10 September 2011

"Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, 'What are you doing here, Elijah?' He answered, 'I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts, for the Israelites have forsaken your convenant, thrown down yuor altarsm and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.'" (vv. 9b-10)


In yesterday's passage Elijah the prophet and King Ahab of Israel had just had a competition on Mount Carmel to see whose god is actually in charge. Elijah's God, Yahweh, "the Lord", had won the competition over Ahab's God, Melqart ("Baal") by sending lightning on Elijah's altar. The competition had been proposed because of a lack of rain. Who was in charge of the rain? Melqart, the god of the rain and lightning, or Yahweh? Yes, Yahweh had sent lightning. But what about the rain that had been awaited for almost three years? It took seven trips (verse 44) before Elijah got his answer.

Jezreel was about 20 miles to the east of Mount Carmel - quite a way to run, but mainly downhill, and presumably a chariot had to take a more tortuous route by road. Queen Jezebel had already killed many of Yahweh's prophets. She was not pleased to hear that, following the competition, 450 of her prophets of Baal had been killed. (It does make one wonder why Elijah went to Jezreel in the first place - surely not for dinner at the palace?)

Elijah now needed support from other people loyal to Yahweh - so he fled south into the neighbouring kingdom of Judah. Not just into Judah, though, but to the far south of Judah - 100 miles from Jezreel - to Beer-sheba, just on the edge of the wilderness of Sinai. Beer-sheba was his base camp for a trip to Mount Horeb in Sinai, the place where Yahweh had first revealed himself to Moses (Exodus 3:1-15). After only a day's journey God sends an angel to minister to him in his despair. And to remind him that God has provided for him in the past (1 Kings 17:6), and will do so in the future. Forty days and forty nights later (the same time Jesus would also spend in the wilderness being attended by angels -Mark 1:12-13) he is still in despair - what is he to do? He's all alone.

To Ponder

What do you think this passage tells us about how often people need to look for God's working in today's world?

What does this passage tell you about the times when people go through a 'wilderness experience', and feel that God has abandoned them?

Is it okay to be angry with God? Why?

Bible notes author: The Revd Neil Cockling

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