I want to take a break from our study of Matthew and spend the next two weeks on the grace of God. I was blessed by Brother Eric’s prayer last week when he prayed through 1 Kings 19 and being reminded of God’s tenderness toward a tired and fearful Elijah. So for today, we are going to do a character sketch of Elijah.
1 Kings 19
8 So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. 9 There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” 11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.
Who is Elijah? Last week, we talked a little bit about John the Baptist. And did you know that John the Baptist and Elijah share an interesting link?
Prior to the birth of Christ, an angel of the Lord appeared before Zechariah and predicted the birth of John the Baptist. And listen to what the gospel writer Luke says about John the Baptist. Luke 1:17.
17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
The future John the Baptist will live in the spirit and power of Elijah. Jesus echoed the same sentiment and even took it one step further in the passage we covered last week. Matt 11:11-15.
Please turn with me there.
11 I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it. 13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. 14 And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. 15 He who has ears, let him hear.
Jesus kind of snuck it in there. He who has ears, let me him hear. Hear what? Jesus starts in v13 with a reference to all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. What was prophesied? The Law and the Prophets prophesied that there would be a coming Messiah who would one day save His people from their sins. The Law was given to Moses at Mt Sinai. Where does Elijah flee to in 1 Kings 19? Mt Horeb, which is the exact same place as Mt Sinai. The more you study Scripture, there are these fascinating links.
The whole point of the Law was to show people their sin. Their complete and utter inability to obey the Law perfectly. For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. And what was the role of the Prophets? To urge the people to repent when they failed to see their sin. The Law and the Prophets together prophesied that one day there would be a Messiah, a suffering Servant, a Savior who would die for our sins.
That’s why in Matthew 17, during the Transfiguration, Peter witnessed Jesus fellowshipping with 2 other figures: Moses, who represented the Law, and guess who represented the Prophets? Elijah. Moses and Elijah, the Law and the Prophets, and in their midst was Jesus. What’s the meaning of this? The Transfiguration shows that Jesus is the fulfillment of the entire Old Testament.
The Law was not something to be used to feel good about how holy and righteous we are. The Law was to signal to the people that I failed, I’ve fallen short and because of our failure to obey, the Law was a means by which we were supposed to become conscious of our sin. So that we would long for a Savior. And the Prophets’ sole purpose was to call the people to repent when they became blind to sin. Both the Law and the Prophets prophesied about Jesus. And Jesus said, he who has ears, let him hear. Hear what, specifically? Not only that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets, but also in Matt 11:14 – the announcement that John the Baptist is the Elijah who was to come. Elijah was a pointer to John the Baptist.
This is like those flashing signs on the highway–Construction Ahead. John was a sign – a big change is up ahead. Pay attention. Slow down. John the Baptist was the bridge between the Old and New Testaments. Flashing lights – Change Up Ahead. He was the final prophet who prepared the people for the coming of Jesus, the one who obeyed the Law perfectly, who never sinned and yet became sin for us and died on a cross so that those who believe in him can be saved.
Elijah was a pointer to John the Baptist. They were both prophets calling the people to repentance. John was paving the way for Jesus after 400 years of silence. God was silent for 400 years from the close of the Old Testament in Malachi until the birth of Christ. That was John the Baptist’s context. What was Elijah’s situation?
King Ahab is referred to in 1 Kings 16:30 as a king of Israel who “did more evil in the eyes of the Lord” than any king before him. He married Jezebel, a Phoenician princess who stumbled Ahab in his faith. Ahab started off well. He started off believing in the God of the Old Testament, but he stumbled to the point that he converted from a belief in God to Baal worship. Baal was the Phoenician god of rain, thunder, fertility and agriculture and Ahab began bowing down to idols of Baal. And he was the king of Israel. It’s tragic.
And because the king fell into pagan idol worship, the whole nation of Israel fell. And as a direct result of Ahab’s sin of idolatry as well as the nation’s sin, God sends a drought upon the land for three and a half years.
1 Kings 17
1 Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.
Sometimes we think, man, it’s awfully dry in my spiritual life. God, what’s up? Maybe God is trying to get our attention. There could be unconfessed sin. The drought was a direct result of Ahab’s sin and the sin of God’s people. But Ahab and the people failed to repent.
During those three and a half years of drought, God miraculously sustained the life of Elijah. He provided a brook, which I have no idea how that is possible in drought season, unless God is behind it. And God sent ravens to hand deliver bread and meat two times a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. God miraculously sustained Elijah’s life.