The Loving God and Father
From the time God granted the country to Jeroboam (930 BC) until Ahab became king, the northern dynasty of Israel had gone through three coup-dˇ¦-tats and a succession of six evil monarchs in 56 years. During the rule of Ahab (874-853 BC), even more idols were erected all over the country. Peopleˇ¦s lives became harsh, and the spiritual well-being of the people descended to its darkest age. At that time, God used the prophet Elijah to call upon the Israelites to return to Him.
God performed many miracles through Elijah, showing that Jehovah was the one and only true God, real and alive, and full of glory and power. Yet the Israelites did not turn back in spite of that. Because of the misguidance of the various kings and the deception of the prophets of Baal, the people abandoned the God whom their ancestors had made a covenant with, breaking down His altars and killing His prophets. Even though for three years, God admonished them through a famine, they did not come to their senses through their suffering. God then brought down fire from heaven to reveal His authenticity, but they did not turn back in spite of this great miracle. Later, God brought merciful rain in order that the Israelites would find relief from their suffering, but they did not repent despite Godˇ¦s grace. Queen Jezebel even hunted Godˇ¦s servant with murderous intent. No wonder that Elijah felt dejected when faced with this situation, and asked for death beneath the broom tree because he thought that he had utterly failed despite being zealous for God and seeking a spiritual revival among his brethren.
When we read 1 Kings chapter 19, it is easy to use a judgmental viewpoint to consider Elijah, branding him self-pitiful, self-righteous, and a deserter of his mission. But God did not use a judgmental attitude towards His servant. Although Elijah was momentarily weak and allowed his spirit to fall into a pit, God was very considerate of him and sent angels to serve him food. God also highly respected him and continued to assign him great responsibilities, finally sending horses and a chariot of fire to receive him into the glory without tasting death.
Elijah thought that he had been zealous for God without result, and was in sorrow and despair for the behaviour of his people. He begged God for death, but God did not grant his wish. Instead, He appeared to Elijah, and spoke to him up close, ˇ§Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.ˇ¨ (1 Kings 19:11-12)
Why did God not speak to His ˇ§desertingˇ¨ servant in the wind, the earthquake, or the fire? Why didnˇ¦t God scold him, but spoke to him in a gentle whisper? According to this speakerˇ¦s observation, Godˇ¦s appearance to such a weak, failing servant was not just to lift up the despairing, dejected Elijah, but also to reveal to us that He still had much patience, self-restraint, pity, kindness, wisdom and hope towards the rebellious Israel.
The holy, righteous, and commanding glory of Godˇ¦s nature is like the irrepressible force of a great wind, earthquake or firestorm. For these people who had often experienced the discipline of God from heaven, His miracles, and grace, God had even more reason than Elijah to accuse these treacherous Israelites. It was as though God was balancing His righteousness with love, delaying His imposition of punishment with patience, and restraining Himself against pursuing the peopleˇ¦s sin of breaking the covenant and destroying the altar with magnanimity. Appearing to Elijah in such a manner, God was manifesting His nature of self-restraint and self-concealment towards sinners (Isaiah 45:15), just as the mercy seat on the Ark of the Covenant covers over the Angel of Death and the Ark of Testimony.
ˇ§ˇ¦Is not Ephraim my dear son, the child in whom I delight? Though I often speak against him, I still remember him. Therefore my heart yearns for him; I have great compassion for him,ˇ¦ declares the Lord.ˇ¨ (Jeremiah 31:20) Thank and praise God! The Lord is truly loving and patient towards those who belong to Him. How can we be disloyal and treacherous towards Him?
By: Daniel To