Elijah – the life of a prophet: 1 Kings 17
by Dr Bob Dellinger
Today’s reading: 1 Kings 15-17.
Today’s devotion could be called “Ahab versus Elijah,” but I thought it would be more interesting to see what these verses tell us about the life of a prophet.
Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.”Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah: “Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. You will drink from the brook, and I have ordered the ravens to feed you there.” 1 Kings 17:1-4
The Bible recounts the sordid events leading up to Ahab’s reign. Each of the northern kings exceeds the previous one in wickedness and idolatry. As often as not, the kings come to the throne by assassination. Ahab continues the trend by becoming the most wicked king yet to rule in Israel. He establishes Baal worship in the kingdom and marries the notorious Jezebel, whose father, the king of Tyre, was also a priest of Baal. This is the situation that prompts God to send Elijah to Ahab with the promise that there will be no rain until God says so.
The prophet traveled to foreign places. Elijah didn’t live in Ahab’s country. He came from across the Jordan, and soon he would be living in Jezebel’s own homeland of Sidon. In many ways he was a homeless man, always on the move.
The prophet lived in danger. God sent Elijah into hiding after he delivered his message to Ahab. He knew Elijah faced harassment or death if he remained in Samaria with Ahab.
The prophet depended on God for provision. At one point he birds fed him; at another time he depended on the last bits of meal and oil from a starving widow. It was God’s hand, though, that was always providing for him. His life was a continual test of his own faith.
The prophet could not escape the effects of God’s judgment on Israel. Elijah’s source of drinking water dried up along with everyone else’s.
The prophet never knew what God had planned for him. His life was not his own. Each day brought the possibility of a new journey, a new home, a new word from God.
The prophet saw faith grow in strange places. Elijah’s early success wasn’t in Israel, but in Jezebel’s own country of Tyre and Sidon. There the widow of Zarephath professed faith in God after the prophet raised her son back to life. “Now I know,” she said, “that you are a man of God and that the word of the LORD from your mouth is the truth.”
The book of Hebrews says that “in these last days God has spoken to us by his Son.” Prophets no longer roam the land because we have Jesus’ example and the Bible to make God’s word known to us. Still, there is something for believers to learn from Elijah. We should be willing to travel to unfamiliar places on God’s behalf, to step out in faith depending on his provision, to be as flexible when God changes our plans, to leave room in our lives for God to act, and to have faith that even the most unlikely persons can be saved by God’s grace. Also, we should not be surprised if those who proclaim God’s word suffer for it or if we experience hardship when God judges and disciplines our country.
Image by Spiff on Flickr, CC by