It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous; so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. Luke 1:17, NAS
The end-times generation will be full of those who have the “Spirit and Power of Elijah” demonstrated through their lives. There will be many “forerunners” proclaiming the coming of the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord. Today we will review the events of Elijah’s life to see how God taught him to operate in faith and power. Tomorrow, we will apply the lessons of Elijah’s life in order to know what it means for us to operate in the “Spirit and Power of Elijah.”
Elijah’s name means “Yahweh is my God.” He was sent by God to declare to Israel that there was only one true God. In doing this, he had to confront the Baal system and the false worship that much of Israel had been following. The Israelites had come to believe that Baal was the storm god who brought rain to water the earth thereby producing crops that would sustain them. In other words, it was Baal that brought the blessing of food. Not so obvious in this account is that human sexuality played a major role in worshipping this god. Male and female prostitutes performed for Baal in order to arouse him to make rain for them.
Ba‘al religion revolved around the cycles of nature necessary for survival and prosperity in the ancient world, primarily growing crops or raising livestock, as well as the growth of human populations.1
Elijah’s story in 1Kings 17-19 holds many keys for us in the days ahead, both for those that will be raised up as forerunners and for those that are being confronted. Elijah prophesies that there will be no rain for three years. Then the Lord gives him instruction for how he will survive the ensuing famine. During this time, the Lord trains Elijah and develops a great faith in him. By the third year, Elijah was ready to openly confront Baal worship that pervaded Israel.
Lessons for Elijah
Elijah’s prophecy of no rain for three years was not only going to impact Israel, but him as well. God provided a solution for Elijah by telling him to go to the brook Cherith where he would be able to drink from the brook and the ravens would feed him. Elijah was spared from the judgment God was bringing because he obeyed. The word “cherith” means “separation.” God was separating Elijah for his safety from Ahab, but also so that his faith would be built as he learned of God’s supernatural provision. Ravens are birds that do not even provide for their own young. God alone caused the ravens to supply food for Elijah, proving that He was the source of food, fertility and blessing.
When drought began to take hold of the land, the brook dried up and again God gave instruction to Elijah about where to go. He was directed to Zarephath, meaning “refinery,” where he would find a widow that would provide for him. Elijah would have known that widows were normally poor and would be the first to feel the effects of a drought, but he boldly went and asked for what he needed. Even after the woman’s desperate response, Elijah confidently told her that God would provide for her if she obeyed. She honored the word of the prophet, indicating her trust in God not Baal, and therefore, she was blessed. God promised that her flour and oil would not run out until the rains came. The flour and oil, staples in this time, represent life.
Some time later, the widow’s son became very sick and died. Elijah, seeing that only God would be able to restore his life, prayed earnestly and unashamedly. Not only did he lay hands on the boy, but he laid his whole body over him knowing that the power of God in him would be transferred to the boy. This is the first resurrection recorded in the Word. God answered his prayer and through this, once again, showed that He is the God of Life, not Baal. God used this situation to show Elijah that the boy’s condition was representative of Israel’s spiritual condition, and that He had given Elijah the power and authority to speak life back into people. Elijah’s confidence in being a channel for God’s blessing was greatly increased through his encounters in Zarephath.
Next, Elijah began his trek to meet Ahab, but on the way God used an encounter with Obadiah to reveal more to him regarding Israel’s spiritual condition. Obadiah was a genuine believer in Yahweh and he took great care to convince Elijah of this. But Elijah clearly identified the problem by saying to Obadiah, “Go, say to your master…” referring to Ahab. Obadiah held a high position in Ahab’s government so he had to serve Ahab’s interests. His heart was divided in trying to serve two masters. Obadiah had a hard time believing Elijah and therefore, was slow to obey Elijah’s request to go get Ahab. Like Obadiah, many believers in Yahweh at that time in Israel had divided hearts, their faith was weak, they were fearful for their safety, and they were slow to respond to God’s word.
Finally, it came time for Elijah to confront the Spirit of Baal that had captured the mind of Israel. God was ready to challenge what the people of Israel believed. They had not completely rejected Yahweh, they still believed in Him, but they believed in Baal as well. They served them both. Elijah invited Ahab, the king of Israel, and all the people to Mount Carmel for a showdown between Baal and the God of Israel. Elijah would call them to an either/or decision.
God Sets the Stage
God chose a drought because rain was supposed to come from Baal. God strategically chose Mt. Carmel for the showdown because it was thought to be the sacred dwelling place of Baal. Storms and lightening were common there and the ground was very fertile. The word “carmel” means “the garden land.” Here, God let the futility of Baal worship be exposed. He let the prophets of Baal dance wildly in worship and cut themselves to get their god’s attention, shouting and crying, all to no avail.
Elijah, on the other hand, prepared the altar of God and made sure that all things in the natural were contrary to “helping” his God. He flooded the altar and prayed a simple prayer. He asked God to reveal Himself as Israel’s God and that the people would understand that Elijah was being led by God to offer a right sacrifice. He asked for the people’s hearts to be turned back to the One True God.
God’s response to Elijah’s prayer did cause the people to turn their hearts back to Him. He had exposed the deception they were under and they repented. This repentance brought rain and refreshing, it ended the drought.
Elijah had been faithful to God’s call and in the process he had gained much in his knowledge and understanding of his God. Elijah held a passionate conviction that there is but One God and that is Yahweh. He learned to operate by the Spirit of God in him and that brought great power to overthrow the lies and deception of the Baal system.
Tomorrow, we will apply the lessons of Elijah to our generation and learn what it means to operate in the Spirit and Power of Elijah.