Summary: Elijah tells his story of miraculous oil, false prophets, Jezebel and the one true God.
Style: Dramatic.      Duration: 12min
Scripture: I Kings 19: 1-15a
Actors: 1M

Character: Elijah 


You think you've seen trouble?!  You don't know trouble.  Now I know trouble!

You think you've got faith!?  I thought I did, until I had it tested by God.  And I mean tested!


But I will tell you, my friends.  This God you say you believe in, this is not a God to fool around with!  On the other hand, this is a God you can trust - with your life.  I am living proof.

I'll tell you something else you may need to know some time.  If you ever have the feeling that God is calling you to something, read the fine print in the contract.  

Come to think of it, I never actually got a contract.  I just got called.  Like that.  Out of the blue.  My life before my calling is recorded nowhere in your Bible.  Really, it is completely irrelevant.  The only relevance is how God called me - and how God used me.  "Elijah," God said, "Go on, get up, go east and hide yourself by the Wadi Cherith, east of the Jordan.”  (That’s a pool of water, if you didn’t know.)  “You shall drink from the Wadi and I will give the ravens instructions to feed you."

How is that for a start?  How was I to know ravens could be waiters, like in a restaurant!  But then who was I to argue biology with the Creator of the heaven and the earth?  If ravens could be waiters, ravens it would be.  And sure enough, ravens it was.  Bringing me bread and meat, morning and night, for days until the Wadi dried up.  I guess God was fattening me up for the journey.  

And what a journey!  I should have taken some of the raven's food with me. Because after a few days I ran out.  This nice widow at Zarephath took me in.  Apparently God told her I was coming, just like the ravens.  But the woman had almost no food, just a little meal and some oil.  I could tell she was embarrassed.  So I decided to do something I had never done before.  I held my breath, said a little prayer, and told her that her meal and oil would never run out.  We went to her home and - you guessed it!  The meal just kept pouring out of its container!

I realized during my stay with the widow that something was happening.  God was testing me.  And I was testing God.  God wanted to know, "Was I up to the challenge?"  And I needed to know, "Could God be relied on?"  

It seems we both passed the test.

It turned out my calling was not to befriend impoverished widows, or raise their children from the dead.  Nothing so easy as that.

My calling was to challenge the king of Israel himself, Ahab.  Ahab’s problem was that he had turned his back on God.  Imagine!  The King of Israel, the protector of the faith, defying God at every turn.  Erecting an altar to the god Baal, and worshiping him.  Ahab did more to anger God than had all the previous kings of Israel combined.

Of course, Ahab had a lot of help.  Incentive, you might call it.  It was that woman he married.  You might even know her name.  Jezebel.  She was the daughter of the king of Sidon, and a worshiper of Baal.  Now you might say, "what's the problem?  It's just another god.  We live in a multi-cultural country.  Freedom of religion and all of that."

But you must understand something about Baal.  This was a false god.  He demanded human sacrifices.  Children, truth be told.  He was the granddaddy of the fertility cults of the region.  And the God of Israel is a jealous God.  "You shall have no other gods before me." Maybe you have heard that before.

It was certain that Ahab had heard it before.  And pledged loyalty to the God of his ancestors.  That is, until he married Jezebel.  

And if God was angry at worshippers of Baal, that anger was more than matched by the hatred Jezebel had of the God of Israel.  I think Ahab and Jezebel should have had some pre-marriage counseling.  It would have saved us all a lot of grief.  Me especially.

Jezebel had a hate for me that I cannot begin to describe.  After all, my calling was to challenge her husband, to decry the idolatry of Baal worship, and to bring the nation back to the God of Israel.  In challenging Ahab, I was doing more than shaking the foundation of their marriage.  I was threatening the very power base of Jezebel.  I knew it.  God knew it.  And so did she.

A while back we had a little contest.  Ahab set it up, to let the Israelites decide for themselves which god they would follow.  A showdown on Mount Carmel.  No mercy.  No survivors.   

The contest was Ahab's idea.  The terms were mine.  And the prophets of Baal liked it.  At first.  I said, "Take two bulls, one for me and one for you.  Choose which you like.  Then cut your bull in pieces, and lay the pieces on a pyre of wood.  I'll do the same.  Then, we will each call upon our gods, and ask that divine fire consume the pieces.  "No problem," they said.  “Hope you like your steak well done."

"You go first," I suggested.  Then off they went to encircle their bull.  They prayed to their god from morning til noon, crying and hooting and hollering.  Not a flicker.  Not a whisper.  So I asked, "Where is this Baal you were yelling about?  Is he meditating?  Wake him up?  Maybe he went to the bathroom.  Maybe he got lost."  No answer.  No god.

Then it was God's turn.  I built an altar of 12 stones, and prayed to God.  I made a trench around the altar, built up a pyre of wood, and laid the pieces on top.  I asked for some help from the poor Baal worshippers.  Something to add a bit of drama to the occasion.  "Go and get four large jars of water, and pour it on the offering and on the wood."  They looked amazed, but did as they were told.  Then I said, "More.  Do it again.  It's not wet enough."  They did it again.  Then, a third time.  By the time they were finished, the trench was full.  The wood was soaked.

"Answer my prayer, O God.  That these people, who have turned their backs on you will know you are God."  That was all it took.  The fire of God came down.  It burned the wood, consumed the offering, fried the stones and the dust and licked up the water.

The people fell to their knees.  "YHWH is God.  YHWH is God."  It was music to my ears.

Did I say no survivors?  God had all the prophets of Baal seized, brought down the mountain, and killed.

It was all too much for Jezebel.  The woman went crazy.  Her god had been humiliated.  Heck, he hadn't even shown up.   I guess she could have taken it out on Ahab.  Or on God.  But no, she took out her anger on me.

I got my death threat the next day.  I didn't wait for further correspondence.  I flew like I had wings on my feet, to the wilderness.  There, I thought, I can hide.  And under a broom tree, I started to go over the events of my life, the calling of God.  "I've had enough, God.  This is too much.  There is a bounty on my head.  I could run to the ends of the earth and the death squads would find me. Just let me die in peace.  I can't take it anymore."  Then I fell asleep.

But was God finished with me?  No.  An angel wakes me up.  "Get up and eat, Elijah."  I looked and there was a cake baked on stones, and a jar of water.  I ate and drank, and fell asleep again.  "Get up and eat some more, Elijah.  You will need your strength for the journey."  "Journey?" I said.  "Journey," the angel answered.

For forty days I went on the energy of that food.  Until I reached the mount of Horeb.  There I rested in a cave.

Was God was finished with me?  No.  This time, God wakes me up.  "What are you doing here, Elijah?"  As if God didn't know.  

"Go and stand on the mountain, Elijah.  For I am about to pass by."  What could that mean, I wondered?  But I had learned enough to not ask questions.  So I stood on the holy mountain.

And then, as if I needed evidence of God's presence, I got it.  It started with a great wind, so strong it split rocks in pieces.  But no God in the wind.  Then an earthquake, but no God.  And then a fire, but no sign of God.  Finally, after all that noise and commotion, a still small voice.  The sound of sheer silence.  And out of the silence, the voice of God.

Why do I tell you all that?  Why do I tell you my story?  Not because I wish for you as interesting a life as I had, but because, like me, you may be called to something bigger than yourself.  It could be to minister to a widow, or to someone who is vulnerable and in need of what God can give through you.  It could be to challenge those in positions of power, who have become corrupted and have turned away from the needs of the people.  It could be to confront the false gods of your age and your community.  I know you have them.  

Whatever it is, I hope you will come to know what I have seen; that the God of life is with you.  God may speak to you by waking you from your sleep.  If that happens, do not be afraid.  Know that you are in trustworthy hands.  God may speak to you as I heard - in a still small voice.  In the sound of sheer silence.  It is a beautiful sound. Whatever is your calling, whatever your challenges, I hope that you will know what I have known, that God is with you. 


Author’s note: I deliberately left in, albeit in a watered-down form, the bloody revenge scene in which Elijah slaughters the prophets of Baal.   I could have left it out, and most people (I imagine) would not have known it was even missing.  Those are the kinds of editorial choices we make in worship and Christian education all the time, as we deal with difficult texts and complex, sometimes contradictory theological issues.  After I delivered this monologue, my then 12 year old daughter was furious.  She said, “What kind of God of love goes out and has all those prophets killed and never has any concern for them?  How do you expect me to believe in a God like that?  Are we supposed to kill our enemies, or be happy when people die horrible deaths who don’t believe in God?  I thought this was a God of love!  This is not the kind of God Jesus talks about, is it?  How can you preach about this stuff?”

Be prepared for interesting conversations.    

Written by Jim Hatherly

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