One of my favorite songs is “The Days of Elijah” written by Robin Mark in the early 1990s. It became widely known in the United States with the release of his 1999 album Revival in Belfast.1 Not only is the music rousing and encouraging, but it hits a resonant chord in my heart as it contrasts the troubles of the battle with the promises of victory through Christ.
Elijah preached during the reign of Ahab, one of Israel’s worst kings. As Ahab began to rule, the Scriptures make two comments about him: “Now Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD, more than all who were before him” (1 Kings 16:30), and he “did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him” (1 Kings 16:33). Making matters worse, he married Jezebel, the daughter of the pagan Sidonian king Ethbaal (1 Kings 16:31). King Ahab was an evil man, and he reigned for 22 years!
Fortunately, none of us have to put up with anything that bad—but think of Elijah’s marvelous ministry and what he was able to accomplish during one of the most awful periods in history. This is the same Elijah that James cites when we are promised that the “effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16).
These are the days of Elijah,
Declaring the word of the Lord. . . .
And though these are days of great trial,
Of famine and darkness and sword,
Still, we are the voice in the desert crying
“Prepare ye the way of the Lord!”
God called Elijah out of Gilead, a mountainous region northeast of the Jordan River, to confront Ahab with the news that God would stop the rain for three years in punishment and judgment for Ahab’s wicked behavior. That was a bold and risky thing for Elijah to do, even with the vague social protection a prophet might have had. The drought would bring an economic disaster that would weaken Israel against all of its surrounding foes. Like so many prophets who spoke the truth, Elijah’s life was in danger as soon as the words came out of his mouth.
It wasn’t long after this announcement that God sent Elijah to “hide by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan” (1 Kings 17:3). There is no specific information about Elijah’s mental state as the “ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the brook” (1 Kings 17:6). It might have seemed pretty cool to deliver God’s powerful message to the wicked king and then have God give you some time off and personal care in such a special way. But then the brook dried up. (Remember the drought?)
Elijah still needed protection for a much greater challenge yet to come, so God sent him to the out-of-the-way village of Zarephath in the middle of pagan country. Sometimes God’s leading doesn’t seem to make sense.
The widow Elijah met as he entered the city was an interesting lady. Although quite poor, she was willing to obey the instructions of the strange prophet who gave her a “word from the Lord.” You may remember the account. Elijah asked for a cup of water, then insisted that she bring him a small meal—before she fixed any for herself and her young son. Obviously, the Lord gave Elijah the message, but it still required some bold character to demand the last bit of food from this poor widow. Well, she did as he commanded, and the oil and grain miraculously continued to meet their needs, as promised, until the drought ended (1 Kings 17:8-16).
But the devil never quits! The young son suddenly died and the widow’s faith broke, in spite of the evidence of God’s provision. She began to rebuke Elijah. “What have I to do with you, O man of God?” (1 Kings 17:18). Rather than sulk or run away, Elijah immediately sought the Lord for instructions and petitioned Him for the life of the young man. When the boy was resurrected and Elijah presented him to his mother, she joyfully responded, “Now by this I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in your mouth is the truth” (1 Kings 17:24).
Sometimes God grants the extraordinary display of His power in the face of dire circumstances. We just have to trust God to do the extraordinary!
These are the days of Ezekiel,
The dry bones becoming as flesh;
And these are the days of Your servant David,
Rebuilding a temple of praise.
These are the days of the harvest,
The fields are as white in Your world,
And we are the laborers in Your vineyard,
Declaring the Word of the Lord!
Finally, God called Elijah out of hiding to bring about the major confrontation with the false prophets of Baal that we remember so well. The evil authorities hunted Elijah to imprison or kill him for pronouncing the judgment of God on the wicked people. Ahab only saw Elijah as the “troubler of Israel” (1 Kings 18:17). But God used Elijah to purge the land from the horrors of decades of false teaching.
Well, the story couldn’t be more dramatic. Elijah demanded that Ahab and Jezebel assemble all of the prophets of Baal on top of Mount Carmel to test the power of the two “gods” Israel was worshiping.
All 450 fanatical, shouting, demon-worshiping prophets danced around their altar all day, pleading, “‘O Baal, hear us!’ But there was no voice; no one answered” (1 Kings 18:26). With passion surging in his heart, Elijah taunted and mocked these powerful men, with the whole assembly of the “movers and shakers” of northern Israel watching. The false prophets cavorted and even cut themselves; Elijah coaxed and cajoled, but “there was no voice; no one answered, no one paid attention” (1 Kings 18:29). Sometimes it seems like no matter what we say or do, nor how obvious the “bad guys” are, nobody seems to care or to respond. Sometimes it is hard to keep plugging!
But Elijah did! When the prophets of Baal fell exhausted to the ground, Elijah had the folks dig the trenches around his altar deeper and pour gallons of precious water over the ready sacrifice. There could be no doubt that God’s answer would come in a spectacular way—or not at all! So Elijah shouted, “LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word. Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that You are the LORD God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again” (1 Kings 18:36-37).
Behold He comes riding on the clouds,
Shining like the sun at the trumpet call;
Lift your voice, it’s the year of jubilee,
And out of Zion’s hill salvation comes.
And answer God did! Fire came down from heaven and vaporized the sacrifice, the altar, and the water in the trenches. “Now when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, ‘The LORD, He is God! The LORD, He is God!’” (1 Kings 18:39).
There’s no God like Jehovah.
There’s no God like Jehovah!
There’s no God like Jehovah.
The work and its aftermath were not yet complete. Elijah knew he had to destroy the messengers as well as the message. That awful execution is definitely an Old Testament thing, but our job is never done by merely pointing out that truth is on our side. We must continue to declare the Word of the Lord as long as someone is there to oppose it!
Yet even here, after one of the greatest victories over evil recorded in Scripture, Elijah had to run away from angry Queen Jezebel. Fearing for his life, he ran into the desert and hid in a cave. Sucking on his spiritual thumb and curling up into a spiritual fetal position, he despaired of his life and begged God to take him home.
Sometimes the highs and lows are so draining that our spiritual strength leaks out like helium from a balloon. All that is left is a saggy, baggy shadow of what should be. Sometimes, as our life nears its end, we think all that is left to do is just lie down and wait for the end. But, as with Elijah, the “Elisha” successor has to be identified and charged to carry on—in the case of ICR, it’s the “Elishas.” There are still 7,000 “whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him” (1 Kings 19:18).
God still has work He has called us to do. Generations are still left to be taught and won. The work is not done when we die. We must prepare for those who follow us! We must leave legacies behind for those who come after us. The Lord Jesus built His church that way (Matthew 16:18), and the Institute for Creation Research was founded to use our witness on Earth.