Why Did Elijah Run?
As I was working through this blog, the song by Concrete Blond called Joey really spoke to me about being in the position of being condemned. Hear the pathos in it as it applies to Elijah.
Anybody who accuses another person in Jesus of being guilty of evil is qualified for being labeled “The Accuser of the Brethren”. It is a huge problem in American Christianity today because we have gotten into mess trying to gain God’s approval. Have you ever struggled with intense feelings of shame or guilt, that feeling that says, “You’re so bad, no one, especially God, can really love you?” Well if you do, you are hearing the voice of the Accuser. Fear not, brethren, for we have a weapon against such lies.
One of God’s most powerful prophets, Elijah, was a mighty warrior for God. He called down fire from heaven, performed many miracles, and put to death 450 prophets. Now when the Queen heard this, she was full of terrible rage. Here is what she said in 1 Kings 19:1-2.
“Now Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, "So may the gods do to me and even more, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time." (NASU)
Now Elijah is a fierce warrior, and performed great and mighty miracles, and walked in amazing faith in Jehovah. So why did he run? The short answer is that Elijah, like the prophets of Baal, deserved to die according to the testimony of the Law. Elijah did not have the kind of righteousness that could produce salvation. He was guilty of sin. Jezebel knew it, Satan knew it, and Elijah knew it. So he ran out into the middle of the desert and cried out for God to just kill him. The Bible gives this account:
“And he [Elijah]was afraid and arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree; and he requested for himself that he might die, and said, "It is enough; now, O LORD, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers." 1 Kings 19:3-4
He was an honest man. He knew that his ability to please God fell short of God’s righteous requirements. He knew what James knew, that “… whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.” James 2:10 There it is. Elijah was not perfect, and under the authority of the Law, Jezebel could demand his death. As the Queen, she had the power to carry it out.
Satan says the same thing to us today. “You’re messed up. You blew it. You should die. You’re not good enough for God, or those good people who can obey properly.” The sad thing is we believe those messages, and go around with a cloud over our heads thinking we are no good, and others are better than ourselves. Whenever we think these things, we are hearing the voice of the Accuser. Remember that. We are not actually hearing God.
But God heard Elijah, and saw in him an honest heart, and provided a way for him to find victory over the Accuser, Jezebel. Here is how he did it.
First, he withdrew to a place of safety and found God’s presence. Just being in God’s actual presence is a miracle, and life changing, but he needed more than that. So he had a conversation with the Lord, and showed God his dilemma. And God listened. Do you know that God loves to listen to you, and be there for you in the drama of life? So speak.
We all need a place to voice our case before the Lord, and tell him of the great trials we are enduring. This is the cry of the heart, to find life in all the chaos. This is how we develop intimacy with Him.
Then God responded and showed Elijah that He was not alone, in fact there were 7000 just like him. He was not alone! There were many just like Him that God was watching very closely. Right now, God is watching everybody and everything very closely, and has answers ready for those who come.
Next it was God’s turn to talk. God showed Him the future. God showed Elijah that He had a plan to overcome the voice of Jezebel, and ultimately the voice of the Accuser. Have you ever been told the future by God? It is really amazing when it happens. You gain an understanding that God is in fact God, and things are under control. This is what Elijah needed. God fortified Elijah with His presence and His word. So Elijah got up and returned to Israel and obeyed God’s plan. The Bible tells the story in 1 Kings 21:17-23.
“Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite: "Go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, who rules in Samaria. He is now in Naboth's vineyard, where he has gone to take possession of it. Say to him, `This is what the LORD says: Have you not murdered a man and seized his property?' Then say to him, `This is what the LORD says: In the place where dogs licked up Naboth's blood, dogs will lick up your blood-yes, yours!'"
Ahab said to Elijah, "So you have found me, my enemy!"
"I have found you," he answered, "because you have sold yourself to do evil in the eyes of the LORD. `I am going to bring disaster on you. I will consume your descendants and cut off from Ahab every last male in Israel-slave or free. I will make your house like that of Jeroboam son of Nebat and that of Baasha son of Ahijah, because you have provoked me to anger and have caused Israel to sin.'
"And also concerning Jezebel the LORD says: `Dogs will devour Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel.'
Then it happened just as Elijah said. But in the process, Elijah was taken away. God had to kill Elijah, because of His actually guilt. The story was not over, for in Elijah’s battle with Jezebel, the root issue of man’s inability to satisfy God’s righteous requirements was exposed. Elijah was the best of the best, and even he could not do what it took to avoid condemnation.
What next? All the chosen people of Israel were held in a waiting place, not in heaven, called Abraham’s Bosom. They had to wait for Jesus, and Jesus tells us about it Luke 16:22. "Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham's bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried.” Well Elijah was in there, waiting for God to solve the big problem.
After Elijah died, many years later, God made Israel a promise: that Elijah would return. After Elijah left, people began to realize that they had the same problem Elijah had, and they needed a savior. Everyone began to realize that they just didn’t have what it took to establish God’s approval of righteous over their lives, and escape judgment. Everybody knew a terrible day of God’s judgment was coming, so God gave them hope by telling them that He would send Elijah back. Malachi the prophet wrote these words.
"See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse." Mal 4:5-6
In order for that to happen, a resurrection would have to occur. Everyone believed Elijah was going to come back at Passover, so they set a place for him at the table for hundreds of years.
Then Elijah did come back. His name was not Elijah, it was John the Baptist. Everybody was looking for Elijah, or the Messiah. Look at this miracle as the Pharisees questioned John in John 1:19-25.
Now this was John's testimony when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, "I am not the Christ."
They asked him, "Then who are you? Are you Elijah?"
He said, "I am not."
"Are you the Prophet?"
He answered, "No."
Finally they said, "Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?"
John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, "I am the voice of one calling in the desert, `Make straight the way for the Lord.'"
Now some Pharisees who had been sent questioned him, "Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?"
Everybody was trying to figure this out! It was a great mystery. Only Jesus knew that John was Elijah, and He told His disciples so. Look at what He says about this mystery of the Kingdom of Heaven.
I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. He who has ears, let him hear. (Matthew 11:15)
For Jesus was about to give everyone a precious and mighty gift: His guiltless blood. Jesus was the resurrection! Only Jesus lived a blameless life, not violating the law a single time. When the devil put Him on the Cross, and killed Him, there was no fault found in Jesus.
The first thing Jesus did was go to Abraham’s bosom and go get Elijah, Moses, Abraham, David, and the rest of the elect and bring them into to Heaven. Jesus smeared them with His blood.
Here then is the great and mighty weapon we have today: The Blood of Jesus. It is our way, our door, our entrance into the Kingdom of God. By it we have gained righteousness. By it we become and acceptable dwelling place for Holy Spirit. By it we earn God’s approval. By it we escape damnation.
At the end of the day, like Elijah discovered at the resurrection of Jesus, now we can say, “I plead the blood of Jesus. I am righteous, O devil, O voice of the accuser, vindicated by the blood of Jesus.”
So today, if you suffer messages of condemnation, get out your sword in the Spirit, and plead the blood of Jesus over your life, and defeat your accuser.