1st Kings, Chapter 18:41-Chapter 19
"BACK TO SINAI"
By Elie Nessim
August 4, 2002
1st Book of Kings, Chapter 18; last week we covered up to verse 40 - the triumphant vindication of GOD's servant, Elijah. GOD sent fire from Heaven upon the sacrifice. And we pick up the narrative there (verse 41); "Then Elijah said to Ahab, "Go up, eat and drink, for there is the sound of abundance of rain." So Ahab went up to eat and drink and Elijah went up to the top of Carmel. Then he bowed down on the ground and put his face between his knees, and said to his servant, "Go up now, look toward the sea." So he went up and looked and said, "There's nothing, " and seven times he said, "Go again. "" Then it came to pass the seventh time that he said, "There is a cloud, as small as a man's hand, rising out of the sea." So he said, "Go up, say to Ahab, 'Prepare your chariot and go down before the rain stops you. '"
Now it happened in the meantime that the sky became black with clouds and wind, and there was a heavy rain. So Ahab rode away and went to Jezreel. Then the hand of the LORD came upon Elijah and he girded up his loins and ran ahead of Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel."
From Kishon, from the place of execution of the false prophets, Elijah went up to the top of Mount Carmel to pray. He told Ahab, 'You might as well now celebrate the end of the drought,' even before there was an end to the drought. He said, "Go up, eat and drink for there is the sound of abundance of rain, " and as yet the sky was blue, the heavens were as brass, the earth was like iron. But it was the voice of faith. Elijah knew, that just as surely as GOD had sent fire on the sacrifice, so surely He would send rain, because GOD had told him, "Go and show yourself to Ahab and I will send rain." But you notice there seems to be a paradox here. GOD had promised it, but yet Elijah had to claim it.
And there is the nature of true faith. Faith sees the promise, but doesn't presume. Faith sees the promise, and prays for the fulfillment of the promise. This is the man of faith; this is the woman of faith. They don't just sit back and say, 'I believe it's going to happen.' GOD had said about Noah, that seed time and harvest, cold and
heat, summer and winter should not cease, but that didn't absolve Noah from planting his grain and from harvesting it. So we find that both are necessary - both the promise of GOD and the prayer of faith, and that's what Elijah did. Ahab went up to eat, Elijah went up to pray. He put his face between his knees. He went up to the top of the mountain to be alone with GOD, like David who used to go up to the top of the Mount of Olives and worship GOD from there. Or like Messiah, Who went up into a mountain alone to pray. So we see how he did the same.
You and I, as children of Faith, as Believers, we ought to have our mountaintops, places of solitude, where we not only have public prayer with each other, but we also have a place known only to GOD and us, a private place, a place where we go steadily and regularly and daily.
Now he sent his servant to go up and to look. When the servant came back with a discouraging message, 'There is nothing,' then he sent his servant again. 'Go again,' seven times, knowing that GOD would send the answer. Very much like our ancestor, Jacob, who wrestled with that angel near the Brook of Jabok. The angel saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, (you will find the account in Genesis 32), and he dislocated Jacob's thigh, while Jacob wrestled with him. "Let me go," said the angel, "for the day breaks.” Jacob's reply was “I will not let you go unless you bless me!" "Unless you bless me!" And there we see the language of faith. YESHUA said, "Men ought always to pray and not to faint." So he persevered. He might have grumbled, like some of us do, and said, 'GOD promised it. Why isn't anything happening?' 'No', he said, 'go up again,' knowing that GOD would send the answer; and finally, a little cloud, small and yet big with promise.
In Zechariah, Chapter 4 and verse 10, there is a question there that is really a rhetorical question. Zechariah, Chapter 4 and verse 10, it's the first sentence of this verse: "For who has despised the day of small things?" Now that is a challenge. In other words, that question is telling us, 'Do not despise the day of small things.' When things start small, remember that great things have small beginnings.
Ezekiel, the prophet, was given a vision of the River of GOD flowing from under the Altar of GOD. He said, "When the angel passed me through the waters, they were just water to the ankles. When he passed me through the waters further down the stream, it was up to the knees. "Then he measured another thousand cubits and brought me through the waters, they were up to the loins," (halfway up the waist). And then further on, they were waters to swim in, a man could not cross them.' This is how GOD's blessings are; they may start small, but "Who has despised the day of small things?"
There is a little cloud – look, so puny, just the size of a man's hand. Elijah's response was, "Go and say to Ahab, 'Prepare your chariot and go down before the rain stops you. '" And sure enough, that little cloud that was the size of a man's
hand became a sky full of clouds, a sky black with clouds and wind, and there was a heavy rain. And Ahab had a difficult task getting back to Jezreel, with all the rain lashing down, with all the spray everywhere, with the mud, and so GOD anointed Elijah. "The hand of the LORD came upon Elijah and he girded up his loins and ran ahead of Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel." It was the custom in those days, in Bible days, for a king always to have someone to run in front of his chariots. When the people asked Samuel for a king, he said, 'Do you realize the kind of person you are asking for? He will take your sons and will make them run before his chariots.' It was always the way of clearing the road for the approaching king.
That's why, in the prophet Malachi, GOD said, “I will send My messenger and he shall prepare the way before Me." That's the forerunner, "And then, the LORD whom you seek, shall suddenly come to His Temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom you delight in." A promise of the coming Messiah, but one would go before Him to announce His arrival, and that one was John, the Immerser; Yochanan Ha'Matbil, John, the Baptist. He wasn't from the Baptist Church, as some people tend to think, no it just means he was the one that baptized people.
So Elijah ran. How far was it from Carmel to Jezreel? Some twenty miles! After all that tremendous contest, after all that nervous energy had been used up, he was now running to the point of physical exhaustion. And that explains, largely, what followed. Chapter 19, we come to Chapter 19: "And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, also how he had executed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah saying, "So let the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time. " And when he saw that, he arose and ran for his life and went to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there."
I'm afraid I'm partial towards Elijah, and I'm one of those people who will not hear anyone who says that he was a coward. I refuse to accept that explanation. He was not afraid of dying, because later on he asked the LORD, "Lord, take away my life!" He was not afraid of dying. What was it he was really afraid of? He was afraid that Jezebel might triumph and be able to say, 'I have killed all the prophets of the LORD.' And he did not want to give her that satisfaction.
"Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, " about the contest at Carmel, the doom of the prophets, the rain, how Elijah had run in front of his chariots, she remained unimpressed. She was furious. She sent a messenger, so obviously Elijah was not in hiding. The people had fallen on their faces and they had said, 'The LORD, He is the GOD.' They had acknowledged GOD, but now in his hour of need, not a tongue raised in his defense. She was unhumbled, ungodly, defying GOD, confident of her success with the help of her gods, confident that she would be able to exterminate Elijah and defying GOD to prevent her gods from giving her success in this matter.
Elijah ran for his life, exhausted, disheartened, in imminent danger. It looks as though nobody in Israel stood with him at this crucial moment. In one of the Psalms, in one of the Messianic Psalms, we hear the voice of Messiah, "I looked around and there was none to take pity upon Me." It is Psalm 142, it's a Messianic reference there, Psalm 142 and verse 4: "Look on my right hand and see, for there is no one who acknowledges me. Refuge has failed me, no one cares for my soul." That was the experience of Messiah as he hung from the tree, as the crowd mocked and jeered, as His beloved disciples stood far away and looked on. And only His mother came near, Miriam, and then Yochanan, the son of Zebedee, joined her. So we find He, also, had the same difficulty, the same distress, nobody seemed to be standing with him. "He arose and ran for his life and went to Beersheba which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there, but he, himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. "
Well Beersheba belonged to Judah, and the king of Judah at that time was good king Jehoshaphat. Why should he be afraid of staying in Beersheba? Surely Jehoshaphat would protect him. No, he could not even be sure of Jehoshaphat, because Jehoshaphat had made a marriage alliance with that ungodly king, Ahab. Jehoshaphat had taken Ahab' s daughter for his son. That daughter was the daughter of Jezebel, Athaliah, we read about her later on, a murderous woman.
Well, if there was a marriage alliance between Jehoshaphat and Ahab, there might even be an extradition treaty. So he didn't stay, even in Judah. "He himself went a day's journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree, and he prayed that he might die and said, 'It is enough. Now LORD, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers. '" 'She wants to take my life, you take it away. Don't give her the satisfaction. Anyway, I'm tired of living.'
The famous Scottish reformer, John Knox, may his memory be blessed. He went through that experience too. When it looked as though he was going to reform Scotland, everything fell apart, fell in pieces at his feet, and he was just like Elijah at that time. He didn't want to live any more, but as it turned out, the reformation proceeded in Scotland. The Reformation, I want to say this, is the greatest act of GOD since the Acts of the Apostles, and woe to anybody who laments the Reformation. The Reformation was a great act of GOD, only to be comparable to what happened in the Book of the Acts.
Well, "He himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness," and when he sought death at GOD's hand, it's obvious he wasn't going to commit suicide over his sense of failure; he was content to suffer death as his faithful predecessors. What did GOD do? GOD gave him rest; GOD gave him food. Verse 5: "Then as he lay and slept under a broom tree, suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, ''Arise and eat." And he looked and there, by his head, was a cake baked on coals and a jar of
water. So he ate and drank and lay down again. And the angel of the LORD came back the second time and touched him and said, "Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you." So he arose and ate and drank, and he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights, as far as Horeb, the mountain of GOD."
He was in desperate need of rest and of recuperation. GOD doesn't overlook the fact that we are human, He knows our frame, He remembers that we are dust. He realizes that there is only so much that we can cope with, and He never lays upon us more than we can bear. And He saw that His servant was physically, emotionally, spiritually exhausted after that great contest. The lesson that you and I can learn from this is that that is the most dangerous time in our experience, just when we've had a mountain top experience with GOD. Everything after that is like a vacuum, like an anti-climax. Everything after that is inferior and we can end up by being disillusioned and disappointed. But even if we are still riding on cloud 9, if we are still up on the mountain top, we have to beware, because that's when we drop our guard, and that's when we are most liable to fall just when we've got great blessing, great deliverance, like Noah after the flood. He became drunk by mistake, not purposely. He fell into the sin of drunkenness.
And so we find, also, in the next Chapter, in the 20th Chapter after the king of Israel had conquered, attacked and overcome the king of Syria in battle, glorious victory, a prophet came to him and said, 'Watch out for yourself. Prepare yourself, there is going to be a counter-attack. '
Have you found great victory in your life over something? Be careful, the Devil is waiting to counter-attack. And the best thing you can do is to be on your guard and to trust in GOD and not to let these things turn your head. Be thankful for them; be thankful for every blessing you get. But don't let it turn your head. Hezekiah, after his tremendous deliverance from that sore boil that was killing him, fell into the sin of pride. And we could go on and on with examples.
So GOD saw with Elijah what he needed after his mountaintop experience was time alone with GOD, time to rest, time to recuperate. "He giveth His beloved sleep," Psalm 127. When GOD sees we need sleep, we can ask Him to give us that sleep. "And in the strength of that food, Elijah went forty days and forty nights back to Mount Sinai," back to the place where GOD had first met with His people, where He had met with Moses, where He had given them the Ten Commandments, where He had told them, "There shall be no strange gods with you." He went back there to talk with GOD about the fact that the people of Israel had gone after false gods; that they had betrayed the Covenant.
But there was a tacit reproof here, in verse 9: "And there he went into a cave and spent the night in that place. And behold, the Word of the LORD came to him and
He said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"" In other words, 'Why are you here? What business do you have to be here? Have you deserted your post?' "So he said, "I have been very zealous for the LORD GOD of Hosts, for the children of Israel have forsaken Your Covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they seek to take my life. ''''
There's the reproof here; before, when Elijah was by the Brook by himself, the Brook of Cherith, GOD never said to him, 'What are you doing here?' When he was with the widow in Zarephath, GOD never said to him then, 'What are you doing here?' It was when he left Jezreel and went into the wilderness that GOD asked him this question.
This happens to the best of us. In Shaul's case, Rav Shaul, he mentions in that 2nd Letter to the Corinthians, how he came to a city or a town called Troas, and a great door was opened for him of the LORD. People were eager to hear about Messiah, but he had something bothering him. It was the people of Corinth, the Believers in Corinth. How had they received his Letter? What was their response? Was it good or was it bad? He had sent Titus ahead of him to find out and Titus had not come back. He said, 'I was so anxious; I couldn't stay in Troas, even though there was a wide open door of opportunity for me. I had to take my leave of them and go and look for my brother Titus. It happens to the best of us.
Well GOD was very patient with Elijah, do you notice, it was just a question; just a gentle reproof in that question. And Elijah's response was, "I have been very zealous." The word 'jealous' and the word 'zealous' in Hebrew are the same, and sometimes, to be jealous for GOD is a good thing; it is to be zealous for Him. "I have been very zealous." To no apparent purpose, he is saying here, "For the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant." That was the Covenant that had been inaugurated in that very mountain from which he was speaking and to which he had traveled. "They have thrown down Your altars." They, probably, destroyed any altars that were left in the Nation of Israel. Remember the ten tribes separated from the two, and they formed the kingdom of Israel. There may have been some religious, some pious Believers who built their own altars, since they could not go to Jerusalem to worship at the altar in the Temple. These people had come along and thrown them down, vandalized them to make sure that there was no such thing as the worship of GOD in the northern kingdom of Judah.