Answers That Take A Little Longer

Elijah went up to the summit of Carmel. He bent down on the ground and put his face between his knees. Then he said to his servant, “Go up and look toward the sea.”

So he went up, looked, and said, “There’s nothing.”

Seven times Elijah said, “Go back.”

On the seventh time, he reported, “There’s a cloud as small as a man’s hand coming up from the sea.”

Then Elijah said, “Go and tell Ahab, ‘Get your chariot ready and go down so the rain doesn’t stop you.’”

In a little while, the sky grew dark with clouds and wind, and there was a downpour. So Ahab got in his chariot and went to Jezreel. The power of the Lord was on Elijah, and he tucked his mantle under his belt and ran ahead of Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.

1 Kings 18:42b-46

In the showdown between Yahweh and Ba’al, there was little question who would win. After the prophets of Ba’al spent the whole day calling out to their god for fire, only to receive no answer, Elijah prayed a simple prayer and Yahweh answered with fire that consumed everything placed on Elijah’s altar. The people were convinced that Yahweh was God. Still, there was the unfinished business of the drought.

After such a dramatic revelation of His power, it would seem that Yahweh would be quick to send ran as well. Instead, though, this miracle took a little longer to become a reality. Elijah went to the summit of Mt. Carmel to await the rain that he knew would come. He humbly and quietly prayed and then asked his servant to go look for a cloud on the horizon. Each time the servant came back with no report of a cloud. The seventh time, the servant saw a cloud the size of a man’s hand. That was enough to convince Elijah that the drought was about to end. He sent word to Ahab to leave for Jezreel before he got caught in the rain. As he did this, the sky grew dark and a great storm came across the land. The drought had ended and the land would produce fruit again.

James 5 tells us that Elijah was a human being like us. He earnestly believed that God would stop the rain. Three and a half years later, he believed the rain would come again and it did. We may think of Elijah as a person with a higher level of power than us but James seems to say that we have the same access to the power of prayer that Elijah did. Sometimes our answers will come quickly. Other times there may be a delay. The key is that we must trust God to do what He has promised in the time that He sees fit.

  • Are there things you need to trust God for even if you haven’t seen the answer right away?

No One Answered

So Ahab summoned all the Israelites and gathered the prophets at Mount Carmel. Then Elijah approached all the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him. But if Baal, follow him.” But the people didn’t answer him a word.

Then Elijah said to the people, “I am the only remaining prophet of the Lord, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men. Let two bulls be given to us. They are to choose one bull for themselves, cut it in pieces, and place it on the wood but not light the fire. I will prepare the other bull and place it on the wood but not light the fire. Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The God who answers with fire, he is God.”

All the people answered, “That’s fine.”

Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Since you are so numerous, choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first. Then call on the name of your god but don’t light the fire.”

So they took the bull that he gave them, prepared it, and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “Baal, answer us!” But there was no sound; no one answered. Then they danced around the altar they had made.

At noon Elijah mocked them. He said, “Shout loudly, for he’s a god! Maybe he’s thinking it over; maybe he has wandered away; or maybe he’s on the road. Perhaps he’s sleeping and will wake up!” They shouted loudly, and cut themselves with knives and spears, according to their custom, until blood gushed over them. All afternoon they kept on raving until the offering of the evening sacrifice, but there was no sound; no one answered, no one paid attention.

1 Kings 18:20-29

1 Kings 18 is the great showdown between Elijah and the prophets of Ba’al. In reality, it was a showdown between Yahweh and Ba’al himself to show who was truly God. This also was about ending the drought and bringing relief to the people. The test was simple. Each side would prepare a sacrifice on an altar for their god but leave the fire unlit. The god who answered by starting the sacrifice on fire was the true God.

Even though he was outnumbered 450 to 1, Elijah was a good sport and let the prophets of Ba’al go first. They carried on the whole day but nothing happened. Ba’al did not answer by miraculously igniting the sacrifice. The final phrases of verse 29 show how sad the situation was for the prophets of Ba’al. “No one answered, no one paid attention.” Their whole system of religion was showing itself to be empty, without any real substance to it.

Sometimes we are not unlike the prophets of Ba’al. We place our trust in something other than God to give us fulfillment. When a time of crisis comes and we look for answers from the thing we have placed our trust in, we end up with silence and the realization that the thing we trusted is not bringing us the answers we need. We begin to feel like no one is paying attention and we are probably correct since the thing we are placing our trust in does not have the ability to answer us.

  • Are there things you are looking to for answers that only God can give you?

God’s Rescuer

After a long time, the word of the Lord came to Elijah in the third year: “Go and present yourself to Ahab. I will send rain on the surface of the land.” So Elijah went to present himself to Ahab.

The famine was severe in Samaria. Ahab called for Obadiah, who was in charge of the palace. Obadiah was a man who greatly feared the Lord and took a hundred prophets and hid them, fifty men to a cave, and provided them with food and water when Jezebel slaughtered the Lord’s prophets. Ahab said to Obadiah, “Go throughout the land to every spring and to every wadi. Perhaps we’ll find grass so we can keep the horses and mules alive and not have to destroy any cattle.” They divided the land between them in order to cover it. Ahab went one way by himself, and Obadiah went the other way by himself.

While Obadiah was walking along the road, Elijah suddenly met him. When Obadiah recognized him, he fell facedown and said, “Is it you, my lord Elijah?”

“It is I,” he replied. “Go tell your lord, ‘Elijah is here!’”

But Obadiah said, “What sin have I committed, that you are handing your servant over to Ahab to put me to death? As the Lord your God lives, there is no nation or kingdom where my lord has not sent someone to search for you. When they said, ‘He is not here,’ he made that kingdom or nation swear they had not found you.

“Now you say, ‘Go tell your lord, “Elijah is here!”’ But when I leave you, the Spirit of the Lord may carry you off to some place I don’t know. Then when I go report to Ahab and he doesn’t find you, he will kill me. But I, your servant, have feared the Lord from my youth. Wasn’t it reported to my lord what I did when Jezebel slaughtered the Lord’s prophets? I hid a hundred of the prophets of the Lord, fifty men to a cave, and I provided them with food and water. Now you say, ‘Go tell your lord, “Elijah is here!”’ He will kill me!”

Then Elijah said, “As the Lord of Armies lives, in whose presence I stand, today I will present myself to Ahab.”

1 Kings 18:1-15

In the midst of great evil, God often raises up ordinary people with the conviction to stand against the tide of evil in whatever way they can. Obadiah (not the same as the prophet whose vision appears among the Minor Prophets of the Old Testament) was one such person. Even his name spoke to his mission. Obadiah was a common Jewish name that meant “servant of Yahweh.” This Obadiah lived up to the meaning of his name.

Obadiah was essentially the Chief of Staff during the rule of Ahab and Jezebel. He was also deeply committed to his faith in Yahweh. When Jezebel was having prophets of Yahweh executed in order to solidify the place of her gods in society, Obadiah took it upon himself to hide one hundred of the prophets of Yahweh. This was done at great personal risk since Jezebel was known as a murderous queen who would stop at nothing to achieve her goals.

In some ways, Obadiah reminds me of the “Righteous Gentiles” who hid European Jews from the Nazis during the Holocaust of the 1930s and 1940s. These ordinary citizens recognized that the genocide of Jewish people of their day was not right and they did what they could in assisting European Jews to escape to a place of greater safety, even though they risked their own lives in the process. Some reports estimate that 20-60,000 European Jews were saved by these brave souls that did what was right in the midst of great evil.

  • It what ways is God challenging you to do what is right even when it means great risk to yourself?

Now I Know

After this, the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. His illness got worse until he stopped breathing. She said to Elijah, “Man of God, why are you here? Have you come to call attention to my iniquity so that my son is put to death?”

But Elijah said to her, “Give me your son.” So he took him from her arms, brought him up to the upstairs room where he was staying, and laid him on his own bed. Then he cried out to the Lord and said, “Lord my God, have you also brought tragedy on the widow I am staying with by killing her son?” Then he stretched himself out over the boy three times. He cried out to the Lord and said, “Lord my God, please let this boy’s life come into him again!”

So the Lord listened to Elijah, and the boy’s life came into him again, and he lived. Then Elijah took the boy, brought him down from the upstairs room into the house, and gave him to his mother. Elijah said, “Look, your son is alive.”

Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know you are a man of God and the Lord’s word from your mouth is true.”

1 Kings 17:17-24

“Now I know you are a man of God and the Lord’s word from your mouth is true.” That was the whole point of Elijah’s move to living in the house of the widow of Zarephath. This woman apparently had some measure of faith and some understanding of the ways of Yahweh when she first met Elijah. She replied to his request for bread with an explanation of her circumstances that opened with the phrase, “As the LORD your God lives.” She had some understanding of Yahweh, the God of Israel. Still, God desired for her to know Him in His full glory.

This really shows God’s heart for all people. God’s heart was for to people of Sidon as much as it was for the people of Israel. Growing up, this woman had been taught to see the world through the lens of battles between Ba’al (the fertility god) and Mot (the god of death). In her world view, when Mot won, the victory was final. Now with her son lying dead in her house, she thought that Mot had won his final victory. She was sure that this was punishment for her own sins and that Elijah had become the messenger of death to her.

Elijah knew there could be another outcome and he interceeded on the woman and her son’s behalf. He pleaded with God for the life of this boy to be restored and God answered. Now the woman knew that Yahweh truly did live and He had ultimately brought Elijah to open her eyes to this truth. As Jesus would point out later, there were probably plenty of widows in Israel God could have sent Elijah to but He sent Elijah to a foreign woman with foreign gods in order to show Himself real to her.

  • Are you willing to let God use you to make His reality known to other’s today?

Sharing Provision

Then the word of the Lord came to him: “Get up, go to Zarephath that belongs to Sidon and stay there. Look, I have commanded a woman who is a widow to provide for you there.” So Elijah got up and went to Zarephath. When he arrived at the city gate, there was a widow gathering wood. Elijah called to her and said, “Please bring me a little water in a cup and let me drink.” As she went to get it, he called to her and said, “Please bring me a piece of bread in your hand.”

But she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I don’t have anything baked—only a handful of flour in the jar and a bit of oil in the jug. Just now, I am gathering a couple of sticks in order to go prepare it for myself and my son so we can eat it and die.”

Then Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid; go and do as you have said. But first make me a small loaf from it and bring it out to me. Afterward, you may make some for yourself and your son, for this is what the Lord God of Israel says, ‘The flour jar will not become empty and the oil jug will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the surface of the land.’”

So she proceeded to do according to the word of Elijah. Then the woman, Elijah, and her household ate for many days. The flour jar did not become empty, and the oil jug did not run dry, according to the word of the Lord he had spoken through Elijah.

1 Kings 17:8-16

I Kings 17:7 makes what could be seen as a matter-of-fact statement that may seem of no significance until you think of it in light of today’s passage: “After a while, the wadi (brook) dried up because there had been no rain in the land.” (I Kings 17:7 CSB) We don’t know how long Elijah had been camping out by the Wadi Cherith after the beginning of the drought God had told him would happen. For Elijah, this could be seen as a major trial, though. He had a nice life going in his little camp by the Wadi Cherith. The wadi provided his water and the ravens brought him food each morning and evening for his nourishment. This would have been a prepper’s paradise. It wasn’t meant to last forever, though.

Once Elijah’s water supply had dried up, God moved him on to his next mission during this season. It was a mission that would bring him out of his private camp and into a shared life with another. God wanted Elijah to move from his place of personal provision into a place where his blessing would be shared with others: a widow and her son on the brink of starvation. On top of this, God lead him to a Gentile widow in Sidon, the very land where Ba’al, the god many in Israel had abandoned Yahweh to worship, had originated from. It is hard not to see the irony of this.

This widow was getting ready to cook the last bit of food in her house before she assumed she and her son would starve to death once that small loaf of bread was consumed. Through Elijah, God announced a different plan, though. She was to give a first small loaf from that grain to Elijah to eat, then God would supply all the grain she needed from this point forward. With nothing left to lose, she took God up on His offer and He was faithful in his fulfillment of the promise. Elijah continued to live with the widow and her son and likely continued to share in the blessing of the never-empty jar of grain.

Sometimes we can get in a place of comfort with God’s provision for us and be content to just ride out the times of testing with little thought of others. God may have other plans for us, though. He may even need to cut off a portion of His provision to open our eyes to opportunities to provide for others through us. He may call us to step out of our comfort zone into a new place of mission.

  • Have you become comfortable in a place of personal provision? Are there ways God is calling you out of your comfort zone in order to bless others?