Elijah lived during a period when the northern kingdom of Israel had turned gravely away from the Lord to wallow in wickedness. The people had been in a progressive downward spiral of wretchedness for some time, but the Lord had been patient with them. In essence, the people had already parched themselves of living water from the Lord before Elijah prophesied there would be neither rain or dew on their land for several years (1 Kings 17:1).
Sorrowfully, there are similarities in comparing Israel’s rebellion against God, to America’s waywardness and defiance against God. America seems to be increasing in wickedness against, and irreverence to, the Lord. Today, we tolerate or even accept things that God hates. Our culture seems as if it is becoming more-and-more like what the Bible describes, “because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12).
But it’s not too late for America yet! We still have time to repent and return to God. For, the Lord is “good, and ready to forgive, And abundant in mercy to all those who call upon [Him]” (Psalm 86:5 NKJV). Although America seems to be abandoning God, He has not abandoned us.
What can we learn from the failings of Israel that are applicable to America (and the world) today? More personally, what lessons can we learn and apply to ourself in this current culture of ungodliness?
In this ongoing study, I will post lessons we can learn from Elijah’s ministry and extract applications for today’s culture—and today’s Christian. (Follow me and receive notifications for upcoming posts.)
During the reign of King Ahab, Elijah is “introduced” in the Bible:
Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.” (1 Kings 17:1, NIV)
We don’t know much about Elijah before this, yet Scripture does reveal several things. First, Elijah was called a Tishbite, which means he had either recently lived or was raised in the area of Tishbe in Gilead. Gilead was east of the Jordan River. For, “Moses had given to the tribe of Gad . . . all the towns of Gilead” (Joshua 13:25).
Too, we know Elijah was committed to serving the Lord God of Israel, which means he was a man who put his faith into action! Further, we learn from the book of James that Elijah was a man of earnest prayer. For, Elijah had “prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years” (James 5:17).
Elijah was a man who sought the word, ways, and will of God. Actually, his name, Elijah, means, “The Lord is my God.” That was his both his name, and the message of his ministry—calling the people of Israel to return in their hearts to the Lord.
When Elijah appeared before Ahab, it was not something he did on the “spur of the moment.” For some time before this, Elijah had spent enough time in prayer—conversing with and listening to God—that he heard God so clearly, he was able to faithfully make a bold prophecy about something that seemed inconceivable.
Who would image that rain would be withheld from their land for several years?
And why? Because the majority of the people of northern Israel had rebelled against God’s Word and rejected His ways. Rather than seeking and serving God, they shamelessly pursued wickedness and worshipped false “gods” (idol worship).
The Bible says of King Ahab:
Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the LORD than any of those before him. He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, but he also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him. He set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he built in Samaria. Ahab also made an Asherah pole and did more to arouse the anger of the LORD, the God of Israel, than did all the kings of Israel before him. (1 Kings 16:30-33)
God called Elijah to stand before Ahab and prophesy in the Lord’s name. God was about to do something so harsh and unimaginable, that it was probably unbelievable to those who heard it.
It’s one thing for some supposed mystic or soothsayer to make a vague prediction of a coming drought. It’s something else to a make bold, precise prophecy, specifying a time-period, and proclaiming it as the word of the living God. In fact, under the Mosaic law, if any man were to speak a prophecy proclaiming it as the Lord’s word and the prophecy did not come into fruition, that man was to be put to death (cf. Deut. 18:20).
Not only did Elijah state there wouldn’t be rain, he said there wouldn’t be dew either. Wow! Imagine; not even dew? Then, he went even farther and said it would last for several years.
If that were to come true, (and it did) all would know that it could only be attributed to the God alone. For the Lord is the Creator of heaven and earth, and He himself, “covers the sky with clouds; he supplies the earth with rain and makes grass grow on the hills” (Psalm 147:8).
Elijah wasn’t vague or timid about speaking what God had revealed to him. (As followers of Christ, we shouldn’t be either. We need to stand stoutly on the Word of God, proclaiming God’s truth, in boldness and love.)
As for those who heard Elijah speak that day, most probably thought he was some crazy guy speaking nonsense. At the core of it though, it wasn’t as much a distain for the person of Elijah or a disbelief of the message, as it was the about their perception of, resistance to, and rebellion against God himself. (Does that sound like the world today?)
In Christ, we are not of this world. And those who come against us, are in reality, coming against Christ himself. Jesus said, “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me” (John 15:20-21).
Upon hearing Elijah, what did Ahab think? Perhaps, he scoffed, “Yeah right; like that’s really going to happen.” Or did he dismiss it, thinking, “This guy is nuts and ought to be locked up.”
Yet, the more important question is, “What did Ahab think of God?”
Did he think, “God won’t do that;” or “If there is a god, he’s either indifferent or incapable.” Maybe he thought, “Well I don’t want that to happen, so I’ll satisfy Him by compromising somewhat. Not on everything but maybe in some things.”
Is Ahab’s dismissal of God or disobedience to the commands of God, much different than many in America today? Is a similar spirit of rejection of God becoming widespread in America? Is Ahab’s worship of idols inherently different than our self-erected gods of wealth, materialism, fame, power, pride, pleasures of the flesh, political correctness, etc.
In Ahab’s days, although Israel was greatly blessed and dearly loved by God, the people had turned sharply away from God. They brazenly pursued idolatry, giving homage to images fashioned out of their imaginations and adapted to fit their own sinful desires and depravities (like America today). One of the idols they worshipped was Baal, a god crafted by the Canaanites.
This, even though the Lord had given multiple forewarnings to Israel against idolatry:
Do not invoke the names of others gods; do not let them be heard on your lips. (Exo. 23:13)
Fear the LORD your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name. Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you; for the LORD your God, who is among you, is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you, and he will destroy you from the face of the land. (Deut. 6:13-15)
Consecrate yourselves and be holy, becasue I am the LORD your God. Keep my decrees and follow them. I am the LORD, who makes you holy. (Lev. 20:7-8)
The LORD your God will cut off before you the nations you are about to invade and dispossess. But when you have driven them out and settled in their land, and after they have ben destroyed before you, be careful not to be ensnared by inquiring about their gods, saying, “How do these nations serve their gods? We will do the same. (Deut.13:29-30)
Despite God’s warnings, many of the Israelites rebelled and brought upon themselves the consequences of their disobedience.
God’s action of withholding rain was a rebuke of the people’s actions. Even so, while God was disciplining His people, it wasn’t a rejection of His people! On the contrary, God’s sending that drought was purposed to call the people to return to Him. For, “the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in” (Proverbs 3:12).
In part, God’s withholding of rain and dew struck directly at their worship and homage of Baal. For, those who worshipped Baal believed it was Baal who brought rains and bountiful harvests. That “indoctrination” was both mockery and blasphemy of the One true God.
Sadly, many of our schools in America are becoming institutions of false indoctrination for our children. There is an intentional movement to remove scriptural teaching from our school, and replace it with “evolved” or “woke” teachings which, under the guise of being progressive or corrective, are actually demonic.
Like the northern kingdom of Israel had forsaken the Lord and foolishly pursued idolatry, so does America and the world today foolishly dismiss the presence of God and the Word of God.
Do not be deceived. It’s never that anyone is oblivious to the reality of God or to the Deity of God. Rather, people’s denial or dismissal of God is deliberate.
“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images . . .. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen” (Romans 1:21-25).
In America, our wickedness is increasing its depths of perversion and in unrestrained blasphemy. America seems to be growing in hostility towards the Lord Jesus and towards His followers. This, too, compares to the people in the days of Ahab. In fact, Queen Jezebel, tried to silence the Word of God and the people of God by “killing off the LORD’s prophets” (1 Kings 18:4). Is this, at its core intent, comparable to America’s intimidation of followers of Christ, to silence their voices?
In the days of Ahab, unwanted babies were burned as sacrificial offerings to Baal? “They have built the high places of Baal to burn their children in the fire as offerings to Baal” (Jeremiah 19:5). Is this unlike what America is doing today when babies are murdered in offerings to the god called “Pro Choice?”
In the days of Ahab, there was blatant sexually immorality and public prostitution (1 Kings 22:38). America, likewise, has become equally, if not more, engulfed in sexual deviances and promiscuity. Culture is calling good (or gay) a spectrum of sexual perversions and immoralities that God calls wicked! There is rampant homosexuality, flauntings of transgender, adultery, premarital sex, living together outside of a marriage, wife-swapping, pornography, prostitution, etc.
The Bible says:
“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah 5:20).
“No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister” (1 John 3:9-10).
“Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the gogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolatoers and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. (Rev. 22:14)
Don’t misunderstand this, while we are “clothed in the flesh,” we will surely be tempted by the lusts of the flesh. But there is a difference between being tempted by, or even temporarily succumbing to lusts of the flesh; as opposed to those who unabashedly “continue” in sin. Those who choose to live in shameless, sexual immorally are most likely not lost; ouside of Christ, remaining in their condemnation!
How can I say this? Because, if someone is living a lifestyle that is openly defiant to Christ’s Word, how can he then say that Christ is his Lord? Rather, aren’t they actually giving lordship to lusts of the flesh over Lordship to Christ?
The Apostle Paul warns:
“Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10).
“The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21).
Is this “hate speech?” No. This is speaking in love! These are words from a compassionate heart. Paul dearly loved his fellowman. He loved them enough to warn them! For, people who die without receiving Jesus as their Lord and Savior will spend eternity in hell. They need to hear the gospel, and the gospel warns against “the wages of sin.”
Sin is serious! It cost our Jesus his life in an agonizing death on a cross at Calvary to pay our rightful debt for sin, “for whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Jesus’ blood was “poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28).
The truth is, if we affirm sin, or overlook sin, that is not loving. It is unloving!
Love demands that we tell of Jesus’ salvation, forgiveness, and grace!
Apart from Christ, people are dead in their sins. If they die without Christ, that will spend an eternity in hell—in agony and darkness.
“For a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned” (John 5:28).
The best way we can show love is to share truth with them. The best way we can express love is to tell them about Jesus’ love, forgiveness, and salvation. He is “the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through [Him]” (John 14:5). “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
Still, there is no salvation except one accepts Christ as Savior, and submits to Him as Lord. For, Jesus also said, “unless you repent, you too will all perish” (Luke 13:5).
When we lovingly share the gospel, it isn’t to condemn the hearer. Rather, we are sharing the only Way out of their condemnation. It they die outside of Christ; they will perish in their condemnation. We speak the gospel for their salvation! “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (John 3:18).
Still, as we speak the gospel, while we are not speaking in condemnation; we must beware not to speak in condescension. Rather, we are to speak grace—and in grace. For, “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and that is not from yourselves, it is a gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). “Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).
In Christ, we are to speak grace and/in truth.
Did Elijah speak in grace and truth when he pronounced God’s proclamation of withholding rain from Samaria and the surrounding land of Israel? Yes.
We can readily see truth in Elijah’s prophecy. Because it happened. But was there grace in Elijah’s prophecy? Yes.
God’s rebuke of the people was to call them to repentance. “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather they turn from their ways and live” (Ezekiel 33:11). There was grace and love in God’s rebuke.
Even in the depths of Israel’s depravity, the Lord longed to show mercy and grace if they repented. God used the withholding of rain as a rebuke to get Israel’s attention so they would return to Him to experience His great love, mercy, grace, and goodness.
God told His people, “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:13-14).
This is where America is at today. There’s a lot of attention on “global warming,” yet too little attention given to “God’s warnings.”
Whether the hurricanes, the wildfires, the droughts, or variances in temperatures are associated with global warming, I don’t know. But I do know that none of this can occur without either being allowed or orchestrated by God himself. I also know that God himself is more than able to handle all of nature!
More importantly, I know that our God delights in mercy, and it is not His will that any should perish. For, the Bible tells me so. And I know, “the Sovereign LORD does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7).
Even before God sent the drought, He sent a messenger, Elijah, to stand before the king and speak the word of the Lord. Today, God’s will, His ways, and His warnings are given to us in the Bible. And his messengers today are those who proclaim the Word of God. They make known what the Bible declares.
The Lord calls people to repent of their sins and receive life in Christ. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). For those who do not repent, Jesus says, “they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life” (Matthew 25:46).
In America today, there are voices calling to suppress public proclamation of the Bible. And, followers of Christ are being pressured to compromise God’s Word—this under threats of being labeled as bigots, hatemongers, homophobic, narrow-minded, or eccentric.
It is interesting, in 1 Kings 17:1, the phrase which is translated in the NIV as, “whom I serve,” can literally be translated, “before whom I stand.” As it is in the NKJV: “And Elijah the Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead, said to Ahab, ‘As the LORD God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my Word’” (emphasis added).
If we are truly following and serving Christ, we must faithfully and fearlessly “stand” for Him, as ambassadors of Christ standing in a way that others can see Christ in us. Part of serving God means to stand uncompromisingly on the Bible and speak His Word in grace, truth, and love.
Those who receive His Word, receive Life. Yet many, though, willfully reject the gospel message. In that, while they are actually rejecting God himself, Christians might feel the brunt of their animosity.
The world will criticize and attack messengers of God’s Truth. Jesus said, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you” (John 15:18-19).
Like Elijah means, “The Lord is my God;” in Christ, we are humbly called Christians. The name Christian comes from a Greek word which means “follower of Christ,” or “follower of the Anointed One.”
We are not following ways of the world. Rather, we follow our Savior—who is the Way! Christ “himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24).
Therefore, “fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness . . . But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve . . . But, as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:14-15).
Continue here in this study in the life of Elijhah
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