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Archive for July 20th, 2014

The Prophet Elijah hiding in the cave

The prophet Elijah, whose name means “My God is Yahweh [the LORD],” prophesied in the Northern Kingdom of Israel primarily during the reign of Ahab (874-853 BC).

Ahab, under the influence of his pagan wife Jezebel, had encouraged the worship of Baal throughout his kingdom, even as Jezebel sought to get rid of the worship of Yahweh. Elijah was called by God to denounce this  idolatry and to call the people of Israel, to the worship of Yahweh as the only true God (as he did in 1 Kings 18:20-40). Elilia., was a rugged and imposing figure, living the wilderness and dressing in a garment of  camel’s hair and a leather belt (1 Kings 18:20-40).

He was a prophet mighty in word and deed. Many miracles were done through Elijah, including the raising of the dead (1 Kings 17.17-24) and the effecting of a long drought in Israel (1 Kings 17:1). At the end of his ministry, he was taken up into heaven while Elisha, his successor, looked on (2 Kings 2:11). Later, the prophet Malachi proclaimed that Elijah would return before the coming of the Messiah (Malachi 4:5-6), a prophecy that was fulfilled in the prophetic ministry of John the Baptist (Matthew 11:14). (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

The narrative of Elijah begins at 1 Kings 17: 1 and ends with Elijah’s assumption into heaven, II Kings 2: 12.  

It was tumultuous ministry because it was a tumultuous time.  The Kingdom of Israel, after the death of Solomon, was divided into two kingdoms in 922 BC: Israel (Northern Kingdom) and Judah (Southern Kingdom) by the Lord due to the sin of Solomon and his son.  Please note how many were idolaters,  adulterers and murders:

Kings of Israel (Northern Kingdom)

Sexual immorality and violence go hand-in-hand with idolatry because idolatry focuses everything upon the Old Adam and it’s lust to power.  “…all man’s Babylons strive but to impart/The grandeurs of his Babylonian heart” (Francis Thompson, +1907).  The Assyrian Empire conquered the Northern Kingdom in 722 BC.

 In the Northern Kingdom the Lord sent His prophets to proclaim His Word to a wayward Israel for 2 centuries.  Elijah was one of the greatest. The worse of the kings of the north was Ahab  with the power behind the throne,  his wife Jezebel, an idolater.  Elijah is introduced into the narrative without explanation and my guess is that his reputation preceded him.  In a confrontation  Elijah challenged the false prophets of Baal that Ahab had allowed into the Lord’s Temple at the behest of his pagan wife, Jezebel.  

17When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?” 18And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father’s house, because you have abandoned the commandments of the LORD and followed the Baals. 19Now therefore send and gather all Israel to me at Mount Carmel, and the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.” (1 Kings 18)

Elijah spoke the Truth to power and power did not like it. See John the Baptizer and King Herod Antipas. In our day, political and religious leaders have, “…abandoned the commandments of the LORD and followed the Baals”, usually the Baals of their own fallen hearts.   In short, the LORD won through His chosen prophet and preacher of the Word against the false prophets.  But then Elijah hears that Jezebel wants to kill him, Elijah flees. Elijah  is overwhelmed.   He asks the Lord to take away his life (1 Kings 19:  4).  I think this is intra-Scriptural proof the utter historical veracity of the Bible:  a prophet is shown with all his faults as a fallen son of Adam. You can’t whitewash Old Adam, only the Lord can make him clean. Elijah hides himself in a cave.  The Lord knows where he is.  And after,  a great wind, an earthquake and fire, the Lord’s voice, His Word is heard in “a small still voice” (1 Kings 19: 12, KJV).  The next time we hear of Elijah is when he and Moses are speaking with the Lord Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration about His “departure”, in Luke’s Gospel, literally, His exodus: not to flee from slavery but to free all those in slavery (Luke 9:29-31).  All come to faith, not primarily by the powerful deeds of Jesus, His miracles,  but by the small still anguished voice from the Cross:  “It is finished”.  The King upon the Cross did what no earthly kingly would ever do or could ever do:  die for His subjects, bearing their sins. Indeed, 

22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1 Corinthians 1;  emphasis my own)

Prayer of the Day

Lord God, heavenly Father, through the prophet Elijah, You continued the prophetic pattern of teaching Your people the true faith and demonstrating through miracles Your presence in creation to heal it of its brokenness. Grant that Your Church may see in Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the final end-times prophet whose teaching and miracles continue in Your Church through the healing medicine of the Gospel and the Sacraments; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

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