The LORD’s great victory yesterday came against Baal on Baal’s own presumed turf. Baal was the Canaanite god of the storms and rain: where else would the LORD exert His power than in the arena of Baal’s supposed strength? The LORD even joins Elijah in mocking King Ahab and his god: “Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot and go down, lest the rain stop you…’”
So it might be surprising to find Elijah run for his life at the beginning of chapter 19. But let’s avoid the temptation to spiritualize this and imagine the very human emotions of the moment. Elijah is tired; he prepared physically, emotional, and spiritually for the encounter on Mount Carmel. He felt the tension of each minute on that mountain; he stood just aside as fire fell from on high; he avenged the LORD’s prophets at the Kishon brook.
And remember, his purpose wasn’t to achieve a great victory: it was to turn back the hearts of Israel and her king. Then moments after watching his countrymen worship “The LORD, [for] He is God,” he receives a death sentence from the palace. What hope was there? Ahab and Jezebel’s apostasy was not an educational issue. Their hearts were beyond response.
And therefore, if Elijah’s mission was to turn the hearts of Ahab and Jezebel to the LORD, he has failed miserably. But that might not have been his mission at all, or at least not entirely. The rest of chapter 19 plays with this question, and I’ll let you discover the LORD’s inquisitive response to Elijah’s anguish: “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”
In chapter 20 we return to a less taxing subject: war with Syria. Syria (or Aram), was Northeast of Israel and headquartered at Damascus. They had paid tribute to David and Solomon but were now independent and returning the favor to Israel.
The threats are external and internal. Syria has superior numbers. Ahab is weak and cowardly. In three successive campaigns the LORD again fights for Israel, so that Ahab “will know that I am the LORD…”
Yet even in victory, Ahab will prove a failure. Pay attention to the increasing boldness of the LORD’s prophets as they confront this Troubler of Israel.
Our verse for this week is 2 Corinthians 5:17: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
1 Kings 19 and 20. Now let’s read it!
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.