1 Kings 17:1-6
As you probably know if you’ve read 1 Kings, right after Solomon’s death the kingdom split into two separate nations as a judgment on his misbehavior. The northern kingdom was known thereafter as “Israel” and the southern kingdom was “Judah.” The kings of Judah were a mixed bag: some really good, some really bad, and most somewhere in-between. Unfortunately, the northern kingdom had an unbroken record regarding its kings: They were ALL bad. Every last one of them was a stinker.
Israel got worse and worse, in an ongoing downward spiral of idolatry, sexual immorality, and general rebellion against God. And the king in charge, Ahab, was one of the worst in their history, and that’s saying something.
Their situation was desperate, and the nation was ripe for God’s judgment. But our God, who's not willing that anyone perish but that all come to repentance, sent a man to bring his people back to himself. His name meant “The Lord is my God,” and this was the essence of his lifelong message.
The reason I call him a mystery man is because we know very little about him. Most of the major prophets have narratives which give us details about their calling: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, even Amos. We know nothing about Elijah’s background besides what's in verse one, and we’re not even sure where his hometown was. We know that Gilead was in the northern area across the Jordan river, but we really don’t know where Tishbe is. It seemed like he stepped out of nowhere, pronounced a drought sent in discipline from the Lord, and then vanished for several years from public life.
His phrase, “whom I serve,” is literally “before whom I stand.” This was a phrase was usually meant as a servant of a king’s court, roughly equivalent to the staff in a President's administration. In other words, Elijah was stating right off the bat that he owed loyalty to the real King of Israel, Almighty God, not measly king Ahab. He couldn’t care less what some earthly king thought of him; he only cared about his Lord’s opinion.
For a few days we’re going to study this prophet, drawing some very important lessons from him. But for now, here are some ways we need to follow his example. We must not be discouraged when we see the general moral and spiritual decay around us. There are a lot of “Elijahs” whom God has sent to try to bring this nation back. He's not finished with America yet. His name was his message, just like our name ("follower of Jesus") is. And most importantly, he was unafraid to speak the truth, even when it was very unpopular and was opposed by those in authority. If we’re the most popular people out there, then we need to ask ourselves, are we being faithful to the message God's given us?
Lord Jesus, I so need that spirit within me. I’m such a coward sometimes, being silent when speaking the truth in love is called for. Please help me.