Summary: This sermon is the first in a series of four exploring the life and ministry of Elijah.
“Elijah” (Part 1)
“My God is Yahweh”
Of all the Old Testament prophets, not one is mentioned more or is held in higher esteem in the New Testament than the prophet Elijah. His ministry is significant for a variety of different reasons and his experiences are valuable to us in a number of ways. This man was so highly regarded by God, that he never saw death, rather he was translated from earth to heaven via a fiery chariot. In fact, according to the scriptures, no other human being has ever exited this earth in such a glorious fashion. There’s no doubt that, among the prophets of God, Elijah was one of the greatest.
His very name; Elijah literally means; “my God is Yahweh.” And how appropriate--seeing that his assignment as Israel’s prophet was to turn the hearts of his countrymen back to his God, Yahweh. And, as we will soon learn, this assignment would prove to be no easy task, for his fellow Israelites were so obsessed with foreign gods that they had all but forgotten the Lord their God.
Over the next few weeks, we will examine together in detail, the “death defying” -- “life promoting” ministry of Elijah. And by doing so, it is my prayer that we too will receive a portion of this same Spirit that enabled him to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds and find hope and peace even in the midst of turmoil and despair.
Elijah’s first appearance in the scriptures is in 1Kings 17. The year is 874BC. By this time, the nation of Israel had long been divided into two kingdoms; the northern kingdom which retained the name Israel, and the southern kingdom of Judah. Obviously, neither kingdom had too much to be proud of since the division, but Israel in particular was wasting no time in forgetting the one true God. No longer did they, as a people, honor the God Who had delivered them from Egypt--no longer did they revere the living God who brought them into the promised land which they now possessed. This northern kingdom had seven previous kings, all of which “did evil in the eyes of the Lord” by leading the people deeper and deeper into idolatry and apostasy.
And in 1Kings 17, when our prophet Elijah is called to report for duty, the nation of Israel is in it’s most depraved spiritual state it has ever seen. This, due largely to the current rule of the most wicked king ever; king Ahab. To get a brief account of his reign as king, let’s look at 1Kings 16:29-33.
29 In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab son of Omri became king of Israel, and he reigned in Samaria over Israel twenty-two years. 30 Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the LORD than any of those before him. 31 He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, but he also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him. 32 He set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he built in Samaria. 33 Ahab also made an Asherah pole and did more to provoke the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger than did all the kings of Israel before him.
Now there’s little doubt that Elijah was well aware of the wickedness of Ahab and the control that the king’s idol-worshipping wife exerted over him. Elijah must have known of Jezebel’s plan to permanently replace the God of Israel with Baal, the god of her homeland. In fact, this was obvious to almost everyone because the persecution of the prophets of God had already began, and it would be only a matter of time until the people would essentially forget Yahweh and wholeheartedly accept Baal as their god. So Elijah is finally commanded by the Lord to deliver this ultimatum to the king:
1 Kings 17:1 “ Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, ‘As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.’”
This judgment that Elijah was pronouncing upon the kingdom of Israel should not have come as a surprise to Ahab nor any of the other Israelites because God had given them fair warning long before--in fact, before they even came into the promised land, they made a covenant with the Lord who was leading them, and this is part of that covenant;
Lev 11:16,17 says; “Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them. 17 Then the LORD’s anger will burn against you, and he will shut the heavens so that it will not rain and the ground will yield no produce, and you will soon perish from the good land the LORD is giving you.”