Last week we began looking at great characters in the Old Testament and their life-changing encounters with God. We considered Moses, Abraham, Enoch, Gideon and the three Hebrew boys exiled in Babylon. Yesterday we looked at Caleb. Each of these are common, ordinary folks with flaws, faults, and foibles. They can only be considered great because they encountered a great God.
God uses ordinary, common men and women in extraordinary, uncommon ways. Elijah put his britches on one leg at a time, just like every ordinary man. (Oops. He wore a hairy coat with a wide belt. I’m not sure he wore britches. Sorry.)
Elijah jumps onto the pages of the Old Testament with limited introduction. “Now Elijah the Tishbite, from the Gilead settlers, said to Ahab, ‘As the Lord God of Israel lives, in whose presence I stand, there will be no dew or rain during these years except by my command!’ ”(1 Kings 17:1).
A bit of background might be helpful. Ahab “reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty-two years... Ahab son of Omri did what was evil in the Lord’s sight more than all who were before him. Then, as if following the sin of Jeroboam son of Nebat were not enough, he married Jezebel, the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and then proceeded to serve Baal and bow in worship to him... Ahab did more to anger the Lord God of Israel than all the kings of Israel who were before him (1 Kings 16:29–33).
Baal, the Canaanite’s mythical god, was their god of fertility who controlled the much-needed spring rains, so when Elijah announced the drought, he spit in Baal’s eye. Elijah’s first words boldly announced the Living God’s superiority over Ahab’s impotent, imaginary god. Elijah, empowered by God Almighty, threw down the gauntlet, challenging Ahab and Baal.
“For three years and six months it did not rain on the land” (James 5:17). Crops died. Livestock died. People died. The pagan god was powerless to bring the life-giving rains. At the apex of the deadly drought, Elijah challenged Ahab and Baal to a battle-royal on Mount Carmel. Four-hundred-fifty priests represented Baal. Elijah, God’s representative stood alone... but not really alone. God was with him (1 Kings 18:20-46).
“You boys build an altar and call upon Baal to rain fire from heaven. He couldn’t send rain... maybe he can send fire. Ha! When you’re done looking like fools, I’ll pray to the Living God, and He WILL answer with fire!” That’s just what happened. The prophets of Baal danced around their altar, singing, shouting, begging. Baal, a dead god, couldn’t hear.
But Jehovah heard Elijah. “ ‘Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, today let it be known that you are God in Israel and I am your servant, and that at your word I have done all these things. Answer me, Lord! Answer me so that this people will know that you, the Lord, are God’ Then the Lord’s fire fell and consumed the burnt offering, the wood, the stones, and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench. When all the people saw it, they fell facedown and said, “The Lord, he is God! The Lord, he is God!” (1 Kings 18:36-39).
Elijah was an ordinary man who exhibited extraordinary faith in the One and Only Living God. He’s still God today, and He still answers prayer.
All Scripture quotations, except as otherwise noted, are from
Holman Bible Publishers’ Christian Standard Bible.