Then the Lord said to Elijah, “Go and live in the village of Zarephath, near the city of Sidon. I have instructed a widow there to feed you". (1 Kings 17:8,9)
Last week, the prophet Elijah erupted onto the scene of my ‘Bible in a Year’ readings. I have read about this prophet many times, but noticed a few interesting points.
The ‘Law of First Mention’ is a guideline that some people use for studying Scripture and says that, to understand a particular word or doctrine, we must find the first place in Scripture that a word or doctrine is revealed and study that passage. In Elijah’s dealings with the widow in Zaraphath, we read of two ‘First Mentions’.
1. It is the first time that we read of a minister of God being sent to a Gentile. Dr J B Lightfoot called Elijah ‘the first prophet of the Gentiles’. However, not only was Elijah sent to a gentile but to a woman, a widow at that!
To a 21st century western mind, this is no big deal. But, at that time in the east, women were despised. Later, the Talmud records a daily prayer of rabbis which includes this line, “Thank you God that I was not born a slave, a gentile or a woman.” These were apparently the three worst life situations imaginable.
In Jesus day, women were discouraged from going out in public, and when they did, it had to be with a male escort. In our era, it doesn’t strike us as strange to see that Jesus had female followers and openly ministered to women, but it certainly would have seemed strange in Jesus’ day. Jesus challenged social conventions in nearly every single interaction He had with women. He truly challenged the status quo.
But God showed, as far back as the time of Elijah, that He was interested in Gentiles and women alike.
2. It is in this same chapter of The Bible that we read for the first time of someone being raised from the dead. We don’t read of this happening before and we presume that Elijah hadn’t read about it either! There was no precedence for praying for a dead person to come back to life; Elijah set the precedence. In later days we read of the dead being raised in the ministries of Elisha, Peter, Paul and, of course, Jesus Himself.
3. There was one final incident that struck me about Elijah, albeit not a ‘first mention’. In 1 Kings 18 we read of the contest on Mount Carmel between the God of the prophets of Baal and the God of Elijah. A thrilling read if ever there was one!!
While reading, I was struck by the difference between the prophets of Baal and Elijah. The prophets of Baal danced round the altar, shouted on Baal, and kept shouting louder. We read that ‘they cut themselves with knives and swords until the blood gushed out’ (1 Kings 18:28)….all to no avail. Then,
...at the usual time for offering the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet walked up to the altar and prayed, ... Immediately the fire of the Lord flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up all the water in the trench!” (1 Kings 18:38-38)
Notice the difference. With the prophets of Baal, there is confusion, tumult and frenzy. With Elijah there is confidence, quietness and peace.
Isn’t it wonderful that this God of Elijah, a God of love, miracles and peace, wants to draw near and reveal Himself to us too? Let’s take time aside this week and allow Him to do this.
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