Elijah #3 Top Saturday, December 16, 2017
RUNNING IN THE RAIN, A STUDY OF ELIJAH #3
By James L. Thornton
This study will cover Elijah as he prays for rain on top of Mount Carmel. We will observe his posture before God, and his unending intercession until the rains came. Then, Elijah running before the chariot of Ahab in the driving rain. After the threat from Jezebel, we will follow him into the wilderness where he prays to die, and take note of the measures God uses to bring him out of his despair.
1. God Removes The Curse
2. Elijah Prays For Rain
3. Three Different Scenes Nn Mount Carmel
4. Answer To Prayer May Be Delayed
5. Go Again
6. A Little Cloud
7. It Becomes A Raging Storm
8. Elijah Running In The Rain
9. From Triumph To Despair
10. Elijah Flees For His Life
11. Elijah In The Wilderness
12. Our Own Wilderness Experience
13. Elijah Under The Juniper Tree
14. Elijah In The Depths Of Despair
15. The Weakness Of Humanity
16. God Binds Up The Broken Hearted
17. He Restoreth My Soul
1. GOD REMOVES THE CURSE
1 Kings 18:41a. And Elijah said unto Ahab, get thee up, eat and drink; (KJV)
This clearly indicates that the king had gone down with the crowd to the Kishon.
Curiosity had perhaps impelled him to witness the slaughter of the prophets which he was powerless to prevent, and no doubt he had been profoundly awed by the portent events he had just witnessed.
Then Elijah turned to Ahab (this is the first time he had spoken to him since he first met him after his return to Israel ver. 18, 19) and said “get thee up, eat and drink; …”
It is probable that the excitement of the whole ordeal was so intense that the king had not tasted food all day long.
Elijah now bids him eat if he can, after what he has witnessed.
It is probable that the attendants of the king had spread a tent for him upon the plateau, and had brought food for the day along with them.
The next phrase gives the reason why he should eat and drink.
1 Kings 18:41b. …; For there is a sound of abundance of rain. (kjv)
I feel that the prophet could already hear the sound of the deluge of rain, but if so, it was only in the spirit.
Elijah speaks of sign and intimation understood only by himself.
The sound comes before the rain. It is heard in the branches of trees, and in the waves of seas and lakes. There is a certain feeling and refreshing smell in the air.
Revivals Have Their Premonitions.
So is a coming revival discerned in the church by emotion when the word goes forth. There is greater interest in religious services both public and private. Prayers are more fervent and there is increased evangelistic activity.
This is first heard by the spiritual.
Elijah was the first to hear the sound of the coming rain even though there was not a cloud in the sky.
It begins in the high heavens before it reaches the earth. Those who are in much prayer have sensitive ears to hear “afar off.” (Mark 8:18)
2. ELIJAH PRAYS FOR RAIN
1 Kings 18:42a. so Ahab went up to eat and to drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel. .., (kjv)
It is significant to note the vast difference in the personal needs, wants, or desires, of these two men.
Ahab, as we have already noted (ver. 41a), that, due to the excitement, astonishment, and bewilderment of the events of the day, probably had not tasted food since the early morning hours.
Now it was late in the afternoon, and at the suggestion of food by Elijah, his physical appetite overcame the awe of the things he had witnessed.
So he gladly obeyed the suggestion of Elijah and made his way back to the tent to eat and drink of the provisions his servants had prepared.
Elijah, on the other hand, had possible not eaten or drank the entire day, and even now, did not get an invitation to join Ahab in his feast.
But, his day was not over, and he would not eat until his work was done, which would be far into the night. He would pray effectually and fervently (this is real work) till the rain came and then outrun Ahab’s chariot back to Jezreel.
Elijah, during the three and one half years of drought, and even before this, had learned to control his physical appetites, and would be one of the few mentioned in scripture who would fast forty days.
Elijah learned to live on God’s provision.
For a year he had eaten what the ravens brought him, and drank from the Cherith. Then for two and a half years he had lived on barley cakes in the home of a widow woman.
He had known privation, but did not feel deprived, he had known what hunger pain feels like, but had not complained. His physical strength and stamina (ver.46), which was enormous, was supplied by angel’s food. (1 Kings 19:5-8)
So the vast difference in these two men was that Ahab’s appetite was physical, carnal, sensual, and devilish, while Elijah thrived on, and craved spiritual food and blessings.
We see what Ahab’s major concern in the midst of the drought was for in verse 5 of chapter 18. it was not for his subjects, the people of Israel in their sufferings, but for “the horses and mules.” Ahab, no doubt, had fared sumptuously every day during the drought, while his subjects withered in agony.
1 Kings 18:42b. ... And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he cast himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees, (kjv)
Elijah climbed high on Carmel and “cast himself down upon the earth.” he prostrated himself full length with his face to the earth, as many easterners still do in prayer.
The man who stands nearest to God is the lowliest of all God’s worshippers.
From this position he arose to kneel, “and put his face between his knees.” his face was hid
The posture witnessed to the intensity of his supplication.
Three and one half years before this he had prayed intently, earnestly, effectually, and fervently (James 5:16-18), that God would withhold the rain. The same kind of fervency would be required to open the heavens once again.
1 Kings 18:43a. And said to his servant, … (kjv)
This is the first mention of a servant.
There is an old tradition that this was none other than the son of the widow of Zarephath, and another old tradition says that he was later the prophet Jonah, but this last tradition is probably not correct.
He was probably the one who wrote, or told, about the events of the day because the descriptions could only have been given by an eye witness.
1 Kings 18:43b. …, Go up now, look toward the sea. And he went up, and looked, ... (kjv)
3. There are three different scenes on Carmel now to meet our view.
1. First there is Ahab, on the lowest ridge, amid the lingering glow of an eastern sunset, preparing to leave for Jezreel. The thousands of Israel are returning to their homes.
2.Next there is Elijah on the middle ridge in earnest supplication.
3. Last, on the highest ridge, straining his eyes out over the sea, there is the prophets attendant.
It is with the prophet himself we need to chiefly concentrate our thoughts on.
We want to especially take notice of how he conducts himself in the presence of God.
He had met Ahab in the valley of Jezreel with fierceness and fire.
He had met the deluded and sinful nation with manly and honest rebuke.
He had confronted the priests of Baal and Asherah with ironical scorn.
But now when he meets God, he “casts himself down upon the earth, his face between his knees.”
We are arrested by the prophets humility—the oak is now a bulrush, the lion has become a lamb.
We are arrested by his simple-minded obedience to duty; for although conscious that the blessing (rain) is coming (18:1; & 41), he yet makes it the subject of prayer.
This is a lesson to every believer, that God’s promises can never do away with God’s commands.
And that he who has given the pledge to “withhold no good thing (Psalms 84:11)” has also made the contingency, “I will yet for this be inquired of by the house of Israel to do it for them (Ezekiel 36:37),” this, the Lord said after a long list of promised blessings.
In this scene we are awed by Elijah’s devotion to duty, and loyalty to the one, “who before whom he stood.” (17:1) he had achieved a great victory, and how did he act?
He had only to awaken the feelings and the thousands of Israel would have placed him in the royal chariot and borne him in triumph as their new sovereign to the gates of Jezreel, as they were want to do to Jesus some 800 years later. (John 6:15)
But no, Elijah, like Jesus, had other designs than to weaken the government, or encourage rebellion; he sought not the destruction of the state, but its purification.
So, holding true to the course which was set before him, he retires to that solitary cleft, and, in the attitude of entire abstraction with God, pleads for rain.
The desire that the blessing might come at once, and cause the seed of faith to spring up in the peoples hearts, made earnest prayer more necessary to Elijah than the refreshment of food, which his body craved.
It is in the Epistle of James that we are told that Elijah’s prayer brought the drought and the rainfall. (James 5:17-18)
He did not argue that God would send the storm whether he prayed or not, but believed that the reception of blessing was inseparably connected with the offering of prayer.
Similarly the Holy Spirit was promised to the disciples (Luke 24:49), but they met to pray till he came (Acts 1:14).
God wants, yea, it is God’s will to bless, to heal, to save, to fill with His Spirit, to give good things, but the channel must be opened to receive these things from God.
That channel can only be opened by prayer.
Jesus says, ”ask, and it shall be given to you;” (Matthew 7:7-11; John 14:13; James 4:2-3)
In( Luke 18:14) a simple prayer of a half dozen words sufficed for justification, and in other cases it took hours, and in Daniel’s case (Daniel 10:2-13) it took three full weeks to receive an answer. (Daniel 9:3-4 & 20) in the latter case the angel reveals the reason for the delay; it was because Satan hindered.
Satan would block the channel through which God would send his blessings, and much prayer, persistent prayer, fervent prayer, is the only effectual way to open this channel.
1 Kings 18:43b.…. And said to his servant, go up now, look toward the sea. (kjv)
While Elijah interceded he sent his servant up to the peak of Carmel with instructions to look for signs of the coming blessing; look out over the sea, which is the most likely directions from which rain would come.
After prayer, let us look, with expectation, in the most likely direction, or place, that the answer may appear.
1 Kings 18:43c. .... And he went up, and looked, and said, there is nothing. ... (kjv)
There are times when God overruns our prayers, as in the case of Abraham’s servant, “and before I had done speaking in mine heart, behold, Rebekah came forth..” (Genesis 24:45)
But how many time have we prayed and looked and “there is nothing?”
How often, like the Psalmist, we say, “hath God forgotten to be gracious?” (Psalm 77:9)
Some may become discouraged when “there is nothing”, or, “there is no change,” “it’s just like it was.”
But not Elijah. He knew to, “wait on the lord, wait patiently for him.” (Psalm 37:7)
1 Kings 18:43c. ... And he said, go again seven times. (kjv)
4. THE ANSWER TO PRAYER MAY BE LONG DELAYED.
But delaying is not denying.
When we see the faithfulness and patience shown by the servant in executing this order without a mummer it implies a devotedness of no common kind.
This also implies that he was a youth because of the extreme exertion required for this many climbs up and down the path.
And on the other hand the drought had lasted for three and one half years and that day the servant had seen the fires of God descend at Elijah’s prayer. It is inconceivable, under such circumstances, that any man could mummer.
Elijah was not discouraged even by the sixth repetition of the despairing phrase, “there is nothing.”
Yet on that very day his one earnest cry had instantaneously brought down fire from heaven. And even after so many, “There is nothings,” Elijah continued his earnest supplication to God with prayers like Daniel. (Daniel 9:3-6, 9, 11, 17, 20, 21)
I feel, as Daniel, and Moses (Exodus 32:30, 31; 34:9) did, Elijah made confessions and supplication, for pardon and forgiveness, both for himself and for Israel, and not so much for rain.
The rain, when it comes, would be the sign that God had heard his supplication for pardon and forgiveness.
Someone has said that there are not many people who really and truly pray half a dozen times in their lives.
We offer up formal and lukewarm petitions, and marvel that we receive no answer.
Prayer must be earnest. In Luke 22:44 Jesus leaves us an example of earnest prayer.
Luke 22:44. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. (kjv)
It is not that God is hard to persuade; it is that He will have us mean what we say.
5. “GO AGAIN,..”
1 Kings 18:44a. 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. ... (kjv)
Six times the faithful servant had made his way to the top of Carmel only to come back with the same reply, “there is nothing.”
The familiar path had begun to show signs of wear, but the climb and decent was no easier. The hour would have grown late, and the sun would have begun to get low out over the sea, as he made his way once again to the top of Carmel for another look.
This seventh time there was a slight change in the horizon.
Just below the setting sun there was a small dark shape, laying on the water, away off in the distance, and making his way back to the prostrate elijah, he told him what he had seen.
6. A LITTLE CLOUD
1 Kings 18:44b. …, That he said, behold, there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea, like a man's hand. ... (kjv)
It was the first one to be seen in three years and a half.
Sometimes the answer to prayer may begin in what seems trifling—the fever broke, someone you long prayed for agrees to come to church, ect. As slight and insignificant as it may seem, gratefully welcome it, and still hope, and wait, and pray, till he “come and rain righteousness up on us.” (Hosea 10:12)
Elijah upon hearing the servant’s description of the little cloud rising out of the sea, immediately gives him another order.
A cloud the size of a man’s hand, hardly discernable on the horizon, was enough to transfer elijah’s prayer to praise. Little in itself, it was the beginning of a glorious blessing.
1 Kings 18:44c. ... And he said, go up, say unto Ahab, prepare thy chariot, and get thee down, that the rain stop thee not. (kjv)
Elijah sent his servant ahead to Ahab, saying, “Harness the horses and get thee down, that the rain stop thee not.”
We see the enormous faith of Elijah exercised in this command. Never was the prospect of a journey being hindered by rain more gladly received by mortal man.
The Kishon, which collects the whole drainage of the large valley of Jezreel, or Esdraelon, soon becomes an impassable swamp, which has bogged down war chariots, when storms arose. (Judges 5:21)
This valley, which is some twenty to twenty five square miles, has been the battlefield of many great armies.
It was here that Gideon fought against the Midianites (Judges 6:33), Deborah and Barak fought Sisera and his chariots of iron (Judges 4:2-3,7). Several kings fought and died here (2 Kings 9:27; 23:29-30). Solomon built a fort here. (1 Kings 9:15)
This valley, called “the sowing place of God,” is held by many, to be the place where the last great battle spoken (Revelation 16:16; 19:19) will be fought>
7. A RAGING STORM
1 Kings 18:45a. And it came to pass in the mean while, that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. (kjv
The Hebrew indicates, “very speedily.”
From a cloud the size of a man’s hand to a Raging Stormin minutes.
The cry of the boy from his mountain watch had hardly been uttered when the storm, over Carmel, burst suddenly upon the plain, the rain descending with violence, hissing on the ground, as if not able to come down fast enough, and accompanied with gusts of wind, thunder and lightning.
1 Kings 18:45. ... And Ahab rode, and went to Jezreel. (kjv)
At the voice of the messenger from Elijah, Ahab gave orders that his chariot be made ready, and amid the gathering storm clouds, started on his way to Jezreel.
The storm would have overtaken him in a short time, and the driving rain would have been a welcome, and refreshing sight.
But, behold, something else, or should I say, someone else, appeared out of the storm, illuminated by flashes of lightning, there was the man from Gilead, with his mantel tucked into his tightly wound girdle, running before him.
8. ELIJAH RUNNING IN THE RAIN
1 Kings 18:46. And the hand of the Lord was on Elijah; and he girded up his loins, and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel. (kjv)
This story has thrilled me since I first heard it as a small boy. What a sight it 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 or so miles back to Jezreel, yet could not keep pace with Elijah running before them in the driving rain.
The first few words of the verse tell the story. “The hand of the Lord was on Elijah.”
An impulse from high impelled him to "gird up his loins" and go before the king; a strength, not his own, sustained him whilst he ran.
The distance across the plain to Jezreel is roughly seventeen miles; the royal chariot would be driven furiously.
Even with whatever fleetness and endurance the prophet had acquired in the wilds of Gilead, it seems hardly likely that, after the fatigues, lack of nourishment, and excitement of the day, he would have been able, without the hand of the Lord upon him, to keep ahead of the chariot horses.
His great strength and endurance came from wrestling with God, who is a very worthy opponent. He gathered round his waist, and tucked into his girdle, his mantel (1 Kings 19:13, 19; 2 Kings 2:13, 14), which would otherwise have impeded his movements. Probably this, apart from his girdle, was his sole garment.
All Israel would have been caught up in the exhilaration of the moment. There would have been dancing and singing as the people made their way home in the storm.
Elijah’s objective in this was twofold.
First, to honor the king, whom he had that day humbled in the presence of his subjects.
The great prophet, by assuming the lowly office of a footman, or forerunner (1 Kings 1:5), would give due reverence to the Lord’s anointed, like Samuel did on a similar occasion. (1 Samuel 15:30, 31)
Secondly, he may have hoped by his presence near the king to strengthen any good resolves which he might have made, and to further the work of reformation which the nation had started on that day.
May it be noted that this one act, of becoming a footman for Ahab, is the only act, or word, of respect Elijah ever showed towards Ahab.
Every other act, every other word to Ahab by Elijah was an act, or a word, of rebuke or condemnation.
In this scene we are awed by Elijah’s devotion to duty, and loyalty to the one “before whom he stood.” (1 Kings 17:1)
He had achieved a great victory, and how did he act?
He had only to awaken the feelings, and the thousands of Israel would have placed him at once in the royal chariot, and borne him in triumph as their new sovereign to the gates of Jezreel, as they were wont to do to Jesus some eight hundred years later. (John 6:15)
But no, Elijah, like Jesus, had other designs than to weaken the government, or encourage rebellion; he sought not the destruction of the state, but its purification.
So we had hardly been surprised on the present occasion had the relative positions been reversed—had Ahab run and Elijah ridden—and are almost disposed at first to exclaim, with Solomon, “I have seen servants upon horses, and princes walking as servants upon the earth.” (Ecclesiastes 10:7)
Yet there was much more meaning in the prophets act. Ahab was weak and wicked; but Ahab was king. Elijah was God’s servant; but office did not relieve him from loyalty to the throne.
David demonstrated this very thing some years before when he had it in his power to destroy king Saul, and seemingly every right to do so. (1 Samuel 24:2-22; 26:7-25)
Elijah is severe in matters of religion: but he is also constitutional in matters of state. But as we have stated previously, Elijah’s work in Israel was neither to create a republic, nor usurp the monarch’s scepter.
”Love the brotherhood,” says Peter; "fear god, honor the king.”(1 Peter 2:17)
How strong it furnished in behalf of that faith which called upon potentates to listen to prophets, as Ahab at carmel, and yet called upon prophets to pay homage to potentates, as Elijah amid the wild rushing tempest in the valley of Jezreel.
At the entrance of Jezreel the gate swung open for Ahab, who continued on, and after a long and exhausting day retires to his exquisitely furnished palace for rest and relaxation.
The people make their way to their homes with family and friends and neighbors rejoicing because the extended drought was broken.
Elijah, running in the rain, turned aside at the entrance of Jezreel, and possibly he and his servant bedded down somewhere along the wall.
No one came forth to bid him come to their home to spend the night and eat a good meal with their family and friends.
This same kind of scene would be played out in the life of our Lord some eight hundred years later, when after a long day of ministering in Jerusalem, “And every man went unto his own house (with family and friends). Jesus went unto the mount of olives” (to pray and commune with His Father in the night hours). (John 7:53; 8:1)
The Arab aversion, which Elijah is supposed to have shared, to entering cities, has often been used to allude to the fact that he was not an Israelite.
9. FROM TRIUMPH TO DESPAIR
2 Kings 19
It is well said by the epistle of James that “Elijah was a man subject to like passions as we are.” (James 5:18)
We shall see ourselves in this passage. it is humanity at work.
Human character is more complex than many imagine. Its elements are so diverse, and sometimes so contradictory, that only God can fairly judge it
The biographies of scripture and the subtleties of our own hearts combine to enforce the lesson, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.”
If we were judging, or naming rank, we would have placed in the foremost rank the disciple who first acknowledged the divinity of our Lord (Matthew 16:16), and we would have cast him of the church who denied his Lord with oaths and curses (Matthew 26:74).
Yet both he that acknowledged and he that swore denial are the outpourings of the same character.
Never was contradictions more complete than in Elijah.
One day he leads a whole nation in penitence, and with courage unwavering leads it in the slaughter of Baal’s prophets, yet the next day he flees to save his life, as one who has given up all hope of Jehovah’s cause.
None but the pitiful and patient Father-God would have judged him aright; nor was Elijah the last to say, “Thy gentleness hath made me great.” (2 Samuel 22:36)
In this lesson we are reminded that it is difficult to judge ourselves as well as others. (Matthew 7:1-5)
On Carmel, Elijah might have thought himself invincible, and in Horeb an unmitigated coward, but he was neither.
Scriptures detail a wide variety of moods in the same individual. We shall discuss and explain that varieties of mood do not afford a fair judge to character.
We are not infidels because we pass through a phase of doubt, we are not reprobates because we are deeply conscious of sin, nor are we Christians because we enjoy a religious service.
A sad and frequent experience of every individuals religious life, that of despondency, is set before us here, and we will seek to discover its causes, and God’s remedy for it.
We will discuss other Bible Characters that demonstrate mood swings—Job, David, Jonah, Peter, and Paul.
Here is a partial list of the causes of mood swings in Elijah, and the others we have named, as well as ourselves. See if you can find yourself in these stories.
1. Reaction after excitement.
2. Exhaustion of physical and nervous energy.
3. Absence of sympathy.
4. Influence of doubt.
6. Invincibility of antagonists.
7. Enforced inactivity.
We also want to take note of the special attention which God gave to those who succumbed under the weight of these, and other, circumstances.
1 Kings 19:1. And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain all the (false) prophets with the sword. (kjv)
The sun would long have been set, and the road to Jezreel muddy, from the “abundance of rain” which was falling, and the only light was from the lightning flashes, when Elijah broke away from in front of Ahab’s chariot and turned down along the wall of the city.
Ahab, excited about the events of the day, especially the pouring rain, continued to the place to unfold to his cohort, the queen, the things that happened that day.
Jezebel was well aware of the gathering on Carmel, and possibly, from the upper chamber of the place, some seventeen mile away, could see the large throng , and especially the smoke rising from the altar of Elijah.
As Ahab unfolded the story, the first mention of Elijah’s name deepens the crimson on that painted face. (2 Kings 9:30)
“And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done,…" (ver. 1a) was there no word, then, of what God had done? Did he think that Elijah, by his own power, or holiness, had brought fire down from heaven?
Let us note two capital faults in the way Ahab told his story.
1. He did not recount what Jehovah had done.
2. He did not properly distinguish the “prophets” as idolatrous and false.
Perhaps Ahab was afraid in the presence of Jezebel to connect the awful portent with the name of the Lord God Jehovah. That would be same as confessing before her that “the Lord he is God.” (18:24)
1 Kings 19:2a. Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah, ... (kjv
The prophet, wrapped in his mantel, was seemingly about to spend the night in the open air, possibly at the gate, or down somewhere along the wall.
The queen was so enraged at the news that her prophets were dead, slain with the sword, at the instigation of Elijah, that she could not sleep that night till she made sure that Elijah did not sleep. She did this by summoning a messenger in the midnight hours with a portent message for him.
Many times Satan does not have the power, or liberty, to carry out his threats (Job 1:12), but will use those threats to rob us of a good nights sleep.
Someone (Hall) has written, “She swears and stamps at that whereat she should have trembled. There is no hate like a woman’s, no wickedness like hers. They never do things by halves.”
“Men differ at most as heaven and earth,
But women, best and worst, as heaven and hell.”
1 Kings 19:2b. .., Saying, so let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by to morrow about this time. (kjv)
She was summing up all the divinities of Phoenicia, or of paganism generally, because jezebel would not swear by the one god of Elijah or Israel.
This is like much of the profane swearing that we hear, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
It cost little to invoke factitious deities, the gods she swore by could do her no harm, they had not been able to save their own prophets. (1 Kings 18:40; judges 4:31)
1 Kings 19:2c. .., If I make not thy life as the life of one of them by to morrow about this time. (kjv)
This statement shows the blind unreasoning hate, the exasperation, and the reckless and desperate character of the queen.
It must be remembered that this message was dispatched, not after she had time for thought and reasoning, but on the spur of the moment, as soon as she had heard of the massacre of the prophets of Baal. That night she could do nothing, nor perhaps could she see her way clearly to compass his death on the morrow.
But she will have him know that he is not going to escape her, and that, whatever effect he had on her husband, she is unconquered and unrelenting. She did not stop to think that he may take alarm and flee, but she must gratify her fierce rage immediately by threatening him with death the next day.
But we must remember that the enemies of God’s Church and prophets are always chained (Revelation 20:1-2), and sometimes are senseless too. There would be no living for Godly men if the hands of tyrants were allowed to be as bloody as their hearts.
10. ELIJAH FLEES FOR HIS LIFE
Her threat preserved him whom she meant to kill.
1 Kings 19:3a. And when he saw that, he arose, and went for his life. .. (kjv)
The messenger from Jezebel delivered her threat, and how she had sworn by all the gods of the underworld that she would slay him like he had slain all the prophets of Baal within twenty four hours.
Elijah, upon hearing this threat, disappears in the night, in the pouring rain, along with his servant, without consulting God.
The scriptures clearly indicate that he feared for his life. So the old Arab instinct induced him, in a moment of weakness, to flee from danger, and from duty as well.
“He arose, and went (fled) for his life.”
His flight seems to have been instant and hurried.
History tells of many great souls, hardly less brave than Elijah, which have succumbed to sudden panic.
It is evident that for the moment Elijah lost faith in God, otherwise he would certainly have waited for the “word of the Lord,” which had invariably guided his movements before. (1 Kings 17:2, 8; 18:1)
There is no doubt that other emotions besides that of fear were struggling in his breast, and prominent among these was the feeling of profound disappointment and humiliation.
He had hoped that the day on Carmel would turn the heart of the entire nation back again to God (18:37), and the great shout of the people (18:39), and the subsequent execution of the prophets who had deceived and depraved them, might well justify his highest expectations.
Elijah was passing through that trying time experienced by all of God’s children when they discover that there are no permanent victories.
He was disgusted at the fickleness of the public which had cheered him on Carmel and then turned to follow his foe, Queen Jezebel.
It seemed to him that even the Lord had let him down by leading him into crisis and then deserting him.
Depressed and frightened, he fled into the wilderness.
Let us follow Elijah’s footsteps as he flees from his post at Jezreel, at the threat from Jezebel. We will stop at each station along the way and sit with him there.
I will assure that we can identify with him there.
There are many of us which have taken this journey in our spiritual walk, and there are some, even now, sitting at each of these stations, feeling exactly like Elijah felt 2,800 years ago.
1 Kings 19:3b. .., and came to Beersheba, which belongeth to Judah, and left his servant there. (kjv)
Beer-sheba was about 95 miles from Jezreel, and Elijah cannot have reached it till the close of the third or fourth day.
But we must remember that his pace would be regulated by the powers of his servant, who was probably only a lad (LXX), so that it is hardly likely he could travel day and night without stopping to rest.
It strikes us as a sad note that of that vast assembly, which was so moved on Carmel, only this Zidonian boy of Zarephath, remained faithful to him.
It is probably because he wished to be alone with God that he left his servant in Beer-sheba, and also it would be a safe place for the lad.
When we remember that this servant never rejoined Elijah, but in about two months Elisha took his place; we can scarcely help wondering whether he was afraid to accompany Elijah, or were the circumstances too harsh and he returned back to Zarephath? (Acts 15:37-38)
Beer-sheba was at the extreme southern end of the cultivated land, and beyond was desert and wilderness land. (Genesis 21:14)
One could wonder, could not Elijah have found solace at Beer-sheba, in the memories of past events which took place here?
It was here that angels dug a well to give water to a dying son of Abraham. (Genesis 21:15-19)
Here Abraham had often communed with God (Genesis 21:33), and Isaac had built an altar (Genesis. 26:23-25), In fact the whole scene is full of lingering devotion, where, at “the well of the oath” (Genesis 21:30-31), the habitation of the patriarchs, many holy hours had been spent among the tents and flocks.
There are times we long to return to our “Bethel” as Jacob did after 37 years (Genesis 28:10-19; 35:1-7), and like he did, rededicate our hearts and lives to God at the old altar.
We long for the place where, as a small child, God first spoke to our hearts, to kneel at the make-shift altar where we first knelt and called upon God, to visit the place where we were baptized and God washed our sins away, and to stand, or sit, or lay, once again where God filled us with His Spirit.
Or to recall the old camp-meeting days where old-time preachers stirred our hearts with the “Word from God.”
But the flight of the prophet was not over, and memories alone would not help him in his troubled state of mind.
11. ELIJAH IN THE WILDERNESS
1 Kings 19:4a. But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: ... (kjv)
This is the same path which was trodden by many other characters in the scriptures.
Hagar left Abraham’s tent and wandered in this desolate place. (Genesis 21:14)
Moses fled from Pharaoh’s hand and dwelt in this same wilderness for forty years until God appeared to him in a burning bush. (Exodus 3:1)
The children of Israel wandered “through all that great and terrible wilderness.” (Deuteronomy 1:19)
John the Baptist’s preparation for ministry was in “the wilderness of Judaea,” which is the same into which Elijah now plunged. (Luke 1:80; Matthew 3:1)
Jesus himself was “driven by the spirit into the wilderness, there to be tempted by Satan and wild beasts for 40 days.” (Mark 1:12-13)
But thank God that each of these incidents have been preserved for our benefit (1 Corinthians 10:6) to let us know that when we enter that wilderness, whether we flee there for fear of something, as Hagar, Moses, and Elijah, or just wander into it after losing our way, or driven there by the spirit, as John and Jesus was, that God follows our every footstep.
12. OUR OWN WILDERNESS EXPERIENCE
Four things I would like to emphasize from the story set before us here in (1 Kings 19.)
First every child of God will go through these wilderness experiences, there are no exceptions.
There is no exalted measure in Christ which will exempt one from wilderness experiences, no measure of the Holy Ghost which we can possess which will insure one from the wilderness.
Age does exempt one, nor will years of service. Abraham was 120 years old when he experienced one of his hardest trials (Genesis 22), and 137 when his beloved wife, Sarah, died, and this is the only recorded time that Abraham wept. (Genesis 23)
The second thing, when we enter that wilderness there is a terrible wrestling within our mental and emotional being.
Wild thoughts and imaginations come, described as ‘wild beast” in scripture (Deuteronomy 8:15; Mark 1:13)
Worst of all Satan is there, filling our minds with all kind of evil thoughts. (Matthew 4:1-13)
The third thing is the loneliness we experience when we go into the wilderness where no human can accompany us.
Friends, family, church family, may all be around us, but we feel so alone in our wilderness mood.
Hagar was alone, Jacob wrestled alone, Moses was alone when God appeared, Elijah left his servant in Beer-sheba and went alone into the wilderness alone, John the Baptist and Jesus was alone in the solitude of the wilderness.
No human hand was there to help, no human voice was heard to comfort and console them.
We sink into a shell, or go into a cave mode (we will discuss this later), a feeling of pity for ourselves, a feeling of hopelessness, a little anger, depression, and etc.
The fourth thing, and the most important thing, God is there, His angel is there, His power of preservation is there in the wilderness.
It was in this wilderness that the angel found Hagar and provided water and substance for her and her child.
In the wilderness of Arabia Jacob wrestled with God in the most trying and frightful time of his life. (Genesis 32:11-30)
In the wilderness, into which Elijah fled, Moses met God, manifesting himself in a burning bush. (Exodus 3:1-6)
Angels also ministered to Elijah during this wilderness experience, and God himself came in a most reassuring way. (1 Kings 19:5-8; 9-18)
We are told that angels ministered to our Lord during his wilderness trial (Mark 1:13)
These are written to assure each of us that we do not go unnoticed into the wilderness. Even though, many times, no human voice is there, no human hand can reach us, because we are so far into the wilderness, but God is there, His ministering spirits follow our every footstep.
Hebrews 13:5b. …: For he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. (kjv)
1 Kings 19:4a. But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, (kjv)
It was not for the sake of security alone that the prophet plunged into the “great and terrible wilderness.” (Deuteronomy 1:19)
It is probable that from the first, “Horeb, the mount of God,” was in his thoughts. He may well have seen that he was destined to be a second Moses; that he was raised up to assert and enforce the covenant of which Moses was the mediator.
How natural that, like Moses, he should flee into the land of Midian, to the place where God had spoken with Moses face to face.
The Jewish church, by its cycle of lessons, suggest a comparison between the law giver, Moses, and the law restorer, Elijah.
The wilderness offers little shelter.
13. ELIJAH UNDER A JUNIPER TREE
1 Kings 19:4b. .., And came and sat down under a juniper tree: ... (kjv)
Let us look at the shelter Elijah found in the wilderness.
Broken-hearted and alone, he wanders over the rocky waste-land, he has cut himself off from all human sympathy, and he has none to expect from God.
He is worn from travel, he is hungry for food, there are no ravens to bring him a welcome meal, and no widow woman to bake him a small cake. He takes shelter from the burning sun under a small bush, which grows abundantly in this area, called, in our Bible, a juniper tree, now known as the "broom" tree.
The most longed-for and most welcome bush of the desert, abundant in beds of streams and valleys, selected as spots where men sit down and sleep in order to be protected from the sun. It does not, however, offer complete protection because it is small, we would call it a scrub bush.
And like Elijah we also seek a shelter in our wilderness withdrawal, and find little. We turn to any little thing that we think will relieve us from the awful depression that bears upon us.
Then Elijah sinks to the lowest depths of human depression, bordering on despair, and throwing himself down under a juniper tree and he prayed.
14. IN THE DEPTHS OF DESPAIR
1 Kings 19:4b. …. :And he requested for himself that he might die; and said, it is enough; now, ... (kjv)
Once again we see a parallel of Moses’ life when the burden of the children of Israel got too great for him.
Numbers 11:14.I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me.
15. And if thou deal thus with me, kill me, I pray thee, out of hand, if I have found favour in thy sight; and let me not see my wretchedness. (kjv)
A spiritual crisis like this comes into the life of most men and women of God, and can be explained by two reasons.
1. First, there is a spiritual necessity for it.
The man, or woman, of God who has gained the first, or second, or tenth, great victory is apt to think that it is decisive and final, and that they may now cease to fight. And behold the evil that was vanquished yesterday lifts up its head again, and the conflict has to be begun again.
"It is enough…" we cry.
"I’ve fought a good fight …"
"I’ve finished my course …"
But no victory over an old enemy, an old craving, an old habit, is ever decisive. It will rise again somewhere, someway. It keeps us on our knees, and it makes us stronger each time we win.
2. Second, this painful crisis is permitted by god, who will not have his servants uplifted in their own eyes, even by the most splendid triumphs of the cause which it is their honor to maintain.
this is the explanation of the mysterious thorn in the flesh with which the apostle Paul was buffeted. (2 Corinthians 12:7-9)
It is also the cause of the momentary despondency of John the Baptist, which prompted that utterance of a faltering faith, "Art thou he that should come?" (Matthew 11:3)
And this is the reason we also sometimes come to a doubtful disposition. He who is pleased thus to exercise the soul of his children is himself their only efficient comforter.
We must learn that, "Our sufficiency is of God." (2 Corinthians 3:5)
We will see how God raised his downcast servant by means of a glorious vision.
Let us listen to Elijah talking to God, while in this low mental condition.
1 Kings 19:4c. …; Now, O Lord, take away my life; … (kjv)
A strange contradiction! Here is a man who was destined not to taste of death, flees from death at the hand of Jezebel on the one hand, and seeks it on the other.
4d. …For I am not better than my fathers. (kjv
These words clearly reveal the great hopes Elijah had formed as to the result of his mission, and the terrible disappointment his banishment had brought upon him.
Time was when he had thought himself a most special messenger of heaven, raised up to effect the regeneration of his country. He now thinks his work is fruitless, and he has nothing to live for longer.
Some have concluded from this that Elijah was already of a great age, but this is extremely doubtful judging by his great physical strength and ability. (1 Kings 18:46)
Now let us analyze what we have read.
15. THE WEAKNESS OF HUMANITY
The Psalmist asks the question,
Psalm 8:4. What is man, that thou art mindful of him? And the son of man, that thou visitest him?
5. For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.
6. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: (kjv)
Shakespeare says in hamlet,
"What a piece of work is man!
How noble in reason!
How infinite in faculties!
In form, and moving, how express and admirable!
In action how like an angel!
In apprehension how like a god!"
IN ELIJAH WE SEE MAN AT HIS BEST!
He was one of the three greatest men in human history. Two of them stood with Jesus on the Mount Of Transfiguration. The other, the Apostle to the Gentiles, was yet to be chosen.
Elijah is distinguished even from his brother prophets, by the work he was called to do, by the powers with which he was entrusted, by the grace given to him, by the care taken of him, and by the triumphant end granted him.
But how weak and unworthy does the elect messenger of God now appear, under the juniper tree. How completely he, like us, is at the hand of circumstances, how full of contradictions his, like Peter’s (Matthew 26:35), conduct.
At one moment he flees for his life; at the next he requests for himself that he may die.
Someone asks, "Doeth he wish to be rid of his life because he feared to lose it?"
Yesterday, strong in the faith, fearing neither man nor devil; today, trembling before a woman, wretched and despairing.
And this is Elijah, the restorer of the law, the express ambassador of heaven.
It is well said that he was "A man subject to like passions as we are." (James 5:18)
HERE IS HUMANITY AT ITS BEST, AND HOW POOR AND WEAK IT IS!
"..; Now, O Lord take away my life;…"
We are not fittest for heaven when we are most tired of earth; we must "Enter into his gates with thanksgiving and into his courts with praise, (Psalm 100:4)" not with complaints and accusations.
Elijah said, "It is enough," but God said no; there was other work to be done, and he was not to die the death of a hunted felon. God careth for the body; precious in his sight is not only the death, but also the felt need of his people.
The same great Jehovah, whose manifestations on Carmel had been so awful in its grandeur, condescended to his servant in the hour of his utmost need, and with unspeakable tenderness, like a mother, tended his weary child.
16. GOD BINDS UP THE BROKEN HEARTED
1 Kings 19:5a. And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, ... (kjv)
We can never thoroughly understand the feelings of a person unless we take into account the sources and occasions of them and try to put ourselves in his place.
In this phrase (v. 5a) we can understand some of the manifest causes of his despondency. We will discuss four of them.
1. First thing was physical exhaustion.
Elijah’s prayer for death was evidently under the influence of physical exhaustion and discomfort. Not only was he way-worn with his journey and exposure to the sun, but faint also for want of food and drink.
The answer came to his prayer, therefore, in the blessing of refreshing sleep. In this way God begins Elijah’s restoration. His human body and spirit had experienced a great strain upon them, and now suffered a corresponding relapse.
The relation that exists between the state of the body and the state of the spirit is very mysterious, but very real. The elation or depression of our religious feelings depends far more on mere physical condition than we often imagine.
A diseased, or infirm, body will often cause a dark cloud to come over the spirits firmament. Much that is morbid in the religious thoughts and emotions of good people needs to be dealt with by the physician of the body rather than of the soul.
Even the gigantic strength of Elijah underwent a terrible strain on Carmel—anxiety, enthusiasm, burning zeal, exultation, all combined to agitate him, and these were preceded by many days and nights of passionate, agonizing prayer.
God’s provision for the prophet—the sleep that came over him as a tired child, the food, prepared by angelic hands, prove that this was recognized. Rest, good food, fresh air, and change of scene would do more than religious exercises to restore tone to some who are despondent.
2. The second cause leading to his despondency, loneliness
Elijah was without the companionship and sympathy of those who would share his labors and perils. This was one of his complaints he made in his answer to God’s inquiry of why he was in the wilderness.
1 Kings 19:10b...; And I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away. (kjv)
It is a single handed conflict in which he is involved, he thought. There are none to stand by him, none whom he can trust—how many of us can identify with elijah in this? Such isolation is the severest possible test of fidelity.
Think of Paul: "At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me." (2 Timothy 4:16)
And of Christ: "I have trodden the winepress alone, and of the people there was none with me." (Isaiah 63:3)
Supernatural help will often come for special emergencies and will make the soul sublimely independent of external aid. But it is hard to carry on a long, patient conflict with difficulties alone.
"Alone in a crowd" is a true description of many a disciple of Christ who is thinking his own thoughts and fighting his own battles. This shows the wisdom god has made in church fellowship.
3. The third thing which was bearing on him, lack of success.
Elijah felt that his ministry was all in vain. How many of us have had the same feeling? His solemn testimony given on Carmel has passed away without effecting any real change in the conditions of things. The fire that consumed his sacrifice has gone out, and Jezebel has most likely thrown down his altar.
Righteous vengeance has been inflicted on the idolatrous prophets, and the Kishon has swept away their blood. The drought has done its work, and the rain has returned upon the land. And now all seems to be as hostile and treacherous and full of cruel hate as ever. As to the people, there is no reason to believe that they will remain faithful to their vows.
Surely, Elijah feels, he is living his sad life in vain. The dreariest of all things to a man of high purpose—that his labor is utterly fruitless. It sweeps like a withering wind through his soul, and he wishes he were dead.
1 Kings 19:4b...: And he requested for himself that he might die; and said, it is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers. (kjv)
We also see this despondency played out in the writings of the Apostle Paul to the Philippian church while shut away in a Roman prison.
Philippians 1:21. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
22. But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not.
23. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: (kjv)
4. The fourth cause of despondency, a lack of responsibility.
When the hands of those who ought to be busy about some work for God are idle, their hearts are left a prey to all sorts of mental influences. Religious activity is one of the main secrets of religious health, and when circumstances sever one from his responsibilities there is a mental let-down which follows.
When the time comes, that, through age or infirmities, a Pastor and his wife must relinquish the pastorate of a Church that they have worked and labored in most of their lives, there is a tremendous emotional let-down. There are no more calls from someone needing them to pray or visit with them.
"Burn-out" happens in every profession and it is just as likely to happen to a minister of the gospel as to any one in any other profession. Many a minister has forsaken his call and been subjected to the inward disquietude which will always be the penalty of a man’s having weakly or willfully deserted the path of duty.
When the hands of those who ought to be busy about some work for God are idle, their hearts are left a prey to all sorts of evil influences. And when good men place themselves in a false position, they must expect the shadow of some morbid condition of feeling to fall upon their spirits.
What is our grand business in this world but to battle against the weakness of our nature, and the forces of adverse circumstances? And when difficulties of our position gather thickest about us, then is the time to cast ourselves most fearlessly on the divine power that will enable us to overcome them, and listen to the voice that says, "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life." (Revelation 2:10)
Those were some of the manifest causes of Elijah’s depression which prompted his prayer for God to take away his life, complete physical exhaustion, loneliness, lack of success in his ministry, and fleeing from his responsibilities.
17. "HE RESTORETH MY SOUL"
God’s way of dealing with Elijah -
1 Kings 19:5. And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, ("while death is called for, the cousin of death comes unbidden," hall) behold then, an angel touched him, and said unto him, arise and eat. (kjv)
Thanks be to God for the blessed forgetfulness of slumber—riches to the poor, and health to all. We wear these bodies out, and nightly comes the nurse to apply the balm, to close the eyelids, and unconsciously, as the dark hours pass, to restore the waste and loss.
"Sleep, sleep, which is indeed but sweet release; how hundreds would give half their fortune to enjoy thee in upper chambers, where foot-steps must be soft, and utterances but in whispers; and how, to the desolate in heart, thou comest a balm from heaven, where the sorrow is forgotten, and mysterious spirit wings its way to dream-land of melody and joy." (Howat).
It was even so with Elijah—nay, it was more.
The prophet had forgotten God, but God had not forgotten the prophet.
He who sent an angel to Hagar in the wilderness of Shur, sends an angel to Elijah in the wilderness of Iduma; and he who, in Hagar’s extremity, provided the well, provides now, in Elijah’s extremity, the cake baked on the coals, and the cruse of water at the prophet’s head.
Humble fare yet far more than he deserved and as much as a man of the desert requires. God had provided for Elijah before, beside the Cherith, when, morning and evening, the ravens brought food, for, perhaps, twelve to eighteen months. (1 Kings 17:6)
On that occasion Elijah was in the will of God and obeying God’s command. (1 Kings 17:2-6) Yet on this occasion Elijah was clearly out of the will of God and had not received instructions from God to be there. (1 Kings 19:9&13)
v. 5b. "…, Behold then, an angel touched him,…"
Observed how God uses the ministry of angels. The Bible’s references to angels are almost too numerous to mention, we will list a few taken from the new testament. (Matthew 4:11; Luke 1:11-20; 1:26-38; 22:43; Acts 5:19; 12:8; 27:23)
Hebrews 1:14. Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation? (kjv)
This was no ordinary angel but, "an angel of the Lord (v.7)," a term used by the bible to describe a Theophany, or a manifestation of God himself, which appeared on several occasions.
No wilderness is too solitary for the attendance of these blessed spirits. Remember in all hours of despondency that He, who knew the agony of Gethsemane, and Calvary, pities us and feels for us.
Hebrews 4:15. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. (kjv)
1 Kings 19:6. And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. ... (kjv)
While he slept his breakfast was made ready for him by those spiritual hands. The thin flat bread of the east is baked in a rude oven constructed in the sand, or soil.
It is lined with stones to hold the heat; twigs and roots and leaves are placed upon it and kindled, and when the sand, or stones, are hot, the embers are raked to one side, and the dough is poured on the stones and covered with the embers. This is the way our lord cooked breakfast for his disciples immediately after the resurrection. (John 21:9)
1 Kings 19:6. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again. (kjv)
This shows the total exhaustion of Elijah’s physical frame.
1 Kings 19:7. And the angel of the Lord came again the second time, and touched him, and said, arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee. (kjv)
Elijah probably had eaten very little the first time, due to weariness and depression and promptly laid down and fell asleep again. A while later the angel came again and awoke him to eat once more, saying that the road ahead was long and hard, and without this special nourishment he would faint by the way.
We must remember that we also must have the natural food to sustain our bodies along with the spiritual food from heaven or we also will faint in the time of trial. It is God’s will that we care for our bodies with the proper nourishment that we may be strong physically to perform the tasks he has for us to do.
Many times the inner man is weak because the outer man has been neglected or abused. When we find our spirits in a morbid state let us look to our health.
The spiritual food is provided to us through Bible reading and prayer, and through the communion and fellowship with the saints of God in the Church service, along with the ministry of god’s word. (Matthew 4:4) During these times angels come and minister to the needs of the saints
God is a wise physician—food first, rebuke after.
Twice the broken-hearted prophet slept,
Twice the angelic messenger came down,
Twice Elijah is fed with his miraculous meal.
Notice the gentle touch by the angel each time he came. In this we see the father’s love. Sometimes God rebukes with kindness.
He dealt with Elijah as he always deals with us--not merely beyond what we deserve, but beyond our imagination. When the prophet fled to Cherith, in the path of duty, he is fed by ravens; when he flees to Idumea, out of the path of duty, he is fed by a ministering angel.
Let us look at the way God dealt with the wandering prophet. "Arise and eat:" it was precisely what Elijah needed. In his present condition (weary, disappointed, depressed, to the point of wishing to die) it would have been useless to reason with him.
Let the body be brought back to strength, then God would take his erring servant to task, faithfully and for his profit. We need to learn this lesson well: kindness and gentleness will subdue where severity and harshness will only harden and lock up the soul.
The apostle Paul said it best,
Galatians 6:1. Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. (kjv)
We will pick up the story of Elijah in the next study #4 on this web site, as he makes his way to Mount Horeb, the Mount of God, where God will speak to him again.
We hope you are enjoying the study of Elijah and will read the other studies on this web site.
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By James L. Thornton