5. The Biblical Differing Frames of Reference of all Prophets.

Wow! No die what the artist had in mind, but it looks like this raven brought Elijah a Mars bar. What think ye?
Wow! No die what the artist had in mind, but it looks like this raven brought Elijah a Mars bar. What think ye?

There are clearly prophets today. Denied and despised by many evangelicals who cling to their old theology books when the discussion concerning prophets was none existent, the fact remains Prophets are here and always have been, in both New Testament and Hebrew Bible ages. We shall discuss the issues of “non-canonical” prophecies, and, “The canon is complete, so we don’t need prophecy” syndrome in later pages. But let the reader rest assured, we are onto it.

There may be fake prophets – to be sure. But we do not burn all £50.00 notes because we have heard that there are counterfeits on the street, do we – or do you? I have always understood that the presence of a counterfeit is for no other reason that there is value in the genuine and authentic. After all, why would anybody try to fake pictures painted by people who sat down 3-400 years ago or even longer? Simply because the real and genuine is worth billions, and in some cases utterly priceless. Did you know that Leonardo (Da Vinci) painted a picture of what he thought jesus looked like and called it Salvator Mundi (Saviour of the world).  This picture of Jesus, if you and I don’t mind, was purchased by an Islamic Saudi Prince for $450,000,000 in November 2017. No! That is not a typo. That is 450 million dollars. For years it was thought to be painted by somebody else and was once sold for 60 dollars. The Fiat declaration of experts that it was a genuine “Leonardo” increased its worth somewhat.  And hold on to your hats while I tell you that the owner is said to have hidden it as “somebody might steal it.” No! Don’t laugh. The media think it was stolen in reality.

My rather distracted point here is that bad charactered personnel who are hailed as prophets need not disenfranchise the body of Christ that the true prophetic gift does not exist.

Possible the most embarrassing humiliation of Ahab's life when Elijah caught him in Naboth's vineyard taking ownership of what was not his.
Possible the most embarrassing humiliation of Ahab’s life when Elijah caught him in Naboth’s vineyard taking ownership of what was not his.

Throughout the sixty-six books of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, there are those who are born prophets, and there are those who are made prophets. There are also a considerable number of prophets whom we know very little of. There are prophets we don’t know the name of, or where they came from, or whether they lived long or short, whether they prophesied much or little. So, as with most of the glorious mysteries of Holy Writ, we simply have to piece together what we do know and extrapolate from that, understanding that if and when we know get to see and understand more, we may add to our present statement.

There are those in the world today who claim to be prophets simply because they have prophesied a few times and are highly exalted in their groups and denominations. It is commonly unwise to believe one’s own press. We need to add therefore that there are those who prophesy and are not prophets. It would be true to insert here that all prophets must prophesy in some manner. However not all who prophesy are prophets. There is a difference between prophecy that is one of the “gifts of the Holy Spirit,” and the prophet who is a “gift of Christ.” But that discussion is for another day.

This pleasant friendly, well dressed man is another version of Elijah. This one is from the "Watchtower" library. Wonderful artwork. Is is a photo? But to sanitised and pleasant to fit my mental picture of the great prophet.
This pleasant friendly, well dressed man is another version of Elijah. This one is from the “Watchtower” library. Wonderful artwork. Is is a photo? But to sanitised and pleasant to fit my mental picture of the great prophet.

Nobody knows what category Elijah fits into – “made” prophet or “born” prophet, educated and mentored, or raised up in the spirit by God Himself. We can only talk of what we see and here in scripture. There have always been prophets since the first days of creation, from Enoch in Genesis 5 onwards. When I say “prophets” I am meaning those who were divinely ordained and made a legitimate official mouthpiece of God and a carrier of God’s word. Take note that there have always been false prophets as well as the genuine articles. Most religious groups have those characters they would refer to as “prophets”.  I have seen and noted that in some movements of God’s people, their “prophets” are such by different definitions and parameters. A strong, forceful leader who treads new territory or thinks out of the box is not necessarily a “prophet” per se. Such personalities, male or female, theologically pedantic and correct, or theologically different rendering the body of Christ to scratch their head concerning their doctrines, the body of Christ needs to assess, judge and put their feet and mouth where their convictions are without bringing anybody into disrepute simply because a “prophet” may differ with his or her tenets of the faith from the observer. There are female as well as male prophets. There are prophets who are seers and see things beyond their personal will – things that might not be compatible with any “Systematic Theology” book that has ever been written.  There are those prophets in scripture who say the strangest things and yet are accepted as truly canonical. “Seven Spirits of God”! Really?”

The really important issue is not really whether they were born prophets or made prophets in their life time, whether they are male or female, or whether they are from the aristocracy of their own society or from the off scouring of their culture. The issue is, “Do they, or did they carry the living word of God?” As we research together into the nature of prophets, prophecy and the prophetic in general, I sincerely hope I can help my readers with the following insights. The point of all my qualifications of the prophetic is that many a non-Pentecostal evangelical frame of reference would ridicule the idea of “prophets today” without hesitation. So, a case needs to be made.

  1. BORN PROPHETS                                                                                                            A.THOSE THAT HIT THE FLOOR OF LIFE RUNNING
A Film makers take on the Baptist
A Film makers take on the Baptist

In the Bible we have the record of John the Baptist, before being named and before his birth leaping prophetically in his mother’s womb when the pregnant Mary entered the room where his own mother was. Such was the spiritual sensitivity of the Baptist even in the midst of gestation, he leapt in his mother’s womb at the Mary and was thus aware that the hardly formed Christ was as near to him as the layers of flesh between his between the two wombs. The prophetic anointing on John was present even in the womb.

William Branham.
William Branham.
John Paul Jackson
John Paul Jackson
Paul Cain
Paul Cain

In recent church history we have the wonderfully mysterious and awe-inspiring stories of the early life of people like William Branham, Paul Cain and John Paul Jackson, all of whom tell accounts of them innocently and gleefully sharing pieces of information and predictive insights with friends and family that were later vindicated as truly prophetic. It is as if the prophetic gift was deposited and functioning before they even knew what it was to be justified by faith or had any language that would define themselves as Christians. These men were exercising and moving in the prophetic gift before they were even converted properly to Christ.

B. THOSE THAT ARE BORN WITH THE PROPHETIC GIFT SEEDED WITHIN THEM YET UNRELEASED.

Poor Jeremiah! Sad, lonely and traumatised.
Poor Jeremiah! Sad, lonely and traumatised.

Jeremiah was born with all the necessary equipment of a true prophet. God said to him when, as a man generally assumed to be in his thirtieth year, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew[a] you. Before you were born, I set you apart. I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” Wow! I ask, if it was all done and dusted before he was out of his mother’s womb, how come he was ignorant of that fact for the first 30 years of his life, so much so that he chose to argue with the Almighty when Yahweh touched his lips and told him to start speaking what God was telling him. It seems logical to explain this by saying that Jeremiah’s gifting was “reserved” inside the locked box of his own soul and spirit until Yahweh spoke to him (as per Jeremiah chapter 1) and unlocked the said box.  I talk of “the box” as a euphemism for a priceless treasure, that was obviously deposited within Jeremiah but was unseen, unknown by man, and utterly a surprise to Jeremiah himself.

It could, of course, be reasoned that the prophet over all prophets, in fact, the source of all prophecy (Jesus Himself) was not in anyway released to minister until he was thirty years old. Jesus, the living Christ, God incarnate did not actively prophesy or prophetically minister until he had been baptised by his cousin John the Baptist and then anointed by the Holy Spirit who came upon Him and remained with Him. However, I have to stop myself short and add that I cannot in any way think that Jesus had any gift “locked” until that day. I believe it would be sound to explain the situation that the fully released man from Nazareth was ready to minister but would not until he had fulfilled “all righteousness” and been baptised in Jordan and baptised from heaven by the Spirit of God.

Artist's impression of Abraham
Artist’s impression of Abraham

Abraham was the first human being in the Bible that God Himself verbally owned as His prophet. But this gets a little more complex with the father of the faithful, because we have no particular textual account where Abraham prophesied in the stereotypical manner of the later prophets – that is – declaring some message or insight as a word from God. I have always understood this as simply revealing that, uniquely, Abraham was himself the message by nature of the new name God gave to him, changing it from Abram to Abraham. Although he did make some startling statements that preachers have always presented as prophetic statements, i.e. things like building altars and instead of making sacrifices on the altar he simply called on the Name of the Lord. Wow! Swallow that if you can dear reader. And then there is the answer to his son Isaac who asked where the lamb was for sacrifice as he ascended Mount Moriah. The earth-shaking reply, seen by many as a prophecy with universal application was, “God will Himself provide a lamb.” Prophecy? Yes! But those throw away lines and moments that are scattered through Abraham’s 175 years on the planet do not exactly qualify him as “a prophet” of any particular degree. But Yahweh Himself revealed to Pharaoh and Abimelech that they should be afraid to mess around with Abraham or his wife because, said Yahweh, “He is my prophet.” Strange, eh?!

B. MADE PROPHETS.

  1. THOSE WHO WERE MADE PROPHETS BY THE DIRECT CALL OF GOD.

Screen Shot 2019-03-26 at 16.41.15There are those prophets who are called to be so, directly by God (Amos 7:14). Amos had no tutor or mentor, no training in the prophetic gift, no schooling or familial tradition. He was a farmer and he received the call of God to leave the nation of Judah – which was his natal state and beloved land and crossed the border to go to the northern kingdom of Israel. His lack of “religious demeanour” or “bearing of character” caused the main religious priest in Samaria to take violent offence at him. He was ordered to go back home to his farm. That is a line that suggests he had an accent that gave him away. Amos was picked out of his workaday “job” and sent to give messages to the powers that be in the northern kingdom. He was made a prophet without any human intervention, as far as we know.

 

  1. THOSE WHO WERE MADE PROPHETS BY THE IMPARTATION OF AN EXISTING PROPHET.

There are prophets who are made prophets by the ministry and impartation of other prophets.

God sent Aaron to Moses to be his (i.e: Moses’s) prophet. Aaron was thereby a “made” prophet by virtue of the instructions of Moses to Aaron. We have no evidence that God spoke directly to Aaron, in fact, it is emphasized – especially in Leviticus, many times – that Yahweh told Moses what to say and do with Aaron. The call to Aaron was enacted and empowered by Moses who was also a prophet.

An actors version of baldheaded Elisha being "mantled" by Elijah.
An actors version of baldheaded Elisha being “mantled” by Elijah.

Then there is Elijah and Elisha. Elijah cast his mantel over farmer Elisha. And after some years of being Elijah’s valet, butler and hand washer, the invisible prophetic mantel of the Holy Spirit that was cast over him by prophet Elijah fell upon him from above as Elijah ascended into heaven. The reality was wrapped up in the symbol. The anointing of God was so heavy that the substance was equivalent to and imparted immediately by the symbol of Elijah’s mantel. Elisha, after Elijah’s ascension and departing, lived in double the anointing that had rested on Elijah. It would seem logical to state that a candidate for prophetic ministry enters into the depth and breadth of the prophetic gift that is at least equal to the man who ministers the imparting – unless one asks for more, of course. As with Samuel to Saul, Elijah to Elisha, and Paul to the “about twelve” in Acts 19, the principle of the prophetic gift being given by the ministry of another “man of the Spirit” is clearly exemplified in scripture enough times to be understood..

The spirit of Elijah did RESTupon Elisha. Elijah cast his mantel originally at the instructions of Yahweh. The size of Elisha’s farming operation suggests that at the time Elijah found him Elisha had no plans at all to take holy orders. He was a secure, wealthy, firmly entrenched farmer.

  1. UNKOWN FACTORS OF PROPHETS.
  2. THOSE WHO APPEAR FULL GROWN AND EMPOWERED WITHOUT ANY VERIFICATION OF THEIR SPIRITUAL DERIVATION.
A dreadlocked version of John the baptist
A dreadlocked version of John the baptist

Compare John the Baptist and Elijah. Who tutored Elijah? Who taught John? Was there any human connection to Elijah’s call? Was John walking as a prophet from childhood? That is not inconceivable. Elijah appears full grown and mature as a prophet in 1 Kings 17:1. However, who taught him? Who baptised John the Baptist? Both of these men were pursued by Godless women into doubt and depression. Both of them lived in the wilderness. But in a more physically determined profile … where and how did the two of them fill their spiritual armoury.

Where did the prophet Obadiah come from and how did he assert his prophetic authority? How did Hosea maintain his authority and kudos among his people being married to a prostitute? How did Joel rise and from where and how did his anointing fall upon him? Nobody knows when he lived or where he came from. All we have is the book that is verified as inspired by the way Christ and the apostles utilise its contents.

There are several prophets that appear momentarily in the pages of biblical history only to disappear as quickly as they appeared, leaving nothing behind them but the trail of inspired utterances that changed the course of the Middle Eastern world in biblical days.

Some of these men seem to be utterly unqualified by worldly standards.  Like Elijah and John the Baptist, there was absolutely nothing to  cause a following apart from the fact that they had heard from God and were speaking on His behalf. Somehow, despite the strange distant profile and life style of Elijah and John, the masses gathered around them and they fully served and impacted their generation. Did you know that John the Baptist is surmised as having ministered to the public, in the desert places, for no more than three months.  Even Christ Himself stated that amongst the prophets of men, there was none greater than John the Baptist. That is one remarkable eulogy for a prophet who was only known as such for a ninety day ministry.

Screen Shot 2019-03-26 at 16.05.01

 

 

 

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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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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