Elijah the Tishbite
Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except by my word.”
~ I Kings 17:1
God showed mercy on the apostate nation of Israel by sending Elijah the Prophet. It was a sort of strange mercy he brought, in the form of a devastating drought, but God’s mercy often seems strange to us. It was only through this trial and the series of events that flowed from it that God secured the people’s attention and brought them back to truth.
Elijah comes on the scene abruptly, with little introduction. He makes his announcement about the rain and then he leaves, remembered only because his words were true. Ahab, Israel’s wicked king, refused to recognize his own role in the drought and chose instead to blame the messenger, seeking to kill Elijah.
In these passages we see Elijah do some extraordinary things – he comes to the rescue of a non-Israelite mother and son, first miraculously providing them with food, then raising the son from the dead. Then, in perhaps the dramatic climax of his ministry, he confronts the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. They number over 400, and Elijah is alone. The other true priests and prophets of God had been killed by Ahab’s wicked wife Jezebel. There on the mountain, Elijah challenges them to call upon their false god to bring fire. They dance and chant and plead with no result, and Elijah taunts them. When it’s Elijah’s turn, he ups the ante. He has the people pour water all over the altar until the trench surrounding it is full. He calls upon God and fierce fire descends from the heavens, licking up the water from the trench. Elijah calls upon the people and they capture and kill the false prophets of Baal. It’s an extraordinary scene.
Despite Elijah’s clear and miraculous victory, neither Ahab nor Jezebel repent. Instead, Jezebel threatens to kill Elijah. Perhaps surprisingly, Elijah despairs at this threat. He flees to the mountains and asks God to take his life. God’s response is tender. He lets Elijah sleep and provides him with food. He informs Elijah that he is not alone, that there are other faithful men and that his ministry has not been for nothing.
I’m encouraged to see God minister to Elijah in his despair — in fact, I identify with it. How often I, personally, feel despair at proclaiming God’s Word, only to be met with scorn and rejection; how easily I am discouraged! But I pray for more in my life than comfort in the midst of despair. I yearn to be able to accept God’s comfort so fully that I can move forward in victory like Elijah, fully confident in the miraculous and powerful deeds God will accomplish. I won’t be fighting prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, but perhaps if I could live a life free of worry, boldly proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then that would be a great victory indeed.
Lord, lead me to the place where I will have no fear, and proclaim your Gospel boldly. Amen.
~ Mason Barge
Editor, Daily Prayer