1 Kings 19-20: The Mountain of God
June 12, 2020
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Elijah, having won such a great victory, is now vexed and terrified by a threat from the wife of the king (19:2-4). Why the sudden shift from a fearless man of valor to this shrinking violet? Jezebel was clearly not a woman to be taken lightly, and her vow was a serious one that indicated that a true death sentence had been put on Elijah’s head. No doubt Elijah knew she pulled the strings around the royal palace in actuality. Still, fearless Elijah of chapter 18 is now replaced with fearful Elijah of chapter 19, and the fact remains that this change from elation to depression is all too human. When you have been on the mountain, winning great victories with God, it is easy to slip into the slough of despondency. The answer is to go to a different mountain—not of ministry and work, but of relationship and intimacy—the mountain of God.
Elijah goes into the wilderness alone (dismissing his servant, 19:3) and confesses to God that he wishes to die (19:4). “I am no better than my fathers” (19:4). He is conscious that he has been given a direction-changing task as an especially anointed prophet, and now he feels a failure. It has all been for naught. It is, then, “enough” (19:4). God’s directions given through an angel (19:5) are wise in the extreme, and to be taken note of by all who counsel those in such Elijah-like situations, as well as when we find ourselves spiritually in a dark place. He must eat. We are psychosomatic beings, and no one ever felt good on an empty stomach. Then he rests again (19:6). However spiritually inspired an individual might be, they can still get burned out. He needs to chill, to relax, indeed to sleep (19:5). The instruction to eat is repeated because the journey ahead of him is long (19:7).
He is going to the famous mountain of God (19:8), where Moses encountered the burning bush, where the Ten Commandments were given. There he encounters God himself (19:9-18). What is the meaning of this encounter? God is telling Elijah that the dramatic wind and rain and fire that he has just experienced in his amazing victory is not the point. It is easy in ministry to think that the impact, the numbers and the victories are what count. Jesus similarly counseled his disciples: rejoice not that the demons submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven (Luke 10:20). Our joy is fixed because of this intimate relationship that we have with God through faith in Christ. This “still small voice” is not the voice of a hidden mysticism, arcane, and secret to all but the initiated. It is the word of God coming to us with love and in grace-filled relationship. That, says God, is the point. Your relationship with me, through my word.
God’s instructions to Elijah are once again fascinating. He does not immediately rebuke him for telling God there are no other prophets (19:10, 14)—when we know from the beginning of chapter 18 he had been told there were others (18:4)—but instead he tells him what to do (19:15-18). Delegation. That is the secret. Basically, Elijah had been taking too much on himself. He needs to find a “mentee” to “mentor,” to train, to be equipped to take over from him. And he is to anoint two other kings to carry the battle of the Lord forward at a political level too. There are actually seven thousand who have not bowed the knee before Baal (19:18). It is too easy, when discouraged, to count our friends too meanly, and count our enemies several times over.
Elijah then goes to call Elisha (19:19)—who asks first to say goodbye to his parents (19:20). In fulfillment, or echo, of this discipleship call, Jesus has a higher one. For he is greater than Elijah and following Jesus means “letting the dead bury their own dead” (Luke 9:60).
In chapter 20 we see Ahab with enemies surrounding him, and with partial success at the command of other prophets of God, but then disobedience once more. Ahab is oil and water, mixed of heart and mind, one time for God, another time not, one time obedient, but only so far as it suits him. Be pure of heart and mind and wholly follow God.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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