ELIJAH: THE LONE PROPHET OF GOD – I
Elijah lived during a time when Ahab and Jezebel had flooded Israel with Baal prophets, and they were making inroads in Judah. The prophet went into hiding and complained to God and said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the people of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thy altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.” God told Elijah, “Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord.” Then the Lord said, “Yet I will have seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him” (I Kings 19:10,18). It was not Elijah, but it was Micaiah who first stood up to Ahab and to Jehoshaphat.
Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, had joined Ahab of Israel to war against the king of Aram (Syria) to recover Ramoth Gilead. The king of Judah requested that they seek counsel of the Lord. And Ahab called together four hundred men that approved his plan. Jehoshaphat was suspicious and asked, “Is there not here another prophet of the Lord of whom we may inquire?” And the king of Israel said to the king of Judah, “There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the Lord, Micaiah the son of Imlah; but I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me, but evil” (I Kings 22:8-9). It is noteworthy that Ahab knew there was a man of God and that he did not agree with the king that had obliterated Yahwehism (I Kings 16-22).
Ahab was wrong for there was more than one man who believed in the God of Israel. Right under Ahab’s nose, Obadiah, his manager, believed in God and hid and fed one hundred prophets in two caves. Obadiah had the fearful task to tell his master, king Ahab and Jezebel, that Elijah had arrived. Elijah was ready to take on four hundred fifty Baal prophets and bring rain to end the famine in the country. Elijah challenged the Baal prophets to a contest of sacrificing to the God of Israel and to Baal. Elijah’s God ate the whole sacrifice and Baal did not. Baal’s followers turned on their prophets and destroyed them. Jezebel, then, sought to kill Elijah who hid in the desert and then with a widow. Elijah complained that he was left all alone. The Lord appeared to him and ordered him back into action with the assurance that he was not alone, “And behold there came a voice to him, and said, ‘what are you doing here, Elijah?’ He said, ‘I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the people of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thy altars, and slain they prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.’ And the Lord said to him, ‘Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; and when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria; and Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel; and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abelmeholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place. And him who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay; and him who escapes from the sword of Jehu slay Elisha slay. Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him” (I Kings 19:13-18).
The message of the Lord to Elijah is a reaffirmation of Genesis 2:17. Even a man of God, that hides or finds excuses for not doing what God has commanded, removes himself from God’s active list in the world. According to Paul, they do not lose their salvation, but they escape being judged or being rewarded by the skin of their teeth. “According to the commission of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and another man builds upon it. Let each man take care how he builds upon it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than the one that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble -– each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work, which any man has built on the foundation, survives, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (I Corinthians 3:10-15). If we regard grace as an unconditional gift, rather than as a reward for a job well done, Paul has a way of throwing curve balls at us. The reason we have been saved is to produce good works (Ephesians 2:10).
The days, for evildoers or people that disregard God’s Laws, are always numbered. Saul’s kingdom ended with his son. Jeroboam’s kingdom ended with his son Nadab who was killed by Baasha; Baasha’s son Elah was killed by Zimri, who was killed by Omri, the father of Ahab, who was killed by Ben Hadad of Syria. These killings included all the male offspring that had any claim on the throne of Israel. Ahab’s son, Ahaziah succeeded his father, and Jehu wiped out his whole family (I Kings 14-22; II Kings 9-10). Evil not only begets evil, but evil exterminates itself. Throughout this time, the God of Israel kept sending them messengers, warning them of their own demise, but to no avail. Ahijah warned Jeroboam, Jehu son of Hanani spoke against Baasha and Elijah with Elisha and Micaiah prophesied against Ahab and Jezebel. In addition, there were nameless prophets who were sent to Ahab and he even briefly repented (I Kings 20:28,35; 21:27). The encounter between Elijah and Ahab was shocking. Elijah found Ahab in the vineyard of Naboth. Naboth refused to sell his beautiful vineyard to Ahab and Jezebel had him killed on false charges against the king. The dogs licked up Naboth’s blood, as well as Ahab’s blood and Jezebel’s blood (I Kings 21:1-19).
Ahab said to Elijah, “Have you found me, O my enemy?” He answered, “I have found you, because you have sold yourself to do what is evil in the sight of the Lord. Behold, I will bring evil upon you; I will utterly sweep you away, and will cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel; and I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nabat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, for the anger to which you have provoked me, and you made Israel to sin. And of Jezebel the Lord also said, ‘The dogs shall eat Jezebel within the bounds of Jezreel.’ Anyone belonging to Ahab who dies in the city the dogs shall eat; and anyone of his who dies in the open country, the birds of the air shall eat” (I Kings 21:20-24). The historian added his version, “There was none who sold himself to do what was evil in the sight of the Lord like Ahab, whom Jezebel his wife incited. He did very abominably in doing idols, as the Amorites had done, whom the Lord cast out before the people of Israel.” Ahab did take Elijah’s words seriously. Ahab humbled himself, repented, renting his clothes and fasted in sackcloth. Elijah was sent back with a new message from the Lord, “Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days; but in his son’s days I will bring the evil upon him” (I Kings 21:25-29).
The way God does hand out justice is by the principle of what one sows that one also reaps (Galatians 6:7). Everything that Jeroboam, Baasha, and Ahab did ended up being done to them. God is the giver of good and perfect gifts and not of evil (James 1:17). It is what a person does to others that will come back to haunt the person (Matthew 6:12). These men or these leaders had sown corruption to their own flesh and they were reaping what they had sown either corruption or death. They had not followed the Spirit who protects life into eternity (Galatians 6:8). They lived by the sword and they died by the sword (Matthew 26:52). Ahab did not even wait for his son to taste evil and death. He had himself killed by the Syrians, when he and Jehoshaphat of Judah went to war against Micaiah’s advice (I Kings 22). All men inherited Adam’s nature of good and evil, which results in what they chose to be and do. To blame God, or even to blame the devil, is a very lame excuse. It is what man chooses to be that he becomes. Even the people, who had received all the insight of Moses and all the miraculous deliverance from Egyptian bondage; yet, they had to choose. Joshua confronted these people with this message, which also applies to all of us, “Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River, and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if you be unwilling to serve the Lord, chose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell; but for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” The people agreed, but Joshua did not trust them and insisted, “You cannot serve the Lord; for he is a holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. If you forsake the Lord and serve other gods, then he will turn and do you harm, and consume you, after having done you good” (Joshua 24:14-20).
Joshua’s warning has fallen on deaf ears because man, as well as nations have chosen to live and to operate outside the Creator’s sphere and they have induced and continue to induce their own demise. Human gods and human laws are unsustainable. Human gods and human laws are simply too many, too bloody, too costly, and too demanding. God’s Laws are simple, down to earth, and they are cheap! We can count them on our ten fingers and gain salvation instead of death. The Creator God is not attached to temples, to shrines, to idols, or to mountains. But — the Creator God is attached to the spirit that lives within man (John 4:21-24). When Samuel was forced to replace God with a king, it only took three generations to end the United Kingdom of Israel. These kings or these gods, that followed the Creator God, had to build more idols and more shrines to create more revenue and an army of lawyers or prophets to legalize their right to break the Ten Commandments of God. It does not take an expert to tell a simple-minded human that dishonoring parents, committing murder, or adultery, to steal, to lie, and to covet is wrong. And such actions will have severe consequence, even in a world that does not want to believe in God Almighty. Nothing that moves outside the dimensions God has set for man can endure or can survive. That is why the houses of Jeroboam, Baasha, and Ahab were wiped out after their second generation. In our time, or in the twentieth century, Hitler and Mussolini did not last one generation and Stalin managed two generations. How long shall the influence of our second president of the twenty-first century last? It is no longer a question whether he will survive, but whether the nation can pay for his tenure? The people that followed David and his son Solomon could not; neither could all the other people in the Bible pay for their kings. If we take a closer look at history, the picture of operation outside the Laws of God are far grimmer. The ideas that man can govern himself, and others, with man-made rules and with man-made regulations have never been achieved. Plato’s Republic was a fiction of his imagination and the USA’s attempt to be one of his protegees is fading away.