In part 1 of this article, join me as we explore the setting, appearance, and radical obedience of God’s faithful prophet Elijah as recorded in 1 Kings 17:1-7
Setting 1 Kings 16
Israel’s national power and influence is at it’s peak during the reign of King Omri. Numerous extra-biblical sources mention the power and wealth of the Northern Kingdom. Surprising, God’s word in 1 Kings 16 doesn’t mention the wealth or national influence of the kingdom but instead focuses on the evils committed by Omri (v 25-26) and later his son Ahab (v 30-32). The kings introduced idolatry and promoted false worship of the baals. Ahab also married a wicked queen named Jezebel who will viciously persecute the true prophets of God.
Why was idolatry such a problem? God commanded His people to worship and serve Him alone. The King and Queen were promoting worship of foreign gods/goddesses. The term “baal” refers to “master”, “lord”, “husband”. Baal worship like the Greeks had a number of deities to worship depending on location and function. Jezebel promoted the worship of Asherah, a fertility deity. Ahab set up Asherah poles for worship and sacrifices. It doesn’t seem as though the King and Queen banned worship of the True God Yahweh, but they were encouraging the worship of the “local” or “regional” deities of the Israelities’ neighbors. For more information regarding the baals check out the link below:
As we learn later in 1 Kings, many people were confused on the true God of the Hebrew people. That’s the real danger of national prosperity and power. It’s easy to drift from God when we forget that He alone is God and worthy of our worship.
Elijah’s Appearance 1 Kings 17:1-2
Elijah appears before King Ahab and bravely pronounces God’s Righteous Judgement. Elijah’s name is significant for what it means in Hebrew! EL–refers to Elohim the Creator God, i-represents “my”, and jah or yah refers to Yahweh. Yahweh is God’s name as revealed to Moses at the burning bush in Exodus. Yahweh refers to God’s Covenantal Faithful Nature and means literally, “I Am Who I Am”. John Piper provides a list of 10 things that Yahweh means in his post:
Elijah’s name confronts the paganism of the the vile King and Queen. His message is a direct judgment against the false idols who supposedly bring the essential rains and fertility of crops and animals. Only when God tells Elijah to pray for rain will it rain again. Later we learn that this is a period of three years with no dew or rain! There can be no doubt that the false idols are powerless when the land and crops wither.
Radical Obedience 17:5-6
Notice how that Elijah responds to God’s Word to him: he immediately obeys. When God gave him a message to deliver, he delivered it. When God sent him into the wilderness to feed him by ravens and drink from a wadi, Elijah complied. Ravens are typically scavengers who eat things considered ceremonially unclean to the Jewish people. Yet, God sends the unclean birds to fetch Elijah bread and meat! Can you imagine the birds bringing you daily bread and meat and drinking from a wadi (small creek)? In the middle east, wadis are narrow streams/brooks that have varying amounts of water depending on the season and rainfall.
Are you being faithful to God’s call on your life? What message(s) might God want you to share with others (personal testimony, the Gospel message)? God seeks out people who will obey Him. Are you willing to go where God calls you? The journey of faith begins and continues with obedience to God. Just as God provided the ravens to feed and water to sustain Elijah, He will provide for you as well!
In Christ and for His Glory,