It’s hard to say what the prophet Elijah thought when God told him to anoint Elisha as his successor. It’s not an easy thing to find out that your work is done. But in 1 Kings 19:19-21, we have the record of the day when Elijah laid his cloak upon Elisha and called him into service of the Lord. Not all of us will have an experience like Elisha in this respect, but all of God’s people are called into the Lord’s service … the challenge before us all the time is to prove faithful to our high calling…
The onset of Elijah’s spiritual depression in 1 Kings 19:1-18 is well documented. From being on a spiritual high on Mt Carmel, Elijah very quickly was running for his life and yet praying that he might die. There were many kinds of factors involved in this, not the least being his sense of failure and being alone ‘the only one left’. On Mt Horeb (Sinai), Elijah met with God, but not in the way God appeared on Mt Carmel. This was different and this was designed to woo Elijah back into the Lord’s way and the knowledge of His presence, so that Elijah might continue to serve Him.
After the showdown on the top of Mt Carmel, the text of 1 Kings 18:41-46, tells us of Elijah’s prayers that broke the drought. Given that the drought had begun through the prayers of Elijah 3 years earlier, it is a helpful things for us to read of Elijah at prayer – even though we are not told what he prayed. The picture of Elijah at prayer stands in great contrast in this text to King Ahab who didn’t pray but ate. Compare the pair. Elijah and Ahab. But don’t stop at Elijah. See another – Jesus – whose prayers did more than end God’s judgement via the drought, but guaranteed the salvation of the people of God!
In 1 Kings 18:20-40, the rubber really ‘hits the road’. All that Elijah has been through in chapter 17 and all his interactions with King Ahab have been leading up to the showdown that these verses describe – fittingly, upon the top of a mountain (Carmel). Lots of important events happen on mountain tops in the Scriptures and this event is no less important in pointing us to the ‘Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29).
After the miracle of raising the widow of Zarephath’s son from death, Elijah was instructed by the Lord to go back and present himself to King Ahab. As the events unfold, the story then introduces us to one of Ahab’s servants, Obadiah, who turns out to be a faithful servant of the Lord also. In these verses of 1 Kings 18:1-19 which are just before the showdown on the top of Mount Carmel began, the story revolves around these three characters, Elijah, Ahab and Obadiah, and something that we from each of them about the state of their hearts… and ours too.
In 1 Kings 17:17-24, a further piece of a strange puzzle becomes clear for Elijah, even though for the widow with whom he was staying, this puzzle piece must have been quite a puzzle. After keeping Elijah and the widow and her son alive through God’s miraculous provision, the widow’s son suddenly died. This drove the woman to grief and to blame the Lord God of Israel that this was a form of punishment ‘for her sins’. However, this was not the case, and the miracle of the resurrection of her son (the first in the Bible) once more would prove God’s ways to be right and his servant a true man of God.
So far into his important ministry of declaring God’s Word to King Ahab of Israel, Elijah may be forgiven for wondering (if he ever did) what God had in mind – for no sooner had he appeared before the face of King Ahab, just as soon – the Lord directed him to disappear to a remote place. There, by the brook, fed by ravens, Elijah may well have also been surprised to find that his next place to stay would be with a widow and her son in Jezebel’s country! But there, as 1 Kings 17:8-16 tells us, God had plans for His prophet and there was a good reason for it all (as we may always expect with God!).
After bursting onto centre stage to stand for a moment or two under the spotlight, Elijah had announced his one line to the king (about there being no more rain) and then just as quickly as he had come in, he exited stage right. 1 Kings 17:2-7 continue the story of where the Lord sent his prophet so that he too might survive the drought, there by a brook fed by ravens. The story is one of survival, but more than that. God was also teaching his prophet a lesson – one that we also might learn, because every circumstance, yes, even our survival is all dependent upon Him!
There have been many people who have shot to fame (and so to the limelight) out of obscurity. In the Scriptures, Elijah the prophet is one such man. Not much is known about Elijah’s past except to say that he was from the town of Tishbe. Not much is known about his calling to be a prophet, but according to 1 Kings 16:29-17:1, we do know that his call to be a prophet brought him into the presence of Ahab, king of Israel. He could do that, of course, because Elijah knew how to stand before Israel’s true King.