“And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word” (1 Kings 17:1).
The Stranger entered into the city of Samaria with a single purpose on his mind. He must secure an audience with the king. The Stranger knew something that the present Sovereign of the land should be informed of. There was something about The Stranger that captured the immediate attention of others. A few idle spectators decided to follow the unusual looking fellow.
“Where are you going,”
someone called out.
“I am going to the Palace to see the king!”
came the reply.
“Where are you from?”
“I am from Gilead,”
said The Stranger.
Gilead lay east of the Jordan River. It was a wild and rugged country. Its hills were covered with shaggy forests. The men of Gilead were hardened by life in the open air. They were tough, solemn, stern individuals who dwelt in villages and kept flocks of sheep. Their clothing was coarse. All of this helped to explain the appearance of The Stranger. What a contrast he made to the city dwellers, and to those who lived in the palace, dressing in fine, soft clothing.
Finally reaching the royal palace of the Northern Kingdom, The Stranger presented his desire for an audience with the king to the guard.
“I have a message for the king,”
said The Stranger.
“It is from the Lord God of Israel.”
These were electrifying words, for no message from the Lord God had been heard in Israel for many years. It was the official position that Jehovah was dead, and only the god Baal was alive. Who was this person to say that he spoke for the Lord God? Bring him before the king! And so it was that The Stranger and the king of Israel met one day.
In this initial encounter, the advantage of the moment belonged to The Stranger, for he knew more about the king in whose presence he stood than the king knew about him. The Stranger knew that the king’s name was Ahab. Ahab was the seventh king of the ten tribes forming the Northern Kingdom. Only fifty-eight years had passed since Solomon had died and the nation had divided.
These fifty-eight years were characterized by bloodshed and violence, hatred and hostility, spiritual darkness and moral decadence.
It all began with Jeroboam. Jeroboam was the first king to rule over the northern part of the divided kingdom. His sinful history is recorded in part in 1 Kings 12:28-32. “Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. 29 And he set the one in Bethel, and the other put he in Dan. 30 And this thing became a sin: for the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan. 31 And he made an house of high places, and made priests of the lowest of the people, which were not of the sons of Levi. 32 And Jeroboam ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like unto the feast that is in Judah, and he offered upon the altar. So did he in Bethel, sacrificing unto the calves that he had made: and he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places which he had made.”
It is instructive to realize that apostasy in the nation began with the corrupting of the priesthood. Men were installed into a holy office who were never called of God, and who were never equipped by Him. Men can make a house of priests from the common people, but the end result will be predictable.
Following Jeroboam to the throne was Nadab. It is recorded in 1 Kings 15:26 “And he did evil in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the way of his father, and in his sin wherewith he made Israel to sin.”
According to 1 Kings 15:27, Nadab was finally murdered by Baasha who succeeded him. “And Baasha the son of Ahijah, of the house of Issachar, conspired against him; and Baasha smote him at Gibbethon, which belonged to the Philistines; for Nadab and all Israel laid siege to Gibbethon.”
Elah, the fourth king of Israel, soon replaced this sordid man. Elah himself was a drunkard and a murderer. After only two years, he was replaced by Zimri, as recorded in 1 Kings 16:8-9.
“In the twenty and sixth year of Asa king of Judah began Elah the son of Baasha to reign over Israel in Tirzah, two years. 9 And his servant Zimri, captain of half his chariots, conspired against him, as he was in Tirzah, drinking himself drunk in the house of Arza steward of his house in Tirzah.”
Zimri, the fifth king of Israel was guilty of treason, according to 1 Kings 16:20.
“Now the rest of the acts of Zimri, and his treason that he wrought, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel?”
As if the first five kings were not bad enough, following Zimri to the throne was a man named Omri. Omri was a military adventurer who was even more evil than most, as per 1 Kings 16:25-26. “But Omri wrought evil in the eyes of the LORD, and did worse than all that were before him. 26 For he walked in all the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and in his sin wherewith he made Israel to sin, to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger with their vanities.”
It shall not be surprising to discover that Ahab Omri’s son, surpassed his father in evil. “And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD above all that were before him. 31 And it came to pass, as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took to wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Zidonians, and went and served Baal, and worshipped him” (1 Kings 16:30, 31).
Jezebel, the heathen princess influenced Israel for many years. It was Jezebel who led the nation into greater acts of idolatry. It was Jezebel who insisted that golden calves be worshipped at Dan and Beersheba. It was Jezebel who had a Temple to Baal constructed in Samaria. It was Jezebel who declared that Baal lived, and that Jehovah was dead!
Unlike her husband Ahab, Jezebel, never learned to tremble before The Stranger, or the Lord God whom he served. She was the power behind the throne. Her will was law. She was unclean, and she dwelt in the midst of an unclean people who did not fear God, illustrated in the man, Hiel.
Despite the ancient curse of God upon Jericho, Hiel rebuilt the city. But he paid the price, for the Lord honored His word that He had given to Joshua the son of Nun (Joshua 6:26).
“And Joshua adjured them at that time, saying, Cursed be the man before the LORD, that riseth up and buildeth this city Jericho: he shall lay the foundation thereof in his firstborn, and in his youngest son shall he set up the gates of it.” 1 Kings 16:34 records the fulfillment of the ancient curse.
It was into this spiritual darkness and degradation that The Stranger appeared. Every true spiritual light in Israel had been extinguished. Every voice of God had been silenced. Spiritual death was everywhere. What could The Stranger do?
First, The Stranger could be spiritual minded, and he was. Though people by the hundreds and thousands all around him turned from God to Baal, he did not. He kept his faith.
Second, The Stranger could be jealous for the LORD God, and he was, according to 1 Kings 19:10. “And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.”
Third, The Stranger could pray. It is in the life of prayer that we discover The Stranger’s name, for he was known to God according to James 5:17. The Bible tells us that, “Elias [Elijah] was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months.”
The reason why Elijah prayed is because he knew the Word of the Lord had been violated according to Deuteronomy 11:16. Moses had warned Israel to, “Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them.” Elijah knew that Israel had long ago began to serve other gods. Now, there was to be judgment.
By faith Elijah believed the rest of Deuteronomy 11:17 which said, “And then the LORD’s wrath be kindled against you, and he shut up the heaven, that there be no rain, and that the land yield not her fruit; and lest ye perish quickly from off the good land which the LORD giveth you.”
By faith Elijah believed the Word of God, and now he had to tell the king his message. There would be no rain. There would be no rain because Elijah had been praying to God to stop the rain based upon the promise of His word. If that sounds harsh then remember two things.
First, a prayer that the rains stop was no more horrible than the apostasy of the nation.
Second, unless something was done to remind the people of the Living God, then every Jew in Palestine would die forever! Israel had grown bold in her sins because of the principle of Ecclesiastes 8:11 and Psalm 50:21.
“Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil” (Eccl. 8:11).
“These things hast thou done, and I kept silence; thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself: but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes” (Psalm 50:21).
Taking advantage of the mercy of God, the people of Israel had grown more and more wicked. They needed to be reminded that there is something far more dreadful than physical calamity and suffering, and that is moral delinquency and spiritual apostasy!
Boldly therefore will Elijah stand before the king and announce that there would be a drought in the land according to the promise of God and the prayer of His servant Elijah! Elijah could stand before Ahab with his message of judgment only because he was a righteous man who loved the Lord, believed the Word of the Lord, and prayed, according to the will of the word of the Lord. Elijah become a wonderful example of Proverbs 28:1. “The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion.”
Elijah is so bold he will say with The Sweet Singer of Israel,
“I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about” (Psalm 3:6).
“Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident” (Psalm 27:3).
Oh, Elijah. “He comes in like a tempest, who went out in a whirlwind,” said the good Bishop Hall in the seventh century. Before he is through, all of Israel will know once more that the Lord God liveth and no one else. Before Elijah is through with his earthly ministry, Israel will know that their God is a righteous God.