Listen to audio above while reading the transcript below (also available for download in Word at www.biblestudyministriesinc.com)
As we come once again to look in the Word, I want to remind my own heart and remind you about the indispensable principle of Bible study. This is God’s book. The Holy Spirit has inspired it, and we need to trust the Holy Spirit to focus our hearts on the Lord Jesus. Let me share a verse before we go to prayer. As you know, we’re going to have a first introduction to a new series beginning this morning on Elijah and Elisha. Psalm 119:126, “It is time for the Lord to act, for they have broken Thy law.” As we go through the story of Elijah and Elisha, it’s not them, it was the Lord that was acting, and He was acting through them. So, that must be our prayer, whether it’s for ourselves, it’s time for the Lord to act; or for our families, it’s time for the Lord to act; or for our churches, it’s time for the Lord to act; or for our nation, it’s time for the Lord to act, because they have forsaken the law.
With that in mind, let’s commit our time to the Lord, and then we’ll look in His Word. Heavenly Father, we thank You again for the indwelling Holy Spirit. He lives in our hearts, ever to turn our eyes and our hearts to the Lord Jesus. Give us a fresh revelation of Christ this morning, and, Lord, I pray that as we meditate together that You would use this introduction to point our hearts to Your heart. Thank You in advance that You’re going to do it and continue to do it in an ever-rising tide of blessing. We commit it unto You now, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Welcome to our first of at least a couple of introduction lessons, a study again of the Lord Jesus. That’s why we gather, to see Him. His revelation is illustrated through His servants Elijah and Elisha. I put a lot of weight on introduction lessons because I think to get the broad view helps us to focus on the heart of God. Why did God put these men in the Bible? What is His purpose? We need to see that.
Let me tell you in advance what is on my heart before we start. It’s very broad; an introduction lesson is very comprehensive. We fly over the whole scene and pick up certain things, just to give us a direction. It’s not detailed. When we go into the individual stories, we’ll be a little more detailed. In my introduction lessons I know these three things are important. #1 Why Elijah? What is the prevailing message of his life? #2 Why Elisha? What is the prevailing message of his life? #3 How does the prevailing message of Elijah and Elisha give us a special revelation of the Lord Jesus? Those are the things I’m going to capture in our introduction lessons.
To get to the complete lesson, the complete message, we’re going to need more than this lesson. There’s no time this morning for me to present to you what I believe is the prevailing message of Elijah and the prevailing message of Elisha and our Lord Jesus. I know you didn’t come to see Elijah and Elisha. You’ve come to behold the Lord. Here is what we’ll do. This morning, Lord assisting, I want to look at Elijah and Jesus. Next week, Lord willing, I want to look at Elisha and Jesus. And then we’ll see how those come together. Thank you for praying and please continue to pray. Elijah and Elisha are brought together in the Bible and they should be studied together, but as I said, in one lesson I don’t think it’s possible.
The stories of Elijah and Elisha are recorded in the Old Testament, in the book of 1 Kings and in the book of 2 Kings. You might think that would be a good place to start. If we’re going to look at Elijah, let’s begin where the story begins in the Old Testament, but I want to begin in the New Testament, and then go back to the Old Testament. I’m going to make several observations first of all and we’ll start with Elijah.
The first observation is this, that Elijah is the most mentioned prophet from the Old Testament in the New Testament. The New Testament mentions Elijah more than any other prophet, but not more than any Old Testament person; that would be Abraham. Abraham is mentioned more in the New Testament than Elijah, but Elijah is the most mentioned prophet. I would have expected it to be either Isaiah or Jeremiah or Daniel, but it’s Elijah, and God has a reason for this.
I want to show you how important Elijah was in the thinking of all those New Testament saints and the Jewish mind in the New Testament. Everyone seemed to be Elijah conscious, and I’m guessing it’s because of the last verse in the Old Testament. Malachi 4:5&6, “Behold, I’m going to send you Elijah, the great prophet, before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so I will not come and smite the land with a curse.” The last word of the Old Testament is “curse.” Praise God for the New Testament which brings us into the heart and blessing of God.
In case you’re using the KJV, the spelling of the name Elijah is ELIAS. So, if you see Elias, that’s Elijah. When John the Baptist came on the scene, they asked him a question. John 1:21, “They asked him, ‘What, then, are you Elijah?’ And he said, ‘I am not.’” Why did they ask him if he was Elijah? Why didn’t they say, “Are you Isaiah, are you Daniel, are you Ezekiel?” They didn’t ask that. They said, “Are you Elijah?” When the disciples and the Lord Jesus were at Caesarea Philippi, remember Jesus asked, “Who do men say that I am?” Matthew 16:14, “When Jesus came to the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ And they say, ‘Some say John the Baptist, and others say Elijah.’” Once again, Elijah.
Even though John the Baptist said, “I am not Elijah.” Are you Elijah? “No, I’m not Elijah.” Jesus made this comment about John, Matthew 17:12, “’I say to you, Elijah already came, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they wished.’ Then the disciples understood that He had spoken to them about John the Baptist.” Jesus said that for those that can take it, John the Baptist is Elijah. They asked John, “Are you Elijah,” and he said, “No.” Jesus said, “Yes, you are. You’re Elijah, if you can take it in.”
So, was that the fulfillment then of the Malachi prophesy that Elijah is going to come first? Was John a fulfillment of that prophesy? As you read the record, they beheaded John. John is now dead, and the disciples come, and they ask about the future, “What about Your kingdom?” Matthew 17:10, “The disciples asked Him, ‘Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?’ And He answered and said, ‘Elijah is coming, and will restore all things.’ Elijah is coming. “Well, I thought John was Elijah, and John is dead, and yet he’s still coming.” I just want you to see Elijah in the New Testament. “Are you Elijah?” “No.” Jesus said, “Yes, you are,” and then he dies, and He says, “Elijah is still coming.” So, it can’t be John unless God is going to raise John from the dead, which He is some day, anyway.
Do you remember the Mount of Transfiguration? Once again, who appeared with the Lord Jesus? Matthew 17:3, “Behold, Moses and Elijah appeared talking to them.” What was the subject of the conversation? It was the death that He would accomplish. They talked about the cross. When the Lord Jesus was on the cross and He cried out, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?,” what did the people think? Listen to Matthew 27:47, “Some of those who were standing there, when they heard it, began saying, ‘This man is calling for Elijah.’” Once again, Elijah. Later, while Jesus was on the cross and closer to His death, Matthew 27:49, “The rest of them said, ‘Let’s see if Elijah will come and save Him.’” All I’m trying to emphasize is that there is a real Elijah consciousness in the New Testament. All through the New Testament He’s on the mind of everyone. When Paul wrote Romans in chapter 11, he brings up Elijah as an illustration. And when James is talking about the effective prayer, he uses Elijah as an illustration. There is even a cryptic reference to Elijah in Hebrews 11 where it says that women receive back their own by resurrection, and that’s probably a reference to Elijah.
So, the question is, why are there so many references to Elijah in the New Testament, why that particular prophet? I’m going to try to answer that question, but I want to point you to another New Testament reference on Elijah, and it’s the record of what the angel Gabriel said to Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist. Luke 1:12-17, “Zacharias was troubled when he saw the angel; fear gripped him, but the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard. Your wife, Elizabeth, will bear you a son, and you’ll give him the name John.” I always have to laugh at that, “Your prayer has been heard,” and I can picture Zacharias saying, “Excuse me, but I prayed that fifty years ago. I’m not sure I want a child right now.” Anyway, “You’ll have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. He’ll be great in the sight of the Lord. He’ll drink no wine, or liquor, and he’ll be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb. He’ll turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord, their God. It is he,” and here’s the point, “who will go as a forerunner before Him, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
That expression, “the spirit and the power of Elijah,” what is the spirit and power of Elijah? I don’t believe we can have an accurate study of Elijah if we don’t know what the spirit and the power of Elijah is. We’ll miss God’s strategic plan for him in His history of redemption. We need to understand that. That was spoken of Elijah by an angel from God, Gabriel. It was spoken off the lips of our Lord Jesus, the spirit and power of Elijah. Whatever that was, it was desirable.
I’m going to go to Kings, just to give the illustration. 2 Kings 2:9, Elijah, in the record, is about to be caught up to heaven in a chariot of fire. Just before he departed, he spoke to Elisha, the one who would take his place. “And when he had crossed over, Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Ask what I shall do for you before I’m taken from you,’ and Elisha said, ‘Please, let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.’” The spirit and power of Elijah, and Elisha said, “I want that spirit, and I want the double portion.”
That expression, “double portion,” there are several different interpretations of what that might be. One common interpretation is very literal, double, that is, times two, multiplied times two. Like after Job had his trial, Job 42:10, “The Lord restored the fortunes of Job when he prayed for his friends, and the Lord increased all that Job had two-fold,” times two. So, many commentators count the miracles that Elijah did, six of them, and count the miracles that Elisha did, twelve of them, and they say, “Well, there’s the double portion, double miracles, and that’s what that might mean.”
What is the spirit and power of Elijah? In order to get that before your hearts, I want to mention two things that I’m almost a hundred percent convinced, whatever the spirit and power of Elijah are, it’s not this, and it’s not this. I want to give you two things I know it’s not. I know for sure the first one it’s not. I know for almost sure the second one it’s not. I think doubling the number may be a partial answer to the spirit of Elijah, but it’s deeper than working miracles. How do I know? I know because Jesus said, “John the Baptizer was Elijah,” and listen to John 10:41&42, “He went away beyond the Jordan to the place where John was first baptizing, and He was staying there, and many came to Him and were saying, ‘While John performed no sign, everything John said about this man was true, and many believed in Him there.’” Gabriel said, “John would have the spirit and power of Elijah.” Did he have it? Yes, Gabriel said he was going to have it. Did John ever work a miracle? That verse says no, John never worked a miracle. So, whatever the spirit and power of Elijah is, it’s not miracles, because John had the spirit and power of Elijah, and he never worked a miracle. It must be something else.
A second suggestion that I think is incorrect is that the spirit and power of Elijah must be his strong message of judgment. As we know, in the name of the Lord, the first thing that Elijah did was to announce a national famine that lasted three and a half years, and that was a judgment, a chastening. When we get to that I’ll show you how that’s true. Elijah, also, was known for praying down fire from God. He did that at least three times, once at the beginning of the ministry, and then a couple of times at the end. I’ll take you to the end of the ministry, and Elijah is about to go to heaven, 2 Kings 1:9&10, “The king sent to him a captain of fifty with his fifty, and he went up to him and, behold, he was sitting on top of the hill, and he said to him, ‘Oh, man of God, the king says to come down,’ and Elijah replied to the captain of fifty, ‘If I’m a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty.’ Fire came down from heaven and consumed them.” That’s pretty tough. And then the king was so dumb, he did it again. He sent another group of fifty, and they said, “The king demands that you come, man of God.” And he said, “If I’m a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you,” and it happened. Azariah, the stupid king, did it again. He got fifty more guys. This time the captain fell down before Elijah and said, “Please, sir, we know what happened the last two times. Have mercy on us,” and then Elijah went with him, at that particular time.
That powerful message of judgment and fire, certainly it was an emphasis in John the Baptizer’s ministry. He was tough and rough and he was from the wilderness. Matthew 3:1&2, “In those days, John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness, ‘Repent; the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” That was a strong message. And in verse 7, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee the wrath to come?” That’s pretty tough language. Matthew 3:10, “The ax is already laid to the root of the tree; every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” Matthew 3:12, “His winnowing fork is in His hand; He’ll thoroughly clear His threshing floor, and He’ll gather the wheat into the barn, and He’ll burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” John had the spirit and power of Elijah and, boy, he’s got tough language, as well, “Repent, you brood of vipers; the ax is laid to the root. He’s going to burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” Some think that when he got so discouraged, remember he was in prison and he had some doubts, it’s because he came with this message of “fire and the ax is laid to the root, and unquenchable fire,” and Jesus said, “I forgive you, and I love you,” and He’s just saying, “Do we have the right One? Is this the right Messiah?” But he was wise; he sent his doubts to Jesus. If you ever have doubts, that’s a good idea.
Anyway, do you remember the story of the two disciples that were named “Sons of Thunder?” The two disciples that were named the Sons of Thunder were James and John. It’s recorded to Luke 9, Jesus had been rejected by the Samaritans, and here is what James and John asked Jesus, and it’s where they got that name, Sons of Thunder, “His disciples, James and John, seeing it, said, ‘Lord, wilt Thou that we speak that fire come down from heaven and consume them, as Elijah did?’” Should we do it, Lord? They’re rejecting you. Should we call down fire like Elijah did? Listen to Jesus’ answer, Luke 9:55, “He turned and rebuked them, and said, ‘You do not know what spirit you are of.” “You’re missing the spirit. You want to do what Elijah did, because you want his spirit to call down judgment. Jesus said that you’re missing it; you don’t know the spirit of Elijah. You want to be like Elijah and you think his spirit was the spirit of judgment, calling down fire. You’re missing it.” So, I know that it’s not miracles. I know, or think I know, it’s not the spirit of judgment. What is it; what is the spirit and power of Elijah?
I’d like to present that to you by going to Elijah’s first recorded words, and then a personal testimony that he gives of himself that seems to touch his spirit. First, then, his recorded words. Understand that when we talk about the spirit…. Here we are, I don’t know how many are here, but you do not have a spirit. You ARE a spirit. When you die the spirit goes to be with the Lord. That’s you. You ARE a spirit. You don’t have a spirit; you ARE a spirit. You have one, too, I see it looking out those beady eyes. I know you have a spirit, but you ARE a spirit, and when Elijah is going to talk about himself, the real him, his spirit, I think we get a little clue on what is the spirit of Elijah. The first words recorded, 1 Kings 17:1, “Now Elijah, the Tishbite, who was of the settlers of Gilead, said to Ahab, ‘As the Lord, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.’” Who was Elijah? You may say he was the Tishbite. Alright, look it up. Do you know what you’re going to find? Nothing, it doesn’t help you to know he was a Tishbite. Nobody knows what that means. Alright, he was of the settlers of Gilead. Well, he’s standing on the west of the Jordan, and Gilead is on the east of the Jordan, so even though he’s ministering on the west, he grew up among the mountain men. Gilead was the inheritance given to those on the east, and they were mountain men, and they were pretty tough men, at that.
When Elijah stood before Ahab, we know he was a wanderer with the Gileadites. We get a hint of the kind of man that was from 2 Kings 1:7&8, “He said, ‘What king of a man was he who came to meet you and spoke these words?’ They answered, ‘He was a hairy man with a leather girdle bound about his loin.’ And he said, “It’s Elijah, the Tishbite.” We know him. He’s a wild man. Maybe he was a nazarite and didn’t have his hair cut. We don’t know, but we know he was a hairy man and had a leather girdle and we know later that he had a mantle. That’s it! Can you imagine a man looking like that standing in the oval office addressing the President of the United States? That’s what that amounted to. He went to Ahab who was the President of Israel, the king.
Remember when David was hiding from Saul, and a group of characters came to join him? We have one verse that says that they were Gileadites, 2 Chronicles 12:8, “From the Gadites they came over to David in the stronghold of the wilderness, mighty men of valor, men trained for war, who could handle shield and spear, whose faces were like the faces of lions, swift as gazelles on the mountain.” That was Elijah. We don’t know about him. I wouldn’t want to meet him in a dark alley. What else do we know about him? He’s like Melchizedek. We know nothing about him. He just shows up. That’s the first time he’s mentioned in the Bible, standing before the king. What about his ancestry? What about his parents? What about his mother? What about his father? Did he get married? Did he have any kids? What about his education? What about his background? What about his friends? We know zero. We know nothing about that. We’re in the dark until we come to 1 Kings 17:1, “As the Lord God of Israel lives before whom I stand…” I think we can learn a little about his spirit just in those words.
Let me take that sentence apart. “The Lord JEHOVAH is the God of Israel.” Now, Israel had thrown the Lord out, but he stands before the king and says, “You’ve thrown Him out, but He hasn’t thrown you out. He’s still your God.” The second thing we know is that He lives, “You’re serving Baal. He does not live.” So, we learn right away, whatever the spirit of Elijah is, it’s somebody who knows that God has a heart for His people, who knows that God is alive, and the next expression is, “I stand in His presence.” That’s our first look at Elijah. “I know God loves His people. I know He’s alive. And I am standing in the presence of the Living God who loves His people.” We get all of that in that first verse, and he declares a message. He said, “I not only know God loves His people, I not only know that He’s alive, I not only know that I’m standing everyday in His presence, but I am here to faithfully and fearlessly deliver the message that He’s put on my heart.” And he does that. I think with those things, perhaps we’re approaching what is this spirit of Elijah. It’s someone who lives in the presence of the Living God, who loves His people, and is not afraid to proclaim the word that He gives. I think that begins to show us the spirit. Once again, I remind you, that’s who you are. You ARE a spirit, and when you die, you’re going to commit your spirit into His hands. That’s yourself.
1 Kings 17:1 seems to encapsule part of the spirit of Elijah, but here’s the question. He shall be filled with the spirit and power of Elijah. Is the spirit and power saying the same thing in different words, the spirit and power of Elijah? Or is spirit one thing, and power another thing? How do they fit together? I’m going to develop this more in detail when we look at the record, but Elijah came to a very low spot in his life. Perhaps you remember it from the record. He was very discouraged. He was almost in despair. He certainly prayed to die. All of his expectations had not been fulfilled. He felt like his ministry was a failure, and God had not used him the way he thought he would be used. When he dealt with the prophets of Baal and Asherah, he thought that would be followed by revival. The exact opposite happened.
God questioned him twice. He ran 350 miles, all the way back to Horeb. He ran back to the law. There is spiritual significance in that. We’ll touch on that on another occasion. Anyway 1 Kings 19:9, “He came there to a cave, and he lodged there, and behold, the word of the Lord came to him and said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’” Now, here’s what I’m saying. He’s reaching down inside his gut. He’s at a low spot in his life, and God is asking him, “What are you doing here?” Here’s his answer, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of Hosts, for the sons of Israel have forsaken your covenant, torn down your altars, killed your prophets with the sword, and I alone am left, and they seek my life to take it away.” Then, you remember, there was God displaying Himself in wonderful ways, until it came to the still, small voice. After the still, small voice, God asks him a question again, 1 Kings 19:13, “When Elijah heard Him,” that’s the still, small voice,” He wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave, and, behold, a voice came to him and said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ And he said, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts, for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword, and I alone am left, and they seek my life to take it away.’”
Both times, when he’s at the lowest, he gave the very same answer, “I have been very zealous.” Do you know that the word “zealous” and “jealous” are the same in the original? It’s the same word. One of my dictionaries, there are two definitions of jealous, and I want you to remember that Your God is a jealous God. Here is definition #1, insistence on exclusive devotion. He insists on exclusive devotion. #2, intolerant of rivalry. That’s what jealousy is, someone who insists to be a one and only, and who will not permit a rival. God is a jealous God. Elijah says, “When God says, ‘What are you doing here,’ he says, ‘Don’t You see my heart, don’t You see my spirit. I’m jealous. I’ve been very zealous. I’m jealous for the jealously of the Lord. Your people have come against You, and I can’t stand that. I cannot allow it and my jealousy burns me up. I’m one who is jealous, and I can’t stand to see Your glory defiled, Your name defiled.’” That was Elijah. He had a passion; He had a fire.
I can’t help but think of this in terms of when our Lord Jesus cleansed the temple. Remember that in the New Testament? He did it once in the beginning, and once at the end. Anyway, at the beginning, John 2:15, “He made a scourge of cords, and He drove them out of the temple with the sheep and the oxen. He poured out the coins of the money changers, and overturned their tables, and to those who were selling the doves, He said, ‘Take these things away. Stop making My Father’s house a place of business.’” Jesus had a passion for the purity of the Father’s house. That’s you. You’re the Father’s house. You’re the temple. You’re His dwelling place.
How did the disciples interpret that? John 2:17, “His disciples remembered it was written, ‘Zeal for Your house will consume Me.’” KJV says, “The zeal of Thine house has eaten Me up.” That was the Spirit of the Lord Jesus, eaten up, consumed for the purity of the Father’s house. So, I think Elijah, not only as he stood in the presence of the living God who had not forsaken His people, as he knows He’s the Living God, as he fearlessly and faithfully proclaims His word, way down deep there was a fire, and that fire was the jealousy for the jealousy of God, “I have a burning desire for the purity of God’s house, and Ahab and Jezebel have not given a pure house.”
That’s my understanding of what it means to have the spirit and power of Elijah. The spirit and power of Elijah is someone who knows God loves His people, who knows He’s alive, who stands in the presence of the Living God, and faithfully and fearlessly proclaims His message, and is driven by a zeal, by a jealousy, “All I want is God’s glory. That’s all I’m about, that’s all I want, that’s why I’m here, that’s why I’ve run, because I feel like I’ve failed.” That’s the immediate background of who Elijah is.
Now, in order to get the distinctive revelation of Jesus, because you didn’t come to see Elijah. You came to see Jesus. To get to that, I think we need background, and the background of 1 Kings 17 is 1 Kings 16. Was that profound? It was a time of national apostasy. The whole nation had turned against the Lord. They kicked God out, even His name. I’m not going to go into the graphic details, but a broad overview. You remember that after Solomon, the kingdoms split, and there was a north and a south, and there were ten kingdoms in the north, that’s where Ahab is, that’s what we’re going to be talking about, and then two in the south. It has been 58 years since the split, when we get to Elijah, 58 years and seven kings of Israel, and not one of them sought the Lord. Everyone of them was very wicked.
I’m not going to give you the names of all their kings and their deeds, but I want to mention two. Since we’re going to be dealing with Ahab, I want to mention Ahab, and I want to mention his father, Omri. We’ll start with Omri. 1 Kings 16:25, “Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord and acted more wickedly than all who were before him.” That’s all you need to know. He was more wicked than everybody before him. Alright, now let’s go to Ahab. Verse 30, “Ahab, the son of Omri, did evil in all the sight of the Lord, more than all that were before him,” and that includes Omri. So, he was more wicked than his father. I’m just giving you this idea.
I’m going to mention four things, how bad things were when Elijah showed up. After the split of the kingdom, Jeroboam set up calf worship in the north in Dan and in the south in Bethel, but he didn’t kick God out. He actually named the calf “Jehovah,” and he said, “This is the God that led you out of Egypt, and this is the God that brought you into this land.” That was Jeroboam. That’s how it started, but Ahab, look at 1 Kings 16:31, “It came about as though it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam.” Ahab looked at those sins, and said, “That’s not big deal having a calf worship,” that he married Jezebel, the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians, and went to serve Baal and worshipped Him.
I think everyone knows the name “Jezebel”. If you’re going to have a grandchild or child, don’t name it Jezebel. Judas and Jezebel are not good. If any woman was ever misnamed, it was Jezebel. Her name means chaste, virtuous, pure. Boy, did her mother miss it! 1 Kings 16:32, “He erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he built in Samaria.” Samaria is the capital of that kingdom, and he builds a temple for Baal in the capital city. In connection with the temple, he established the priesthood, so that there were hundreds of priests of Baal and Asherah.
The ten tribes in the north never had a temple that God approved. Almost two hundred years of existence, they never had a temple that God approved. They never had a priesthood. Everything that God said about the Levites and their ministries, and their duties and priests never took place in the ten tribes in the northern kingdom ever. Not only did he think cat-worship was not big deal, not only did he marry Jezebel, the Phoenician princess who brought great trouble to him and the whole kingdom, be became actually a puppet of hers, and we’ll see that later on. Not only did they introduce Baal and build a temple in the capital city to Baal, but these were not only idolatrous times, Jezebel came in with an infernal hatred of Jehovah. She said, “He cannot exist.”
As far as the Bible goes, this is the first persecution that ever took place against the people of God because they were related to the Lord. There were other invasions and that kind of thing, but I’m saying, “I’m going to kill you because you’re a Christian. I’m going to kill you because you’re identified with the Lord.” Jezebel tried to exterminate the name “Jehovah” out of the kingdom. 1 Kings 18:13, and we’ll look at more of this when we get to the details, but Obadiah says, “Has it not been told to my master what I did when Jezebel killed the prophets of the Lord, that I hid a hundred prophets of the Lord by fifty in a cave and provided them with bread and water.” The point I want you to see is that Jezebel killed the prophets of the Lord. “If you name the name of the Lord, you’re dead.”
I’m spending so much time here telling you how bad things were. I think it was one of the worst times in Israel’s history. Later on, Jehu, as vengeance, was going to attack that kingdom, and listen to 2 Kings 9:23, “When Joram saw Jehu, he said, ‘Is it peace, Jehu,’ and he answered, ‘What peace, so long as the harlotries of your mother, Jezebel, and her witchcrafts are so many?” It gives you an idea of how bad things were.
I’m going to insert here a personal testimony. When I began this study of Elijah and Elisha, I didn’t have all the light of the Lord that I really desired to have, and I took it by cold blooded faith that He was going to give me light along the way. But I was really getting to know Elijah. I read everything I could get my hands on about Elijah and about Elisha, and it was as if the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart. I didn’t hear a voice, but in my heart in my thinking, it’s like the Holy Spirit said, “Ed, why are you so Elijah centered, and why are you so Elisha centered? You are going to have a group of people in front of you and they don’t care a dog’s fur about Elijah and Elisha. They want to see Jesus, see the Lord. Look at my people from 1 Kings 16. They turned away from Me. I can’t turn away from them. My heart is broken.”
Listen to Hosea 11:8 illustrating the heart of the Lord, “How can I give you up, oh Ephraim? How can I surrender you, oh Israel? How can I make you like Admah: How can I treat you like Zebolim?” Those are nations that were judged. God says, “My heart is turned over within Me. All my compassions are kindled.” It’s not going to help you to know about Elijah and Elisha, unless you see the God of Elijah and Elisha, and His compassions are turned over. They’re kindled. Hosea 14:1, “Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, for you haves tumbled because of your iniquity.” Hosea 14:4&5, “I will heal their apostasy. I will love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them, I will be like the dew to Israel; He will blossom like the lily, and he will take root like the cedars of Lebanon.” That’s the message of Elijah and Elisha, God’s heart of recovery; that’s what it’s about. God wants to recover His people. God is broken hearted because of the sin of His people. How he loves His wayward people when they’re at their worst.
What does God do when He wants to recover His people and they’re at their worst? He raises up people like Elijah and Elisha who have the spirit and power of Elijah. That’s all about God’s heart to rescue His wayward people, men, women, servants of the Lord that are jealous with a jealousy of the Lord, who dare to know that God loves His people, who know He’s alive, who stand in the presence of the Living God, who faithfully and fearlessly present the message of the Lord, and who are driven by a jealousy, and are eaten up with zeal for the house of the Lord, the purity of God’s house.
Listen to James 5:17, “Elijah was a man with a nature just like ours.” We’ll see that when we study Elijah. He’s just like us. He’s a man that in the worst of times knew how to pray. I hope that’s you. In times like ours God seeks people with a heart just like ours and a nature just like ours, who will stand against the tide. That’s why people were so Elijah conscious in the New Testament where we began, because Elijah keeps showing up. Do you know why? It’s because he’s every man. He’s you, he’s me, he’s every man. When people are at their worst, when they’ve thrown the Lord out, God says, “I love them. How can I give them up? I need somebody with the spirit and power of Elijah, that I can send, who dare to stand in My presence and hear My voice and deliver My message.”
So, was John the Baptist Elijah? Yes, he was, and then he died and then another Elijah came. Is Elijah still coming? Yes, he’s still coming, he’s ever coming, in every generation Elijah is coming, because that is the person that God seeks when things are at their very worst. So, that’s what we’re going be studying, brothers and sisters in Christ, the kind of person God raises up to answer the cry of His own heart, to recover His people, His temple, when they are their worst. So, my focus has changed from Elijah and Elisha. We’re going to be studying the broken heart of God, and His jealousy to use men and women with the spirit and power of Elijah. His people have turned away today. God hasn’t washed His hands. He hasn’t said that it’s over, “I’m finished with them and I’m through with them.” His heart will ever beat hot in love for His people.
I never knew how to pray for our country, and I asked the Lord one day, “Teach me,” as I know He’s not going to force a will, and to pray for their decisions, and it was all confusion to me. But the Lord gave me the prayer that we started with. I’ve written it in my Bible. It’s my prayer for our country. It’s Psalm 119:126, “It’s time for the Lord to act, for they have broken Your laws.” It’s time for the Lord to act. A lot of you know Dana Congdon. I expressed my burden one time to him, and he shared with me the prayer God gave him for the United States, and its’ Habakkuk 3:2, “O Lord, revive your work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make in known, in wrath remember mercy.” What a prayer! We know that He’s got to deal with our country, and my heart goes out with Dana, “In wrath remember mercy.” I’m surprised our nation hasn’t already been severely judged, and in a sense it has.
The principle of the message of Elijah and Elisha is so big. I’m going to stick to the text, but I want you to know that the principle is, what will God do when things are at their worst? So, that includes bigger things. What will God do when you’re praying for unbelieving family members and things are at their worst? He’ll raise up you or someone with the spirit and power of Elijah. What will God do when my health is at it’s worst? The answer is that you’ll get a word from the Living God through Godly people, like Elijah and Elisha. What will I do when financial distress, it couldn’t get worse than this? It’s the same thing. Every time things are at their worst; your God is still there. What about the consequences of my own stupid decision, and I’m suffering because of my own stupidity? When things are at their worst, God rises up and raises men like Elijah and Elisha.
Psalm 119:126, “It’s time for the Lord to work.” Let me close this first introduction lesson with Hosea 13:9, “Oh, Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself, but in Me is thy health.” Well, I hope you’ve seen a little of Elijah and a lot of Jesus. Next week we’re going to look at Elisha and Jesus, and then we’ll see how that fits together.
Heavenly Father, thank You for Your word, not what we think it might mean, but everything You’ve inspired it to mean. Quite apart from anything that’s been said, will you work what You’ve inspired this to mean in our hearts? Thank You, Lord, and we just pray as we look at this together that we might see Your broken-hearted love for Your people, even when they’re at their worst. Thank You for raising up men like Elijah and Elisha. Lord, give us a double portion of that spirit. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.