Study on Elijah. God draws our attention - 'Behold'.
His care for Elijah.
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Read 1 Kings 19:1-9
1 Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.”
3 Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, 4 while he himself went a day’s journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD, he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” 5 Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep.
All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” 6 He looked around, and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.
7 The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” 8 So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he travelled for forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. 9 There he went into a cave and spent the night.
Before we get back to the passage it may be interesting to look at a word that the NIV has chosen not to translate. In the AV it is translated ‘behold’ and it is used in the Hebrew to draw attention to a particular point in the narrative. (Where it is translated in the NIV they have used words such as: See! Look! Now, Here – but only half the examples are ever translated.
(Zondervan NIV Exhaustive Concordance has:-
‘2180 hinneth : a marker used to enliven a narrative, change a scene, emphasize an idea, or call attention to detail (Untranslated 549 times.)’
Display or hand out copies of this list (from here)
(This table was produced using a free program called Interlinear Scripture Analyzer (ISA) from http://www.scripture4all.org )
(This is a Hebrew/Greek/English interlinear program which you can download. It is amazingly fast in use.)
In the passage we are looking at in chapter 19, this word appears in verses 5, 6, 9, 11 and 13.
How else could ‘behold’ be translated? Is there a modern idiom we would use?
Now look at this!
You’ll never believe it!
Or maybe just ‘wow!’
It also appears in the part of the story where Elijah meets Obadiah. It’s worth looking at that first because Elijah specifically included it in his message to Ahab to get his attention!
1 Kings 18 v 8: . . . go and tell your master, ‘Behold, Elijah is here’. ‘Look at this – you’ll never believe it’ And Obadiah repeats it back to Elijah in verses 11 and 14 because he honestly doesn’t think that Elijah would be there when he gets back.
The next time was on Carmel when the messenger had been sent back again to look for signs of rain, having been unsuccessful the previous six, and this time – behold to his amazement – there is a cloud!
These passages record the words of ordinary people. In the verses that follow it is the author who includes this word in the narrative (and ultimately the author is the Spirit of God). So he intended to draw our attention to five specific points where we should take note. I’ll point them out again when we get to them.
So let’s continue:
v4 he himself went a day’s journey into the desert
It’s now coming on to night time. The Lord waited for Elijah to fall asleep, then sent an angel to prepare a meal for him. What was Elijah’s last prayer to God?
v4: “I have had enough, LORD, he said. “Take my life.”
What was the Lord’s reply, through the Angel?
v5 “Get up and eat.”
No other comment, or argument, or command. This was not the time or the place for any of that. So:
v6 He looked around, and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.
Both verse 5 and 6 have this word ‘behold’: in verse 5 it is ‘Behold, then an Angel touched him’ And in verse 6 it is ‘behold, there by his head was a cake of bread’. Not only an amazing thing, but it’s even more amazing when we look at the angel. Skip forward to v7 and we see that it is described as ‘The angel of the LORD'.
Whenever this term is used in the bible, we are told it refers to the appearance of either God himself, or Jesus as his messenger. Why should the Lord come in person to Elijah?
To me, this simply reinforces the concern he felt for his servant, and his desire to demonstrate his continuing love for him.
So we see – behold! It is the Lord himself who touched Elijah and provided for his needs.
How long he slept next is anyone’s guess but finally he had to be woken again. But this time the Lord does add a comment:
v7 The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.”
God hadn’t asked Elijah to come here, in fact Elijah had literally deserted his post. Yet the Lord provided food to restore his strength and to sustain him during the long journey that he was intent on taking.
Elijah was clearly overwrought. He had made up his mind to go on this tedious journey to the Mountain of God, and nothing was going to change his mind. The natural human response to this would be to say ‘OK, I can’t stop you from doing this, but you’re on your own’. Even when we deliberately turn away from God, determined to do our own thing, God never leaves us.
One night a man had a dream. He dreamed he was walking along the beach with the Lord. Across the sky flashed scenes from his life. For each scene he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand: one belonging to him, and the
other to the Lord.
When the last scene of his life flashed before him, he looked back at the footprints in the sand. He noticed that many times along the path of his life there was only one set of footprints. He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in his life.
This really bothered him and he questioned the Lord about it.
"Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you, you'd walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, there is only one set of footprints. I don't understand why when I needed you most you would leave me."
The Lord replied, "My son, my precious child, I love you and would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you."
Author unknown (But claimed variously!)
So now Elijah, who so recently pleaded for God’s love and mercy to be shown to this sinful nation, is the recipient of that same love and mercy. God’s love is for everyone and is unconditional.
If we are finding the Journey is too much for us, first we need to surrender completely to the love of God. Think about a strong swimmer who dives confidently into the deep end of the pool. A non-swimmer knows that the water would support him but he has never trusted himself completely to it, so he always has to keep one foot on the bottom. We know of the love of God, but we must move to the next step, and learn to trust him completely.
If we don’t, the difficulties we face may become a wedge which begins to separate us from God.
It is unlikely that anyone would one day come to a decision that the Christian life was too hard and that therefore they were going to give it up. It is much more likely that there would be a gradual downhill drift as we begin to neglect prayer, and reading God’s word, and meeting with others.
If that does happen, how easy would it be to reverse the trend, and slowly drift back into a strong relationship with Jesus?
Where drifting away was easy, the Devil ensures that drifting back is impossible. It has to be a conscious choice, prompted by the Holy Spirit.
v7 The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up”. God’s servant has wallowed long enough!
Then what did he say? And eat. Why? The journey is too much for you. Elijah is now back in familiar territory, being told by the Lord what to do and then doing it. Up to now, the Lord has allowed Elijah to follow the path he had chosen for himself, but now the Lord takes over. First he adopts Elijah’s plan, makes it his own, and by telling Elijah to do what he intended to anyway, gently prepares Elijah’s heart to be obedient again.
But note too, he is fed. If we are finding the journey is too much for us, first we need to look at our spiritual diet. The Bible contains no artificial colours, or flavours, or sweeteners. But it does contain all the ingredients we need for growth, and for the strengthening of our immune system. And it is full of natural preservatives!
It wouldn’t hurt, when we wake each morning, to look to see what food has been prepared to feed us for the journey. Otherwise we are likely to set out again in our own strength, and find that it is not enough.
v8 So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he travelled for forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.
Assuming that he rested on the Sabbath, that leaves him with thirty-three days. Horeb (Mount Sinai) was at the most, 300 miles from Beersheba, so he only needed to cover 10 miles each day – or did he begin to slow down as he got nearer his destination? Or is the number 40 just symbolic of a long time? We don’t know, but we are told that finally he arrived.
v9 There he went into a cave and spent the night.
Compare this verse with verse 5. Interestingly it doesn’t here say ‘and fell asleep’. ‘Spending the night’ could also suggest that he spent more time in thinking, and getting up, and walking about, and lying down again, than he did in sleeping.
What could be going through his mind, now that he’d finally arrived?
Did he wonder if God would talk to him again, or would there just be a terrible wall of silence?