Elijah is a unique prophet because he left this earth before he died physically (2 Kings 2:11), was prophesied to return (Mal. 4:5), a prophecy which was accomplished through John the Baptist (Mt. 17:12-13), and he appeared with Moses at the transfiguration (Mk. 9:4). Elijah was a godly man as indicated by the meaning of his name, “My God is Jehovah.” There is much for us to learn from this prophet of old.
We are first introduced to Elijah in the following verse: “And Elijah the Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead, said to Ahab, ‘As the LORD God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word’” (1 Kgs. 17:1). Right away, we see Elijah carry out the will of God by rebuking the sins of Ahab. It did not matter that Ahab was the king. All sin has consequences regardless of who you are. At times, those sins can affect everyone, which is what happens with Ahab’s punishment. There would be no rain or dew for the next three and a half years (Lk. 4:25). All Christians should have the spirit of Elijah when it comes to speaking out for the Lord, no matter who stands before us, because no one is above the law of Christ. Exposing sin requires us to be bold and courageous, and we should never be ashamed of what God’s Word calls sin.
After Elijah’s encounter with Ahab, the Lord instructs him to hide by a brook (1 Kgs. 17:2-7). He obeys, and the Lord takes care of him. He has water to drink, and ravens bring him food. When the brook dries up, the Lord tells him to go to Zarephath where a woman is supposed to take care of him (1 Kgs. 17:8-16). When he finds the woman, he learns that she has been hit hard by the drought and was making final preparations for her and her son to die. She only had a handful of flour and a little bit of oil. Elijah performs a miracle which makes the woman’s flour and oil not run out until the drought is over. God provides for His people. Just because hard times come along does not mean that God does not care. He knows what we need, and He will be there for us; why should not worry (Mt. 6:25-34)? Instead, let us put our trust in God as Elijah did.
However, not everything works out like we might hope. For example, this woman’s son gets sick and dies (1 Kgs. 17:17-24). She is not happy about this, but Elijah cries out to God and brings her son back to life. Though God cares for us, He is not going to stop life from happening. People die and babies are born; it is the cycle of life. Though Elijah brought her son back to life physically, we can all be made alive in Christ spiritually when we obey the gospel. When we live faithfully to God, we can know that physical death is just the beginning of eternity (Phil. 1:21-24).
In 1 Kings 18, Elijah meets with Ahab again. Ahab is quick to blame Elijah for the trouble Israel is going through, but Elijah corrects him and tells him that he is the one who has caused the trouble because he stopped obeying the commands of God and had embraced the Baals. Elijah says, “Now therefore, send and gather all Israel to me on Mount Carmel, the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal, and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table” (1Kgs. 18:19).
Elijah is ready to put these prophets to the test because it is time to see who the real God is. The challenge is as follows: “‘Therefore let them give us two bulls; and let them choose one bull for themselves, cut it in pieces, and lay it on the wood, but put no fire under it; and I will prepare the other bull, and lay it on the wood, but put no fire under it. Then you call on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the LORD; and the God who answers by fire, He is God.’ So all the people answered and said, ‘It is well spoken’” (1 Kgs. 18:23-24).
Elijah allows the prophets of Baal to try first. They try all day long, and Elijah points out the obvious. Their god is not listening. Being full of confidence, Elijah gathers the people and takes his turn. He builds an altar to the Lord which includes twelve stones. He gathers the wood and puts the bull on it, but he does not stop there. He also digs a trench around the altar, has the people fill up four buckets of water, and has them drench the bull and the wood. They do this three times, and they even fill up the trench around the alter with additional water.
Elijah cries out to the Lord: “‘Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that You are the LORD God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again.’ Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and the stones and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench. Now when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, ‘The LORD, He is God! The LORD, He is God!’” (1 Kgs. 18:37-39).
What a sight this must have been, but it shows us just how powerful and attentive our God is. Every Christian should have the same confidence Elijah did. Though God is not working miracles in our age, He is always in our corner, and we can draw strength from Him (Phil. 4:13). With God on our side, who can stand against us (Rom. 8:31)? Even if we are the only ones willing to take a stand for the cause of Christ, we are never alone (Heb. 13:5).
After Elijah’s great victory, we find him fearing for his life because Jezebel sent word to him saying she was going to kill him just as he killed the 450 prophets of Baal (1 Kgs. 19:2). So he ran off and hid. As courageous and confident as Elijah was, he was still human. He had a weak moment and even became depressed, but God did not allow him to remain in that state of mind. God came to him and encouraged him by letting him know that he was not alone because there were 7,000 other faithful men (1 Kgs. 19:18). Like Elijah, we might struggle with keeping our confidence in God, especially if we feel like we are the only ones who seem to care. However, we must realize that there are always going to be others who are just as concerned about living for God and keeping His commands as we are. Even if we have a weak moment, we can always re-ignite our faith in the Lord and get busy serving Him again.
God gives Elijah three things to do: “Then the LORD said to him: ‘Go, return on your way to the Wilderness of Damascus; and when you arrive, anoint Hazael as king over Syria. Also you shall anoint Jehu the son of Nimshi as king over Israel. And Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel Meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place’” (1 Kgs. 19:15-16). There is always plenty to do for the Lord. When we focus on serving God, we have less time to be depressed or worried about what others think. Notice also that besides anointing these kings, God wants Elijah to anoint Elisha as his replacement. While it is important to stay busy for the Lord, every Christian should be training and encouraging others to take their place. Imagine if the church only had the elders and preachers it has right now. If other men are not trained to take their place, we will end up with a church without any leadership, which is why it is imperative we train our youth to be the next leaders of the church.
In 1 Kings 21, another scandal happens involving king Ahab and Jezebel. A man named Naboth had a vineyard that Ahab wanted. He tried to buy it but Naboth would not sell it, so Ahab acted like a spoiled child who could not have the toy he wanted. Jezebel fulfills the role of a mother who makes sure her spoiled child gets what he wants, which leads to Naboth being put to death. Now the vineyard belonged to Ahab, but God would not allow this scandal to go unpunished. Elijah’s faith is put to the test once again because God tells him to confront Ahab about this wicked deed done to Ahab and to pronounce judgment on him and his wife (1 Kgs. 21:17-19). Though Elijah had a weak moment earlier when he ran from Jezebel, his faith in God has been restored because he does not hesitate when God tells him to go to Ahab. We must learn to have this same courage in our lives. Like Elijah, we should continue to conquer any fears we have that keep us from serving God as we should. Just because we are weak today, does not mean we have to be weak tomorrow.
Usually when Elijah rebuked Ahab, he did not listen, but this time things were different (1 Kgs. 21:20-29). Ahab allowed the message from God to move him to repentance. Though people may not listen to us at first about God’s Word, it does not mean we should give up. One day, they just might take heed and turn to the Lord. Do not underestimate the power of God’s Word to convert the wicked.
Though Elijah mainly dealt with the sins of Israel, he also sent a letter to Jehoram, the king of Judah, in which he pronounced judgment on him and the people because of their wickedness (2 Chron. 21:12-15). Elijah’s boldness continues to show his trust and faith in God are intact. Let us also continue to grow in our boldness in God and in His truth.
One last event in Elijah’s life is his encounter with King Ahaziah (2 Kgs. 1). The king falls through the lattice of his upper room. Instead of asking the Lord about whether he would recover, he sends his men to ask Baal. Elijah meets these men and rebukes them for trying to go to Baal instead of God, and he sends the men back to the king with the message that he is going to die and never leave his bed. The king is not happy with Elijah, so he sends a captain with his 50 men to get Elijah, but Elijah brings fire down from heaven, which consumes them all. This happens twice. After the third group of men came, the angel of the Lord tells Elijah to go to the king with the same message as before. It is implied that if the king had asked of the Lord instead of Baal, he would have recovered. Ahaziah’s example teaches that no other god, person, or thing can help us like God Almighty. So don’t put your trust in worldly things. Put your trust in God.
In 2 Kings 2, Elijah leaves this earth in a unique way when a chariot of fire appears with horses of fire and separates Elijah and Elisha, and Elijah is taken up into heaven in a whirlwind.
Like Elijah, we must remain faithful until the end (Rev. 2:10). Yes, we may fall short of the glory of God occasionally, but this does not mean we have lost the war. Rather, we have only lost a few battles. Elijah teaches us to never stop fighting the good fight of faith/ If we perservere like him, heaven will be our home as well.