Elijah – Heard a Still Small Voice
by John C. Westervelt
Sixty years after the kingdom of David and Solomon had been split into the nations of Israel and Judah, Ahab ruled over Israel, the Northern Kingdom. Ahab joined his wife Jezebel in the worship of Baal in Samaria, the capital city of Israel.
God raised up the prophet Elijah to show the king and his people the error of their ways. Elijah stood before Ahab and said, “There shall be no dew nor rain in your country except by my word.” For Elijah’s safety, the Lord told him to go away to the east and hide himself by the brook Cherith where it empties into the Jordan River.
Some months later, the rippling sound of the brook was hushed as the water slowed and finally stopped altogether. Then the Lord gave Elijah instructions to go to Zarephath, a town on the Mediterranean coast between Tyre and Sidon. Meanwhile in Zarephath, a widow struggled to find grain and oil to feed her son and herself, for the drought had transformed the grain fields into barren, brown earth.
As Elijah walked north, he stayed close to the Jordan River because he could see only parched land on either side of a narrow green strip beside the water. Going around the Sea of Galilee, he continued north until he reached the headwaters of the Jordan. Here he turned west toward Zarephath. At the city gate, he met a widow gathering sticks. Elijah said, “Please get me a little water in a jar that I may drink.”
As the widow turned to walk into the city, Elijah called out, “Also, please bring me a piece of bread.”
The widow faced Elijah once more to say, “I have no bread and only a handful of flour in the bowl and a little oil in the jar. I was gathering these sticks to prepare one final meal before my son and I die.”
With compassion in his voice, Elijah said, “First make a bread cake for me, and afterwards prepare bread for you and your son. Your supply of flour and oil will not be used up until the Lord sends rain all across the land and the fields are covered with golden grain once more.”
Sensing authority in Elijah’s voice, the widow resumed her walk into the city. Elijah followed. The widow fed him, and he stayed at her house. Not long afterwards, the widow’s son became ill and stopped breathing. Nine hundred years before Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, God used Elijah to bring a boy back to life. The Gentile widow, who had first trusted the Lord when he replenished her oil and flour, now developed a deeper love for Jehovah, the God of the Israelites.
God was now ready to reclaim His people. Elijah told Ahab to gather the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel (west of the Sea of Galilee, close to the Mediterranean Sea) to make a sacrifice to their god. Elijah prepared a similar sacrifice. Both parties were to call on their god to light their fire. The prophets of Baal called out all day until their voices became hoarse, but their worship was to no avail.
Before the time for an evening sacrifice, Elijah asked the people to pour water on his wood until it flooded a trench surrounding the altar. Then Elijah said, “O Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, prove that You are God of Israel.” Everyone could see steam rising above the altar, followed by smoke. Then they could smell burning meat as the fire of the Lord consumed the burnt offering.
All of the people repented saying, “The Lord, He is God.” Elijah told the people to seize all the prophets of Baal, and they were slaughtered. Upon their deaths, the rain poured down, breaking the three and a half-year drought.
When Jezebel learned that Elijah had slain the prophets of Baal, she vowed to kill him. Elijah escaped to Horeb, the mountain of God (Mt Sinai). Six hundred years earlier, God had made a covenant with His people at this place. As Elijah waited, a powerful wind ripped rocks from the mountain, but the Lord was not in the wind. Next there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. After the fire was a sound of a gentle blowing. Elijah heard the still, small voice of the Lord in the soft breeze.
Elijah followed the Lord’s instructions to anoint Elisha as the prophet to replace him. Elijah’s work for the Lord was done, but his name would be in the minds of God’s people forever. Nine hundred years later, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, and James would include the name of Elijah in the words they wrote to tell others about Jesus. Luke records that John the Baptist was like Elijah – a man of repentance and deep faith.
1 Kings 17-22 2 Kings 1-2 Luke 1:17
Copyright 2001 by John C. Westervelt
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