Elijah was a godly man of noble dignity. He was given tremendous authority, and he will be an eternal companion to the Lord Jesus Christ. His standing is on par with Moses, although his ministry was very different. Elijah, like Moses, is coming back as one of the Two Witnesses (Revelations 11). Elijah and Moses also have their ministries linked together at the end of the Old Testament (Malachi 4:4-6). These verses tell us to remember the law of Moses and that God would also send Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord. Elijah’s ministry in this passage is specifically to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the children to the fathers, lest God come and curse the earth. Elijah holds tremendous authority.
The first introduction to the life of Elijah is found in 1 Kings 17:1. He suddenly appears on the pages of history without record of birth or genealogy. “Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, 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.” Then after this declaration, he was told to hide himself, because he was in the kingdom of Israel (the ten northern tribes) governed by Ahab, one of the most wicked men who ever lived. His declaration did indeed vibrate throughout the kingdom after the rain stopped. Thus, God told Elijah to hide himself by the brook Cherith where he could drink the water. There God miraculously sustained him by ravens that brought him fresh meat and bread in the mornings and evenings.
This truth of God’s provision and care was quickened to me a number of years ago when the Lord was pleased to open up the book of Revelation and truths on the Second Coming. The Second Coming of Christ had become one of the favourite themes of preachers on the west coast of the United States at that time. Some enterprising entrepreneurs made some dehydrated food that was called “tribulation food,” priced at two thousand dollars for a year’s supply. Those who could afford it bought with enthusiasm. Many others wondered where the provision would come from, yet God spoke to me so clearly at that time, “As I looked after Elijah, so I will look after My people in the times to come.”
When the brook Cherith dried up, God spoke to Elijah, “I have called a widow of Zarephath to take care of you.” The Lord Jesus later made reference to that, saying that there were many widows at that time, but only one was chosen and given the honour of looking after the prophet (Luke 4:25-26). Elijah went to the widow, and we see how she was tested. With every blessing, there is a test. He commanded her to first give of her meager supplies to provide him with something to eat. Then Elijah declared that her barrel of meal and cruse of oil would not run out before the Lord sent rain. In the same manner, I believe that we are entering the time when we shall have to rely upon God for divine provision in a way that we have never done before. We shall have to come to know the Lord as our Jehovah-Jireh in an ever-increasing way and believe Him for miracles of provision.
Elijah became a participant of his prophecy. It is one thing to say, “There will be no rain except at my word,” when the whole nation is going to suffer, but it is a completely different matter to have to stay and be part of it. He had to believe God for his own provision.
The Lord gave me three words describing Elijah: passion, prayer, and power. They are not comprehensive of Elijah’s ministry or character, but they reveal what God currently wants us to appreciate in the life of His eternal companion. After these three aspects have been covered, we will then study the importance of recommissioning and the preparation for heaven that every one of us has to make.
James 5:17 says, “Elijah 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.” This verse makes it clear that Elijah was a man subjected to like passions. I would like to consider some of the inner fears and discouragements that this prophet had to go through. So often when we look at these great men of God, and even our own pastors, we think they are immune to discouragement and free from problems. We can’t imagine that if tribulation should come their way, they would be able to rise like the surfers on the great waves in Hawaii and sail along on the crests. However, if you know pastors, you know that is not true.
Pastors are made of flesh and blood like the rest of us, and they are three part beings. They have spirits that are illuminated, but they also have these souls that are encompassed with all kinds of emotions. So it was with Elijah.
He manifested the great power of God with fire from heaven that consumed the sacrifice. Afterward he prayed and saw the little cloud that signified the end of the three and a half years of drought. Elijah then ran before the chariots of King Ahab on the road that wound along the valley of Jezreel. That road was probably about 14 miles in length, and Ahab probably had the best horses in Israel. They were in prime condition and able to run extremely fast. Yet Elijah, anointed by God, ran and outdistanced them (1 Kings 18:46). By this, you could depict a man full of the Spirit and the glory of God.
When Ahab came back from his trips, it seems as though he had to give reports to Jezebel. Among those reports was the one that 400 of her chosen prophets had been slain (1 Kings 19:1). Ahab, probably very timid in the presence of his wife, told her that Elijah had slain her prophets. Jezebel, filled with anger and rage, “…sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time” (1 Kings 19:2). This woman was well-known for her wickedness, rage, and blind fury. In Ahab’s name, she could command the entire army of Israel. Elijah fled into the wilderness, came to the juniper tree, and said, “…it is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers” (1 Kings 19:4). There is no record of his fathers. They certainly had not manifested the tremendous power of God that he had. Yet, here he was so broken – just two or three days after manifesting that power – and so discouraged by the words of Jezebel that he sat down under the juniper tree and said, “Would God that I could die.”
Elijah had experienced such heights, but through Jezebel’s anger, he descended into the lowest trough. You cannot go lower than declaring you want to die and asking the Lord if you can.
Elijah was not the only one to feel like this. Job, one of the three most righteous men in the whole of the history of mankind (along with Daniel, and Noah), says in Job 3:3, 21 “Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night in which it was said, There is a man child conceived…Which long for death, but it cometh not; and dig for it more than for hid treasures.” With Job, it was a long trial. Blow after blow came upon him from God. Even his wife told him to give up, and he had to rebuke her. Afterwards, it came to the point where it was almost too much for him.
Because of the constant clamour of the opposition, Jeremiah came to the same place, as we see in Jeremiah 15:10: “Woe is me, my mother, that thou hast borne me a man of strife and a man of contention to the whole earth…” These great men, who had known the very heights and anointing of God, could ascend the very highest pinnacle of spiritual experiences and then plummet to the very depths.
Moses was surrounded by two or three million people in his ministry, whereas Elijah led a very lonely life. In 1 Kings 19, Elijah made this declaration: “I am the only one left yet they seek to take my life.” You see, there was none of the bravado of saying, “I am the anointed of the Lord. I will face them.” God reminded him that there were 7,000 whom He had reserved for Himself, who had not bowed their knee to Baal. Elijah had not met them, and as far as he was concerned, he was the only one.
With Elijah, it was a trial merely a few days in length, from one of the greatest manifestation of God to this time under the juniper tree. This vessel was subject to like passions as we are. Sometimes we have gone into low troughs, and we have experienced very great darkness. Physically, we feel as though we will not make it until the morning because there is such tremendous pressure, and our hearts feel like they are about to explode. We are affected not only in the realm of our emotions, but also in our bodies. Oftentimes at night I have come to the point where I ask the Lord, “Shall I see the morning?” for my body is telling me that it is the end. But the Lord in His mercy has touched me, and I have seen the next morning and many mornings afterwards. These troughs are very real, and are not just confined to those who are weak.
The souls of these godly men became the target of emotions. They wanted to give up and die in their trials. When we feel like this and wonder if God’s promises are going to come to pass, remember: we are not alone. These great men of God have all gone through it. We must learn to encourage ourselves in the Lord during these difficult times (1Samuel 30:6), and keep our eyes on Him rather than on our circumstances. As the Lord lifted Elijah out of the trough, He will lift us up.
In 1 Kings 17:1, we read the words of Elijah: “…there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.” Thus he clearly had the prophetic word in his heart, and he knew that God had spoken when he made that declaration. Why did the heavens not rain? First of all, in the sovereignty of God, He had determined there was going to be a drought for three years. Therefore His messenger declared it. We are told in James 5:17 that, “…he prayed earnestly that it might not rain…” Elijah “prayed earnestly” that it would come to pass. Then afterwards he prayed seven times that it would rain again. In Scriptural numerology, seven speaks of perfection and fullness. That is a big key in the life of this prophet of God.
The heavens were shut both by Elijah’s declaration on behalf of God, together with his travailing in prayer. This is a very important truth. It is not sufficient to prophesy or to hear the word of God. We have to take the next step of praying until these promises come to pass. We would call this the Spirit of intercession. In Galatians 4:19, the apostle Paul said, “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you…” Here, he is likening intercession to birth.
In natural birth there is a new life and promise being formed. At the given time, there is a travail that comes upon the mother to bring forth the child, but the travail does not come upon her until it is the appointed time. She cannot self-induce travail before the time. In Romans 8:26, the apostle Paul says, “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groaning which cannot be uttered.” Therefore, this travail comes in the Spirit at God’s appointed time to bring to pass His promises. Without travail, in the purposes of God for Elijah, there would not have been a fulfilment of prophecy. One can declare God’s will, but there has to be travail in intercession to bring it to pass.
In the life of Jacob, the Lord met him on the other side of the river Jabbok after he had sent all his wives and servants over to meet Esau (Genesis 32 :26). The Lord appeared to him when he was alone. Jacob wrestled with the Lord and would not let Him go until He blessed him. We need to present ourselves before God as intercessors so that at the appointed time, the travail will come to bring forth the child or the promise God has made. Prophecy can be very true. It can indeed come from heaven, and we can declare it accurately. But those promises that God has given to us as a church or as individuals have to be prayed into existence.
Prior to declaring the word and praying earnestly for it to come to pass, Elijah rebuilt the altar. In the same way, we need to build or rebuild the altars of prayer unto the Lord in our hearts, in our families, in our churches, and fellowships. We need to pray together. The altar speaks of dedication and consecration, for the fire came after it was erected. John the Baptist, speaking of the Lord Jesus, said that He would come baptising with the Holy Ghost and fire. Isaiah 4:4 speaks of the fact that God will purge the daughters of Zion with fire by the Spirit of burning. We need the fire of God to purge us. After the fire of God came repentance, an acknowledging of the truth. Then came the outpouring of the rain that brought forth the fruit
Elijah is known as a man of power. We see this in the prophecy of John the Baptist in Luke 1:17 that was given by Gabriel: “And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” John did not perform miracles, but he came in the power of Elijah, and when Elijah spoke, no one disagreed. Someone had a vision of John the Baptist preaching, and recognised that it was not his eloquence that moved the people, but the tremendous anointing that was upon him. When he spoke, people trembled and felt the presence of God. They knew God was speaking, and they had to listen. That is why there was no excuse for those who heard John speak and did not respond in repentance.
Elijah came with noble dignity. What is it that Elijah is coming for again? We find it in Malachi 4:6: “And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers…” Today, it is a very sad historical fact that so many homes are broken. There is no unity between husband and wife. Concerning marriage, the Lord gave me a vision of an isosceles triangle, where Christ was to be at the top, and the husband and wife were to be side by side. When decisions have to be made, both husband and wife are to pray until they are in perfect unity. This vision was given to me at the outset of my marriage. My wife and I would never make a decision until we were in perfect unity. If one did not feel the same as the other, we both would pray until we were in one accord. To the glory of God and my wife, she was able to tell a dear spiritual daughter, “My husband and I have never had an argument.” Malachi 4:6 continues, “…lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” There is a curse when the family is not in divine order. We have to realise that our ears must be open to the Lord and tender toward one another. God’s plan is very clear-cut. Children are a tremendous responsibility, but we will be successful in raising them if we all simply cry out for grace to triumph.
If we look back at Luke 1:17, it continues: “the disobedient to the wisdom of the just.” The ministry of the Holy Spirit is to turn the disobedient ones to the wisdom of the just. We have to understand that the Church is very divided today on worldly music and worldly cultural standards. Many feel that lowering the standard and being like the world is going to attract the unsaved. However, God has only one standard. He said, “I am the same today, yesterday, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). His standards never change, even if the standards of the world do. The Church belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ, and we are to conform to His standards and maintain them. The Spirit of the Lord will be poured out to turn the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, and to give understanding to those who are holy (Proverbs 9:10) in order to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. Elijah was a noble, dignified man who kept the standards of God. As a minister of God, it is important to have a certain nobility and dignity. In other words, the way that we carry ourselves in manner and dress should reflect the Lord, not the world.
After Elijah fled from Jezebel, the angel directed him to Mount Horeb (also known as Mount Sinai) where the law was given. When he arrived there, instead of dying, God turned things around. He gave Elijah a recommissioning and told him who to anoint as kings over the nations. Then he spoke of Elisha, who would be raised up to take his place. Later on, Elijah saw the death of all those who had risen up against him. Ahab died in battle, his son Ahaziah had fire come down upon his messengers, and even the word Elijah had spoken concerning Jezebel was fulfilled about 12 to 14 years after Elijah had been taken to heaven (1 King 21:23). If Elijah had had his prayers of being taken to heaven answered earlier, he would not have been ready. If God had taken Elijah at Mount Horeb, then one of the most marvelous events in the whole history of mankind would not have taken place. God, in His graciousness, recommissioned him.
There were many prophets who were recommissioned. Jeremiah 15:19 reveals the recommissioning of Jeremiah: “Therefore thus saith the LORD, if thou return, then will I bring thee again, and thou shalt stand before me…thou shalt be as my mouth…” He had already been prophesying for a number of years, but here he was bemoaning the fact that he had been born, and the Lord graciously recommissioned him.
Our God is merciful, yet we have to be careful what we ask Him to do. Many years ago, I was the pastor of an evangelical church. Because the Lord told me to introduce the baptism of the Holy Ghost, I had not only the congregation against me, but the whole town as well. When I walked along the street, people would cross to the other side. The pressure of all these people against me was so great that I asked the Lord to take me. I thought that I was in a very good spiritual condition, as I had been declaring God’s Word, and so it would be fine for me to leave this earth. But a couple of nights later, around three o’clock in the morning, the angel of the Lord came. He took me out of my body, and we went to heaven. The nearer I got to heaven, the worse I felt. As I stood at the banks of the river (where you have to pass over before you can get into the gates), my life was shown me from the day
I was born till the day I died. It was all recorded, even things I could not remember. I was saved, baptised in water and in the Holy Ghost, but after I was shown God’s purposes for my life, I knew that I had not fulfilled God’s plan or hit the mark. I was dying before the correct time. Thank God, He erased that prayer of mine to take my life. I would have been sitting in heaven knowing that I had not fulfilled God’s plans, and there would have been much grief. It would be terrible if God gave us what we prayed for when we were in the troughs and were ruled by our emotions, rather than when we have been uplifted and are praying what the Lord desires us to ask for. Thank God, He answers some prayers and not others!
Preparation for Heaven
Second Kings 2 speaks of the progression that Elijah had to take before he was taken up in a whirlwind to heaven. Elijah, Elisha, and many other prophets had received the revelation that Elijah should prepare to go to heaven. The timing was clear-cut. However, we find that he first went to several places. First he went to Gilgal, which speaks of circumcision. It is important for us to help lead others who are on their deathbed to this place of circumcision. In this place, they meet God as the One Who circumcises, and those things that have not been cut away from their lives are severed.
Bethel, symbolising the House of God and family relationships, was the next place Elijah traveled to. Family relationships must be restored and dealt with before someone goes to heaven. There must be reconciliation with family members and confession of any secret sin, along with wholehearted repentance. A believer must have a right relationship with his pastor and his church as well. Then, he comes to Jericho, the place of palms, which speaks of righteousness and straightness. This is symbolised by Jacob’s three names. First he was named Jacob (a deceiver).
Then after wrestling with God, he became Israel (a prince with God, filled with His power). It was only after he died that he was called Jeshurun (straight) in Deuteronomy 32:15. Just as in Jacob’s life, everything has to be put right and made straight in our lives. Jordan, which speaks of the crossing over into heaven, was the last stop that Elijah made. We have to be sure everything is settled before we meet the Lord.
Elijah the prophet is a model for us in these last days. Just as Elijah went through times of loneliness and emotional struggle, we want to ask God to give us grace when we go through our own times of darkness. We want to persevere in prayer and not let Him go until He has fulfilled His promises. Then may we each see the power and glory of God, as Elijah did on Mount Carmel.