Summary: Elijah is presented as a man of courage, faith and prayer who was rewarded by God in spite of his imperfections. He is held up as an example for us to follow.
Elijah the Tishbite
Elijah the Tishbite is recognized in the New Testament as one of, if not the greatest of the Old Testament prophets. In Matt. 17:1-3 we see Elijah standing on the Mount of Transfiguration side by side with Moses. James in James 5:17-18 uses Elijah as an example of the power of prayer when it is prayed by a righteous man.
Elijah suddenly appears on the scene during the reign of Ahab who reigned from 876 - 854 BC. Elijah is introduced to us very simply in I Kings 17:1 as “Elijah the Tishbite. That is, Elijah is from Tishbe in Gilead.” He is described in II Kings 1:8 as a man who “wore a garment of hair with a belt of leather about his waist.” According to Zech. 13:4, this kind of clothing was typical of the clothing worn by a prophet.
In terms of character, the bible presents Elijah as a man of courage, faith and prayer. But Elijah is also revealed as a man of human weakness during a time of trial.
I. Man of courage. Elijah displays extraordinary courage
A. When he stands before Ahab.
1. Ahab, as king had absolute power, as did most kings of that time. He had the power of life and death over anyone in his kingdom.
2. To make things worse, Ahab was the most wicked king to reign in Israel up to that point. (I Kings 16:29-33).
3. Because of Ahab’s wickedness he was greatly feared by everyone. This included Obadiah, the head of Ahab’s household (I Kings 18:3). Listen to what Obadiah says to Elijah in I Kings 18:14 after Elijah instructs him to tell Ahab that he has found Elijah.
4. Elijah stands boldly before this wicked and godless king and:
a. Announces that God is about to punish Israel by sending a drought. (I Kings 17:1) I Kings 18:1 indicates that the drought lasted for three years. Notice that immediately after Elijah announces the drought, in the very next verse God instructs Elijah to hide from Ahab. With good reason no doubt.
b. Condemns Ahab’s sinfulness. In I Kings 18:18, Elijah stands toe to toe, eyeball to eyeball and declares to Ahab that he has troubled Israel because he has “abandoned the commandments of the Lord and followed the Baals.”
c. Pronounces Ahab’s death. (I Kings 21:20-24)
B. When he stands before a hostile crowd. In I Kings 18:19 Elijah instructs Ahab to assemble the people of Israel as well as the prophets of Baal and Sherah at Mount Carmel. Then in verses 20-22 we read of Elijah’s confrontation with the people.
C. When he stands before the false prophets. (I Kings 18:22-40) It appeared that Elijah was outnumbered 900 to one. The reality was that the prophets of Baal and Asherah were outnumbered two to 900.
II Man of Faith
A. Elijah trusted God to care for him
1. In the wilderness. (I Kings 17:2-7)
2. In the widow’s home. (I Kings 17:8-16)
B. Elijah always obeyed “the word of the Lord.” (I Kings 17:2,5,8-10; 18:1-2)
In I Kings 17:2, God tells Elijah to hide himself. In vs. 5 we read, “So he went and did according to the word of the Lord.”
Then in verse 8-9, God instructs Elijah to go to Zarepath an dwell there. In verse 10 we see him going to Zarepath as God instructed.
In I Kings 18:1, God instructs Elijah to show himself to Ahab. Now the first two instructions were not so difficult to obey. This third one, I would find difficult to follow. But as he had always done in the past, Elijah, in verse 2 “Elijah went to show himself to Ahab.”
III Man of Prayer. Elijah prayed:
A. To bring drought or rain. ( James 5:17-18)
James tells us in James 5:17-18 that Elijah “prayed fervently that it might not rain and for three eyars and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven have rain, and the earth bore its fruit.” Here James presents Elijah as an example of the power of a prayer of a righteous man.
B. To raise the dead. (I Kings 17:17-24)
C. To bring fire from heaven. ( I Kings 18:36-38)
IV An imperfect man
A. Fled from Jezebel ( I Kings 19:1-21)
1. Emotionally drained.
2. Physically exhausted
3. Quit depending on God.
4. Overwhelmed by Jezebel’s threat.
V. Rewarded by God. (II Kings 2:11)
Elijah is regarded as the greatest of the prophets in the Old Testament. Why? Because he was a man of courage, a man of faith and a man of prayer. But, as James tells us, Elijah was a man just like us. He had his moment of weakness in the wilderness. Still God rewarded Elijah by taking him into heaven in a whirlwind.