Elijah Bible Study #4
1 Kings 19:1-14
Now Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and even more, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.” 3 And he was afraid and arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. 4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree; and he requested for himself that he might die, and said, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers.” 5 He lay down and slept under a juniper tree; and behold, there was an angel touching him, and he said to him, “Arise, eat.” 6 Then he looked and behold, there was at his head a bread cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank and lay down again. 7 The angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise, eat, because the journey is too great for you.” 8 So he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mountain of God.
Elijah at Horeb
9 Then he came there to a cave and lodged there; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 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.”
11 So He said, “Go forth and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord was passing by! And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. And behold, a voice came to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 14 Then 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.” NASB
Revenge from Jezebel
19 1-2 Ahab reported to Jezebel everything that Elijah had done, including the massacre of the prophets. Jezebel immediately sent a messenger to Elijah with her threat: “The gods will get you for this and I’ll get even with you! By this time tomorrow you’ll be as dead as any one of those prophets.”
3-5 When Elijah saw how things were, he ran for dear life to Beersheba, far in the south of Judah. He left his young servant there and then went on into the desert another day’s journey. He came to a lone broom bush and collapsed in its shade, wanting in the worst way to be done with it all—to just die: “Enough of this, God! Take my life—I’m ready to join my ancestors in the grave!” Exhausted, he fell asleep under the lone broom bush.
Suddenly an angel shook him awake and said, “Get up and eat!”
6 He looked around and, to his surprise, right by his head were a loaf of bread baked on some coals and a jug of water. He ate the meal and went back to sleep.
7 The angel of God came back, shook him awake again, and said, “Get up and eat some more—you’ve got a long journey ahead of you.”
8-9 He got up, ate and drank his fill, and set out. Nourished by that meal, he walked forty days and nights, all the way to the mountain of God, to Horeb. When he got there, he crawled into a cave and went to sleep.
Then the word of God came to him: “So Elijah, what are you doing here?”
10 “I’ve been working my heart out for the God-of-the-Angel-Armies,” said Elijah. “The people of Israel have abandoned your covenant, destroyed the places of worship, and murdered your prophets. I’m the only one left, and now they’re trying to kill me.”
11-12 Then he was told, “Go, stand on the mountain at attention before God. God will pass by.”
A hurricane wind ripped through the mountains and shattered the rocks before God, but God wasn’t to be found in the wind; after the wind an earthquake, but God wasn’t in the earthquake; and after the earthquake fire, but God wasn’t in the fire; and after the fire a gentle and quiet whisper.
13-14 When Elijah heard the quiet voice, he muffled his face with his great cloak, went to the mouth of the cave, and stood there. A quiet voice asked, “So Elijah, now tell me, what are you doing here?” Elijah said it again, “I’ve been working my heart out for God, the God-of-the-Angel-Armies, because the people of Israel have abandoned your covenant, destroyed your places of worship, and murdered your prophets. I’m the only one left, and now they’re trying to kill me.” The Message
Verse 1 Ahab sure was a very biased reporter. He failed to mention the amazing display of power that God did to bring fire down from heaven. Ahab focused on what Elijah did, and how the false prophets were killed.
Verse 2 Jezebel makes a vow and come to think of it she fails and eventually the vow comes to fruition she too dies at the command of one of the men Elijah is called to anoint - Jehu.
Verse 3 “Fear” I am learning that when we are driven by fear we are missing God. Trust in His love drives out fear. Trust in His love and power pushes fear to the background. Judah wasn’t all that safe, since the king of Judah was friends with Ahab, but fear does not have reason as its foundation, it just acts sometimes/ usually in non-sensical ways.
Verse 4 He goes a days journey further by himself, away from all human companionship and support, generally that is not a good idea. He falls into depression, Jezebel is not defeated, the people went back to “life as usual” nothing changed. He feels the weight of the ‘failure’ even though it had been a success. There is a ‘let down’ after a time of serving God and seeing His glory and power. That ‘led down’ can spiral if we do not take it to God. If God had answered his request here, Elisha would not have had a mentor, those three people yet to be anointed by God would not have been anointed... there was still a work for Elijah to do, and in fact, he was not to die, but be transported to heaven.
Verse 5 Mercy shown to the prophet, an angel prepares him a meal, he is given sleep, a gift from God.
Verse 6 Kind of amazing that he does not seem very surprised by this meal, or very grateful for it either.
Verse 7 Ever felt unappreciated? You went out of your way to bless/help someone and they showed no appreciation. Elijah eats the angel-prepared meal, rolls over and goes back to sleep. In spite of this ingratitude the angel goes on and prepares a second meal with supernatural power and energy in it that allows for Elijah’s next meal to be 40 days away.
Verse 8 Horeb is Sinai. Scholars say it is only an 8 day journey, so part of Elijah wanted to meet with God and thought that would be a good place, and part of him did not want to.
Verse 9 Wisdom is shown in asking the right questions. God, of course, always asks the right questions. “What are you doing here?” is a very subtle way of saying, “I didn’t tell you to come here.” The way this is worded, “the word of the Lord” and “He” most people think this is Jesus speaking to Elijah.
Verse 10 Elijah is very human here, he has had 40 days to think of how to respond to this and he brings out a list. Zeal on my part, everyone else has fallen away, and now they want to kill me, so I had to get away. It is a reasonable fear, many prophets had died because of the sword of Jezebel. God did not guarantee safety for His followers.
Verse 11 Direction comes from God, so filled with mercy, “Go forth”. Elijah had not waited for direction from God, he had let fear drive him, but God chooses to lavish mercy on him. Speaks to him. Do we really get this, God speaks to him. Amazing. The Lord was passing by, but He was not IN. There is a depth to this, that we need to plumb. God is teaching a lesson here. Wind and earthquake, powerful forces that can pick a man up and toss him to and fro, but God was not in them. I looked at some commentaries and read a sermon about this passage, but I don’t think anyone has really gotten to the depth of what God was doing here.
Verse 12 Next comes fire... still no God, then a gentle blowing, which Elijah somehow knew to be God.
Verse 13 So out of respect he wraps his head and heads out to the entrance of the cave. After this amazing display, God still has the same question.
Verse 14 Elijah still gives the same answer. So I am left with more questions than answers, what was the point of all that? There is no visible change in Elijah. God put on a display like none other in history before or since, yet we see nothing as a result of it. I just think God in eternity has more to reveal to us about this incident.
These thoughts are all from J. Hampton Keathley, III.
Some look at the Elijah of chapters 17 and 18, the man of faith, and then look at the Elijah of chapter 19, the man of fear with a critical spirit. They wonder, “How could he change like that?” It’s almost like, “If I had seen God’s power displayed like that, I would never run like he did.” In essence, however, in the record of the New Testament we have a much greater display of the power of God in the person, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ. Furthermore, those who respond this way about Elijah’s actions in chapter 19, are overlooking the many ways they may fail to take a stand or fail to do the things God has called them to do according to the clear principles of the Word. They see themselves as never running away because, like the seven thousand hiding in caves, they never put themselves at risk as Elijah did. Rather than deal with a problem, for instance, they remain at a comfortable distance, but isn’t that really the same thing?
Students of the Word should know this theologically since all who accept the Lord Jesus, though regenerated and indwelt by the Spirit, still possess sinful natures and are in desperate need of God’s grace moment by moment.
In chapters 17 and 18, we saw Elijah occupied with the Lord, aware of God’s presence, aware of the enormity of God’s person, and using his assets in the Lord--the promises of the Word and prayer. But in chapter 19, we find Elijah occupied with people and conditions, not God. He was completely problem oriented. He failed to pray and stand on the promises of Scripture. He had a wrong focus.
This involves an age old problem. Again, it is one of focus and attitude. Whenever we become occupied with our problems rather than with the Lord it creates a terrible distortion. It’s like looking through the wrong end of a telescope. Instead of magnifying the person and power of God, focusing on the problem shrinks the person and power of God in our eyes, and magnifies the problem. Our problems become giants or mountains when in essence, from God’s standpoint, they are not even mole hills.
(Heidi Baker’s, four word sermon, “Too big, Too small”)
Illusions about self hinder that. We need to have no such illusions so we will turn from our own resources to God’s. We need to stop building broken cisterns that hold no water and come to the Lord as the river of life (Jer. 2:13).
God gives us this portrait of Elijah to teach us how vulnerable we are, how important our focus and our attitudes are, and how much we constantly need the grace of God for every moment and every breath. God portrays people, especially the great heroes of the faith, as they really are--mere human beings, earthen vessels, clay pots. We are instruments used by God to display His glory, but worthless in ourselves apart from Him
For the Christian, however, we are not talking about just a positive attitude. We are talking about an attitude that comes from a heart focused on God and that trusts in Him.
With the power of God so clearly manifested perhaps Elijah thought there would be some change in Ahab, some positive response with the result there were going to be changes in the kingdom of Israel. We aren’t told. We can only guess. But something really shattered Elijah’s focus and his faith. Let’s look at the text and see what we can learn.
When people focus on people, one of two things happen: (a) either they brag about the person they admire, which may bring temptation to that person and encourage others to glory in man, or (b) they attack and criticize bringing persecution and heartache. When God is not the focus, we lose.
Unable to hurt the Lord, Jezebel did what Satan and people always do. She attacked the instrument and gave vent to her hatred and malice. She sent a messenger with her threat.
Perhaps the first lesson we can learn from Elijah’s response concerns our expectations and their impact on us. As already mentioned, he was expecting something different--something more positive. He was looking for a real turnaround in the spiritual conditions of the kingdom and his expectations may have moved into the realm of a sense of demandingness.
God holds us responsible for trusting in Him, for obedience, for love, for endurance, and for faithfulness to do what He has called us to do. He does not hold us responsible for the results. The results are in His hands, not ours. We can’t change people, and we often can’t change our circumstances, only God can. Further, our expectations can easily slip into a sense of a demandingness--demanding that things work out the way we think they should. When that happens we are usurping God’s sovereignty and acting as though we the creature were the all wise Creator (cf. Job. 40:1-9).
What about our expectations? Have they become demands God must meet for our happiness and security? What about our focus? Is it on the Lord, on His person, His sovereignty, wisdom, etc.? What about our strategies? Are we trying to meet our needs and wants by our own solutions according to our own timing rather than by God’s?
Physical Reason: Have you ever noticed how quickly discouragement, irritability and depression can come when you are exhausted? Elijah was physically and emotionally drained from the whole experience of Mount Carmel, the run to Jezreel, and, added to all that, the flight into the desert. I get exhausted just thinking about it! When our bodies are tired, we can’t think and respond to pressure as well as we normally can. In Elijah’s exhausted state, he prayed, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take my life.” Instead, the Lord lovingly and graciously sent an angel to feed and nourish him. There is a principle here: proper rest, diet, and exercise are essential to coping with depression.
All of this “stinking thinking” blinded him to the Lord and the principles of Scripture. He lost sight of these principles: (a) Though we are soldiers in God’s army, the battle is the Lord’s (1 Sam. 17:14). (b) While we are fellow workers with the Lord with one sowing and another watering, the Lord alone gives the increase (1 Cor. 3:5-9), and He does so in different degrees (Matt. 13:24), and according to His timing (Eccl. 3:1; Gal. 6:9). (c) The Lord prospers His Word as He sees fit, and sometimes it becomes the basis of His judgment rather than blessing (Isa. 55:11; 6:9-11).
Note how the Lord handles Elijah’s depression:
(1) Before He dealt with Elijah’s spiritual condition, He rejuvenated Elijah physically with rest and nourishment.
(2) He then got Elijah to face his true condition, the real problem. Taking the position of a counselor, the Lord twice asked Elijah “why are you here?” In other words, take stock, think about what you have been doing (vss. 9 and 13).
(3) God spoke to him personally in verses 9, 12, 13, and 15. This illustrates the need to be in the Word where we listen to the Lord (hear His still small voice), focus on Him, and apply truth. We will study this in more detail later.
(4) God gave him an assignment. Verse 15 for the next study.