The prophet Elijah came from a district that shared deeply in the miseries of the kingdom of the ten tribes. To better understand his history, let us briefly consider the condition of affairs when Elijah made his appearance. Ahab had taken Jezebel, a Canaanite woman for his wife. Of a weak and yielding character, he allowed Jezebel to establish the Phoenician worship on a grand scale. Priests and prophets of Baal were appointed everywhere. The prophets of Jehovah were persecuted and slain. Elijah suddenly appeared before Ahab and proclaimed the vengeance of Jehovah for the apostasy of the king. IKing 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.” He remained hidden from the king, supported by ravens, until the brook dried up. Then another refuge was provided for him at Zarephath .
The second appearance before Ahab took place three years and six months after the rain stopped. Elijah, found Ahab still alive and unreformed, Jezebel still worshiping her idols, and the prophets of Baal still deceiving the people. He then challenged Ahab to exercise his authority in summoning an assembly to Mt. Carmel that the controversy between them might be decided. Fire was the element over which Baal was supposed to preside so Elijah proposed that two oxen be slain and each laid upon a separate altar, whichever should be consumed by fire would proclaim whose the children of Israel were and whom it was their duty to serve.
The labors, anxieties, and excitement of the ministry had proved too much even for that iron frame and stern resolution. His spirit was broken, and, sitting beneath a juniper tree, Elijah wished for death. But sleep and food, miraculously furnished, refreshed the weary prophet, and he went forward in the strength of that food to Mt. Horeb, a journey of forty days. After he rested in a cave one night the voice of the Lord came to him in the morning, asking, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away. He was directed to stand outside the cave, and “the Lord was passing by” in all the terror of His most appalling manifestations. The fierce wind tore the solid mountains and shivered the granite cliffs of Sinai; the earthquake crash reverberated through the defiles of those naked valleys; the fire burned in the incessant blaze of Eastern lightning. Elijah’s conviction was now forced upon him that in none of these was God to be known. Then came the whisper of the “still small voice”. I King 19:18 Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel– all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him.”
It almost seems odd to hear these words from Jesus, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. How can anyone be blessed that is being persecuted and called names? Elijah had difficulty with it and I am sure we would as well. (But the company of the one that we would be like is Jesus.) They said of Jesus that he was a Samaritan and had a devil ; That he was mad ; Thus they reviled and mocked him all the way to the cross, .
The early Christians considered it a joy to be persecuted because to them it meant being like Jesus. An emphasis should be laid on the word falsely in this passage. It is not blessed to have evil spoken of us if we deserve it; but if we deserve it not, then we should not consider it as a calamity. We should take it patiently, and show how much the Christian, under the consciousness of innocence, can bear. Matthew 5:39-42 Jesus said, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
One morning a couple of cowpunchers went out on the range to bring in a wild steer from the mountains. They took along with them one of those shaggy little gray donkeys-a burro. Now a big three-year old steer that’s been running loose in the timber is a tough customer to handle. Nevertheless, these cowboys had a technique for handling this steer. They got a rope on the steer and then they tied him neck to neck, right up close, to the burro and let them go. At first, the burro had a bad time. The steer threw him all over the place. He banged him against trees, rocks, into bushes. Time after time they both went down. But there was one great difference between the burro and the steer. The burro had an idea. He wanted to go home. And no matter how often the steer threw him every time the burro got to his feet he took a step nearer the corral. After about a week, the burro showed up at the corral. He had with him the tamest and sorriest-looking steer you ever saw.
The thought of this little burro, being overpowered and abused can encourage us when we find ourselves struggling with difficult problems or people in our lives. We often feel tied “right up close”. If we could only have some slack! But our God has a purpose in tying us to our problem. He knows that our faith will enable us to hang in there. No matter how often we are thrown, our stubborn Christian attitude will enable us to get to our feet and take a step nearer to God’s solution! We may be abused and hurt. But just think of the tremendous outcome-that we might eventually stand before the throne of our Savior, tied to that special person who has now been brought to Christ! Maybe God’s techniques make sense after all!
A blacksmith, about eight years after he had given his heart to God, was approached by an intelligent unbeliever with the question: “Why is it you have so much trouble? Since you joined the church and began to ‘walk square’ and seem to love everybody, you have had twice as many trials and accidents as you had before. I thought that when a man gave himself to God his troubles were over. Isn’t that what the parsons tell us?” With a thoughtful but glowing face, the blacksmith replied: “Do you see this piece of iron? It is for the springs of a carriage. I have been ‘tempering’ it for some time. To do this I heat it red-hot, and then plunge it into a tub of ice-cold water. This I do many times. If I find it taking ‘temper’, I beat it with the hammer unmercifully. In getting the right piece of iron I found several that were too brittle.
So I threw them in the scrap-pile. Those scraps are worth about a cent a pound; this carriage spring is very valuable.”
He paused, and his listener nodded. The blacksmith continued: “God saves us for something more than to have a good time — that’s the way I see it. We have the good time all right, for God’s smile means heaven. And He has put the ‘temper’ of Christ in us by testing us with trial.
Paul writes, I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day– and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.