1 Kings 18:45 “The power of the LORD came upon Elijah and, tucking his cloak into his belt, he ran ahead of Ahab all the way to Jezreel.”
Elijah gave word to King Ahab that the drought would end and that rain was on the way. The drought lasted for three years. Elijah had a spiritual showdown with the priests of Baal to determine whose god was the real God. We read the story of the sacrifice consumed by God including
the bull and the water through fire fallen from heaven. Then he tells Ahab to go and eat and get to Jezreel before the rains come. Elijah climbed Mount Carmel and had his aide look for the rain. He saw a little cloud form over the sea. Elijah then got up, tucked in his cloak and outran Ahab and his chariot from Mount Carmel to Jezreel.
This passage may not seem much more than another old story from the Bible, but I see an amazing display of God’s power all through this 18th chapter of 1 Kings. First, God consumes a slaughtered bull soaked in water along with all the water through fire from heaven. Next, he prevented the demons from doing anything to give credence to the prophets of Baal. Then he creates a tiny cloud over the sea that would bring a torrent of rain upon a land parched from three years of drought. Finally, God comes upon his prophet and has him outrun a horse and chariot.
God did all this to prove a point – He is God! His Word states that he will not share his glory with another. Thus, we can see how his triumph over Ahab and gods demonstrated the awesomeness of God and his power over the earth, above the earth, and below the earth. Furthermore, I have to pause and consider what God did through Elijah. A man outran a horse team from Mount Carmel to Jezreel, a distance of about 20 miles or so.
I did a little research on the speed of horses and found that a gaited horse can do a sustained 5-10 mph for a good length of time. Horses are not built for sustained high rates of speed. However, if the horse did 6 mph, it could reach Jezreel from Mount Carmel in about 3.5 hours. Think about it. A modern marathon run is 26.2 miles. They are generally completed in less than 3 hours. Elijah was running a marathon pace to beat the horses. How many people in Elijah’s day were conditioned to run that far in that amount of time? Most likely not many. The roads were not paved either. They were running down dirt roads across mountainous regions.
So what do we take away from this passage about a prophet outrunning a team of horses over a 20-mile stretch? Is it impossible for a person to do so? No, we have people who run marathons all the time going a greater distance in less time. However, we don’t know when Ahab left or how long he’d been riding when Elijah set off. We don’t know the speed of the horses. They could’ve run much faster and gotten there sooner. Thus we have to take away from this that God performed a miracle through Elijah and gave him superhuman speed and endurance to beat the horses to Jezreel.
Also, we take away from this passage that God can do anything. We tend to marvel at the fact that a man outran horses, but the greater take away is that God stepped in and made something happen that was out of the ordinary – even extraordinary! We are not to focus on the supernatural but the one who caused the supernatural to happen. God again showed Ahab that He was greater than all of his gods. The sacrifice was an awesome display of power, the death of the Baal prophets was a show of authority, and the race won by Elijah was a demonstration of God’s ability.
People tend to think that they have all the answers and can do everything on their own. They tend to refuse God’s help and grace and want to showcase their pride. The Bible says that those who exalt themselves will be brought down while those who humble themselves will be raised up by God. Ahab exalted himself and his gods above God and was brought down to nothing. It eventually cost him his life and the lives of his entirely family. It doesn’t pay to test or tempt God. He has all power, all authority, and all right to do as he pleases. His way is the only way – Jesus!
Father, I see in this story an example of a man brought down by his pride, Ahab, and an example of a humble man exalted by you (Elijah). One sought out to do things his way and paid a price for it with his life. The other sought to seek out you and do things your way. He was protected by and provided for by you. One experienced punishment and the other blessing. Help me to always see things your way and to do exactly what you tell me to do. I am focused on the tremendous run of Elijah as I am his demonstration of faith to tuck in his cloak and run after Ahab. He knew in his head he couldn’t run that fast, but he submitted to your Spirit and was empowered to do the impossible. Your Spirit empowered him to do the job you gave him. As your Spirit lives in me, empower me to be an effective witness and do the work of the kingdom. In Jesus’ name, Amen.