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.

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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.

 

2. The Combat of the Age Commences.

Artist's impression of Elijah (or is it John the Baptist?). I know they were both remarkable prophets, but where did either of them have a cross around his neck?

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One man declares war against the ruling demonic tyrants and all hell.

Whether it was indoors or outdoors I know not. Whether Jezebel was present or not I know not. Of all the artist's impressions of the scene if 1 kings 17:1 this one picture I think has the closest picture to what Elijah looked like.
Whether it was indoors or outdoors I know not. Whether Jezebel was present or not I know not. Of all the artist’s impressions of the scene if 1 kings 17:1 this one picture I think has the closest picture to what Elijah looked like.

Wow! Shock horror! Ladies and gentlemen, may I now personally introduce you to one of the most extravagantly powerful men of God in the entire Bible.  I cannot fully compare him to Christ, as the Master is intrinsically and essentially incomparable. However, as a human being, to the degree of limitations that Christ chose to restrict Himself to, this man Elijah expanded far beyond the ordinary extremities that mankind can be elevated to in their pursuit to emulate God incarnate to the degree that in purpose and power he exudes the aroma of Christ profusely. It may have been some 800 years before Christ humbled Himself to become man not thinking it robbery to be equal with God, but this man, this Tishbite, this man of like passions such as we, as a member of the fallen race, aspired and so ascended into a state of grace and power  – and ultimately to glory – that causes us, even in New Testament times, to see him as an example to follow in striving to be like the Master.

 

This man took prophecy and the delivery of “a word from God” not only to a new dimension, but into another galaxy, light years away from even the likes of Moses and Samuel. He himself took upon his own shoulders a taste of imparted divine responsibility and stepped into the divine will and preference in his contemporary “time – space” world. The world would never be the same after his interaction with the insipid, idolatrous, effeminate, weak King Ahab.

 

To misquote the Rev. Sykes in Harper Lee’s novel “To kill a Mockingbird”, whether your name is “Miss Jean Louise” or anything else, “Stand up!  Elijah the Tishbite is passing.”

 

Wonderfully dramatic. But nothing of Elijah's appearance matches the biblical description. I wish I could produce paintings like this though.
Wonderfully dramatic. But nothing of Elijah’s appearance matches the biblical description. I wish I could produce paintings like this though.

This prophetic explosion that is bigger and louder than Krakatoa takes less than thirty seconds to read. And in those thirty seconds, the Tishbite has appeared, spoken, and then departed leaving all and sundry present in a state of total shock. PTSD. “Post Tishbite stress Disorder.” It was so surreal. I can imagine Ahab, and those of his court that were undoubtedly present in a state of shock and awe asking each other, “Did I really see and hear what just happened?” “Was it a man?” “Where did he come from?” and the most mysterious question of all, “Where did he go?”

 

Was Jezebel present at this moment? From what we understand of Jezebel’s character and philosophy of life, she may have turned purple and had cardiac arrest on the spot, or, then again, she may have just laughed and ordered him killed on the spot … if she was present, that is. We leave the answer to that query to your imagination.

 

It seems that everything about Elijah defied the greater narrative of dress sense of the age. Especially in the court of Ahab and Jezebel where indulgence, soft silks and fine dress would have been the norm. why do I say this? Because of the remarks of Elijah as given in scripture. In 2 Kings 1, when he contradicted the king’s messengers and sent them back with a tail between their legs, the king, Ahaziah by name, angrily asked the messengers what the man looked like who had stopped them on their royal errand. “He was a hairy man, with a leather belt around his waist,” said the messengers. “It is Elijah the Tishbite,” said the king with assurance (2 Kings 1:8).

 

Nice 21st century Tee-shirt Elijah! Sanitised Watchtower art. Remove the shirt and it might be a little closer to the biblical word picture.
Nice 21st century Tee-shirt Elijah! Sanitised Watchtower art. Remove the shirt and it might be a little closer to the biblical word picture.

Because of the parallel drawn by Jesus and other scriptures, the Tishbite is always seen as dressing the same as John the Baptist in the gospels. Matthew 3:4 state “John himself had a camel-hair garment with a leather belt around his waist.” This word picture is embellished by Zechariah the prophet who in a certain context which is for another time, he writes, “And on that day every prophet who prophesies will be ashamed of his vision, and he will not put on a hairy cloak in order to deceive.”

On top of these morsels of information, because of poets, professors, scholars and preachers reading between the lines it has been generally assumed that Elijah was a huge, muscular hairy character because of the pictures of his activities through his biblical biography suggesting he was a man of great energy, a presence that caused people to stand back in awe, and the presence of Yahweh that obviously sat and brooded upon him.

He must have been a striking and almost shocking sight to those that ever caught a glimpse of him. He was known – initially because of his opening line in 1 Kings 17:1 – to be a prophet of Yahweh. However, he did not at all carry the appearance, the life, the dress or even the talk of other religious leaders. There was no frame of reference that could be used to define or describe him. All other leaders were properly, fashionably, well-dressed, well-fed, sophisticated, and worldly. Elijah obviously, by all we read of him, cared for none of those things and even made a point of separating himself from them. His garment of camel’s hair and his leather belt about his waist were as plain and drab as Gilead where he came from. His clothes were, I am told, remarkably practical and long-wearing and far from being comfortable or fashionable.

Too stilted. Too static. At least Elijah is bare chested. But sandals and a comfortable coat doesn't suit my taste. But the thought of 1 Kings 17:1 is there.
Too stilted. Too static. At least Elijah is bare chested. But sandals and a comfortable coat doesn’t suit my taste. But the thought of 1 Kings 17:1 is there.

Elijah’s very dress, food, and life-style were in themselves a rebuke to the self-satisfied and self-indulgent Baal and Asherah worshipping religious leaders of Israel and Ahab’s court. It was also a rebuke to most of the people, who, though they may not have been able to indulge in the privileges of their leaders, nonetheless admired and longed for the same advantages.

By the way, we need to state that Elijah’s purpose was not to turn the people into hermits or ascetics as he seemed to be. He called on no one, not even his servants and Elisha, as well as the schools of then prophets, to live or dress as he did. But his manner of living was a dramatic reminder of the many loves and pleasures that keep people from exchanging their own way for God’s. The character and point of Elijah’s clothes and diet was to be plain, durable, merely sufficient and possibly also to rebuke the indulgent garb and diet of his respective nemeses Ahab and Jezebel.

This unique man did not have any equivalent of a Levitical background or any equivalent seminary degree or Hebrew yeshiva education. He claimed no following or prophetic school under his auspices.

Elijah appears from “nowhere,” makes a one sentence remarkable statement assuming authority over the very climate of the Lavant and then “disappears” as suddenly as he arrived.

In the most naked and minimal slavish adherence to the original Hebrew, 1 Kings 17:1, in traumatising us to the biblical vision of this man arriving in the narrative, simply states:

 

“And Elijah the Tishbite of the inhabitants of Gilead said to Ahab, “As lives Yahweh the elohe of Israel whom I stand before, there shall not be these years dew nor rain except – except at my word.”

That’s it! Job done! War declared! Ground is taken. Authority of an absolute nature is enforced. Heaven has invaded earth. No “softly softly” here! God has commissioned this man, and by the language he utilised, Yahweh has left it to this man’s own volition that was saturated, soaked and marinaded in the Spirit of the ever-living God to take charge of the war that Yahweh and all of heaven had sanctioned and were endorsing. On earth, he was clearly God’s Commander-in-Chief.

Ah! We're getting a little nearer to it here. "No rain till I say so!" is definitely in his face.
Ah! We’re getting a little nearer to it here. “No rain till I say so!” is definitely in his face.

After pawing over dictionaries, lexicons, varied translations, scholars and Hebrew professors, “little old moi” has come up with my own expanded and qualified translation – cum – paraphrase that reads:

“And  Elijah the Tishbite foreigner, who was an alien sojourning amongst the Tishbe settlers in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As surely as Yahweh, the God of Israel lives, in whose presence and before whom I stand, that is, the God whom I serve, there will surely be neither dew nor rain in the next few years (which turned out to be three and a half years) except at my word – meaning, until I personally give the word of command for it to do so.”

 

What the…? Who the …? How the …? Let’s stop and take a deep breath.

 

Not 1 Kings 17:1. But the hairy clothes are getting there. The Tee-shirt is a misnomer.
Not 1 Kings 17:1. But the hairy clothes are getting there. The Tee-shirt is a misnomer.

See it. Feel it. Enter into it. People would not have known what to conclusively think! Was this hairy, ill clad man mad?  Nobody would talk to the king like that – would they? If he wasn’t mad, he was clearly wildly eccentric. Or was he genuinely delivering a word from God? Was he, is he, an authorised mouthpiece of Yahweh? After all, that is what prophecy is i.e. an utterance made by an authorised mouthpiece of the Almighty. Astonishingly, he actually carried more authority than the king. Like Moses, like Samuel, he was not a king – yet he walked, acted and spoke like a king. Up to this moment of time he had done nothing but speak one full sentence. The fact that the scripture starts in 1 Kings 17:1 by telling us his name, we are left with the question that students over two millennia and more have been asking. That question is: Did Ahab and his court know who this man was when he made this opening gambit of input into Israel’s history, or was the editor or scribe who wrote the inspired text possibly years later know who it was because of retrospection at the time of writing?

 

The point being, that if nobody had ever seen or heard of this man before the “Real Time” moment of 1 Kings 17:1, the gossip and conversation of the next three and a half years – whatever the equivalent was of social media in those days – must have simply chronicled this man’s record of the single statement spoken in the awe – struck face of the king and laughed.

 

Then … as time passed by, and the early and late rains didn’t come over a few months, people would have recalled. “That silly, strange, bohemian, ill dressed man was, perhaps not silly at all.”

Then after a full year of dryness and drought creeping over all water sources, this man with a Gilead accent would have begun to fill the man on the street with deep respect and mystery. Up through all the different classes of society and into the very court of the king and his Baal worshipping, Asherah loving apology for a queen, gossip, the chit chatting, news carrying populace would have spread the news far and wide. “It seems that Yahweh is not as dead, obsolete and irrelevant as her majesty Queen Jezebel would have us believe, folks. This prophet had king Ahab in the palm of his hand and told Ahab that he and Yahweh were on our case. This man was the ruler, and Ahab (and Jezebel) were his subjects. But, “Shush!” Whatever happens, do not let the Queen hear you talking like this.”

 

No! No! No! Nothing like him.
No! No! No! Nothing like him.

The national gossip stream would have travelled across the Jordan and carried itself into the rough highlands and rustic fields of Gilead. The talk would have been filled about his Gilead accent. Gilead, properly “The Rocky Region,” lay on the east of the Jordan, between the Yarmouk River and the valley of Heshbon. It is part of Jordan today. Gilead was open to the desert on the east, and is comparatively wild. With but few cities scattered within its borders, it suited well to develope the reclusive Tishbite dweller in the wilderness. If the people in Israel did not know it at first, surely the returned echoes of the news from some of the rustics of Gilead, those that knew the Tishbite who wore camel hair and a leather belt, would have messaged back an animated response through the Hebrew grapevine of the day: “Oh yes! That sounds like Elijah the Tishbite. He is the only one that dresses like that – and speaks as directly as we are told. Be careful! Don’t mess with him!”

 

After eighteen months, two years and then three years of no rain, drought had pressed Israel, Judah, Tyre, Sidon and Zarapheth in Lebanon in desperate days. This man “Elijah the Tishbite” known and seen by so few, was a living legend throughout the middle east.

 

Attire yourself with the context of the history and time of what we read. With the luxury of us all holding the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, we can access a hold on what made this man tick. We know who and what he was. However, go back to 1 Kings 17:1 and feel what the people felt.  The opening days after his statement would have had the uninformed, uneducated and possibly illiterate people thinking and gossiping; “He was either a religious fanatic with severe mental problems – exhibiting his madness before the very king of the nation or, he had a handle on God that is hard for the populace to get a grasp of, as we read it.

 

Just in case any of my readers are not aware of the whole biblical account here, from the moment Elijah spoke these words it did not rain in Israel for three and a half years. We only know the time span of 1,2775 days (or thereabouts) because Jesus Christ Himself said so.  When we bump into and stare at Elijah, we are engaging with a serious example of Godliness.

 

So; Here we are  … and there we were – the Bible reading public – happily browsing through the book of First Kings, happily educating ourselves in God – or, perhaps, disgustingly – reading through the division and split of the kingdom of Israel, watching them as they were sliding into the dark abyss of idolatry, polytheism, and a national cultural life style that turned against God – and suddenly, out of the blue, without so much as a hint of this man’s development or prophetic calling, without the tiniest clue of his presence, his upbringing or his native town (nobody has the slightest factual clue whatsoever where Tishbe is or who the Tishbites were), God Himself throws us a curved ball and this fellow appears – yes – “appears” is the most accurate word to use – and astonishingly, with one spoken sentence, he changes history. Literally – he changes the very course of the history of the Hebrews. And having redirected history by one uttered sentence, he disappears from the scene in Israel and is not seen for 30 months until he returns to give the command for the rain to fall.

I think you have, by this time, grasped my intention to let my readers know the surreal suddenness of the arrival on Israel’s radar of this extraordinary man.

We need hereafter to get into the nitty gritty of the person referred to as Elisha the Tishbite.

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