God reveals Himself over and over again in the Old and New Testaments (and yes, there is much cumulative evidence to believe this is so*), but Elijah’s encounter with an angel and with the Lord in 1 Kings 19 is one of the most interesting revelations. Perhaps this is due to its poetic and enigmatic nature. Some commentators assert that we do not really know why this story is in the Bible, so is there anything we can we learn from it?
Elijah was one of the most extraordinary prophets of God in the OT and he appeared in the NT “as” John the Baptist (Matthew 17:9-13; Luke 1:17) and in the Transfiguration (Mark 9:1-8). Since Elijah seems to show so much human weakness in chapter 19 of 1 Kings, it can provide encouragement to anyone who has fears and has become depressed. But why did Elijah become so fearful and depressed? In Chapter 18, God conducted a (very) dramatic demonstration through Elijah to show the people that He was the real thing and not Baal, a god whom many Israelites were worshipping. Indeed, Yahweh, the only creator God and the God of Israel, was becoming thought of in the same terms as Baal, and from the archaeological site Kuntillet Ajrud, dated to this same period, Yahweh was even being associated with Asherah (a mother goddess). Not only was idolatry rampant, but paganistic syncretism. So, on Mt. Carmel Elijah called on God, and He rained down fire and consumed a huge water-drenched sacrifice. But the 450 prophets of Baal in attendance could not get Baal to do anything. To rid Israel of this idolatry and all that resulted from it (besides the syncretism, all the prophets of God in Israel were being murdered), the Baal prophets were executed.
Chapter 19 begins with Queen Jezebel, a Baal worshiper and killer of the prophets of God, refusing to believe the undeniable demonstration of God. She said to Elijah, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them” (interestingly enough, her own curse becomes fulfilled). Despite the miracle that God just did through Elijah, and God’s other works through him, Elijah is terrified and runs away, far away, in fear. In despondency and what seems to be humility, Elijah prays, “I have had enough, Lord. Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” After this an angel provided food and water for him twice, saying to Elijah that the “journey is too much for you.” Since he hadn’t started his journey to Mt. Horeb yet, it appears that the angel already knew where Elijah planned on going; nothing had been said about Elijah going to the mountain of God previously. Elijah leaves for Horeb, a journey taking 40 days and nights, with no other food than what the angel had already provided him. The following takes place the day after his arrival:
“The word of the LORD came to him: ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ He replied, ‘I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.’ The LORD said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by. Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’”
Please continue on to the main points in the second half, here (this part last edited on June 26, 2011).
*You can read through my series “Rational Steps to the belief in Jesus as Christ,” beginning here.
Image source: http://www.biblepicturegallery.com/free/Pics/Elijah.gif