Modern-Day Elijahs

Modern-Day Elijahs XI: A Nature Like Ours

“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit” (James 5:1318, ESV).

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“Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit” (James 5:17–18). By Spicer, William Ambrose, 1866- [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

As we come to the end of this series about Elijah, the brother of Jesus reminds us of an important fact: “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours.” We can look at that another way: We have a nature like Elijah’s.

Sometimes, we are tempted to think the heroes of the Bible are somehow so different from us that we can never dream of accomplishing what they did. That argument may be true when speaking of Jesus, since He was God in human flesh: We Christians are human flesh with the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, but there is an understandable difference there. However, the other heroes of the faith were ordinary men and women. None of them were like comic-book superheroes: They did not come from a distant planet with superhuman powers, or develop such powers by being bitten by a radioactive spider, exposure to gamma radiation, etc. They were ordinary men and women who had encountered God. God worked through them. The same God lives today to work through us.

Thus, Elijah’s prayers could alter the weather pattern over Israel for three-and-a-half years. The same God who heard Elijah’s prayers is alive today. If He could bring drought or downpour in response to the prophet’s petitions, He can and will answer your prayers for healing, deliverance, restoration, forgiveness, provision, etc. A modern-day Elijah will expect God to act in response to our prayers, or to accomplish whatever He said He would do. The faith of an Elijah recognizes God as a living, active, all-powerful Sovereign over all creation, not as an abstract concept confined within the covers of a book.

Elijah’s life and ministry can be summed up in four activities: He prayed; he listened; he proclaimed; and he obeyed. Almost everything he did in the Bible can be summarized by those four activities. His prayers were not a monologue, reciting a personal wish list to a galactic Santa Claus. Instead, they were a dialogue: He told God what was on his mind (especially during the Mount Horeb meeting, when he complained about his woes), but he also heard what God wanted to tell him. Upon hearing from God, he would proclaim His message to those who needed to hear it (especially those who did not want to hear it), and he would do what God told him to do. Sometimes God told him to hide; sometimes He told him to step out and confront the powerbrokers in society; on another occasion He called Elijah to a meeting on a distant mountain, or to bring other people into the ministry. Whatever Elijah did, though, was connected to his relationship with God. He prayed to God; he listened to God’s instruction; he proclaimed God’s message to the people; and he obeyed God’s instructions for his life.

These are the marks of a man or woman who is eager to impact the world for the glory of God. Our society needs modern-day Elijahs, just like Israel needed a man of his stature 3000 years ago. Twenty-first century America is a post-Christian society where values and morals are guided by pagan beliefs, commercialism, materialism, and unbridled hormones. The Christian, guided by the Word of God, the teachings of Jesus, and the power of the Holy Spirit is a counter-cultural outsider in modern society. Many believers pray for revival in America, but then seek to obtain it through political activism, commercialized church programs, or other means. Only by pursuing revival God’s way—the way He worked through Elijah—will we see a continuing move of God in our world.

Take heart, though. Jesus said that the gates of hell (or Washington, DC; or CNN; or Hollywood; or ISIS; etc.) will not stand against His church (Matthew 16:18). The same God who worked through Elijah to keep His name and worship alive in ancient Israel will continue to manifest His name in America and throughout the world. As He preserved 7000 faithful persons who did not kneel to Ba’al, He will preserve a remnant who will continue to follow Him faithfully today. The questions we must each ask ourselves are, “Will I be part of that radical remnant doing God’s will? Will God speak and work through me? Will I be a modern-day Elijah, or will I stand on the fringes of God’s kingdom, as a spectator watching His glory manifested and people come to Christ while having no direct impact?” The opportunity to say “Yes” is available to all who are born of the Spirit through faith in Christ.

Copyright © 2017 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Christian Life, Christians and Culture, Modern-Day Elijahs | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Modern-Day Elijahs X: Elijah, John the Baptist, and You and Me

And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”
(Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie” (John 1:19–27, ESV).

“Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come” (Matthew 11:11–14, ESV)

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Stained glass picture of John the Baptist, by John Stephen Dwyer [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Throughout this series, I have spoken of men and women of God who shared in the “Elijah spirit.” The first to earn this status was his protegé, Elisha, who received a double portion of Elijah’s spirit when he was taken into heaven. Elisha would continue Elijah’s prophetic ministry after him. While the Old Testament speaks of many prophets after them, none shared Elisha’s close association with Elijah.

Then, John the Baptist came. In the last book written in the Old Testament, Malachi prophesied that Elijah would return “before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes” (Malachi 4:5). This inspired a spirit of expectancy among the Jewish people. By Jesus’ time, they were eagerly awaiting the coming of Elijah, since they though that would signal the coming of a Messiah who would put the Romans in their place. So, when John the Baptist rose to prominence, the logical question in their minds was, “Are you Elijah? Are you the Prophet? Are you the Messiah? Who are you?”

John the Baptist denied that he was Elijah. Yet, Jesus said he was. This seems like a contradiction, but it is really two sides of the truth. The two men were essentially answering different questions about John the Baptist’s connection with Elijah.

John was essentially saying, “No, I have never been taken into heaven in a whirlwind by chariots of fire and angels. I have not descended miraculously from heaven. I am an ordinary man, who was born about 30 years ago by natural means to normal parents.” The religious leaders were wondering if John the Baptist was Elijah according to their expectations. “No,” he said, “I’m not what you are expecting.”

In Jesus’ mind, though, John the Baptist walked in the Elijah spirit more than any man who ever lived. As far as He was concerned, John the Baptist fulfilled that prophecy exactly as God intended. He was the forerunner, sent to proclaim the coming of the “great and awesome day of the Lord.”

How did John the Baptist manifest the Elijah spirit? More specifically, how can we, like John, manifest that spirit?

First, John the Baptist preached a message of repentance. Much as Elijah called the people of Israel back to the worship of the true God and away from idols, John the Baptist called the people of his day to obey the revealed will of God in all areas of their lives (Luke 3:7–14). This is also the message that we are called to proclaim. The Gospel of salvation is a message that calls people to turn from an old life of sin to a new, abundant life.

Second, John the Baptist pointed people to Jesus, just like Elijah pointed people to worship the one true God. Neither man sought his own glory. In fact, at the height of John’s popularity, he would tell his disciples, “[Jesus] must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). Likewise, we are called to point people to Jesus—not to our denomination or organization, to another man, to a system of thought, or to ourselves.

Third, both men were engaged in spiritual warfare against the forces of wickedness. Both took their lumps for the kingdom of God because they took a stand against the kingdoms of this world. Elijah’s shining moment was the battle on Mount Carmel, but he spent most of his career taking a stand against an idolatrous king and queen. John the Baptist would lose his head because he had the boldness to say that even the earthly king was subject to the demands of God Almighty.

The man or woman of God in 2018 must be bold to take a stand against the world’s system. Sadly, I think most American Christians are as devoted to a political party or ideology as they are to Jesus. We will overlook, and even justify, the sins of our favorite politician. Instead, we should be bold to look to Jesus as the answer to our world’s problems.

Elijah is considered one of the greatest prophets of the Old Testament. Though his story appears in the New Testament, John the Baptist was the last great prophet of the Old Covenant. He stood as the forerunner of Christ’s ministry. Today, as we follow Christ, we have the legacy of Elijah and John the Baptist.

Luke 1:15 tells us that John the Baptist was “filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.” When we speak of the “Elijah spirit,” it is simply the spirit that empowered Elijah to accomplish his ministry. That spirit is, in fact, the Holy Spirit of God who empowered Elijah and Elisha, filled John the Baptist, and fills and dwells in all who have received Jesus Christ as Lord. The Christian already has the Holy Spirit—the “Elijah spirit”—dwelling within him or her. Are we ready to walk in that Spirit? Are we ready to let every person we meet, and indeed every angel and demon, see that the spirit of God is at work in us?

Copyright © 2017 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

 

Categories: Bible meditations, Christians and Culture, Modern-Day Elijahs | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Modern-Day Elijahs IX: Fathers and Families

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction” (Malachi 4:56, ESV).

Elijah

By 18 century icon painter (Iconostasis of Kizhi monastery, Karelia, Russia) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Elijah ascended into heaven, but his legacy remains. Few biblical prophets share his prominence. Although he did not write any of the books of the Bible, he is considered one of the greatest prophets in Judaism. Only Moses holds higher esteem. When Jesus was transfigured, Moses and Elijah appeared with Him (Matthew 17:1–8).

Part of the reason I called this series “Modern-Day Elijahs” is because God is still seeking men and women to share the “Elijah spirit.” As we will see in the last two articles in this series, the Elijah spirit would reappear in John the Baptist. Yet, all Christians can share the Elijah spirit; James 5:17 shows that all Christians can share Elijah’s prayer power, since he was a “man with a nature like ours.”

Many students of end-time prophecy believe Elijah will return during the great tribulation before Christ returns. They believe he and Moses are the two witnesses in Revelation 11, mainly because the miraculous powers listed in that chapter are similar to theirs. The fact that they have power to shut the sky to prohibit rain (Revelation 11:6) points to some connection with Elijah.

So, do we need the Elijah spirit today? Yes! Malachi 4:56 points out a major area where restoration is needed. This especially relates to Christianity in America.

“He will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers.”

We continue to see a radical breakdown of the biblical pattern for family, and Christians are often as guilty as the rest of society. Here are a few examples of this trend:

Let me emphasize that the final point refers to a general trend: Most single parents are doing the best they can. Many do a great job raising their children, and in some cases the children benefit (especially if one parent was abusive). Also, some people who grew up in seemingly healthy two-parent households end up making bad choices leading to addiction, crime, etc. Nevertheless, the statistics point to some disturbing cultural trends. A restoration of a biblical emphasis on family is necessary.

It is no accident that the Old Testament ends with a promise that Elijah will restore the relationship of fathers and children. Our society needs this restoration: Churches should empower fathers to take a more active role in raising their children. When a father is not present in the home, mature men of God can assume a greater role as mentors and role models. The decline of the family will affect society for generations to follow. Strong men of God should do their part to restore the family as the basic foundation of society.

In his time, Elijah stood up against the greatest sin in his culture: idolatry, from which numerous other evils sprang forth. The modern-day Elijah will have to stand against the modern-day idol of selfishness, which lies at the root of much of the family breakdown. It will require the moral courage of an Elijah, willing to stand even when he feels alone in the world; bold to defy the dominion of darkness that speaks through the voices of politicians, media, entertainment, etc. Without bold men and women of God, though, the future of the nation and society can be very grim.

Copyright © 2017 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Christian Life, Christians and Culture, Current events, Family, Modern-Day Elijahs | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Modern-Day Elijahs VIII: No Turning Back

Now when the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. And Elijah said to Elisha, “Please stay here, for the Lord has sent me as far as Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel. And the sons of the prophets who were in Bethel came out to Elisha and said to him, “Do you know that today the Lord will take away your master from over you?” And he said, “Yes, I know it; keep quiet.”
Elijah said to him, “Elisha, please stay here, for the Lord has sent me to Jericho.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they came to Jericho. The sons of the prophets who were at Jericho drew near to Elisha and said to him, “Do you know that today the Lord will take away your master from over you?” And he answered, “Yes, I know it; keep quiet.”
Then Elijah said to him, “Please stay here, for the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them went on. Fifty men of the sons of the prophets also went and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. Then Elijah took his cloak and rolled it up and struck the water, and the water was parted to the one side and to the other, till the two of them could go over on dry ground.
When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask what I shall do for you, before I am taken from you.” And Elisha said, “Please let there be a double portion of your spirit on me.” And he said, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it shall be so for you, but if you do not see me, it shall not be so.” And as they still went on and talked, behold, chariots of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it and he cried, “My father, my father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” And he saw him no more.
Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them in two pieces. And he took up the cloak of Elijah that had fallen from him and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan.

(Second Kings 2:1–13, ESV)

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A Russian Orthodox icon depicting several key events in the life of Elijah. At the top, Elijah is carried off in a whirlwind by chariots and horses of fire while an angel takes his cloak and drops it to Elisha. Walters Art Museum [Public domain, CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

We do not know how long Elisha followed Elijah. The prophet appointed him during the reign of Ahab. After that king died, there was the short (two years) reign of Ahaziah. Elijah would go to heaven during the reign of Jehoram, the next king. Thus, Elisha followed Elijah for at least two years. It was probably not much longer than that, since God had commanded Elijah to anoint Jehu as king of Israel. Elijah never completed that task, but Elisha would fulfill it (2 Kings 9:1–13).

If Elisha seemed hesitant to follow Elijah at first, his devotion was unquestionable after a few years. Not even the prophet himself could discourage him. From 1 Kings 20 through 2 Kings 1, Elisha seems to sit unmentioned in the background. Elijah still spoke on behalf of the Lord to the kings of Israel, but Elisha is not mentioned. We can only assume that he was watching, listening, and learning. The time would come for Elijah to depart from this world, and then Elisha would fulfill his ministry.

By this time, Elisha probably knew that he was “the next great prophet,” the man chosen to replace Elijah. All of the prophets seemed to know that the day had come for Elijah to leave the world. Several times, other prophets approached Elisha and said, “Do you know that today the Lord will take away your master from over you?” (As if they thought Elisha was the only one person around who was not aware of this, despite his close relationship with Elijah.) Every time, Elisha responded, “Yes, I know it; keep quiet.” In other words, “Yes, I know; I really do not feel like talking about it.” Perhaps all of the prophets struggled with their emotions that day. Elisha really did not want to discuss the situation. Perhaps Elijah wanted to face the moment alone: The man who once complained to God that he felt all alone now wanted to meet his Lord face-to-face, one-on-one, with nobody else around.

Elisha illustrates a key principle of discipleship. Disciples follow, and they do not turn back until God tells them to turn back. Not even Elijah could dissuade Elisha. No emotional impulse could hold him back. His mission was to follow Elijah, and he would stay with him until the last possible moment.

Elisha sought one blessing for his faithfulness: “Please let there be a double portion of your spirit on me.” The most important lesson Elisha had learned was that a true man of God needs the Spirit of God. He could imitate Elijah all he wanted, but it would be completely worthless if the Spirit was not empowering his works and words. So, he insisted on following. He refused to let anybody—not even Elijah himself—discourage him.

Elijah told him that his request would be a hard thing. Yet, if Elisha persisted and kept watching until the last minute, God would grant his request. So he stayed until the Lord sent a majestic escort to bring Elijah, still alive, up to heaven. Even chariots of fire, horses of fire, and a mighty whirlwind could not distract him. He wanted the blessing and remained until he received it.

Although supernatural drama engulfed Elijah, Elisha stood by as an excited observer. At first, it seemed as if nothing dramatic happened to Elisha. However, as the dust settled, he noticed that Elijah had dropped something while leaving. His cloak had fallen off in the midst of the excitement: The same mantle that the prophet had placed on him several years earlier was now in Elisha’s hands. He immediately performed his first miracle, slapping the waters of the Jordan River and asking, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” (2 Kings 2:14). The waters parted for Elisha and all of the prophets knew that the Spirit of God rested on him as He had on Elijah.

The relationship between Elijah and Elisha offers numerous lessons. For a few years, Elisha followed his mentor, learning how to be a prophet. Most importantly though, he learned the character of a man of God. He learned to remain faithful, to refuse to give in to discouragement; to ask, watch, persist, and believe that God will answer even the hardest prayers.

Elijah met Elisha shortly after one of the darkest days in his life. He had gone to Mount Horeb feeling discouraged, alone, and forsaken, and God directed him to anoint his replacement. Elisha would take up Elijah’s mantle and continue to be God’s voice among the Israelites for many years to come.

Copyright © 2017 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Modern-Day Elijahs, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Modern-Day Elijahs VII: The Call to Follow

So he departed from there and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen in front of him, and he was with the twelfth. Elijah passed by him and cast his cloak upon him. And he left the oxen and ran after Elijah and said, “Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.” And he said to him, “Go back again, for what have I done to you?” And he returned from following him and took the yoke of oxen and sacrificed them and boiled their flesh with the yokes of the oxen and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he arose and went after Elijah and assisted him (I Kings 19:1921, ESV).

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Elijah and Elisha. Distant Shores Media/Sweet Publishing [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons.

We continue where our last post left off. Elijah had become discouraged, feeling like his ministry was in vain and he was the last follower of the Lord. Yet, God wanted to reassure him that he was not alone. As Elijah approached the end of his time on Earth, the Lord directed him to prepare for the next generation. Part of that involved “passing the mantle” to the next great prophet, Elisha.

Like Elijah, we often become discouraged. This happens especially when we feel like an entire ministry’s success revolves around us. We may also falsely assume that we will see positive results quickly. If success does not come quickly enough, we think we have wasted our time and energy doing something that we were not good enough to accomplish.

The key purpose of this series is to remind believers that we can and should live with an “Elijah spirit.” As we will see in the last few posts in this series, the ministry of Elijah did not end in 2 Kings 2. God anointed Elisha with the spirit of Elijah (he requested a “double portion” and received it). He also anointed John the Baptist with the spirit of Elijah. To this day, He continues to raise up men and women with the spirit of Elijah. The world and church still needs people like Elijah.The world and church still needs people like Elijah.

Elijah first met Elisha while he was doing something very ordinary. Elisha was “plowing with twelve yoke of oxen.” He was farming, probably like most men in his community. He was not praying; he was not studying the Bible; he was not doing anything to stand out as a spiritual giant. One would not look at Elisha and expect greatness. Yet, God was ready to impart greatness upon him.

God frequently calls the ordinary and anoints them to do extraordinary things. Consider some of the great men of the Bible: Moses and David were tending sheep before God called them; Joseph was an ordinary carpenter before God told him to raise His Son; Peter, James, and John were fishermen. They all had very ordinary jobs, but God called them to play a part in fulfilling the divine plan.

Elijah chose a simple symbolic gesture to communicate Elisha’s calling. He approached him in the field and placed his mantle (or cloak) on his chosen protégé. The message could not be clearer: The prophet wanted Elisha to follow him. First, he wanted to go home and bid his family farewell.

Centuries later, Jesus would invite a man to follow Him and become a disciple. This man would respond in a way that reminds us of Elisha:

Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 12:61–62, ESV).

Clearly, Elisha felt it was necessary to let his parents know why he was abandoning the farm to follow the prophet. But, what did Elijah mean when he responded, “Go back again, for what have I done to you?” A recent Bible paraphrase, the Voice Bible, which presents the biblical stories more like television scripts than conventional stories, may shed light on the meaning of Elijah’s vague statement:

Elijah: Go then. Tell them goodbye. What have I done to you?

Elisha realizes that Elijah is questioning his devotion—will he stay with his parents or become a prophet? Elisha demonstrates his devotion to God by destroying his livelihood.

Perhaps Elijah hears the same wavering in Elisha’s voice that Jesus would hear centuries later. The Israelites had been guilty of “hesitating between two opinions” all along, as Elijah pointed out previously on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:21). Was Elisha hesitating between two opinions as well? Did he know that God was calling him to a special relationship with the great prophet, yet was afraid or anxious about its effect on his relationship with his family? Was he afraid to take a step of faith into the unknown?

Elijah’s concerns were soon eliminated. Elisha did not simply say good-bye to his family. He made it clear that he would not return. He destroyed the oxen and yoke so he could not longer work the fields. He offered them on an altar as a sacrifice to the Lord. Elisha sacrificed his past and present to the Lord as he surrendered his future.

All who seek to serve the Lord will face the same challenge. Will we cling to the past and present—to our comfortable existence—or will we sacrifice them to God? Will we surrender our future to Him? God may not call us out of our present physical circumstances. He may call us to serve Him while we continue in the ordinary occupation in which He found us. However, He will call us out of the comfort zone in our hearts. He calls us to live by His values and vision, not those of the world around us:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:12, ESV).

As we take this bold step, day by day, we continue the legacy of Elijah and Elisha by bringing God’s presence into our ordinary lives.

This post copyright © 2017 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Modern-Day Elijahs, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Modern-Day Elijahs VI: You’re Not Alone

When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. And behold, a voice came to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Then he said, “I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.”

The LORD said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus, and when you have arrived, you shall anoint Hazael king over Aram; and Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint king over Israel; and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place. It shall come about, the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall put to death. Yet I will leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him.”

So he departed from there and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, while he was plowing with twelve pairs of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth. And Elijah passed over to him and threw his mantle on him. He left the oxen and ran after Elijah and said, “Please let me kiss my father and my mother, then I will follow you.” And he said to him, “Go back again, for what have I done to you?” So he returned from following him, and took the pair of oxen and sacrificed them and boiled their flesh with the implements of the oxen, and gave it to the people and they ate. Then he arose and followed Elijah and ministered to him.

[1 Kings 19:13–21. Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.]

[This study continues a series that I stopped writing about a year ago, entitled “Modern-Day Elijahs.” To read other articles in the series, click on “Modern-Day Elijahs” in the “Categories” list on this page. For the first article in the series, click here. For the last article before this one, click here.]

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Elijah on Mount Horeb, from a Greek icon. Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1489939

Elijah is meeting with God, and it is a visit that will change the course of his life and the fate of Israel. Elijah has been discouraged. He feels like his ministry is a failure and that he is the last person in Israel who still worships the God of his ancestors.

Discouragement will enslave us. It will make us believe we are alone, or that we are the only people who have ever encountered our problems. It will make us exaggerate how bad things are and will cause us to overlook what is going well. Take a look at Elijah’s grievances, item by item:

  • “The sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant”—True, but when they saw the fire from heaven igniting Elijah’s offering, they confessed that “The LORD, he is God.” They were at least partially ready to return to Him.
  • They have “torn down Your altars”—But God has already shown that this is not a big deal. He had honored the makeshift altar the prophet built on Mount Carmel. Once they are ready to confess that the Lord is God, they will have no problem restoring the altars and the worship.
  • They have “killed Your prophets with the sword”—As we saw in 1 Kings 18:4, Jezebel did not get all of them. One royal official, Obadiah, was courageous enough to put God first and protect as many prophets as he could. Also, after the duel on Mount Carmel, the people obeyed Elijah’s order to execute the prophets of Ba’al. The tide was turning!
  • “And I alone am left”—Here is the greatest falsehood. Satan is the father of lies, and he will find ways to get you to believe falsehoods. Although I am usually a fan of modern literal translations of Scripture, I think the NASB drops the ball in 1 Kings 19:18, where it quotes God saying, “Yet I will leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him.” The King James Version seems to have it correct here: God had left 7,000 for Himself. (Hebrew does not have verb tenses like English does. Therefore, translators are usually forced to rely on context when determining if a verb is present, past, or future tense. This is one of the greatest challenges in Old Testament translation.)

Contrary to the voices of self-doubt and despair that were screaming inside Elijah’s head, he was not alone. He had acted like he was alone, but there were others around who worshipped his God.

The greatest mistake a man of God can make is to believe that God expects him to walk alone. When Jesus ascended to heaven, He did not slap Peter on the back and say, “Good luck, bro; it’s all on your shoulders now!” He left 11 disciples with the same set of instructions. They were supposed to wait together, and then fulfill the Great Commission together. Ministry is rarely a one-man show.

So, God gave Elijah an assignment: raise up other men to help complete the mission. He did not even have to choose them. God told Elijah whom He had chosen, and Elijah’s job was to anoint them for their ministries. He was to anoint a new king of Aram, a new king of Israel, and a new prophet to continue his ministry.

We can learn a few key principles from God’ instructions. First, God’s authority extends over the rulers of the world. Elijah was running in fear from the wife of the current king. Now, God told Elijah, “Go replace that king!” The servant of God should not cower or cater to politicians. We are called to proclaim God’s authority to the politicians and demand their obedience.

Second, God’s authority extends over all the nations of the world, including those who do not know know Him. Phillippians 2 tells us that every knee shall bow to Jesus: That includes the knees of our President, Congressmen from both political parties, Islamic terrorists, deranged dictators of third-world  nations, etc. Our mission is to speak God’s word and advance His kingdom throughout the world.

Third, this is God’s ministry: Not yours. Ironically, the only one of the three men that Elijah personally anointed was Elisha, his successor as prophet. Elisha anointed Hazael as the new king of Aram and Jehu as the new king of Israel.

When Elijah was taken up to heaven, God was not done speaking to the people. He continued to speak through Elisha and performed even more miracles through him than He did through Elijah. In fact, even though Elijah is considered the greatest Old-Testament prophet, we do not have a book by him. God chose other men to write the prophetic books of the Old Testament.

God was not done with Elijah. In fact, it was through this time of discouragement that God could reveal a greater purpose to Elijah: He was not only called to minister to others, but also to minister with others.

There is a reason why Jesus chose to assemble a team of apostles. He knew that people will give in to defeat and discouragement if they try to do God’s work alone. We are not made to serve Him as soloists. If you are facing discouragement in your walk with God, make sure you have other people around you.

This post copyright © 2017 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Modern-Day Elijahs, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Modern-Day Elijahs V: Time for a Spiritual Retreat

Now Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and even more, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.” And he was afraid and arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree; and he requested for himself that he might die, and said, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers.” He lay down and slept under a juniper tree; and behold, there was an angel touching him, and he said to him, “Arise, eat.” Then he looked and behold, there was at his head a bread cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank and lay down again. The angel of the LORD came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise, eat, because the journey is too great for you.” So he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mountain of God.
Then he came there to a cave and lodged there; and behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He said, “I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.”
So He said, “Go forth and stand on the mountain before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD was passing by! And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. And behold, a voice came to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” [1 Kings 19:1–13. Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.]

Having won a mighty battle for the soul of his nation, Elijah had to fight a battle in his own soul. The servant of God must always remember that, if Satan cannot defeat you through the things around you, he will try to conquer you from within. The man who could call fire and rain down from heaven would find himself ready to surrender when Jezebel uttered a verbal threat.

Elijah had taken his stand for God, and God proved that He is greater than the idols the Israelites had been worshipping. On matters of faith conviction, though, some people will not surrender. Jezebel was one such woman. Even if everybody else acknowledged Yahweh as the only true God, she would continue to worship Ba’al.

Even in the face of defeat, Jezebel would not yield: Not to her husband, not to Elijah, and not to a God she refused to worship. She refused to recognize the limits of her authority. No other queen in the Bible was as  bold as her, as quick to usurp the king’s authority. The king was supposed to submit to God, and the queen was supposed to let the king do his job.

In the face of Jezebel’s threats, Elijah was tempted to despair. He was ready to quit, and to give up on life itself. “Now, O Lord, take my life.” He was almost ready to commit suicide, but thankfully he left his life and death in the hands of God. Elijah was ready to quit, but God was not done with him yet.

One might expect God to be angry at a believer—especially a mature believer who should “know better”—for wanting to die, but God chose mercy over wrath. Instead of answering his prayer, God allowed Elijah to take a nap. Then, He sent an angel with food. “Elijah, I understand. You are frightened. You are stressed out. You are tired. You are hungry. But, you’re not finished. Eat and get some rest. I want to meet with you on the same mountain where I first met with Moses (Exodus 3:1) and gave him the Ten Commandments (Deuteronomy 5:2).”

The journey was long, so God gave Elijah two supernatural meals, since the prophet would go 40 days without food. Elijah faced a turning point in his ministry. Just as Israel had needed a miraculous revelation of God’s power a few days earlier, now Elijah needed a miraculous sign of God’s mercy and provision now.

Elijah also needed a new perspective on God. Up until this time, his ministry had focused on God’s total power over the world. This is a God who can hold back rain as long as He chooses. He is a God who can feed those whom He chooses. He can send fire from heaven whenever He desires. But, Elijah was discouraged. That all-powerful God seemed too overwhelming. So, when God appeared to Elijah on the mountain, He did not come in the mighty, rushing wind storm; or the earthquake; or the fire. Instead, He came in a gentle whisper, a still small voice. It was  the sound a loving parent makes when comforting a crying baby who wakes up terrified in the middle of the night.

Elijah had served long enough. He had been busy doing God’s work, being the man God used to reveal Himself to Israel. He may have reached a point where he worked in his own strength. It was no longer a calling; it had degenerated into a mundane job: one with little or no wages, no apparent benefits, but plenty of hostility and disappointment. Elijah needed time away from the action so that he could bring his needs before the Lord. He needed to acknowledge how this ministry has worn him out. He needed a chance to admit his doubts, his frustrations, and his fears. As God’s top spokesman, he felt that he could not let other people know what was running through his mind. But, God knew already. He gave Elijah an opportunity to bare his soul.

This journey into the wilderness was Elijah’s opportunity to stop ministering to others, and to allow God to take care of him. He needed a fresh dose of God’s power in his life. To continue as God’s prophet, he needed to recover.

The modern-day man or woman of God needs that renewal also. Some of us (particularly myself) can be very task- and goal-oriented. We feel like we have to stay busy, and if we stop being busy, we get restless or (even worse) we feel like failures. However, God wants us to come aside and get some rest. In the midst of our busyness, let us not forget to spend time simply enjoying a relationship with the God who loves us and wants to bless us. How can we do that?

  • Schedule regular Sabbath-rest times. God commands His people to take a Sabbath-day’s rest every week (Exodus 20:8–11). He never told us to stop. Jesus merely told us that the Sabbath is meant for man, not man for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27). God created the Sabbath to be a blessing to His people.
  • Spend some time daily in prayer and Bible reading. Let this be a time when God speaks to you. As much as you may be tempted to read your prayer list to God, remember that your first priority is to receive direction, encouragement, strength, guidance, etc., from Him.
  • Set aside time for personal retreats. In addition to some corporate ministry retreats I attend annually (one or two with the members of an order in which I am a brother, and a church men’s retreat), I will usually have one or two solitary retreats a year: 24 hours where I am alone with God. I can come back with new perspective and insight into His will for my life.

Take that time to hear the still, small voice of God whispering to you. The greatest prophet in the Old Testament needed it. So do you.

This post copyright © 2016 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Modern-Day Elijahs | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Modern-Day Elijahs IV: Battling for the Soul of the Nation

(I usually begin my posts about Scripture by reproducing the entire passage at the top of the page. However, this is a lengthy account. Please read 1 Kings 18 before proceeding to this article.)

For three and a half years, Elijah has hidden as a refugee, mostly boarding in the home of a widow in a pagan city. Eventually, though, God would call him back to Israel.

When Elijah prophesied the drought upon the land, he told King Ahab that there would be no rain, “except by my word” (1 Kings 17:1). God planned for Elijah to one day call for rain upon the land. When God disciplines His people, His goal is to bring them closer to Himself, to call for repentance. God’s plan was not to starve Israel out of existence: It was to prove to the people that He, not Ba’al or one of the other false deities of the neighboring lands, controlled the elements.

Elijah would return to Israel to culminate this key purpose of his ministry. The drought, and the upcoming battle of God vs. Ba’al on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:20–40) would be the battle for Israel’s soul. God’s redemptive plan for the world hung in the balance, because He had determined centuries earlier that it would be through the seed of Abraham, the people of Israel, that the nations of the world would be blessed (Genesis 12:1–3).

In times of trial, there can be three results. The righteous may rise up and become more diligent in serving the Lord. Obadiah, a servant of the royal family, protected a handful of prophets while Jezebel continued to kill as many servants of God as she could. Some who are not following God may repent and become believers (I believe this was the case with the widow in Zarephath). Others, though, may become even more hardened against God. When Ahab finally saw Elijah, after three years of drought, he blamed the prophet for the nation’s hardships:

When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is this you, you troubler of Israel?” He said, “I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father’s house have, because you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord and you have followed the Baals” (1 Kings 18:17–18).

Who is the true troublemaker? The one who rejects God, demands that others follow in his rebellion, and brings condemnation upon himself and his followers? Or, the person who warns of the danger?

The answer to those questions hinged on a more foundational question: Is there a true God and, if so, who is He? Elijah served Yahweh, the LORD, the God who had made a covenant with Abraham and his descendants (the nation of Israel) and gave His law to Moses. Ahab and his wife, Jezebel, believed Ba’al was the greatest god (but, not the only one). The prolonged drought was Yahweh’s method of showing that He was the one true God. Even though the people thought Ba’al was a nature deity, who controlled the weather, Yahweh had held back any rain that Ahab sought from his god.

It was time for a battle for the soul of the nation. The people of Israel must repent and return to their God. Their calling, to be a blessing to all the world (by bringing forth its Messiah, Jesus) hinged on this moment.

The battle seems pretty bizarre, but it was designed to make certain that only a real God could win. Elijah (who thoughts he was the last of the Yahweh-worshippers) would place a sacrifice on an altar. Four-hundred fifty prophets of Ba’al would also. Then, they would each call on their God and ask him to “come and get it.” Let the true God set his offering on fire.

I think that, if any event in the Bible warranted a hilarious YouTube video, it was this “pray-off.” Elijah allowed the prophets of Ba’al to pray all day. They prayed from morning until it was almost time for the evening sacrifice. They danced; they leaped; they screamed; they started cutting themselves. All they heard was Elijah teasing them, suggesting that maybe Ba’al was occupied in the outhouse or taking a long nap.

After a full day of their shenanigans, Elijah decided to take his turn. After dousing the ox and altar with probably the last available water, he said a brief, simple prayer. God answered with a bang. Elijah did all he could to make burning the offering impossible, but nothing is impossible for God.

Modern-day servants of God will usually not be called to engage in quite as dramatic a confrontation against false religion. We are in a battle, though. Like Elijah, modern American Christians find ourselves in the midst of a daily battle for the soul of our nation.

Until recently, Ba’al worship seemed a thing of the past to modern people of faith (this has changed recently, though). While the idols of the ancient world may be a thing of the past, new idols have emerged to war against faith in the one true God of Scripture. Islam, particularly its most radical forms, is committed to world domination and the eradication of all other religions. Secular humanism and other atheistic ideologies stand opposed to Christianity, but often find their way into the church to distort its faith.

Today, some of those false religions proclaim a message of “tolerance.” While certain elements of tolerance are noble and in fact central to the Gospel (we should welcome people of different racial, socioeconomic, and ethnic backgrounds into our churches; we should welcome people regardless of their past; we should forgive), it is proclaimed in a way that denigrates the teachings of Jesus. Biblical tolerance means we accept people despite their flaws and backgrounds, and we exercise grace; it does not mean we pretend that sin does not exist. It does not mean we accept all “ways to God” as equally valid. Jesus said that He is the way, truth, and life, and that nobody comes to the Father except through Him. Biblical tolerance—particularly that taught by Jesus—does not contradict an exclusive claim to absolute truth. (If you have an issue with that, you may bring it up with God.)

The modern-day Elijah is called to pray for God’s kingdom to come, and His will to be done, on Earth as it is in heaven. He is called to proclaim the absolute nature of God’s revelation. He is called to stand for God even when the odds are stacked against him. Finally, he is called to trust God to do the impossible when the entire world has apparently turned its back on Him.

This post copyright © 2016 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Christians and Culture, Modern-Day Elijahs | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

Modern-Day Elijahs III: Healing and Hope

Now it came about after these things that the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became sick; and his sickness was so severe that there was no breath left in him. So she said to Elijah, “What do I have to do with you, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my iniquity to remembrance and to put my son to death!” He said to her, “Give me your son.” Then he took him from her bosom and carried him up to the upper room where he was living, and laid him on his own bed. He called to the Lord and said, “O Lord my God, have You also brought calamity to the widow with whom I am staying, by causing her son to die?” Then he stretched himself upon the child three times, and called to the Lord and said, “O Lord my God, I pray You, let this child’s life return to him.” The Lord heard the voice of Elijah, and the life of the child returned to him and he revived. Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper room into the house and gave him to his mother; and Elijah said, “See, your son is alive.” Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.” [1 Kings 17:17–24. Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.]

Elijah has been obedient to God’s will. When God had a message of judgement, Elijah delivered it. He had relied on God for his provision and protection. However, even the man of God and the widow whom God had appointed to meet his needs could face misfortune. They faced difficulties like everybody else. Even the great man of God would find his faith tested. However, through those trials, he would be reminded that God is able to answer prayers.

The drought lasted three and a half years (James 5:1718). It seems as if Elijah, the widow, and her son were getting by. They were surviving the drought, even though the woman thought she and her son were on the brink of starvation when they met the prophet.

All that would change. After a while, the widow’s son became sick so that “there was no breath left in him.” In that moment of trial, the widow did something many people do. She forgot how, although once on the brink of death, she and her son had survived thanks to the prophet’s presence. Instead, she blamed Elijah and God for this illness.

How easy it is to blame God when sickness or other trials come. Many Christians blame God for their financial problems when they have failed to wisely manage the money He has given them. They may blame problems on Him when they have acted irresponsibly. Some people say, “Everything happens for a reason,” implying that all of their experiences were God’s plan. A few months ago, a meme found its way around social media that responds to this claim: “Everything happens for a reason: Sometimes the reason is that you are stupid and make bad decisions.”

Sometimes, the reason for misfortune is not clear. The best explanation may simply be this: We live in a fallen, imperfect world. Even though God is just, life is not always fair. We may not understand why God allows things to happen, but He is with us even in the midst of our suffering, whether we brought it upon ourselves or it just happened to us. In spite of that, even the person of faith may be tempted to ask, “Why, God? Why?”

When accused and blamed, Elijah did not argue. He did not try to defend himself. He simply brought their need to God. At first, he seems to have wondered if God was punishing them. The widow may have blamed Elijah, and Elijah initially blamed God. Yet, he moved beyond blaming, and to prayer.

God answered by restoring the child’s life. The boy was healed. The widow’s faith grew. Keep in mind, Zarephath was pagan territory. This was not a Jewish widow who had learned the Torah her entire life. She may have worshipped idols her entire life, and hosting Elijah may have been her first exposure to Israel’s faith in the one true God. Yet, because she saw the healing power of God, who provides sustenance to His servants and restores life to the dead, she could say, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.”

Calamity gave way to a miracle. Death was destroyed by life. Despair was conquered by hope. Doubt and blaming God were eradicated and replaced by hope.

We may never have the privilege of bringing a dead child back to life, but Christians are always called to minister as intercessors. Especially when others blame us or question our faith, we should stand as mediators between God and others. It is not our job to prove that we are right; it is our job to bring people before God and trust that He will prove Himself worthy to be trusted.

This post copyright © 2016 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Christian Life, Modern-Day Elijahs | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Modern-Day Elijahs II: Protected and Preserved

Elijah being fed by ravens. "Lanfranco Elie nourri par le corbeau" by Giovanni Lanfranco - Own work by user:Rvalette. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lanfranco_Elie_nourri_par_le_corbeau.jpg#/media/File:Lanfranco_Elie_nourri_par_le_corbeau.jpg

Elijah being fed by ravens. “Lanfranco Elie nourri par le corbeau” by Giovanni Lanfranco – Own work by user:Rvalette. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lanfranco_Elie_nourri_par_le_corbeau.jpg#/media/File:Lanfranco_Elie_nourri_par_le_corbeau.jpg

The word of the Lord came to him, saying, “Go away from here and turn eastward, and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. It shall be that you will drink of the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to provide for you there.” So he went and did according to the word of the Lord, for he went and lived by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he would drink from the brook. It happened after a while that the brook dried up, because there was no rain in the land.
Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and stay there; behold, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.” So he arose and went to Zarephath, and when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks; and he called to her and said, “Please get me a little water in a jar, that I may drink.” As she was going to get it, he called to her and said, “Please bring me a piece of bread in your hand.” But she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have no bread, only a handful of flour in the bowl and a little oil in the jar; and behold, I am gathering a few sticks that I may go in and prepare for me and my son, that we may eat it and die.” Then Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go, do as you have said, but make me a little bread cake from it first and bring it out to me, and afterward you may make one for yourself and for your son. For thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘The bowl of flour shall not be exhausted, nor shall the jar of oil be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain on the face of the earth.’” So she went and did according to the word of Elijah, and she and he and her household ate for many days. The bowl of flour was not exhausted nor did the jar of oil become empty, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke through Elijah. [1 Kings 17:2–16. Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.]

The most important lesson we can learn from the life of Elijah is this: God calls us to be obedient: not popular, wealthy, or successful. Success and provision are in the Lord’s hand, so we should always be eager to seek His blessings, not the things of the world.

The prophet had just taken a bold stand for God. As we saw in the first post in this series, the northern kingdom of Israel had rejected the One True God of Israel and was now “officially” worshiping the Canaanite fertility god, Baal. Elijah declared that HE, as God’s spokesman, would declared when it may rain again—not King Ahab, Queen Jezebel, not one of Baal’s prophets or priests, and not even Baal. Yahweh, the One True God of Israel, controlled the weather, and He would let Elijah know when rain will come again.

Let’s face it, this is not the way to win popularity contests. People do not want to hear that the God you serve is in control of everything (how narrow-minded and exclusive can you be?), and that we all will be held accountable to Him. If they do believe in God, they do not want to hear that His opinion is different from that of most of society, or conflicts with the power-brokers in your nation. If you stand with God, you may find yourself at odds with most of society.

Modern culture tempts American Christians to think that we can rely on the resources of the world for security and satisfaction. That is not true. The prophet Isaiah warned the Israelites of his day against trusting in a mighty empire (Egypt), with its military might, for protection, instead of seeking the strength of the Lord (Isaiah 31:1–3). However, many Christians have failed to learn this lesson. We trust a favorite political party, our education, our media, and a host of other “gods.” We expect our jobs to meet all of our needs. In many cases, our idols are turning against us. We need to return to total reliance upon God almighty.

God protected and preserved Elijah. For much of the biblical account of his life, he lives as fugitive, separated from his own nation who had turned their backs on God. Safety was not found among the Israelites, who had rejected their covenant with the Lord and decided to follow the gods of their pagan neighbors.

As we watch our nation turn our backs on God and reject its Judeo-Christian heritage, we can no longer assume that we can enjoy the security we had in the past. Previous generations of American Christians could trust that our laws had some consistency with, or at least respect for, biblical values. This is no longer the case. When the President of the United States invites the Pope to the White House, and then packs the guest list with homosexual-rights activists and others hostile to church teaching, America can be considered as apostate as King Ahab’s Israel was. Our nation deserves judgment as much as that nation did. Men and women of God cannot trust American values and institutions meet their needs.

It is time for change. Christians must learn to follow God whole-heartedly, as Elijah did. God called Elijah completely out of his comfort zone. His first stop was the brook Cherith, east of the Jordan. This place was “…one of the wildest ravines of the Fertile Crescent, and peculiarly fitted to afford a secure asylum to the persecuted.” Although a fugitive could hide safely there, food still posed a dilemma. God used an unusual way to feed Elijah: breakfast and dinner deliveries from ravens, which were unclean animals according to the Torah (Leviticus 11:13-16).

When the water dried up, God’s next source of protection and provision for Elijah was even more drastic: A widow in a pagan nation. She was at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder, in Queen Jezebel’s home country, in the midst of the drought. God appointed a woman who thought she and her son were going to starve soon to feed and protect the prophet.

The point is that Elijah could not rely on worldly common sense. He had to rely on God’s direction, even when it defied logic. Yet, God protected him, provided everything he needed, and preserved him so that he could complete his mission.

This is the challenge for the American Christian. Under Obamacare, government agencies have ordered Christian organizations to pay for “medical benefits” (abortion, birth control, etc.) that defy their religious beliefs. In the name of “tolerance” and “equal rights, some Christian businesses have been ordered to provide services that defy Scripture. We can no longer trust the United States Constitution to protect us, since the First Amendment rights to freedom of religion have been cast aside in favor of the right to sin and to live apart from God. Our neighbors, even many of our church members, have bowed to the god of the state instead of the God of Scripture.

Let us pray for the courage to follow God when He calls us out of our comfort zone, so that we may be faithful to Him. “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:15-17). The key to persevering with Christ, as a modern-day Elijah, is to choose to love God above all things, even when that seems drastic.

This post copyright © 2015 Michael E.
Lynch. All rights reserved.
Categories: Bible meditations, Current events, Modern-Day Elijahs | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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