Olsen Park Church of Christ

Elijah: the Prophet of Fire

Introduction. Please notice with me a powerful text involving three significant characters.

·         Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-3). In this encounter Jesus is exalted above Moses (the great lawgiver of the Israelites) and Elijah (one of the most notable of the prophets). In this Jesus is set above the Law and the Prophets. Let notice something about Elijah.

·         Prophecy of Malachi (Malachi 4:5).  Before the coming of the Messiah, Elijah is promised. This is not to be a reincarnation, nor a return to earth (since Elijah was taken into heaven without facing death).

·         Elijah “who is to come” (Matt 11:14). Jesus declares that John the Baptizer was the one who was to come in the “spirit and power of Elijah.”

This evening I would like us to look at this significant Old Testament prophet and examine a very significant encounter in his life which could lead us to remember him as “Elijah: the Prophet of Fire.”  

I.  Background.

A.    Inhabitant of Tishbeh (2 Kings 1:3-4). Nothing is known about Elijah’s family. He was from Tishbeh (“Elijah the Tishbite”) somewhere in the territory of Naphtali in the region Gilead. In appearance he was very similar to John the Baptist.  He was a rugged man, who lived significant periods in the wilderness.

II.  First Actions.

A.    Ahab’s sin (1 Kings 16:31-32). Elijah’s life is inseparably linked to that of Ahab, the wicked king of the northern kingdom of Israel who married, Jezebel (the daughter of the king of the Sidonians.

1.      She introduced (or reintroduced) Baal worship to the Israelites.

2.      Prior to this they had already accepted the apostasy of Jeroboam but in this they accepted not merely apostate worship of Jehovah, but worship fo a pagan God.

B.     Drought (1 Kings 17:1, 17:6; 17:9-24). God commands Elijah to proclaim a drought. This appears to be a punishment for the wickedness of Israel. Remember this is a time when God promised in the Law physical blessings for obedience, and physical punishments for disobedience. Today a drought is not a direct punishment.

1.      This puts Elijah in danger from Ahab and Jezebel and he hides at the Cherith Brook where God feds him with ravens bringing food to him.

2.      During this drought as well, Elijah goes into the region of Sidon. Ironically in this wicked area (where Jezebel was from) a widow cares for Elijah and he raises her son from the dead.

III.  Challenge to Baal.

A.    Elijah is commanded to go to Ahab in the third year of the drought (1 Kings 18:1, 4-8).

B.     Contest with prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:4-8, 27; 36-38).

1.      Obadiah (probably not the author of the book of Obadiah) hid prophets of the Lord from Ahab and Jezebel but was somehow able to survive himself.

2.      Elijah comes upon Obadiah and tells him to alert Ahab.

3.      A contest is arranged: 2 bulls; 2 altars; no fire, just prayer to Baal or to God. The one who answers with fire is the one to be served.

4.      The prophets of Baal pray from morning until noon, cutting themselves and crying out to Baal.  Elijah mocks them.

5.      When Elijah’s time comes he repairs the twelve stone altar. He digs a trench around it an pours four water pots on the altar 3 times (filling up the trench).  This makes it clear there is not trickery.

6.      Fire falls from heaven and consumes the sacrifice, the wood, the altar, and the water in the trench!  Elijah then executes the prophets of Baal.

C.     Drought ends (1 Kings 18:43, 46). Elijah tells Ahab to go home before the rain starts. Elijah prays seven times and the seventh time a small cloud appears over the sea. Elijah runs ahead of Ahab to Jezreel.

IV.  Elijah’s Discouragement.

A.    At Jezreel, when Jezebel learns of Ahab’s victory and execution of the prophets of Baal she grows angry and wants to kill Elijah (1 Kings 19:1).

B.     In fear for his life Elijah flees to Beersheba (1 Kings 19:4).

C.     He is fed twice by angels and fasts 40 days and nights making his way finally to Mt. Horeb (far to the south). (1 Kings 19:10).

1.      Elijah goes from elation to discouragement as he sees Jezebel threatening to kill him.

2.      At a time when he has just been victorious, he is overwhelmed with discouragement. Did he expect something different from her?  From the people?  Whatever the reason, God bears with him and encourages him.

D.    God’s revelation to Elijah (1 Kings 19:11-18; 19:19-21).  God encourages him through a wondrous revelation of Himself to Elijah.

1.      He is not in wind and earthquake but in a still small voice.  We must not imagine that the things of God are wrapped up in pomp and circumstance—but in the simple truths of His word.

2.      God tells Elijah to get back to work: anoint Hazeal, Jehu, and appoint Elisha.  Elijah obeys and does not linger in discouragement.

V.  Lessons from Elijah.

A.    Speech with boldness (2 Tim. 1:6-12). Whether it was to Ahab, the prophets of Baal or others, Elijah always told the truth with no compromise.

B.     Confidence in God’s power.  In the face of prophets of Baal be knew God is the source of true power.

C.     Did not remain in discouragement (1 John 4:2-4; 1 Peter 5:9). Elijah (like many of us) became discouraged. But the wonderful thing about Elijah is he did not let that paralyze him into ongoing inactivity.  He got back to work and continued his service to God.  May we always to the same.

Kyle Pope 2010

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