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By Chuck Smith
Let's turn to the First Kings, chapter seventeen.
The seventeenth chapter of First Kings introduces us now to a very interesting character, Elijah the Tishbite, whatever Tishbite means. Now Elijah came from the area of Gilead, which you'd call today TransJordan if you were in Israel; it was across Jordan in the area of Gad. And so he came from the area of Gilead. It is thought that it is possible that Tishbite means that he was not really an Israelite, that he was some other nationality. But that is only a conjecture, we don't know for sure. But he certainly had a very interesting career. And he comes to the apostate northern tribe at really sort of its lowest point when Ahab is the king with his wicked wife Jezebel. And they have just about eliminated the worship of Jehovah.
They have introduced Baal worship to Israel. They have broken down the altars of God. They have slain the prophets of God and they have just about eliminated the worship of God from the Northern Kingdom of Israel. And so at this dark period of history, Elijah comes on the scene with the message of God and the warning of God for the people, and so he's a very interesting character indeed. It is prophesied in Malachi that before Jesus comes again, that Elijah will come and will be turning the hearts of the children to their fathers. And God is going to send Elijah back to the nation Israel to really bring a great revival to Israel before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
Now when Zechariah the priest, recorded in Luke chapter one, was in the temple fulfilling his course of ministry, the angel Gabriel stood beside the altar and informed Zechariah that his wife Elisabeth in her old age was to bear a son.
And he said, "And he shall go forth in the spirit and in the power of Elijah to turn the hearts of the children unto their fathers." The key there, I think, is the spirit and the power of Elijah.
We then follow when in the first chapter of John when John the Baptist was fulfilling his ministry, they came to John and they said unto him, "Who gave you the authority to do these things? Are you Elijah?"
And he said, "No."
Are you that other prophet? "No."
Then who are you?
He said, "I'm the voice of one crying in the wilderness saying, Make straight the path of the Lord."
Now John denied that he was Elijah. However, after the death of John the Baptist, Jesus was talking about John and He said, "Of all men born of women there is not risen a greater prophet than John the Baptist: yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he" ( Matthew 11:11 ).
The disciples then said to the Lord, how is it then, He's giving John the Baptist this credit for being one of the greatest prophets? He said, "How is it then that the Bible says Elijah must first come?"
And Jesus said, "Elijah shall first come." In other words, the prophecy of Malachi will be fulfilled. Before Jesus comes again, Elijah will first come. But He said, "if you are able to receive it, this is Elijah," referring to John the Baptist.
Now we realize that there are two aspects of the coming of Jesus Christ. His first coming was to give Himself as God planned as a sacrifice for our sins. His Second Coming is to reign and to establish God's kingdom upon the earth. But there are two aspects to the coming of Christ; and thus, there are two aspects to the prophecy of Elijah being the forerunner. And thus John the Baptist in the spirit and in the power of Elijah was the forerunner at the first coming; but Elijah will return to be the forerunner before Jesus comes again.
John the Baptist was in the spirit and in the power of Elijah. Now Elijah did appear with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. When Jesus went up into the high mountain with His disciples, Peter, James and John, He was transfigured before them, Elijah appeared there on the Mount of Transfiguration with the Lord. No doubt in Revelation, chapter eleven, verse two where it speaks of the Lord sending the two witnesses, His two witnesses unto the nation Israel, that one of the two witnesses will indeed be Elijah and the fulfillment of the prophecy of Malachi.
So Elijah is a very interesting character because he is interwoven. This is the beginning of his career but he showed up on the Mount of Transfiguration and he's going to show up once more before Jesus comes again. Now because of the prophecy that Elijah will first come, that is why the Jews at every Passover when they celebrate Passover they always set the empty chair and leave the door open. They're waiting for Elijah to come. The door is open. He's welcome and they've got the chair set for him at the table and it is a sign of their anticipation of the Messiah's return. But they know before He returns, or their anticipation of the Messiah, they are not really looking for Him to return, but their anticipation of the Messiah and the chair set for Elijah before the return.
So very interesting character and now we get into the study of this fellow Elijah who came into Israel at this dark period of their history when there is such a great spiritual decline.
And he comes in very dramatically, with a dramatic announcement and then he disappears. He came to Ahab, the wicked king and he said,
As the LORD God lives, before whom I stand, there is not going to be dew or rain for these years, until I say so ( 1 Kings 17:1 ).
And then he took off. And he was gone for three-and-a-half years. And for three-and-a-half years, there was a drought, not a drop of rain, no dew from heaven until the land became very dry and parch.
Now he took off first of all over to the brook Cherith, which is back towards Gilead, from which he had come. And the Lord instructed him to go to the brook and drink of its water and the Lord said, "I'll feed you there." And God commissioned a couple of ravens to bring him food to eat every day, actually in the morning and in the evening. They brought him bread and they brought him meat. And so he was there by the brook Cherith, morning and evening the ravens would show up with this food and he was just staying there until the brook dried up because of the lack of rain.
And so the Lord then commanded him to get to Zarephath, over near Zidon. So it would be in the area of the Lebanon today. Zidon is about ten miles north from Accho. And there is a widow woman there, the Lord said, "And she will take care of you."
So he went and he came to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, he saw this widow woman and she was gathering sticks ( 1 Kings 17:10 ):
Now in the more primitive cultures, the ladies go out and gather sticks for their fires. You can go down to Guatemala and see the ladies today out gathering sticks for their fires and all. And over in Israel in the primitive culture, and it still does exist in many areas there, the ladies out gathering sticks and they of course, cook over the open fires and it's quite interesting.
And so she was gathering these sticks and he said to her, "Would you bring me a drink of water?"
And so while she was going to get him a drink of water, he said, "Oh, while you're bringing me the water, how about bringing me some bread, too?"
And so she poured out her heart. She said, "I'm sorry, sir. I don't have any bread. In fact, I'm gathering a couple sticks now to build a fire and I have just a little oil and a little flour left, enough to make a couple of pieces of bread for my son and we're going to eat those and then we're just going to die. I'm just- we're depleted. We have no flour, no oil."
So Elijah said, "First make me some bread. And then make it for you and your son. And according to the Lord and the word of the Lord, the flour shall not cease nor the oil until this whole drought is over."
And so the widow lady went in and she made Elijah some bread and she found out that there was still flour left in the barrel, still oil. And she kept feeding him. And during this whole period of the drought, the flour did not fail, nor the oil, it was always enough to make just one more.
It's really a miracle indeed and there is no taking away from the miraculous aspect of it, how that God supplied miraculously. But it is interesting the prophet said, "Make it for me first, and then for yourself." There is sort of a spiritual kind of a thing here, as far as giving to God the firstfruits of our lives. Jesus said, "Seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these other things will be added unto you" ( Matthew 6:33 ).
Now if I twist this priority, and I start seeking first other things, then my life will be so involved in seeking other things that I don't have time for God. But if I seek first my relationship with God, then all of my other relationships come into balance. They all just work on in. You see, my life exists on two plains-the vertical axis upon which my life revolves, and the horizontal plain, this outer area, my relationship with other people. Now if the vertical axis of my life is correct, if my relationship with God is what it should be, then the horizontal plain of my life is in balance. My relationship with those around me is in balance and I am living a well-balanced life if the vertical axis is correct, if my relationship with God is all that it should be.
However, if the vertical axis of my life is not correct, if my relationship with God isn't all that it should be, then the horizontal plain of my life is also going to be out of kilter. And I find myself on this crazy topsy-turvy kind of an experience, where I'm always trying to balance my life. And I'm spending all my time trying to get my life into balance and things in the proper focus. And I just never can seem to quite make it. Just about the time I get up here to try and balance this side, then I come overboard this way, you know. And I'm constantly working to get my life into balance, never seeming to be able to do it. My relationships are all messed up.
Now if I spend my time in just trying to balance my life, I am only treating the symptoms. It's like trying to treat a brain tumor with aspirin. You know, just to sort of deaden the pain so you don't feel it so bad and you don't feel these headaches quite so severely. But you're only treating symptoms; you're not getting to the heart of the problem. Now any doctor who only treats symptoms is a quack. Stay away from him. You want a doctor that's going to find out what the cause is that's creating the symptoms. "Why are you getting dizzy? Why do you have this severe pressure in the head?" You want something more than aspirin. Now people are so often treating only the symptoms, the relationship, and trying to get this relationship to work. "No, I've got to work on this and I've got to work on that. And oh, this is all messed up now, you know." And we're so busy in the horizontal plain trying to get it in balance when in reality the solution is very simple. Get the vertical axis correct. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness."
Elijah said, "Make me first the cake." Now had she gone in to make first of all the cake for herself and her son, that'd have been it. The barrel would have been empty of flour, the oil would have been gone; they would have died. "Make me first the cake and then for you and your son." Put the Lord first. Get your priorities correct and God will take care of you. God will take care of the other aspects of your life. So the most important relationship that I have in all this world is my relationship with God and nothing should get before it. And if I'm going to work on any relationship at all, I should be working on this relationship with God above every other relationship, because if this gets correct, then the others are all going to fall into balance. If this relationship with God is out of kilter, then there is no way I'm going to be able to balance my life. It will always be in this crazy topsy-turvy way. There is no way you can have a well-balanced life until your life is centered in God. And that is the vertical axis upon which your life is rotating. And until then it's always going to be out of balance, out of kilter.
So Elijah set forth really a principle for this gal for God to work. Put God first and God will take care of you. He'll take care of the seconds and the thirds and the fourths. But it's priority and it's simple and it's basic, and yet it's one of the most important truths that you need to learn in your whole experience of life, is that your relationship with God must supersede every other relationship. Make sure that you have a right relationship with God because that will see you through everything else.
So the little woman did what Elijah said and God took care.
The barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by Elijah. Now it came to pass, that the son of this woman became very sick; and actually he was so sick, he quit breathing. And so she said to Elijah, What have I to do with thee, O thou man of God? Are you come to call my sin to remembrance, and to slay my son ( 1 Kings 17:16-18 )?
Now it is interesting that she was sort of thinking that the death of her son was somehow related to her own sin.
And Elijah said unto her, Give me your son. And he took him out of her bosom, and he carried him up into a loft, [where he stayed in a loft there next to her house,] and he laid him on his own bed. And he cried unto the LORD, and said, O LORD my God, have you brought this evil upon this woman that I'm staying with in slaying her son? And he stretched himself out on the child three times, and he cried unto the LORD, and said, O LORD my God, I pray thee, let this child's soul or consciousness come into him again. And the LORD heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came to him again, and he revived. And Elijah took the child, and brought him down to his mother and presented him to her: and he said, Look, your son is living. And the woman said to Elijah, Now by this I know that you are a man of God, and the word of the LORD is in your mouth in truth ( 1 Kings 17:19-24 ).
Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on 1 Kings 17". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany