It was with patience and determination that the Hebrew Children marched around the walls of Jericho seven times before it fell. It wasn’t until Naaman obeyed the Prophet Elisha and resolutely dipped himself into the Jordan River seven times that he was healed of his leprosy. And in this passage, it was a persistent and tenacious Prophet Elijah that prayed seven times before the rain came and ended the drought. The number seven doesn’t matter here as much as the idea of not giving up! For all these examples show that perseverance pays off in the end, and that God rewards the single-minded.
It tells us in Genesis 5:22-24 that Enoch lived for 365 years…faithfully walking with God…and then he was no more, because God took him away. The word used here is “translated”, or conveyed to heaven without tasting death. The only other person to experience this was the Old Testament prophet Elijah. But unlike Enoch, Elijah’s departure was witnessed as he was carried off by a whirlwind. (II Kings 2:11) What these two men did have in common though was their unshakable faith in desperate times, godliness in the face of persecution, and the boldness to speak the truth no matter what.
In this verse, Elijah had just fled from Jezebel and her death threats into the desert. There in his fear and exhaustion, he prayed for the Lord to take his life. When suddenly a message carrier for the Lord appeared…not with some great vision or even an explanation of this predicament Elijah found himself in. Rather, the angel simply told him to eat, drink, and then sleep. Over the course of my 36 year Nursing career I’ve seen it happen way too many times…a patient is either critically ill or dying, but it’s the spouse’s or caregiver’s health that deteriorates. When we’re in crisis, we forget to do the ordinary things. We forget to get adequate nutrition…we don’t think to drink water…we don’t get enough rest. And the result is a caregiver with downward spiraling health. Care for the caregiver has become a focus for the Health Care Community, and something I advocated for wherever I worked. So if you find yourself a caregiver, please remember to treat yourself kindly, take time for yourself, and do the ordinary things. For you’ll be of no help to your loved one if you’re in the hospital.
God had told Elijah to travel to Zarephath and a widow would supply him with food during a severe drought. When Elijah asked the woman for bread she replied she had only a handful of flour and a little oil left. Then Elijah prophesied that the jar of flour and the flask of oil wouldn’t run out until the Lord brought rain. At that moment the widow had two choices…allow fear to rule in her life, or step out in faith and believe God. Everyday fear will make us choose between Fearing the Enemy And Running or Facing the Enemy And Rising.
This is a wonderful example of persistent prayer. The kind of determined, tenacious, even stubborn prayer where we refuse to get out of the Lord’s face until He does something. In Luke 18: 1-8, Jesus tells the parable about the widow looking for justice who wore the judge down with her persistence. At the end of this story He instructs His disciples to have the same kind of unabashed audacity in prayer … to not give up.
The Prophet Elijah of the Old Testament…He was recognized by this outfit…his clothing symbolizing his power…so much, that false prophets of that time would attempt to copy his attire. This unusual garb of camel’s-hair and leather illustrated Elijah’s focus was on God, not on his physical comfort or tradition. Later, John the Baptist adopted the same outfit…”Ministering in the spirit and power of Elijah.” ( Luke 1:17) Jesus, Himself, even compared the two in Matthew 11:14 in this way, ” And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come.”
God had directed Elijah to call Elisha to succeed him as Prophet. Rather than vacillate on whether he had truly been called, Elisha boldly made sure he couldn’t fall back to his comfortable old life. So many times when God calls us, we want to hedge our bets, giving ourselves a way back to what is easy and familiar if what God calls us to do becomes too difficult. When we hang onto the past and what’s safe and predictable, God can’t use us to our fullest capabilities.
Elijah had prophesied a drought which the region was now in the grips of when he came upon this widow gathering sticks. He not only audaciously asked for a drink of water but he asked for bread. The widow replied that all she had left was a handful of flour and a little oil to make a meal for her and her son…that we may eat it and die. So what Elijah asked her to do next was completely beyond comprehension for the poor woman. “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make bread for me.” This is where the widow had to look way beyond her circumstances and believe Elijah that there would not only be bread enough for her and her son today, but for many days to come. Has the Lord been asking you to do something that is frankly beyond what you can imagine? Do you have the courage like this widow to believe, but not only to believe, but to actually do it?