This column will start with Exodus 20:3, “You shall have no other gods before me.” The question asked: “Who were these gods?” The interesting life story of the Prophet Elijah relates to this question and provides a surprise ending. The Israelites who believed in one God lived among those who worshipped a pagan god or gods.
King Ahab ruled northern Israel in the ninth century. His queen, Jezebel, worshipped the pagan god, Baal, and was responsible for the persecution of God’s people. (https://www.britannica.com/biography/Ahab) “While Jezebel was killing off the Lord’s prophets, Obadiah (a minor prophet) had taken a hundred prophets and hidden them in two caves and supplied them with food and water.” (1 Kings 18:4). The Queen’s pagan religion was offensive to God. Elijah was chosen to take God’s message of punishment to the king as recorded in 1 Kings 17:1 “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.”
After Elijah’s confrontation with the king, God instructed him to hide, and God enabled him to perform miracles for those with needs as recorded in 1 Kings 17:17-24. “Later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and stopped breathing. She said to Elijah, ‘What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?’ Elijah replied, ‘Give me your son.’ He carried him to the upper room where he was staying. Then he cried out, ‘Lord my God, have you brought tragedy to this widow causing her son to die?’ Then he cried, ‘Lord my God, let this boy’s life return to him!’ The Lord heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned. Elijah took the child to his mother and said, ‘Look, your son is alive!’ Then the woman said to Elijah, ‘Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth.’ ”
Later, Elijah met with Obadiah and told him to tell King Ahab about the challenge to Baal. The challenge was a test to determine which belief had the most power. The priests of Baal lost the competition and were killed by their followers. These actions were instrumental in establishing a monotheistic religion and revealed the power and will of God.
In 2 Kings 2:11-14, God then sent Elijah to initiate the handing over of his role as a follower of God to Elisha. In this passage, Elijah had a miraculous earthly ending. “As they were walking along, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. Elisha saw him no more. He tore his garment in two and picked up Elijah’s cloak that had fallen from him and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. He took the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and struck the water with it. ‘Where now is the Lord, the God of Elijah?’ he asked. When he struck the water, it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over. Elisha assumed the role of miracle worker for God. “Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty.” Malachi 3:7
The leaders of the Old Testament revealed the powerful story of God and His people in preparation for the story of the Son of God to be revealed in the New Testament. “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, the young woman shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." Isaiah 7:14
On a personal note, I believe that in this time of serious problems and deadly consequences, we should be grateful for the decency and dignity of non-violence and the spirit of hope given to us by the words and actions of Martin Luther King Jr. King wrote the following two quotes: “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality … I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.” and “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”