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Elijah (1): Elijah the Tishbite

C Jones, Cardiff

Elijah, whose name means "my God is Jehovah", appears in the Word of God suddenly, dramatically and without any introduction. We read of "Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead" (1 Kings 17.1). Elijah lived at a time when Israel had departed from God and had turned to idolatry. Ahab was king over Israel, and he was married to Jezebel, the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Zidonians. Jezebel, a worshipper of Baal, was an evil, forceful woman, and she influenced Ahab and caused him to do evil. She promoted the worship of Baal in Israel. Ahab did more to provoke God to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him (1 Kings 16.30-33). We learn that "there was none like unto Ahab, which did sell himself to work wickedness in the sight of the Lord, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up" (1 Kings 21.25). Israel's apostasy and wickedness reached a climax in the reign of Ahab, and Elijah came into this foul and wicked environment like a breath of clean, fresh air.

The God before whom I stand

Elijah, a rough, rugged man from the hills, came and confronted Ahab, a dictatorial, evil king who had the power of life and death. Elijah boldly stated that the drought was due to his prayer to God. He said, "As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word" (1 Kings 17.1). We might well wonder at such uncompromising courage. Elijah came before Ahab but was more aware of the fact that he was standing before God than he was of standing before Ahab. He said, "As the Lord God of Israel liveth". The God of Israel was the God that "liveth". He was not a lifeless idol. We can see from what we are told elsewhere in Scripture that before standing in the presence of Ahab, Elijah had knelt in the presence of his Almighty God. He was a sinner, like all men (Rom 3.23). He had emotions and weaknesses such as are common to men. He would have had problems and experienced fear, worry, uncertainty, tiredness and discouragement, but he knew and loved his God and was a man of faith. He spent much time in the presence of God, and was a man of prayer. We read, "Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit" (James 5.17-18). He was very zealous for God and his desire was that the nation of Israel should obey, serve, glorify and worship God (1 Kings 19.10).

Elijah was a man who was separated to God and he knew the Scriptures, which would have included Deuteronomy 11.13-17, where the people were told that if they would love and obey God, then God would send the needed rain so that their crops would grow well, and their animals would be provided with grass. They were also told not to worship other gods. If they worshipped idols then God would withhold the rain and problems and suffering would inevitably result. If they turned away from God they would experience not only a spiritual drought but also a physical dearth. Israel forsook God and worshipped Baal who was thought to be the god of fertility and rain. Elijah prayed earnestly, in faith, and in accordance with the will of God. He prayed for the drought which was mentioned in Deuteronomy 11. Elijah's prayer was that there would be neither rain nor dew unless he prayed for these things. He prayed for the glory of God so that the people might leave the worship of idols, return to the true and living God, and be blessed. Elijah was a righteous man, and "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much" (James 5.16). God heard and answered his prayer.

The source of Elijah's courage was his knowledge and love of God, his separation from the evil around him, his knowledge of the will of God and his obedience to Him. Elijah desired to see God served, obeyed, exalted and worshipped by the people of Israel so that He would be glorified and the people blessed.

Before a man comes out in public to serve God, it is essential that he should have spent much time in private, in praying, and studying the Word of God that he might know and obey God. To know God is to love Him and want to please and serve Him.

Get thee hence and hide thyself

Elijah obeyed God's commands as and when they were given to him, and as soon as he had delivered God's message to Ahab "the word of the Lord came unto him" (1 Kings 17.2). The Lord spoke to Elijah and told him, "Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan (v.3). Elijah, the man of God, did not seek prominence but immediately obeyed God's command to "hide thyself". He was told to separate himself from the evil which was all around him. It was God's will that the nation of Israel should be separated from the other nations and unto Him (Gen 24.3; Ex 33.16; 34.12-16). They should have been separated unto God to worship and serve Him. However, they rebelled against God and were not willing to obey His law and His commandments. In consequence, the nation was chastised by God.

It has always been the will of God that His people should be separated unto Him. God wants believers to be separated from the world and unto Him (2 Cor 6.17; Ps 1.1). The separated believer will find his joy and satisfaction in God and the things of God. He will be separated from the world with all its distracting, spiritually weakening, subtle, sinful allurements and influences which would consume his time, energy and financial and other resources. Separation is not from contact with evil - that is impossible in the secular, idolatrous, pagan and materialistic world in which we live - but the separated believer avoids compromise, compliance, conformity and contamination with evil.

The ravens shall feed thee there

Elijah obeyed God and went to the place to which God had commanded him to go (1 Kings 17.5). He was to hide himself away from the sinful world. He was to obey God and spend time alone with Him. Despite the drought and famine, God promised Elijah, "thou shalt drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there" (v.4). Ravens are the largest of the crows; they are scavengers, and will eat almost anything they can get, whether it is dead or alive. God is omnipotent, He is sovereign, and instead of eating what they obtained the ravens brought Elijah "bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening; and he drank of the brook" (v.6). Cherith means "separation", and God had promised to feed Elijah there, that is, by the brook Cherith. God did not promise him that the ravens would feed him anywhere else. Elijah, the righteous man of faith and prayer, who knew the Scriptures, obeyed God. He was in the will of God and God provided for his needs one day at a time. A believer must be where God would have him to be if he is to be truly blessed of God and be enabled to serve Him in accordance with His will.

During the time he was to be by the brook, Elijah would be alone with God, spending time in prayer and meditation, learning to know and love God even more than he had in the past. The prophet was going to be prepared and strengthened spiritually by God so that he might serve Him in the future. He grew in grace and in the knowledge of God, and it is through time spent with God, in prayer and meditation on the Word of God under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, that a believer will learn to know and love God more and more. The believer will learn the will of God and become increasingly conformed to the image of the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom 8.29). He will be built up in his most holy faith so that he might serve God in accordance with His will and for His glory.

To be continued.


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