Can we all agree that God has a plan and a divine purpose for each one of us? We are His crowning joy, His workmanship, His beloved children. It
seems only reasonable that He has a purpose for each and every one of us. The only question is: will we answer His call, and how will we do it?
We see many examples in Scripture of those who answered God's call reluctantly, offering feeble excuses. Moses, for instance. He told God
he wasn't any good at speaking, thus was not qualified to be a leader of God's people. (Exodus 4:10)
Stop and think about that: Moses was essentially telling the LORD JEHOVAH GOD: “Whoa, wait a minute, Lord, I'm not the right person
for the job. You've made a mistake!” Wow! Let that sink in for a moment! But I just love the Lord's answer to Moses, don't you?
And the LORD said unto him, Who has made man's mouth?
or who makes the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind?
have not I the LORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with your
mouth, and teach you what you shall say. (Exodus 4:11-12)
On the other hand, there's Elijah - one of God's chosen prophets who, as far as we can tell, immediately obeyed God's call without offering human excuses.
God first instructed him to go to the brook at Cherith. We see Elijah obeying
God's call with no grumbling, no complaining, no excuses.
And it shall be, that you shall drink of the brook; and I have
commanded the ravens to feed you there. So he went and did
according unto the word of the LORD: for he went and dwelt by
the brook Cherith, that is east of the Jordan. (1 Kings 17:4-5)
God then told Elijah to go to Zarephath to stay with a widow who lived there. Once again, we see Elijah obeying God's call without hesitation, and
without arguing of making excuses.
And the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, Arise,
get you to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell
there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there
to sustain you. So he arose and went to Zarephath.
1 Kings 17:8-10(a)
Then we see where God told Elijah to go show himself to King Ahab - the most wicked king the nation of Israel had ever had. (I Kings 16:33)
Again, we don't see any hesitation on Elijah's part: he immediately did what God called him to do, without questioning or complaining.
And Elijah went to show himself unto Ahab. And there
was a severe famine in Samaria. (1 Kings 18:2)
It took a good bit of courage to go show himself to King Ahab. Ahab's pagan queen, Jezebel, had declared war on all the prophets of
God. (18:2) Ahab himself had been searching everywhere for Elijah, (18:10) and was greatly angered when Elijah was not found.
But rather than being cowed by Ahab's wrath, Elijah issued him a challenge, and what a challenge it was! Let all the prophets of Baal face
off with him to determine which God was the true God, Jehovah or Baal.
This was quite a challenge, as the odds were 850 to 1! There were
450 prophets of Baal, and another 400 “prophets of the groves”, or idol poles, who actually attended Jezebel and ate at her table. (18:19) These are
worshipers of Asherah (or Astarte) a Phoenician goddess. These weren't mere acquaintances of
Jezebel and Ahab – they were actually part of their household!
Now therefore send, and gather to me all Israel unto mount Carmel,
and the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of
the groves four hundred, who eat at Jezebel's table. (1 Kings 18:19)
The challenge was simple: let each team offer a bullock as a sacrifice to their god, and the god who answered by fire would be shown to be the true
God. For whatever reason, the 400 prophets of the groves did not show up for the challenge, just the 450 prophets of Baal.
When the false god Baal did not come through for his false prophets, Elijah even dumped gallons and gallons of water on his
sacrifice. Then Jehovah God sent down fire to consume the sacrifice Elijah had prepared.
Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and
the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that
was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their
faces: and they said, The LORD, he is the God; the LORD, he is the
God. And Elijah said unto them, Take the prophets of Baal; let not
one of them escape. And they took them: and Elijah brought them
down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there.(1 Kings 18:38-40)
God showed Himself mighty in a spectacular display
in front of the entire nation of Israel – one so awe-inspiring that the people themselves seized all the false prophets of Baal so they could be killed.
Now, seeing all of her false prophets defeated and killed enraged Queen Jezebel. She swore an oath of vengeance, that she would have Elijah
killed the same way by this time tomorrow.
And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had slain all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah,
saying, May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if I make not your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time. (1 Kings 19:1-2)
The words “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely” are a curse formula.
Basically, the person invoking the curse is saying, "If I fail to do what I say, let the gods do the same to me".
Jezebel wasn't daunted by the display of God's power, still believing in her own false gods. Her threat to have Elijah killed was not an empty threat;
she had already caused the deaths of true prophets of God who have opposed her.
Jezebel's threat produced the intended effect, for Elijah’s great faith in the one true God suddenly failed him. What irony! The man who had
just faced 450 false prophets without a quiver of fear, ran from this one lone woman.
Elijah was so rattled that he ran off without even taking time to seek God's will - maybe because he knew he wasn't going to want to
do whatever God was going to tell him to do.
Had he remained steadfast and immovable, Elijah may have been much more influential in changing the hearts and minds of Ahab and the people
of Israel, but he negated the effects of God's power by running away.
There are so many lessons we need to learn from this story. Among them are:
- It's most often the little things that cause us to fail. Elijah faced 450 false prophets without faltering, but ran in fear of one woman.
- We are all witnesses to the world around us-- whether we want to be or not! There is always someone watching us, and if we waver in
our faith, it affects not only us, but others around us. Why would anyone believe in God when they see our lack of faith?
- Sometimes our greatest failures come immediately on the heels of our greatest victories. Perhaps God allows these failures to keep us
humble, so we don't fall into an ego trap and think more highly of ourselves than we ought to. (Rom. 12:3)
God gives each of us free will; He will often allow us to go our own way for a time, even when it is contrary to His will, to teach us something about Himself.
- Oftentimes we fail to seek God's will because we know we aren't going to want to do what He wants us to! Doing God's will may make us go where we don't
want to go and do things we may not want to do - like face enemies who have the power to destroy us. It's easier , we think, to just run away, and
not seek God's will first.
In Part Two of this study, we will look at where Elijah ran off to, and what happened next.