FROM ELIJAH TO ZECHARIAH
WHAT IF GOD…
…had not given rise to Elijah the prophet?
…had not resurrected the dead through Elijah, and Elisha?
…had not ordained that Israel be taken into captivity?
…had not humiliated Sennacherib?
…had not extended Hezekiah’s life?
…had not removed Judah?
…had not allowed the putting away of foreign wives?
WHAT IF GOD HAD NOT GIVEN RISE TO ELIJAH THE PROPHET?
Elijah Appeared in Israel during the reign of the very evil king, Ahab. This king is described by the Bible as having done, “…evil in the sight of the Lord more than all who were before him” (I Kings 16: 30). It may not be a coincidence that God allowed one of his greatest prophets to appear during Ahab’s reign.
But what if God had not given rise to Elijah during Ahab’s time?
As the Old Testament reveals, Ahab was a very arrogant and sinful man. He married the infamous Jezebel, the daughter of a Philistine king and “…he went and served Baal and worshipped him. Then he set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal, which he built in Samaria”(I Kings 16: 32).
Jezebel became a dangerous and formidable foe that was bent on destroying any remnant of true religion so as to replace it with her own. To do so, she plotted to kill Elijah, the foremost defender of the Yahweh worship. In the meantime, in part thanks to her evil influence, Israel distanced itself from God and His ways and embraced Baal worship. Elijah bemoans: “…the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword”(I Kings 19: 10).
Israel had clearly reached bottom and its re-emergence demanded the appearance of a mighty prophet who would be up to the job—and Elijah was the one.
Through Elijah, God, first of all, tried to sober up Israel by bringing about a great drought. He then inspired Elijah to go directly to Ahab to confront him with his sins and then to challenge his pagan prophets to a contest. God then used Elijah to ridicule and finally humiliate hundreds of prophets of Baal and of Asherah.
Although Elijah faltered later on, when he ran away from Jezebel, he was a great man of courage and was very committed to His God. It took this great man of God to deal with two very dangerous and insolent foes. Another prophet might have been intimidated sooner and God’s plan might not have worked out as well as it did.
Elijah was the best man for the job, at a very challenging time. God knew he was up to the task and used him powerfully. Elijah submitted to God’s command, and thus God was able to use him powerfully. The Bible tells us that one more prophet is yet to appear on earth who will have the same mental set as Elijah, and who will again be used mightily by God to “…bring the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers” so as not to “…strike the earth with a curse” before the Day of the Lord (Malachi 4: 5-6). Once again, God will choose the right person for the job and, once again, he will do a mighty work.
WHAT IF GOD…
…had not used Elijah to cause the drought? (I Kings 18)
…had not punished Ahab? (I Kings 22)
…had not punished Jezebel? (II Kings 9)
WHAT IF GOD HAD NOT RESURRECTED THE DEAD THROUGH ELIJAH AND ELISHA?
Among the great miracles performed by Elijah and Elisha there is one that stands high above the rest: resurrecting the dead. Elijah resurrected a widow’s son while staying with her. Elisha instead resurrected the son of the Shunammite woman.
What if God had not performed these mighty miracles through these two great prophets?
Eliajh and Elisha are the only prophets that are mentioned in the Bible as having had the power to bring the dead back to life. The only other great one who performed such mighty miracles was Christ. Any other miracle may be very impressive, but giving life back to the dead is a prerogative that belongs only to God. Allowing both prophets to perform such mighty miracles was a definite and undeniable sign that God was with both, and that He had given them tremendous power to do their job.
Both had very challenging and very dangerous jobs to do. By giving them the power to resurrect the dead, God made it clear to them that He would support them with all the power they needed, and that they could move on with total assurance.
It is critical to note that both events took place as a reward for people who had been kind to God’s servants. There is a wonderful message in all this: supporting God’s messengers will bring about great favor from the Almighty.
Christ emphasized this reality in Matthew chapter ten. “He who receives you receives me and he who receives me receives Him who sent Me…And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water …I say to you he shall by no means lose his reward (Matthew 10:40-42).
Therefore, by allowing Elijah and Elisha to bring the dead back to life, He gave both total assurance that they would have had all the necessary power to accomplish their mission. In so doing He also made it perfectly clear that supporting God’s servants would not pass unnoticed and that blessings would be sure to follow.
WHAT IF GOD…
…had not allowed the death of all of Ahab’s family? (II Kings 10)
…had not decreed the death of the worshippers of Baal? (II Kings 10)
…had not allowed Jeohash to take all the gold and silver from the house of the Eternal? (II kings 14:14)
WHAT IF GOD HAD NOT ORDAINED THAT ISRAEL BE TAKEN INTO CAPTIVITY?
After many warnings by many different prophets, God finally decreed that Israel be “vomited” out of the Promised Land as the Canaanites had been. Thus, “the king of Assyria…carried Israel away to Assyria…”(II Kings 17: 5-6).
What if God had not allowed the total exile of Israel from the Promised Land? What if He had simply punished them “locally” and had foregone the exile altogether?
The story of Israel, and God’s dealings with it, is a wonderful study in the character of the Almighty. Through His dealings with Israel, He manifested His total reliability by keeping His promise of delivering Israel out of Egypt. He also revealed His love and righteousness, by giving Israel laws that would have elevated them above all the other surrounding nations, and that would have brought great blessings on them generation after generation.
Furthermore, God manifests His longsuffering nature by warning Israel before punishing them and by finally punishing them with the sole intent of sobering them into repentance.
Lastly His dealings with Israel manifest that, tough God is longsuffering, He has His limits, and that the day will come when He will finally bring about very stern punishments on people, if they refuse to repent.
It is important to note that II Kings 17, the chapter that describes the exile of Israel, also gives an exhaustive list of the sins embraced by Israel. The chapter also describes God’s many attempts to bring Israel to sobriety before having to finally send them into exile.
The list of sins is quite extensive and serious. The people forgot that God had delivered them from Egyptian slavery and “feared other gods” (V.7). They walked in the way of the nations that had been cast out of Canaan (V. 8). Furthermore, they built high places and burned incense to idols (V. 11-12). Because of their rebellious attitude, God warned Israel and Judah “by all His prophets (V. 13), but they did not repent and, instead, “stiffened their necks” (V. 14).
In spite of all the many warnings, “They rejected His statutes and His Covenant…they left all the commandments” (V. 15-16) and “made for themselves a molten image and two calves, made a wooden image and worshiped all the host of heaven, and served Baal’(V.16); Lastly they “caused their sons and daughters to pass through the fire, practiced witchcraft and soothsaying, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke Him to anger” (V. 17). Thus, the final judgment: “You shall be plucked off from the land” (Deuteronomy 28: 63).
God had made a covenant with Israel centuries before, and had promised to pour great blessings on them if they obeyed and great curses if they disobeyed. The curses are listed in Deuteronomy 28 in increasing severity. Israel did not heed the many warnings and was finally eradicated from the land as God had promised centuries before.
If God had not sent Israel into exile, His word may have been questioned, and His inevitable intervention toward sinners would not have received proper attention. As Paul reinforces in the New Testament: “For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom he receives”(Hebrew 12: 6). Israel needed to see that its God had reached His limit, and that they had pushed Him to the point of no return.
If God had not intervened and had not kept his promises of total exile, God’s longsuffering nature might have been misunderstood for weakness. The people of Israel and all believers since then might have taken God’s silence as uninvolvement or the fact that He was turning a blind eye to sin.
God’s people must know that, though they may be special in God’s eyes, and though He is very patient toward their frailties, if they sin willfully and stubbornly, He will finally intervene dramatically and intensely—and that is true for Spiritual Israel as it was true for Ancient Israel.
© Copyright, Michael Caputo, 2004