Most of us have experienced some resistance, whether internally or externally, to the gospel. Wicked men resist God’s word. It undermines their agenda. They’ll do so even with miraculous signs. What the world needs is the Holy Spirit to soften people’s hearts. Elijah runs all the way through Judah and ditches his servant and walks into the wilderness. How is Elijah not dead yet? The only person that doesn’t want Elijah dead at this point is God. God refreshes him with food, water and rest. He’s still got a long way to go.
God’s people are worshipping idols. If Elijah can’t deal with the problem then what’s the point? God hears Elijah’s prayer. He cowers in the back of a cave. The mountain shakes. Consumed fire. Earthquake. They’re not just to scare Elijah. God is more powerful than any opposition we face because we follow him. God laughs at them and terrifies them. He has a plan to defeat Elijah’s enemies. God has a plan to preserve his people. No matter how secular the world becomes, God will preserve his people because he is gracious.
When your faith is troubled, run to God. If you trust in Jesus, justice has already been served. The world will oppose God’s message but it desperately needs to hear it.
Kings and prophets aren’t perfect yet they’re used by God to fulfil his purposes. Elijah rebukes Ahab as the people had been led astray. No one was following God. Elijah rebuilds the broken altar. He prays straightforwardly. He acknowledges that he is God’s messenger. The people acknowledge God. Elijah is following the law of Moses. Following other gods is high treason. We don’t see the behaviour of false prophets as a big deal.
Do we follow God?
Elijah’s confrontation was with the Israelites. The unbelievers come to see the reality of God through his activity amongst his people. Elijah prays to God and he answers. The 850 prophets were wrong. Like the Israelites we can follow God and other idols. Theology needs to lead to discipleship.
God wants a relationship and makes this possible
God demonstrates that he listens. The language used reveals a lot about his character. Who does the work of restoration? What do the people do? Nothing. They’ve not been worshipping God at the altar. God does a miracle with the fire. It’s a demonstration of his power. Elijah faces difficulty and is caught up in a world that’s rejecting God. Neither kings nor prophets were able to rescue God’s people. Jesus is a perfect rescuer. We can respond by following God.
God’s people make risky choices
Obadiah was in a difficult position. On edge all the time, wondering if today will be the last. The temptation to withdraw is huge. It seems Elijah doesn’t have much time for Obadiah. Obadiah is terrified when he sees Elijah in front of him. He’s sure that when he reports back, Elijah will be sent away. Elijah sees Obadiah’s conflict of loyalties. Why does Obadiah take these risks? All we know is that he’s a believer who works for the King. His loyalty belongs to the Lord, whatever the situation. Elijah took a great risk to go to the King. We’re all called to live radical, counter cultural lives wherever we are.
The gospel commands us to make risky choices
Mark 8:34-38 shows how Elijah and Obadiah were living. Giving money, inviting colleagues. We live in a culture where fitting in is hugely important.
Risky choices are secure in the gospel
There are risks to our situations, but we know where we are going. We have complete assurance of eternal life. This is the perspective that enabled Elijah to obey God. You can take risks knowing you have a perfect relationship with God.
We have a society that’s obsessed with individualism. Our idols are still working within our hearts to displace God from the rightful place he deserves. There’s no gentle introduction to Elijah. If this was all about Elijah, we’d expect a back story. Instead there’s a different emphasis. What is mighty is the reality of God’s word working through the unlikely to bring about his plans.
Obedience is hard. It doesn’t matter if the instruction is important. God preserved Elijah. He delivered God’s message to the King. It’s clear that it was the Lord preserving him. He was confident in him so he continued to be obedient, following what God had told him to do. A widow wasn’t the most likely candidate to provide. Somehow Elijah remains obedient and through it, an unbelieving widow shows faith. God demonstrates his faithfulness and provision.
We lose sight of the reality of the bigger picture. We can be confident that he has a plan for us. It’s not ours. At the end, God’s work will be finished and we will meet him. It’s hard to grasp. We shouldn’t expect to find life easy. We can be confident that God is in control. He’ll continue to provide what we need, even when it’s not what we expect. When we get frustrated, it’s because he’s not providing the things we want. It’s the desire for those things that crowds God out.
The widow is in dire straits. She helps a stranger. With only a small understanding of who God is, she demonstrates her faith by giving Elijah the little food she has. God responds with both grace and mercy, by bringing her son back to life. God’s love for the outsider is still the same today. We need to protect ourselves from becoming complacent and thinking God’s word is only for people like us. God’s love is for all people, no matter who they are or what they do. All he asks is that they put their faith in him. We can be encouraged to honour him and know that what we do doesn’t change our standing with him.
These are notes from the ninth part of a Bible overview series (see notes from the eighth).
1. Create a story arc for the passage.
- Status quo: Solomon and his unlawful marriages (v1-2)
- Conflict: Solomon had too many wives (v3)
- Rising action: Solomon’s wives turn him away from God (v4-8)
- Climax: God is angry with Solomon (v9)
- Falling action: The kingdom will be torn away (v11)
- Resolution: It won’t happen in his time because of David (v12)
- New status quo: Not the entire kingdom will be torn away (v13)
2. What were the problems Solomon had?
He loved many foreign women. God gave a general warning to Israel to not intermarry with these nations. He didn’t have the wisdom to apply this simple command to his own life (Deuteronomy 17:17).
3. Solomon had an unbelievable number of marriage partners. What do you think was the cause?
- He followed the bad example of David (2 Samuel 5:13-16)
- Lust. If one wife isn’t enough, 1,000 won’t be either.
- Hunger for power and prestige
4. How was Solomon’s heart turned away from God? How did he let this happen?
His wives did it. He turned from true love. Age didn’t make Solomon wiser. His heart wasn’t loyal to God.
5. How does God respond? Is his judgement justified?
He announces his judgement. He had appeared to him twice and so had special reason to be displeased with him.
6. What do we learn about how God treats sin? How does he still show mercy?
He treats it very seriously. Yet he still shows undeserved mercy with deserved judgement.
7. Do you think we’re tempted to downplay our own sin, to think we can get away with it, or think that because we’re doing okay spiritually, we don’t need to worry?
We might think that spiritual experiences will keep us from sin and will keep us faithful to God. This wasn’t the case with Solomon and it won’t be the case with us either.
8. If this happened to the wisest man who ever lived, how can we ensure we constantly depend on Jesus?
Pray. Let this example drive us to greater dependence.