Day 28 1 Kings 17 ... New Breed of Heroes

The nation of Israel flourished during the Golden Age of David and Solomon, but in the end Solomon's weaknesses seriously eroded the kingdom. His lavish public projects lay a heavy tax burden on its citizens and forces him to conscript some of them as virtual slaves. His moral failures undermined the spiritual unity of the nation, and the brief, shining vision of a covenant nation gradually faded away. After Solomon's death, the nation split in two and slid toward ruin.

The remaining part of the Old Testament can prove especially confusing: the two nations had thirty-nine rulers between them, and a couple dozen prophets besides. To avoid getting hopelessly lost, keep these basic facts in mind: Israel was the breakaway Northern Kingdom, with a capital city of Samaria. All its rulers proved unfaithful to God. Judah was the Southern Kingdom, with its capital in Jerusalem. In general its rulers, descendants of David, remained more faithful to God and his covenant, and consequently Judah survived 136 years longer.

Although the Bible discusses all thirty-nine rulers by name, its focus clearly moves away from them. The first three kings - Saul, David , and Solomon - are each given lengthy treatment. But after Solomon, stories of kings speed up into a forgettable blur. God turns instead to his prophets.

Elijah, the wildest and wooliest prophet of all, first makes an appearance in this chapter. He illustrated better than anyone else the decisive change: where King Solomon had worn jewelry and fine clothes and lived luxuriously in a gilded palace, Elijah wore a diaper-like covering of black camel's hair, slept in the wilderness, and had to beg - or pray - for handouts. He came on the scene when Israel (the Northern Kingdom) was thriving politically, but floundering spiritually. Queen Jezebel had just launched a murderous campaign to eliminate all true prophets of God and replace them with nearly a thousand pagan priests.

This chapter shows glimpses of Elijah during his fugitive days. Although he was a moody prophet, subject to bouts of depression and self-doubt, he clearly had God on his side. The tender story of his healing of a widow's son shows that God had not forgotten the "little people." The salvation of Israel would depend on how well they listened to prophets like Elijah.

Point to Ponder: : What do you learn about Elijah's personality in this chapter?