Elijah’s single-minded commitment to God shocks and challenges us. He was sent to confront, not comfort, and he spoke God’s words to a king who often rejected his message just because he brought it. Elijah chose to carry out his ministry for God alone and paid for that decision by experiencing isolation from others who were also faithful to God.
It is interesting to think about the amazing miracles God accomplished through Elijah, but we would do well to focus on the relationship they shared. All that happened in Elijah’s life began with the same miracle that is available to us – he responded to the miracle of being able to know God.
For example, after God worked an overwhelming miracle through Elijah in defeating the prophets of Baal, Queen Jezebel retaliated by threatening Elijah’s life. And Elijah ran. He felt afraid, depressed, and abandoned. Despite God’s provision of food and shelter in the desert, Elijah wanted to die. So God presented Elijah with an “audio-visual display” and a message he needed to hear. Elijah witnessed a hurricane, an earthquake, and fire. But the Lord was not in any of those powerful things. Instead, God displayed his presence in a gentle whisper.
Elijah, like us, struggled with his feelings even after this comforting message from God. So God confronted Elijah’s emotions and commanded action. He told Elijah what to do next and informed him that part of his loneliness was based on ignorance: 7,000 others in Israel were still faithful to God.
Even today, God often speaks through the gentle and obvious rather than the spectacular and unusual. God has work for us to do even when we feel fear and failure. And God always has more resources and people than we know about. Although we might wish to do amazing miracles for God, we should instead focus on developing a relationship with him. The real miracle of Elijah’s life was his very personal relationship with God. And that miracle is available to us.
Strengths and accomplishments:
- Was the most famous and dramatic of Israel’s prophets
- Predicted the beginning and end of a three-year drought
- Was used by God to restore a dead child to his mother
- Represented God in a showdown with priests of Baal and Asherah
- Appeared with Moses and Jesus in the New Testament transfiguration scene
Weaknesses and mistakes:
- Chose to work alone and paid for it with isolation and loneliness
- Fled in fear from Jezebel when she threatened his life
Lessons from his life:
- We are never closer to defeat than in our moments of greatest victory
- We are never as alone as we may feel; God is always there
- God speaks more frequently in persistent whispers than in shouts
- Where: Gilead
- Occupation: Prophet
- Contemporaries: Ahab, Jezebel, Ahaziah, Obadiah, Jehu, Hazael
Key verses: “At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: ‘O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.’ Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench” (1 Kings 18:36-38).
Elijah’s story is told in 1 Kings 17:1 – 2 Kings 2:11. He is also mentioned in 2 Chronicles 21:12-15; Malachi 4:5, 6; Matthew 11:14; 16:14; 17:3-13; 27:47-29; Luke 1:17; 4:25, 26; John 1:19-25; Romans 11:2-4; James 5:17, 18.