The Faith of Elijah

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Sunday, April 8, 2018 0 comments

by Logan Ames

Ehrich Weisz was just a young boy when his family moved to America in 1878. He got his first job as a performer when he was just 9 years old and would go on to accomplish things that no one else in his field ever had. He started out as a trapeze artist, but at the age of 17 became a professional magician. He worked his way up through the ranks and eventually, needing something to make a name for himself, began experimenting with escape acts. For the purpose of becoming more widely-known, Ehrich changed his name to Harry Houdini. He started with escaping from handcuffs and shackles and even challenged local police to lock him in jail.

As others began to imitate him, he had to keep getting more and more daring to attract the crowds. His escape acts moved on to straitjackets, then being locked in an over-sized milk can filled with water, then inside nailed packing crates in water. If he failed, he died. Later, his most notable acts included escaping from the ground after being buried alive six feet deep. The first buried alive stunt almost cost him his life. Houdini was so committed to his show that even when he had a ruptured appendix and a high fever while in Detroit in 1926, he did not cancel an event or seek medical attention. Unfortunately, this led to his death just a short time later at the age of 52. After all his great escape acts, he had met his match. Even the great Harry Houdini could not escape death!

In Hebrews 11:34, we’re told that some of the faithful anonymous were able, by faith, to “escape the edge of the sword." These would include David, Samson, and others about whom I’ve already written in this series. One man who has not yet been covered in this series and who certainly fits the description in that verse is the prophet Elijah. He didn’t just escape the edge of the sword one time; he made a habit out of it.

1 Kings 16:29-34 tells us about the moral landscape, or lack thereof, in Israel when Elijah entered the scene, compelled by the Lord who had prepared him for such a time. King Ahab had taken over in Israel and “did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him” (v. 30). The passage goes on to tell us that he considered the sins of previous kings to be “trivial." He built altars and temples to pagan gods such as Baal and Asherah, and he married Jezebel, who was the daughter of a pagan king from another nation. Immoral leadership begets immorality and a total disregard for the things of the Lord. So, it’s no surprise that we read in verse 34 that Hiel of Bethel rebuilt the city of Jericho at the cost of his oldest and youngest sons, in accordance with Joshua’s oath after God had allowed the Israelites to siege Jericho in Joshua 6:26. It’s in the midst of this incredible decline of morality that God sends Elijah to Israel.

The first thing Elijah does is go directly to King Ahab and tell him that it won’t rain in Israel for the next few years except at his word (1 Kings 17:1). This would cause drought and famine like you’ve never seen before. Ahab and Jezebel wouldn’t be very happy about this and, because they had completely lost touch with the reality of God’s authority over them and the nation, would blame Elijah for the bad circumstances. In the rest of 1 Kings 17, as a matter of protection and faith-testing for Elijah, God commands him to leave where he is and go to a ravine in the woods, where he will drink from a brook and be literally fed by ravens who bring him his daily supply of food. Elijah, likely knowing that Ahab and Jezebel will find a way to kill him, puts his faith in the Lord and decides he has a better chance of surviving with God in the wilderness than with whatever comforts and protections he had trusted before. Eventually, God takes away the brook and the ravens and commands Elijah to go to a widow in Sidon, the same region where Jezebel had actually come from, to get his food and water. Elijah had already ignored his tradition which said that he couldn’t eat something that came in contact with an unclean animal such as a raven, and now he’d have to ignore the tradition that said he couldn’t go into the home of a Gentile woman. Elijah was faithful and God used him to heal the woman’s very ill son. In the process, Elijah got his daily needs met and saw that he could trust God.

This was especially important when God then told him in 1 Kings 18 to go and present himself to Ahab. How would you feel if God told you to go say “hi” to the person desperately trying to kill you? But Elijah didn’t hesitate and did what God said (v. 2). However, Elijah and Ahab did not come face-to-face until God used Obadiah to bring them together. Obadiah was a man who, despite being an administrator to Ahab, had courageously hid a hundred of the Lord’s prophets while Jezebel was doing everything in her power to kill as many of them as possible (v. 4). When Elijah meets him and tells him to notify Ahab that he is there, Elijah even has time to reconsider, to doubt, or to have second thoughts. Yet, he remains faithful to God and to Obadiah, waits until Obadiah tells Ahab, and then presents himself to Ahab. The meeting leads to the great confrontation between Elijah and the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel. Ahab gathers all of the 850 prophets to join Elijah. It’s one against 850, yet Elijah has God on his side. Elijah urges the people to stop wavering between two opinions and to follow ONE God. Since the people give no response at all, revealing that they are complacent in their sin like many today, Elijah encourages the face-off. After the prophets of Baal try to call down fire on their sacrifice and there was nothing but crickets, Elijah calls for God to accept his sacrifice and God does. Elijah then makes certain that the prophets of Baal are all slaughtered for their sin against God.

What Elijah does to the prophets of Baal enrages Jezebel all the more, and she swears by her gods that she will kill Elijah within the next 24 hours. Elijah knows that Jezebel and Ahab now have more reason to kill him than ever before, so he begins to fear and runs away (1 Kings 19:3). God continues to provide for his basic needs even after he runs, but then God shows up and literally asks him what he is doing (19:9). Elijah explains his reason to the Lord, mainly that all of the other prophets of the Lord has been killed and now they are trying to kill him too. God shows his power to Elijah through natural disasters and a gentle voice, then asks Elijah the same question again. Elijah answers him the same way and God tells him to go anoint the next kings (19:15-16). Finally, God promises that he has reserved seven thousand people for himself in Israel who have not turned to Baal. Elijah trusts him and his faith is back on track.

Neither Jezebel nor Ahab ever did get another chance to kill Elijah as far as we know. Jezebel vowed to make it happen, but no matter where Elijah was, he was always safe in the arms of the Lord. Elijah didn’t need to defend himself against those who meant harm toward him. God was his defender and provided for his needs everywhere he went, even when he ran away before God wanted him to. Some of us may trust God when it comes to small things, but Elijah learned to trust God with his LIFE. As long as he was doing what God commanded, he had no reason to believe that God would let him die one second before God was done with him. Do you struggle with a fear of death? Are you a parent that is overprotective of your children because you’re afraid of what might happen to them, even when they go to school? Once you accept that God is way better at protecting you and your loved ones than you are, you’ll be ready to put your full faith in him. Elijah’s faith allowed him to escape the sword even when he had every reason to fear it and avoid it. God will lead you to the same freedom.

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