Session 27: Elijah and Elisha
So the Lord was very angry with Israel and removed them from his presence. Only the tribe of Judah was left, and even Judah did not keep the commands of the Lord their God. They followed the practices Israel had introduced. Therefore the Lord rejected all the people of Israel; he afflicted them and gave them into the hands of plunderers, until he thrust them from his presence. 2 Kings 17:18-20
1 Kings 17-25, 2 Kings 17, 1 Chronicles, and 2 Chronicles
Key verses: 2 Kings 17:18-20
Key personalities: Elijah, Elisha, Evil Ahab, wicked Jezebel, Ahaziah, Jehu and Dogs
Timeline, about 830-586 BC., during the time of the Divided Kingdom, the areas were ruled by off and on by Israel, Egypt, Phoenicians, Dorians and the Assyrians, the Babylonians were rising, the Iron Age is at hand, and bronze is still in the majority of weapons and farming tools. The Greeks were at their pinnacle of power and influence, the Medes was settling in Iran, Homer composes the Illiad and Odyssey, the first Olympics are held in Greece and Rome was being founded.
There was so much division, especially in the northern kingdom, where there were 20 kings and nine different dynasties all competing for power and control all within 200 hundred years. That created an extreme disruption, rivalry, and no stability or acknowledgment to the Lordship of God. Thus, God sent great Prophets of God like Elijah who challenged them, who stood against the flow to point others to God in great personal risk and sacrifice. Because God's precepts were not followed by the kings, His law was compromised and without good leadership and example, the people were not obedient and chose sin and not God. Yet, God remains faithful, calling, even beckoning for His people to come back to Him (Deut. 28:15, 36-37, 49-68; Jer. 29:11; 1 Pet. 2:9-10).
In the southern kingdom, Judah, there was more stability, and it lasted over 350 years. There were 20 kings, also, but some of these kings were of David's dynasty and mostly pointed the people back to God. However, sin still wreaked havoc; God's judgment was slow, but judgment came and the people still did not repent. They will go into captivity where they will learn to trust in Him and come back and be better for His glory. God's promises will be fulfilled.
2 Kings is the sequel to 1 Kings and I and II Samuel that covers the history of Isreal from its glory of David to the fall of Solomon. It covers the aftermath of the carnage of sin and what happens when we bow to pride, as we refuse to listen and honor God, from 970 through 850 B.C. in a rapid fire section of names dates and anecdotes. A great nation and a people set apart to love and exemplify God are torn away from their homeland and all they know and taken into captivity. This sin caused the ruin of the The Northern Kingdom, Israel, which is taken captive to Assyria in 721 B.C., and the fall of the Southern Kingdom, Judah, in 586 B.C. taken to Babylon.
Key Happenings: God keeps His Word and expects our obedience!
Elijah the Tishbite, the extreme, perhaps most dramatic of all of God's people, the quintessential spokesman for God! Elijah is considered one of the greatest and most powerful of all the Prophets. He was a miracle worker of signs and wonders, the real kind, miraculous healings and a spectacular showdown with a cosmic match of God's Word verses false prophets. He mainly worked in the evil and corrupt northern kingdom to confront King Ahab and the wickedest woman who ever lived, Queen Jezebel. His message was simple: Worship God and God alone. Drop the pagan shenanigans or face extreme judgment. He proved himself with the kind of wonders that only Moses did by God's intervention before. Thus, even mighty signs, like telling Ahab a drought will come and there will be not even dew, and it came, and his evil heart was not swayed. Thus when people demand a miracle, even these are not enough to move an apostate pride-ridden mind and soul (2 Kings 1-2).
Elijah also represents the "everyman". He has no wealth or means or education or fancy clothing. What he has is more precious and powerful--his trust in the Lord marked by his prayer life. He had spiritual strength, thus he was powerfully used by God. He called fire down from heaven, parted rivers and destroyed armies, yet suffered from depression, even though God would send ravens to feed him. Considering his overwhelming situation, even the great prophet had to learn to trust and rely on God--no matter what. He even sent a note to King Jehoram telling him because he did not do as Jehoshaphat and became evil, "you will poop yourself to death", the most humiliating thing that could happen to him--he got an incurable disease of the bowels (Ex. 23:20; Deut. 18:15-18; 1 Sam. 12:17-18; 2 Chron. 21:12-20; Mal. 3:1; Isa. 40; Matt. 3:3; John 1:45; 7:40-41).
Chariot of Fire. Ahab's bad son, Ahaziah, sent 50 trained soldiers to take out Elijah, several times, and each time Elijah called down fire to destroy them all. The third commander begged for mercy. After Elijah's work was done, God carries him off up to heaven in a whirlwind, in a chariot of fire. This is one of the most spectacular scenes of the Bible. Thus, many Jews believe that Elijah will come back (2 Kings 21-17).
Elijah's main work was to remind people of God's precepts and ordinances and chastise them for breaking God's law; he acted as a prosecutor to the those in violation of God's law. They presented evidence, and God allowed for repentance, which rarely came; Elijah warned them of the penalties. Elijah even performed miracles like the warning of a drought that would come if Ahab would not repent (the drought was devastating). Ahab and Jezebel met their just ends, their line was wiped out, and Jehu took over.
Elisha. Elijah commissioned Elisha to take over the ministry of prophecy. Elisha was a simple farmer, asked for a double portion of Elijiah's power, and got it. Elisha did not ask or receive this for pride's sake; he asked and received because times had become even worse, and God knew what Elisa would need to carry on the work. Through the power of God, Elisah did more of the same miracles, including healing a widow's dead son, giving her perpetual food from a jar, and healed Naaman of leprosy. Even with extreme show and little success of swaying leaders, both of these great prophets remained faithful and examples to us all.
Ahab, perhaps the wickedest king who ever lived, was extremely arrogant, conceited and is the definition of pride-the elevation of self over others, even God. God loathes them and those who are pretentious and flamboyant, pretending to be godly. They extend their self-image and self-determination over and against anyone or anything and carry this further by scheming for another's downfall. (Isa 2:17; Ezek. 28:2, 5; Jer. 13:9-10; Hos. 13:6; Psalm 31:23; Rom. 1:30).
Oh, troubler of Israel. Ahab's ironic pet name for Elijah considering that Elijah was God's representative, and Ahab was the real troublemaker. This is an excellent example of projection and purposeful manipulation and deceit that involves a bad person trying to look good by saying the good person is bad (1 Kings 18:17).
Jezebel, the pinnacle of corruption, is a woman of extreme evil and malevolence to God and others. The reason why many conservative Chrisitan women do not wear makeup is because Jezebel overdid it, and they think it represents evil and pride.
Jehu, meaning fast and furious, took over the kingdom from evil Ahab and Jezebel and wiped out their line. He was conflicted between doing good and being very bad. While he was doing good, he destroyed the temple of Ba?al, took its pillars (massebahs) and burned them, turning the site into a public toilet (2 Kings chp 9-10; 10:26-27).
Ba'al. Means "lord master," was a fake god of thunder, fertility, and agriculture. In these times, the people were worshipping pagan gods like Ba'al and were being led on by false prophets; evil kings were ruling the day. Many of the ancient gods, like Ba'al and Moloch, as well as many of the Greek gods in Jesus' time and the gods of Hinduism, were extraordinarily petty. They were figments of the imaginatios of pagan priests who made them up for power and control by fear over the people. They get their jollies from our distress and take great pleasure in manipulating people into suffering. These priests loved sin, apathy, and anarchy, whereas God truly hates sin and truly loves us and wants the best for us. It is easy to understand why evil kings used them as tools of manipulation (Lev. 18:21; 1 Kings 18:25; Jer. 32:35; Rom. 3:13).
Mount Carmel. 450 false prophets versus Elijah in a smackdown challenge to settle the dispute of who is the real LORD, god Ba'al or God YAWH. If a god is a god then follow that; however, since God is God… Who would the people follow? The false prophets went to extreme antics, would cut themselves, and work up into a frenzy of heinous evil to no avail--no one paid attention. Elijah just sets up an altar and call out to God. He even mocks the evil ones by implying, "Perhaps your god is on the toilet". Elijah built an altar, filled a trench of water and wood so it would not be ignited and called for God to light the sacrifice Himself, to which He did. Now, they know Who was God. Yet, stubborn Ahab is not moved. After many more encounters, the people still turned away from God and would not repent (1 Kings 18).
Dogs. What's the deal with man's best friend? In Middle Eastern cultures and back then, dogs mostly ran wild in packs and were dirty, mangy animals; no one wants them around. Dogs would keep the wildlife away, and even lions would not come into the villages; the wiser people kept dogs as sheep protectors. Unfortunately, dogs were mistreated, ignored as blights, and they were considered the worst nuisance and a byword for people who were bad.
Malachi promises that God will send Elijah to usher in the Day of the Lord to turn people's hearts back to God (Mal. 4:4-6; Matt. 11:14; 17:10-12).
Most Jews--over the centuries--see Elijah as an inspiration and an incentive to the power and prominence we have available to us in the Lord. Elijah follows God with extreme fire and, even in the end, he does not die. Even modern Jews will always have an empty chair in their homes, especially for the Passover, reserved for Elijah. Why? Just as today, people did not look to the Word for answers, but rather their own inclinations and ideas.
It was the popular thinking after the captivity (not biblical) that God used Elijah to run His errands on earth and debate and resolve rabbinic disputes. Malachi 4 foretells the Messiah: See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. Thus, many people in the first century actually expected Elijah to personally come to either be the Messiah or introduce him. But, the Malachi passage did not mean that Elijah would personally show up; rather, it was his position as a forerunner and Prophet who declared warning of the need to repent. John came in that spirit and power, but he was not Elijah. Like in Jesus' day, many people were looking for a prophet who said someone like himself would come in the future (Mal. 4:1-5; Matt. 11:1-19; Luke 1:17)
Key Takeaway: The lesson is that all of us-all of us, each of us--need to heed the truth that God wants us to rely on Him; still we must use His precepts for direction, and act upon it! Our call: be joyful, mature, obedient witnesses with love toward others.
The foreshadow of Jesus Christ? John the Baptist comes in the spirit and power of Elijah and prepares the way for our Lord's ministry on earth. His purpose and mission in life is to prepare the people for the coming Messiah, Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. John came with the message of God in Christ--a message of hope and of the necessity to prepare one's self by repenting by turning away from what holds us back from God, such as sin, selfishness, pride. We must be prepared mentally and spiritually and remove the barriers that prevent us from seeing and moving ahead to where we need to be for God's glory and our betterment (Isa. 6:4; 35:8-10; 40:1-8; 57:14; 62:10; Mark 1:1-3; Luke 3:3-9; John 1:19-34).
Questions to Ponder
1. What can we learn from Ahab and those evil kings and queens?
2. Why does God severely judge those who are wicked? How do you feel about this, when elsewhere when we are told God is merciful and bestows grace?
3. Sin creates apathy and anarchy, destruction and chaos, why God truly hates sin and truly loves us and wants the best for us. So, why do we pursue sin and not Him?
4. What can we learn from Elijahs and Elishu courage under fire?
5. How does Ahab define what pride is? Why did he call Elijah Oh troubler of Israel?
6. What would you say was Elijah's main work? What about Elijah's? What can be learned from their ministries? What do these passages say about handling depression?
7. What was the main reasons that the southern kingdom, Judah, had better stability and it lasted longer? How does this relate to how we should run our churches?
8. Why do you suppose that God's people were not obedient and chose sin and not Him? How and why do people today do that, even ones who grew up in the church?
9. What does it mean to your faith that God remains faithful?
10. The evil kings lie Ahab created an extreme disruption to their people. Why did they do that? What does this tell us?
11. Our goal as Christians is to think and pray to focus more upon Christ and His Word! So, how can you do this better?
12. God wants us to rely on Him; what can you do to focus and use His precepts for direction?
© 2013 R. J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Into Thy Word Ministries www.intothyword.org