Summary: Characteristics of Elijah's ministry; 5 lessons from God's "School of Faith"
READ 1 KINGS 18:7-15
“Elijah the Tishbite of the inhabitants of Gilead;” this is literally all that we know about his parentage and locality. That’s remarkable considering we know about the genealogies of other prophets and leaders of Israel. Even the term “Tishbite” doesn’t appear again anywhere in the Bible. Dr. Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible says, “Elijah’s sudden, powerful and brief appearances, his undaunted courage and fiery zeal, the brilliancy of his triumphs, the pathos of his despondency, the glory of his departure, and the calm beauty of his reappearance on the Mount of Transfiguration, throw such a halo of brightness around him as is equaled by none of his peers in the sacred story.”
Elijah flashed across the darkest pages of Hebrew history like a comet and then vanished. As we heard from Ahab’s servant, Obadiah, Elijah’s reputation was so great that rumors were rampant how Elijah could be caught up into the air by the Spirit of God and could show up or disappear at any time. This was the reason for Obadiah’s concern regarding making a report to Ahab. How much of this reputation was true and how much exaggerated is up for speculation. There is no speculation, however, regarding his faithfulness to God. Let’s look at,
READ 1 KINGS 18:16-40
Five distinct characteristics identified Elijah’s ministry:
1. Elijah served God well. He didn’t always do it without complaint, but he was obedient. The fact that only Elijah, out of all the prophets alive at that time, only he was willing to stand against the 450 prophets of Baal. Even today we know there can be a big difference between making a confession of faith in the safety of a church as opposed to a confession in a public meeting. To Elijah, there was no difference.
2. He was God’s knife, cutting out the infection of Israel’s idolatry. By the power of God, he went directly to the cause of Israel’s sickness. “How long will you waiver between two opinions?” Elijah demanded. “If the Lord is God, follow Him, but if Baal is God, follow him.” How many gods do we serve in America today – wealth, prestige, comfort, entertainment? How many?
3. Elijah was the rod in God’s hand, chastening Israel. He proclaimed the Word of God, and it was a judgment on the unrighteous. There’s no question about it. God knows how to get our attention.
4. Elijah was God’s mouthpiece, pronouncing judgment, and His judgment was a drought on the land. Elijah never sought his own glory nor did he seek the approval of men. His purpose was to obey God and to be used of God.
5. Elijah was God’s priest – offering a sacrifice for the sins of the people, and his sacrifice brought down fire from heaven. Elijah demonstrated the heart of God in desiring the return of the lost children of Israel. At the mere mention of his name, we think of earthquake, storm, and fire; the scourge of evil kings and the prophet of doom. But there was another side to Elijah’s character and career. God used Elijah to anoint prophets and kings, among them the great prophet Elisha, who was to take up Elijah’s mantle.
By God’s design, Elijah organized schools of prophets who lived on after him. He also called princes and kings back to God. Perhaps he was the most colorful, amazing, and important man alive to serve the Lord in his generation.
How did he come by all this? Only through a long and severe period of schooling in what we could call, “God’s school of faith.” This school had, Five simple lessons.
I. Elijah learned the lesson of provision. Elijah had pronounced God’s judgment of a drought in 1 Kings 17:1, but that raised a question, “How was Elijah supposed to eat?” In essence God said, “I’ll feed you. Drink the water of the brook, and I’ll send ravens to feed you.” When the brook was drying up, Elijah depended on God to provide. He had to! Elijah’s part was to be faithful. God’s part was to provide, and God provided.
How very hard it is for us to learn this lesson! In Genesis 22, we’re told that Abraham learned it when, “Isaac said to his father Abraham, ‘Father! … The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?’ Abraham said, ‘God will provide.’”
Paul said, in Philippians 4, “And my God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Our Christian forefathers learned it, but in times of plenty, some forget, and some never learn this lesson. Why? Because they depend on the world’s understanding, and subsequently, they lack real faith.
We must learn that, “Any rest we receive, any comfort we find, any hope we have, and any encouragement we get during times of suffering is a direct provision from God…… When we begin to realize that, then even the smallest amount of encouragement will cause us to offer praise to God.”