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Elijah – Part 1 – Background – 1st Kings 17:1


Elijah – Part 1 – Background

Text: 1st Kings 17:1

We are going to spend some of these Sunday Mornings looking at the life of Elijah.   See:-

1. Elijah’s Lifetimes!

Think of the history of God’s people Israel.

1)       The first King was Saul, followed by David.  David reigned about 1000 years before Jesus came into this world at Bethlehem.

2)       David was followed by his son Solomon.  Despite the fact that he reigned at a time when Israel was prosperous and at peace, and the building of the great temple was completed, Solomon:-

  1. Entered alliances with foreign nations, and each of these involved an idolatrous religious input into Israel’s life.
  2. Married many foreign wives, and took many foreign concubines and each of them introduced foreign religion into the land.
  3. Lived an opulent, decadent life, and to pay for his great spending, he raised taxes, and introduced forced labour among his own people.  But Solomon was of the tribe of Judah – and they were exempt!

3)       When Solomon died, all these tensions rose to the surface and the nation split in two.  The southern part of the nation was the tribe of Judah, and along with the small tribe of Benjamin, they were ruled by Rheoboam.  The 10 tribes of the north separated, and became known as Israel, ruled by Jeroboam I.  New shrines were built, at Bethel and at Gilgal, and the national religion of the northern kingdom of Israel became an apostate type of Judaism, with pagan practices introduced alongside the commanded worship of God.

Elijah’s story takes place in the Northern Kingdom of Israel, in the reign of a King called Ahab and his wife, Jezebel.  Jezebel was a foreigner, and was a worshipper of a god called Baal.  God’s people in a cold backslidden disobedient state, blasphemous worship taking place, the whole nation under the curse of God!

2. Elijah’s Name & Reputation! And Elijah the Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead

Now, in the Bible, names always mean something.

  • Elijah means ‘Jehovah is God!’  What a name, for the common belief in Israel was that Baal was god!  Now there is another possible meaning…
  • Elijah means ‘Jehovah is my strength! His name is not ‘God strengthens me,’ but ‘God is my strength!’  Elijah didn’t have some special inner strength that God had given him.  Elijah was an ordinary person just like you and me!  Jas 5:17  So, how did he accomplish all these great things?   By realising that he was just a weak man, and putting his trust in the God who is strong!  When we think of Elijah’s name, we think of a man who was just an ordinary man, who implicitly trusted in the God who is almighty!
  • Elijah is from Tishbe.  The village where Elijah lived is on nobody’s map. He was nothing more than just another peasant.  In fact he dwelt among the inhabitants of Gilead – the place where the lowest of the low lived!  Bit in Gilead there was a healing stream, an ointment that had great curative properties!  Matthew Henry notes this, and applies it to Elijah.

3. Elijah’s Spiritual Character!

Now this is contained right here in the words of this verse, and its for us to discover!  Elijah:-

  • A worshipper of the One True God!  The fact that his name acknowledges that Jehovah is God, shows us where Elijah’s loyalty lies!  He speaks, As the LORD God of Israel lives!  Elijah was the messenger of the Lord!
  • Believed in the Attributes of God!  Look at the statements that are made here concerning Jehovah, Elijah’s God:
    • He is a LIVING GOD!  That he is a living God, and not like the gods Ahab worshipped, which were dead dumb idols.
    • He is a God who hates idolatry!  And Elijah stood there in front of the king, in defiance of all the groves and the prohets of Baal who surrounded the throne!
    • He is a God who intervenes in human situations!  That, notwithstanding the present peace and prosperity of the kingdom of Israel, God was displeased with them for their idolatry and would chastise them for it by the want of rain
    • Lived in the Presence of God! before whom I stand.  Now, right now, Elijah is in the presence of King Ahab, but he is far more concerned about the fact that right there and then, he is in the presence of the living God!  sn’t it true that it is the person who lives in the presence of God, who will serve him and speak up for him most effectively?

4. Elijah’s Opening Ministry there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word

A man suddenly appears before the king’s throne, an unknown man, but a peasant nevertheless.  He doesn’t bow, he doesn’t get down on his knees, in fact in his opening words the man shows nothing but disrespect for the Ahab!  “There’s not going to be any rain, or even any dew on the grass for years!”  In fact, there’s not going to be any rain until I say so!  What a challenge to the king’s authority.  Here’s a peasant, standing right in front of him, and telling him that his word was more powerful than the king’s!

Now, what authority had Elijah to make a statement like this?  Jas 5:17  Elijah was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestlythat it might notrain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. He prayed!  God just simply answered his prayer!  I wonder had Elijah any doubts?  I’m sure he had – but they were dealt with in the place of prayerJames 5:16  

So, what kind of man was Elijah?  He was the kind that God could use, and as we’ll see, God did use him, for Elijah realised his own weaknesses, and depended upon the strength of the Lord!  Elijah lived in the presence of the Lord, no matter where he was, and Elijah was a man of prayer, labouring in intercession before the Lord!

Bob McEvoy, Ballymacashon Congregational Church, 9th Sept 2012

From → 1st & 2nd Kings

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