In Namibia we know much about drought, and we love to talk about the years where there has been an abundance of rain. The Bible has surprisingly much to say about drought and rain. The Bible frequently attributes drought to God’s judgment in response to man’s sinful, ungodly behaviour. For example, God says through Jeremiah: “You have polluted the land with your vile whoredom. Therefore the showers have been withheld, and the spring rain has not come…” (Jer. 3:2,3). Amos says: “You did not return to me, declares the LORD. I also withheld the rain from you when there were yet three months to the harvest; I would send rain on one city, and send no rain on another city; one field would have rain, and the field on which it did not rain would wither…” (Amos 3: 6,7). Through the prophet Haggai the LORD speaks about “… my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house. Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. And I have called for a drought on the land and the hills, on the grain, the new wine, the oil, on what the ground brings forth, on man and beast, and on all their labours.” (Haggai 1:10,11). The second coming of the Lord will be preceded by famines (due to drought), earthquakes and pestilences (e.g. Matt 24:7; Mk 13:8 ; Lk 21:11).
Positively, God in Leviticus 26:3,4 says: “If you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them, then I will give you your rains in their season , and the lands shall yield its increase…”.
And then there is the fact of God’s mysterious mercy. Despite man’s sin Jesus and Paul remind their hearers that God in His mercy and grace continues to give rain to the good and the evil, the just and the unjust ( Matt 5:45;Acts 14:17).
The biblical worldview is very different from the modern world view which sees rain simply as the result of a weather pattern. There is of course some predictability to rain, and there are scientific explanations as to why the Namib desert receives so little rain - so little, that the Walvis Bay town council has never bothered to invest in street drainage! But if we understand that the so called “ laws of nature” are also God’s laws then we are moving into the realm of biblical worldview , and the complexities associated with weather forecasting are then understood to be the hand of God.
Sadly, sinful men continually wish to divest themselves of the thought that an all seeing, all powerful, omnipresent Creator God should rule this world through His intelligent and good decrees. Oddly enough men resent the thought that God is personally and intimately involved in the governance of this world. They prefer to believe that this world is ruled by fate or by chance. They reckon that on the 16th February 2013 a comet, approx. 50 meters in diameter, 130 000 metric tons in weight, 27 000 kilometers away from the earth, moving at 8 x the speed of the bullet of a high-powered rifle was a lucky miss! From a God centered perspective, this was a warning that God has His own missiles flying around our universe, armed with far greater destructive power than the most lethal atomic weapon found on earth.
While my friend Rod Thomas, a missionary to the city of Sendai in Japan, sees the recent tsunami as God’s hand in the affairs of Japan, the average Japanese makes no such connection. They, like the rest of mankind think of such events as a ‘natural disaster’. Nothing more than that! If the Japanese had seen this tsunami for what it really is, namely a temporary judgment and a loud message from God, then they would have repented like the Ninevites under Jonah’s preaching. They would have heeded the call to repent and return to their true Creator. Lest we think that Japan has no Christian roots or revelation , I remind you that to the best of my knowledge Christ has been proclaimed in Japan by various missionary groups for over 500 years!
Back to Elijah…
We notice that this severe drought in Samaria (17:1) had come about by God’s doing. It would not be broken except at the Word of the LORD (17:1). And now after 3 ½ years since God had first announced the drought through Elijah, the drought was about to come to an end at the Word of the LORD. But, understand , that God first had a work to do before He would send rain. He first was going to smash the conspiracy of evil. The cult of the 450 prophets of Ba’al had to be destroyed, and the people of Israel needed to acknowledge that God was indeed the sovereign LORD of Israel (18:39). This having happened, Elijah could now say to king Ahab:
“Go up, eat and drink, for there is a sound of the rushing of rain” (18:41). When Elijah had said this to Ahab there was as yet no sign or promise of a cloud (see v. 43). Sending his servant 7 times to check whether there was a cloud, his servant said after the 7th time: “behold, a little cloud like a man’s hand is rising from the sea” (v.44). Elijah, by faith in the God who so often works through small, insignificant means knew that the time had come. God was going to multiply that cloud even though it was looking so very unpromising right now. We who live in Namibia know a little about that. When a little grey cloud appears in the morning during rainy season, a heavy thunderstorm may follow a few hours later! Small beginnings often produce wonderful effects as the parable of the mustard seed proves to us. (Matt 13:31,32). So, Elijah, by faith, heard the sound of the rushing of rain even before it had begun to rain. He knew that this had to happen since God’s word and promise was connected to this. Ahab, the apostate king of Israel did of course not see or hear this. And, ironically, he depended on Elijah’s word (which he hated) in this matter.
The hardness of this king’s heart is scary. Yes, he and his people needed rain, and now that Elijah, the man of God promised that there was rain on the way, he could only stuff his face, instead of putting his head between his knees like Elijah in this prayer posture (v. 42), and turning to God, in thankful anticipation of this severe mercy! Do you see the difference between Ahab and Elijah?
Listen again to A.W. Pink’s profound remarks :
“The contrast between Elijah and Ahab was not merely one of personal temperament and taste, but was the difference there is between life and death, light and darkness. But that radical antithesis is not always apparent to the eye of man: the regenerate may walk carnally, and the unregenerate can be very respectable and religious. It is the crises of life which reveal the secrets of our hearts and make it manifest whether we are really new creatures in Christ or merely white-washed worldlings. It is our reaction to the interpositions and judgments of God which brings out what is within us. The children of this world will spend their days in feasting and their nights in revelry though the world be hastening to destruction; but the children of God will betake themselves to the secret place of the Most High and abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
Vv.44-46 : ”And at the seventh time he said, ‘Behold, a little cloud like a man’s hand is rising from the sea.. ‘. And he said: ‘Go up, and say to Ahab, “ Prepare your chariot and go down, lest the rain stop you.” And in a little while the heaven’s grew black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode and went to Jezreel. And the hand of the LORD was on Elijah, and he gathered up his garment and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.”
Faith recognized the hand of Almighty God behind that little cloud, just as earlier, in Chapter 17, by faith, a handful of flour in the widow’s household had been sufficient to sustain 3 people for a few months .
And the hand of the LORD was on Elijah, and he gathered up his garment and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.”
Here is the last thing that I want us to see and ponder: How far God will go to show us His mercy and grace! King Ahab is our example. Let us review what Ahab had seen of God that day. He had seen the reality of Israel’s God in action as the prophets of Ba’al were defeated. He had seen the terrible drought broken and the rain fall in response to the word of Elijah. And now in v. 46 at the end of all these things he is , once again, found face to face with Elijah, the man of God. Elijah was given supernatural strength by God to arrive at the gate of Jezreel before Ahab did. Why? Because God Almighty was forcing Ahab to make a decision. The people had their turn on that day (18:21,39). Now it is Ahab’s turn to make a decision. God was speaking to him loudly and clearly, one more time, and this all against the background of Ahab’s unspeakable ungodliness. He was the one who permitted the Ba’al worship to come to Israel. He himself had participated in such worship (16:31-32). He allowed his wife Jezebel to kill the LORD’s prophets (18:4). He is the one who had at one time intensely persecuted and sought to kill Elijah (18:10,17). And now God offers him another opportunity to return and repent. Never accuse God for not pursuing us sufficiently! This is amazing grace – once again.
But you know the end of the story. Ahab knew the truth, but it did not move him. He was convinced but not converted. Let A.W. Pink have the last word on this: “How many like him are there in the churches today, who have religion in the head but not in the heart: convinced that the gospel is true, yet rejecting it; assured that Christ is mighty to save, yet not surrendering to Him.” 
How the grace of God amazes us again and again. How the generous love of Christ confronts us again and again. How far God will go to send an Elijah into our lives, even as far as the portals of hell. Even there He has His gospel preached to us. We marvel that God has so much patience with us, but that is the nature of His love.(1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
Today, on this Lord’s day and before the Lord’s table we have the privilege to remember the stubborn love of Jesus for us, again! Dear believer, as you participate in this sacred meal today, pray that the love of Christ will not be a merely external thing to you. Call upon the Holy Spirit to help you to let the love of Christ stir your heart anew. Amen
“ May the love of Jesus fill me, as the waters fill the sea
Him exalting, self abasing, this is victory! ( John Greenleaf Whittier,1866)