she and her son, after they have eaten this meal together, are about to lie down and wait for death. They must have suffered hunger enough already; they must have dreaded the hunger even unto death which awaited them.
At this moment a stranger suddenly appears before her and says he must eat first And at home, her own flesh and blood, the son of her womb, stretches out his skinny fingers, starved from prolonged famine, and cries for all she has to give.
Moreover, if this prophet could multiply food, as he promised to be able to do, why should he ask her for bread? Was it reasonable that she should part with her last morsel on the strength of such a promise?
"Charity begins at home." "Let the children first be filled." "Shall I take my bread and my water and give it one that I know not whence they be.?" (1 Samuel 25:11)
Thus she might justly have argued. We could not have wondered had the ordeal been too great for her; had she kept fast hold of her children’s bread and denied it to "dogs."
But, like that other Syro-Phoenician woman (Matthew 15:21-28), her faith was equal to the test, she "Went and did according to the saying of Elijah."
And, therefore, of her also it might justly be said, "I have not found so great faith, no not in Israel."
She proved the genuineness of her faith by her works.
(13.) THE PROMISE FULFILLED:
1 Kings 17:15. And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah: and she, and he, and her house, did eat many days.
16. And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by Elijah.
The phrase, "And her house," probably indicates that her friends and poor relatives came to partake of her plenty, along with Elijah and her son and were all sustained by the miracle-working power of God for two years and a half.
The meal in the barrel and the oil in the cruse was not only imperishable, but it, like the loaves and the fishes (John 6:1-14), grows as it is dispensed, multiplies with the using.
How delightful were the spiritual feasts of those two and a half years in the widow’s dwelling, flavored by heavenly conversation, perhaps the only quiet happy season in Elijah’s life.
(14.) WE SEE THE HONOR GOD PUTS ON THE LOWLY:
We see here not only the divine preservation of Elijah, but a special act of grace towards the woman of Zarephath. Without this act recorded the world would have never heard of her.
It was a great honor (which was denied to the widows of Israel—(Luke 4:25-26) to have been singled out from the crowd for such a divine visitation.
She was used by God as an important link in the chain of public events, and to have her name handed down to future ages as “The woman of Sarepta," whose glory it was to "entertain a prophet in the name of a prophet and receive a prophet’s reward." (Matthew 10:41)
For two years and a half she entertained the man that, "Stands before Jehovah." At whose word the clouds are sealed or the windows of heaven are opened! (1 Kings 17:1; 18:41-46)
The man whose prayer was to bring fire down from heaven upon the sacrifice on Carmel to the confusion of idolatry! (1 Kings 18:38) And who was to bring the same element down upon the soldiers of Ahaziah! (2 Kings 1:10-12)
And who was destined to ride alive into the heavens in a chariot of fire! And who was destined, many centuries later, to appear in glory with the Messiah on the Mount of Transfiguration!
And who is still looked for by Jews to appear on earth before the great Day of Judgment to gather back the children of Israel from the far corners of the earth! (Malachi 4:5-6; Revelation 11:3-4)
How Could This Poor Widow Hope For Such Distinction?
A poor widow, so poor that she had no servant and no fuel to build a fire in her house. A widow with her son, both at the point of death! A stranger, and a stranger of Zidon too—the land of Baal—and the land of Jezebel.
Note: God’s ways are not our ways. He brings unlikely things to pass.
How little do we know what may be the thoughts of his heart concerning us?
To be permitted to do anything for God is an unspeakable honor. Anoint his feet—feed him—visit him. Let us ever be in that attitude of whole-hearted consecration to God which will make us eligible for any service he may be pleased to promote us to.
Those who shrink from church work because of fancied incompetence fall into error.
Moses felt incompetent. (Exodus 3:10-12)
Gideon felt inadequate. (Judges 6:14-16)
It is enough that God has "commanded."
His commands are promises.
The more difficult (humanly considered) the undertaking, the more glorious will the excellency of the power of God appear.
Attempt great things for God.
Expect great things from God.
Remember God sometimes places us in certain positions, jobs, or situations, which we feel like that we do not have the resources, the time, the energy, or the ability, to perform what is asked of us. When this happens remember that God’s promises are sufficient for the task.
The many days (2 ½ years) in the home of the widow had been a happy, quiet, resting time for Elijah.
Perhaps the only quiet happy season in all his life.
(15.) WHEN DEATH COMES TO THE DOOR:
1 Kings 17:17. “And it came to pass after these things, that the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, fell sick; and his sickness was so sore, that there was no breath left in him.
18. And she said unto Elijah, What have I to do with thee, O thou man of God? art thou come unto me to call my sin to remembrance, and to slay my son?”
The phrase in verse fifteen which is translated "many days," is understood by some Hebraists to denote a year. So the phrase in verse seventeen, "And it came to pass after these things," implies that the widow’s son died after Elijah had been in her house one year.
Her son falls sick and dies. How heartbroken she must have been. He was the last living thing that she had in this world.
Many people become bitter and angry towards God, the church, or the preacher, when things like this happen. She might have had hard thoughts of God, or unworthy thoughts of the prophet. It is a wonder she held fast her integrity. But she only thought harshly of herself.
It must be, she reasoned, a judgment for her sin. The man of God had read her life; and had brought her sin to the remembrance of his Master. (ver. 18)
She had recognized the presence of God with Elijah and witnessed his miraculous power demonstrated in the provisions of the meal and oil. She poured out her bereavement to Elijah in this manner.
1 Kings 17:18. “And she said unto Elijah, What have I to do with thee, O thou man of God? art thou come unto me to call my sin to remembrance, and to slay my son?”
She saw the hand of God in the death of her son; she attributed it to Elijah being in her home.
Prophets were sent, usually, to reprove, and pronounce judgments. The coming of Samuel to Bethlehem inspired the elders and the people with fear and trembling. (1 Samuel 16:4)
This bereavement, therefore, might suggest to the widow her sin in general, or some particular sin, though not clearly defined to her as yet. She supposed that God might have overlooked her sin, had it not been that he was present with His prophet in her home; and she associated discipline with retribution.
It is significant that the thought of her own sin should be her first thought. The calamity brought this to her remembrance because it seemed to her a sign of God’s remembrance of it.
It is a true instinct which leads us to think of our sins in times of adversity. Whenever affliction comes to us it should produce tenderness of conscience and call forth the prayer, "Show me wherefore thou contendest with me" (Job 10:2), in order that if there be a secret sin in ourselves that demands this severe discipline we may have grace to fight against it and cast it out.
Death especially should remind us of God, before whose tribunal it conducts us. So it especially should remind us of sin, for it is its wages appointed by God.
(16.) AN EXAMPLE OF THE POWER OF FAITH.
Here is a touching scene—a poor widow pressing to her bosom the corpse of her only child, and while in the agony of her bereaved soul, addressing Elijah, she says,
1 Kings 17:18. “And she said unto Elijah, What have I to do with thee, O thou man of God? Art thou come unto me to call my sin to remembrance, and to slay my son?
19. And he said unto her, Give me thy son. And he took him out of her bosom, and carried him up into a loft, where he abode, and laid him upon his own bed.
He had confidence in God before he prayed.
This is evident from the manner in which he asked the widow for the corpse. He did not tell her what he intended to do. But, on the other hand, neither did he express any hesitation as to the comfort she might expect.
A man of Elijah’s strong nature would have strong affections, and we can imagine how intensely he had come to love this child. This incident shows a side to his character which is often overlooked, one that was tenderly sympathetic and very humane.
On hearing of his death he could only say to the distraught mother, "Give me thy son," and then carried him up to his own room, and cried to God in an agony of prayer.
(17.) AN EXAMPLE OF INTERCESSORY PRAYER:
1 Kings 17:20. And he cried unto the LORD, and said, O LORD my God, hast thou also brought evil upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by slaying her son?
21. And he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried unto the LORD, and said, O LORD my God, I pray thee, let this child's soul come into him again.
In this incident we have one of the greatest examples of intercessory prayer in the bible. It was offered in solitude; not even the mother was there. Such intense crisis in life must be met alone.
"Jacob was left alone" in the greatest crisis of his life at Jab-bok (Genesis 32:24), "And there wrestled a man (an angel? or, the Lord himself?) with him until the breaking of the day."
What a tremendous act of faith for Elijah to ask for life to be restored to the dead child. Elijah was asking for something which had never been tried before, life from the dead.
Elijah’s prayer was intensely earnest. (James 5:17)
Elijah could not be denied. His was not a speech, but a cry.
Three times he prostrated himself upon the child, each time asking that life be restored to him. He looked for the awakening and flung himself on the dead child in an agony of earnestness as if he would infuse his own warmth and life.
The act was reenacted by Paul when a young man fell out of the third loft and was taken up dead. (Acts 20:10)
The touch was similar to that of Peter when he took the cripple man by the hand and raised him up (Acts 3:7)
The touch was not the cause of blessing, but the medium of blessing. The divine power works through the human agency. Jesus explained this to his disciples. (Mark 16:17-18)
1 Kings 17:22. “And the LORD heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived.”
The prayer was followed by a revelation of God’s power such as, till then, man had never seen: the dead was raised. Jesus said, "ask, and ye shall receive," (John 16:24)
Elijah could not give life, but he could ask God for it.
The soul that asks will see God’s salvation.
1 Kings 17:23. “And Elijah took the child, and brought him down out of the chamber into the house, and delivered him unto his mother: and Elijah said, See, thy son liveth.
24. And the woman said to Elijah, Now by this I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in thy mouth is truth.”
In the widow’s exclamation we see the joy of a soul that for the first time is made fully conscious of the presence and power of God.
Elijah had been in her home for several months and she had been partakers of the divine power of God in the miraculous provisions of meal and oil. She had also observed Elijah in his daily devotion and prayers, and no doubt had felt the presence of God during his stay in her home.
But at the sight of Elijah bringing her son down from the upper chamber and placing him in her arms and feeling the warmth of his body and hearing the sound of his voice, which before had been silent, at that instant she entered a new dimension of faith.
"Now by this I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in thy mouth is truth."
There is a tone of deep satisfaction in these words. It is the satisfaction that springs from the discovery of divine truth and the vivid sense of god. There is no satisfaction of which the soul of man is capable that can be compared with this.
All forms of divine manifestations—prophetic visitations, miracles, revelations, blessings, &c.—are designed to bring a person to this point—"I know".
We reach the highest joy possible to us upon this earth when we can say with the Apostle John,
1 John 5:20. “And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.
It was just like many others, who have been associated with the Church, enjoying the atmosphere of praise and worship, but never experiencing the full blessings of really knowing the Lord, until one day something happens and causes a special revelation to come to them.
To Abraham it happened at Mam-re (Genesis 15:6),
To Jacob at Jab-bok (Genesis 32:24),
To Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:2),
To Paul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3-6),
And the list could go on and on to include everyone who has had this life changing experience.
Very ancient tradition says that this boy became Elijah’s servant (1 Kings 18:43), and was, later, the prophet Jonah.
We hope you enjoyed this part of the study of Elijah. We will continue the Study of Elijah in Study #2.
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By, James L. Thornton