1 Kings 19=Elijah and Yahweh
Bible Background: The prophet Elijah plays a significant role in the time of the Kings, and it is not an easy role: declaring the word of the LORD to people in power-who don’t want to hear it; challenging the worship of false gods; having to live through a time of drought and famine himself. Just prior to today’s story, Elijah has won a convincing victory over the prophets of the false god, Baal. And Queen Jezebel has sworn to have Elijah killed in vengeance. That’s why he’s on-the-run, and despairing.
Digging Deeper: 1. Elijah flees about 100 miles from Mt. Carmel in the north, to the very edge of the Promised Land, in the south; to Mt. Horeb, no less! (The Mount of God! The place where God appeared to Moses in the burning bush, and the place where Moses met God to receive the Ten Commandments; also known as Mt. Sinai.) We should expect to hear of an encounter with God in a sacred place like that!
2. Elijah, who has been bold and confident, is now broken and depressed to the point that he wishes to die. God sends an ‘angel’ to wake him and feed him, not once-but twice! (Elijah has been ‘fed’ before by God’s gracious providing!) Then, in his despair, the LORD appears to Elijah-but not as you might expect: in some dramatic way (thunder, earthquake, fire), but in the “sound of silence!” The LORD asks (2x’s) a simple question: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” What do you make of that question? Is God chiding Elijah a bit? Is God making Elijah reflect on where he’s been and how things came to this point? Is God just allowing Elijah to pour out his complaints?
3. Elijah’s answer is the exact same speech, 2x’s! a) “The people have been unfaithful”-True! b) “They have killed God’s prophets!”-Not exactly. c)”I am the only one left!”-nice try, but false! The LORD listens, and then sends Elijah back to work! Elijah will anoint the next King of Aram (Syria), the next King of Israel, as well as his own successor. All of this will unfold in time. The work that God needs done, will get done, not just by Elijah, but by other faithful servants.
4. The story of Elijah concludes in 2nd Kings when he is taken up to heaven in a whirlwind! In the time of Jesus, people believed that Elijah might return; or that he might herald the coming of the Messiah! Moses and Elijah were looked to as the two Old Testament figures that would help guide the faithful into the unknown future!
5. One ‘takeaway’ from this story might be the chance to talk about “What happens when someone faithful to God, or even serving God, faces the hardship and struggle of severe depression?” “What happens when we are convinced we cannot go on or cannot wait to die?” The experience of Elijah can give us hope in several ways: a) God will provide a way! b) God will be there, even if we don’t expect that. And c) God may still have work for us to do-and it could be that in doing so, we also receive the strength to keep going!
What questions, encouragement, or takeaways do you have from this story?