Last Sunday I began a sermon series on the prophet Elijah. I call the series Elijah: A Man Like Us.
Elijah suddenly appears on the scene of biblical history, rocketing through the sky and demanding attention. Charles Swindoll says, “God looked for someone who had the backbone to stand alone.”
Why was the prophet needed? 1 Kings 16:30-33 tells us that Ahab ruled the land alongside his wicked wife Jezebel. Ahab “did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him” (16:30). His political alliance of a marriage brought a wife steeped in the worship of Baal. F. B. Meyer calls Jezebel the Lady Macbeth of the Old Testament. She urged her husband on to do evil (1 Kings 21:25).
Here we have a weak-willed man marrying a strong-willed woman who will not submit her life to the Lord. And that spells trouble.
Baal worship fills the land. This pagan worship involved flagrant sexual immorality and bore the markings of demon possession.
God’s prophets are persecuted. Asherah poles stand giving homage to Baal’s girlfriend. God is mocked.
Prophets show up when there is a mess going on. When correction is needed. When God’s Word has been marginalized. Elijah appears to be that man.
Suddenly, God’s Word says, “”Now Elijah, the Tishbite, who was of the settlers of Gilead, said to Ahab, ‘As the LORD, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word’ “ (17:1).
This one verse reveals much about this man.
The name Elijah combines three Hebrew words. El stands for Elohim, the name of God recorded in Genesis 1:1. I is a personal pronoun for “my” or “mine.” Jah is short for Jehovah, the one true God.
In a society turning from God and embracing a plurality of gods, Elijah obviously had godly parents. They named their boy El-i-jah, meaning, “My God is Jehovah.”
Tishbe was such a no-name, small place that the sands of time have completely hidden its whereabouts. We do know it came from the region of Gilead, which was what today we could call the country. It was a place of outdoor life, rugged and leathery – not one of polish and sophistication.
Out of this insignificant location, God raises up one of the great heroes of the Bible. So great that at the Mount of Transfiguration, who appears with Jesus but Moses and Elijah.
Elijah reminds us that the Lord’s eyes are everywhere. Location does not limit Him. Small places and small people can be tools in God's hand. As the Lord reminded Zerubbabel when their work looked small, "Who has despised the day of small things?" (Zechariah 4:10).
Elijah appears in the king’s court with a sharp rebuke. The fear of man would keep many men from speaking. Fearing people is a snare, so says the book of Proverbs (29:25). But Elijah knew a greater King. Tony Evans shares that Elijah had been to the King’s throne, so he could go to this king’s palace.
The prophet declares two realities about God: He is alive, and Elijah stands before Him.
God is alive. We don’t need idols, horoscopes, palm readers, or Ashera poles. We don’t need dead gods when we have living ones. The Creator lives. Our world needs Christians who believe God is real (He. 11:6). We go through trials in order to learn to trust God and learn that God is alive.
Elijah stands before this living God. Elijah had been in his presence. He was a praying man. He mixed the three crucial ingredients for a life of impact: godliness, the Word of God, and a life of prayer.
Without sophistication or protocol, he shakes his fist in the devil’s face and shares a word from God. He doesn’t apologize. He is not ugly. But he speaks.
Charles Swindoll writes, Our Lord is still searching for people who will make a difference. Christians dare not be mediocre. We dare not dissolve into the background or blend into the neutral scenery of this world. Sometimes you have to look long and hard to find someone with the courage to stand alone for God. Is that what we have created today in this age of tolerance and compromise? Elijah’s life teaches us what the Lord requires. God looked for somebody who had the backbone to stand alone.
Elijah teaches us how to stand.
First, he teaches us how to stand before God. The Bible says that he was a man “just like us,” yet his prayers were powerful and effective (James 5:16-17). He spent time with God, which prepared him to spend time with people.
Second, he teaches us how to stand alone. Sometimes we have to go it alone with God. At times we have to be satisfied with the Lord’s favor and speak up for Him. In our home, or office, or school board, or local legislature, or on the ball field.
And third, the prophet teaches us how to stand in the gap on behalf of others. One of the difficult aspects of a prophet’s ministry is that he speaks to those who need his help but don’t want his help. To people who are wrong but think they are right. To folks who profess wisdom but embrace foolishness (Romans 1:22). Prophets risk their reputation and safety to speak truth to those who often reject it.
God is still looking for people who will stand before the living Lord.
I am using several resources for study in this series: Elijah and Lessons from the Life of Elijah by Tony Evans, Elijah: A Man of Heroism and Humility by Charles Swindoll, Elijah: Remaining Steadfast through Uncertainty by Gene Getz, and These are the Days of Elijah by R. T. Kendall.