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Breezin Through the Bible, 15 A – The Prophets, Elijah

January 28, 2014

Elijah, God’s Messenger

Hebrew prophets denounced evil, corruption, immorality, sin and human fallibility. They were the party poopers of the ancients, often reluctant witnesses. They were chosen by God to show the power of God, his strength and compassion. They sometimes performed miracles, like parting the sea or bringing a dead person to life. The prophets tried to focus the people on the God they served by taking God’s messages to them. It was a tough job.

When Ahab was king of Judah (869-850 BC), God sent his prophet Elijah to warn Ahab to mend his ways. Ahab did not like the message, and may have killed the messenger if God had not warned Elijah to seek protection elsewhere. Elijah left the king after telling him there would be neither dew nor rain for the next few years except at his word. Elijah hid in a remote place near a brook, and ravens brought him bread and meat each morning and evening.

When the brook dried, Elijah went to a village where he saw a widow gathering sticks. He asked her for water and a piece of bread. Although she had only a little flour and oil for herself and her son, the widow complied, and the flour and oil remaining were enough to feed them all for many days. When the widow’s son died, Elijah begged the Lord to return the good woman’s son. The son lived.

Again Elijah confronted Ahab. The king summoned 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah to meet him on Mt. Carmel where Elijah challenged them to prove the legitimacy of their gods by setting fire to a sacrificial altar containing a bull. The prophets danced and prayed all day, but fire did not appear. With 12 stones representing the twelve tribes of Israel, Elijah built and altar and made a trench filling it with 12 containers of water. He prayed. The fire of the Lord flashed from heaven, consuming the bull, the wood, the stones and the water. A terrific rainstorm followed.

Ahab went home to his wife, Jezebel, telling her the prophets of Baal and Asherah had been killed. Jezebel pledged to have Elijah killed, and she was wicked enough to do so. Jezebel wanted a neighbor’s vineyard. The neighbor, Naboth, would not sell his land. Jezebel plotted to have Naboth killed so she could have the land. Falsely accused, Naboth was stoned to death. Elijah warned, “Dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel. (1 Kings 21:23). Fearful of Jezebel’s wrath, Elijah fled to Beersheba, a town in Judah.

Exiled and discouraged, Elijah prayed to the Lord. The Lord sent a windstorm, an earthquake, and fire. Then the Lord appeared to Elijah in a soothing whisper. Elijah, overawed by the Lord’s presence, pulled his cloak over his face. God told Elijah to anoint Jehu to become king of Israel and to find Elisha to be his own successor. Elijah found Elisha plowing a field. When summoned, Elisha dropped his plow to follow Elijah.

In Judah, Jehoshaphat followed his father Asa, overcoming his enemies, and the southern kingdom began to prosper.

Ahab, disguised as a foot soldier so he would not be caught by the enemy, was killed by the enemy when a random arrow struck him. His sons Ahaziah and Jehoram succeeded him, but followed Ahab’s lawlessness and did little to restore Israel.

After serving God for 27 years, Elijah made a grand exit. He was taken to heaven by a team of horses and and a chariot of fire, swept to God in a whirlwind.

(to be contd.)

 

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