(Today's post by Adam Cooper)
1 Kings 19
I have always loved this chapter of 1 Kings. Elijah is coming off a tremendous victory for the Lord and the destruction of numerous pagan prophets and Queen Jezebel has basically sworn to do the same to him. He is scared. He is tired. He decides to run for his life into the wilderness and after a long journey sits down and prays for his own death and says to the Lord, “I have had enough, Lord. Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors (v.4, NIV).” He falls asleep almost as if he expects the Lord to take his life while he is sleeping, instead he is visited twice by angels who provide for his hunger and thirst. Elijah is then sent on a journey that takes him 40 days and nights to Mount Horeb, a.k.a. the mountain of God. Here Elijah awaits the Lord and speaks with him through a “gentle whisper.” God asks him why he is there and from Scripture we know that when God asks a question it is all about the answer. Elijah speaks of everything that has occurred with the pagan prophets and that he is the last prophet of God left and that his life is now endanger. God seemingly ignores this little bit of information and proceeds to command Elijah to carry out a number of steps to anoint successors for Aram, Israel, and himself. We are not told how Elijah responds to this interaction with God aside from the continuation of the story with Elijah going to find and call Elisha and Elisha joining Elijah in ministry for God.
I am sure when this book was read by the audience it was originally penned for they saw a picture of perseverance and faithfulness in Elijah and all that he did. However, I believe that for today’s audience there is much more than that because we have the benefit of knowing the story that follows and the story of Christ.
I see Elijah as a tremendous symbol of perseverance and faith in God. He carried out the wishes of God in a land that was, to say the least, hostile towards him and what he preached. He had done so with such fervor that when he runs from Queen Jezebel’s death decree he is emotionally and probably physically done. We then see a picture of God caring for him and preparing him for his upcoming journey. Translate this to us today: when we do God’s work it is never promised to us to be safe. We are even told that we will be persecuted for our beliefs. But with this story and later in Scripture we are assured that we will be cared for by our creator and that He will provide for our every need; even if we feel that we have had enough and cannot keep going.
A second important point can be carved out from Elijah’s conversation and experience with God. We are provided a number of examples of ways in which God might have chosen to contact Elijah: a mighty wind, an earthquake, a fire, and lastly a gentle whisper. Elijah stood fast through the first three knowing that the Lord was not there but in the gentle whisper he heard God. Elijah knew a fact that is lost to many of us today: God does not always scream to get our attention!! In our lives we have times when we long to hear from God. We pray and we ask for a sign or a message and then we wait expecting God to beat us over the head with an answer to our prayers. What we need to understand is that God may speak to us through the tiniest little details in our lives. We need to stop waiting for God to speak to us in that booming voice that we all at some time have attributed to God and learn that through abiding in Him, praying and studying daily and trying to live a life that is in line with His will, we will be attuned to hearing from him in the most minute way possible.
A third important point from within this chapter relates to Elisha and his selection to succeed Elijah. This story reminds me a great deal of the story in Luke 9 when Jesus states to those wishing to follow Him, “Let the dead bury their own dead (v.60, NIV).” Elijah calls Elisha and immediately Elisha says, “Let me kiss my father and mother good-bye (v.20, NIV).” In Elisha’s case Elijah tells him to go back while making it clear that it was not he (Elijah) that was calling him to this ministry, but God. What Elisha does next really makes a point about counting the cost to follow God. Elisha slaughters his oxen and burns all of his farming equipment to follow God. For Elisha in that time, and probably for many of those who would have heard this story originally, that was an act of giving up everything he had to follow God. It was an act of total commitment. How many of us can say that we are so “sold out” to Christ that we have slaughtered our oxen and burned our equipment to follow him?
So, piecing this together into one coherent (or seemingly so) thought:
Following Christ is not going to be without its hardships. We will be persecuted and thought about differently because of our faith. We must persevere through this, abiding in Christ, listening for his guidance in the most minute areas of our lives, understanding that He almost never shouts to get our attention. And in so doing the things listed above we must remain so “sold out” to Him that we are willing to put everything we have on the line for His Kingdom.
My prayer for you today is that you examine your life and see if you are as “sold out” as He wants you to be; or are you simply walking through the world of the dead listening for the Lord to shout His instructions to you?