Archive | March 2014

Elijah is Taken to Heaven (II Kings 2:1-14)

Elijah had anointed Elisha to be his successor and had discipled him.  On his last day on earth, Elijah tells Elisha to stay behind because God is sending him to Bethel.  Elisha replies that as God and Elijah live, he will not abandon him, and off they go.  Twice more Elijah tells Elisha to stay behind and twice more he refuses.

Elijah doesn’t tell Elisha that God is taking him today, but all the other disciples of the prophets do.  Elisha tells them he knows and to be quiet. 

What a difference Roman rule made in the lives of prophets and disciples.  Elijah tells Elisha to stay.  Jesus told the disciples to follow Him.  Elijah never told Elisha he was leaving, but Elisha knew, admitted it and understood.  Jesus told His disciples plainly that He would be betrayed to the Jewish authorities and crucified, but they never got it.  No matter how many times Jesus told them He would be crucified and rise again, they couldn’t believe the resurrection. 

There are similarities.  Three times Elijah told Elisha to stay and he loyally refused.  Three times Peter denied Jesus.  Three times Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him.  Both Elisha and Peter made the same promise to not abandon their master.  After Elijah’s departure, Elisha received a double portion of Elijah’s spirit.  After Jesus’ departure, Peter was able to do Jesus’ miracles and more (John 14:12).  So can we.

 

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A Different Look at I Kings 19

I have written on this chapter twice before – both in the same vein.  Harsh on Elijah, critical of his self-pity, and portraying God as disciplining him for his poor, ungrateful attitude. One morning on WMBI’s Breakfast for the Soul, they spoke on this chapter from the Military Devotional Bible and from a much different perspective, so I’m writing again.

Elijah was frightened (verse 3) because of Jezebel’s threat, so he leaves his servant behind not to keep him from interfering with his downward spiral, but to keep him from being killed by Jezebel’s men.

Elijah wants to die.  He’s had enough.  He sees his sinfulness as greater than his accomplishments for God (verses 4-5). He’s exhausted; therefore Satan’s attack has greater effect.  God tenderly provides for him, sending an angel to bake bread and give him water.  Elijah eats and drinks, and immediately falls back to sleep.  The angel wakes him a second time with food and water – just what he needs to travel forty days and nights to Horeb. 

God comes to Elijah where he is (in a cave) and gently asks what he’s doing there.  Elijah recognizes God for who he is, calling Him Lord God of Armies/Hosts. Elijah is in the depths of despair.  He sees Himself as a failure. He’s been alone for over forty days, and sees himself as the only one left.

God tells Elijah to stand in front of Him on the mountain, but Elijah doesn’t have the strength or desire.  A fierce wind doesn’t lure him out of his cave. Neither does an earthquake or a fire, so God uses a quiet, whispering voice to lure him out. God asks Elijah the same question again and Elijah is still stuck in hopelessness and gives the same answer, so God gives him specific instructions for the future: two new kings (one that replaces his enemy) and Elisha to come and work alongside him. God takes care of everything for Elijah: the past – go back the same way you came.  The present – 7,000 Israelites have not worshipped Baal.  The future: God will get His justice through the two new kings and Elisha.

God meets Elijah where he is, accepts him, provides for him, encourages him, and gives him what he needs at the moment – just as He does for us.

God gave Elisha to Elijah not in anger or impatience, but in love to be a help to him.  And so God does for us.

Elijah Flees from Jezebel

Jezebel threatens to kill Elijah for killing her Baal prophets, so he flees to the wilderness where an angel fixes him bread baked on hot stones and provides a jar of water.  Elijah is not impressed with the miracle, and he escapes back to his sleep of depression.  The angel wakes him again and feeds and waters him again, then sends him to the mountain of God. Elijah is still not impressed. 

God asks Elijah what he’s doing there. He replies that he has eagerly served God, forgetting that he’s running away from a woman at the moment. He tells God the Israelites have abandoned Him, torn down His altars, and executed His prophets, neglecting to mention how they just proclaimed Him to be God on Mount Carmel.  He tells God he’s the only one left, even though Obadiah told him about hiding one hundred prophets.  He tells God “they” are trying to take his life when it’s only Jezebel.  He’s gone from mighty prophet challenging the world to a coward hiding from a woman and he’s gotten stuck there.

God tells Elijah to stand in front of Him on the mountain, but for the first time Elijah doesn’t obey immediately. There’s a fierce wind, and earthquake, a fire, but Elijah is not impressed.  Not until Elijah hears the “small whisper” of a voice does he go out to stand at the entrance of the cave, which still isn’t fully obedient to “go out on the mountain”. Elijah is at the entrance to the cave, not out on the mountain. He’s ready to run and hide again if he needs to. Elijah has lost his fear of God – he no longer obeys immediately or completely. Elijah has lost his enthusiasm for God – he’s no longer passionate about serving and honoring Him.  Elijah has lost his love and respect for God – it’s all about  Elijah now.

The small whisper of a voice gives Elijah another chance and asks the same question, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Elijah is stuck in his self-pity and repeats his first answer word for word.  He’s forgotten who God is and what He can do. His trust and courage have left him, so God gives him final instructions which include anointing his successor.  The last thing God tells Elijah is that He still has 7,000 people in Israel who have not worshipped Baal.  And Elijah was convinced he was the only one left and everyone was against him!

Beware of self-pity and self-focus lest God take away what He planned for you and give it to someone else.