Grab your Bibles, and let’s go deeper into the life and testimony of the prophet Elijah.
1 Kings 17:1-16
This account in 1 Kings 17 reminds me of one of my favorite parables I have told for years. It goes like this:
Many years ago, a weary traveler hiked for miles across the desert with the hot sun beating down on his back. His water supply was gone, and he knew that if he didn’t find water soon to quench his thirst, he would surely die. In the distance, he spotted a deserted cabin, which brought hope that maybe water was to be found there. He made his way to the cabin and discovered an old well. He frantically pumped the handle of the well to draw water, but all that came from the pump was dust. Then he noticed a tin can tied to the pump with a note inside. The note said:
“Dear stranger: This pump is all right as of June 1932. I put a new sucker washer in it, and it should last for quite a few years. But the washer dries out and the pump needs to be primed. Under the white rock, I buried a jar of water, out of the sun and corked up. There’s enough water in it to prime the pump, but not if you drink some first. Pour about 1/4 of the water into the pump and let her soak for a minute to wet the leather washer. Then pour the rest medium fast and pump hard. You’ll get water. Have faith. This well has never run dry. When you get watered up, fill the bottle and put it back as you found it for the next stranger who comes this way. – Pete”
If your life hung in the balance, would you just consume the water you had as a guarantee, or would you have faith to pour the jar of water into the well as Old Pete’s note instructed? This is what faith is. In Webster's Dictionary, there are 17 definitions for faith. There are so many definitions, and so many ideas of what faith is, that it becomes difficult to have this conversation about what faith really is. Thank God for Hebrews 11.
Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Faith is a confidence that what you hope for will happen. It is a conviction that what you can’t see is real. Now, I don’t know about faith in Desert Pete, but faith in the living God is an absolute necessity.
The parable about Desert Pete’s well helps us feel some of what the woman was feeling when Elijah told her to take her last flour and oil to make him a cake. She and her son were at the edge of starvation and death, and she was asked to trust that God would supernaturally keep her flour and oil supply full, if she would just have faith in Him and give her last to Elijah.
It is one thing for us to trust in God when we have options or ways out. But when you are on the brink of death or great loss, or are experiencing great loss, do you trust in God? Do you trust that He is good and perfect in His ways and will? Do you trust His faithfulness to fulfill His promises? Faith in God is not an add-on to our life; it is what we put our entire life on. It is an all-in decision, much like the widow faced.
The woman put her faith in Elijah’s word from the Lord, and God was faithful and kept His promise.
1 Kings 17:15-16 And she went and did as Elijah said. And she and he and her household ate for many days. The jar of flour was not spent, neither did the jug of oil become empty, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah.
2. The Life-Giver
1 Kings 17:17-24
Elijah was a faithful man of God who brought the widow’s son before Him in prayer, knowing if God willed him to live, he would. Did you notice he also acknowledged that it is God who ordained his death? Job makes this clear that it is God who gives life and who takes it away (Job 1:21) and who determines the number of our days (Job 14:5). Elijah gets this, and so he goes to the One who ultimately controls all these things. God listened to Elijah and put life back into the boy so he would live longer. Now, we are often guilty of giving praise to God only when He gives us what we want. We are guilty of saying, “God is good,” when He ordains a loved one lives longer instead of dies. But God is still good when He ordains a loved one’s time on earth is done, too. Our circumstances do not determine God’s goodness. He is good all the time. His ways are always perfect. He is God. If you remember our study of David, he prayed for his son to live; when God ordained he would not, David got up, took a bath, and went to the House of the Lord to worship God (2 Samuel 12:14-31). Why? Because God is worthy of our worship despite our circumstances. Do you believe this to be true? Do you still praise God for who He is and trust His will even when what you are experiencing, or facing in the moment, makes absolutely no sense to you?
In this event, Elijah proved to be a true prophet of God, as the woman declares of him: “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth” (1 Kings 17:24).
3. Will the True Prophets Please Stand Up?
1 Kings 18:20-40
No look at Elijah’s life would be complete without a consideration of the most memorable event of his ministry: his confrontation with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. In this interaction, we see the true courage and faith that the office of God’s prophet required, as well as the power of God, Himself, to do amazing things.
To set this event in context, know that King Ahab ruled about 150 years after David, and by that time, the northern kingdom of Israel was practicing the very evil that the Israelites were supposed to have driven out of the land, namely idolatry. Under the patronage of Queen Jezebel, prophets of the Canaanite god Baal had full reign to do what they wanted in Israel (1 Kings 19:1-2). These prophets brought paganism to the ancient Israelites. For his opposition to this pagan worship and the kings who endorsed it, Elijah was labeled the “troubler of Israel” by Ahab. This sparked a well-known confrontation between Elijah and the false prophets on Mount Carmel. Right there, before the people of Israel, Elijah called the nation to choose whom it would serve: the Lord, Yahweh, or Baal. It was not possible for them to serve both nor to be double-minded (as per 1 Kings 18:20–21). God is not interested in halfhearted vows or a part-time relationship (cf. Joshua 24:15; Psalm 119:113; Matthew 6:24; John 14:6).
From a human perspective, Elijah was outnumbered by the false prophets of Baal 450 to 1; however, that did not stop him from confronting them, for he knew who the true God was and who the imposters were. Elijah was so confident that he did everything possible to prove beyond any doubt that Yahweh is the true God. He even soaked the sacrifices, and built a moat, so that only a powerful fire from heaven could consume the offering. And that is exactly what happened (1 Kings 18:22–40). Grounded in the word of the Lord and trusting fully in God’s mighty power, Elijah stood down a powerful enemy and testified to divine truth.
Make this personal for yourself. Are you divided in your allegiance and devotion? Do you have things or people or a status that is equal to God in your life? It is many times easy to say “no,” but what does your life say about this? Think about the way you spend money and time. Who gets your radical devotion and first priority in your day and decisions? I believe many are willing to trust their hearts to God, but are you willing to trust your reputation, your family, your money, and your life to God? Is it truly and fully His?
Another way to truly test this in your life is to really ask how utterly submitted you are to God’s word. Do you submit yourself to what He says about Himself, you, and the life you should live; or do you constantly ignore it and or make excuses for why you don’t submit fully to it in all areas of faith and life?
4. The Still, Small Voice of God
1 Kings 19:1-18
Elijah was faithful to God even when he stood alone. Elijah said to the Lord, “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.”
Are we so jealous for the glory and name of our Lord that we will daily put our lives on the line for Him? Are we willing to stand in the face of death and persecution to call out those who forsake the Lord and make a mockery of His name? These are hard questions to answer in the modern world in which we live, where the persecution of Christians has not reached most of our households. But the temperature is turning up. The question is, are we grounded in God and His word and in strong Bible-teaching, Bible-believing churches where we can unite and fight and testify of our Lord?
When there is so much noise all around us, are we slowing down enough to get with God and His word, so we can hear His still, small voice? Are you letting the noise and the wicked culture that is all around us get you down, or are you standing strong in God and His word to carry on like Elijah? God saw that Elijah was faithful and devoted and called on him to go do great things. Praise God for this example. Praise God we have His living word to speak to us every day and direct our paths. May we turn off the noise and dive into His word and obey His commands on our lives!
5. Make Disciples
2 Kings 2:1-14
Here we read the amazing end to Elijah’s life. He and Enoch were the only ones to be taken to heaven without dying. What a display as the fire of God was a holy escort to the presence of God in heaven. Elisha’s request was for Elijah’s ministry to be handed to him to carry on. What a massive honor this was. In the New Testament, God’s commission on our lives as the Church is to make disciples (Matthew 28:18). Elijah’s handoff to Elisha was a great Old Testament example of this kind of God-focused legacy being passed on.
Who are you being discipled by? I mean who has full access to your life, who is teaching you the word of God, and who is helping you mature to the place of readiness that you can disciple others? If you have been discipled, then who are you discipling? One of the biggest markers that we stewarded our lives well for the Lord is that we were serious, not only about our faith in God, but about being trained and then training others. This could be your kids, church family, neighbors, or friends.
Elisha being given the ministry of Elijah was confirmed in the fact that Elijah’s cloak fell on him. Also, God parted the waters for him, just as this was a sign of God’s favor on the leadership of Moses and of Joshua before him.
6. The Finished Work of the Cross
Puritan commentator Matthew Henry says that “there is a proneness in good men to expect the crown without the cross.” This is a comment on Matthew 17:1–8 and Peter’s desire to build “tents,” or “tabernacles” for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration. Peter is rebuked for his wish, indirectly. Once more, Peter has missed the entire picture about the Savior. He thinks it is time to celebrate the fullness of the Messianic Age according to Zechariah 14:16–19, a vision of the Feast of Booths on the Day of the Lord. But as Jesus has said, the full revelation of His glory can come only after the cross.
The Lord’s disciples were confused after Jesus mentioned His death, especially since they had just seen Elijah (Matthew 17:10). Based on Malachi 4:5–6, first-century Jews looked for Elijah’s return to restore righteousness in Israel and bring reconciliation between God’s people prior to the Messianic Age. As Malachi predicted, the new Elijah (as John the Baptist was known) was rejected, even executed by the authorities (Matthew 14:1–12). The stage was set for the Messiah to, likewise, be killed. In His ministry, atonement, and resurrection, Jesus finished the task necessary to bring repentance to Israel and His people of the nations. Today, He uses us to proclaim this work to the world.
What a sight. What a revelation. May we not only be in awe of the work of God in and through Elijah and ultimately in and through Christ, but may we respond with a bold testimony of what Jesus has done on behalf of His people. May we be as bold as Elijah in our daily faith walk and testimony. May we run the race until our God-decided end, when we will reign with Him in holy heaven with the giants of our faith who have gone before us.
By His grace and for His glory,
Soldiers for Jesus MC