Elijah at Horeb
“Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him” (v. 18).- 1 Kings 19:1–18
Fire from heaven that consumed Elijah’s sacrifice. The execution of hundreds of false prophets. Rain that fell on the northern kingdom of Israel after Elijah prayed to Yahweh (1 Kings 18). These dramatic, even miraculous, events should have convinced the house of Ahab that Baal was to be rejected and Yahweh, the God of Israel, was alone to be worshiped. Yet, they did not. Instead, these events inspired Jezebel, the foreign-born queen of Israel who helped institute Baalism as the state religion, to seek the life of Elijah (19:1–2). But that is what always happens when those with hearts that are hardened against the Lord see Him move—they respond with even greater opposition to Him and to His servants (John 12:36b–43).
Elijah, seeing that his life was in danger, fled to Beersheba, located in the south of Judah. Then, he went even farther south to Mount Horeb (Mount Sinai), where God had revealed the Mosaic law to His people centuries earlier (Ex. 19–24; Deut. 4:1–14). It took forty days and forty nights for Elijah to travel from Beersheba to Horeb, and God provided food to the prophet through the supernatural means of an angel (1 Kings 19:3–8). There are clear parallels here to Israel’s receiving food in the desert and Moses’ sojourn of forty days and forty nights on Sinai (Ex. 16; 24:15–18). So, we see that Elijah was a new Moses, whose message was to be received as from God, and he was a new Israel, called to faithfulness in the wilderness. Later, the final Moses and true Israel, the Lord Jesus Christ, would come and spend forty days in the desert, be ministered to miraculously, and give a message and example that we must keep (Mark 1:12–15).
At Horeb, Elijah brought the charge against Israel that the people had broken God’s covenant, implying that the Lord had to act to vindicate His honor and bring the curses promised in the Mosaic covenant. Our Creator responded that He would indeed destroy Ahab’s house for its idolatrous ways, but it would not happen through dramatic acts of wind, fire, or earthquake. Instead, God revealed through the quietness of His word that Ahab’s dynasty would fall through the ordinary means of forces led by Hazael of Syria and Jehu of Israel. This serves as a reminder that God does not always work in what we may call a miraculous fashion. Instead, He works through the ordinary means of His Word and through the decisions of human agents. Through these same means, He preserves a remnant of His people in every generation (1 Kings 19:9–18).
Elijah thought he was the only faithful person left in Israel, but he was wrong (1 Kings 19:18). Matthew Henry writes that “in times of the greatest degeneracy and apostasy God has always had, and will have, a remnant faithful to him, some that keep their integrity and do not go down the stream.” God always has a faithful people, so we should look for Christians with whom we can fellowship and co-labor.
Passages for Further Study
2 Timothy 2:19