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Elijah Fleeing for His Life
1 Kings 19:1-11.19.21
1. The story of the slaughter of the prophets of Baal. The people fell on their faces as soon as they saw that God consumed the sacrifice of Elijah with fire, and they cried: "The Lord, He is the God. The Lord, He is the God."
Immediately Elijah took steps to destroy the prophets of the sun-god. We read that he brought them down to the brook, Kishon, and he slew them there. God's judgments always follow those who deny Him. Every one that is proud and lofty must be bowed down.
Once more the days of God's judgment are coming on apace. It will not be long until those who have exalted themselves above God will be going into the clefts of the rocks for fear of the Lord and the glory of His majesty; for He will soon arise.
2. The promise of rain. As soon as the prophets of Baal had been slain Elijah said unto Ahab, "Get thee up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of abundance of rain." It is always so. When sin is put away from us, God will undertake in our behalf. God has said, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins."
When people return to God, God will return to them. Isaiah put it this way, "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon."
Praise God there is forgiveness of sins. The prodigal, if he returns, will find a warm welcome at home. David, when he sought the face of the Lord, and confessed his iniquity, had his sins forgiven, and the peace of God ruled in his heart.
3. The cloud the size of a man's hand. Elijah had spoken with unswerving faith unto Ahab, and altogether without sight, when he said "there is a sound of abundance of rain." His faith was the faith that gives substance to the things hoped for. It was the evidence of things not seen. Thus it was as soon as Ahab had gone up to eat and to drink that Elijah went to the top of Mount Carmel and cast himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees. As he was prostrated there in prayer and supplication to God, he sent his servant to look toward the sea. The servant returned and said, "There is nothing." The sky was clear, not a cloud in sight.
Elijah said to his servant, "Go again seven times." Seven is the perfect number. Thus on the seventh time the servant returned, and said to the Prophet, "Behold, there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea, like a man's hand." The Prophet knew his prayer was answered. The three and one-half years of famine and of cloudless skies were about to be broken. Would that we each might have such a faith, before we see anything, and then the faith that sees, in the smallest sign, the assurance of speedy answers.
As soon as Elijah saw the little cloud he said to his servant: "Go up, say unto Ahab, Prepare thy chariot, and get. thee down, that the rain stop thee not."
Thus it was that it came to pass that as Ahab hastily prepared his chariot, the heavens became black with clouds, and there was wind and great rain. Ahab rode toward Jezreel, and the Lord's hand was on Elijah, "and he girded up his loins, and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel."
I. VENGEFUL JEZEBEL (1 Kings 19:1-11.19.2 )
1. Unmoved by God's power. As soon as Ahab had told Jezebel of all that Elijah had done, and how he had slain the prophets with the sword, Jezebel was deeply stirred in her whole being. There was not one note of thanksgiving to Almighty God for the wonderful rain that had fallen. All Jezebel thought about was herself. In the slaughter of her prophets she saw her own downfall, her own prestige weaken. Her power was lessened.
2. Unmitigated wrath. The anger of Jezebel could not be restrained. She was ready to lay her hand, if possible, upon the servant of the Most High. Elijah had slain the prophets of Baal, the men who had brought sorrow and anguish unto Israel, and now she arose to slay, if possible, the Prophet of God who had stepped in and brought rain and blessing.
3. Unswerving threats. In the attitude of Jezebel there was one ray of mercy. She sent word to Elijah saying, "So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by to morrow about this time." In Jezebel's threat she asserted her power and authority with one stroke of her hand to set at nought and to slay the servant of the Most High. There has always been antagonism unto the death by Satan and all his hordes against God and His sons.
II. THE WEAKNESS OF A MIGHTY MAN (1 Kings 19:3-11.19.4 )
1. Elijah went for his life. When the threat of Jezebel reached the ears of the Prophet, he arose and fled for his life, and came to Beer-sheba. Elijah seemed to forget for the moment that God, whom he had served all his life, could save him even from the hands of a demonized woman.
Had not God sent the ravens to feed him? Had not God kept the barrel of meal from waste, and the oil from diminishing? He had not trembled when he met Obadiah, nor when he was face to face with Ahab. He had not quailed before eight hundred and fifty prophets of Baal. Certainly Ahab and these prophets would have taken his life had they dared.
For our part, we are glad that the Bible told us of Elijah fleeing because it shows us that our God does not cover up the failures of His saints. He does not paint pictures with all-rosy hues.
One of the outstanding marks of the inspiration of the Bible is its unswerving fidelity to facts even when those facts seem to go against the integrity of God's choicest saints.
2. Elijah went a day's journey. At Beer-sheba he left his servant. From there he went a day's journey into the wilderness. He was not satisfied to stay at Beer-sheba where the hand of the wicked woman might reach him. He felt that the longer the distance between them, the better. There are times when it is right for us to flee from danger. God said unto Joseph, "Arise, and take the young Child and His mother, and flee into Egypt." However, it is all wrong to flee in unbelief and through fear.
3. Elijah sat under a juniper tree. From that day until this, people who are discouraged and disheartened, are proverbially spoken of as being under a juniper tree. If any read this who are given to discouragement, doubts, fears, or trembling, let them learn to trust in the Lord. "Perfect love casteth out fear."
III. THE CONSIDERATE LORD (1 Kings 19:5-11.19.8 )
1. Arise and eat. The Lord of Elijah saw him under the juniper tree. He saw him as he sat there; He saw him as he lay down and slept, As God looked upon His Prophet He knew the weakness of his flesh. He understood fully the strain under which he had been for the past days. He comprehended the feelings which flooded the Prophet's mind as he saw the hand of a wicked woman seeking to slay him.
From God there was not one word of reproach or of correction. He sent His angel to the discouraged Prophet. The angel touched him, and said to him, "Arise and eat" * * "and, behold, there was a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again." The second time the angel of the Lord touched him and said, "Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee."
2. Recuperating. Thus God not only gave him strength to recuperate from his flight, but He gave him strength to continue on his way. God was teaching Elijah a lesson. Perhaps, we might sum that lesson up under these words: "Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him. For He knoweth our frame; He remembereth that we are dust."
The forty days' journey in the strength of the meat that God had prepared, and the drink which God had given Elijah, enabled him to arrive at Horeb, the Mount of God. There is no better place for any of us to go than to the Mount of God.
IV. THE MOUNT OF GOD (1 Kings 19:10 )
When we think of Elijah going forty days and forty nights without food, we, think of the Lord who was forty days and nights in the wilderness, where He met Satan and vanquished him.
When we think of Elijah at the Mount of God, we think of a saint tired and troubled casting himself upon the Lord. As he came to a cave and lodged there, the Word of the Lord came unto him. Let us consider what happened.
1. The question. "What doest thou here, Elijah?" As we have studied this chapter we have almost thought that Elijah's task in Samaria was completed and, therefore, when he ran from Jezebel, he was in the will of the Lord. However, as he was before God in the cave, the Lord said to him, "What doest thou here, Elijah?" God was truly giving unto His valiant servant a needed and yet a gentle rebuke. He seemed to be saying, "Why art thou here when I sent thee there?" It must be that Elijah's task at Jezreel was not ended.
2. The prophet's response. Elijah said unto the Lord, "I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: for the Children of Israel have forsaken Thy covenant, thrown down Thine altars, and slain Thy Prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away."
Perhaps, as we have seen Elijah slaying the eight hundred and fifty prophets of Baal, in his inner heart some one has condemned the Almighty for such a slaughter. Beloved, this verse will give us an insight.
Jezebel and her prophets had slain the prophets of the Lord, and God has taught from time immemorial that he that taketh man's blood, by him shall his blood be taken.
V. THE NEW REVELATION OF GOD (1 Kings 19:11-11.19.12 )
1. The great wind. God told Elijah to stand upon the mount before the Lord. Then as He stood there the Lord passed by, and there was a great wind. Once again the Lord passed by and there was a great earthquake. The wind smote the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks, but the Lord was not in the wind. The earthquake caused a great trembling, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. The winds and the earthquake seem to show the majesty and the power of God, and yet it is not in winds and earthquakes that God is seen speaking to Elijah.
2. The still, small voice. After the wind and after the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. After the fire came a still, small voice. Elijah had shown no particular fear because of the wind, or the earthquake, or the fire, but as the voice was heard he wrapped his face in his mantle, "and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave." He knew that God was about to speak to him.
How often the madness of the winds that blow against us, the power of the earthquake, and the strength of the fire seem to drown the voice of God. We are living in a world that is too busy, too much filled with commotion, too full of excitement to hear God. God often speaks with that still, small voice in the quietness of a shaded nook where we can meet Him alone.
VI. BACK AGAIN (1 Kings 19:15-11.19.18 )
As the Lord spake unto Elijah once more, He said, "What doest thou here, Elijah?" Once more the Prophet pleaded his own integrity, and reminded the Lord of the sins of His people, Israel. Once more Elijah said, "I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away."
1. "Go, return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus." Back again, oh, man of God! Think of the unnecessary flight. Think of running away and then of having to retrace thy steps.
What varied circumstances fell upon Jacob from that day that he left Bethel until the day that he went back to Bethel. What has happened in thy life since the day thou didst run away? Back we must go to the place where we laid down our task and stepped out of the will of God.
2. A threefold commission. (1) Elijah was told to anoint Hazael to be king of Syria. (2) He was told to anoint Jehu, the son of Nimshi, to be king over Israel. (3) He was told to anoint Elisha to be Prophet in his own room. These new appointments from Heaven showed that God Almighty was about to make an end of the rule of Ahab and of Jezebel.
In this new regime which the Prophet was ordered to set up, he was to put in motion a mighty power against those who had wandered from the Lord. To the Prophet God said, "It shall come to pass, that him that escapeth the sword of Hazael, shall Jehu slay: and him that escapeth from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay."
3. A great acknowledgment of the faithful. Elijah had said unto the Lord, "I, even I only, am left." In reply the Lord said unto Elijah, "I have left Me seven thousand in Israel," who have not bowed their knee unto Baal, and who have not kissed him. God knew what Elijah did not know of these who were faithful. Unto this moment God is looking for those who keep the faith, and obey His voice. There is not one He fails to see and to appreciate.
VII. ELISHA FOLLOWS ELIJAH (1 Kings 19:19-11.19.21 )
As Elijah went his way he saw Elisha, and he cast his mantle upon him. Elisha said, "I will follow thee," but Elijah answered, "What have I done to thee?" Let us see what we have here.
1. A man plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him. The man picked out from among eleven other men, a man who was in honest toil fulfilling his daily round.
2. A man upon whom Elijah cast his mantle. This was the pre-anointing of Elisha. The final anointing was as Elijah went up in a cloud into Heaven, and when he cast down his mantle which Elisha took up.
3. A man quick to follow and obey. Elisha left his oxen and ran after Elijah and said, "Let me, I pray thee, kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow thee." Elijah said to Elisha, "Go back again."
Then the young Prophet took the oxen and slew them, boiled their flesh, and they did eat. Then he arose and went after Elijah, and ministered unto him.
Onward and never back,
My eyes look on for aye;
Onward and never back,
I press a forward track;
May I the "joy" not lack
At break of day.
Onward with mighty stride,
The "joy" I almost see;
Onward with mighty stride,
All else I cast aside
To win, whate'er betide,
God's joy for me.
"They are dead fish which are carried down the stream." Living fish may go with the stream at times, but dead fish must always do so. There are plenty of such in all waters: dead souls, so far as the truest life is concerned, and these are always drifting, drifting, drifting as the current takes them. Their first inquiry is what is customary? God's Law is of small account to them, but the unwritten rules of society have a power over them which they never think of resisting. Like the Vicar of Bray, they can twist round and round if the stream is running in an eddy; or, like the sluggard, they can remain at their ease if the waters are stagnant. They stand in awe of a fool's banter, and ask of their neighbor leave to breathe.
Is this a right state to be in? Each one of us must give an account of himself before God: should not each one act for himself? If we follow a multitude to do evil, the multitude will not excuse the evil nor diminish the punishment. Good men have generally been called upon to walk by themselves. We can sin abundantly by passively yielding to the course of this world; but to be holy and gracious needs many a struggle, many a tear.
Where, then, am I? Am I sailing in that great fleet which bears the black flag, under the Rear-Admiral Apollyon, who commands the ship Fashion? If so, when all these barques come to destruction I shall be destroyed with them. Better part company, hoist another flag, and serve another sovereign.
Come, my heart, canst thou go against stream? It is the way of life. The opposing waters will but wash and cleanse thee, and thou shalt ascend to the eternal river-head, and be near and like thy God. O Thou who art Lord of the strait and narrow way, aid me to force a passage to glory and immortality." Chas. H. Spurgeon.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on 1 Kings 19". "Living Water". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany