This year I have endeavored to read through the Bible chronologically, and so far so good! This week I’ve been in 1 Kings, and today I came to the story of the great prophet Elijah. Chapter 17 opens with Elijah predicting three years of no rain, and the Lord telling Elijah to go out and hide himself from King Ahab. From there we read incredible accounts of God’s provision and faithfulness not only to Elijah (being fed by ravens) but also to others such as the widow who had enough oil and flour to make one last cake before she and her son were going to die (God continued to provide oil and flour for them until the drought ended).
The climax comes in chapter 18, when Elijah challenges King Ahab to see whose God the people will follow, YHWH or Baal. Preparations are made to build stone altars, with firewood laid on top, and then a bull on top of that. The Baal prophets go first, and work themselves in a frenzy to see if Baal will bring down fire to burn their offering. Nothing. Silence. Elijah mocks them, telling them they should cry louder as maybe Baal is going to the bathroom or is asleep and can’t hear them. So they cry even louder and “cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them.” (18:28) And still nothing.
Then it’s Elijah’s turn. Not only does he prepare his altar with the same stones, wood, and bull, he also digs a trench around it and douses the whole thing with water. And not just one with time with water, but three times! 1 Kings 18:36-38 records what happens next.
‘And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.’
Not only was everything consumed, Elijah then takes the prophets of Baal down to a brook and slaughters them all that day. Immediately after that, God sends rain, after having withheld it for the past three years.
Victory! Elation! Fear! What? After seeing the incredible display of God’s power, King Ahab’s wife Jezebel threatens to do to him what he just did to their false prophets. Elijah flees to the wilderness, and basically tells God he’s done. He wants to die. But even there in the wilderness God continues to provide food and water for him.
God then asks him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Elijah goes into this spiel about how he has been very jealous for God. The people of Israel have forsaken God’s covenant, killed God’s prophets, and thrown down His altars, and he Elijah, is the only one left, and now his life is being sought to be killed.
God then sends a strong wind storm, and then an earthquake, and then a fire. But the Lord was not in any of those things. Next came a whisper, in which God tells him that there are still 7000 men who have not bowed the knee to Baal, and that he is to go back to Damascus, and take care of some business, which Elijah does.
I can relate to Elijah. Yes, this incredible prophet of the Holy God of Israel, the one who was with JESUS on the Mount of Transfiguration, is just like me. Or, I’m like him. Either way, we’re the same.
I’ve not been happy to wait to go to the mission field. In my heart, I’ve even said to God, “Don’t you see what we’ve given up? We’ve given up owning a home, having nice cars, and a steady income!” I have basically said to God much like Elijah did, “you owe me!”
But now, just like then, God doesn’t answer my pride with force (ie. fire, wind, earthquake). No, he answers us in the stillness. He says to Elijah, to me, and to you, “Obey Me.” Whatever dreams and aspirations we may have for our future, He continually reminds us to obey Him in that moment. Not to worry about what the future may bring.
Jesus gives the same message to the Apostle Peter in John 22:21. After having had an intimate conversation with Jesus in verses 15-19, Peter notices the Apostle John following them. Peter immediately asks, ‘”Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”‘
OUCH! If friends are buying houses to put down roots here, I’m to follow Him still. If fellow missionaries raise 100% of their support within six months, I’m to wait and follow Him. If friends and family can afford nice vacations but we can’t, I need to be content with His provisions for us, and follow Him.
So, I will set my heart to obey Him, and leave the timing of things to Him. I know, so much easier said than done. But I can guarantee we will never regret obeying Him. No matter what comes next.