Summary: Elijah’s obedience to announcing judgement on Israel because of apostacy landed him in stressful situations but God wonderfully provided for him.
ELIJAH AT KERITH AND ZAREPHATH
Being a prophet in Israel wasn’t a bundle of fun! Elijah often found himself in stressful situations. True, he had the prestige of being Jehovah’s messenger to those who recognized him, but all too often his message wasn’t welcomed and he became very unpopular. The trouble was that he had to convey a word of condemnation to establishment figures because they were acting quite contrary to God’s express commands, and if they continued they would bring about judgment upon themselves.
Naturally, these authority figures resented the intrusion of this holy man in the way they ran the country. It still happens today. Whenever an archbishop or a senior church leader dares to make a comment on some aspect of national life that is contrary to the standard of Scripture, the politicians are up in arms on this alleged interference on their domain by these troublesome clerics! But thank God for them, for we need these "Elijahs" to announce God’s judgments on a corrupt society.
This was the position with Elijah in the reign of King Ahab of Israel. Ahab is branded in the history books as a king who "did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him" (I Kings 16:30). What a dreadful epitaph of one’s life on earth! And what’s more, it’s said of him that he "did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger than did all the kings of Israel before him" (33).
We may wonder what has all this got to do with us in the 21st century? These stories of ancient Israel have been preserved for us in the Bible, not only as a historical record of this unique nation, but for our benefit so that we can learn from the principles they embody in our relationship with God and our families and neighbours in the short time we’re on earth. Let’s see what lessons are highlighted in this Elijah story, back in the society of the ninth century BC. The first is the general principle of:
THE TENSION BETWEEN GOOD AND EVIL
There’s a great contrast between Elijah and King Ahab as the representative of his nation. Elijah was true to the meaning of his name, "I am a man who serves Jehovah". But Ahab and most of his subjects were the opposite. God loved Israel, the people he had called out to become a light to the nations and eventually to bring them his salvation.
What God wanted, and still wants, is a people who are holy - the word means "being different". How sad he was, then, when they turned from Jehovah to worshipping the heathen gods of the surrounding nations, absorbing their degrading practices. It’s not surprising that God had to take some stern remedial action. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone - it’s a matter of cause and effect. A verse from Proverbs makes it plain,"Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people" (14:34). In the end it brings shame and suffering. The next lesson we see in the story is:
THE CONSEQUENCES OF REJECTING GOD’S WAY
Elijah, as God’s representative, was instructed to confront Ahab with advance notice that judgment was on its way. There were no "ifs" and "buts" about it; the sentence had been passed. The prophet told the king, "As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word" (17:1).
The lands of the Middle East have an extremely hot climate and a plentiful supply of rain is essential if famine is to be averted. In effect, what he was saying to Ahab was "You’ve decided to reject Jehovah’s laws and so you must bear the consequences of your actions."
When I hired a car on holiday I was given a diesel engine vehicle and was told by the car hire representative, "Be careful to fill up with diesel, not petrol, because if you put the wrong fuel in, it will foul up the engine and will have to cleaned out at considerable cost to you!" It’s the same with our lives. If we disobey what God intended, ignoring the Maker’s handbook, the Bible, we get the logical result, God’s rejection and condemnation.
Sure enough, drought came. Although it was a punishment to a backslidden nation, it affected both the small remnant of those faithful to God as well as the reprobate. But God doesn’t desert his people, even though they are caught up in the adverse circumstances. As we look at the detail in Elijah’s story we learn of:
THE FAITHFULNESS OF GOD TO THE FAITHFUL
Elijah was to prove God’s faithfulness to those who obey him. We read that God made ample provision for his servant at the brook Kerith, where he had water to drink, and he was supplied with food by the unusual means of ravens. Of course it was a miracle, but surely the God of Creation can employ his creatures or use any other instruments to meet the needs of his people.