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1 Kings 19

Elijah Flees to Horeb (19:1–8)

11–14 The Lord didn’t directly respond to Elijah’s words; instead He told Elijah that he should come and stand in His presence, for He was about to pass by105 (verse 11).

Then Elijah witnessed a dramatic sequence of physical events—wind, earthquake and fire—common precursors of an appearance by God(Exodus19:16). But God was not in those particular phenomena; when the wind, earthquake and fire had passed, then God manifested Himself to Elijah as a gentle whisper (verse 12). Indeed, God most commonly manifests Himself to us, not in a spectacular way, but in a “gentle whisper.” Instead of looking for signs and wonders, we need to be listening for God’s “still, small voice.”

Then God asked Elijah a second time what he was doing there. And Elijah, slow to learn, gave God exactly the same answer as before (verse 14).

15–18 God didn’t repeat the lesson; He simply sent Elijah back where he had come from with instructions to anoint106 three people—Hazael, Jehu and Elisha (verses 15–16)—who, in different ways, would continue the work of purifying Israel. Hazael would become king of Aram (presentday Syria) and oppress Israel fromthe north(2Kings10:32–33; 13:3,22). Jehu would be God’s instrument for destroying the house of Ahab (2 Kings 9:1437; 10:1–17). And Elisha would become Elijah’s successor, much as Joshua had become Moses’ successor.107 Between Hazael, Jehu and Elisha, the Lord’s enemies in Israel would be eliminated (verse 17).

Then the Lord told Elijah that there were seven thousand Israelites who were not His enemies—those who had not worshiped Baal—and they would be preserved (verse 18). Elijah hadn’t been alone after all! (Romans 11:2–5). Elijah had discounted the faith of everyone else but his own. Sadly, there are those in every age who discount the faith of other believers, and in so doing they create conflict and division among God’s people. Let us remember Paul’s words: . . . in humility consider others better than yourselves (Philippians 2:3).

We should note once again how honestly the Bible portrays its heroes; like Moses and David before him, Elijah had profound weaknesses and flaws. Elijah was a man just like us (James 5:17), and yet God was able to powerfully use him. In the same way, God can use each of us in important ways; He has an assignment for each of us. And yes, we may let God down, we may try to run; but He will always find us. And then, like Elijah, we need to return to the place where we went astray and then continue on from there in obedience to God. And God, for His part, will continue to use us in His service.

The Call of Elisha (19:19–21)

19–21 In accordance with the Lord’s instructions, Elijah went and found Elisha plowing in a field and threw his cloak around him (verse 19), a symbolic act indicating that he had designated Elisha as his successor. Elisha understood its meaning at once, and asked permission to say farewell to his family. Elijah indicated that it wasn’t he who had called Elisha, it was God (verse 20); therefore, it was up to Elisha to decide how to respond to God’s call.

Elisha then made a complete break with his past; he slaughtered his oxen and cooked them on a fire made with his plowing equipment. As with Elisha, God’s call to any of us may require a complete change of direction. Like Jesus’ disciples, we need to be ready to forsake all and follow Him (Mark 8:34; Luke 14:27).

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