I read 1 Kings 19 this morning, and I just…there’s so much in here.
1 KINGS 18
Elijah comes to Israel, where the king has done great evil in the eyes of God, and has therefore led the nation astray. I got the sense that the sins of the people lie with the people, but also on the king. And Elijah asks the people: “How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” Elijah challenges the prophets of Baal–each will put forth a sacrifice on the altars, and whoever is the true God will bring down fire to consume the sacrifice. So the prophets of Baal pray all morning and into the afternoon, and they wail and they cut themselves that their god might hear them, but nothing happens. Elijah, after them, takes four cisterns full of water and pours them over the sacrifice–not once, not twice, but THREE times, so much water that it’s flooding and pooling around the sacrifice. And he calls out to God, and immediately fire rains down and consumes the water and the sacrifice, and all the people believe. So they round up the prophets of Baal and put them to death.
How long will you waver between two opinions?? Elijah asks them. This really hit home for me, as I’ve been struggling to find joy in obedience to the Lord. He has asked me to end a dating relationship that I’ve been in for six months (my first, at the age of 26 years old), with a God-fearing man who meditates on scripture, writes songs based on the psalms, and respects me and sees me as a daughter of the King, and not as a prize to be gained or an object to be used. This relationship has grown and stretched me in the Lord in so many ways, and he has said that it’s as iron sharpens iron. But perhaps nothing in our relationship has grown me as much as obeying the Lord and choosing to (attempt) to let go. It’s been two months now, and sometimes, there are still pain and tears when I think about the loss, and it’s a pain unlike that I’ve felt before. (will be a post in itself)
And yet in this, God convicted me on Sunday that he requires obedience not just in deed, but obedience in attitudes of the heart. We have ended things, we are no longer talking about marriage, or meeting up one on one, or once a week. We no longer text, or call, we hardly talk, really. But I have not been glad to obey God in this, I’ve only felt sorrow and have even chosen to rub salt in my own wounds by reminiscing and allowing myself to think about him. But God is calling me to be joyful in my obedience, to not just want to obey, but to be glad to follow him. What kind of relationship is it if you just drag your feet through the motions, kicking the curb and dawdling like a petulant child? Joy is independent of circumstances. Happiness is based on what happens, events. But joy, true joy from the Lord, is everlasting. He gives us joy in our poverty, in our afflictions, in the aching of our hearts, to know that He alone is enough, and He is with us always. How long will I be obedient in action, but long for God to change his mind in my heart? Ah, it’s truly painful.
1 KINGS 19
So in 1 Kings 19, Elijah gets word that the king and his wife want to put him to death for killing all of their prophets. So Elijah, this man of God who just called on God to burn a soaking sacrifice, who is known for being so godly that death never touches him, and he rides up to heaven in a chariot of fire, this man, flees. He runs away. Once he reaches a large town, he leaves his servant there and continues to run into the wilderness.
He fears for his life, and lies down in the wilderness, asking for God to take his life before Jezebel reaches him. He fears dying at the hands of man.
Instead, an angel feeds him, twice, saying “Arise, eat, this journey is too great for you.” And it is enough to sustain him for forty days’ wanderings as he progresses towards a mountain. When he reaches his destination, the Lord speaks to him and asks him “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He answers, saying that he is fleeing for his life. The voice tells him to go and stand at the mountain, and “Behold, the Lord was passing!”
A great and strong wind rocks the mountain walls, then an earthquake, and then a great fire. But the Lord is not in any of them. He comes after the fire, in the sound of a gentle blowing, and at this, Elijah emerges from the cave he was in, wraps his face in his mantle, and steps out to meet the Lord. Again, the Lord asks him “What are you doing here, Elijah?” And again, Elijah tells the Lord that he is fleeing for his life.
The Lord then tells Elijah to turn around, go back into the wilderness, to go to Damascus, and proclaim new kings for both Israel and Judah, and then to anoint Elisha to take his place.
He arrives in Damascus, finds Elisha, and puts his mantle over him. Elisha, however, asks to say goodbye to his parents, which Elijah allows, and then Elisha follows and attends to Elijah.
There is SO much goodness in this passage.
- A man as holy as Elijah has his moments where he fears man more than he fears the Lord. And God is not angry with him, God simply wants Elijah to admit where he’s at (What are you doing here?), to recognize that he is fleeing from man, instead of trusting in Him. And God meets Elijah in a crazy way in the midst of his fear.
- After such a strong demonstration of God’s power (lighting the wet sacrifice), there will be those who turn to follow God, but there will be those too, who will seek to kill you and the God that you worship. We’re always at war.
- Elijah fled to the wilderness alone. He left his servant behind, just as Abraham left his servants behind when he went up on a mountain, and just as Jesus often retired by himself to pray. These people willingly chose to be alone when they go to meet with the Lord, but in truth, the wilderness can be a lonely place. Jesus was alone in the wilderness for forty days as well, led by the Spirit to go there.
- Even holy people have moments where they would rather just be taken up and leave this earth behind. It is selfish and sinful, to be sure, to escape the trials and difficulties and fears of this world, but at least we are not alone when we have such thoughts.
- God knows what we can handle, and he will provide and sustain us so we can continue. “Arise, and eat, for this journey is too great for you.” How beautiful!!! The Lord knows, even when we flee in fear, that we are weak, and he is tender and gentle with us. While we are still on this earth, while God still has plans for us, he will sustain us so we can accomplish his plans. And what he provides is enough. Elijah lasted forty days on those two meals.
- Even in the wilderness, Elijah is open and sensitive to the words of the Lord, and obeys his commands, and the Lord meets him.
- I love that the Lord was not in the great wind, nor the earthquake, nor the fire. These great demonstrations of power and might announce the Lord’s coming (and strike fear and awe in our hearts), but the Lord himself appears as the “sound of a gentle blowing”. Again, it’s so tender. He is the God of angel armies, the God of all creation, the God of righteousness and justice, of power and might, but he presents himself as the rustling of a gentle breeze. I think sometimes, especially when we find ourselves in sin, like Elijah, fearing the world more than our God, fleeing to protect ourselves, and wanting to die to avoid the pain and fears of this world, we often expect harsh judgement and a godly slap in the face. Or even when Jesus came, the Jews expected to find a mighty king who would overthrow governments and reign in power. But instead, it’s his loving kindness that leads us to repentance, it’s his great mercy and grace that touches our hearts and bids us die and follow him. Surely our God is the God of both/and–he is both righteous AND gracious, just AND merciful, pillars of fire AND the sound of a breeze…and he chose to be a baby in a manger. As Matthew Henry says “Gracious souls are more affected by the tender mercies of the Lord than by his terrors.”
- He calls Elijah by name and gives him a mountain top experience, where his courage is restored, he is refreshed, and his purpose and vision are renewed. It may have been in the midst of dark and uncertain times for him–no food, no water, Jezebel and the wrath of the king seeking his life, but God was there, and God not only provided his needs, but he attended to his soul–Why are you here, Elijah?, and revealed his plans for him.
And so yes, even in my disobedient heart that still wants what the Lord has said is not for me, even as I rub salt in my own wounds (why??), he convicts me, but he is still so tender and so gracious with me.
And he has reminded me too, of all that he has done, of my testimony from day one of laying down my life for him to everything that has led me to being here in Hawaii. That his hand was upon it all, and while there were periods of wandering in the desert, he was still there, and he was still leading me. And Lord, that year of wilderness felt so long. I felt so deserted and spiritually dry. But your amazing timing and incredible plans were at work even then, this I know full well.
And so you may be leading me into the wilderness now–my closest friend here having graduated and moved away, ending a relationship with my other good friend, small group girls moving away, and my grad school friends all gone or busy with their own lives, you’re pruning my life. Truth, there’s still one good friend here, but even still. I may not be choosing this for myself, like Elijah, Abraham, or Jesus did, but I know that you still have good work to be done, and that even if I end up in that dreaded wilderness again, that you will meet me there. You will speak tenderly to me and call me by name, and you will give me new purpose. You will make these dry bones live.
The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. 3 He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”
I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”
4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! 5 This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath[a] enter you, and you will come to life. 6 I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”