The Life of Elijah
Bible Study #1
1 Kings 17:1-12
Elijah Predicts Drought
17 Now Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the settlers of Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.” 2 The word of the Lord came to him, saying, 3 “Go away from here and turn eastward, and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. 4 It shall be that you will drink of the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to provide for you there.” 5 So he went and did according to the word of the Lord, for he went and lived by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. 6 The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he would drink from the brook. 7 It happened after a while that the brook dried up, because there was no rain in the land.
8 Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, 9 “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and stay there; behold, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.” 10 So he arose and went to Zarephath, and when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks; and he called to her and said, “Please get me a little water in a jar, that I may drink.” 11 As she was going to get it, he called to her and said, “Please bring me a piece of bread in your hand.” 12 But she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have no bread, only a handful of flour in the bowl and a little oil in the jar; and behold, I am gathering a few sticks that I may go in and prepare for me and my son, that we may eat it and die.” NASB
1 Kings 17
1 And then this happened: Elijah the Tishbite, from among the settlers of Gilead, confronted Ahab: "As surely as God lives, the God of Israel before whom I stand in obedient service, the next years are going to see a total drought—not a drop of dew or rain unless I say otherwise."
2-4 God then told Elijah, "Get out of here, and fast. Head east and hide out at the Kerith Ravine on the other side of the Jordan River. You can drink fresh water from the brook; I've ordered the ravens to feed you."
5-6 Elijah obeyed God's orders. He went and camped in the Kerith canyon on the other side of the Jordan. And sure enough, ravens brought him his meals, both breakfast and supper, and he drank from the brook.
7-9 Eventually the brook dried up because of the drought. Then God spoke to him: "Get up and go to Zarephath in Sidon and live there. I've instructed a woman who lives there, a widow, to feed you."
10-11 So he got up and went to Zarephath. As he came to the entrance of the village he met a woman, a widow, gathering firewood. He asked her, "Please, would you bring me a little water in a jug? I need a drink." As she went to get it, he called out, "And while you're at it, would you bring me something to eat?"
12 She said, "I swear, as surely as your God lives, I don't have so much as a biscuit. I have a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a bottle; you found me scratching together just enough firewood to make a last meal for my son and me. After we eat it, we'll die." The Message
Before we get started I will acknowledge the help of 3 men who have all passed on.
J. Hampton Keathley, III - His notes on Elijah are quoted throughout.
A.W. Pink - His book, “The Life of Elijah” I will have read it twice by the time we are done.
Art Katz - His sermons on Elijah and prophecy, sparked my interest.
Daniels description of the people who trust God in the end time darkness applies to Elijah also.
Daniel 11:32 By smooth words he will turn to godlessness those who act wickedly toward the covenant, but the people who know their God will display strength and take action.
God’s patience had been misinterpreted by Israel and Elijah’s mission was to reveal God.
Psalm 50:21, “These things you have done, and I kept silence; you thought that I was just like you, I will reprove you, and state (the case) in order before your eyes.”
Elijah would have had access to Deuteronomy and its warnings.
Deut. 11:11 “But the land into which you are about to cross to possess it, a land of hills and valleys, drinks water from the rain of heaven, 12 a land for which the Lord your God cares; the eyes of the Lord your God are always on it, from the beginning even to the end of the year.
13 “It shall come about, if you listen obediently to my commandments which I am commanding you today, to love the Lord your God and to serve Him with all your heart and all your soul, 14 that He will give the rain for your land in its season, the early and late rain, that you may gather in your grain and your new wine and your oil. 15 He will give grass in your fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied. 16 Beware that your hearts are not deceived, and that you do not turn away and serve other gods and worship them. 17 Or the anger of the Lord will be kindled against you, and He will shut up the heavens so that there will be no rain and the ground will not yield its fruit; and you will perish quickly from the good land which the Lord is giving you.
18 “You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. 19 You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up. 20 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, 21 so that your days and the days of your sons may be multiplied on the land which the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens remain above the earth.”
1 Kings 19:10 He said, “ I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.”
The word translated ‘zealous’ is also translated jealous or passionate. Here we have a look into Elijah’s heart to find his motivation. He would have had the first 5 books of the Bible at his disposal, and would have been aware of the warning contained in Deuteronomy. His was not some dreamed up mission, but a declaration of the sure word of God, and with mercy attached, because it was “not yet" that they would be taken out of the land as captives of a conquering army, even though that was also part of the scripture threatening drought. Moral delinquency and spiritual apostasy is worse than physical calamity and suffering, because their weight is eternal. Desperate diseases call for drastic measures.
Elijah is one of the prominent figures in the Word of God. His significance is evidenced by over 20 direct references to him in the New Testament, and by his appearance in the transfiguration of the Lord with Moses, the great Law giver. No background is given on him, and His sentence is clear and hard. No rain or dew, in this hot climate the dew was important and for it to be withheld too is even more severe. The emphasis on the fact that Jehovah is the living God of Israel is important. It is a contrast with lifeless Baal who was “brought in” by Jezebel.
Since the kingdom was split Israel’s kings had consistently chosen the wrong path.
Not only were these kings evil, but there was a continuous decline. Scripture indicates that the next king was worse than his father. There was continual spiritual and moral erosion, much as we have seen in our nation.
With the rise of Ahab in the time of Elijah, things had reached an all time low. Fifty-eight years had passed since the division of the kingdom. Seven kings had reigned and all were evil. All were idolatrous, but with Ahab idolatry reached an all-time high even to the point of seeking to stamp out the worship of Yahweh altogether. How? Why? Ahab married Jezebel, the famed princess from Tyre, daughter of Ethbaal, King of Tyre. Again, following the poor examples that preceded him, his aim was to seal a pact with Phoenicia for profitable political reasons. His trust was in his own schemes rather than in the Lord. The weak Ahab allowed Jezebel to introduce the worship of the satanic and idolatrous cult of Baal-Melqart into Israel. The worship of Baal, a Canaanite deity, had been observed by Israelites in the days of the Judges and before the establishment of the kingdom. David rid the land of this dirge, but now it was resurrected on a new scale, larger than ever, and this was done by the government, the king.
Jezebel did not want Baalism to coexist with the worship of Yahweh. She wanted to completely stamp out the worship of God. This is precisely the way Satan and his world system works. People are often broad-minded with the varying religions and philosophical ideas of the world, but never with the truth.
The Ras Shamrah text, an important archaeological find, praises Baal as the god who has power over rain, wind, clouds, and therefore over fertility. Baal was also worshiped as the weather god, the god of storm, of rain and good crops.
We don’t know, are not given, Elijah’s ‘resume’, his background is not considered.
By contrast, it seems people always want to know, “Who are you?” “Who is he or she?” People can look at their accomplishments, as Nebuchadnezzar did (Dan. 4:30), and proudly credit them to their own brilliance. On the other hand, as Moses did at the call of God (Ex. 3:11), we often tend to think despairingly, “Who am I?” In each case, this kind of thinking puts the focus on us, rather than on the sovereign LORD upon whom we are totally dependent and who is always able to do super abundantly above all that we are able to ask or even think.
Elijah is the Hebrew Eliyahu that means “My God is Yahweh.”
When confronted with the judgment of God on his nation what was King Ahab’s answer? I believe it is significant that Scripture is silent here. Why? Perhaps because it demonstrates how the promises and warnings of God’s Word always take precedence over man’s response or opinions. God’s Word is true regardless of how people respond or react.
Elijah obeyed the Lord and then was given the ‘next step.’ God does not grant fresh revelations until there has been a compliance with those already received. God leads His servants step by step, rarely laying out the grand plan. By contrast, disobedience to the truth has the opposite effect. It hardens our hearts and closes our ears, killing our capacity to hear and respond to the work and ministry God wants to call us to (cf. Mark 6:52; Heb. 3:7-15; 5:11; Ps. 40:6-7). People often complain about how hard it is to know God’s leading. The problem is not God’s leading--He is always ready to lead us. The problem is our listening, and too often, our listening is colored by false expectations and selfish motives. We want the Lord to answer in our way. We want God’s blessing on our will rather than seeking His will. We tend to make up our list of what we would like to do with our lives, even as it pertains to serving the Lord. We then present that to the Lord for His approval.
This next step makes no sense by our own reasoning. Now would have been a good time for a “preaching tour." Going town by town, preaching repentance. No, God’s way is the opposite. He withdraws His word and in doing so expresses an even greater judgment than the drought. This going away into seclusion could also have the purpose of reminding Elijah that he was only an instrument in the hand of God, nothing more, nothing less. God gives only a brook, not a river and feeds him by the use of an unclean animal. He shows His sovereignty over the birds and also provides the water, the water comes by natural means, the food by supernatural. His trust is not in the brook or the ravens but the God who gave the sure word of promise.
“We are to get alone with God, first to just know and love Him, to develop our dependence on Him, and then to bring order and strength to our inner life. We are to do this to bring God’s control over every area of our lives: our motivations, what moves us, the things that pull us to conform or to compete, our perspective of life, why we are here and what are we seeking, our priorities and values, the use of our time, talents, treasures, and truth, and our thought processes (2 Cor. 10:4-5). Getting alone with God is not optional. If we want true spiritual success it is fundamental. It’s a key part of God’s plan by which our lives are first strengthened by the underground spiritual streams of life in Christ and then changed and cut into the ravine that God wants to use to make us a channel for pouring out the blessings of the Savior on others.” J. Hampton Keathley, III
When the brook dries up.
James 1:2-4 says: Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
What’s the problem we face in suffering? We are often more interested in our comfort and pleasure than with genuine, spiritual growth and maturity. We want a carefree life rather than a life with character. We may think we are okay and mature enough just as we are, but the Lord knows better. We want maturity without the pain, but real growth requires pain.
Are you perplexed about certain things in your life? Then ask, what is the Lord seeking to teach me? Ask “How is the Lord wanting to use this in my life or in some else’s life?” Ask “Is God trying to change some of my values and priorities, or reveal some of my false sources of trust?” Pray and think!
The next words of verse 8 are “the word of the Lord came to him, saying.” Let’s note a couple of things: First, Elijah did not move until there was communion with God. He waited until he had direction from the Lord--He moved at the Word of the Lord. For Elijah, this was direct revelation, but the principle is God leads and directs us through His Word (which for us is the Bible), and through our communion with Him in Scripture. Of course, the Lord uses other things to give us direction such as open and closed doors, and our own abilities, talents, burdens and interests. He never leads us, however, contrary to the principles and directives of Scripture. Second, this reminds us just how important it is for us to commune with God in His Word so we can know the Word and use it for every decision we face. We can be sure somewhere in Scripture there will be principles that apply.
Isaiah 28:16 “therefore thus says the Lord God,
“Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion,
a stone, a tested stone,
a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation:
‘Whoever believes will not be in haste.’” We contrive ways of getting out of our difficulties, we are far too full of our own plans and devisings, then we ask God to prosper, what we planned. One book said this was a 75 mile journey across the desert, to Jezebel’s home country! Implicit trust and unreserved submission is what is required of us.
First, God would provide for Elijah through a woman. While women in Israel had a higher position and status than among their Gentile neighbors, this was highly irregular, for it was the man’s place to provide for women. Second, this was a Gentile woman, a woman outside the circle of God’s own people. In fact, she was from the pagan nation of the Sidonians (or Phoenicians) who, at that time, represented the forces arrayed against God’s kingdom. Third, she was a poor, destitute, depressed widow facing starvation. She wasn’t exactly the kind of person you would go to for support, but she was the person whom God had chosen to be Elijah’s support and the instrument of God’s glory. He didn’t know her plight as yet, but he would soon find out and his response is remarkable.
Note her words in verse 12, “as the Lord your God lives.” This suggests she must have recognized Elijah as a prophet of Israel, perhaps by his dress (cf. 2 Kings 1:8). But Yahweh was not her God and she wasn’t all that sure about the honesty of Elijah or the reality of his God (cf. vs. 17:24). She needed to see the testimony of Elijah’s life as well as the power of God.