4. Conscious known awareness of heavenly authority.

"The god that answers by fire ...He is God.

1Kings17v1interlinear1 Kings 17:1

A statute of Elijah about to slay a priest of Baal. I believe this is situated on the approximate spot where 1 Kings 18 took place.
A statute of Elijah about to slay a priest of Baal. I believe this is situated on the approximate spot where 1 Kings 18 took place.

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.

Screen Shot 2019-02-21 at 14.06.42My 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.

It has Elijah's name on the picture... so it must be he.
It has Elijah’s name on the picture… so it must be he.

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.

Screen Shot 2019-03-06 at 17.38.18

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.

This artist obviously thought Elijah had an audience beyond only Ahab. It makes sense, but 1 Kings 17 does not say.
This artist obviously thought Elijah had an audience beyond only Ahab. It makes sense, but 1 Kings 17 does not say.

 

3.“No Rain Until I say so?”  What? How? When? Where?

One artist's impression of 1 Kings 17:1. (I don't think Elijah would have had a hood!)

Follow my thoughts and my inner understanding as I dissect what we are dealing with in 1 Kings 17:1.

1Kings17v1interlinear

ELIJAH’S SELF-ACKNOWLEDGED STATUS AND LOCATION

Elijah’s position geographically, spiritually and mentally

A sanitised view of both Elijah and Jezebel methinks. But good artwork.
A sanitised view of both Elijah and Jezebel methinks. But good artwork.

As clear as clear can be, Elijah was a human being standing on planet earth talking to a rather insipid king named Ahab. To help with the word picture and mental image of the text, if the reader knows anything about English History, I would suggest you summon an image of king Henry VI of England in the fifteenth century (and for a while king of France as well). Ahab was an amplified version of this king Henry (1421-1471), and as most of the main observations that historians make of him are utterly negative, the amplification of Ahab is in the realm of all things negative. Ahab was self-centred, timid, shy, passive, ill-intentioned, and averse to warfare and violence. It may be harsh to say he was mentally simple, but all things inform the senses that if it wasn’t for the strength of people around him both Henry and Ahab, as the colloquial phrase puts it, “would not have known which side of the bed to get out of.” For the reasons of those characteristics Ahab left all major and/or harsh decisions to his dominating loud mouthed wife, Jezebel. If Ahab found it hard to make decisions (and he surely did) Jezebel would make the decisions for him. It would be accurate to conclude from the biblical narrative that Jezebel was as opposite to Ahab as it was possible to be. One could think that Ahab was like an indulged child – effeminate in manner, while Jezebel comes across as a hardened “masculine charactered” woman who was quick to order violence, immorality or murder without flinching. Not that I am suggesting Jezebel looked anything like masculine. In that I believe she was a professional seductress and possibly quite beautiful. On top of all this, Ahab was, it would seem, at times, somewhat mentally unstable.

So; picture the scene. Elijah was physically stood in front of Ahab, face to face, one to one and staring into his eyes. We are not told of anybody else who was present in the confrontation in the real-time of 1 Kings 17:1. However, there were no “court protocols” in Elijah’s approach, his words or mannerisms. The opening words of his declaration give his purpose away. “As the Lord lives before whom I stand.” It could be equally correctly translated, “Before whom I am standing.” Elijah uses the present tense. Elijah states it in a manner that presupposes that Yahweh lives. This was a statement made in the midst of a generation where many subscribed to the error that Yahweh was dead and Ba-al and Asherah were very much alive. Elijah’s statement carries with it a complete submission to the Master he was serving. Elijah’s statement defies the spirit of the age. The Tishbite was spitting in the face of and belittling the zeitgeist of Israel that was dominating the people at that moment. The evil concept of Baal and Asherah were not to be even mentioned in the face of Ahab. Ahab was the secondary passive force that precipitated the rise of Baal worship, Jezebel his strong minded and heavy-handed dominating wife who was a veritable apostle of the immoral and illegitimate cult of Baal.

Oh! The drama! Melodrama perhaps.
Oh! The drama! Artistic Melodrama perhaps.

“Excuse me Elijah, you are stood before the king of Israel. Can we have at least a smattering of decorum and royal protocol please? Perhaps a slight bow in acknowledgement of Israel’s king.” It was however, as if Elijah is more conscious of the presence of invisible Yahweh than he was of the physical presence of the king and whatever the authority was that he claimed. It was as if the same God who tells New Testament Christians to “Honour the King” and who blessed all that sat under the character and reign of David and Solomon – with all the faults that duo carried – was denying the honour to the throne and character that Ahab occupied and presented. It was as if Elijah was subliminally suggesting that the crown he wore was not legitimately carried. Perhaps it was because Elijah was consciously aware that his authority was not only above Ahab’s, but more tangible than anything that society had invested in Ahab and Jezebel.

For this one moment, by proxy of Elijah’s engagement with him, idolatrous lily-livered Ahab was ushered into the presence of Almighty God and was made privy to the will and mind of heaven. “There will be no rain nor dew in the land for the next few years … until I say so.”

Then, as suddenly as entering the court and presence of Ahab, the Tishbite is gone.

“But what about the poor “innocent” masses of Israel? What about all the other nations in the Lavant and surrounding area? What about the animals? What about the farmers? Qualify your statement Elijah! You must be a little off your mind. How extensive will this announced drought be? No man has made such a pronouncement in the history of mankind. What makes you so special Elijah? We shall just get on with life and ignore you. We will not be intimidated by you. We have hundreds of priests of Baal in Israel. You are the one single so called prophet of Yahweh. What chance have you got against us? Just wait till Jezebel hears of this. If I ever catch sight of you again we will deal with you appropriately. With fields full of verdant crops, and the land green and lush after the early and latter rains we will show you who is in charge in Israel.” But Elijah was not present to answer any questions. Some would have been angry. Some would have laughed. Some would have trembled.  Some would have ignored the scenario as too melo-dramatic to be real. The legend of the confrontation and the words delivered must have had somebody present as well as the Prophet and the King because the words became famously repeated through the social media of the day and were increased in power and impact the more the story was repeated.

Could the populace gather round the Tishbite and start an “Anti-Baal” movement?

But, no! The roughly dressed hairy man was not to be found. And for the immediate future the entire Lavant, it would seem, was suspended in the Limbo of having Elijah’s words hanging over the entire Middle East.

THE SOURCE OF ELIJAH’S EXPERIENTIAL AUTHORITY

One artist's impression of 1 Kings 17:1. (I don't think Elijah would have had a hood!)
One artist’s impression of 1 Kings 17:1. (I don’t think Elijah would have had a hood!)

Elijah’s words suggested that he was speaking not only for God, but – wait for it – as God. Elijah did not even suggest that Yahweh told him what to say. His remark was not even prefixed by a, “Thus says the Lord”, or, “This is what Yahweh told me to tell you.” It was a prophetic gift, a prophetic anointing sitting upon his entire being which gave him the conscious authority to speak as an official mouthpiece of Yahweh. Elijah truly assumed more authority than any worldly monarch or ruler had ever carried. The language he used tells us that he had literally taken charge over the climate. His authority and power in this realm seemed absolute. At least, if it wasn’t absolute it was deeper and more comprehensive than anyone that had lived before him had ever manifested. Samuel was near this sort of thing, as was Moses, but never quite as, “smack you in the face” direct as was the Tishbite from Gilead.  Elijah’s words assume the absolute veracity and sureness of the Hebrew scriptures. I believe that Elijah must have known what Moses had written in Leviticus 26:14-21 as well as Deuteronomy 11:16-17.

Deuteronomy 11:16
Deuteronomy 11:16

And this needs to be read against Solomon’s prayer at the opening of the first temple in 1 Kings 8:35-36

35 “When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain because your people have sinned against you, and when they pray toward this place and give praise to your name and turn from their sin because you have afflicted them, 36 then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your servants, your people Israel. Teach them the right way to live and send rain on the land you gave your people for an inheritance. (1 Kings 8 35-36)

1 Kings 8:35
1 Kings 8:35
1 Kings 8:36
1 Kings 8:36

We are famously aware of how the drought that Elijah announced was ended. We do not talk so much, however concerning how the drought began. And rest assured dear reader, it started before Elijah met Ahab so abruptly.

The withholding of the rain foretold again and again in the Hebrew Bible as a penalty on apostasy is noted to be an answer to the prophet’s prayer. James 5:17 states:

James 5:17
James 5:17

17 Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years.” (James 5:17)

Oh, to get my hands on Elijah’s prayer points that precipitated the moment of 1 Kings 17:1.! Oh, to have been the man that poured water on Elijah’s hands to have heard the entire prayer that closed up heaven and imparted the prophetic reality of authority on Elijah. Like Joshua hanging behind in the Tent of meeting overhearing what the manifest person of Yahweh was discussing face to face with Moses. Like Gehazi standing by the door of Elisha’s room waiting for every sound of his master’s groans and cries whether it be aimed at Yahweh or he himself to valet his master.  Perhaps even a person like myself could have turned out as mighty as Elisha if I was following Elijah around as attentively as farmer Elisha did in years future to the time we are considering. Elijah prayed and the normal routine of nature and the skies was halted.

Screen Shot 2019-02-21 at 14.06.42What were the grounds of his case when talking to the Almighty? How tender was Elijah’s heart? How violent was he to bring such cataclysmic results to his prayer! One man praying for the fulfilment of scripture brought an answer that impacted whole nations and possibly millions of people. It is almost surreal when templated over the comparatively insipid prayers and lifeless cries of my own soul. This man was aligning with the scriptures, and despite the fact that he may never have seen a miracle in his own district of Gilead strong convictions concerning the absolute veracity and integrity of the scriptures that the people of Israel treasured. It was (and still is) in the Pentateuchal scriptures that the statement was inscribed that rain would cease if idolatry was submitted to in Israel.

Something happened to Elijah while he made the prayer referred to in James 5:17. Something huge was imparted to his heart, mind and whole being when he stood to his feet after  having laid hold of God. As a result of that prayer Elijah left Gilead, crossed the Jordan, marched over to Samaria (which was Ahab’s capital city) and delivered one line to the apology for a king.

The prophet was supremely confident in claiming that his own volitionally spoken words would just as easily bring the rain and dew, as they would first stop it falling. In that one line Elijah revealed and manifested the fulness of the divine enabling imparted to him to stand against the spirit of the age. His words imply that his authority was backed by the presence of Yahweh that was surrounding him. The announcement was supremely heavenly.

ELIJAH’S PERSONAL PREROGATIVES

Finally, we cannot miss the point that Elijah’s statement suggested that he would be carrying the promise of the word with him for years. He does not give a date.  He does state that there would be no rain or dew for the next few years. He was choosing to withhold his word. The impact of drought for one year would be cataclysmic. Elijah’s word was plural: “years”. Elijah was choosing to endanger his own life in the drought as he lived with the weight of his own prophetic word rested on him and all he did and everywhere he went.

What awesome responsibility on a man’s shoulders! What an awesome character to carry such a weight! What an incredible anointing to consciously be aware of such authority. The future of the Hebrew people was in the hands of Elijah the Tishbite; the man that was continually standing in the presence of Yahweh the Almighty.

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