Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Afraid of Jezebel?

I KIngs 18 is an exciting read.

The people of God are living in a time of mixed allegiances. In Judah, King Asa is faithful to God, but in Israel, Ahab reigns with his idolatrous wife Jezebel. In Judah, idol worship is being abolished, while in Israel, Ahab "did more to provoke the Lord to anger than did all the kings of Israel before him." (I Kings 16:33)

Enter Elijah.

This courageous prophet of God proclaims a drought in Israel, and vows in God's name that no rain will fall until he gives the word. (I Kings 17:1) The drought indeed occurs, and Elijah rides it out by the brook in the Kerith Ravine, being fed by ravens who bring him food twice a day. When the brook dries up because of the drought, Elijah moves on and meets a widow who supplies him with food. Despite having only enough flour and oil for one last meal, her supplies miraculously never run out, and last until the drought is over. Elijah also raises this woman's son from the dead, by the power of God.

In I Kings 18, Elijah's most memorable moment occurs, when he openly challenges the people of Israel to no longer "waver between two opinions" and to make a choice between God and Baal. Elijah proposes a contest to see whose God responds to a call to burn up a sacrifice left out on an altar.

The stage is set for one of the most powerful moments witnessed by the people of God: Mt. Carmel, with Elijah on one side, opposed by 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah on the other.

1 vs. 850, with a standing-room-only crowd in attendance, hanging on each moment.

The outcome is an exhilarating victory for God's faithful, and a humiliation for the 850 idol-worshipers. When it's over, Elijah does not spare the prophets of Baal and Asherah, but puts them to death.

Elijah calls an end to the drought and tells King Ahab to hitch up his chariot and get back to the town of Jezreel before the rain comes. Elijah gives Ahab a head start, then runs at a dead sprint, outpacing Ahab's chariot, and beating him back to town.

Up to this point, Elijah's ministry has been a more or less uninterrupted string of successes: Calling and ending a drought, supplying miraculous food, raising a son from the dead, proving God's supremacy in front of an entire nation, going Jesse Owens on King Ahab. No challenge has proven to be too great, not even 850 enemies all gathered together against him at once. He was undefeated, and unbeatable.

Then came Jezebel.

The pagan wife of King Ahab gets wind of what happened to the prophets of Baal and Asherah, and swears in the name of her idols that Elijah will pay with his life by the same time the next day. And...

Elijah laughs with scorn.

Elijah mocks the queen.

Elijah marches straight into the throne room and dares the queen to do her worst.

Elijah counters her idolatrous threat with a threat of his own, in the name of Jehovah.

The queen swallows her threat and drops dead by the power of God.

Israel returns to her faithful Father!

If only....

The fact is, Elijah receives word of Jezebel's threat, and is scared out of his wits. He runs out into the desert alone, sits under a tree, and prays for death. An angel of God leads Elijah another 40 days' walk, until he arrives at Mt. Horeb, the place where God had provided water from a rock for the children of Israel as they escaped Egypt.

Once there, Elijah cries out to God that, after all he has done, he alone is left faithful to God, and that now his life is sought by his enemies.

God shows Elijah His presence, assures him that 7,000 remain faithful to God in Israel, and gives Elijah instructions: Anoint Hazael king over Aram, anoint Jehu king over Israel, and anoint Elisha to replace you as prophet. Not long after, Elijah is taken to heaven in a whirlwind, and Elisha becomes the new prophet of God.

If only one part of this story could be different. If only Elijah had not been afraid of Jezebel! Why was he so afraid of her? Why did he run and avoid the confrontation with her? Why did he not see that the same God who had supplied all his victories, the most recent of which had just occurred that very day, would also supply all his need against this pagan queen?

What is the worst that could have happened? Jezebel could indeed have killed Elijah, and he would have gone to the presence of God, which is exactly where he went anyway. The worst-case scenario still lands him in heaven! Why did he not see this?

It's easy for us to judge, all these years later, but why? Why did he run? Why was he afraid?

Scripture doesn't explain this; we're simply told that he was afraid.

In reality, most of us can relate. Most of us have experienced a fear of something or someone that was so intense, it eclipsed all of God's previous victories on our behalf. A fear that caused a quick reaction to flee, without even a moment's thought of God.

Most of us have Jezebels of our own.

What does it say about us, that we are so prone to fear things God has already overcome in our lives? So prone to forget the strength that comes with having the presence of God in our lives?

How do we explain to God:

*The wrong we refuse to right, because we are afraid of the conversation we would have to have with someone?

*The temptation we refuse to separate ourselves from, because we are afraid of alienating someone?

*The stand we refuse to take, because we are afraid of what people will say?

*The soul we watch destroying itself, because we are afraid of getting involved?

*The victories we forget, and the fears we preserve?

*Listening to Satan more than we listen to Him?

Who is your Jezebel?


Gorgeous Smiles said...

Well said.

George A. Marquart said...

Elijah was afraid for the same reason Adam and Eve were afraid in the Garden of Eden. They all knew they had doone something wrong. God makes it clear to Elijah in the cave, with the still quiet voice. That is incompatible with the grand show and slaying of the priests of Baal. God did not give Elijah the right to execute judgment on his own. Elijah thought he could do no wrong. So, great as he was as a prohet, God took his office and gave it to Elisha.

Anonymous said...

Let's remember that Elijah was probably physically, emotionally and spiritually drained. In other words, the dude was dead tired. Notice how God takes care of his servant: allows him time to dump ("I single-handedly trounce the bad guys and my reward is this?! I'm done. Lord, take me home!"), lets him take two power naps and feeds him super-energy angel bread. Spiritual victories are almost always followed by let downs because of fatigue. This proves that Elijah was just one of us.

Anonymous said...

Yeah yeah....I can easily relate to this

melvin J. said...

Elijah was not wrong for killing the prophets according to deut. 13:5 and 18:20 This was expected as punishmnent for those who mis lead the people of God.

Pastor Osc Blog said...

David, thank you. This devo was very encouraging to me. I also work in public schools and am constantly facing Jezebels. Thank you for reminding me of where victory comes from. Blessings in your work!

John Lambert said...

We have to remember that Elisha was human, although a prophet he could still be shaken by a threat from someone with means to carry out the threat.

It was in that initial moment of doubt, an inkling of dismay, that Elijah found himself unable to draw upon all that God had recently accomplished through him on Mount Carmel for the Hebrew people.

We all as humans have initial moments of doubt and inklings of dismay, when we just can't seem to reflect on how God really works in our lives, on a moment to moment basis at the sub-atomic level. We can find God anytime we search for Him (1 Chron 28:9) As humans we must use our free-will to engage that search on a continual basis. This is true, even from Creation (Rom 1:20).

But, it does not mean that we will not experience fear. It does mean that we as God's creation have His personage to discuss our fears with as exampled by Elijah at the cave. He heard God speak and saw His power - which the Jezebel's of this world can not compete with, 1 Kgs 19:9-15.

But this is not the end of the story. We know what happened to Elijah 2 Kgs 2:11, and how that turned out for Elijah, Luke 9:30 - Peter, James and John saw it. For Elijah, there is no end of the story - he's a winner.

During Elijah's earth-time he came to a point in his life that he allowed fear to captivate him to the point of becoming ineffective to do God's work - that God had planned for him, Jer 29:11. We don't have to allow this to happen to us because we know the outcome - God is faithful.

As long as we are about His business, He will never leave us or forsake us. Regardless of what happens to my body - I'm a winner either way, if I go or if I stay.

montford matthews said...

I am an instructor for men and women in a discipleship program. I seem to take to heart what one earlier contributor said regarding fatigue. What I glean this time around with this story is that after our mega conquests we need to tabernacle with God and take care of ourselves. We do get drained after exploits in God and need to be wary. Temporary isolation is good if we know it is to recharge and heal and drink in the word. Elijah may have gotten used to, like the author said, the uninterrupted string of successes. perhaps he shouldn't have outraced the chariot back to town but headed for the nearest shelter for a recharge in God. Montford Matthews

Anonymous said...

Dear All, It was very interesting to see all the comments about this topics including some of the commentaries I have read. Was Elijah afraid? In Masoretic Text, the hebrew word in verse 3 means "see" so the proper translation is Elijah "saw".. the question is What did Elijah see? refer to the writing by Allen about this explanation as below.

Hope it helps!

God Bless,
Rudy (