Elijah is a unique and fascinating character in the Biblical narrative. What do we know about him? Much of the closing portion of I Kings and the beginning of II Kings are devoted to describing his work. The Old Testament concludes with a prediction of his coming. Malachi 4:5,6 reads - "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse." We learn from Matthew 11:13,14 that this "second coming" of Elijah was actually fulfilled by John the baptizer. We also have record of Elijah appearing with Moses as Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James, and John on the mountain in Matthew 17:1-13. It has been suggested that God had Moses appear because he was the greatest lawgiver and Elijah because he was the greatest prophet; that is, until Jesus came! No one excelled Christ as lawgiver, prophet, priest, or king. It is well known that Elijah did not die a natural death. Rather, he was taken into the sky in a whirlwind (cf. II Kings 2:11).
When we consider some of God's greatest servants in the Bible, we can observe significant mistakes and terrible sins committed during moments of weakness. Noah found grace in God's eyes and Lot was righteous, yet they both got drunk. David, a man after God's own heart, committed adultery and murder. Solomon, with all of his wisdom, let his wives lead his heart away from God into idolatry. Elijah is no different; this great man had has struggles. The sacred text records him becoming terrified of the wicked queen Jezebel, fleeing for his life, and hiding in a depressed state. And this was just after having a great success for the Lord (cf. I Kings 18:17ff). Let's look a little closer at this man and glean some lessons from his life.
Elijah lived in a difficult time.
This was because of those in power politically and their corrupting influence on the nation. An evil and selfish king ruled; his name was Ahab. He had a wife named Jezebel who was even more evil than he. Her name came to be synonymous with evil. Consider Jesus' letter to the church at Thyatira in Revelation 2:20 - "Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols." Ahab was more wicked than all the kings of Israel who had preceded him. I Kings 16:33 reveals - "And Ahab made a wooden image. Ahab did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him." Can you imagine being described in God's word like that? What a tragedy!
Politics and religion have always been closely associated. The values (or lack thereof) of those in power end up being expressed in the nation's laws and manifested in their every decision. Thus, when the politicians are immoral, it will hurt religion eventually. Such is still true today. However, since Israel was a theocracy with their laws expressly given by God, they would have avoided many problems had they followed their God instead of an earthly king.
Ahab and Jezebel were fully committed to their idolatrous agenda. They had tried to kill off all of the resistance (i.e., God's prophets), but Obadiah had hidden one hundred prophets in two caves and fed them. God had Elijah confront the false prophets at Mt. Carmel. The event is recorded in I Kings 18:17ff.
We will study this confrontation in our next lesson.