Elijah the Prophet (Week 27, Part 4/6) 1 Kings 17-19 | June 27 – July 3 – powered by Happy Scribe
My name is Lynne Hilton Wilson, and I’m excited to talk about Elijah the prophet today for our Come, Follow Me as part of the Book of Mormon central team.
We’re right in the middle of the story of Chapter 18. But just to look at our main characters, I want to remind us that the name Elijah means Jehovah is my god.
And because Jehovah was a sacred word, the Jesus often referred to it as the Lord is my God. Elijah, though, is one of the most colorful and animated prophets. And as we look at his stories, at least seven miracles are recorded. I’ve counted about ten, but it depends if you’re counting a prophecy as a miracle or not. But the second to the next main character is probably this god named Baal.
And I just wanted to give you a little bit more details before we see Elijah’s miracle completed there. But all was a Phoenician god, and his main focus initially was the weather. That included thunder, lightning, rain, and later on, he becomes also the god of fertility and other things. He’s this very important chief god. And if you know the area of Palestine, you know that the weather is so important to survival because rain is what it’s all about.
And there are many different places where he could stay. He traveled alone, but one of the places he went to was Mount Carmel, just inside the Mediterranean. From Haifa inland, you come across Mount Carmel. And as we read the story about Elijah gathering the priests of and perhaps also Jezebel’s priests of the grove that were also being fed at her table, which would give us a total of 850 rather than just $450, because she’s got two groups of people there. We also learned that Jezebel herself was a daughter of the king of Phoenicia, and one of her desires as the queen is to change the National Guard of Jehovah to Baal.
And she is so conniving in this that by changing the god, she will also change the allegiance. And Israel would then become part of a vassal state with Phoenicia because it would be the Phoenician god. And her father’s name is actually Fbaal, and this means with Baal or a servant of or working with or something like that. And her desires are right in line with her father. I think the reason why the author has included the name of her father as the king in Phoenicia, and he ran for a long time, 50 years or something, is what the records say.
I think the reason why they say that is because they want us to realize her powerful influence is very focused on making dramatic changes. And she also has one arch enemy, and that is Elijah. But as we jump into the text where my colleagues have left off in Chapter 18, where they’re on top of the Mount Carmel, the two oxen have already been slaughtered, and all morning long, from sunrise until 03:00 in the afternoon. The priests of the all have tried to do all sorts of things to wake up their God, to ask Him to come back from traveling. All of these things are part of who he is.
We understand from the archeology and texts that have been found about. And our poor Elijah has been egging them on and taunting them. And now it says in chapter 18 that it is the time of the evening sacrifice. And I don’t know if you remember, but that’s at 03:00 in the afternoon, the morning sacrifice is right before sunrise. And that’s when the incense altar is lighted in the temple or lit in the temple.
And it’s lit twice a day right before sunrise and then again at 03:00 so that you have this incense or the symbolic of prayers always going to the heavens. And at the hour of prayer is when usually later on in the temple services, the shema will be read and the priests will line up on the court of the priest and sing the priest’s addiction. It’s a beautiful time at the temple service, of the daily temple service. And I think it’s significant that this is the time that our prophet is calling upon God at this hour of the evening sacrifice. In verse 36 it reads let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel and that I am thy servant.
The importance of the prophets being servants of God, they do the bidding of God. They speak for God, they are representatives of God. And it is actually Christ who is running this show, or Jehovah before he was immortal. And Elijah is just his mouthpiece. And we see the same things in our prophets.
Joseph Smith is not the organizer of the church. It is our Savior, Jesus Christ, who is working through his servants, has organized and restored his kingdom here on earth. And we, as baptized disciples of Jesus Christ are his servants. We are his hands. We are to do his bidding and to keep our ear attuned to every one of his words and to repeat his words as we hear them from the mouth of our prophets.
Continuing on to verse 37 that these people will know that you the Lord our God. We don’t want any changing of the political balance here. We don’t want anyone to be assuming that we are going to be worshipping Baal or going to become Phoenicians. We are Israelites. We are children of God.
We are those who allow God to work in our lives or prevail as one translation is used by our prophet that you have turned their hearts back again. And this is interesting because many translations assume that God is the one who’s changing Elijah’s heart, god is the one who’s changing the children’s heart. And we believe that agency forbids that it is. God allows us to change our own hearts. And Elijah is asking actually that the Lord will forgive us soften hearts, but it is not he who’s doing the bidding.
Continuing on in verse 38, then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, the dust, it licked up the water in the trenches. In the previous verses, as they talked about how he poured the buckets and buckets of water, and I kept thinking it hasn’t rained for three years, there hasn’t even been due for three years, and some texts even say three and a half years. How in the world are they getting all this water? Either there is a very strong brook that has not dried up here, or river or pond that I don’t know about now, or they’ve had to get this water from old cisterns that they’ve had to carry all the way up the hill, or they’ve taken it clear over from the Mediterranean or from the Sea of Galilee, whatever it is. They were able to get water clear up on this mountaintop and the fire licked it up.
It’s a fabulous dramatic story and we see God working in such a majesty and all the people according to verse 39 saw this and they fell down on their face and they said, the Lord, he is God. The Lord, he is God. And the name of Elijah is repeated as they say this Jehovah is God or is my God. That’s exactly what we’re seeing. And Elijah then follows through and says, seize the prophets of the all and the 450 are slain.
He says in verse 40, do not let a single one escape. Now, I don’t know if they have the other ones. There is an 850 or 400. There must have been a lot of people gathered on the top of the mountain that they would have outnumbered these priests that they were not able to escape. But as we look at this story, have you ever asked yourself why God chose this way?
Couldn’t he just asked the priest to repent and to change their hearts? Couldn’t he give them another try? Is God vengeful? Or is it as the King James words use? Sometimes jealous?
And I have to always remind us, as in our dispensation, the answer is a clear no. I say unto you, Nay. We have Moses 139. Everything God does, all of his work is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. It’s better for those priests of all, it’s better for the children of Israel that that part is removed, that they are taken out of this life and have another lifetime to repent, that they have another opportunity to learn the teachings of Jehovah, who became Jesus of Nazareth.
God is not a vengeful God. And then we continue on in the text that Elijah goes to wicked King Ahab and says, go up and eat and drink. And there is the sound of heavy rain. Now you know that he sends his little servant boy up the mountain to look toward the western border to see if any clouds are coming from the Mediterranean. And he doesn’t see anything and he doesn’t see anything.
And finally on the 7th time, very significant, being whole, complete or perfect, he sees a small cloud, just a tiny cloud about the size of a hand but it grows and it grows. And by the time it comes, according to verse 44 elijah tells the serpent to go tell Ahab, prepare your chariot and go down before the rain stops you. And at this glorious moment the sky grows dark and the clouds come and the heavy rain begins to pour and Elijah girds up his gown and to run down into the Jedge Real valley, the top of Mount Carmel. There’s a beautiful valley that is very fertile and it goes all the way over to Mount Taylor and Mount Gilboa in that area over towards the Jordan and he begins running down there and it’s about a ten k actually of a run from the top of Mount Carmel down to the bottom and we have this beautiful verse 46 elijah tucked his clothes into his belt and ran ahead of Ahab all the way to Jesus. Our prophet is filled with joy and rain or mud does not stop him.
He has seen the hand of God in his life. He’s seen that God is going to answer his prayers and with great excitement he can outrun the chariot. I didn’t count that as another miracle, but maybe it was, I don’t know. But we know that there are highs and lows to all of our lives. And as we continue reading in the next chapter there are some very sad times for Elijah.
The very next day, Queen Jezebel does not appreciate what he has done and wants to kill him. And I see these undulations in life and the Lord gives them to us for teaching opportunities. He wants us to stay faithful. He wants us to remember the powerful times and he keeps them in our hearts to help us get through the difficult times. And I pray that we will always remember that God answers our prayers.
And when you feel the heavens are closed for three and a half years as they were at the time of Elijah, you can continue to call upon the Lord as Elijah did until those heavens are open again and hear his voice and see his hand in your life again. I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.