What are you doing here, Elijah?

Heroes of the Faith –

Elijah


1 Kings 17:1-24, Elijah and King Ahab Fall Out
1 Kings 18:1-19, Elijah Challenges the Prophets of Baal
1 Kings 18:20-40, The LORD Defeats Baal
1 Kings 18:41 – 19:8a, Elijah Runs for His Life
1 Kings 19:8b-21, The LORD Tells Elijah to Get Back to Work

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1 Kings 17:1-24, Elijah and King Ahab Fall Out (2/15/2010)

The prophet Elijah is one of the great heroes of the faith.  Not only are several chapters of the books of 1 and 2 Kings devoted to his ministry, but the prophet Malachi also talks about him when he says, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.  And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction” (Malachi 4:5-6).
 
Naturally, there has always been great interest among the Jews in Elijah’s return.  Every year, on every Passover table, a goblet of wine is set out for Elijah, just in case this is the time and place of his return.  When John began baptizing in the Jordan, priests and Levites came from Jerusalem to ask him if he was Elijah.  Elijah is mentioned a total 30 times in the New Testament.  He was seen by Peter, John, and James speaking with Jesus at the Transformation, and he’s also mentioned several other times in all four Gospels and in the books of Romans and James.  Nevertheless, as legendary a hero as Elijah was, James says that he was “a man like us.”
 
1 Kings 18:1-19, Elijah Challenges the Prophets of Baal (2/16/2010)

King Ahab’s father, King Omri, made an alliance with the Philistines (also known as Phoenicians), and sealed it with the marriage of his son to a Philistine princess, Jezebel.  You've all heard of her mainly as “the painted Jezebel.”  Actually, she was a very religious woman.  Unfortunately, her religion was Baalism.  While she was queen of Israel, Baalism became a sort of co-state religion along with the distorted form of the worship of God established by the first king of Israel, Jeroboam.  Jezebel was always working to displace the worship of God entirely, and one of her main methods was to support of the prophets of Baal and execute the prophets of God.
 
Baal was the head god of the Canaanite pantheon.  In most places he was a thunder-and-lightning fertility god.  Asherah  was a fertility goddess, usually symbolized by a sacred pole or a tree or grove.  Worship entailed sexual practices you might expect for fertility gods, various forms of child sacrifice, and some other customs we’ll read about tomorrow.
 
1 Kings 18:20-40, The LORD Defeats Baal (2/17/2010)

How often have we said, “You can’t have it both ways”?  That is, we say it to other people.  For ourselves, we would usually prefer to have it – whatever “it” is – both ways.  We want to have the things money can buy, without the inconvenience of working.  We want to be lean and fit, without the inconvenience going to the gym.  We want salvation, without ....  oops, sorry, almost started meddlin’ there.
 
The people of the northern kingdom, Israel, could not decide whether Baal or God was going to be their Lord.  Elijah accused them (in vs. 21) of “limping between two opinions.”  They wanted the benefits of having God, or a god, watch over them, but without the inconvenience of faithful worship of one or the other.  Elijah realized that this was because they weren’t sure whether God or Baal was more powerful, so he put on a demonstration that there is only one way, because there is only one LORD God. 
 
1 Kings 18:41 – 19:8a, Elijah Runs for His Life (2/18/2010)

Prophecy is a tough business to be in.  Prophets are just the opposite from the rest of us:  they only have jobs in bad times.  Furthermore, political leaders are typically unhappy with whatever the prophet’s message is.  In spite of all this, most prophets were relatively safe most of the time in Judah and Israel, because the Jewish political leaders recognized that, welcome or not, the message was coming from God.
 
Queen Jezebel was not Jewish.  When she didn’t like a message, she ordered the execution of the prophet who brought it.  In this she was following the standard political practice of Israel, assassination.  In human terms, Elijah was perfectly justified in being afraid and running for his life.  He was also discouraged.  After his tremendous demonstration of the power of God, the main result was that a price was put on his head.  No wonder he wanted to end it all!
 
1 Kings 19:8b-21, The LORD Tells Elijah to Get Back to Work (2/19/2010)

While Elijah was hiding out from Jezebel, God asked him, “Elijah, what are you doing here?”  Elijah explains that he’s there because his life is in danger.  God asked him the same question again, and got the same answer.  God’s response that time was, “Get up and get back to work!”
 
Elijah thought the question was, “Why are you here?”  That apparently wasn’t what God wanted to know.  God wanted to know, “Why are you here?”  God has work for each of us to do.  If we aren’t doing it, his question is not “Why aren’t you doing it?”  Instead, his question is, “Why aren’t you doing it?”  God is willing to listen to the obstacles, but not to the excuses.


More Heroes of the Faith

Introduction: The Heroic Faith of Our Ancestors

Old Testament Heroes
Abraham and Sarah
Caleb & Joshua
Ehud
Deborah
Gideon
Jephthah
Elijah
Micaiah
Jeremiah
Esther and Mordecai
Shadrach, Meshach, & Abednego
King Josiah of Judah
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego


New Testament Heroes
Stephen
Thomas
Peter & John
Phoebe
The Woman with a Hemorrhage
The Canaanite Woman
Barnabas
Lydia


Bravery
Preaching in Difficult Circumstances
Courage to Challenge the Status Quo


Copyright 2010, 2012 by Regina L. Hunter.  All rights reserved.

Opinions expressed on this page are solely those of the author, Regina Hunter, and may or may not be shared by the sponsors or the Bible-study participants.  Thanks to the Holy Spirit for any useful ideas presented here, and thanks to all the readers for their support and enthusiasm.  All errors are, of course, the sole responsibility of the author.

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