TITLE: “God Speaks Loudly in the
Worst of Times”
DATE: 10th February 2013
The times in which the prophet Elijah lived were desperate days in every sense of the word. They were days of political and moral turmoil- all rooted in one basic problem: Israel had forsaken her God! Living in 2013 in Windhoek, Namibia, and in God’s world makes me wonder whether there are not some significant lessons to be learned from the life and times of Elijah, for we struggle daily against similar evil influences that will most certainly invite the wrath of God in time to come. Romans 1: 18ff is an eloquent testimony to this fact. Speaking about the Romans; the Roman empire with its ungodly morals was destroyed by Germanic tribes between 470-490 AD. Fate of history or God’s wrath ?
As we embark upon a thoughtful study of the life and times of this fascinating prophet, we will do well to understand the historical background against which he was called by God to be His spokesman in such desperate times.
Setting the Scene : The Seven Evil Kings of Israel
We begin thus with a brief survey of 1 Kings. After David dies, Solomon becomes king. Solomon is the king who started well and ended badly. His many wives turned away his heart from His God after their gods (1 Ki 11:1- 9). God vows to tear the kingdom from him. This happens eventually in 930 BC when Solomon’s son, Rehoboam makes strategic mistakes (due to his reliance on foolish human counselors, and less on God) in the governing of the once great kingdom of David. This always happens when people and leaders stop listening to God. A rebel called Jeroboam persuades 10 of the tribes of Israel to secede, and to form the Northern Kingdom (called Israel) in 931 BC. The northern 10 tribes are usually called Israel; the southern two tribes ( Judah & Benjamin) are usually called Judah.
Jeroboam the leader of the NK was an evil man. He erected images of two golden calves, one at Dan in the north and one at Bethel in the south, and he told his people no longer to go to Jerusalem to worship there. Jeroboam introduced idolatry into the nation, and he was ultimately responsible to bring the wrath of the Lord God upon the people of Israel. “Walking in the ways of Jeroboam” becomes the trademark of all the successive kings of the NK (Israel)
Jeroboam was succeeded by his son Nadab. (1 Ki. 15:25-32) “He did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and walked in the way of his father, and in his sin which he made Israel to sin.” (15:26). Nadab was assassinated after 2 years. Nadab was succeeded by Baasha who reigned for twenty-four years. He did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and walked in the way of Jeroboam and in his sin which he made Israel to sin.” (15:34). Baasha was succeeded by his son, Elah who reigned for two years (1 Ki. 16:8). He was assassinated by Zimri who wiped out the whole dynasty of Baasha (in keeping with a prophetic word- 1 Ki 16:7), and then proclaimed himself king. Zimri only rules for 7 days (1 Ki. 16:15ff), when Omri (who ruled 12 years) takes over the throne (1 Ki. 16:21ff). “Omri did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and did more evil than all who were before him”(v.25). Following Omri’s death, his son Ahab ascends to the throne. He rules for 22 years, and of him it is said that “Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD, more than all who were before him. And as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, he took for his wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went and served Baal and worshiped him. He erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he built in Samaria. And Ahab made an Asherah. Ahab did more to provoke the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him” (1 Ki. 16:30-33). The fact that Ahab had dared to marry Jezebel, a foreign princess of the Sidonians, who also was a committed Baal worshipper, was going to prove to be disastrous for the nation of Israel.
From Jeroboam to Nadab to Baasha to Elah to Zimri to Omri to Ahab the Northern kingdom is going from bad to worse. There appears to be no hope for recovery of the Northern kingdom , but God is not finished with her yet.
Enter Elijah !
Oh, the patience and the mercy of God! Even at this advanced stage of decay, God will send a messenger, a prophet to speak to a king and a people who is spiritually immune to the Word of God.
Our text says: “Now (or ‘and’) Elijah the Tishbite of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab”… (1 Ki.17:1). With dramatic suddenness the prophet of God appears! We we have no description of his genealogy – something so important in Jewish thinking. Like Melchizedek, he emerges from obscurity. We are told is that he comes from Tishbe in Gilead. Gilead was on the eastern side of the Jordan River - today’s Jordan. Before the conquest of Canaan under Joshua, still under the leadership of Moses, the tribes of Reuben, Gad and a ½ tribe of Manasseh decided to settle there. (Numbers 32)
Elijah’s name means “My God is Yahweh.” What an affirmation and reminder is Elijah’s name before this apostate king Ahab of Israel! We shall discover that Elijah is one of the most remarkable figures of the Old Testament, second only to Moses himself, in terms of God’s miraculous power working through him. In the NT John the Baptist is likened to Elijah, to prepare the way of the Lord (see Malachi 4:5 & Luke 1:17). Like John the Baptist, Elijah’s calling was to free Israel from her bondage to Baal and to bring her back under the covenant God of Israel.
Consider what Elijah said to this apostate king Ahab: “As the LORD the God of Israel, lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word!”
Elijah (“My God is Yahweh”) speaks to Ahab in the Name of “the LORD God of Israel” (Yahweh Elohim Israel). LORD (Yahweh or Jehovah) is the revealed covenant name of God.
Elijah says to Ahab: “As the LORD the God of Israel, lives…” ! He speaks in the Name of the living God ! None of the 7 kings of Israel had believed this! They all had acted as if He did not exist. In fact, they had treated YAHWEH as nothing, by openly embracing other gods. The fact that YAHWEH had apparently not judged them so far, made them believe that the LORD had no real existence. Ironically, the dead idols of Baalism which they had set up everywhere were even more silent, as we shall see when Elijah enters into a contest with the prophets of Baal in 18:20. Never think that since God does not respond to every act of unbelief and the sin of men, that He does not exist! Paul reminds the Romans, that for His own reasons, God “was enduring with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction.” (Rom. 9:22). No nation must ever think that if they enjoy peace and prosperity in the midst of gross and blatant sinning , that God is ignoring their sin.God’s wrath is deferred because He acts in mercy, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance (2 Pet 3:9).
HOWEVER, the time had arrived for God to act. 58 years had passed since the kingdom had been divided on account of sin. God had allowed the nation of Israel to continue in its apostasy for these 58 years, BUT NOW He sends an obscure man, Elijah (note in this regard how similar Moses, Elijah, John the Baptist and Jesus are!) from across the river Jordan, to Ahab to announce the judgment of God!
Imagine that! Imagine an obscure nobody going to the president of your country and telling him “ I have just come from the presence of God, and this is what you need to hear! “
Here is the message from YAHWEH via Elijah to Ahab: “There shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word”. The land designated as “flowing with milk and honey” would be turned into a land of drought and barrenness and famine, and therefore death. When God withholds rain, no-one can create it. Jeremiah the prophet asks with tongue -in –cheek, “…are there any among the false gods of the nations that can bring rain?” (Jer 14:22). Well , you know the answer! It didn’t rain, and no one could produce rain. The terrible drought is only broken by the word of the LORD (1 Ki 18:1)
Before the powerful king of Israel stood an obscure man, who in reality was much more powerful than Ahab, because he had stood in the presence of God!
Of this Elijah, James says (carefully explaining that he was a man and not a divine angel, but a man just like us ) “… he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.” (Jas. 5:18)
Before Ahab stood one who knew God, and who knew the power of prayer (the prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working- Jas 5:16). Elijah was conscious of having been in the presence of God. This accounts for his present fearlessness. With God before him and with him, who can be against him?
CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION
What does this text say to us?
Firstly, we are still living in the same world filled with ‘religious unbelievers’ who do not listen to God, and who hate the Word of God! Most of this world is religious! But most of the world and its rulers hate YAHWEH the true God and they hate Christ who calls men and women of the world to forsake their idols and to follow Him.
Secondly, we may be confident and believe that God has not left this world without a Word . There are those who boldly say to the Ahab’s ( the kings and presidents) of our day: “As the LORD, the God of the church lives, before whom I stand…”. Any true church should be such a voice in the political wilderness, and any true church may be expected to be called of God to confront the earthly powers with messages of repentance and judgment.
Thirdly, we must know that while God delays His temporary judgements upon the earth, He will certainly carry them out! I remind you that every earthquake, every pestilence or pandemic, every tsunami and every flood, every war and every cruel ruler are God’s temporary judgments upon the earth. With respect to the cruelties of men, God is not the author of their sin or evil, but He can choose to allow them to carry on their evil designs until His purpose has been accomplished among the nations! This takes biblical wisdom to see and understand.
But mostly it points us to the fact of God’s mercy in Christ. How great is the love of God for this fallen world, that despite such wilful, persistent and arrogant sin, He patiently perseveres with this world. He perseveres with you! Oh, how many times you have sinned against Him. How many times you have profaned His holy Name. How many times you have been faithless! How many times you have chosen to worship your created gods, rather than Him! Still, today He calls you by His Elijah’s and through His Word to trust in His Son, the Lamb of God , who takes away your sin. Will you not repent now and return to Him you prodigal son or daughter? May the rich rain of God’s mercy fall upon your soul as you come today, and may this table spread before us be your invitation to come!
 E.g. 1Ki 16:2,19,26,31
 He looses this fearlessness , when confronted with Jezebel cf 1 Ki. 19:1ff. The simplest explanation is that he expended much spiritual energy in his contest with the prophets of Baal. At this time he needed to have withdrawn back into the presence of God. He was not able to face the threats of Jezebel in his own strength.