In our service for God we should always have the gathering of the harvest as our aim. It is a strange farmer who sows but does not have a desire to reap. Yet, before the harvest there must of necessity be the rain. Without that, the efforts of the sower will be to no effect. The rain is always a picture of the blessing of God upon His people, Deut. 11. 13-15; Acts. 14. 17; Zech. 10. 1. How long is it since we experienced and enjoyed the blessing of God’s rain in our lives and assemblies? ‘Too long’, I am sure many would say. It was three and a half years since Elijah had seen the rain and he knew that the reason was the presence of idolatry among the people. God had stated that this very thing would happen if they went after other gods, Deut. 11. 16-17. Yet, even in those dark and evil circumstances, Elijah would bring about a much needed recovery in Israel and at last God would send the rain. In light of that, what was it about Elijah’s service that secured this blessing?
The way that Elijah secured the blessing of God, was not to compromise the truth or seek favour with the king. He recognized that he would have to stand for God’s truth no matter how unfashionable it was at that time. So we see him rebuking the king for his evil ways. Then he rebukes the people for their indecision and lack of conviction and, finally, the prophets of Baal for their ridiculous efforts to call down fire from their god. It took great courage for Elijah to act in such a way, and yet is this not the very feature which is in short supply in the present day? Some have abandoned many aspects of the truth of God in an effort to win the approval of the world. The claims of the gospel are being weakened, the responsibilities of discipleship are being lessened and the truths of gathering are being pushed aside as having no relevance, all in an effort to try to reach society. We should never be abrasive or offensive, but we should know what it is to stand for God’s truth, for without that the ‘rain’ will never come, Rev. 3. 8; 2 Thess. 2. 15.
The procedure which Elijah outlines is not something dreamed up at the last moment. The details here give the impression of something which he had upon his mind and heart for some time. The days at Cherith and Zarephath were days when God was instructing His servant. Here Elijah reveals the plan which will bring down the blessing of the rain. Two bullocks had to be chosen, they had to dress and cut them, lay them on the wood, put no fire under them and then call on their god to answer by fire. There was no hesitation, everything was worked out carefully and precisely. What a lesson for us here, 1 Cor. 14. 40, ‘Let all things be done decently and in order’. How prepared are we when we put our hand to the work of the Lord? Too often the Lord’s work is approached in a half-hearted and casual manner, when we should have prepared meticulously for the activity we are to participate in. We give diligence in our secular activities, and rightly so. We would never think of undertaking a project there without the relevant preparation being made. Why should the Lord’s work be any different? Too often we ‘let go and let God’ and then wonder why there is no blessing. We have a responsibility to approach the work in a diligent and prepared manner, 2 Pet. 1. 4, 10; Jude 3.
Notice that the point of departure is the point of recovery. They had thrown down the altars, so now Elijah will repair them. He takes twelve stones and views the nation as one and not divided. God’s desired condition for His people is unity, never division. Elijah enters into God’s ideal for His people and takes twelve stones, even though at that time the nation was divided into ten tribes and two tribes. Also, he did not build a new altar, he repaired the old one. There was nothing wrong with the old altar. He built on good, tried and proven foundations. This was no time for a novel, different approach. Only when lost ground was recovered, would the rain fall. In 2 Peter we have a ministry for last days. In chapter 1. 12-15, three times over Peter speaks of bringing them into remembrance. If we desire to see the rain, we need to be reminded of the past and to build on solid foundations. Furthermore, it was a burnt offering which Elijah offered, not a sin offering. Elijah realized that if the rain was to come, God must have first place in worship. The altar was a key part of the recovery.
This was the secret of the man’s life, Jas. 5. 17. He recognized that he had a responsibility to do what he could, but also recognized that victory and blessing depended upon God. When Elijah had done all he could, he commits the result to God. Notice three things. He lays hold of the God of the covenant, v. 36; he does everything according to God’s word, v. 36; and he is jealous for the glory of God, v. 37. These principles should mark us in our prayer life. We are coming to a God who is willing and able to bless and indeed He has promised to do so, Mal. 3. 10; Matt. 21. 22. We should ask His blessing only after we have done all we can, according to His word. And in everything we do, we should seek the glory of God. Elijah did this and God sent the rain.
Then the fire of the Lord fell. This was God’s public vindication of His servant and his ways. No sooner had Elijah dealt with the false prophets, in verse 40, than we read ‘for there is a sound of abundance of rain’, v. 41. James tells us that Elijah prayed with prayer, Jas. 5. 17 (JND), and God withheld the rain, but then, v. 18, ‘he prayed again and the heaven gave rain and the earth brought forth her fruit’. This is confirmed in 1 Kings 18, verse 45, which says, ‘and there was a great rain’.
Three and a half years of drought had come to an end, all because one man stood for God and carried out His service according to His word. May we seek to emulate the example of Elijah in our day, so that we may be able to say ‘there is a sound of abundance of rain’, and give God thanks that there was not just the sound of it but that in our experience there was a great rain.