1 KINGS CHAPTER 19.
Elijah in the Wilderness.
ELIJAH FLEES BEFORE JEZEBEL. — V. 1. And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain all the prophets with the sword. He was bound to give her a report of all that had transpired, and his heart undoubtedly had to sanction the execution which had taken place. V. 2. Then Jezebel, lashed to fury by this turn of events, sent a messenger unto Eujah, saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by to-morrow about this time. She did not dare to have him put to death outright, and would probably not have carried out her threat, on account of the attitude of the people, but she hoped to get rid of the prophet by this scheme. V. 3. And when he saw that, when he noted the conditions in the northern kingdom and the unchanging hatred of Jezebel, which seemed to make all further attempts useless, he arose and went for his life, commending his soul to his God and Lord, that he might be secure in His protection, and came to Beersheba, which belongeth to Judah, on its extreme southern boundary, and left his servant there, since he intended to be entirely alone in the wilderness with his God. V. 4. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, the northern Arabian Desert, and came and sat down under a juniper-tree, a furze-bush or broom-plant, abundant in beds of streams; 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. He felt that he had lived long enough, that he had done his duty; he was tired of his prophetic office and longed for rest. V. 5. And as he lay and slept under a juniper-tree, under the furze-bush which he had sought, behold, then an Angel, the special Messenger of God, touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat. V. 6. And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake, one of the usual small bread-cakes, baken on the coals, on the heated stones, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again, overcome by his great weariness. V. 7. And the Angel of the Lord came again the second time, and touched him, and said, Arise and eat, for he had not finished his meal, because the journey is too great for thee, namely, the trip which the Lord had in mind for him. V. 8. And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat, food which had been given supernatural powers of sustaining strength, forty days and forty nights unto Horeb, the mount of God. Like Moses before him, he was miraculously preserved by God. Note: It happens time and again that faithful pastors become weary and distressed when they see that their earnest labors bring so little fruit. But God always has strength for them in His Word and in the power of His Spirit.
ELIJAH RECEIVES THE LORD’S COMMISSION. — V. 9. And he came thither, to Horeb, unto a cave and lodged there, probably in the same cleft from which Moses saw the glory of the Lord, Ex. 33, 21-23. And, behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and He said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah? God wanted a frank expression of all his hopes and fears. V. 10. And he said, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts, defending His honor with all energy; for the children of Israel have forsaken Thy covenant, fallen away from the covenant-relation, thrown down Thine altars, thus signifying their utter rejection of Jehovah and His Word and worship, and slain Thy prophets with the sword, another proof of their utter contempt for Jehovah; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life to take it away. Such being the situation, he wondered what might yet be done, how a change in the conditions might be brought about, implying, at the same time, that Jehovah alone would be able to help and to save. V. 11. And He, the Lord, said, Go forth and stand upon the mount before the Lord, as Moses had done before him, Ex. 24, 12. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake 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; v. 12. and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a. still, small voice. The first terrible phenomena were signs of the approaching judgment; they reminded Elijah of the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai. But Elijah was to learn that, while the thunders of the Law have their value in the kingdom of God, to prepare the hearts for the message of salvation, yet the still, small voice, the gentle teaching of the Gospel, the joyful announcement of the grace of God in the work of the Messiah, alone is able to convert the hearts to the Lord. A jealous zeal for Jehovah, unless tempered with the proper Gospel attitude, will not win hearts for Christ; but God’s voice is in the Word Of the Gospel and creates hearts anew. V. 13. And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, for even the angels stand with covered faces before the throne of the Holy One, and went out and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, for the second time, and with a hint of reproach, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah? He should have returned to his post immediately. V. 14. And he said, repeating his lament, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts because the children of Israel have forsaken Thy covenant, thrown down Thine altars, and slain Thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life to take it away. V. 15. And the Lord said unto him, in bidding him take up the work of his calling once more, Go, return on thy way to the Wilderness of Damascus, in the land of Syria; and when thou comest, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria; v. 16. and Jehu, the son of Nimshl, shalt thou anoint to be king over Israel; and Elisha, the son of Shaphat, of Abel-meholah, shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room. There is absolutely no reason to suppose, as some commentators do, that this command was not carried out by Elijah, although we may assume that the anointing; in the first two cases, was done in secret. V. 17. And it shall come to pass that him that escapeth the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay, and him that escapeth from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay. In other words, the Lord would take care of the punishment of His enemies in due time. And He adds a little statement intended to reprove Elijah for his small faith. V. 18. Yet I have left Me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him; for it was customary to kiss the statues of the idols. So Elijah was by no means the only true believer left, as the Lord, who knows those who are His, assured him. In the midst of a godless world He has His small crew, a small flock, indeed, but nevertheless loyal to Him. V. 19. So he, Elijah, departed thence, and found Elisha, the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he, as the master, a man in comfortable circumstances, with the twelfth. And Elijah passed by him, and cast his mantle upon him. V. 20. And he, understanding the significance of this act, left the oxen, and ran after Elijah, and said, Let me, I pray thee, kiss my father and my mother, in saying farewell to them, and then I will follow thee. And he said unto him, in granting this request, Go back again; for what have I done to thee? He wanted Elisha’s acceptance of the prophetic calling to be one of his own free will. V. 21. And he returned back from him, and took a yoke of oxen, the one with which he had been plowing, and slew them, for a farewell feast, and boiled their flesh with the instruments of the oxen, the yoke and the wooden parts of the plow, and gave unto the people, his people, who had been busy with him in the field, and they did eat. Then he arose, and went after Elijah, and ministered unto him. Thus the servants of the Lord must not consult with flesh and blood, but gladly follow the call of the Lord, no matter where this may take them.