Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Elijah – A Man Like Us
Jesus called Elijah one of the greatest prophets in Israel. Yet, the Bible does not say much about him. We are told only that he is from Tishbe in Gilead. Bible maps shows that Tishbe is in the centre of Gilead, (Num 32: 28-32) on the rugged side of the Jordan River. The land is sparsely populated, a wilderness. No wonder, Elijah’s manner of dressing was described as strange as he wore “a garment of hair, with a leather belt around his waist” (2 Ki 1:7-8). The image of Elijah was that of a mountain man, a country bumpkin especially when compared with the slick city people from Ahab’s palace.
The lesson from Elijah’s life is that everyone is useful to God as his instruments, even those seen as obscure. Elijah was called, out of obscurity, to deliver Israel from idolatry. We can see he had a heart zealous for God’s agenda and God’s glory. What brought this about?
If we look at the text of James 5:17, 18, we read that Elijah prayed and the rain stopped. Then he prayed again and the rain came down. Such powerful prayer is not the fruit of a man who prays occasionally. It can mean only one thing - long before he appeared in King Ahab’s palace, he was already praying for God’s glory to return to Israel. What do we do when we see something that is brings dishonour to God but yet is beyond our power to do anything? We pray because nothing is impossible with God.
Basically prayer is seeking to know God’s Will and purpose so that we can re-align our will with his. I believe that when we pray and especially when we pray earnestly, God’s Spirit will take control and lead us to do the very thing that we are interceding for. I think that is how Elijah probably received his calling. As he prayed, he came to see God’s Will clearly and stepped forward to do God’s Will.
The people had been warned by Moses that they will have to endure judgment by God if they turned to idolatry (Deut 11:16, 17). So as Elijah prayed, and with the full knowledge of Scripture, he could see even more clearly God’s Will - no rain in Israel. God was leading Elijah to do something greater than what Elijah himself could have asked for or imagine.
Prayer changes things and us. This is the power of prayer. It is a relationship that we continue through every part of our lives. It is being in constant communion with Someone always ready and always wanting to listen to us and talk to us. In that communion, we are slowly changed to seek God’s Will above ours. Perhaps this is a change in ourselves that we are not prepared to make. Confronting Ahab in his own palace was not easy for Elijah but he did it out of obedience. Obedience to Someone who is greater and more powerful than we can ever imagine, yet Someone who is more loving and merciful than anyone we can ever hope to meet on earth.
God has a plan for our lives, greater than we can ask for or imagine. He wants us to proclaim his wonder, his power and his love wherever we are and be surprised at his power as we do it. Such a plan can only be discerned through prayer. Why wait?