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ELIJAH THE TISHBITE
By James L. Thornton
In the previous Studies, N umber 1, 2, 3, we have followed Elijah from his first appearing in the great halls of Samaria where he declared that there would be no rain until he gave the word. From there to the brook Cherith for a year, then to Zarephath where he stayed with a widow woman and her son for two and a half years.
In the meanwhile the ensuing drought had taken its toll on the nation of Israel. God sent him back to Israel to confront Ahab, and the prophets of Baal and Asherah, on Mount Carmel. The rains came again in answer to his prayer, and Elijah outrunning the chariot of Ahab back to Jezreel.
We left Elijah in our last Study #3 in the wilderness where he had fled from the threats of Jezebel. We take up this Study #4 where we left off with Elijah refreshed by the gentle mercy of God's angel.
1. Elijah At Mount Horeb
2. God Speaks To Elijah Once Again
3. A Violent Wind
4. An Earthquake
5. A Fire Storm
6. A Still Small Voice
7. God Commissions Elijah Again
8. God's Hidden Ones
9. The Call Of Elisha
10. Elisha' Background
11. Elisha' Call To Service
12. Elisha' Response To The Call & The Cost Of That Call
13. A Period Of Silence
14. Wars With Syria
15. The Sins Of The People
16. The Sins Of The Rulers
17. Armies And Kings Are Pawns In God's Hands
1. Elijah At Mount Horeb: (1 Kings 19:8-18)
1 Kings 19:8. And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God. (KJV)
The dispirited prophet has been aroused and fed. But not yet has he arrived at a full sense of his position as a fugitive from God. He rises from beneath his sheltering shrub. The feeling of loneliness and alarm is still present in his bosom.
He seems resolved to retire from his post of duty altogether. He cannot think of retracing his steps through the wilderness of Idumea and the Kingdom of Judah.
One solitary man, he cannot confront the entire political strength of Israel; and so, across the Sinai desert, a journey of two hundred fifty miles, and through six long weeks of exile, the broken-hearted prophet travels on.
He could have accomplished the journey in a shorter period.
At the rate of fifteen miles a day, a comparative trifle to a man of the mountains. He could have reached his destination in twenty days with ease.
But burdened by the ever present and predominating thought that he is the one representative of God left in the land (1 Kings 19:10 & 14), he wanders up and down, with nothing for support but the food he had received from the angel, until, on the fortieth evening, he came to Horeb the Mount of God.
1 Kings 19:9a. And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there;..
The phrase "and lodged there," means strictly, "to spend the night."
No scene could be more suitable for the glorious visitation which follows.
Elijah was now on "Holy Ground," the "Mount of God," where God met with Moses and wrote the Ten Commandments upon the two tables of stone with his finger. (Exodus 34:1)
Many commentators identify this cave with the "Cleft of Rock" where Moses was concealed with God’s hand while the Lord "passed by" (Exodus 33:22), and certainly there are Hebrew words used which favor this view.
God had strengthened Elijah for this very journey, because God would meet with him and teach him lessons of patience and trust.
1 Kings 19:9b. …; and, behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah? (KJV)
The Prophet has been followed To Horeb; He has forsaken His Calling, But God is too merciful to forsake him. He was discovered under the Juniper Tree; He is discovered in the Cave. God’s Presence forever follows us.
Psalm 139:9. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;
10. Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. (KJV)
Even though Elijah was clearly out of the will of God, fleeing his responsibilities, but surely it does not follow that God denies all grace and sustenance to his elect servants even if they do, in a moment of despair, forget or distrust Him.
God Never Deals With Us As We Deserve, Or As We Deal With One Another.
"If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? (Psalms 130:3)" "If they break my statues . . . Then will I visit their transgression with the rod . . . Nevertheless, my loving-kindness will I not utterly take from him," &c. (Psalms 89:31-33)
2. God Speaks To Elijah Once Again:
"The word of the lord came to him, and he said unto him, what doest thou here, Elijah?" (1 Kings 19:9)
If the word did not come to us when we stray, how then could we be reclaimed? God must take the first step. (John 6:44; Luke 19:10)
It is more than doubtful whether there was any audible voice at this time (see ver. 15). God spoke through his conscience. And this is still the instrument used by the Holy Ghost.
Have we not all heard this question in our secret souls? Perhaps when we stood in the way of sinners, or sat in the seat of the scornful. God has a way of searching our souls.
Someone has said that our conscience is the greatest preacher we will ever hear, and that is what God used at this moment to speak to Elijah.
It was addressed to him personally. "What doest thou here, Elijah?"
1 Kings 19:10. And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away. (KJV)
Elijah did not give a direct answer to the question, but began to unburden his soul to the Lord.
If we read the Apostle Paul’s account of this moment in the life of Elijah he informs us that these things transpired during a period of intense prayer, a time of meditation, of intercession, and pleading to God.
Romans 11:2b. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying,
3. Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life. (KJV)
Elijah’s answer to the question which the Lord prompted through his conscience was a defense of his actions of fleeing from his duty. Later the same question would come in an audible voice. (ver. 13)
His answer certainly betrays not only irritation and despair, but a carnal zeal which would gladly have called down the vengeance of the almighty upon all idolaters.
It was almost as if he had the feeling that God had looked on so quietly for such a length of time, and had allowed things to come to such an extremity.
The idea which this verse (v.10), taken in connection with the prophet’s flight (v.3), and his prayer for death (v.4), leaves on our mind is that in his zeal for God, he resented, not only the growing corruption of the age, but, above all, the frustration of his efforts to stay it.
What burdened and vexed his righteous soul was that in the very hour of victory, when the people had confessed that Jehovah alone was God, he, the solitary witness for the truth, should be driven from his post to escape as best he could, and to leave the covenant people to the evil influence of Jezebel and her army of false prophets.
It is the cry which we hear over and over again in the Old Testament, and see it played out in the persecution of the Early Church, the complaint of the silence and seeming indifference of God, to the persecution of the righteous, and the seeming impunity of evil doers.
We also are tempted to think as David (Psalms 73:2-20), when we see the prosperity of the wicked, but we must remember that when the iniquity of the world is full (Genesis 15:16), God will call the whole world to stand in judgment. (Acts 17:31)
Ecclesiastes 8:11. Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.
12. Though a sinner do evil an hundred times, and his days be prolonged, yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him:
13. But it shall not be well with the wicked, neither shall he prolong his days, which are as a shadow; because he feareth not before God. (KJV)
But we also must take into consideration the deep despondency with which Elijah spoke, and remember the correction which his words received. (v.18)
But surely it does not follow that God denies all grace and sustenance to his elect servants even if they do, in a moment of despair, forget or distrust him.
Elijah Yearns For Sympathy.
As we listen to the wail of the prophet, he has gotten his pent up sorrow out at last.
He has delivered his soul from its distressing burden, and even in its heaviness he finds relief. Do not we all begin to feel relief when we take our burdens to the Lord in prayer?
We blame not the prophet that he yearns for sympathy---it is the yearning of every earnest soul.
Remember, amid the darkness, spiritual far more than material, of the cross itself, do we not hear the cry, "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me.?" (Mark 15:34)
Then Once Again The Voice Spoke In Elijah’s Inner-Most Being.
1 Kings 19:11a. And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. (KJV)
This is the moment which Jesus spoke of, 900 years later, which comes to every seeking despondent soul in the story of the Prodigal Son.
Luke 15:17a. And when he came to himself, He Said …
18a. I will arise and go to my father, …
20a. And he arose, and came to his father. ... (KJV)
Job also spake of a time when, "The sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, …" (Job 1:6 & 2:1)
In this lies the answer to every burdened soul, "stand…. Before the Lord." (ver. 11) it is only in the presence of our maker that we learn our nothingness.
Job 42:5. I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee.
6. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes. (KJV)
Perhaps Paul said it best, "…. beholding…. the glory of the Lord, (We) are changed into the same image from glory to glory, ..."
It seems, according to (verse 13) ,that Elijah did not arise at once so God caused a great display of powerful forces to come upon the mountain.
Of these glorious manifestations only passing glimpses could be caught under the Old Testament. (Exodus 33:18-23)
I feel that if Elijah had been obedient to that inner voice commanding him to arise that God would have appeared to him as he did to Moses, standing at this same hallowed place at the "Clefts of the Rock." (Exodus 33:22-23)
But he did not arise immediately, so, "The Lord passed by, ..." and there followed him a hurricane.
3. A Violent Wind:
1 Kings 19:11c. "…, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD;…" (KJV)
The wind pulled rocks off the cliffs, and the rocks were hurled about like they were thrown from a sling. The clouds above were driven about like armies in battle, winds raging, driving the dust and sand, like an ocean in its fury.
There Is Power Here, But It Is The Power Of The Tornado, Awful And Appalling.
There is majesty here, but it is the majesty of the storm, alarming and distressing There is no feeling of peace, or nearness, or calm, of holy joy.
1 Kings 19:11d. "…; But the Lord was not in the wind:" (KJV)
4. An Earthquake:
1 Kings 19:11e. "…: and after the wind an earthquake; …" (KJV)
Yet the prophet did not come out of the cave, so, the Lord again passes by, and in his footsteps there was "an earthquake; …"
The prophet reels and rocks about as the earth sinks beneath him, the whole mountain quivers and convulses, the highest peaks of Horeb move and sway about, and the roar of the shaking mountains are so loud as to bring fear to the heart of any man.
Psalm 104:32. He looketh on the earth, and it trembleth: he toucheth the hills, and they smoke. (KJV)
Habakkuk 3:6. "..; and the everlasting mountains were scattered, the perpetual hills did bow: his ways are everlasting." (KJV)
There was power here again, Majesty here again, but only that of terror, not tranquility, uproar of the fiercest and wildest of nature, but no sweet communication from a covenant God.
I Kings 19:11f. "…; The Lord was not in the earthquake." (KJV)
And yet Elijah did not appear at the entrance of the cave, so the Lord passed by again.
5. A Firestorm:
1 Kings 19:12a. "And after the earthquake a fire…" (KJV)
From every part of heaven, around every summit and along every ridge of Horeb, plays the flash and flame, followed by the incessant crash of thunder. It was one incessant, universal blaze. It made the darkness of the night brighter than the noonday sun. It stuns even him who is the prophet of fire.
My wife and I once spent such a night in our camper at a middle Tennessee campground when a late spring storm came in the night and stalled between the hills.
For several hours the storm raged, the wind bowed the trees, the torrential rain fell, but far worse was the incessant lightening which snapped and popped so very close, lighting up the campground as bright as day.
Needless to say it was a night of prayer and intercession to the God of the universe, and when morning came a time of thanksgiving.
So Very Awful And Terrible Are The Forces Of Nature.
Ride with the disciples in their little ship on the Sea of Galilee and hear their cries of distress as the storm rages around them. (Luke 8:23)
Or with Luke and the Apostle Paul on the Mediterranean when for fourteen days and nights a "tempestuous wind called Euroclydon" battered the ship insomuch as everything was lost, including the ship, save the people on the ship. (Acts 28)
But only God knew how precious a cargo was on board that ship. Two men who survived that voyage were to later write more than one half the New Testament.
After that voyage, the Apostle Paul wrote at least eight letters, known as the prison epistles, and Luke wrote his gospel and the book of Acts after that voyage, books and letters which would help change the world.
6. A Still Small Voice:
1 Kings 19:12b. "…; But The Lord was not in the Fire; And after the Fire A Still Small Voice."
What a night of terror, I know of no other man who experienced so many violent acts of nature in one single night, any one of these would have been enough to terrorize any man.
All the upheavals of nature were a reflection of the conflict within the heart of Elijah. How many of us have had, or are having, such conflicts?
The uproar in nature was succeeded by a solemn calm; and as Elijah waited for the next marvelous display of Divine Power, "A Still Small Voice" broke the silence.
The "still small voice," which only a listening man can hear, was more Divine and more mighty that all Elijah had witnessed before.
In John 12:28-29. We have an incident where God spoke and John recognized who spoke, but some of the crowd heard only a noise like thunder, others thought an angel had spoken.
So, we must be in a receptive mood to hear from God.
Eliphaz the Temanite explains this presence when he breaks in on Job’s despondency.
Job 4:12. Now a thing was secretly brought to me, and mine ear received a little thereof.
13. In thoughts from the visions of the night, when deep sleep falleth on men,
14. Fear came upon me, and trembling, which made all my bones to shake.
15. Then a spirit passed before my face; the hair of my flesh stood up:
16. It stood still, but I could not discern the form thereof: an image was before mine eyes, there was silence, and I heard a voice, saying, (KJV)
Of what particular kind of sound "The Still Small Voice" consisted, whether articulate or otherwise, we do not know; but one thing is evident, it spoke louder to Elijah than all the previous storm and terror.
1 Kings 19:13a. And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. (KJV)
No sooner does Elijah hear the whisper that indicates a special presence, than he wraps his face in his mantle, and, like Moses, he "trembled, and durst not behold (dared not to look)." (Acts 7:32)
Let us note the difference in the bearing and demeanor of Elijah when he came to stand in the presence of Jehovah, as when he came before Ahab and the prophets of Baal.
How stern he was with Ahab, how overbearing and commanding he was with the prophets of Baal
But when he stood in the presence of "The Lord God of Israel" (1 Kings 17:1), he was the humble servant the perfect picture of reverence, even to the point of covering his eyes.
I read in Isaiah 6:2 that the highest of God’s angels cover their faces in his presence. Elijah wrapped his face in his mantle and came forth in the most reverent attitude to stand before Jehovah.
1 Kings 19:13b. ... And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah? (KJV)
Note that the expression is different from (verse 9).
There we read of “the Word of the Lord," which I believe was through his conscience, here a voice, but this is not to be identified with the "Still Small Voice" of (verse 12).
There were ministrations then; there is a "voice" now, and the voice is the Voice of God.
A Few Times, To A Few People, God Has Spoken. Not often has it been heard on earth; but always when heard it has spoken in words not soon to be forgotten.
Thus to Adam, "Where Art Thou?", to Eve, "What is this that thou hast done?", to Cain, "Where is Able thou brother?" yet the day will come when everyone will hear his voice. (John 5:28-29)
And so to the desponding prophet, the first direct utterance of God since he left Jezreel, for it was an angel that spoke as he lay under the juniper tree, "What Dust Thou Here, Elijah?"
Notice the strong individuality of the question, "What Doest Thou Here, Elijah?"
Not the prophet only, but all of us, individually, must give account to God. (John 5:28-29)
It was the same question which God had already prompted through his conscience. (verse 9)
Elijah answered with the same words, but everything was not the same, the man and the manner alike were changed.
1 Kings 19:14. And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away. (KJV)
Elijah has heard the "still small voice," and it has quieted his tone.
It is not always the words we say, but the manner and spirit in which we say them that give them their force and significance.
He is now conscience of a misgiving as to the wisdom of his actions. Do we ever question our own actions when God’s Spirit begins to move on us?
Elijah feels he has acted hastily and faithlessly, and has wanted God’s work to be done in his own way.
7. God Commissions Elijah Again:
He will now go back, if it be God’s will; he will be content to wait on God, and follow his leading.
The commission which God immediately gives to him is proof that God recognizes a change in him. It implies that he is now fitted for his high calling.
The world can, at any season, spare its Ahab’s and Jezebels, but never, and especially at a crisis, can it spare its Elijah’s.
1 Kings 19:15. And the LORD said unto him, Go, return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus: and when thou comest, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria:
16. And Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint to be king over Israel: and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abelmeholah shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room.
17. And it shall come to pass, that him that escapeth the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay: and him that escapeth from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay. (KJV)
He Receives Three Commands. Anoint (Appoint, Set Apart) Two Kings And A Prophet, Quite A Commission.
We find that these three persons were set apart sooner or later, and in various ways, to fulfill the high purpose of God, that ought to suffice us.
The Lord is saying, "Thou hast no business here. Thou hast work to do elsewhere. Thou art not left alone, nor has God ceased to watch over and care for his people. His ministers of wrath are already nominated; it is for thee to call them to their work, go return…"
8. God’s Hidden Ones:
1 Kings 19:18. Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him. (KJV)
Thus God reproved him for the faithlessness that lay at the root of his despondency. If he could have only looked behind the veil which hid the secret life of Israel, he would have seen how little reason there was for his complaints and despondency.
Seven thousand living witnesses might have come forth from their hiding places to show that his work was not in vain.
We little know what God is doing beneath the surface, at the secret heart of society, when everything looks like it is "sold unto sin."
Preachers, Ministers, Teachers, Leaders, Beware Of Condemning All Of Society With One Phrase.
Moses, in one phrase blackened the whole of Israel, "Hear Now, Ye Rebels:" (Numbers 20:10) and because of it his time as leader of God’s people was over.
Almost immediately God appointed Joshua as his successor (Numbers 27:12-23).
It was true that, some of Israel, or part of Israel, was rebel, but not all of Israel was rebellious, but Moses blackened all Israel with one stroke of the brush, and God relieved him of his duty.
And here in our study of Elijah when he complained to God, saying, "and I, even I only am left (v.13); immediately God told him to anoint Elisha to be prophet in his place (v16).
Spiritual Israel, God’s Hidden One’s, are far more numerous than any one knows. (Revelation 7:9-17) and why is this?
Sometimes It’s Because Of The Obscurity Of Their Station.
The seven thousand were in caves and dens (Hebrews 11:36-39), and so very sad mistakes are made as to the people of God, because many of them occupy such humble positions.
Every Christian is not the center of attention of a thousand eyes; all have not the publicity of rank and wealth; cottages are far more numerous than palaces, huts than lordly estates.
And so, in our numbering of the righteous, we overlook many a name, like Obadiah of Ahab’s court, of whom we have already spoken of, or the saints in Caesar’s household. For every large Church there are untold numbers of small Churches, and many a handful with no Church.
Some worship in Cottage Prayer Meetings, others alone in rest homes, or shut up alone at home, still holding their integrity.
Many other things could be said in connection with the seven thousand in their hiding places; one is that, we never need to be alarmed for the cause of God.
He shall never lack for his seed to serve him. There shall always be the "seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal." These are God’s hidden ones.
The armies of God are known by their increase, not by their diminishment.
Read the verse again, (v.18) and remember who is speaking, "I have left me..," and with these as the words of her living head, what has the Church to fear? Whether Ahab, or Jezebel, or Nero, "nor any other thing shall separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:35-39)
Let sin and infidelity do its worst; there shall always be the holy leaven left. God’s Hidden Ones.
There is not merely seven thousand, but seventy times seven thousand.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ has not lost its potency—"it is the power ("dynamite," the word was taken from Greek dunamis, "power,") of God unto salvation. (Romans 1:16)
Jesus said, "If I be lifted up I will draw all men unto me." (John 12:32)
Where are the twenty-thousand idols of Athens? Or the goddess Diana of Ephesus? All these are but relics of bygone days, but the God whom Paul preached is worshipped in almost every nation under heaven.
The institutions of idolatry, of slavery, of bigotry, of polygamy, of grossness, have been driven back before the onslaught of Christianity, until some of these only exist in small pockets, or in some cases in hidden places.
Let pride of human reason scoff and jeer and attempt to prove Christianity old and effete, depleted of vitality, force, or effectiveness, and exhausted, but still there shall be those who clasp their Bibles to their hearts more fondly than before, and with greater earnestness than ever teach Christ to the generations to come.
One final word how much silent work for God is going on in the world? Let us beware of judging by appearance, or of speaking hastily of failure.
Turn Again To That Cross Without The Gates Of Jerusalem.
That life seemed a failure, when they nailed him to the tree; but when that one word, "it is finished," came from his lips, did it not pronounce the failure a great success?
No Elijah, no! You are not alone, you are not the only one left, pastor, teacher, evangelist, missionary, your labor is not a failure, no truly earnest life can ever be such.
Even though some of the things which God told Elijah would not take place in lifetime, this comfort he would have, that, even in his lifetime, and while engaged in his ministry, a yoke-fellow true in sympathy, ministry, and likeness of spirit, should attend him to make the burden seem easier to bear.
9. The Call Of Elisha:
1 Kings 19:19a. So he (Elijah) departed thence, and found Elisha The Son Of Shaphat... (KJV)
Elijah came out of the cave of despondency after his meeting with Jehovah—the old flame of his commission having been revived and once again he was the "Tishbite," "the converter," standing before Jehovah.
His mission was well nigh completed, but he would have another seven to ten years to finish the task which was assigned to him, of which the most important and lasting of this was the calling and training of his successor, Elisha.
Immediately he arose and made his way back through the wilderness of Paran, and as he proceeds on his way, nature itself seemed to reflect the revelation of stillness and peace which had descended at Horeb. The weeks of abundant rains, which began while Elijah was on Carmel (1 Kings 18:45), had softened the long-parched fields, and the country was taking on the life of early spring.
Northward he traveled along the Jordan valley, till past the borders of Judah, and crossing the Jordan River not far from his old retreat of Cherith, and near the small village of Abel-meholah.
Everywhere the work of the husbandman was resumed; herds and flocks were grazing in the meadows; busy hands were preparing the soil for the seeds.
It was a happy scene in the fields of Abel-meholah, "the meadow of the dance," of which the very name seems to suggest the joyous time of harvest and the merry dances of the reapers (Ruth 3:3-7).
Elijah crossed one of the fields, owned by Shaphet, he, no doubt, was one of those "seven thousand who had not bowed his knee to Baal (1 Kings 19:18)."
Shaphet was a man of means, for he had twelve ploughs engaged in plowing the field. He also had a Godly son, named Elisha, and as Elijah approaches, he is guiding the last of the twelve consecutive ploughs.
1 Kings 19:16. Tells us that Elisha was from Abel-me-ho-lah which is in the same general area of Tishbe, the home of Elijah, so it is possible that Elijah may have been acquainted with Elisha.
1 Kings 19:19. …who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth:
10. Elisha’ Background:
A. He was more than likely one of the 7,000 who had not bowed to Baal. (1 Kings 19:18)
B. His name means, "The God of Salvation," or, "My God Salvation."
C. His father, Shaphat, was evidently a wealthy man who owned a large, rich, fertile, valley or meadow, named Abel-meholah, meaning, "Meadow of the Dance."
D. Though the master of the ground, and oxen, and servants, yet he himself laid his hand to the plough. "Who was ploughing…" (1 Kings 19:19)
God never calls an idle man.
E. Elisha is found, not in his study, but in the field: not with a book in his hand but a plough. "If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?" (Luke 16:11)
F. "The man who will not plough by reason of the cold (Proverbs 20:4)" if he "put his hand to the plough," will presently "look back (Luke 9:62)," and "go not to the work (Acts 15:38)."
G. The apostles were called from their ships, their nets, the receipt of customs, and none from the market place or street corners.
11. Elisha’ Call To Service:
1 Kings 19:19c."and Elijah passed by him, and cast his mantle upon him.
20. And he left the oxen, and ran after Elijah, and said, Let me, I pray thee, kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow thee. And he said unto him, Go back again: for what have I done to thee?
21. And he returned back from him, and took a yoke of oxen, and slew them, and boiled their flesh with the instruments of the oxen, and gave unto the people, and they did eat. Then he arose, and went after Elijah, and ministered unto him." (KJV)
A. Elijah found Elisha by God’s direction (1 Kings 19:15), "go, return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus:" no man finds God but is found by God. (Matthew 4:18-22) (Luke 19:10)
B. It was a powerful call; a very compelling urge to follow Elijah came over him.
C. It was a silent call. Elijah cast his mantel upon Elisha, there was no word of greeting, no command to follow came from Elijah.
The rough hairy mantle had come to be recognized as the garb of a prophet. The prophet’s cloak was a sign of the prophet’s vocation.
To cast the cloak to, or upon, Elisha was therefore an appropriate and significant way of designating him to the prophetic office. When Elijah went to heaven Elisha had the mantle entirely for himself.
D. This was Elisha’s first test, and he felt something drawing him, pulling him, urging him, compelling him to follow Elijah.
1 Kings 19:20.… And he left the oxen, and ran after Elijah, … (KJV)
E. There is such a call; and when it comes, it comes straight from God. Jesus said, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you and ordained you, …" (John 15:16) (KJV)
F. When this call comes a person must hear it, and feel its constraint, before he can ever give himself with any wholehearted devotion to this stewardship
G. This is the way God calls whom he will, "And I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion. (Jeremiah 3:14)
H. Many and varied are the ways which God calls workers into his service.
Amos 7:14. Then answered Amos, and said to Amaziah, I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet's son; but I was an herdman, and a gatherer of sycomore fruit:
15. And the LORD took me as I followed the flock, and the LORD said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel. (KJV)
Isaiah 6:8. Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.
We have the record of the calling of Abraham (Genesis 12:1), of Moses (Exodus 3:1-10), of Paul (Acts 9:1-6), of Peter, Andrew, James and John (Matthew 4:18-22), of Matthew (Matthew 9:9).
12. Elisha’s Response To The Call And The Cost Of That Call:
1 Kings 19:20. And he left the oxen, and ran after Elijah, and said, Let me, I pray thee, kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow thee. And he said unto him, Go back again: for what have I done to thee?
21. And he returned back from him, and took a yoke of oxen, and slew them, and boiled their flesh with the instruments of the oxen, and gave unto the people, and they did eat. Then he arose, and went after Elijah, and ministered unto him. (KJV)
A. Elijah would not force him, nor take him against his will, but let him sit down and count the cost, and make it his own act.
B. Elisha made a farewell feast, quitted all the comforts of his father’s house, but exposed himself to the hatred and malignity of Jezebel.
C. It was a discouraging time for prophets to set out in. Isn’t it always?
D. All of those, we mentioned, cast their lot with a cause which would cost them something. Social standing, wealth, families, and in some cases their life.
E. Elisha was casting his lot with a social outcast, giving up wealth to become a servant.
F. Elisha ministered to Elijah, became his servant for several years. (7-10 yrs.) (2 Kings 3:11)
It is a great advantage to young ministers to spend time under the direction of those that are aged and experienced, whose years teach wisdom, and if possible be a minister to them.
Those That Would Be Fit To Teach Must Have Time To Learn.
3. Elisha Took Up The Mantle.
A. Elijah took Elisha under his wings and became like a father to him, and for the next seven to ten years Elisha became a servant, or close attendant, to Elijah. (2 Kings 3:11)
B. During this period of time the bible never mentions Elisha, then in second Kings chapter two we find him with Elijah in Gilgal. (2 Kings 2:1)
C. Elijah had no fixed residence, but moved from place to place as the spirit of God directed.
Elijah, along with Elisha, most likely spent the next four or five years, after the call of Elisha, in one, or more, of the schools of the prophets, or hid away in some mountain retreat.
The Lord promises that Elisha shall complete his mission. Thus did Jehovah most tenderly silence his fears and reassure his heart. Blessed indeed is it to see how the Lord had restored Elijah’s soul to the most intimate communion with Himself: Recovering him from his gloom and reinstating him in his service.
"Then he arose, and went after Elijah and ministered unto him (1 Kings 19:21) what a lovely finishing touch to the picture! Certainly Elisha did not look upon Elijah as one who had been set aside by the Lord!
What a comfort for the Tishbite now to have for his companion one so dutiful and of an affectionate disposition; and what a privilege for this young man to be under so eminent a tutor!
13. A Period Of Silence:
1 Kings 20:1-43. In this chapter we have a period of between two and five years in which we have no written record of the life and work of Elijah.
But we must conclude that during this time Elijah was not hid away in some cave or by a brook in a heathen country, but was fulfilling his call from Jehovah.
This chapter (20) also reveals why he enjoyed a period free from harassment and threats of persecution by Jezebel.
Chapter 18 closes with "The hand of the Lord upon Elijah" and him running in the rain before the chariot of Ahab, which was one of the highest points of his life.
Chapter 19 opens with him running for his life because of the threats made upon his life by Jezebel, which was one of the lowest points of his life.
Not much had changed in the palace of Ahab when some six months later he returned to Israel with his newly anointed servant, Elisha.
Why then did Jezebel not carry out her threats upon his life? Had she reformed and decided not to bother Elijah?
Had she just simply forgotten about him and her threats? I think we can find the answers to these questions in chapter 20.
It will also help us to understand that there are no wasted words in the Bible but that everything that is told is for a purpose.
14. Wars With Syria:
1 Kings 20:1. And Benhadad the king of Syria gathered all his host together: and there were thirty and two kings with him, and horses, and chariots: and he went up and besieged Samaria, and warred against it. (KJV)
So confident was Benhadad of victory that he sent messages to Ahab saying,
1 Kings 20:3. Thy silver and thy gold is mine; thy wives also and thy children, even the goodliest, are mine. (KJV)
So overwhelmed with the vastness of the armies and the lack of confidence of the support of Jehovah, or Baal, and possibly to save his own skin, Ahab readily agreed to the terms which Benhadad demanded without a battle, which he thought was useless to attempt.
Nor can we wonder at the fears and concern that gripped Ahab.
Can any land be overrun by a horde of barbarians such as the Syrians and their confederates, the Hittites chieftains, without widespread and great suffering?
Fire, rapine, famine, these three calamities would certainly follow them. Before them the Garden of Eden, behind them a desolate wilderness.
A Like Invasion Is Described In The Book Of Joel.
Joel 2:3.- A fire devoureth before them; and behind them a flame burneth: the land is as the garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness; yea, and nothing shall escape them.
4. The appearance of them is as the appearance of horses; and as horsemen, so shall they run.
5. Like the noise of chariots on the tops of mountains shall they leap, like the noise of a flame of fire that devoureth the stubble, as a strong people set in battle array.
6. Before their face the people shall be much pained: all faces shall gather blackness. (KJV)
The invasion, then, though repelled, would entail great suffering.
It would not compensate the Jewish farmer for the loss of his crops and oil and wine, still less the Jewish father for the dishonor of his wife and daughters.
Each of these invasions in 1 Kings 20 was nothing less than that of a national calamity, and we may ask what it was that had provoked this chastisement. We will discuss two things.
15. The Sins Of The People At Large:
The sin of Israel at this point in their history was idolatry.
It is true that much of this was introduced and fostered by Jezebel, but it is impossible to acquit the people of blame. They loved the ritual of the worship of the foreign gods, and willfully participated in it.
Justice Demanded That They Should Share In The Punishment.
16. The Sins Of Its Rulers:
Ahab and Jezebel were primarily responsible for this last great apostasy. It was Jezebel really who "reared up an altar for Baal," though Ahab was a willing instrument in her hands. (1 Kings 16:32-33)
We find, consequently, that the king and queen were the first to suffer, and suffered most.
It is easy to picture the abject wretchedness and despair to which Ahab was reduced by the insolent messages of the Syrian king. (1 Kings 20:2-3; 5-6)
These were indeed days of trouble and rebuke and blasphemy for Ahab while at the mercy of one who showed no mercy.
Nor did Jezebel escape her share of torture. She had to face the prospect of being handed over, with the other ladies of the harem (I Kings 20:3-4), to the will of the brutal, sensual, drunken despot who was at the gate of the city.
Had her hair turned white, like that of another queen, in one night, we could not have wondered at it. Strong-willed, desperate woman that she was (2 Kings 9:30-31), must have known to well how cruel are the mercies of the wicked not to have trembled at their demands.
This lets us know that the king and queen did indeed reap some fruit of their doings in this life.
Having read of all the abominations and aggravated sins of Ahab and his abominable wife Jezebel (1 Kings 16:30-33; 18:4), we could well suppose that the Lord would allow success to this undertaking of Ben-ha-dad and punish and humiliate Ahab and his queen. But this expectation is not fulfilled.
Strange as that appears, our surprise is greatly increased when, at the urging of the elders, Ahab decided to resist Ben-ha-dad and the host that were with him. (20:7-9)
In 1 Kings 20:11 we have Ahab rising to the highest point of his recorded life.
1 Kings 20:11. And the king of Israel answered and said, Tell him, Let not him that girdeth on his harness boast himself as he that putteth it off. (KJV)
Then the most amazing thing of all happens when a prophet of the Lord came to Ahab saying,
1 Kings 20:13. And, behold, there came a prophet unto Ahab king of Israel, saying, Thus saith the LORD, Hast thou seen all this great multitude? behold, I will deliver it into thine hand this day; and thou shalt know that I am the LORD. (KJV)
In The 21st Verse We See The Fulfillment Of That Prediction.
1 Kings 20:21. And the king of Israel went out, and smote the horses and chariots, and slew the Syrians with a great slaughter.
Thus we see victory was not with Ben-ha-dad, but with Ahab. .
Then later in the chapter (v.22) to our total surprise the Lord sent the prophet back to warn Ahab once more to expect Ben-ha-dad to return the following year.
1 Kings 20:22. And the prophet came to the king of Israel, and said unto him, Go, strengthen thyself, and mark, and see what thou doest: for at the return of the year the king of Syria will come up against thee. (KJV)
This prediction was also fulfilled and the Lord once again delivered the Syrians into the hands of the men of Israel with a very great slaughter.
1 Kings 20:29. And they pitched one over against the other seven days. And so it was, that in the seventh day the battle was joined: and the children of Israel slew of the Syrians an hundred thousand footmen in one day. (KJV)
We ask the question once again, "Why did not the Lord allow Ben-ha-dad to punish Ahab for his sins?"
Now Let Us Seek To Answer This Question.
God’s time to destroy Ahab and all who had followed him into idolatry had not yet come. It was still a few years before the divine vengeance was to be accomplished.
The next question, if the hour of retribution had not yet arrived, why was Ben-ha-dad permitted to menace the land of Samaria?
The answer to this question will cast light upon the many problems which plagued Ahab and the land of Samaria during the years covered in (1 Kings 20).
The "Day of the Lord" is deferred because "God is long- suffering" to his elect, "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9)
Not until Noah and his family were safely in the ark did the windows of heaven open and pour down their devastating flood. (Genesis 7)
Not until Lot was delivered from Sodom did fire and brimstone fall upon it: "I cannot do any thing (said the angel) till thou be come thither." (Genesis 19:22)
And so it was here in our study, not until Elijah and his helper had completed his work,
not until all the "seven thousand" whom Jehovah reserved for himself had been called and chosen,
would the work of judgment be set in motion.
And another thing, could this have been the "space (of time) to repent," spoken of in Revelations 2:2-21 which God allowed Ahab and Jezebel? Their end could have been much different.
Following upon the account of Elisha's call to the ministry (1 Kings 19:19-21), the scriptures give us no description of the activities in which they engaged, yet we may be sure that they redeemed the time.
Probably in the distant parts of the land they sought to instruct the people in the worship of Jehovah, opposing the prevailing system of idolatry and general corruption, laboring diligently, though quietly, to effect a solid reformation.
Probably, following the example of Samuel (1 Samuel 10:11; 19:20); they established schools here and there for training and fitting young men unto the prophetic office.
Instructing them in the knowledge of God’s law and preparing them to become expounders of it unto the people, and also to lead in psalmody—an important service indeed.
We come to this conclusion by the large number of "the Sons of the Prophets" that were at Bethel and at Jericho and at the Jordan when Elijah was taken into heaven. (2 Kings 2:3, 5, 7,15; 6:1)
Thus it was that Elijah and Elisha were able to proceed for a few years unmolested in their work, for defending himself and his kingdom from powerful enemies, Ahab was too fully occupied to interfere with them.
17. How Wondrous Are God’s Ways: Kings And Their Armies Are But Pawns To Be Moved Here And There As He Pleases:
In what has been understood in this chapter (1 Kings 20), we may see by what varied means the Lord uses to protect his servants from those who would injure them. The Lord knows how to ward off the assaults of their enemies, who would oppose them in their work for God.
He can make all things smooth and secure for them, that they may proceed without annoyance in discharging the duties which he has assigned them.
The Lord can easily fill the heads and hands of their opponents with such urgent business that they have enough to do to take care of themselves without harassing his servants in their work.
When David and his men were hard pressed in the wilderness of Maon (1 Samuel 23:26-28) and it appeared they were doomed, lets see how the Lord intervened to save them.
1 Samuel 23:26. And Saul went on this side of the mountain, and David and his men on that side of the mountain: and David made haste to get away for fear of Saul; for Saul and his men compassed David and his men round about to take them.
27. But there came a messenger unto Saul, saying, Haste thee, and come; for the Philistines have invaded the land.
28. Wherefore Saul returned from pursuing after David, and went against the Philistines: KJV)
When religious persecution became so great in Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth century God opened up America and thousands were able to come here and start a new country dedicated to freedom of oppression.
How incapable we are of determining why God permits one nation to rise up against one nation rather than another. We must remember "His ways are past finding out. (Romans 11:33)
So Elijah and Elisha continued their work in preaching to the people and instructing their younger brethren for some period of time, and in view of the promise in (chapter 19 verse 18) concerning the "Seven Thousand", we may conclude that the blessings of the Lord rested upon their labors, and that not a few were converted.
Gladly would they have remained in this quiet and happy occupation, and only too glad to escape the notice of the kings court.
But Ministers Of God Are Not To Expect A Smooth And Happy Life.
They may enjoy this for a brief time, especially after they have been engaged in some hard and perilous service, yet they must stand before the Lord in constant readiness to be called forth from tranquil employment to fresh conflicts and severer duties, which will try their faith and demand great courage.
So it was with Elijah. A fresh trial awaited him, a real ordeal, nothing less than being Required To Confront Ahab One Last Time, And This Time To Pronounce His Doom.
We Hope You Enjoyed Studying With Us This Portion Of The Life Of Elijah.
We Will Continue In Elijah #5 The Study Of The Life And Ministry Of Elijah.
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By, James L. Thornton