It is after our greatest victories that our enemy comes to steal our joy, & to tell us it didn’t really happen, or it just doesn’t matter. He wants nothing more than to stop us from living victorious lives. But if we are, as Paul said, “more than conquerors”, how are we to live in that truth?
Last week we looked at the prayer of Elijah at Mount Carmel. He didn’t pray for his own vindication or to demonstrate his own power, but his prayer was for the people. 1 Kings 18:37 Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.
We see that Elijah’s power came from God, & his mission was to draw the people back to God. The same is true of us. James said Elijah was just like us: Weak in his own power, but strong in the power of God. 1 Corinthians 12:10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
So Elijah prayed his prayer for the people, that they would know that the Lord is God, and that He has turned their hearts back to Him. And God answered.
1 Kings 18:38-40 Then the fire of the Lord 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. 39 And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.” 40 And Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape.” And they seized them. And Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon and slaughtered them there.
You may have a problem with Elijah killing the false prophets. That’s natural. But it was necessary. To let them go was to risk sending the people back into the darkness of apostasy. Raymond Dillard tells us to keep in mind that Elijah’s battle points us toward the final conflict with evil. “Elijah’s confrontation with the prophets of Baal was a mini-enactment, an anticipation, of that great battle when God will intervene in history to vindicate his name completely and to eradicate idolatry from the world.”
You see, the plain of Jezreel, where Elijah killed the prophets, has another name that you would know. The main highway linking 3 continents runs through the plain of Jezreel, making it the most contested piece of ground in the world. Joshua, David, Solomon, the Philistines, the pharaohs of Egypt, kings of Assyria, Babylon & Persia, Alexander the Great, the Romans, the armies of Islam & the Crusaders, Napoleon, the Turks, the British & the Israelis have all fought for this land.
6 miles south of Mount Carmel was a city named Megiddo. The hill of Megiddo & surrounding plain is described in Revelation. It is called Armageddon. The most strategic spot in the world was the site of Elijah’s great victory, & it will be the site of the final victory when all the enemies of God are destroyed.
Elijah had to kill the prophets. Charles Swindoll gave us an illustration. If the doctor said you had cancer, would you be satisfied if he said, let’s beat it, but let it live? No. A good physician would remove all the cells and the surrounding area. “That’s not extreme. That’s essential. That’s wise.”
The timing of Elijah’s sacrifice is interesting. He re-built the altar using 12 stones representing the 12 tribes of Israel, laid the wood, prepared the bull, and had people run to the nearby sea to bring enough water to drench the wood & fill a trench. Then he prayed, just at the time of the evening sacrifice, when a lamb was presented to God in Jerusalem. As a lamb was sacrificed for the sins of the people in Judah, Elijah offered up a sacrifice to turn the people’s hearts back to God in Israel.
vs. 38-39 Then the fire of the Lord 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. 39 And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.”
God answered the prayer of Elijah. Not only did He send down fire, but He turned the people back to Him. What a powerful victory! Elijah had to feel great! But Elijah wasn’t done yet, because God wasn’t done yet.
1 Kings 18:41-46 And Elijah said to Ahab, “Go up, eat and drink, for there is a sound of the rushing of rain.” 42 So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Mount Carmel. And he bowed himself down on the earth and put his face between his knees. 43 And he said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” And he went up and looked and said, “There is nothing.” And he said, “Go again,” seven times. 44 And at the seventh time he said, “Behold, a little cloud like a man's hand is rising from the sea.” And he said, “Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot and go down, lest the rain stop you.’” 45 And in a little while the heavens grew black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode and went to Jezreel. 46 And the hand of the Lord was on Elijah, and he gathered up his garment and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.
This time we don’t hear the words of Elijah’s prayer, but we see the posture of his prayer. S.D. Gordon wrote in book The Bent-knee Time: Emergencies call for intense prayer. When the person himself becomes the prayer nothing can resist its touch. Elijah bowed to the ground on Mount Carmel with his face between his knees, and he became the prayer. Spoken prayer is not always needed, for prayer can be too intense for words. In the case of Elijah, his entire being was in touch with God and was aligned with him against the powers of evil. And Elijah’s evil enemies could not withstand this kind of prayer in human form – something that is greatly needed today.
Tony Evans has said that Elijah was in the position of a woman in labor in Elijah’s time. He was pregnant with the potential of something great that God would do. When we allow God to permeate our being, we will see what God will bring forth in us and through us.
David knew this kind of trouble & this kind of prayer. Psalm 109:1-4 Be not silent, O God of my praise!
2 For wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me, speaking against me with lying tongues.
3 They encircle me with words of hate, and attack me without cause.
4 In return for my love they accuse me, but I give myself to prayer.
v. 4 in the original language literally says, “In return for my love they accuse me, but I am prayer.
Have you ever prayed so deeply for something that you become the prayer? Your entire being is caught up in the prayer, & you become less as Christ becomes more in your prayer & in your life? At those times you can be sure that God is birthing something in you. He will bring it to happen through you.
7 times Elijah sent his servant to the edge of the mountain to look for clouds. In the Bible 7 is the number of completion or perfection, & the 7th time there is a cloud small enough to be hidden by your hand. Fire signified acceptance of the offering, but rain was the completion of God’s promise.
Elijah was working fully in the power of God. He prayed, & God sent fire. He prayed, & the people declared the Lord to be the one true God. He prayed, & God sent a cloud. It would surely rain! Elijah had confidence that God would complete what He had begun. God said it would rain. It would rain.
There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. But Elijah told Ahab to hurry, because I hear rain. Nobody else could hear it, because only Elijah was attuned to God. Only Elijah could hear the rain, because he knew that if God said it was going to rain, it was the same as if it was pouring right now.
Elijah had sent Ahab to eat and get ready for the rain. And Ahab did. When the cloud appeared, Elijah told Ahab to prepare his chariot, so he wouldn’t get bogged down when it rained. & Ahab believed Elijah. So when the king was ready to go, Elijah found Ahab, hiked up his robe & ran before his chariot all the way to Jezreel.
This is an often-misinterpreted passage. The text says that Elijah “ran before Ahab”. It does not say that Elijah outran Ahab. The IVP Bible Background Commentary says this about v. 46: This verse does not speak of outrunning but of running before the chariot of Ahab until he came to Jezreel. Those running before the chariot of a king or prince constitute his entourage. Elijah, under the power of Yahweh, was playing the role of prophetic herald, apparently proclaiming the changed attitude of Ahab and his loyalty to Yahweh.
Elijah was not running to beat Ahab to Jezreel. He was running to announce Ahab. But he wasn’t shouting the usual “Make way for the king” but I picture him shouting what the people shouted, what Ahab now could no longer deny, “The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God!”
No wonder Jezebel had such a reaction when they reached Jezreel. Not only had Elijah killed all the prophets of her god Baal, not only had God used Elijah to turn the people back to Him, but Ahab himself was allowing Elijah to run before him proclaiming the truth of the One True God. In fact, Ahab couldn’t wait to share all that he had seen & now knew to be true.
1 Kings 19:1-4 Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” 3 Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.
4 But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”
I don’t know what Elijah expected. Did he really think Jezebel would hear the news & say, “Oh, my mistake! Now I know that the Lord, He is God!” She was mad! She wanted revenge! She told Elijah, “You killed my prophets. Sometime in the next 24 hours I’m going to kill you.
And Elijah ran. He had run in the power of God the 20 + miles from Mount Carmel to Jezreel. Now he ran to the southern border, as far away as he could get from the influence of Jezebel, not in the power of God, but in fear. Isn’t it amazing what a difference a day can make! From taunting Baal’s prophets, calling down fire from heaven, & proclaiming God to the nation, to running for his life.
But Jezebel was not the enemy. She was enslaved to a false god. It was a declaration from hell that Elijah would die. & Elijah ran for his life. You see, Elijah really was a man like us. He took his eyes off of God & put them on his circumstances. Instead of continuing to trust God, in his weariness he faltered. He ran.
Elijah left his servant & went alone into the wilderness. He sat under a tree & said, “I’m done. Let me die. I’ve done all I can do. Who did I think I was, anyway? I’m no better than anyone who ever lived.”
He needed encouragement. He needed Sabbath. & God gave him both. Elijah slept. Then God fed Elijah again. But there were no ravens this time, & no widow. An angel was sent with a cake & water to give him strength. & Elijah slept again. Then: 19:7-8 And the angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” 8 And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.
God led Elijah on a 40 day wilderness experience. He had led the Israelites 40 years in the wilderness to prepare them for the Promised Land. He would later lead Jesus into the wilderness for 40 days to endure temptation as preparation for His ministry. Elijah’s 40 days of despair in the wilderness led him to Mount Horeb, “the mount of God”. This mount had a different name at times. This was Sinai, where Moses met God & received the 10 commandments. Elijah would also meet God there.
1 Kings 19:9-12 There he came to a cave and lodged in it. And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.”
11 And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke 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.12 And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.
Then God asked Elijah a 2nd time: What are you doing here? Elijah gave the same answer. I have done everything you wanted, but the people have rejected You & now they want to kill me, too.
It wasn’t quite true, though. The people’s hearts were being turned back to God. The altar on Carmel was standing. The prophets of Baal were killed by the people. It was Jezebel who killed God’s prophets and was seeking his life. God was saying, Elijah, do you think I am big enough to take care of you? I can send wind strong enough to break the mountains, earthquakes to shatter kingdoms & fire to destroy at will.
But just listen to my voice. Don’t get distracted by the noise & lightning & wind around you, the circumstances that you are going through. Just listen to the whisper of My Spirit, & you will have the power to go where I send you & do what I have called you to do.
Then God sent Elijah to anoint kings & to anoint Elisha who would be the next great prophet. Elijah went, not because of the wind, not because of the earthquake, & not because of the fire. Elijah obeyed because he heard the whisper of God.
What does it take for you to hear God speaking into your life? He will come in power if He needs to, but He prefers to whisper. Are you attuned to Him? Are you taking the time to listen for His gentle whisper that is only for you? He will send you to do His work, but only if you are still enough to hear His voice.
Psalm 46:1-3, 10 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, 3 though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”
When you are still enough to hear the whisper of God, you can’t help but proclaim, “The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God!” Listen to the whisper of His Spirit, & you will have the power to go where He sends you & do what He has called you to do.