Elijah and Elisha 6.
- It is the dark days of Israel. [P] Just like we are in dark days spiritually today. The king has married into the royal family of the nation to the north of them, a land that worshipped Baal. And the whole nation had been led into idolatrous worship, forsaking יהוה. The nation was ripe for judgement, and it came in the form of a drought. They had forsaken יהוה, so He forsook the land and declined to send rain upon it. The whole nation had gone astray. But there were a few who had not; there were individuals who had remained true to יהוה. There was Elijah, the man of God [P] יהוה’s spokesman. There was a widow who found life through faith [P], but she was a Gentile, in another country. Then there was Obadiah [P], the servant of יהוה, but we saw that perhaps his loyalty was divided. But as a whole, the nation had followed Baal. Last time we saw this confrontation between this false religion and the true God on Mount Carmel [P]. The whole nation was gathered there! It was to be a showdown – a demonstration of who was really God. That was, and is, the real issue. “If יהוה is God, then follow Him”. We saw this last desperate and futile show of this false religion. They submitted themselves to harsh rituals, were at it all day – but nothing happened. This is how it will be at the end: there will be a rise in religion – but there will be no reality, no God there. So FINALLY we come to when יהוה Himself intervenes. [P] A demonstration of the reality of the TRUE and LIVING GOD! Hallelujah! Don’t you long for יהוה to act?! For all to see that יהוה is mighty! Turn to 1 Kings 18. [P] The false prophets had been at it all day, [P] now Elijah has his turn: [1 Kings 18:30–46 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” So all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of יהוה [P] which had been torn down. Elijah took twelve stones according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of יהוה had come, saying, “Israel shall be your name.” So with the stones he built an altar in the name of יהוה, and he made a trench around the altar, [P] large enough to hold two measures of seed. (that is about 10 litres, the picture gives the wrong impression, the altar would have been much smaller) [P] Then he arranged the wood and cut the ox in pieces and laid it on the wood. And he said, “Fill four pitchers with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.” [P] And he said, “Do it a second time,” and they did it a second time. And he said, “Do it a third time,” and they did it a third time. The water flowed around the altar and he also filled the trench with water. [P] At the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet came near and said, [P] “O יהוה, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant and I have done all these things at Your word. “Answer me, O יהוה, answer me, that this people may know that You, O יהוה, are God, and that You have turned their heart back again.” [P] Then the fire of יהוה fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. When all the people saw it, [P] they fell on their faces; and they said, “יהוה, He is God; יהוה, He is God!” [P] Then Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; do not let one of them escape.” So they seized them; and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there. Now Elijah said to Ahab, “Go up, eat and drink; for there is the sound of the roar of a heavy shower.” So Ahab went up to eat and drink. But Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he crouched down on the earth and put his face between his knees. [P] He said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” So he went up and looked and said, “There is nothing.” And he said, “Go back” seven times. It came about at the seventh time,[P] that he said, “Behold, a cloud as small as a man’s hand is coming up from the sea.” And he said, “Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot and go down, so that the heavy shower does not stop you.’ ” [P] In a little while the sky grew black with clouds and wind, and there was a heavy shower. And Ahab rode and went to Jezreel. Then the hand of יהוה was on Elijah, and he girded up his loins and outran Ahab to Jezreel.] We saw last time that there was a deliberate rejection of God [1 Kings 18:30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” So all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of יהוה which had been torn down.] So after a day-long calling upon Baal, Elijah’s turn came to call upon His God. Elijah called the people to come near – for there was to be no loud demonstrative ranting. He wanted them near to see and hear what took place. In order to see God’s deeds, to hear His voice, we must come near. The altar of יהוה had been torn down. It hadn’t fallen down, fallen into disrepair. It was torn down: a deliberate and wilful act. It was a deliberate rejection of the worship of יהוה. You can remove Baal by destroying idols and, though you can tear down places where יהוה is worshipped and kill His followers, you cannot get rid of יהוה because He is God! He is I AM! Hallelujah! He exists, He is present everywhere, He cannot be destroyed! In coming near to יהוה what has been destroyed must be healed, restored, mended, built back up again. When there has been a turning away from יהוה there needs to be RESTORATION [P]. Have you ever felt that you are not as close to God as you once were? That is when restoration is needed. The altar; place of worship, of sacrifice, of meeting with יהוה, of offering up to Him must first be restored. Elijah built up that which had been torn down. The foundations must be re-laid. For there to be restoration we need to go Back to basics [P] [1 Kings 18:31 Elijah took twelve stones according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of יהוה had come, saying, “Israel shall be your name.”] Elijah re-laid the foundation stones – he went back to the basics. He went back to the very beginning of יהוה establishing a covenant relationship with Israel. He took 12 stones, representing the 12 tribes (not 10 - he included Judah and Benjamin who were now a separate nation) – the 12 sons of Jacob, not the sons of Israel. Elijah went back to the time of the twister, the deceiver, the man going his own way, out of relationship with יהוה, the one who wrestled with God and was changed to Israel. Name is a big deal in the Bible – his name changed from Jacob to Israel. The word of יהוה came to him and he was no longer the same, a new man. He went back to the time when Jacob’s name was changed to Israel, the time relationship was established, the time Israel first came into existence by the word of יהוה. To what יהוה said, to His promise. For restoration we need to get back to God’s Word. This is what Elijah brought them back to. It all started with יהוה – he was bringing them back to that place where it all began. They had torn down their very roots, their foundation, rejecting Him who brought them into being. Elijah went back and rebuilt that foundation, brought them back to basics, to the origins, back to יהוה [1 Kings 18:32–33 So with the stones he built an altar in the Name of the יהוה, and he made a trench around the altar, large enough to hold two measures of seed. Then he arranged the wood and cut the ox in pieces and laid it on the wood.] Name is a big deal – he rebuilt the altar in the name of יהוה – based on His character and nature, not mixing with some other God. Then Elijah did something unusual: [1 Kings 18:34 And he said, “Fill four pitchers with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.” And he said, “Do it a second time,” and they did it a second time. And he said, “Do it a third time,” and they did it a third time.] He ordered water to be poured over the altar. Elijah intended to prove the greatness of God; making it difficult to set alight, he made the task harder for God. There would be no excuse that tinder dry conditions had allowed spontaneous combustion, a spark from a stone etc. The people were going to see that יהוה is ALMIGHTY! This was the hand of God Himself, no accident. They would see that there is no obstacle that we can place that will stand in His way and prevent Him doing what He is going to do. [1 Kings 18:35 The water flowed around the altar and he also filled the trench with water.] The whole thing was sodden with water, even the trench around the altar. Nothing was less likely to be consumed by fire. We may think that we are impervious, but the fire will fall. Elijah will yet call fire from heaven [Revelation 11:5 fire flows out of their mouth and devours their enemies;] Total dedication/sacrifice [P] [1 Kings 18:36 At the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O יהוה, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant and I have done all these things at Your word.] Everything was ready in time for the evening sacrifice (it was a burnt offering picturing total dedication) as instituted by יהוה (Num 28:1-4). False religion requires no sacrifice – it gives the people what they want with the minimum required of them. Elijah “drew near” at the appointed time – came near to the people? Near to the altar? No, near to יהוה. He was in special relationship with יהוה. But the privilege of hearing from Him did not make him presumptuous; on the contrary, it made him reverential and fearful in his approach to יהוה; so too will we be if we truly know Him. Elijah knew him – spoke to Him by Name. He could call upon יהוה because he was in relationship with Him. He called upon יהוה to vindicate him as indeed being His servant and not acting in some grandstanding arrogant way but in explicit obedience – that what he had done had not been his own idea or doing but that everything he had done had been at the direction of יהוה’s word, simply doing what he was told. Elijah was totally sold out to יהוה alone! Absolute dedication – a living sacrifice. Elijah called upon יהוה to vindicate His word that He had spoken to Elijah and also to vindicate Himself – make it known that You are God! There is the issue! It keeps coming up! Let it be known that You, יהוה are God (cf. v.21, 24, 27, 36, 37, 39). We can only pray this prayer if we are in obedience for this is the essential requirement for relationship with יהוה. Turn back to God [P] [1 Kings 18:37 “Answer me, O יהוה, answer me, that this people may know that You, O יהוה, are God, (he prays the same thing again) and that You have turned their heart back again.” ] Elijah’s role is to turn hearts back to God; to call people to repentance. (cf. Malachi 4:5–6 “Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of יהוה. “He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.” Luke 1:16–17 “And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. “It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Luke 3:3 And he came into all the district around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance (that is turning around) for the forgiveness of sins). For restoration there must first be repentance. The burden of Elijah’s heart, his prophetic role is: to turn back the people’s hearts to God. But had their hearts turned? God can force us to say “You are God”, overwhelm us, twist our arm – but it must come from the heart, by faith, like the widow. He prayed that the people might: Know that יהוה is God [P] In this short, two verse, prayer (contrast the all day praying of the prophets of Baal), the Name יְהוָה occurs 3x, אֱלֹהִים 3x, "answer" 2x and "know" 2x. Elijah calls upon God to answer – if God is real, true, alive; if He hears then the expectation is that He will answer; unlike the false gods who cannot. Elijah assumes God hears, that He is interested and is concerned enough with man to act [Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God (comes near) must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.] Elijah had a purpose in mind – it was not supernatural demonstration for its own sake – the purpose was that the people might KNOW – to impart knowledge, knowledge of God, knowledge of יהוה. Today’s interest in the supernatural is for the show, to see the spectacular or for our own self interest – to be healed, delivered, set free, blessed, solve our problem etc. When God acted miraculously it was as signs – signs point to something; the sign points to God. Miracles are not ends in themselves; their purpose is to impart knowledge of God. But today we deprecate knowledge – in reference to the supernatural we glorify not being able to understand. This is the opposite intention of יהוה’s demonstration of His power. It has a purpose, a lesson to be learnt from it. The nation was perishing for lack of knowledge [Hosea 4:6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.] Knowledge of יהוה is our imperative need! Not facts and university degrees; but knowledge of יהוה Himself, His Person; that He is God. True knowing has little to do with accumulation of facts and citing the correct answer. I have been married to Rhoda for 16 years – if you asked me her height or weight, her waist measurement, her blood pressure – I could not give you the correct answer. But I have come to know her – a little anyway. You can know a lot of facts, some men study a life time, and still they do know יהוה. Knowledge of יהוה doesn’t come by intellectual study but by a Divine revelation! This was Elijah’s concern: that knowledge of יהוה was in danger of dying out. He was desperate to see that knowledge of יהוה restored. Only by knowing God would their hearts be turned to Him. God had not given up on His people; He was at work. Despite the appearance that knowledge of Him had almost vanished, He was acting, turning His people’s heart back to Him. Hallelujah! Today, the need is the same – a desperate need for real KNOWLEDGE of God as He really is – not as we would like Him to be or imagine Him to be. But some scorn knowledge and the pursuit of it – glorying in their lack of training and knowledge of God’s Word, rather esteeming charisma, personality and manifestations. [1 Kings 18:38 Then the fire of יהוה fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.] This prayer must have been in accord with יהוה’s own desire and will for He did indeed answer! Hallelujah! The fire of יהוה fell! יהוה Himself intervened! Dramatic! Supernatural! Overwhelming! Awesome! Absolutely indisputable! But this was not the miracle that יהוה had promised: He had promise to send rain – it was, in fact, judgement! Before the rains of refreshing come, the fire of judgment must first fall. Fire consumes! [Hebrews 12:28–29 talks about offering: to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.]The water was no impediment to יהוה – His fire licked it up, the offering was acceptable to יהוה for His fire consumed it. When God acts He leaves no doubt. No smouldering fire under a burnt offering here! The burnt offering was CONSUMED! Not only it, but the wood, not only the wood but the stones of the altar as well, not only the altar but the earth upon which it was placed! Who is God: יהוה or Baal?! A fairly convincing demonstration! [1 Kings 18:39 When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, “יהוה, He is God; יהוה, He is God!”] A simple truth – easy to learn; but vital to KNOW! When an earthquake strikes; are we afraid or is יהוה God, directing it all? This truth has massive implications on your whole life! All the people saw and they were convinced [they walked by sight, not by faith]. The utter ineffectual impotence and futility of Baal had been demonstrated and in wondrous contrast the almighty power and reality of God, of יהוה! Who can stand before such power and might?! They did the only thing they could do: they fell on their faces – spontaneous, genuine, unfeigned WORSHIP. What else can you do when confronted with the REALITY of the LIVING GOD?! We exhort people to worship, and seek to offer acceptable worship, to fix our minds on the Lord – but when confronted with His REALITY we do so spontaneously! No one needs to tell us to. In the end all will be forced to acknowledge God, “every knee shall bow”; you won’t be able to get around it. The thing is to do so by faith and without having your arm twisted. Better to be in the number who are willingly His. The people confessed יהוה. THEY KNEW! יהוה is God! יהוה is GOD! [P] This was the issue! Elijah’s prayer was answered, knowledge of God was imparted – that יהוה was indeed God and there is no other. They, like we, know the correct answer – they had been taught all through their history that יהוה is God. But now they truly KNEW – not the correct answer, the right theology, but REALITY! יהוה IS GOD! God is really GOD! This knowledge of the reality of God is imperative. Fear and worship overwhelm us when we are confronted with the reality of God – we desperately need the restoration of this. Fire fell – Power! Reality! God was there! Awe-inspiring and fearsome! Fire is judgement. Fire didn’t help their situation – they needed the opposite! Water! It was dramatic and convincing but it did not meet their need. God promised to send rain [1 Kings 18:1 the word of יהוה came to Elijah, saying, “Go, show yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the face of the earth.”], that was Elijah’s command and mission to bring rain, not fire; the fire came because they had not repented. Mercy follows judgment [P] [1 Kings 18:40 Then Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; do not let one of them escape.” So they seized them; and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there.] The people may acknowledge יהוה as God but the prophets of Baal didn’t – even after such a convincing demonstration. There was no excuse for their unrepentant stubborn stance – the unrepentant, after being given ample opportunity to change meet the fate of the unrepentant: the judgment of DEATH! The unrepentant are not spared. It is the same at the end – Jesus will reign for a thousand years, perfect righteous just rule – but at the end people will still rebel! [Revelation 20:4–11 They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. ….. When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison, and will come out to deceive the nations …. And they came up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, (they attack Jerusalem the city where Jesus is ruling from) and fire came down from heaven and devoured them.] False religion cannot be allowed to coexist with the true. Those that lead the masses into error, idolatry and away from יהוה are held responsible and judged more severely than those they lead. They are held accountable for those under their influence. Hence the prophets were judged without mercy – not one was spared or allowed to escape. The people had to demonstrate their newly proclaimed allegiance to יהוה, bring forth the acts of repentance; show that they had turned from Baal by themselves seizing the prophets of Baal. They (plural) seized them but Elijah brought them down (singular) to the brook Kishon and slew them (singular). One man alone killed 450 (perhaps 850) prophets – a grisly and arduous task – one by one – each saw his fate approaching. A massacre! The false prophets were slaughtered! This is the fate of ALL false prophets. Not one was spared. The evil, that which leads away from יהוה must be completely exterminated – no influence left that can corrupt. Restoration requires the uncompromising removal of evil and apostasy. This was Israel’s mistake when they entered the land: they did not completely wipe out the heathen in the land as יהוה instructed them to do. The fire speaks of יהוה’s judgement, the killing of the prophets was judgment. But mercy follows judgement – the rain was יהוה’s blessing; His mercy upon them although they were most undeserving of it. [1 Kings 18:41 Now Elijah said to Ahab, “Go up, eat and drink; for there is the sound of the roar of a heavy shower.”] Only once evil had been dealt with could the matter of blessing be addressed. Only now could Elijah deal with the issue for which he had been sent (cf. v.1). The prophet has to tear down before he can rebuild (Jeremiah 1:9–10). Only after sin has been removed can we plant. Only following repentance can the rain of the Holy Spirit fall [Acts 2:38 Repent, …. and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.]. Now Elijah announced to Ahab abundant rain. No rain was in sight but Elijah had heard the word of יהוה (v.1). Because he had heard יהוה say that He will send rain, Elijah by faith could already hear it. This wasn’t some psyching himself up, positive confession, visualizing it – יהוה had spoken; rain was certain. This is seeing prophetically. As far as the man of God was concerned it was there. Not that this let him off the hook for a moment – he didn’t sit back and wait. Knowing God’s certain will, he prayed it into being – just as Daniel did: he read that Jeremiah had prophesied the desolation of Jerusalem for 70 years [Daniel 9:2–3 So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes.] Why was Ahab to go up, eat and drink? It was to partake of the sacrifice just offered – part of worship. Not a sacrifice to Baal but to the true God. Intercession [P] [1 Kings 18:42 So Ahab went up to eat and drink. But Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he crouched down on the earth and put his face between his knees.] For a short time, at least, after the demonstration of the power of יהוה, His servant, the prophet, was obeyed (cf. the people in v.40). Ahab obeys Elijah and "goes up and eats and drinks" as ordered. The king went up to celebrate – the prophet went up to pray. The prophet is a man alone – while others are feasting, he is apart. Others in rowdy social intercourse, Elijah is bowed to the ground, prostrate before God – in humility, worship, desperate intense intercession – his face between his knees. For there to be restoration, for there to be mercy from יהוה, there needs to be intercession by His servants. Others are celebrating God’s blessing and coming goodness, the prophet is on his face before יהוה earnestly praying it into being. They enjoy the blessing, they have no idea what goes on to bring it to pass. [1 Kings 18:43 He said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” So he went up and looked and said, “There is nothing.” And he said, “Go back” seven times.] Elijah prayed expectantly – he had his servant look to see the answer; and he prayed persistently. Even though the answer was negative Elijah didn’t give up nor was disappointed. He was persistent He prayed with absolute certainty of faith. יהוה had said it was going to rain, so rain it must, and he was going to pray until it did. He kept sending his servant back – there had to be a sign of rain coming because יהוה had said that He would send it. Jesus has said that He will return, He will make Jerusalem a praise in all the earth – therefore this will certainly come about. Therefore, like Elijah, we must keep praying and not let up until it comes to pass. Keep watching and praying – pray then look for signs of the answer coming. The future is not foretold to us so that we can sit back and see it happen or predict it, but in order to show us how to pray, so that by earnest prayer we may cause יהוה to bring to pass what He has said He will do. He will do it; our part is to intercede. Pray and don’t give up; continue watching expectantly for the certain answer. [1 Kings 18:44 It came about at the seventh time, that he said, “Behold, a cloud as small as a man’s hand is coming up from the sea.” And he said, “Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot and go down, so that the heavy shower does not stop you.’ ”] Elijah prayed until he saw the answer on its way. The merest hint, the very first sign, a small cloud, was enough. Elijah knew the rain was imminent and now he sprang into action, not before. He told his servant to warn Ahab of tremendous rain – to hurry, for the rain was such that it would prevent travel. God had said that he would send rain (cf. v.1) and here it was on its way! It was, after all the waiting, time to act; and to move fast. In the end times after waiting and intercession there will come time for quick action. [1 Kings 18:45 In a little while the sky grew black with clouds and wind, and there was a heavy shower. And Ahab rode and went to Jezreel.] In the time it took the servant to tell the message to Ahab, the sky had grown dark with clouds – this front was moving in at a tremendous pace. The fire was spectacular and necessary to force the people to acknowledge יהוה as God, but it was the repentance, acknowledging יהוה as God, that was required before God could bring the blessing He had promised. The fire was spectacular, impressive; but it didn’t solve their problem. It was rain that was needed! The fire was God’s judgment, the rain was His blessing – His mercy. The fire, though awesome, did not solve their most pressing and dire need. You can have all the fire you want but it doesn’t solve the drought. What is needed is rain! God’s presence that comes in response to repentance – dark clouds is where יהוה dwells (Psalm 18:11; 97:2; 1 Kings 8:12). What is required is His Holy Spirit among us – the great wind (Acts 2:2); and Jesus come amongst us: the rain (Joel 2:23; James 5:7,8). Ahab heeded Elijah’s instructions and rode to Jezreel to beat the incoming great rain squall. But his chariot was no competition for Elijah when the hand of the LORD was upon him! When יהוה acts He does so with amazing rapidity! Three and a half long years of drought broken in a sudden moment [Isaiah 60:22 I, יהוה, will hasten it in its time.”] Following judgment came mercy – and pure mercy it was because despite their confession the nation had not turned back to God. It was total grace – there was no real repentance, yet יהוה sent rain, the drought was broken. [P] [Lamentations 3:22 It is of יהוה’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.] [P] In these apostate times, there is a great need for restoration; to return to the basic foundational truths; Jesus said to the church in Ephesus: [Revelation 2:5 ‘Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent.] There is a need for an all-out commitment to יהוה; for repentance, a turning back to God; that we might Know Him the true God; and knowing Him might plead in intercession for His mercy to be poured out upon us.