And Elijah said to Ahab, “Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain.” So Ahab went off to eat and drink, but Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel, bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees. “Go and look toward the sea,” he told his servant. And he went up and looked. “There is nothing there,” he said. Seven times Elijah said, “Go back.” The seventh time the servant reported, “A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea.” So Elijah said, “Go and tell Ahab, ‘Hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.’ ” Meanwhile, the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain started falling and Ahab rode off to Jezreel. The power of the Lord came on Elijah and, tucking his cloak into his belt, he ran ahead of Ahab all the way to Jezreel. – 1 Kings 18:41-46
This is the sequel to the passage where Elijah informs Ahab that the drought is about to end…both in terms of water on the land and spiritual “living water” from God. Ahab and the prophets of Baal learn in a dramatic way that “He is God” The beginning of the passage is a bit strange. After the prophets of Baal are dealt with rather harshly Elijah tells Ahab to “go eat and drink” because he hears the sound of heavy rain. It turns out that the rain has not started yet and it is still off in the distance.
Why would he tell Ahab to go and eat and drink? It seems like he would direct him to go be in prayer or do something that would put him in the proper posture to the receive the coming rain from heaven. As I have prayed and reflected on this it occurs to me that perhaps Ahab was not in a place, spiritually, where he would know how to offer prayers or offerings to God. Ahab is the equivalent of an atheist or perhaps an agnostic in modern times — perhaps worse as he has been actively persecuting those who believe in God. This brings up a philosophical question. How do we share our knowledge and experiences of God with others — Bible tracts, street evangelism, outreach service projects, or something else entirely?
My sister and I were talking about this the other day. We are both reading a book by A.W. Tozer called the “The Pursuit of God”. We were discussing how some parts of this book might be difficult to understand or relate to for some Christians because we are all at different places spiritually. I wonder if Elijah is recognizing that Ahab is not in a place to receive God in the same way that he himself might. They are in very different places spiritually. Despite Ahab, and many of us, being in different places spiritually God will show up when and how we need Him — the rain will fall on the whole land.
Elijah provides a good example for us in this passage. He goes to a high place and keeps a sharp lookout for God to show up. Elijah has faith that even when his servant returns for the seventh time sighting only a small black cloud that God’s promised rain would show up. There is a lesson in this that, if we are faithful and persistent, what appears to be nothing more than a small black cloud can build into a sky full of dark clouds and rain. Interestingly, when the rain begins in earnest Elijah does not gloat. He tells Ahab that he better head off to Jezreel before the rain stops him. Elijah runs out into the rain ahead of Ahab. He does not abandon him or remain under a dry roof. He experiences God’s rain with Ahab.
Prayer: God you send your life-giving rains on all of us, regardless of where we are at to receive them. Help us to experience your life giving rains with others.