What does it say?
Elijah, one of the Bible’s great personalities, bursts onto the scene of history and boldly predicts three years of drought (1Ki 17) in response to the evil of Ahab’s reign. To protect Elijah and provide for him, God sends him to the brook Cherith and uses ravens to care for him. Later, when the brook dries up completely in the draught, God directs him to a widow’s home in Zarephath where he miraculously multiplies her food and Elijah restores her son to life.
The second of three Elijah stories is his contest with the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel (1Ki 18). Elijah meets with faithful Obadiah, who in turn arranges a meeting with Ahab to challenge his prophets of Baal. Elijah demonstrates Jehovah’s power and the impotence of Baal as he calls fire down from God in Heaven to light the water-soaked wood on an altar. With the assistance of people who had seen this power display, Elijah kills the prophets of Baal and announces the end of the drought.
The pressure of these events overcomes Elijah and he enters into a deep depression driving him to Mt. Horeb (Sinai) where he has an encounter with God (1Ki 19). God then promises to continue his work that he began through Elijah by instructing him to anoint Elisha as his successor that in turn will anoint Hazael to be king over Syria and Jehu to be king over Israel.
What does it mean?
God chooses a drought to come upon Israel because Baal was considered to control weather. This is the beginning of events to clearly demonstrate the omnipotence of the true God and the impotence of Baal. At whatever moment in history and no matter how evil or idolatrous society becomes, God will glorify his name by demonstrating the reality of his power and that he always has faithful servants to do his will and carry out his mission.
In many ways Elijah represents the future ministry of Jesus confronting the sins of God’s people. Anointing Elisha as his successor is not necessarily punishment for having wrestled with doubt and depression, but rather the beginning of a new phase of prophetic ministry. Elijah boldly confronts apostasy and still has significant ministry remaining in purging Baal worship. Elisha will bring a different emphasis and his ministry will primarily deal with God’s faithful remnant remaining in the land.
How will I respond?
Have I ever been overcome with depression and doubts? What lessons can I learn and apply from the example of God’s dealings with Elijah?