I Have Kept For Myself
Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? \”Lord, they have killed Thy prophets, they have torn down Thine altars, and I alone am left, and they are seeking my life.\” But what is the divine response to him? \”I have kept for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.\” Rom. 11:2b-4
Here in Romans chapter eleven, the apostle Paul, describes the spiritual condition of the physical nation of Israel in his time. His quotes come from 1 Kings 19 and events in the life of the prophet Elijah following his title fight with the prophets of Baal about who was the true God in Israel.
Elijah fled, then he pleaded and the LORD said…
Here are the passages the apostle Paul quoted from 1 Kings 19. First, Elijah’s response to God’s query as to why he had fled to Horeb (Sinai) following Jezebel’s edict to put Elijah to death for slaughtering the priests of Baal. The LORD asked, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” And he said, “I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Thy covenant, torn down Thine altars and killed Thy prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.” (1 Kings 19:9b-10) The LORD’s divine response follows a few verses later after He commands Elijah to get going, he has some anointings to perform because God’s gearing up for an elimination round about to take place in Israel through the hands of Hazael, Jehu and Elisha (1 Kings 19:17). After clarifying that for Elijah, He says, “Yet I will leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him.” (1 Kings 19:18)
In the Bible record, Elijah seems to just suddenly show up in Israel and immediately he’s in a tiff with Ahab telling him there’s going to be a drought. We know it lasted 3 1/2 years (Luke 4:25, James 5:17). This proclamation by Elijah was a fulfillment of Moses’ warning (C. f. Deut 11:16-17), being prompted by the rampant idolatry in Israel.
Ahab’s angry and Elijah heads into hiding. He spends some time by the brook Cherith being fed by ravens; he’s then told to go to Zarephath and stay with a widow and her son. After a few “minor” miracles, providing a never ending supply of flour and oil to feed them, and raising her son from the dead, in the third year Elijah is told to go appear before Ahab. After a brief face to face with Ahab about who’s the real “trouble in Israel” the showdown ( or rather, smack down) with the prophets of Baal is set. (1 Kings 17:2-18:20) The purpose of this showdown? To get Israel from hesitating between two opinions (i. e. Yahweh or Baal).
Each party was to place their sacrifice upon an altar and call down fire from their god to consume it. We know the rest of the story. Baal and his prophets were proven to be impotent, Yahweh was proven to be the true God of Israel, Elijah prevailed, and the people cried out in unison “Yahweh, He is God”. (1 Kings 18:21-39) The prophets of Baal were then put to death ( 1 Kings 18:40) in accordance with the law of Moses for offering a sacrifice to a god other than Yahweh alone (Ex. 22:20) and for being false prophets in Israel and leading the people astray. (Deut. 13, 17:2-7)
Elijah’s supernatural victory over Baal’s prophets was short-lived and didn’t deter the domineering and evil wife of Ahab, Jezebel, from issuing a death warrant on his life for killing the prophets of Baal and seeking to supplant the national religion of Baal worship she had instituted. These events sent Elijah running to Mt. Horeb.
Could you repeat that for me again Lord?
Paul had just closed chapter ten of Romans with a review of Israel’s history of rejecting prophetic utterances. Israel had once again rejected the prophet who had come in the likeness of Elijah, that being John the Immerser, who came calling the nation to repentance, preparing her for the coming of God in the flesh, the prophesied Messiah. Sadly, Israel would reject this prophet, Jesus Christ, whom Moses had predicted would come.
Consider some of the similarities between Elijah and Jesus. Other than brief references to His youth, Jesus, seemed to just show up out of nowhere, at the Jordan River at about 30 years old. In his 3 1/2 year ministry, he performed similar miracles to Elijah. He miraculously supplied food from virtually nothing a couple of times to large groups of people in need. He too, raised a few folks from the dead. Many other miracles and signs He performed. Enough certainly to convince the honest person that He was who He said He was. Unfortunately, the people still hesitated between two opinions—Follow Jesus, or fear the powers that existed that were resistant to the message Jesus brought. So resistant were the religious leaders, they not only issued a death warrant, they put Him to death. This culminated in the ultimate showdown (another smack down!) at Calvary, by rising from the dead, proving to Israel they should have cried out, “Jesus, He is God!”
At the close of Romans 10, Paul speaks of a little house cleaning (judgment) headed Israel’s way once more. Israel’s spiritual condition was exemplified by their rejection of this supernatural sign of Christ’s resurrection. They refused to give up their opinion of who they were under the Law for who they were to be by faith in Christ. Yet just as in Elijah’s day, the Lord repeated through Paul that there were still a small minority among the Jews that would bow their knee to God in heeding the gospel, kept for the Lord by faith, and not cave before the pressure of the powerful forces among the Jews now in rebellion against God.