I’ve been reading about Elijah lately. A.W. Pink’s book on Elijah is a welcome help to me. He raised an interesting question about obedience. In comparing Jonah and Elijah, Pink asserts that Jonah (the book I am studying with our Thursday night crew!) had to experience death 2 times because he disobeyed, (the first time clearly being the belly of the fish and the second being natural death.) whereas Elijah got to skip death altogether because of obedience. I’d never thought about the immediate obedience of Elijah before. It is truly remarkable. He shows up on the scene, some country bumpkin no one knows, and he says, “Hey King! Its not gonna rain til I say so… see ya later.” Then he “hides himself at the brook Cherith…” In the desert. Where birds feed him… (What an awesome introduction to a prophet!) Of course you know the story. Elijah stays there until the brook dries up, and then he goes to the widow of Zaraphath and miraculously takes care of her and her son. Has a prophetic showdown with Ba’al’s prophets. Kills a bunch of them. Runs and hides in a cave! It’s AWESOME!!
In contrast, consider Jonah’s story. He runs from God, brings calamity on a bunch sailors (the Bible is very clear that the sailors’ near death experience is Jonah’s fault), then he gets spit up by the fish and goes to preach to Nineveh, ends up doing a half-hearted job, God saves Nineveh, Jonah lives in misery.
The two are polar opposites… Elijah obeys, is provided for, and enjoys God. Jonah disobeys, is punished, and does not enjoy God. But one thing is the same: What God wanted to accomplish, God accomplishes. Despite Jonah’s disobedience, God savesNineveh. Despite Elijah’s obedience, God does not saveIsrael. Jonah lives a long tormented life and dies. Elijah lives a short fruitful life and gets to ride into heaven on a flaming chariot! Jonah has no successor, Elijah has Elisha. Jonah runs from God to the ocean, Elijah runs to God in the desert. Jonah is food for fish, Elijah is fed by birds. Jonah bring calamity on everyone in the wake of his disobedience, Elijah brings grace to a widow and her son in the wake of obedience. You could go on and on. The point is two fold.
First, God’s plan was going to happen. No matter what, God was going to fulfil his purposes. If he had to swallow Jonah and spit him up inNineveh, the Gospel would go toNineveh. (He doesn’t spit him up inNineveh, Jonah has to travel there.) And Elijah was going to be God’s prophet. Didn’t matter that he was cow-folk from the country and everyone else was refined and all delicate. God would use a simple man’s obedience to shame the most educated Kings andQueensin the world.
Second, our obedience or disobedience affects the way we enjoy God. In Elijah’s obedience, God was strong and mighty to save. He could stop the waters of heaven and he could light the fire from the sky! Elijah enjoyed God’s power. This is not to say Elijah does not fear… just that when he does, he turns to God. Jonah feels bitter with God. He runs and feels God’s wrath. He knows God, and says he fears God (in chapter 1), but he acts in a manner contrary to that. He is bitter when God saves, apathetic at the eminent danger facing others (the sailors andNineveh), and selfish when God provides… and ugly too. (just kidding about that last one… just felt right to say.)
So, I have been asking myself, am I enjoying God, or no?
Plugging Thursday nights: Our Thursday night crew meets in my house. It’s a group of mixed ages that loves to study the Bible together. Some of us have kids and we lay them down in my house… if we get to many we’ll figure out somthing else. We eat, pray, worship, and study together and it’s all out awesome! We love the Word and we love each other. If you live in my area and are looking for somthing like that, come join us Thursday nights, 7pm-9pm. (let me know you’re coming so we can plan food and children’s sleeping arangements and whatnot.)