Here’s what you could ‘do with yourself’

Have you ever said, ‘I was so distressed; I didn’t know what to do with myself’? The story of Elijah in the English Standard Version records several things he did with himself. Of course, each action was specific to the calling of this man of God that might only have been appropriate at particular stages in his life and ministry. Yet they suggest simple ways that we too can give ourselves to the will of God.

[] Hide yourself (1 Kings 17:3)

He suddenly appeared as if ‘out of nowhere’, a force to be reckoned with, and confronted Ahab, Israel’s Baal-worshipping king, prophesying several rainless years of famine. Then just as suddenly he vanished from public view for the next three barren years, since ‘the word of the Lord came to him: “Hide yourself”’ (1 Kings 18:1-3). ‘[T]here [was] no nation or kingdom where [Ahab did not send] to seek [him]’, making their leaders ‘take an oath that they had not found [him]’ (1 Kings 18:10-11).

* At first God sent him to hide alone at ‘Cherith…east of Jordan’, not back home lest Ahab search this most likely hide-away. He was sustained with natural river water and ‘bread and meat’ miraculously delivered daily by ‘ravens’ (1 Kings 17:2-6)!

*When the brook dried up God sent him to a widow in a suburb of Sidon, the home city of Ahab’s notorious queen, Jezebel (1 Kings 17:7-9). It never occurred to Ahab that this sharp-sighted prophet would be so foolhardy as to hide there! In many hostile nations today’s Christians must keep a low profile until prompted by the Holy Spirit to speak out.

[] ‘He stretched himself on the child’ (1 Kings 17:21)

While in that northern city, God prevented his servant from becoming a hermit through the culinary services of a widowed mother of a young boy, replenishing her larder supernaturally (1 Kings 17:10-16). Her new interest in the Lord was shattered by the sudden death of her son. Elijah took the lifeless body to his attic bed and, lying on top of it, stretched himself upon the child three times and cried to the Lord’ (1 Kings 17:17-24). The natural instinct of a grown man would have been to contract his size to that of the child!  But, in fact, effective spiritual  ministry to children requires the stretching of our imagination and efforts at communication. ‘And the…child…revived’ (1 Kings 17:22).

[] Show yourself (1 Kings 18:1-2; 15)

            ‘[T]he word of the Lord came to Elijah, in the third year, saying, “Go, show yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain upon the earth’ (1 Kings 18:1). And, on presenting himself before Ahab, he boldly accused him of having sold himself to do… evil’ (1 Kings 18:17-18; compare 1 Kings 21:20,25).

Elijah is closely associated with Moses in later Judaism, and they appeared together with Jesus when he was transfigured (Matthew 17:1-3). Moses, after forty years hidden in the back of beyond, showed himself to Pharaoh, boldly demanding Israel’s release from slavery. In Elijah’s case, his confrontation with Ahab was in that very public showdown with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:17-46).

[] ‘He bowed himself(1 Kings 18:42)

After the demonstrable defeat of Baal, Elijah told the king: ‘there is a sound of the rushing of rain’ (1 Kings 18:41), although there was not a cloud in the sky until he ‘went up to the top of Mount Carmel’ again and bowed himself down on the earth and put his face between his knees’ (1 Kings 18:42). Only after his servant’s seventh rain check did he come back down. His intensive, effective praying is a model for us (James 5:13-18).

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