In the history of Israel, the character that we are going to discuss has an important message in a distinguished career as God’s spokesman. Elijah the Tishbite (from Gilead, in the North Transjordan area) suddenly appears on the scene at the beginning of 1 Kings 17. He will leave as quickly as he comes, only to reappear three years later to challenge the priests of Baal. His name means, “The Lord is my God,” which is an appropriate name for a man who calls the people back to the worship of Yahweh. It is interesting to note that Elijah is an important person, not only in the Old Testament, but in the new, as well. When John the Baptist comes, it is in or with the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1:17), and some of the people thought he was the return of the “promised Elijah” (John 1:21, Matthew 17:10-13). Elijah is with Moses and Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:3), and some believe that Moses and Elijah are the two witnesses described in Revelation 11:1-14. Elijah isn’t the “polished” person of God that Isaiah and Jeremiah are, but has more of an “edge” to him. He is a reformer who challenges the people to abandon their idols and return to the Lord.
Elijah’s arrival on the scene to share the message of the Lord with Israel (1 Kings 17:1-7) takes place during a very tumultuous time. Wicked King Ahab has permitted his wife Jezebel (yes, that Jezebel) to bring the worship of the idol Baal to Israel, and she has been determined to wipe out the worship of the one, true God. Baal is the Phoenician fertility god “who brings rain and bountiful crops,” and the worship that is associated with this false god is incredibly immoral. As mentioned, the Jewish people depend upon the seasonal rains for the success of their crops. If the Lord doesn’t send the rains in the fall and spring, there would soon be a famine in the land. In the Israelites’ case, the blessings that would come at these times are dependent upon the heart and obedience of the people. God has warned the people that if they were to disobey, the heavens would be turned into bronze and the earth to iron (Deuteronomy 28:23-24). The land belongs to the Lord, and if the people live unholy lives, then the Lord is not going to bless them.
With this background, it is likely that Elijah appears before King Ahab in October, about the time the early rains would have begun. At this time, there had been no rain for six months, and the prophet announces that there will be no rain for the next three years! God holds back the rain because of the fervent prayers of Elijah, and He will send the rain again in response to His servant’s faithful intercession (James 5:17-18). For the next three years, however, the word of Elijah would control the weather in Israel. Like a faithful servant who is attentive to his master’s commands, Elijah stands before the Lord and serves Him. An extended drought, announced and controlled by the prophet would probably get the attention of some people, and would make it clear that Baal the storm god was not a true god at all.
Knowing that persecution is going to come to Elijah from the corrupt king and queen, the Lord sends his servant to a special hiding place…to a brook east of the Jordan River. By leaving the public ministry, Elijah creates a “second drought” for the land…an absence of the Word of Lord. This would be similar to the concept of “giving the people over to the desires of their hearts.” The silence of God’s servant is a judgment from the Lord. At the brook Cherith, Elijah is cared for by some “special servants”…ravens…who bring him bread and meat each morning and evening, much like God provided meat and manna to His people while they were wandering in the wilderness. The raven was considered an unclean and detestable bird in the Mosaic Law, yet God uses these birds to help serve. (There might just be an analogy there somewhere). Much like Abraham, Elijah does not have an outline or blueprint concerning how matters are going to unfold. God directs his servant at each critical juncture, and Elijah obeys by faith. So, even though the brook dries up from the drought, Elijah stays the course, depending upon the Lord for his help.
Gregory Dawson shares this story…On the front porch of his little country store in Illinois, a small businessman stood with his partner. Business had fairly well dried up, and the partner asked, "How much longer can we keep this going?" The owner answered, "It looks as if our business has just about winked out." Then he continued, "You know, I wouldn’t mind so much if I could just do what I want to do. I want to study law. I wouldn’t mind so much if we could sell everything we’ve got and pay all our bills and have just enough left over to buy one book -- Blackstone’s Commentary on English Law, but I guess I can’t." At that moment a strange-looking wagon came up the road. The driver drove it up close to the store porch, then looked at the owner and said, "I’m trying to move my family out west, and I’m out of money. I’ve got a good barrel here that I could sell for fifty cents." The businessman’s eyes went along the wagon and came to the wife looking at him pleadingly, her face thin and emaciated. He slipped his hand into his pocket and took out, according to him, "the last fifty cents I had" and said, "I reckon I could use a good barrel." All day long the barrel sat on the porch of that store. The partner kept chiding the owner about it. Late in the evening the businessman walked out and looked down into the barrel. He saw something in the bottom of it, papers that he hadn’t noticed before. His long arms went down into the barrel and, as he fumbled around, he hit something solid. He pulled out a book and stood dumbfounded: it was Blackstone’s Commentary on English Law. That businessman was Abraham Lincoln. Was it chance or providence?
When we consider how God works in the lives of His people, it is easy take for granted the blessings…big or small…that He sends our way. As we have begun to consider the life of God’s prophet, Elijah, we see that his life and ministry is about getting in line with God’s will, and encouraging others to do the same, then blessings come as the result. When this takes place for us, we can understand and fully realize the providential blessings that the Lord has in store for us!