So, now that I'm sitting here preparing sermons & teaching & writing devotionals and stuff, I figured I'd use this blog as an opportunity to prime the pump on some of it. That said, I've chosen to do a 2 part mini-series on Elijah for my sermons August 12 & 19 here at Liberty. So, over the next few weeks I'm going to write a few entries about Elijah, who although he may not be my favourite prophet, is definitely up there. In fact, I only say that he may not be my favourite because so many of the prophets are so exciting to me in their own way. Elijah happens to get a lot of play in the bible (1 Kings 17-2 Kings 2) and some pretty cool stories are in there, and of course it is he and Moses that appear at Jesus' transfiguration and in the Passover Sader, it is Elijah that is left the empty seat, just in case he drops by... Elijah's pretty cool.
He first steps on the scene in 1 Kings 17:1, rather suddenly: "Now, Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, 'As the LORD God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew or rain for these years, except by my word.'"
There is no introduction, no history of who he is, no call narrative, no explanation of how he became a prophet or reason for his mission. It has already been established that King Ahab is not such a great guy, not exactly following the LORD God, introducing Baal worship and stuff like that. Elijah, who's name literally means "My God is the LORD," simply steps up, referenced as one from some unknown group of people and place within the area of Gilead and lets the king have it - "This so-called god of yours, the god of rain and storm whom you call Baal (Lord), well you and he have another thing coming if you think there's going to be rain. The truth is much more different than you claim - the LORD, is the only true God, and you'll see when Baal can't lift a finger to drop a thimble of water on this place. No, it's going to be by the LORD, the true God that it rains - and it ain't coming any time soon."
That's some pretty fierce talk from this Elijah character, no wonder that the very next sentence begins with the word of the LORD coming to Elijah to "head out of town" and take refuge - hide, in the little stream called Cherith, East of the Jordan." Not surprising at all. Now, it could've just been Elijah being scared of the big bad King. It wouldn't surprise me at all. The LORD gives him a message that will only anger the most powerful man in the land, the one man who has power of life and death over Elijah, and everyone else, to run after giving such an unpleasant message doesn't seem all that absurd. But, it's not simply running FROM for Elijah, but running TO.
The LORD sends Elijah somewhere specific, somewhere he can drink from a small stream, be safe from Ahab's reprisals - which given the fact that they live in an arid climate, would probably take awhile to miss the rain - but also a place to be FED. That's right, the LORD promises he can drink from the stream but also be fed by RAVENS! Now, I don't know about you, but I'm not all that excited about scavenging birds feeding me - but it's no worse than what Survivor Man or that guy named "Bear" from Man vs. Wild does. In fact, it's far easier. Elijah doesn't have to find gross bugs & animals - they're brought right to him!
So, here we have Elijah, given this difficult message out of nowhere to the most powerful man in the land, and when he has done it, he is miraculously provided for by the same God who called him to give the message in the first place. Does that make the message easier to give? I think not. Does it mean that he will be in a better place with more friends and more money after doing so - it doesn't look like it. But he WILL be provided for. He IS provided for.
I think we could use this reminder in our daily lives. Sometimes we're given a word that we need to share - a witness to the true God, the one who has provided salvation - Jesus Christ. It probably won't quite be in the same vein as Elijah - promising no rain (in fact, I'd be highly suspect of anyone claiming a word from God like that) - but it may be a word that we're reluctant, out of fear, to share. But we can be reminded that God provided for Elijah after this difficult word he was given, and the Lord will provide for us too. We just need to be faithful in the face of it...