Today we start the exciting stories of the prophets Elijah and Elisha. But before I launch off into a few thoughts about applications, I thought a little clarification could be useful. There’ve been a few “regime changes” in the northern kingdom that look like this:
- Jeroboam I: Led secession of Israel.
- — Nadab: Son of Jeroboam I.
- Baasha: Overthrew Nadab.
- — Elah: Son of Baasha.
- Zimri: Overthrew Elah.
- Omri: Overthrew Zimri.
- — Ahab: Son of Omri; husband of Jezebel
Hope —Things in Israel were religiously bad and by the time that Ahab takes the throne, they were really bad. If God Himself was only counting 7000 who had not bowed the knee to Baal out of a nation of a few million, idolatry must have been everywhere. Even archaeology has confirmed this with the discovery of so many Ashteroth figurines from that era that some archaeologists have wondered whether the worship of the LORD had been totally eclipsed by Baal and Ashteroth worship. But God was able to turn even this around in time — sadly only after the exile to Assyria and Babylon, but it got turned around. This ought to give us hope for our times; as bad as things are around us, God and His Word and His people can still turn things around. So, folks we’ve our work cut out for us.
Discouragement can defeat us just when we might be the most effective — And speaking of our work being cut out for us, we, like Elijah can get discouraged at just the wrong time. What happened is understandable; Elijah made so a powerful a point on Mt. Carmel that the witnesses killed all the prophets of Baal and Ashteroth. Elijah had to be on top of the world, perhaps thinking that he had in one stroke changed the tide. And to put an exclamation point on the fire coming down from heaven on Elijah’s altar, Elijah then prays for rain for the land — and it happens. But then Jezebel makes her threat, and all the fight drains right out of Elijah right on the cusp of making significant headway. After fighting paganism for decades maybe he just lost all hope. Maybe the thing to remember here is that with God there’s always hope. “The covenant love of the LORD never ceases, His mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness! The LORD is my portion says my soul, therefore I will hope in Him.” (Lam. 3:22-24).
Who was the real troubler? — Ahab’s remark, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?” is so typical of a world eyeball deep in denial and blame shifting. It’s not the sins, the foolishness, the dysfunction, the lusts, the hatreds, the selfishness, or the corruption that the problem. It’s God, it’s those goody-two-shoes Christians, it’s religion that’s been the problem all along — “Imagine”. It’s God that kicked mankind out of Eden! It’s God that separated them from the tree of life. It’s all those rules. Sounds suspiciously like an adolescent in trouble on report card day— if it weren’t for those stupid tests and the homework and the fact that my teachers don’t like me, I’d have done alright. Listen, God is always right, period. When we sin, we are responsible for messing things up for ourselves and others; we become the troublers of our own and others’ lives. Let’s own our own troublesome ways and change them. How much better would it have been for Ahab to have said, “I repent”? How much better would it for us and others, if we’d just repent, change, instead dodging responsibility. Yes, I know that life is often complex and we are often provoked into sin, but we are still responsible and need to do better.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.