I live in a small rural community where people often burn brush, trash, and other debris that they do not want to take the time to dispose of. It is common in the summer and fall to drive past houses where dark clouds of smoke are billowing from the back...
1 Kings tells us of two men. Ahab and Elijah, who two took very different life journeys. I showed you Ahab’s journey, and now I want to show you Elijah’s journey.
If you find yourself in a hard place at a dark time, do not be surprised at this. This is the way God works. It is true that God raises up men and women who walk on the narrow path. And that is what God did in Elijah.
Elijah just appears on the scene. We’re not told anything about his father, his mother or his background. We know very little about Tishbe, the place he’s from, but Elijah is God’s man. God brings out his brightest light in the hardest place at the darkest time.
Try to imagine the scene. Elijah wakes up one day saying, “Today is the day I’m going to tell the truth to the king?” Somehow Elijah arrives in Samaria, gets into the presence of the king and says, “As the Lord the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word” (1 Kings 17:1).
We are not told that Elijah spoke to the king in his palace, but that seems like the most natural place. How did he pull this off? There must have been all kinds of security there. I don’t suppose the king was sitting there waiting to welcome visitors.
One man who is going in a different direction in a darkening culture—where did he find that kind of courage?
He Stood in the Presence of God
As the Lord the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand… (1 Kings 17:1)
What does it mean to stand before the Lord? Picture the palace as Elijah walks up to Ahab. Around the room there are servants, and they are waiting to do whatever the king commands.
The driver of Ahab’s chariot stands before him ready to move at his word.
The waiter stands before Ahab, ready to serve food or drink at the movement of his finger. All around the room the king’s servants stand before him ready at any moment to respond to his direction.
Elijah looks around the room at the men and women who stand before Ahab, and he says “I stand before the Lord.” To stand before the Lord means to come to the place where you are ready, available, and responsive to whatever he commands you to do. In the darkness, we need men and women who are standing before the Lord. Is that you?
He Believed the Word of God
What could Elijah do? Here is one man, surrounded by a tide of evil, more flagrant than in any previous generation. What can he do?
He could believe the Word of God. Elijah did not have the Bible as we have it today. What he would have had is the first five books of Moses, and the history of Joshua, Judges and the books of Samuel. That’s about the first 300 pages of my Bible.
Elijah was a man of the Word, and as he searched the Scriptures, he would have found this promise:
Take care lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them; then… [God] will shut up the heavens, so that there will be no rain… (Deuteronomy 11:16-17)
This is the Word of God—the part of Scripture to which Elijah would have had access. If his people turned aside and served other gods and worshipped them, God said there would be no rain.
Under Ahab this “turning aside” was happening. Not just a few altars to Baal here and there, but a house of Baal constructed and dedicated by the king himself. God’s own people were worshipping idols.
So Elijah began to pray, “O, God, what you warned about is everywhere. Nobody cares about your Word. They think your Word is only words. They think it is only sociology, only psychology. Do what you said.”
He Prayed for the Will of God
Elijah… prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. (James 5:17)
Elijah not only said it wouldn’t rain, and he also prayed it wouldn’t rain. If there’s no rain for three years cattle die and people die. Three years of famine would ruin the economy. He prayed fervently that God would wreck the economy of his own beloved nation! What kind of prayer is that?
Even though Elijah himself would personally share in the suffering, he prayed that it would happen—why? There can only be one answer: Here’s a man who cares more about God’s glory than his own comfort. He cares more about peoples’ eternal destiny than their physical well-being.
There was no doubt about the greatest need of the people in Elijah’s mind: “God, people need to know you live! Whatever it takes in this world for them to know that you are God, do it, so they don’t perish without you in the next.”
It is better to endure any suffering in this world and turn to God than to enjoy any comfort in this world and to live without him.
He Spoke in the Name of God
“As the Lord the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.” (1 Kings 17:1)
Standing before the Lord gave Elijah courage to stand before the king. His engagement with the Word and his submission to God’s will would enable Elijah to speak the truth to the king.
“The Lord the God of Israel lives!” Ahab had never thought about that. He had thought of religion as a branch of sociology to be manipulated for the benefit of politics, an expression of human spirituality, a force in the community that could be used for good social purposes. He had never seriously considered that there was a God who really is.
Suddenly, perhaps for the first time, the thought enters Ahab’s mind: What if there really is a God? What if the Lord, the God of Israel lives?