1 Kings 19:18 – Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.
What’s so significant about 7000 pairs of knees and 7000 mouths? 1 Kings 19:18 indicates that the significance is not in what the knees and mouths did, but in what they did not do! The knees did not bow down to any of the heathen gods named Baal, and the mouths did not kiss the image of any of the baals. Since this fact is significant enough in God’s mind to be recorded in Holy Scripture, let’s not miss the lessons He has for us in this little verse of His Word.
Romans 15:4 assures us that there is something here for our benefit: “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.”
Let’s back up a bit and take a quick look at the historical setting for the faithful knees and mouths. For the entire story, read all of 1 Kings 16-19. You’ll find that at this particular time in Israel’s history it was not the “in” thing to be a believer in the Lord God! Notorious King Ahab and wicked Queen Jezebel ruled the land, and the country was given over to immorality and idolatry. Many true prophets had been openly murdered by Jezebel’s forces. No public outcry was being voiced by any group within the nation. In fact, an individual’s life would have been at risk had he spoken out against these corrupt conditions.
It was against this dark background that the prophet Elijah burst upon the scene with dramatic suddenness and the announcement of judgment. He dared to speak out publicly against the moral and spiritual decay that had overrun the country. He preached his fiery sermon of judgment to King Ahab himself. God miraculously protected and preserved and provided for His faithful and courageous prophet. God has many ways of taking care of His people –even today and even you! Elijah fearlessly forced the prophets of Baal into a major showdown between their gods and the God of Israel.
1 Kings 18:19 Now therefore send, and gather to me all Israel unto mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the groves four hundred, which eat at Jezebel’s table.
20 So Ahab sent unto all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together unto mount Carmel.
21 And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.
22 Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the LORD; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men.
There at Mount Carmel, in an awe-inspiring display of power, the Lord showed Himself to be unquestionably supreme over the baals and the pagan prophets. Many of the prophets of Baal were seized and eliminated. Then the Lord sent a long-delayed rain as a sign of His blessing. For a few fleeting hours it appeared that Israel was on the verge of a national revival.
1 Kings 18:37 Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again.
38 Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.
39 And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The LORD, he is the God; the LORD, he is the God.
40 And Elijah said unto them, Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape. And they took them: and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there.
41 And Elijah said unto Ahab, Get thee up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of abundance of rain.
But revival did not come. In fact, Elijah himself ran away! Queen Jezebel had personally threatened his life because of his actions at Mount Carmel. For the first time we read that Elijah was afraid (19:3). If a great prophet of God like Elijah could so quickly lose his determination and courage, let’s realize that we are not invulnerable! Our strong witness and fearless faith today is no guarantee that we are immune to downfall tomorrow. We must constantly depend on the Lord for His strength and His courage.
After hearing about Jezebel’s threat on his life, Elijah hightailed it as fast as he could to the extreme southern end of the country and beyond–all the way to Mount Horeb in the Sinai peninsula. Here, far from Jezebel’s clutches, he had it out with God. Elijah was convinced that he was the only faithful believer in Israel (19:10, 14). Have you ever felt like that? Maybe you’ve tried so hard to serve the Lord but you just don’t seem to get any support, especially in times of crisis. Sometimes, for a brief moment, things seem to be going well, but then the bottom falls out–again! Your brothers and sisters in the Lord seem to disappear just when you need their help the most. In your discouragement you feel that surely they can’t be real Christians–you must be the only true believer on your campus or at your job or!
But Elijah was wrong! He was not the only one who had stayed true to the Lord. There were still 7000 faithful men and women in Israel who had not bowed the knee to Baal nor kissed the pagan image of one of the baals. The Lord’s reminder of the faithful 7000 appears to be a mild rebuke to the prophet. Elijah may have had some good reasons for thinking that he was the only “evangelical” around, but God still had a few other faithful believers throughout the country. That secret “Seven Thousand Club” still exists today. Be very careful before you jump to the conclusion that you are the only believer in your school or job or neighborhood. The Lord still has other believers sprinkled around.
Certainly the 7000 secret believers should have been more outspoken and more publicly supportive of Elijah’s ministry. They really did have a responsibility to stand up and be counted as believers. But at least they were hanging in there! They had not bowed the knee or kissed the pagan image. And the Lord knew them and counted them! Although they were unwilling to be counted in public, they were known by exact number to God. This should be an encouragement to us, especially those of us who are the “silent Christian” type. You know you should be more outspoken about your faith. But at least you haven’t denied the Lord. You’ve resisted the temptation to “bow” and “kiss” the ungodly (things) that pervade our culture. Take heart and be encouraged. God takes note of you–you are one of the “7000”!
It may be significant that 1 Kings 19:18 does not say that the 7000 believed in their hearts. No, it is a much more objective statement: they did not bow the knee or kiss the image. God is looking for evidence in our actions for the faith that is in our hearts. You may not be an up-front and outspoken Elijah, but God still expects that evidence of your faith will be worked out in your life. Even if you can’t find the courage to be very vocal about your faith, continue to be one of the faithful 7000 with unbending knees and undefiled mouth.
There is also a message here for those of us who sometimes find ourselves in Elijah-type roles. Think of how greatly the 7000 must have been encouraged and bolstered in their faith as a result of Elijah’s courageous stand on Mount Carmel! Just maybe, some of those secret 7000 believers would have come out of the woodwork if Elijah had not run away so suddenly. What an awesome responsibility the “Elijahs” have! We may never know how many secret believers are encouraged and helped along the way by the outspoken testimony of an Elijah, or how many are stumbled and hindered and turned off when the Elijahs “throw in the towel” and give up. Remember, Elijahs–the 7000 are watching!
The Scriptures don’t give us much information about most of the 7000, but we do have a few more details about some of them. There was Obadiah (not the Obadiah who wrote the book of the Bible) and the 100 prophets of God whom he hid from Jezebel (1 Kings 18:3-16). There was Elisha, who was being prepared to take Elijah’s place (1 Kings 19:20-21). There were the prophets of God who are mentioned in 1 Kings 20:13, 28 and 35. There was Naboth, who refused to let his family inheritance fall into the hands of King Ahab because God’s law forbade such transactions (1 Kings 21). And certainly the prophet Micaiah would be counted among the 7000 (1 Kings 22).
Some of the 7000 were more outspoken and less secret than others–in fact, Micaiah would later become as fearless and outspoken before Ahab as Elijah had been! Some of these 7000 may have had significant short-comings. Obadiah, for example, was involved in the service of King Ahab, when perhaps he should have separated himself from the corrupt affairs of the royal court. But regardless of the wide differences in their courage and commitment, they had one thing in common: they had not deserted the Lord God–they had not bowed the knee to Baal nor kissed his image!