1 Kings 17:1
What few readers take stock off with this opening statement that biblically introduces us to the man of like passions -passions such as we carry – is his assured knowledge of authority. His opening words have an absoluteness about them which is staggering. There was no, “I feel the Lord is saying …” There was not a hint of, “Eh! I think I have a picture …” There was no caveat that even hinted that, “At least that is what I think God is saying!” The man appeared in the chronicles of Israel’s history as if from heaven. Where he came from we know not apart from this place that nobody knows called “Tishbe.” The man approached the king and made an incredible decree of an absolute statement. Elijah carried a “This is how it will be. It cannot be anything else apart from what I say.” He was a man who was conscious and aware of the authority heaven had given him and was energetically exercising that authority. He had an authority resting upon him that had hitherto been unknown unto this moment.
It was as if he had read the scriptures about what would happen if Israel turned to false gods and/or idolatry. It is as though Elijah had demanded of God that the scripture be fulfilled irrespective of the human authority in the land. The king and queen on the throne of Israel at that point of time had misled masses that followed the direction they had taken the populace and the hundreds of prophets that had stayed silent in fear of their lives. Elijah was, humanly speaking, a total individualist. However, he was totally aligned with and submissive to Yahweh, his Word and His Spirit. He ignored the reality of the culture of the society he lived in and was completely overwhelmed with the statements of scripture and the Spirit that inspired those scriptures.
We have no line of scripture that actually tells us that Elijah read the books of Moses. So called higher critical scholars waffle on about how difficult it is for them to presuppose that there were complete copies of the Pentateuch extant in Elijah’s day, especially in Transjordan Gilead. I fret not. Humble non-academic writers like myself have a solid evidential rationale as to why we believe Elijah would at the very least have access to the first five books of the Bible, but irrespective of whether he did or did not, the motivation, and the stated goal of this prophetic word to Ahab is thoroughly biblical and utterly coherent from what Moses wrote under inspiration, predicted and left for the posterity of Israel’s generation in scroll form.
My point is that the contents of the prophetic forecasts of Moses were clearly more concrete in their promises than the reality of what was happening around him. The words in the scriptures, though written hundreds of years prior to Elijah’s birth were more tangible, relevant and permeating the present than the activities and occult screams of Ahab and his wife. The present tense used when he refers to the “Lord God of Israel before whom I stand,” needs to be seen for what it is. It is the reverse of what happens to millions of Christian believers. We ask God for “His presence” and then refer to our daily inter-actions as separate from the time we have spent in His presence. Elijah was in Yahweh’s intimate presence wherever he went, whatever he was about,
And not only that. Elijah’s words tell us that he is more aware of the presence of Yahweh than the oppressive atmosphere of the idolatrous culture, and the reigning earthly monarch of that culture whom he was looking at face to face. The Heavenly and spiritual realities of God, His presence and His Word were more concrete to Elijah than the flesh and blood, time-space world of matter and physical substance. The prophet’s words defy the temporal realities of this world and forcefully impose the realities of God and His word here on planet earth. What is seen is temporal, what is unseen is eternal. The fact that it is unseen and eternal, does not mean that the realities of God’s word and the realm of the Spirit cannot be made manifest and tangible within the physical world. The spiritual world was in existence before the physical. The physical world came out of the spiritual world. The spiritual is much more impacting and influential on the physical world than any influence of the physical world.
Elijah was aware that the authority to bring rain that had been given him would not have a need to be utilised for “these years.” The man was here to stay. He was no “fly by night” big mouth who would disappear never to be seen again. His words let it be known that even though he physically would not be seen for “these years” (a period of time that turned out to be three and a half years) his words would hang over the ground, the heavens, the clouds, the laws of precipitation from the Mediterranean sea or the sea of Galilee, and the physical universe as it existed in Elijah’s generation for 1,240 days – three and a half years. He was to be physically absent for “these years” nevertheless present by the word of God that he had spoken and left behind him.
The rain would not have stopped over idolatrous Israel if Elijah had not said so. God does nothing without revealing His plans and intentions to His prophets. The prophetic word does not take place until and unless it is spoken. The prophetic word is an event. “No more dew or rain until I say so,” is what the prophet said, and immediately it was spoken, the machinery that runs the cosmos was altered. Elijah the prophet was an official mouth piece of God. When he spoke it was as if God had spoken. “No more rain or dew until I say”, had as much authority and power as “Let there be light” when it was spoken into the darkness by the Almighty Himself.
Elijah was given the tiniest drop from the infinite ocean of God’s omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence. Books and professors talk of the communicable attributes of God and how they are clearly differentiated from the non-communicable attributes. But what is Elijah’s prophecy if it is not a slight drop of God’s “omni attributes.” Elijah was privy to the future. He was educated in the past writings of Moses where quill was put to parchment by the inspiration and moving of the Holy Spirit. It was, as it were, in his wallet (whatever the eighth century BC equivalent was). The power to stop rain and to grant rain was in his mouth, in his being and under the auspices of Elijah’s own volition. Elijah was about to travel out of Ahab and Jezebel’s kingdom and walk northwards to a place called Zarapheth, and yet he carried a tiny morsel of God’s omnipotence by holding the rain back from the land and conceivably millions of people down south in Israel and – presumably – the southern kingdom of Judah. Elijah could move and travel. The word he had spoken over a place remained.
We learn at this point that there are different depths of prophetic gifting. While hundreds were hiding in caves and staying silent, their prophetic calling and gifting was in no way compromised. Some prophets see further than others. Some prophets see deeper than others. Some prophets are bolder than others. Some prophets say things that can be ignored without loss. Some prophets shake the world by what God has made them privy to.
Elijah walked with divine authority brooding over him. It was authority so much higher than the king of Israel as not to be even compared. Years in the future of the real-time of 1 Kings 17:1, a Syrian king wrote to one of Ahab’s successors saying, “Heal my most beloved servant of his leprosy.” The king of Israel of that day was in utter despair when he addressed the servant with his leprosy and read the royal missive from the enemy kingdom of Syria. But the king with all his authority and knowledge and aristocratic court was utterly ignorant that there was a prophet in Israel who carried authority that the king knew nothing of. His lowly servants told him of a man called “Elisha”. It is difficult to conceive that he had not encountered Elisha prior to that time. But the servant Naaman was thereafter directed to the kingly prophet Elisha and was famously healed. That story is for another time, but the principle was current and present here with Elijah. Divinely imparted authority was seen, known, sensed and experienced wherever Elijah went and neither King Ahab nor the wicked Queen Jezebel had a clue as to who and what they were dealing with. Some saw the Tishbite as a thorn in the side of the kingdom and the royal family. Some saw him as a tramp, a homeless wild man that did not deserve the time of day. Others were hushed at the thought of the mighty prophet, and trembled before his word. Ahab and Jezebel would, as did Pharaoh in the days of Moses, rue the day they decided to even attempt to ignore or counter the word of God that was delivered by the moth of the prophet from Gilead.
“No rain till I say so.” It was just as hard to calmly believe and accept those words as kosher, as it would be if such a statement was made in the 21st century.
The foundation of the New Testament church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. May we taste the sweet authority and direction of prophets of God in this day and generation.