The showdown is over! God has won. And now He shows Israel the benefits of following Him instead of false Gods. HE brings the rain.
Rain is on the way. We will find out shortly that the drought didn’t change Ahab or Jezebel. They will continue to “walk in the ways of Jeroboam”; chasing after false gods. But it has stirred the people’s hearts. I don’t know how long or how deep this ‘new awakening’ is, but for now the people have vowed to follow the Lord, the God of Israel. They even helped Elijah do away with the prophets of Baal at the Kishon brook.
I want to address a couple of side notes before we get into our story. First, I thought the Kishon brook and the Kidron brook were the same but they are not. The Kidron brook is just outside of Jerusalem. There is no way the people of the northern tribes would be visiting the land of Judah for this showdown. It actually flows through Mt. Carmel which is near the sea. I’m used to similar names meaning the same place so I had to check it out.
The second issue I want to address is the timeframe of all we are looking at today. When Elijah called to the Lord to offer his sacrifice to Him, it was the time of the evening offering. I don’t know if there is a specific time on the clock it is to be offered each day or if it waxes and wanes with the cycle of the sun. Where I live, the days get longer and shorter with the seasons. The longest day of the year for me is June 21st. On that day it doesn’t get dark until around 9:00 PM. The shortest day of the year is December 21st. It gets dark around 4:00 PM. I don’t know if there is such a big difference in daylight hours in Israel or not but I would expect some differences.
What got me thinking about this is Elijah’s servant watching the sea for signs of clouds. This is done clearly AFTER the time of the evening sacrifice, the slaughter of 450 prophets of Baal, and while the evening meal is being eaten. Was it dark yet? Did this part possibly take place the next day? Is it dark during the servant’s searches of the sky? It is difficult to see clouds at night unless there are a LOT of them. Also this puts Ahab driving and Elijah running to Jezreel in the dark. To keep it easy I’m going to assume that all this happened in the hours where there was still some light. I won’t say it was in broad daylight but neither was it pitch dark.
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Elijah stands by the Kishon brook where the bodies of the slain prophets of Baal lay. He bends down and washes his hands to remove the last of the blood. The bodies earn none of his attention. Ahab stands watching the scene. The people of Israel also stand watch.
When his hands are clean Elijah stands and addresses Ahab. “Go up, eat and drink, for there is a sound of the rushing of rain” (verse 41).
After the demonstration Elijah just presided over and the fate of those defeated, Ahab isn’t about to refuse Elijah ANYTHING. He immediately dismisses the crowd and goes in search of dinner. There is a town at the foot of Mt. Carmel that has plenty of room to accommodate Ahab and his officers.
While Ahab goes in search of food, Elijah and his servant climb back up Mt. Carmel. The sun is touching the horizon on its descent as Elijah reaches the mountain top. Elijah scans the sky. It is a crystal clear evening. Not a cloud in sight. Elijah drops to his knees, rounds his back while drawing his head down towards the ground, and places his head between his knees. He then begins to pray. He stays in this position praying for the rain the Lord said was on the way.
Elijah’s servant is keeping close watch on him. He wants to be ready for whatever Elijah may require. After a few minutes Elijah speaks to his servant from his position of prayer. “Go up now, look toward the sea” (verse 43b).
The servant immediately goes to the best vantage point he can find and looks out over the sea. The sun is still descending but nothing else of note is happening. He returns right away with his report. “There is nothing” (verse 43c).
Elijah doesn’t raise his head from his position or appear to respond to his servant in any way. He continues to pray. Another few minutes pass and Elijah speaks again from where he is. “Go up now, look toward the sea.”
His servant responds to the directions again and resumes his vantage point. He scans the horizon but still sees nothing but the sinking sun. “There is nothing” he reports again to Elijah.
Elijah settles a little deeper into his position. He continues to pray. After another few minutes he speaks to his servant again. “Go up now, look towards the sea.”
The servant again takes his vantage point and scans the horizon. Again, the only thing to see is the setting sun. He reports back to Elijah again. “There is nothing.”
More time passes. Elijah is intent in his prayers. He is not discouraged. He knows the value of persistence. “Go up now, look towards the sea” he directs for the fourth time.
His servant walks back to the overlook and scans the sea again. He strains his eyes to find any sign of what Elijah is sending him to see. He returns with the same answer, “There is nothing.”
Elijah continues to pray. His body never leaves the ground where he waits in supplication. After some time he instructs his servant again, “Go up now, look toward the sea.”
The servant is faithful so he returns again to the vantage point, scans the horizon and reports back. “There is nothing.”
Elijah is not discouraged. Five times he has sent his servant to look and five times he has received the same report. He continues to pray. He KNOWS the Lord is sending the rain. He has to be patient. After all, it took more than three years for the Lord to call him back to Ahab. “Go up now, look towards the sea” he instructs again.
Again the servant returns to his vantage spot. The sun has nearly finished its descent below the horizon. The servant scans the sea for any signs of change before returning. “There is nothing” he reports again.
Elijah continues to trust and he continues to pray. More time passes and he speaks to his servant again. “Go up now, look toward the sea.”
The servant again goes to look out over the sea. The sun shows only a sliver of itself above the horizon as the servant begins his scan of the sea. This time there is a small single cloud rising up from the sea. “At least this is something” thinks the servant as he makes his way back to where Elijah prays. “Behold, a little cloud like a man’s hand is rising from the sea” (verse 44b) he reports.
Elijah raises his head from the ground and looks to his servant. With excitement in his voice he issues a new command. “To up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot and go down, lest the rain stop you” (verse 44c).
The servant thinks to himself, “Any sane man would laugh at this prediction but then they don’t know Elijah.” He nods his head and hurries off to perform his task. He quickly descends Mt. Carmel and locates Ahab’s chariot. He inquires within the home for Ahab and is brought into his presence.
“What is it?” asks Ahab brusquely.
“My lord Elijah sends you a message. He says, ‘Prepare your chariot and go down, lest the rain stop you.’”
“What rain? I don’t see any rain yet.”
“My master knows the ways of the Lord. Do you doubt him after all you have seen today?”
Ahab didn’t answer and the servant didn’t wait for one. He bowed and then left the room. He needed to see to his master’s needs during the coming rain. It would be abundant or Elijah would not have sent such a warning.
After the servant departed Ahab grabbed one last drink then rose from the table. Yes, he would heed Elijah’s warning for, as the messenger pointed out, he had seen wonders this day. Ahab called for his chariot and left without further delay. He needed to get back to Jezreel where his wife Jezebel waited. She would be very interested in the events of this day.
Elijah’s servant returned to him after as soon as his message was delivered. “We need to take shelter too my lord” he urged. The sky was already growing dark with clouds and the wind was picking up. It would be deep dark soon as the day was also coming to a close.
“Seek shelter here in the town. I have an errand to run. Stay here until I return for you.”
Elijah’s servant nodded his understanding and headed back into the town. Elijah looked towards the direction Ahab would have to travel. He felt a pull on his spirit that compelled him to go to Jezreel himself.
Having no means of transportation available Elijah started out walking towards the city. His feet began to move faster and faster but his robe restricted them. He stopped by the roadside and pulled the hem of his robe up. He then tucked it between his legs and secured it in position with his belt. Once his clothing was arranged securely Elijah set out again. His feet moved faster and faster until he was running faster than any horse ever could. He ran right past Ahab’s chariot that was moving at top speed for the terrain and lighting. Elijah didn’t stop or even slow down until he reached the gates of Jezreel. The whole time rain was pouring down and the wind was driving it across the land.
Elijah waited quietly at the gates of the city until he saw Ahab safely inside them. Then he went to his own house, the one he had not visited in more than three years. The battle was won and now Elijah could sleep in peace.
(to be continued)
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“Spoiler alert”: We know from our side of history that this story is FAR from over but for Elijah this night it was at least on pause. But that is a story for another day (tomorrow).
One thing that struck me while writing the story is the persistence of Elijah and the faithfulness of the servant. I wanted to write in that the servant was getting frustrated going back and forth to look at the horizon for signs but I couldn’t. I probably could have ‘physically’ but my spirit said no. This man had been faithful to Elijah as long as he had known him. He was not like the servant of Elisha who didn’t miss a trick and wound up with leprosy because of his deceit.
I wish I could be as gracious as this servant was. I care for my husband and there are times I want to roll my eyes or stomp off after being called to do the same task over and Over and OVER again. But then I remember how many times I’ve asked God to forgive me for the SAME things. I will go on serving with love.
Father God, thank You again for Your stories. I LOVE watching the bible spring to life. I like looking into them and trying to feel what the people did who actually lived them. Will I be able to talk to Elijah’s servant about this day? I wonder how he will remember being sent seven times to do the same task. Did he get frustrated? I guess I’ll have to wait and see, just like he did.