Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe writes, “Some may ask, ‘Where is the LORD God of Elijah?’ (2 Kings 2:14). Perhaps the better question is, where are the Elijahs?”[i] Where are the Elijahs of God? James Gilmour (1843-1891) of Mongolia writes, “Do not we rest in our day too much on the arm of flesh? Cannot the same wonders be done now as of old? Do not the eyes of the Lord still run to and fro throughout the whole earth to show Himself strong on behalf of those who put their trust in Him? Oh, that God would give me more practical faith in Him! Where is now the Lord God of Elijah? He is waiting for Elijah to call on Him.”[ii]
Dr. F. B. Meyer (1847-1929) writes, “Elijah grew up like the other lads of his age. In his early years he probably did the work of a shepherd on those wild hills. As he grew to manhood, his erect figure, his shaggy locks, his cloak of camel’s hair, his muscular, sinewy strength — which could out strip the fiery coursers of the royal chariot and endure excessive physical fatigue — distinguished him from the dwellers in lowland valleys. But in none of these would he be specially different from the men who grew up with him in the obscure mountain hamlet of Thisbe, whence he derived the name of Tishbite. There were many among them as lithe, and swift, and strong, and capable of fatigue, as he. We must not look to these things for the secret of his strength.
As he grew in years, he became characterized by an intense religious earnestness. He was ‘very jealous for the Lord God of hosts.’ Deeply taught in Scripture, especially in those passages which told how much Jehovah had done for His people, Elijah yearned, with passionate desire, that they should give Him His meed of honor. And he learned that this was lacking by the dread tidings that came in broken snatches. Messengers after messenger told how Jezebel had thrown down God’s altars and slain His prophets and replaced them by the impious rites of her Tyrian deities — his blood ran liquid fire, his indignation burst all bounds, he was ‘very jealous for the Lord God of hosts.’ O noble heart! I wish that we could be as righteously indignant amid the evils of our time! Oh for a coal from that pure flame that burnt on thine inner hearth!
But the question was, How should he [Elijah] act? What could he do — a wild, untutored child of the desert? There was only one thing he could do — the resource of all much-tried souls — he could pray, and he did: ‘He prayed earnestly’ (James 5:17).”[iii]
James 5:16b-18 reads, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.”
Note three things about Elijah from our text.
I. First, note the willingness of Elijah.
James 5:16b reads, “The effective, fervent prayer . . . avails much. Elijah . . . prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.”
Leonard Ravenhill (1907-1994) writes, “We know Elijah was ‘a man of like passions as we are,’ but alas! we are not men of like prayer as he was!’ One praying man stands as a majority with God! Today God is bypassing men—not because they are too ignorant, but because they are too self-sufficient. Brethren, our abilities are our handicaps, and our talents are our stumbling blocks!”[iv] Ravenhill notes, “Elijah prayed, not for the destruction of the idolatrous priests, nor for thunderbolts from heaven to consume rebellious Israel, but that the glory of God and the power of God might be revealed.”[v]
Jesus said, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41b). Remember these words were spoken in relation to prayer.
Elijah was willing to put himself out. 1 Kings 17:1-7 reads, “And Elijah the Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead, said to Ahab, ‘As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word.’ Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, ‘Get away from here and turn eastward, and hide by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan. And it will be that you shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.’ So he went and did according to the word of the Lord, for he went and stayed by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the brook. And it happened after a while that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land.’” 1 Kings 18:41-46 reads, “Then Elijah said to Ahab, ‘Go up, eat and drink; for there is the sound of abundance of rain.’ So Ahab went up to eat and drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; then he bowed down on the ground, and put his face between his knees, and said to his servant, ‘Go up now, look toward the sea.’ So he went up and looked, and said, ‘There is nothing.’ And seven times he said, ‘Go again.’ Then it came to pass the seventh time, that he said, ‘There is a cloud, as small as a man’s hand, rising out of the sea!’ So he said, ‘Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot, and go down before the rain stops you.’ Now it happened in the meantime that the sky became black with clouds and wind, and there was a heavy rain. So Ahab rode away and went to Jezreel. Then the hand of the Lord came upon Elijah; and he girded up his loins and ran ahead of Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.”
Dr. F. B. Meyer comments, “. . . in his prayer he seems to have been led back to a denunciation made years before by Moses to the people — that if they turned aside and served other gods, and worshiped them, the Lord’s wrath would be kindled against them; and He would shut up the heaven so there should be no rain (Deuteronomy 11:16-17). Flowing into this mold, his thoughts must have shaped themselves somewhat thus: ‘If my God does not fulfill this threat the people will think that it is an idle tale, or that He is a myth of the past — a dead tradition. This must not be. Better far that the land should suffer the terrors of famine, and the people experience the bitterest agonies of thirst, and that I should be torn limb from limb. It were better that we should suffer the direst physical woes that can blast our national prosperity, than that we should come to think that the Jehovah of our fathers is as dead as the idols of the heathen.’ And so he set himself to pray that the terrible threat might be literally fulfilled. ‘He prayed earnestly that it might not rain.’
A terrible prayer indeed! And yet, was it not more terrible for the people to forget and ignore the God of their fathers, and to give themselves up to the licentious orgies of Baal and Astarte? Remember, too, what a wrong construction might be put upon the utter silence of God Himself. Could anything be more disastrous than that the statute book should be filled with laws which the Lawgiver could not or would not enforce? Nothing could be more detrimental to the true conception of God. ‘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).
And as Elijah prayed, the conviction was wrought into his mind that it should be even as he prayed; and that he should go to acquaint Ahab with the fact. Whatever might be the hazard to himself, both king and people must be made to connect their calamities with the true cause. And this they evidently did, as we shall see (1 Kings 18:10). That the drought was due to his prayer is also to be inferred from the express words with which Elijah announced the fact to the king: ‘There shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word’ (1 Kings 17:1).
What a meeting was that! We know not where it took place, whether in the summer palace when Jezebel was at her consort’s side, or when Ahab was surrounded by his high officers of state in Samaria. But wherever it took place, it was a subject worthy of the highest art and genius. The old religion against the new; the child of nature against the flaccid child of courts; camel’s hair against soft clothing; moral strength against moral weakness.”[vi]
Frances Ridley Havergal (1836-1879) shares the following:
There are noble Christian workers,
The men of faith and power,
The overcoming wrestlers
Of many a midnight hour;
Prevailing princes with their God,
Who will not be denied,
Who bring down showers of blessing
To swell the rising tide.
The Prince of Darkness quaileth
As their triumphant way,
Their fervent prayer availeth
To sap his subtle sway.[vii]
Part Two Coming Soon!
[i]Warren W. Wiersbe,, With the Word: The Chapter-by-Chapter Bible Handbook (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1991), 206-207.
[ii]Edward McKendree Bounds, Purpose in Prayer (New York, NY: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1920), 8.
[iii]F. B. Meyer, Elijah: And the Secret of His Power (New York, NY: Fleming H. Revell Company, n.d.), 13-15.
[iv]Leonard Ravenhill, Why Revival Tarries (Bloomington, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 1987), 39.
[v]Ravenhill, Revival, 43.
[vi]Meyer, Elijah, 15-17.
[vii]Frances Ridley Havergal, “Under His Shadow”: The Last Poems (New York, NY: E. P. Dutton and Co., 1883), 57.