Elijah was one of the greatest prophets of the Old Testament. A prophet not only foretold the future, but gave important instruction regarding God’s plan of salvation. That plan centered on the LORD’s promise of a coming Savior, Jesus Christ.
Elijah lived at the time of wicked king Ahab, ruler over the ten northern tribes of Israel. Under the influence of his heathen wife, Jezebel, this king gave up his faith in a coming Savior and turned to the worship of Baal.
Baal was a Phoenician nature-god, specifically a rain-god, to whom people looked for food and fertility. To counter this false god the LORD sent Elijah to tell Ahab that it would not rain until he (Elijah) called for it.
In the ensuing drought God sustained Elijah by sending ravens to bring him food at the brook Kerith. When the brook dried up, the LORD miraculously multiplied a widow’s supply of flour and oil to support her family and the prophet.
After three years the LORD sent Elijah to challenge the 400 priests of Baal to a test at Mount Carmel. Both he and the priests would put a sacrificial bull on the wood of an altar without fire under it. Both would call on their God to send fire. The Baal worshippers implored their god without success. Elijah three times drenched his sacrifice with water and called on the LORD, who consumed not only the sacrifice but even the altar. At the Lord’s command the prophets of Baal were summarily put to death.
As proof that the LORD and not Baal was the true controller of nature, the LORD answered Elijah’s prayer by sending a torrential downpour. Meanwhile at the royal palace, Queen Jezebel, enraged by the death of her priests and by having her false god Baal outdone by the LORD, vowed to kill Elijah.
Now we see even great Elijah showing some human failing. He fled the country, going far south to the Sinai Peninsula. There Elijah complained, “I’ve been very zealous for you, LORD, but I’m the only one left who’s faithful to you, and now they want to kill me too.” Hunkered down in his cave, Elijah wanted to see some powerful display from the LORD. Successively there passed by a mighty wind, an earthquake, and a great fire, but the LORD wasn’t in any of these. Then there came a gentle whisper that informed Elijah there were still 7,000 believers in Israel whom he should go back to serve. How often don’t we too look for something dramatic and overlook the gentle but powerful whisper of God’s Word in Scripture!
Elijah did go back to Israel and served fearlessly and effectively. Eventually he received the great distinction, shared only with Enoch, of being taken to heaven without dying.
Elijah reappears once in the New Testament. He and Moses joined Jesus at the Transfiguration, where they talked about the upcoming suffering and death of the Savior – all of which Elijah had proclaimed already so many years earlier. So the New Testament isn’t really new. Rather, it’s the fulfillment of the Old.
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