elijah

2 Kings 2, Daniel 6

Today’s readings are 2 Kings 2, Daniel 6.

I wrote yesterday about how great Elijah was and how unappreciated he also was. That doesn’t mean, however, that he was totally unappreciated. His friend Elisha certainly appreciated him and so did “the company of prophets” in Bethel (v. 3) and in Jericho (v. 5).

But they valued him a bit too much, it seems. Elisha was glum about the fact that God was going to take Elijah away from him (v. 3c, 5c). And, when God did take Elijah, Elisha’s cry, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!”seems to mean that the most powerful thing Israel had was now gone. Elijah was a spiritual father to Israel even though most did not receive his message. He was certainly a spiritual father to Elisha (“my father”) and the idea of “the chariots and horsemen” were an analogy to the strength and defense of a nation. Elijah meant more to Israel’s power and defense than all the nuclear missiles and bombs we have stored away for our national defense. So the idea of losing Elijah was a source of despair for Elisha and probably every other faithful Jewish person.

Unable to do anything about Elijah’s departure, Elisha wanted his power so that he could do ministry in the same vein as Elijah but with even greater effectiveness. That’s how I interpret his request to “inherit a double portion of your spirit” (v. 9c). His request was answered but notice how he framed his description of it in verse 14b: “Where now is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” This was a test; would God actually use Elisha now in Elijah’s absence? The fact that the waters parted for him just as they had for Elijah (vv. 8 vs. 14c) demonstrated that God was indeed with Elisha. The fact of the matter is that Elisha did more miracles than Elijah did.

Was it really necessary for Elisha to see Elijah taken to heaven in order to receive the power of God? Of course not. Elijah was “a human being like we are” according to James 5:17. There was nothing special about him. The power to be a “father” and to have greater power than all the chariots and horsemen of Israel resided in God, not in Elijah. But Elijah had to go away in order for Elisha to trust God and do what God called him to do.

Great leaders, godly people, spiritual fathers and mothers are great to have and an important part of everyone’s spiritual growth and maturity. But people die; we should appreciate them while we have them and even mourn their passing. But we should not fear their loss in terms of the loss of God’s work. God is able to work powerfully in us if we actually trust him and obey what he commands us to do. Even our Lord Jesus said that whose who believe in him “will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (Jn 14:12-14).

Do you believe that God will use you to save people and change people’s lives? Are you looking to some person’s leadership when you should be looking to God for power?

2 Kings 1, Daniel 5

Today we’re reading 2 Kings 1 and Daniel 5.

This devotional is about 2 Kings 1.

Sometimes greatness is recognized in people while they are alive. At other times, however, great people are not recognized until much later. Elijah is one of the great men of God in the entire Bible. He spoke God’s word with great authority and he called on God’s power to authenticate his message (such as here in 2 Kings 1:9-15). Even though he did not write like Isaiah and Jeremiah, yet his ministry as a prophet of God was the pattern that John the Baptist followed (Malachi 4:5, Luke 1:17). Also, his prayer life is a model for us to follow according to James 5:17. So Elijah was a great man, a powerful servant of the Lord.

Yet Elijah was unappreciated in times. His odd appearance (v. 8) might have had something to do with it, but it was really more a matter of the deep unbelief among the people he served. He was a prophet to the northern kingdom of Israel (v. 2: “Samaria”) which had not one godly king among the twenty it had in its history.

In this chapter one of Israel’s forgettable kings Ahaziah had an accident and wanted to know if he would recover. So, he sought an answer not from Elijah or Elijah’s God YHWH, the God of Israel; instead, he sent a messenger to ask “Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron” (v. 2).

Although he did not consult YHWH, he got an answer from YHWH. God messaged Elijah (v. 3) and dispatched him to confront the unbelief of Ahaziah (v. 3). Elijah found the messengers that Ahaziah had sent and knew what information they were seeking from Baal-Zebub. Those two facts should have offered strong proof that Elijah spoke for God and that God had the power and answers that Ahaziah sought. But, perhaps because the answer was a negative answer of judgment (v. 4), Ahaziah did not respond in faith toward God and appreciation for God’s messenger. Instead, he sought to do harm to Elijah (vv. 7-15).

You can tell a lot about someone’s beliefs by looking at (1) where they turn for answers and (2) how they respond when they get an answer from God’s word, especially if that answer was negative and unsolicited. We have access to God’s word and many capable--even excellent--teachers of it unlike most people in history have had. Sure, none of us is Elijah, but we have a much greater amount of God’s revelation than Elijah had because we have Christ revealed and the scriptures completed.

Yet how often do we turn to secular sources--books, radio shows, podcasts, Oprah, whatever--for answers instead of to God’s word and his servants?

Are you looking outside God’s word for answers to your problems?

1 Kings 19, 1 Thessalonians 2, Daniel 1, Psalm 105

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 1 Kings 19, 1 Thessalonians 2, Daniel 1, Psalm 105. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read 1 Kings 19.

It was tough to choose today between writing about Elijah’s conversation with God and the stand of Daniel and his three friends, but we’ll go with Elijah since this passage finished the story we’ve been tracking.

Unimpressed by God’s thorough defeat of Baal & his prophets, Jezebel sent Elijah a nastygram promising to end Elijah’s life just as he put all of her prophets of Baal to death. As a human, I’m not surprised that “Elijah was afraid and ran for his life” (v. 3a). But consider how God had already miraculously provided for Elijah first at the brook and then with the widow. Then he answered his prayers for fire from heaven to consume the sacrifices and rain from heaven to end the drought. God had dramatically worked for Elijah and through Elijah but now one person’s threat causes him to completely unravel and flee to save his life (vv. 3-4), then he prayed and asked God to take his life (v. 4b). Here is a man who went from a place of spiritual strength to emotional weakness very quickly. So what did God do?

First, God took care of his body—giving him rest (v. 5a, 8) and food (vv. 5b-8). Then the Lord spoke to him, asking him why he was hiding (v. 9b). Elijah’s answer drips with a feeling of unfairness; despite all he had done for God, now he was #1 on Jezebel’s most wanted list. God then showed Elijah some serious displays of power—an incredibly powerful wind (v. 11), an earthquake (v. 11b), and a fire but “the Lord was not in” any of these things. Finally in verse 12 the Lord spoke to him in “a gentle whisper.” After asking him again why he was here and receiving the same answer, God gave Elijah a series of instructions (vv. 15-17). But he also revealed to Elijah that his claim to be “the only one left” (v. 10, 14) was false. We know from yesterday’s reading (1 Ki 17:4) that Obadiah had hidden and provided for many of the prophets. Now in verses 15-18 we learned that God has plans that don’t involve Elijah (well, after he anointed these people) and that there are 7000 people in Israel who do not worship Baal. 

Elijah had a flair for the dramatic, as we saw in chapter 18. But although he had a dramatic experience with the wind, the earthquake, and the fire, God didn’t use any of those to speak to him; instead God used a gentle whisper. And, while Elijah was convinced that he was the only one left devoted to God, God had other people Elijah just didn’t know about. Although the scriptures do not interpret Elijah’s experience for us directly, it seems to me that God was telling him and us not to be so impressed by big, impressive outbursts of his activity. God does use those, but many of his ways are quiet. Instead of seeking mass conversions, mass revivals, and dramatic miracles, open your eyes to how God is working in ordinary people—bringing them to faith and teaching them to follow him consistently. 

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.

1 Kings 18, 1 Thessalonians 1, Ezekiel 48, Psalm 104

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 1 Kings 18, 1 Thessalonians 1, Ezekiel 48, Psalm 104. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read 1 Kings 18.

Sometimes the most joyous times of the Christian life are called “mountain top experiences.” Elijah experienced one of those literally and figuratively in today’s passage. After a long absence of over two years (v. 1a), Elijah presented himself to Ahab according to the Lord’s command (v. 1b-2). Elijah approached Obadiah, Ahab’s palace administrator, who was devoted to the Lord and his work (vv. 3b-8) but terrified that Ahab would kill him if he falsely claimed to locate Elijah (vv. 9-14). After reassuring Obadiah (v. 15), Elijah met Ahab and challenged him to contest (vv. 16-24). The contest was straight forward—build two identical altars with bulls on top of them, ready to be offered as burnt offerings (vv. 22-23). Have your prophets call on your god Baal and Elijah would call on YHWH; the god who sent fire to consume the offering was the one true God (v. 24). YHWH won this battle easily (vv. 24-40) and then provided the rain that he had withheld for three years (vv. 40-45). God even empowered Elijah to run faster than Ahab’s chariot and horses could carry him (v. 46). 

What stands out to me, though, is Ahab’s greeting (if you can call it that) when he first saw Elijah: “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?” (v. 17). Ahab said this to Elijah because of Elijah’s prophecy and its fulfillment that there would be no rain in Israel until Elijah said so, at the Lord’s direction, of course. Ahab blamed Elijah for the extreme drought that blanketed the Northern Kingdom of Israel. This is an all-too human tendency, isn’t it? When life gets complicated and difficult because of our sins, we tend to blame God or, at times, blame his servants who call us to repentance. I have experienced this personally when involved in church discipline issues. We try our best as elders to be compassionate, kind, and patient with people in sin. Often, though, they lash out and condemn you for being unloving or unkind or worse. Elijah would accept no blame from the mouth of Ahab. In verse 18 he laid the blame where it belonged—on Ahab’s head: “I have not made trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “But you and your father’s family have. You have abandoned the Lord’s commands and have followed the Baals.” 

Sin is always destructive; it is usually pleasurable and promises good things ahead, but instead of delivering the promised goodness, it brings consequences. This is why it is so much wiser to repent when you are confronted with your sin rather than to deny or try to evade accountability. 

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.

1 Kings 17, Colossians 4, Ezekiel 47, Psalm 103

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 1 Kings 17, Colossians 4, Ezekiel 47, Psalm 103. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read 1 Kings 17.

Yesterday in 1 Kings 16 we saw that Ahab was sold out to evil like no king Israel ever had before (1 Ki 16:30). Based on that description of Ahab, we might expect that Ahab’s reign in Israel was a dark time for the Northern Kingdom spiritually and morally. Our expectation is correct; the Northern Kingdom was always far from God both spiritually and morally. It was born in rebellion to God’s Davidic king, worshipped idols from the very beginning of its separation from Judah, and was led by 20 kings who all did evil in the sight of God. In response to Israel’s sinful ways—particularly the evil leadership of king Ahab, God sent his prophet Elijah to proclaim judgment on Israel. Verse 1 told us that Elijah’s message was, “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.” This drought would naturally lead to famine which would ravage Israel’s farm-based economy and cause many people to suffer and die.

What’s interesting about today’s passage is that the focus is not on the devastation God brought on Israel, but on the provision God brought to his servant Elijah. At a time when food and water were scarce, Elijah just had to hang out near a water source and God miraculously brought him food carried by ravens (vv. 2-6). Then, when the drought caused the brook he depended on for water to dry up, God sent him to a person who could take care of him. But she was a very unlikely caretaker. Instead of sending him to a godly man of wealthy means, God sent him to a widow. This widow lived outside the land of Israel; verse 9 told us that he was sent to “Zarephath in the region of Sidon.” This town was located near the Mediterranean Sea and was a good distance north of the most northern tribes of Israel.  Widows, typically, struggled to survive themselves, having no husband to work and provide for the family in an age and economy where everyone in the family had to work hard for the family merely to survive. God told Elijah, “I have directed a widow there to supply you with food” (v. 9b) which suggests that she knew Elijah was coming beforehand. Yet when he arrived and asked her for food, she said, “As surely as the Lord your God lives… I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die” (v. 12). Not exactly an ancient version of Costco, was she? Yet Elijah believed the Lord’s word; he comforted her by telling her not to be afraid (v. 13a) but to do trust the Lord’s provision by making food for Elijah first, then for herself and her son (v. 13b-c). This command was based on God’s promise in verse 14: “For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’” Amazingly, she believed the Lord’s promise and God provided for her, her son, AND Elijah day after day after day (vv. 15-16). 

Then, as if her daily test of faith were not enough, it was tested again when her son died (vv. 17-19). She reacted as anyone would in this kind of tragedy. Why would God keep her son alive day after day from starvation only to see him die prematurely from illness? But God listened to Elijah’s prayer and restored his life (vv. 20-23). The purpose of these miracles was to authenticate the message of Elijah: “Then the woman said to Elijah, ‘Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth.’” The point of this story was to show how God provided for those who trusted in him, even in a dark time spiritually for the nation of Israel. His provision required constant faith, but he never failed to live up to his promise. And, like he did with Elijah, God calls us to trust him and live according to his word and his promises even when times look bleak spiritually and economically.

I can’t help but think about our current presidential election when thinking about this passage. What if we elect the most ungodly person to ever occupy the oval office? Can God provide for us if we are ruled and even persecuted by unsaved and ungodly people? Of course he can but we have to look to him in faith. Think about the possible anxiety Elijah might have faced. What if the ravens don’t show up with any food today? What if this is the day that the widow’s flour and oil run out? Each day was a test of faith for these people, but God was faithful. May we have the grace to trust him no matter what kind of trial of faith we face in the days ahead.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.