Winners and Losers: Part 20 - Elijah: The Man of Boldness
Kathy's Sunday School Lessons - Written for Young Boys and Girls by Kathryn Capoccia
© Copyright Kathryn Capoccia 2001. This file may be freely copied, printed out, and distributed as long as copyright and source statements remain intact, and that it is not sold.
Elijah is one of the most heroic prophetic figures of the Old Testament. His life had such a powerful impact upon his society and upon prophetic expectations (because of MAL 4:5) that even after his ascension men looked for his return: the 50 prophets from the school of prophets looked for him (2KI 2:15-18), John the Baptist was questioned about whether he was Elijah returned and Christ Jesus was also considered by some to be Elijah. Elijah’s service for God occurred during the reigns of wicked king Ahab and his son, Ahaziah, in the northern kingdom of Israel in the 9th century B.C.. Primarily because of their adulterous worship of Baal (god of rain, wind, clouds, fertility of the land: 2KI 3:2) and Asherah (wife of Baal: 2KI 13:6) God judged their land and sent Elijah to boldly confront them in their sin.
I. Who Was He? 1KI 17-19, 21:17-29; 2KI 1,2; MAL 4:5; MAT 16:14; MAR 6:15; JAM 5:17,18; REV 11:6).
A. What was his name? Elijah means, “YAH is my God”.
B. Where and when did he live? He lived in Israel during the reigns of
Ahab (874-853 B.C. and Ahaziah (853-852 B.C.). He also resided in Zarephath
Phoenicians (Jezebel’s homeland) for a time (1KI 17).
C. Who were his people?
1. He was of the sojourners from Gilead (1KI 17:1), so he was of the Trans-Jordan Jews.
2. He is called “the Tishbite”, meaning he was from Tishbe, probably
E. of the Jordan River, though possibly in Naphtali. A Tisbe/Tisbeh in
Upper Galilee in Naphtali is known
from the apocryphal book of Tobit so its possible that Elijah’s family had resided in Naphtali and had been displaced to Gilead during the Aramean wars of Baasha’s reign.
D. What was his appearance? He wore a hairy camel skin with a belt, a
rough garment denoting the severity of God’s judgment upon the worldliness
and ease of sinners (2KI
II. What Did He Do?
A. He was a powerful servant of God
1. He condemned Ahab about idolatry (1KI 17:1)
a. Drought predicted (1KI 17:1).
*This is interesting because Baal was supposed to control rain; here God shows that He, not Baal, controls the elements. The rains that were expected were the early rains (October/November) and the latter rains (March/April).
1) This drought was a special application of DEU 11:16,17, 27:23,24 and LEV 26:19 which predicted that idolatry would bring “shut heavens”.
2) Elijah declared himself to be God’s servant into whose hand God had placed the authority to punish their sins (1KI 17:1).
b. Elijah preserved (1KI 17: 2-6).
*God ordered Elijah to hide himself, the prophet did not run away. He turned eastward from Samaria to the Jordan and the brook Cherith which was in front of the Jordan (location uncertain).
1) The Cherith brook
a) Bread and meat were to be brought to Elijah morning and evening by ravens.
i. Ravens are voracious carrion eaters- that they dutifully obeyed God in providing the food must have strengthened Elijah’s faith in God’s sovereignty.
ii. The fact that God faithfully provided for Elijah’s needs must have strengthened his faith in God’s providence.
b) Water was supplied by the brook until it dried up from the drought.
2) The Zarephath widow
a) Zarephath was located on the Mediterranean Sea between Tyre and Sidon; Elijah’s sojourn lasted at least 2 years there (1KI 17:1).
b) The widow identified herself as a believer in God “as the LORD your God lives” (vs. 12); Jesus identified her as such in Luke 4:24,25.
i. She believed the word of God from Elijah and obeyed by making food out of the last of her supplies; this indicates that she was poor and also that the famine had reached even there.
ii. She was supplied with materials to continue to minister to Elijah; her oil and flour did not run out.
iii. The fact that Elijah was sent to the widow, a Gentile, was a rebuke to the unbelievers of Israel.
c. The widow’s son presented (1KI 17:17-24)
1) The widow’s son died (“no breath remained in him”) and the widow, in her superstition, saw it as judgment for her sins (vs. 18).
2) Elijah prayed for the boy’s life to return and it did, as a forerunner of the work of Christ who raises all to new life.
*This incident was both a authenticating miracle to accredit Elijah and also to strengthen the widow’s new-found faith, as the medium to display God’s power (JOH 9:3) and his grace toward all who believe, both Jew and Gentile (ROM 3:29).
2. He contested Baal (1KI 18)
*Mt. Carmel is part of the Carmel ridge that divides the coastal plain of Palestine into the plain of Acco to the north and the plains of Sharon and Philistia to the south. Mt. Carmel is very close to the sea and it may well be that the water poured on Elijah’s sacrifice was sea water, especially in light of the fact that a drought had existed for over 3 years in that region.
a. Ahab confronted (1KI 18:1-20).
1) The drought had not brought about Ahab’s repentance so God sent Elijah to him to arrange a convincing display of His power through providing rain and through vanquishing Baal in a contest between Himself and Baal.
a) Obadiah, the governor of Ahab’s castle, is confronted with Elijah and reveals himself as a believer to Elijah (vs. 12,13).
i. Obadiah had hidden and fed 100 prophets of God in 2 caves, from Jezebel’s executioners (this was probably at his own expense).
ii. Obadiah told Elijah of the existence of these compatriots but he did not listen.
b) Obadiah arranged for Ahab to meet with Elijah (vs. 16).
2) Elijah ordered Ahab to arrange the contest between 450 priests of Baal and 400 priests of Aherah and himself (vs.19).
a) Word was sent for the prophets to assemble at Carmel (vs. 20), though only the prophets of Baal came (vs. 25,40).
b) The people assembled too (vs. 21).
b. Baal condemned (1KI 18:22-40).
1) Baal bested
a) Elijah challenged the people to choose their deity based upon his performance at Carmel (vs. 23-24).
b) Elijah set the parameters of the contest: each group would place an offering of a bull before their god and call upon him to ignite it and consume it.
i. The prophets of Baal arranged their sacrifice and called upon their god from “morning until noon” with no answer; from midday until evening sacrifice (3:00) they raved and cut themselves but still got no answer (1KI 18:25-29).
ii. Elijah offered a bull upon a rebuilt altar, dug a trench around it, drenched it with 12 buckets of water and called upon God who answered with fire.
iii. The people acknowledged God and renounced Baal (vs. 39).
2) Priests slain
c. Drought concluded
3. He confronted Ahab about Naboth (1KI 21:1-27).
*Naboth’s field was in Jezreel, Ahab’s summer palace near the Kishon River.
4. He confirmed Ahaziah’s death (2KI 1).
a. Messengers intercepted (2KI 1:5-8)
*Here is an example of Divine knowledge; God caused Elijah to intercept the messengers and to rebuke the king’s hard unbelieving heart.
b. Contingent consumed
1) 2 ungodly groups of 50 men were consumed by fire from heaven.
2) 1 group led by a humble commander was spared and Elijah accompanied them to the king.
c. King confronted
*The king was in Samaria, the capital of Israel and the location of the great temple of Baal (modeled after the Sidonian original).
B. He was an ordinary man
1. He was “just like us” (“like” means “homoiopathes”, “of like feelings or affections”: JAM 5:17; see ACT 14:15).
a. He was a human being.
1) He was weak in his flesh (PSA 103:15; JAM 4:14; 2CO 4:7).
2) He did ordinary work:
a) He continued the school of the prophets.
b) He discipled Elisha.
b. He was subject to the same weaknesses we are:
1) sufferings and trials:
a) the hardships of the Brook Cherith.
b) the effects of the famine.
c) the death of the Zarephath woman’s son.
2) temptations (1KI 19:1-8:see 1JO 1:16):
“Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, ‘May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them’” (1KI 19:1,2)
i. He “was afraid ran for his life” (or “‘saw’ and ran for his life”: vs. 3).
ii. He fled to Beersheba (the southern frontier of Judah) and then into the desert (of Paran: vs. 3,4).
*This word for fear can be translated “saw” and commentators have speculated that Elijah wasn’t afraid of Jezebel, but was totally discouraged that all of his efforts and God’s power had no effect upon Jezebel’s hard heart or upon her support of idolatry. His flight, therefore was not panic but was a desertion of a people and a country that refused God.
“‘I have had enough, LORD,’ he said. ‘Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.’ Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep”.
i. He longed to die (vs. 4). WHY?
ii. He felt futile and alone (vs. 10).
2. He needed God’s perspective
a. about the nature of God
1) Elijah experienced His care (1KI 19:4-7).
a) He acted as a “shoulder to cry on” (vs. 4)
b) He sent an angel to provide food and drink (vs. 5-8).
c) He told Elijah to seek Him at Horeb (vs. 8,9).
d) He gave Elijah an opportunity to examine himself (vs. 10).
2) Elijah was summoned to experience His power (1KI 19:11,12).
*Elijah had come to overlook God’s revealed work among His people and so needed to see that God was still God; Moses had experienced the glory of God on Horeb (or Sinai: EXO 34:6,7) because he needed to see evidence that God would remain with the Israelites.
a) He created a great and powerful wind which “tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks”(vs. 11).
b) He created an earthquake (vs. 11).
c) He created a fire (vs. 12).
3) Elijah was called to experience His gentleness (1KI 19:12,13).
a) He “passed by” in a gentle whisper (vs. 12).
b) He gave Elijah another opportunity to examine and explain himself (vs. 14).
b. about the continuation of his ministry
1) He was commissioned
a) to anoint Hazael of Damascus to become king of Aram (1KI 19:15)
b) to anoint Jehu to erradicate Baal worship in Israel (1KI 19:16,17).
c) to anoint Elisha to succeed Elijah in his prophetic role (1KI 19:16).
2) He was comforted
“I [God] reserve 7,000 in Israel- all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him” (1KI 19:18).
3. His power lay in earnest prayer (“proseuchomai”, “begging”: JAM 5:17,18).
“The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (JAM 5:16).
a. He was a righteous man (JAM 5:16,17):
1) someone justified by God through faith and someone evidencing works from faith.
2) someone to whom God’s mercy is given (DAN 9:18).
b) He prayed earnestly (JAM 5:17).
*Earnestly means, “seriously and intensely, zealously and sincerely, deeply convinced”, Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary.
1) He believed God heard him and would answer (HEB 11:6; MAT 6:8, 7:7, 21:22; MAR 6:22; JOH 14:14, 15:7).
2) He was serious about prayer
a) Prayer connected him to God (1KI 18:36,37,42-44; 19:4,10,14; 2KI 1:12-15).
b) He persevered in prayer (1KI 18:41-44).
c) His prayers were effective
i. in the matter of the drought (JAM 5:17).
“He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for 3 ½ years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops” (JAM 5:17).
ii. in the matter of the Zarephath widow’s son (1KI 17:20-22).
“Then he cried out to the LORD, ‘O LORD my God, have You brought tragedy also upon this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?’ Then he stretched himself out on the boy 3 times and cried to the LORD, ‘O LORD my God, let this boy’s life return to him!’ The LORD heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived”.
iii. in the contest at Carmel
C. He had an extraordinary end
1. He did not die (2KI 2:1-12).
a. He was translated
1) God sent him on a journey to his spiritual children.
a) He and Elisha were together “when the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind” (2KI 1:1; Elisha knew that Elijah was about to depart: 2KI 2:3,5).
b) He went from Gilgal to Bethel (2KI 2:1; these were the locations of the two schools of the prophets, 1KI 12:29; the prophets there knew God’s plan to take Elijah home: 2KI 2:3).
WHERE WERE THESE PLACES?
i. Gilgal was either in the Jordan Valley east of Jericho, or more likely upon the mountains south-west of Silo since they went “down” from Gilgal, Keil-Deleitczh, pg. 290.
ii. Bethel was in the territory of Ephraim just west of Ai (3 mi.) and about 15 west of Gilgal.
c) He went from Bethel to Jericho (2KI 2:4-5; this was the location of another group of 50 prophets who also knew of God’s plan).
WHY DID GOD SEND HIM THERE?
2) God took him home (2KI 2:11).
a) a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and came between Elijah and Elisha.
b) Elijah “went up to heaven in a whirlwind”.
b. He was seen
1) Elisha watched him (2KI 2:12).
a) Elisha asked to receive Elijah’s office and was told that if he saw Elijah he would get it (2KI 2:10).
b) Elisha was an eye-witness to his ascension (2KI 2:12).
2) the company of prophets watched him from a distance (2KI 2:15,16).
2. His legacy did not die
a. His “spirit” came to Elisha
1) Elisha had seen Elijah go, thus proof that he would receive a “double portion” (that which was allotted to the heir) of Elijah’s spirit.
2) Elisha repeated Elijah’s feat of parting the waters with Elijah’s prophet cloak (2KI 2:13).
b. He became a “type”
WHAT IS A TYPE?
1) A type of Christ
a) fasting and praying 40 days in the desert (1KI 19:8; see MAT 4:2; 16:14).
b) raising people from the dead.
2) A type of the “Rapture”
a) He ascended to Heaven without dying.
b) the Church will “rapture” (1TH 4:16,17).
3) A type of the ideal prophet
a) He appeared in predictive Scripture (MAL 4:5; MAT 16:14; MAR 6:15, 8:28).
b) He appeared at the Transfiguration representing “the prophets” (MAT 17:4; MAR 9:5; LUK 9:33).
c) “He” will appear at the end times (REV 11:6).
WAS HE A WINNER OR A LOSER?
III. What Can We Learn From Him?
A. God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things (2CO 4:7); D. L. Moody often said, “The world has never seen what God can do with one fully consecrated man”. While we can never fully overcome the weakness of our flesh we can do great things for God if we yield ourselves in obedience to Him.
B. God will provide for His children even in the most trying of circumstances.
C. Even great saints experience times of discouragement; these do not lessen their achievements, but they do mean that the rest of the Body needs to be sensitive to offer encouragement at the right times.
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