As we continue our Old Testament study on men who stood for God, we find in Elijah the prophet another excellent example. On two occasions when communicating a message to Ahab, Elijah says, “As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand” (1 Kings 17:1) and, “As the Lord of hosts liveth, before whom I stand” (1 Kings 18:15). These statements unmistakably convey the greatness of his God and the very difficult and serious nature of his task. Conditions in the nation of Israel had reached a very low ebb under the rule of wicked King Ahab and his evil queen, Jezebel. During their reign, idolatry, disobedience to God’s Word, and conformity to the heathen were typical practices. Few desired the ways of the Lord. In these circumstances, God raised up Elijah to stand alone against tremendous odds.
1. Elijah stood before Ahab, foretelling the drought that would strike the nation of Israel (1 Kings 17:1). Confident in his God, Elijah reminded Ahab of the solemn warnings Moses gave to the nation before climbing the slopes of Mount Nebo (Deut 11:16-17). God’s conditions were simple and plain. If the people worshipped Him and obeyed His Word, He would bless them. If they turned away from God to worship and serve other gods, He would close the heavens to prevent rain from falling and the land from yielding her fruit. Ahab had done more to provoke the God of Israel than any other king before him, and the nation had sinned grievously under his rule. In response to this sin, Elijah prayed earnestly that it would not rain (James 5:17). God answered his prayer, and for over three years there was a great drought in Israel. Sin always brings consequences.
During this time of drought, God had special plans for His prophet. Elijah was sustained by ravens at the brook of Cherith, outside of the land of Israel (1 Kings 17:3). Then, later, in the home of a bereft widow in Zarephath of Sidon (Luke 4:26) where meal in the barrel and oil in the cruse never failed until the drought was past. Elijah likely wondered why the Lord allowed him to pass through such privations in obscurity, but he was able to learn that God was faithful: if God led him into these difficult circumstances, God would sustain him. There are times when we must stand alone for God, living in a lonely place as Elijah did. However, in the darkest of days, God always has His testimony. May we stand with humility, being faithful to God’s Word. Many times we may be persecuted because of the stand we take. Expecting this, we should cling to God every day for wisdom and guidance, seeking to bear it graciously for Him. Should we not ask as Micah did, “What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8).
2. Elijah stood before Obadiah with a second message for Ahab (1 Kings 18:15, 24). After a period of over three years, Elijah had returned to tell Ahab another message from God. The king who blamed Elijah for being the “troubler of Israel” is now charged with these words. The day of reckoning for Ahab was fast approaching. Elijah told the king to summon all the prophets of Baal to Mount Carmel. Here God would use Elijah to demonstrate that He was the true God. When the nation was gathered, two altars were raised, one for sacrifice to God and the other to Baal. The God who would answer by fire would be the true God. The false prophets cried in vain for Baal to accept their sacrifice, but with no response. Then Elijah prayed, and God answered his prayer with fire that consumed the sacrifice on his altar. All Israel knew that Elijah’s God was the only true God. To this God, Elijah prayed again, and it rained in abundance (James 5:18).
The spirit and power of Elijah were irresistible. In the New Testament era, we can see others demonstrating a similar power. The first is John the Baptist, another mighty servant of God, described as coming in the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1:17). John the Baptist swayed the children of Israel in his day, standing alone for God as he prepared them to accept the Messiah. In a future day, the two witnesses will also demonstrate power and influence similar to Elijah’s (Rev 11:5,6). Their witness will be so powerful that they will have global impact.
As we conclude our meditations on Elijah, the man who stood before God, King Ahab, and the nation of Israel, may we be challenged to follow his noble example in the degree and sphere where God has called us to serve. Let us seek to emulate faithful Elijah, who took his stand, counted the cost, and gave God’s message in the face of overwhelming opposition. It is faithfulness that will receive the commendation of God in that soon coming day, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”