This morning my brother-in-law, Abram, will be guest posting! He’s a Bible teacher in Tanzania and a PhD candidate in intercultural studies. You’re in for an intellectual treat:
Chapter 19 gives a reassuringly human picture of the prophet Elijah coming down from a ‘spiritual high’ or mountaintop experience. After God dramatically reveals His power and willingness to answer prayer, Elijah probably felt vindicated and perhaps secretly expected that his lonely and challenging life of preaching truth to a fickle and compromising people (the Israelites) would radically change. Maybe he thought he would finally be respected and his people would follow God like He did. However, this chapter reveals Elijah struggling with unfulfilled expectations, fear (vs. 3), and pride (vss. 10, 14) and God graciously revealing more of Himself to him.
First, we see weakness in Elijah’s faith in God’s protection, when Elijah flees because of the death threat of Queen Jezebel (vs. 2). He had been so bold in the previous chapter! Rather than scold or abandon him, God ministers to Elijah by providing food and water in a miraculous way (cf. God’s provision for the Israelites in the wilderness) and a message that God is for him, not against (vs. 7).
Second, Elijah reveals a prideful attitude – “I have been very jealous for the Lord…” (vss. 10, 14), when God gives Elijah the opportunity to explain his flight (at least he ran towards God). The Lord also reveals that He is not only to be found in great manifestations of power (i.e. wind, earthquake, fire), but in quiet words (“the sound of a low whisper” vs. 12). Perhaps it was through quiet listening to the Word that the 7,000 in Israel remained faithful to God. Elijah needed to realize God’s vision and ways are greater than his own. We would do well to remember this too.
Though Elijah had essentially given up on his ministry (cf. Jonah) because of fear and disillusionment, God continues to use Elijah and also accommodate his desire for retirement. In the transition of prophetic ministry to Elisha, God’s choice highlights Elisha’s allegiance to God over relationship to parents, economic security and personal independence (cf. Jesus’ teachings about the cost of discipleship).
In chapter 20, Israel continues to struggle with external enemies, partially because of Ahab’s weak spiritual leadership. God again demonstrates his power to accurately predict the future and fulfill it. King Ahab and God’s people are given victory over the drunken, boastful Syrians, despite Ahab’s fickleness and flaws. The words of God’s prophet show that it is in Ahab’s best interest to listen and depend on God’s leading. However, Ahab does not give God credit after the victory and makes his own plans with respect to Ben-Hadad. When God sends a message that Ahab has been disobedient and will face consequences, Ahab is angry and unrepentant like Cain (Gen. 4). We ought not to have such a response to God’s correction.
Thanks for sharing your insight with us, Abram!