Extra Grace Required: Elijah, the First of Four Biblical Examples
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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 wilderness. He came to a broom bush, 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 bush 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 some 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 traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. 9 There he went into a cave and spent the night.
And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left,and now they are trying to kill me too.”
15 The Lord said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. 16 Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. 17 Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. 18 Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.” – 1 Kings 19:1-10, 15-18
We will look at the first of four biblical characters to learn about different people’s need for grace. The four are:
- Elijah (1 Kings 19)
- The woman at the well (John 4)
- The woman caught in adultery (John 8); and
- The paralyzed man on the pallet (Luke 19).
Each of these people may be seen as an EGR. They needed more help, grace, patience, encouragement, or grace than usual.
Notice, also, what changes these people. They are transformed by the grace of God. God’s love in Jesus, his kindness, mercy, forgiveness, and patience makes all the difference in people’s lives.
Elijah after defeating the prophets of Baal
Elijah had a dramatic show down with the prophets of Baal. He challenged them to a sacrifice face off. They would gather their prophets, set up their sacrifice, and call on Baal to rain down fire from heaven on their altar. He would do the same. Whichever sacrifice was burned up would be shown to be to the true God.
The stakes are a bit higher than just this sacrifice, for Elijah had told the king that there would be no rain except by his word (1 Kings 17:1). The drought has been severe and unrelenting. Elijah is a wanted man, dubbed, “troubler of Israel” by Ahab (1 Kings 18:17). But Elijah prevails. He sets up the show-down and shows everyone who is the true God. When the prophets of Baal fail to have their altar set on fire (after all, Baal is the god of weather, and in control, supposedly, of nature) fail, Elijah prevails. Baal is shown to be in control of nothing.
Elijah, on the other hand, is not in control of God, but a servant of the True God. As such his actions around the sacrifice to the LORD God set up a dramatic display of God’s power and control over all of creation. Even after the altar is prepared and drenched with water, God rains down fire from heaven and consumes everything. “The Lord, he is God; The LORD, he is God!” goes up the cry after this mighty display. Elijah seizes and kills the prophets of Baal.
You’d think that this would put Elijah on a high that would never end. But it is not so. He had defeated the Prophets of Baal, but King Ahab, and Jezebel did not give up. They threaten him relentlessly. They were still trying to kill him. He had hoped that his victory was sufficient, but it was not. He was very discouraged. He needed extra grace – even after seeing the mighty hand of God powerfully displayed.
I get it. I suspect you do too. No matter what we might experience, we can fall from the highest high to the pits of despair. That’s what makes God’s abundant grace so rich and blessed. It never runs out.