My post centers around one of the best known figures in the bible, Elijah. Of all the wondrous things he did by the power of God the greatest, to me anyway, was the calling down of fire from heaven to consume a sacrifice.
This is a very well-known event so I’ll just recap the events leading up to the fire coming down from heaven. These events are recorded in 1 Kings 16:29 – 18:40.
- Jezebel, the queen, had encouraged Ahab, the king, to start worshipping the false god Baal.
- Because of the sins of Israel God brought drought to the region. For three years it did not rain in Israel.
- Elijah comes to oppose the worship of false gods.
- Elijah challenges the people of Israel to decide once and for all who the true God is.
- The challenge was to build altars, add the wood and the sacrifice but do not add fire. The priests of Baal would pray for Baal to send fire down. Elijah would also pray to God for the same thing. Let the true God answer by fire.
- The priests of Baal prayed, cried and even cut themselves until the blood came gushing out but no answer came.
- Elijah prepared his altar and had a trench dug around it. He then calls for buckets of water to be poured over the altar soaking the wood and sacrifice and even filled the trench around it. After all was ready Elijah prayed and God sent a fire down that not only started the wood on fire, it consumed the wood, the sacrifice, the stones that made up the altar and the water in the trenches.
- As a result of this event the priests of the false God Baal were destroyed and all Israel shouted praise to Almighty God.
King Ahab was present for these events but Queen Jezebel was not. When Ahab tells Jezebel what happened she gets angry and sends Elijah a message that she was going to have him killed within 24 hours. It is on the heels of Elijah’s finest hour that difficult times struck.
Elijah on the Run
Elijah flees south into the desert and sat under a juniper tree. Under the tree Elijah asked God to let him die. He said “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life”. 19:4
Shortly afterwards an angel came and woke him up and offered him food. After Elijah ate he laid down again. Once again the angel came and woke him up offering more food. After he ate again he journeyed 40 days to Mt. Horeb and camped in a cave. (Mt. Horeb is where God delivered the law to Moses) Starting in verse 9 God has a conversation with Elijah which we will cover in a minute.
Was the threat from Jezebel real? Absolutely! A quick study of the life of Ahab and Jezebel will reveal that Jezebel was pulling all the strings so if she wanted someone executed, the order would be written.
Elijah was faced with a hard fact that still exists today; Christians have always been in the minority. Do not expect fanfare for doing those things that honor God. Elijah had done some great things but all he could see at this moment was the threat of Jezebel. He runs off and sits under a tree and wishes to die. This is less than 24 hours after the fire from heaven. What a difference a day makes.
Was Elijah’s faith shaken? His faith in God was certainly not shaken; we will clearly see that in the upcoming dialog between Elijah and God. Did Elijah lose faith in the work? I believe we can build a case for this conclusion. Elijah had lost hope in the work God called him to do. What’s the use, no one cares anymore. Does this sound familiar? It certainly does to me; I have thought these things myself and I wasn’t under threat of death at the time.
If Satan cannot destroy our faith in God he will try to destroy our efforts to publish the gospel. If Satan can get good people to do nothing, evil goes unchecked.
The Road to Recovery
We are now 40+ days from the showdown on Mt. Carmel where God sent the fire down from heaven. God asks why Elijah is hiding. Elijah responds that he had worked hard to preach to Israel and he is the last one left trying to do the right thing. In Elijah’s mind all the thanks he gets for it is his life has been threatened.
Next God shows Elijah His power over the earth: (wind, earthquake and fire) Elijah still holds on to his loss of hope.
This time the Lord speaks plainly that He was not done with Elijah; there is still work to do. It is not for us to decide when we are through, that is God’s business.
Elijah is given several jobs to do. Anoint Hazael king of Syria, Jehu to be king of Israel, and start training Elisha to take your place when your time does come. God also told Elijah that there were still 7,000 people in Israel that had been faithful to God so drop the pity party.
The loss of hope caused Elijah to think there is no use in trying anymore; as long as God grants us life we still have a job to do.