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9. Elijah

9.2.3 Elijah And Others

Elijah purposefully set up the contest with the Baal worshippers so that he was alone against so many Baal worshippers; he rejoices almost that  “ye are many” (1 Kings 18:25). He didn’t invite any other worshippers of Yahweh; he was convinced that it was him against the world / the rest of the ecclesia. When we read Elijah inviting all the prophets of Baal to be gathered to Carmel, we expect him to match this by inviting the prophets of Yahweh- for we have just read that Obadiah hid 100 of them in a cave. But Elijah doesn’t. He asks Ahab to call “all Israel” there- he wanted to set himself up as alone against all Israel. Elijah almost seems to have revelled in assuming all Israel were apostate when he met them on Carmel. " Call ye on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord" (1 Kings 18:24) definitely sounds as if he was setting himself up against them. And thus he asks God to make all Israel know Him (1 Kings 18:37). Elijah's hyper sensitivity to he alone being acceptable before God is perhaps shown in the way he repairs the Lord's altar and then himself builds another one (1 Kings 18:30-32). It was as if he felt some kind of guilt by association- he could only serve Yahweh on the altar of his own making. Perhaps he justified it by suspecting that  the first altar has been built contrary to Mosaic law, perhaps an iron tool had been used on it...and so, Elijah had to go his own way. And how often have our brethren done this. Nothing is any good unless we ourselves are doing it; we can't be made guilty by association with the work of others whom we doubt.  God tried to correct Elijah’s despisal of the other prophets of the Lord. Elijah was in a cave, and was also fed bread and water- just as the other prophets were (1 Kings 18:4). And yet Elijah didn’t see, or didn’t want to see, that connection- after having been reminded of this experience of the other prophets, he claims that “I, even I only, remain a prophet of the Lord” (1 Kings 18:22)- he wrongly believed that all other valid prophets had been slain (1 Kings 19:10). In fact the record shows how that during Elijah’s lifetime there were other prophets of Yahweh active in His service (1 Kings 20:13,35). And yet the lesson is that God still works through the conceited, the spiritually superior, those who despise their brethren. God didn’t give up on Elijah because he was like this, and neither should we give up in our relationship with such brethren.

Elijah's focus on Israel's sinfulness may have been tainted with the syndrome of pulling others down to make yourself look taller. He says repeatedly: " I have been very jealous for the Lord... for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant...and I, even I only, am left" (1 Kings 19:10). It's as if he felt that his zeal [s.w. " jealous" ] was in the fact they were apostate and he wasn't. His zeal for the Lord was, he reasoned, in being the only one left when they had all quit. And this basic mistake has hamstrung us- you are righteous, zealous, a defender of the Faith, if you merely hold on to a certain academic proposition of truth which others are rumoured or assumed to have apostasized from. Zeal for the Lord surely involves infinitely more than this. Elijah prayed his prayer from the cave mouth, protesting his own righteousness as he cowered before the glory of the Lord. Yet the same word occurs in Is. 2:12,13, where apostate Israel will hurl away their idols and then cower in a cleft / cave of the rock before the presence of Yahweh’s glory. The connection perhaps shows that although Elijah was so proudly not an idolator, yet his pride and arrogance was essentially the same. On one hand Elijah may have gloried in the similarities between his position and that of Moses, when God’s glory passed by him in the cleft of the rock; and yet Moses too was effectively being rebuked and humbled for his pride.