Elijah (O. T.), Elias (N. T.), 1 Kings 17. 18; James 5. 16-18
John H. Tennant, Edington
Man of Like Passions. James tells us that Elijah was like ourselves. He was bold before Ahab the king, and timid as he ran from Jezebel. At one time he was full of faith and confidence, and at another despondent and despairing as he lay under a juniper tree. He jealously served the Lord God of hosts, but thought on one occasion as he lodged in a cave, that he was the only prophet left. He was human, an earthen vessel, and this makes his experiences so helpful to consider. Like him, we sometimes need to hear the "still small voice" of comfort and encouragement.
Man of God. This remarkable prophet comes on the scene abruptly on God's behalf at a time of crisis, when king Ahab and most of Israel had forsaken Jehovah their God, and had turned to idolatry. His ministry of righteousness had the authority of God, and the judicial miracles that he performed were proof that God was with him. On one occasion, Jesus asked the Jews to believe the works that He was doing, even if they would not believe Him.
Jezebel, daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Zidonians, was a wicked idolatress. The king of Israel's marriage to her was an unequal yoke, and this led to Ahab turning to idols under her influence. What sad results can stem from influence in the wrong direction! We are encouraged to provoke one another unto love and to good works, and to convert the sinner from the error of his ways. But being influenced himself, Ahab led the people of God into the worship of Baal, and it is recorded of him that, as he was stirred up or incited by his wife, there was none like him for very abominably following idols, 1 Kings 21. 25, 26. Those are the conditions under which this man of God ministered and performed his acts of power against the corruption and apostasy of the king. Moses performed miracles of a judicial character, but his objective was to deliver the people of God out of bondage. Elijah's commission was to recover to God the people that he had delivered. Jehovah's two witnesses in a coming day will again do judicial miracles against apostasy. They will complete their testimony, but the beast will leave their bodies in the street of the city where our Lord was crucified, Rev. 11. 3-8. As influenced by Satan, such is man's challenge to the universal rights of God Almighty. In this present dispensation of grace, the Christian understands that all judgment is committed by the Father into the hands of the Son of man. In the spirit of Jesus Christ, our present testimony is to the grace and mercy of God, and to the glory of Christ at God's right hand. The moral character of this servant of God merits consideration.
Man of Prayer - the Sanctuary.
Elijah was a man of prayer, and was known to God. When he left the sanctuary of God's presence, he was consciously aware that God was with him; he could face Ahab with the bold statement that there would be no rain or dew these years, "but according to my word", 1 Kings 17. 1. He stood before the Lord God of Israel, before he stood before Ahab. His boldness, energy and power flowed from communion with God. It is good for young men and women to be engaged in the Lord's work as He pleases. There is much to be done, with many willing workers, but no amount of activity can compensate for the lack of a secret soul-history with God. Spiritual growth and stature depend upon it.
Man of Patience - Cherith and Zarephath. All the prophets of the Lord suffered much in testimony, and many were slain. This is also sometimes the portion of those who would lead godly lives, and the Christian era has not been without its martyrs. The prophet's life was in danger, following his warning to Ahab. The Lord put His protecting hand over His servant, and instructed him to hide himself by the brook Cherith, to drink of the brook, and to eat the food which He had commanded the ravens to bring him morning and evening. In that place of security and isolation, Elijah was wholly dependent upon God for his protection and the supply of his needs. He had to wait patiently to learn the direction of his next move. It was three and a half years before he was asked by the Lord to face Ahab again. The Lord controlled the duration of the drought, and was well aware of the movements and motives of Ahab and Jezebel. In the meantime, He cared for and prepared His servant for the decisive encounter ahead. Elijah experienced the effects of the drought when the brook dried up, but he waited on the Lord for clear direction. The Lord was in charge of servant, resources and events, and the command came to the man of God, "Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon (Sidon), and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee", 1 Kings 17. 9. On the surface it seemed an extraordinary move, for it led right into an area where apostasy held away, but the Lord's servant had no hesitation. He arose and went. He had the same kind of awareness of being divinely led as had Abraham's man servant, "I being in the way, the Lord led me to the house of my master's brethren", Gen. 24. 27. Elijah would learn much from this true widow who was wholly dependent on God. Her faith was tested, but confirmed in the raising of her son to life, and this assured her that Elijah was a man of God. She remained in her own place, still believing in the God of Israel though surrounded by apostasy, and quietly confident that her needs would be met. Godliness with contentment is great gain. Her blessing, like others, shows clearly that it was always God's intention to bless outside the confines of Israel, Luke 4. 21-30.
Man of Power - Carmel. The Lord's time had come for Elijah to confront Ahab. It was not by chance that Obadiah was governor of Ahab's house, and yet he was a firm believer in the Lord. His name is mentioned with credit, in that he shielded one hundred of the prophets of the Lord from slaughter by Jezebel. He was instrumental in bringing Ahab face to face with Elijah, 1 Kings 18. 1-8.
The prophet selects the scene of the contest to be Carmel, and invites Ahab to bring his 450 priests of Baal, along with the 400 prophets of the groves who ate at Jezebel's table. The altar, with its sacrifice to Baal, was erected, and by its side the altar to Jehovah in the twelve stones. The cries of the priests of Baal met only with mockery from Elijah and silence from their god. One call from the prophet of the God of Israel was sufficient to bring down fire from heaven to consume the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, the dust, and to lick up all the water from the trench. The people of Israel were recovered to the Lord their God. It is significant that heaven gave rain and the earth brought forth its fruit only after the Lord's servant was vindicated and the Lord glorified. With divinely given insight, the prophets Isaiah and Habakkuk both speak of the day when "the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea", Isa. 11. 9; Hab. 2. 14.