Today we begin a study of the Old Testament prophet Elijah. James 5:17 tells us that “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours.” He was a person just like you and me—same temptations, difficulties, and discouragements. So, we can relate to him. In 1 Kings 17:1-7 we find three portraits of Elijah:
A. Elijah was a man of confrontation. He hits the ground running (v. 1)! Elijah seems to come out of nowhere, like a bolt of lightning. He arrives unannounced before the king of Israel. He storms in, delivers his message, and then disappears as quickly as he arrived. But we only appreciate what Elijah did when we understand when he lived. First Kings 16:30-33 tells the sad story that idolatry had spread throughout the nation. King Ahab was a wicked man! His wife, Jezebel, was Wicked, with a capital W! Thanks to her influence, “he did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel than all the kings of Israel who were before him”. It wasn’t easy to be a believer in Elijah’s day—but it never is! There is a price tag attached to walking with God. In America, Christians tend to blend into the culture rather than distinguish themselves from it. Even in Elijah’s day there was a group of 7000 prophets who were hiding in caves rather than challenging the cultural rot.
But one solitary figure decided something had to be done, and so Elijah told Ahab, “There won’t be any rain around here until I say so.” God always searches for people of great courage who will be His spokesman. Are you willing to be that man, that woman? There is a three-fold secret to boldness:
- Elijah believed that the God of Israel is alive (v. 1). Do you? Even the great Reformer, Martin Luther, was frequently plagued with discouragement. Once, when immersed in depression, his wife Katharina came downstairs clothed completely in black clothes of mourning. She asked him, “Martin, is God dead? Are we having his funeral?” That experience marked a new chapter in his leadership.
- Elijah believed he was God’s representative. Whom do you live to represent? You are to be a representative of the living God where you work, live, and recreate. Elijah was unimpressed with Ahab’s palace; he was a representative of the living God—the King of the Universe.
- Elijah believed in God’s power. No doubt, Deuteronomy 11:16-17 was in the forefront of his mind when he spoke to Ahab. Do you trust God’s promises? For example, Jesus promised to meet every legitimate need of those who wholeheartedly pursue him (Matthew 6:33). Nothing honors God more than to say, “God, you say this, and I believe it. And with your help, I am going to order my life according to it.”
B. Elijah was a man of concealment. His courage is linked to his private walk with God (v. 2-7). All of us need to get away from distractions, from skeptics, from the demands of work, and get alone with God. God is not impressed with our busyness. He is only impressed with who you are and who you are becoming. Oftentimes, there is a lot of activity in our lives, but not a lot of accomplishment; we are great doers in public, but deficient in our private devotional life (John 4:23-24). Elijah obeyed God’s command to “hide himself” (v. 3).
C. Elijah was a man in crisis. Elijah was sitting by the brook—and it dried up! (v. 7) Have you ever asked God to control you life—and then find that your “brook is drying up”? Christians are not problem-free; we know “The Great Problem Solver”! It is in the midst of life’s greatest trials that God shows Himself to be stronger still. God is interested in developing our faith—and he does this through trials.
APPLICATION / CHALLENGE
- Remember that God is alive and wants to use you in this generation.
- See yourself first as a representative of God and secondarily as a teacher, salesman, engineer…
- Remember that the secret to a life of public spiritual courage is linked to the quality of your private devotional life.
- Remember that the Christian life is not without challenges. In fact, it is though challenges that God develops our faith and character.
TAKE ONE STEP
Each week, write down one doable concrete step of obedience, small or large, that you will put into practice this week. (James 1:22: “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”)