Elijah: The Prophet of Fire
Part 1
“The Man and his Message”

1 Kings 17:1 “And Elijah the Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead, said to Ahab, ‘As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word.’”

The first thing we notice here is that Elijah steps onto the stage of Bible history literally out of nowhere.

Like a comet that suddenly lights up the whole horizon for a moment then disappears from the night sky…
Elijah suddenly appears like a flash of spiritual brilliance across the darkest pages of Hebrew history.

Elijah entered Israel’s story like a hurricane and went out in a whirlwind, escorted by chariots of fire.

There is a mystery about him.

The name “Elijah” means “My God is the Lord.”
He’s not mentioned one time in Scripture before confronting Ahab.

He’s called a Tishbite in verse 1 but we have no idea where Tishbe was other than somewhere in Gilead.

We don’t know if he had a wife or children, what his livelihood had been, or who his descendants were.

In fact, we know nothing about his past at all.

God chooses this man literally from nowhere.

He simply explodes onto the scene at this crucial juncture of Israel’s decline into idolatry.

We also see that Elijah appears prominently in the pages of Scripture several times after his death.

The last prophecy of the OT is found in Malachi 4:5-6 and it says,

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.”

It’s not saying that the literal Elijah would be resurrected from the dead to appear to the world, but that someone with the same spirit, anointing, and impact would come.

Interestingly, Jesus compared John the Baptist to Elijah:

“Among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist…And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come.”—Matt. 11:11,14

Now again, John was not literally Elijah reincarnated but was, figuratively speaking, very much like him in his spirit and ministry.

Then the apostle James refers to Elijah to encourage us to pray:

“Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years!”—5:17

And then one day Jesus took Peter, James, and John to the top of a mountain:

“After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. 3 Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.”

Moses was there to represent the OT law, and Elijah represented the OT prophets!

Both men were sent from the other side to talk with Jesus!
So over and again, Elijah speckles the pages of Scripture like few others.

As to his appearance, Elijah was not a Hollywood looker.

2 Kings 1:8 says that he wore only a garment of camel’s hair and a belt, and that he was very hairy.

In fact, when a certain person encountered him on a road one day and was later asked what he looked like, he described him as,

“A hairy man wearing a leather belt,” to which the inquirer said, “It is Elijah the Tishbite.”—2 Kings 1:7-8

So this rough, weather beaten looking man, wrapped in camel’s skin, and badly needing a haircut one day knocked on King Ahab’s door with a startling announcement:

“It’s not going to rain until I say so!”

Now this announcement of a coming drought was due to God’s judgment of Israel over their backslidden condition and worship of idols, particularly the god of Baal.

Baal was the supreme false god of ancient Canaan, and God had strictly warned his people to have nothing to do with it.

To the Canaanites, Baal was believed to be the god of RAIN and, as the STORM GOD, was usually depicted holding a raised lightning bolt.

But the worship of Baal was evil.

It included ritual sexual perversion, and the unthinkable sacrifice of children.

Paul the Apostle wrote in 1 Cor. 10:20 that sacrifices made to Baal were actually sacrifices to demons.

The worship of Baal required turning away from the true and living God of the universe.
Hence, God brought Judgment on Israel in the form of a drought to get their attention and turn them back to Himself.

And what had actually brought these things to a head was that King Ahab and his wicked wife, Jezebel, had covered Israel with Baalism and made it the national religion.

They had turned 450 false prophets of Baal loose in the land, spouting lies and teaching heresy.

Scripture says that “Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him.”—1 Kings 16:33

And in an interesting twist, Elijah’s announcement of a drought was, in fact, a declaration of war on Baal, since Baal was believed to be the god of rain.

It’s like God was saying, “Let’s see how your false god of rain helps you when I send a drought!”

Before Ahab even had a chance to slam the front door in Elijah’s face or order him arrested, the prophet made his exit and headed eastward to a bubbling brook called Cherith.

As days turned to weeks, then to months, then to years with no rain, Elijah earned the number one slot on Ahab’s most wanted list.

A nationwide manhunt was undertaken to find him, to no avail—God had hidden his man away until the time he would reappear for a national showdown with Baal’s false prophets on Mt. Carmel.

Now, with that basic information, I want to point out two key things we learn so far from the story of Elijah:

I. National sin will eventually bring God’s judgment

God’s patience had been pushed to the limit with Israel and Ahab.

The Bible talks about a “cup of iniquity” that becomes filled to the brim.

This is a Bible picture used to describe the build up of unrepentant sin.

For instance, God told Abraham that his descendants would live in Egypt for 400 years for one compelling reason:

Gen 15:16 “After four generations your descendants will return here to this land, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.”

The Amorites were one of the Canaanite tribes God would use Israel to drive out of the land.

They were ungodly pagans—child sacrificers, idol worshipers, and indulgers in sexual perversion and immorality of every kind.

Yet God said to Abraham that their sin hadn’t yet filled its appointed measure!
They were given 400 years to repent and avoid judgment, and never did!

Likewise, Jesus said to the Jewish Pharisees of his day:

Matt 23:32 “Fill up, then, the [allotted] measure of the guilt of your fathers’ sins.”

Which they did, and when the cup of their iniquity was full, judgment fell hard on Jerusalem about 4 decades later in 70 AD.

The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Thes. 2:16 regarding the Jews that constantly persecuted him:

“…forbidding us from speaking to the Gentiles (non-Jews) so that they may be saved. So, as always, they fill up [to the brim] the measure of their sins [allotted to them by God]. But [God’s] wrath has come upon them at last [completely and forever].”

So when a nation refuses to repent, the time will come when the cup of their iniquity reaches the brim, and that day had come for Israel in Elijah’s day!

You have to wonder at this point how full America’s cup is?

Then a second lesson we learn from Elijah’s story is:

II. God will raise up nobody’s from nowhere to turn the tide

As we’ve already noted, Elijah came from nowhere.

—He was not a statesman or diplomat.

—He was not a who’s who that everyone recognized.

—He was not rich, famous, or some outstanding talent.

As James wrote, “Elijah was a person just like us.”—5:17

God chose an ordinary nobody to bring a nation to its knees—a nobody from nowhere to confront a king!

And He still raises up nobody’s from nowhere to do His work!

Listen to the Apostle Paul:

1 Cor. 1:26-29 “Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. 27 Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. 28 God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. 29 As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.”

You don’t have to have:

a high IQ,
or be super talented,
or famous,
or rich,
or good looking,
or any of the things the world admires.

No, just be available to God and He will do the rest!

The famous evangelist D.L. Moody once said, “The world has yet to see what God can do with a man fully consecrated to him. By God’s help, I aim to be that man.”


ONE, unrepentant sin finally brings God’s judgment.

TWO, God raises up the unlikely to do the impossible so that no man gets the glory!

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