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Elijah - why he ran

Query for the Month

of

June 2008

Next up-date: July 1st 2008 (God willing).

Previous "Queries" are available. Click here to access.

Some perpetual questions ....

Is there really an immortal soul?

Do you know the difference between the "love" that is of Christianity
and the "love" that is of the world?
Click here to find out!

Click on the link for a good book on the character of our God which you can download for free and share amongst your friends.   It's called "Light on the Dark Side of God" and is one of the best books on this subject that I have ever read!

Here's another great site on the character of God written in a way that's very easy to understand.


Query:

1 Kings 19:

1 And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain all the prophets with the sword.

2 Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time”. 3 And when he saw that, he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.

4 But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers”.

   Why did Elijah run?  Why did he want to die?     

 

Answer:

I assume that you are familiar with the events leading up to the confrontation on Mt. Carmel, so I’ll get right into it, as it was under way.

The trial continued with the false prophets displaying all manner of conduct, none of which made any difference.  Elijah mockingly suggested that maybe their god was asleep, or otherwise engaged!  Even after they offered their own blood in sacrifice nothing happened.  This went on from sunrise to midday, and then until near the time of the proper afternoon offering at 3pm. 

Only then did Elijah begin to build up his altar from one which had been used for the living God before.  He invited the people, including his opponents, to come and watch to see that he was not using trickery as he placed the pieces of the bull on it.  After that he asked them three times to pour four barrels of water over the whole setup, which caused it to fill up a trench he had dug around the site.

Then at 3pm he prayed a simple prayer.  The living God answered it and fire from heaven ignited and consumed the wood, the sacrifice, the stones, and the water in the trench. 

1 Kings 8:39-40.

And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, “The LORD, He is the God; the LORD, He is the God”.  And Elijah said to them, “Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape”.  And they took them: and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there.

That’s when Elijah made his horrible mistake! 

Full of zeal for the honour of his LORD, and responding to the feelings of the people, he wanted the false prophets dead.  The anger of the people had already been aroused against the leaders in transgression; and when Elijah gave the command, “Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape,” they were ready to obey.  They seized the prophet/priests, and took them to the brook Kishon, and there, before the close of the day that marked the beginning of decided reform, the ministers of Baal were slain.  Not one was permitted to live.  Eight hundred and fifty men who had chosen to work for another god were slaughtered.  No one took any notice of their pleas for mercy, or their cries of agony as they died.  In fact, the slayers of these helpless and unarmed men exulted in their fiendish work, for they were imbued with blood-lust. 

It is not written in our record, but they may have had wives and children there to join in their expected victory – these too would have been slain as was the custom of the time.  For example, this was how they treated the “troubler of Israel” in the early conquest.

Joshua 7:24-25.

And Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver, and the garment, and the wedge of gold, and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep, and his tent, and all that he had: and they brought them to the valley of Achor.  And Joshua said, “Why have you troubled us?  The LORD shall trouble you this day”.  And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones. 

After the experience of Jericho and the cold-blooded slaughter there when they disobeyed the express word of the LORD (Joshua 6:21), it had become a custom among the people of God to claim that He wanted His enemies killed, and to action that claim.  The Captain of the LORD’s host had told Joshua that he would be able to overcome “the king thereof, and the mighty men of valour”, which was fair in the stress of battle.  Joshua 6:2.  But Joshua changed that into “Shout; for the LORD has given you the city.  And the city shall be accursed, even it, and all that are therein, to the LORD: only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all that are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent.  And you, in any wise keep yourselves from the accursed thing, lest you make yourselves accursed, when you take of the accursed thing, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it. But all the silver, and gold, and vessels of brass and iron, are consecrated to the LORD: they shall come into the treasury of the LORD . . . And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword”. [Including the dogs and the canaries?]  Joshua 6:16-19.

So Elijah ignored the pricks of conscience and did the dirty deed!

After that he suggested that the king might like to have a meal while he went off to pray for rain.  Although he did not get an answer to his first prayer, he tried again, and again.  God does not always answer our prayers the first time we call upon Him; for should He do this, we might take it for granted that we had a right to all the blessings and favours He bestowed upon us.  Instead of searching our hearts to see if any evil was entertained by us, any sin indulged, we could become careless, and fail to realize our dependence upon Him, and our need of His help.  Not until the seventh time did Elijah begin to suspect that maybe he was out of harmony with the Son of God and rephrased his prayer. 

Then it was that a small sign was given.

1 Kings 18:42-45.

So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he cast himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees, and said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea”.  And he went up, and looked, and said, “There is nothing”.  And he said, “Go again” seven times.  And it came to pass at the seventh time, that he said, “Behold, there arises a little cloud out of the sea, like a man's hand”.  And he said, “Go up, say to Ahab, Prepare your chariot, and get you down, that the rain stop you not”.  And it came to pass in the mean while, that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. 

The living God who had promised to give the rain was not able to do so until His messenger came into a greater understanding of what he was asking for.  He was appealing to Him who sits on the Mercy Seat for mercy for the people, the creatures, and the land.  But he had not had any mercy for the false prophets!

1 Kings 18:45-46.

And it came to pass in the mean while, that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain.  And Ahab rode, and went to Jezreel. And the hand of the LORD was on Elijah [supplying the power for an act of kindness]; and he girded up his loins, and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel. 

Elijah then showed his concern for the safety of one of the chief instigators of all these problems!  Finally, tired out from all his activities and stress of the day he fell asleep outside the city wall.

1 Kings 19:1-2.

And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain 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 make not your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time”.

As he was awoken from his sleep with those words ringing in his ears, Elijah saw something horrible!  He saw that Jezebel thought that he was like her!  He realised that there was no difference between what he had done in the name of the LORD and what Jezebel was proposing in the name of her god! 

“And when he saw that, he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there” [it was the border of their country]. Verse 3.

Horrified and sick at heart, he ran “for his life”.  But there was no way he could save himself – that was his God’s job as we have seen.  That’s why he gave up after another day’s journey and asked to be executed.

“But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, ‘It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers’.”  Verse 4.

“Not better than his fathers” was right.  He had behaved exactly as they had.  Even the prophet Samuel had taken a sword and slain a prisoner of war in cold blood.  “And Samuel said, ‘As your sword has made women childless, so shall your mother be childless among women’.  And Samuel hewed Agag [an unarmed prisoner] in pieces before the LORD in Gilgal”.  1 Samuel 15:33. 

Poor God!  He who is mercy and love was being shown as nothing more than a cold-blooded murderer by His own people! 

Gideon, too, had done the same.  See Judges 8:18-21.

Elijah had seen “the beast” at work in the slaughter of the prophets, and was filled with self-loathing, for he had been a part of it.  (The “beast” is made up by the actions of unrestrained unregenerate sinners (e.g. the mob mentality), or even those of misguided Christians.  Later he knew that he had had the zeal of a Jehu.)  When faced with such a situation our Saviour can only tell us to go ahead and do what we are determined to do, hoping that after the action we will come to our senses and cling to Him for a different way.  (This is why He is often quoted as commanding such and such an action which is totally out of character for Him.) 

But afterwards He really does “take our sins” into Him as it is written, “Surely He has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows [of His own choice]: yet we did esteem [we thought] Him stricken, smitten [punished] of God, and afflicted.  BUT He was wounded for our transgressions [mistaken or deliberate], He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed”.  Isaiah 53:4-5.

Discouraged and ashamed, it was this realisation, dim though it was at first glimmer, which had made Elijah run.  Exhausted now he fell into sleep.  Knowing the frailty of human nature, the Son of God sent an angel with warm food and drink for His emotionally shattered servant, after which he slept again, and was then was fed a second time.   

1 Kings 19:8.

And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat [food] forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God. 

Why Sinai?  That was where the Ten Commandments had been written by the finger of the LORD and given to Moses and the people.  Now their true meaning was to be explained to His bitterly ashamed prophet, for they are the transcript of His character in human terms. 

1 Kings 19:9-14.

And he came there to a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and He said to him, “What do you here, Elijah?” [What’s your excuse for leaving your post of duty?]

And he said, “I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, thrown down Your altars, and slain Your prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away”. [I have been trying to defend Your honour.]

And He said, “Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD”. [So he did so.]  And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD;

but the LORD was not in the wind:

and after the wind an earthquake;

but the LORD was not in the earthquake: 

And after the earthquake a fire;

but the LORD was not in the fire:

and after the fire a still small voice. [And that’s where the LORD was, for He does not use force of any kind, only persuasion.]

And it was so, when Elijah heard it that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave [for he had run back inside fearing destruction.  He didn’t want to die, anymore than had the false prophets!] 

And, behold, there came a Voice to him, and said, “What do you here, Elijah?” And he said, “I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, thrown down Your altars, and slain Your prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away”. 

The first time he had made this statement it was an excuse for his behaviour.  Now he repeated it as an accusation against himself.  “I had it all wrong”, he admitted.  Slowly but surely, he was learning the character of his God.  He had also thought that he alone in Israel was a worshipper of the true God.  But He who reads the hearts of all revealed to the prophet that there were many others who, through the long years of apostasy, had remained true to Him. Elijah was told, “Yet I have left Me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth which has not kissed him”.  Verse 18.

Here’s a thought from an article written by one of my friends.

***************(Begin Quote)

They [Christ’s disciples] saw in the distance a reminder of Elijah’s slaughter of the priests of Baal.  Who’s to say they wouldn’t have suggested taking the Samaritans to the brook Kishon and dealing with them in a similar fashion, had they adequate manpower?  They apparently saw nothing objectionable in that solution. But it would be far easier to command fire from heaven to consume the offenders—another of Elijah’s apparent remedies.  Scripture presents these destructive acts clearly, raising no doubts in the disciples’ minds or in ours that they occurred exactly as God intended. Yet the disciples “were surprised to see that Jesus was pained by their words.”   Jesus clearly saw the matter in a different light.

***************(End Quote)

It is no part of Christ's mission to compel men to receive Him. It is Satan, and men actuated by his spirit, who seek to compel the conscience. Under a pretence of zeal for righteousness, men who are working with evil angels sometimes bring suffering upon their fellow men in order to convert them to their ideas of religion; but Christ is ever showing mercy, ever seeking to win by the revealing of His love. He can accept no rival in the heart, nor agree to partial service; He desires only voluntary service, the willing surrender of the whole heart under the constraint of love.

Conclusion:

Why did Elijah run?  He had seen “the beast” at work in the slaughter of the prophets, and was filled with self-loathing, for he had been a part of it.  (The “beast” is made up by the actions of unrestrained unregenerate sinners (e.g. the mob mentality), or even those of misguided Christians.  Later he knew that he had had the zeal of a Jehu.)

Poor God!  He who is mercy and love was being shown as nothing more than a cold-blooded murderer by His own people! 

 


 

Who wants to add (or subtract!) from these thoughts? I won't argue as I have stated, but I will publish your Scriptures so that we may review all the words of God on the subject.

Some of the comments on this page are adapted from books in my library.  No recognition is given because they are not intended as authorities, but are used because they express my understanding clearly.

Next query. To be discussed from July 1st, 2008.

2 Kings 6:15-17

And when the servant of the man of God [Elisha] was risen early, and gone forth, behold, a host [an army of the Syrians] compassed the city both with horses and chariots.  And his servant said to him, “Alas, my master!  How shall we do?”  And he answered, “Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them”.  And Elisha prayed, and said, “LORD, I pray You, open his eyes, that he may see”.  And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.   

If they had an army of God's loyal angels about them every day, why do we so often hear of Israel's defeats in the Old Testament times?  Why was the servant given the view?

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