Edward Snowden and the Third Elijah
By Pastor Hal Mayer
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Thank you for joining me today as we explore yet another important and fascinating development in our times that is rooted in Bible prophecy. I sincerely thank you for your prayers and support for Keep the Faith Ministry. Your support, under the blessing of the Lord, is what provides meat in due season for thousands around the globe. Your gifts mean that Keep the Faith can continue its important work of keeping God’s people informed on prophetic developments and trends in these last days.
Without careful thinking and spiritual understanding you will never be able to comprehend the coming crisis. It will be an overwhelming surprise to most. But those who pay attention to the Bible and its prophetic insights will find an abundance of information about the very things happening in our day. The Bible doesn’t say in modern language that the U.S. President will do such and such, or that the European Union will take on papal control. The Bible teaches us about our times by telling us stories about what has happened in the past. The past is instructive because history repeats itself. It tells us how to think about the events around us in language that cannot be discerned by the unspiritual, or those who refuse to study the lessons of scripture.
But for those who do spend time in God’s word and who do pay attention and apply the key principles of the Bible, and surrender themselves to its truths, there is a wealth of information that helps them decipher and make sense of the seemingly irrational actions of world leaders. What seems stupid and foolhardy to some, is really the outworking of principles designed to bring the world to its final conflict between good and evil. What some people label as ignorant and idiotic actions of world leaders are really the result of satanically inspired plans and purposes that fulfill some of the Bible’s most compelling prophecies. World leaders are not stupid, nor ignorant and idiotic. They are managed. They are manipulated by higher powers. If you are thinking politically, you won’t see the bigger picture. But, if instead, you are thinking prophetically, it can more easily be seen how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together.
The Bible opens to our view a wide range of detail that decodes these current events in such a way as to give the student understanding that transcends even that of the very ones involved in the events themselves.
Most of all, as you study the Bible and think about the way the world will end up, you are given the opportunity to develop a loyalty to God’s law and live by His principles in your daily life. The closer we come to understanding the connection between the law of God and His protection during the chaotic future, the more we will see the urgency of aligning ourselves with the Almighty and maintaining a loyalty to His law. As the world becomes darker, you must have the light of Christ to shine brightly through your life in brilliant contrast to the prevailing darkness.
Over the next few months, I plan to share a series of sermons on the lives of a number of Bible characters and events that show how history explains the present and the future. I hope they will be a great blessing to you.
Before we begin today’s message, I just want to say that we are getting close to the time when we will begin our remodeling project at Highwood Health Retreat in Victoria, Australia. If you are interested in participating as a volunteer in that project, please get in touch with me immediately. We are attempting to assemble an international team of people, both skilled and unskilled, to assist in remodeling the therapy department. It is looking like it is going to be a wonderful opportunity for you to help in a very important soul-winning venture for the Lord. Please contact our office by the email address provided on your CD or by calling 540-672-3553.
As we begin, let us bow our heads in prayer and ask for the guidance of heaven in our study. Our heavenly Father, we are so privileged to be able to call you our Father. You are the almighty God. And because of that we have nothing to fear, even from the most evil and controlling men. We have nothing to fear from human systems being developed to prevent Your people from doing what You have called them to do in the last days. Please help us understand our times. Send Your Holy Spirit to show us what we need to comprehend, so that we will not be caught up in the coming overwhelming surprise. Thank You for Your word that reveals so much to us. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.
Because we are living in the last days, the Bible gives us keys for understanding how governments work and how they build a system to pursue God’s people and silence their voice of reproof. We have a classic example of this way of thinking in the story of Elijah.
Let us turn to 1 Kings 18:10. Listen carefully to these words of Obadiah the governor of Ahab’s palace. “As the Lord thy God liveth, there is no nation or kingdom, whither my lord hath not sent to seek thee: and when they said, He is not there; he took an oath of the kingdom and nation, that they found thee not.”
Elijah was cut off from earthly support except under the direct intervention of God. The ruling dictator did everything he could to cut him off from all human and legal means of defense. He was isolated and had no place he could go without danger.
The same mentality exists today. The system being developed uses excuses and unrelated events to justify its construction. But it is ultimately going to be used to support a false system of worship, and to persecute those who defend and uphold God’s holy law in the last moments of earth’s history. In fact, God is permitting world leaders to develop such a total surveillance and control system because He wants to bring it all to nothing. Isn’t that wonderful?
In order for the issues in the great controversy between Christ and Satan to be fully matured, He has to allow earthly leaders to control the people in a way that appears to all human eyes as an inescapable network of global structure and coordination so that God’s people cannot hide or find refuge anywhere on earth, if possible. They will be cut off from all earthly support. He does this so that He can publically demonstrate their complete and absolute dependence on Him. So, you don’t need to fear it. Fear God instead. God allows this threatening and burgeoning scheme so that He can hide His people in His own way – under the shadow of the Almighty. Psalm 91:1
We see evidence of this widening coordination in the way governments and their collaborators handle a range of unrelated issues, such as tax investigations of conservative political organizations. Do you remember hearing about the U.S. Internal Revenue Service scandal that targeted political opponents of U.S. President Obama during the presidential campaign that re-elected him? Conservative organizations opposed to President Obama applying for tax-exempt status were delayed unnecessarily and subjected to intrusive questioning. The IRS is now being used for political purposes (though the outcome of the scandal is yet to unfold). It can easily be seen how that one day the IRS can also be used for religious purposes as well.
Another way the system is being developed is by hunting down whistleblowers that leak government secrets to the press. Whistleblowers are essentially the voice of reproof, aren’t they? When they reveal the hidden deeds of government officials or organizations such as the illegal and unconstitutional spying of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), they are in essence reproving the government for its unwarranted intrusion on privacy by making it all public.
Listen to this statement from the book Great Controversy, page 635. “When the protection of human laws shall be withdrawn from those who honor the law of God, there will be, in different lands, a simultaneous movement for their destruction. As the time appointed in the decree draws near, the people will conspire to root out the hated sect. It will be determined to strike in one night a decisive blow, which shall utterly silence the voice of dissent and reproof.”
This could not happen without a well-coordinated global network in place that would control everything about society. Only then can universal Sunday laws be imposed. When God’s people must defend His law and uphold His holy Sabbath in the face of controlling laws designed to force everyone to worship the beast and uphold the papal Sunday, the fullness of rebellion of the human race will be at its height. God’s people will be treated with hostility and anger because they represent the voice of dissent and reproof, especially when they point out that the judgments of God on the human race are the result of those who oppose the law of God. They will be subject to the severest penalties. They will not be able to buy or sell. Their businesses will be closed. They won’t be able to buy food, pay for the electric or telephone bills. They will be cut off from the grid completely. They will be hunted from state to state, from nation to nation. Attempts will be made world-wide to root them out.
Listen to this statement from Desire of Ages, page 121, 122. “In the last great conflict of the controversy with Satan those who are loyal to God will see every earthly support cut off. Because they refuse to break His law in obedience to earthly powers, they will be forbidden to buy or sell. It will finally be decreed that they shall be put to death. See Revelation 13:11-17. But to the obedient is given the promise, “He shall dwell on high: his place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks: bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure.” Isaiah 33:16.
That is virtually what has happened to Edward Snowden, the “whistleblower” at the NSA. He was cut off from every earthly support from the nation where he had his citizenship and from many others. He was very careful to make sure that he was outside the United States when he revealed the NSA super-spying and data collection on American citizens. The United States cancelled his passport and tried to get the nations to extradite him. He is now “hiding” under Russian protection while he looks for asylum and secures passage to another nation. The United States has put a lot of pressure on Russia and other nations that might provide asylum to the fugitive. They have worked behind the scenes to narrow his options and prevent him from traveling outside Russia as well as to get Russia to return him to the United States.
The NSA has involved a network of other nations who have collaborated with it in collecting and sharing information. These nations include even the friends of the U.S. such as Britain and Germany. The NSA scandal has roiled these nations as well.
The way the U.S., the United Nations and others have treated Edward Snowden who reproved their extreme spying on their citizens, reveals what governments will do to develop a global method of invasive spying to control information and people. It also shows what measures will be taken to track and detain those perceived to be enemies of the state.
The digital age has allowed governments to develop surveillance tools to control populations. These are being tested so that the bugs can be fixed, and legal problems resolved. The whole system is being tightened up and sealed around the edges so no one can escape.
Surveillance is a growing and disturbing feature of modern society. There is more surveillance than ever before. Cameras are everywhere. Electronic eavesdropping has matured to the point where billions of terabits of detailed data on individual citizens is collected and stored in giant databases and warehouses, which can be searched and defined when the “need” arises. Also, there are events that happen which show where there are gaps or holes in the system that need to be plugged. No doubt future adjustments will make it much more difficult for anyone who wants to do what Snowden has done.
To begin our series, we need to turn to the Bible. The Old Testament has a compelling story that explains to us the lengths to which totalitarian and apostate government leaders will resort in order to find and destroy God’s people when they have to reprove and expose the sins of the nations and the evil collaboration between church and state and defend the law of God. This story is speaking about the very time that is soon to come upon the whole planet. But its lessons are especially useful today in light of recent revelations of global spying of the NSA. These events happen so that God’s people who know their Bibles can understand what to expect in the future. God wants them to be prepared. He doesn’t want them surprised.
The interesting story is found in 1 Kings. The nation of Israel was in deep trouble with God. The ruler was Ahab, whom, we are told, did more evil than all that were before him. 1 Kings 16:30-33. Ahab was from a string of apostate rulers in Israel. First there was Jeroboam, who worked to prevent the people of Israel from going to Jerusalem to worship God by establishing alternative places and styles of worship. He set up golden calves in two places in the kingdom. Following Jeroboam there was Baasha, Elah, Zimri and Omri. All of them departed from the word of God and increasingly pressured the nation of Israel to leave the true worship of God.
Then Omri’s son Ahab took the throne of Israel. Ahab reigned 22 years, which is enough time to do a lot of mischief. He was so rebellious that he did something that his fathers did not do. He took a wife from the Zidonians who were ancient Phoenician worshippers of the gods of nature, especially Baal, the storm god. Jezebel was a wicked Phoenician woman and a fanatical and tireless proponent of the worship of Baal. Ahab knew she would bring the worship of Baal to the church and nation and it seems that the Bible is telling us that he married her with that in mind. Jezebel was the daughter of Ethbaal, the High Priest of Baal and the king of the Zidonians.
1 Kings 16:31 says “And it came to pass, as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took to wife Jezebel that daughter of Ethbaal king of the Zidonians, and went and served Baal, and worshipped him.”
You need to understand the significance of this. This bold presumption on the part of Ahab set the stage for him to exceed all his predecessors in wickedness. He was weak and vacillating and had no true conception of right and wrong. Jezebel’s strong and determined personality could easily manipulate him. 1 Kings 16:30 says that he “did evil in the sight of the Lord above all that were before him.” Ahab had a particular enmity toward God and His law, and he determined to take the nation away from following after the Lord. And he did so aggressively. Under the instigation of Jezebel he used the power of the state to support the false church and persecuted those who refused to go along with the religion of Baal.
Marriage to Jezebel created a political alliance between Israel and Phoenicia. It was expedient because it gave him access to the trade routes that would make him and his kingdom wealthy. Ahab thought that what Jeroboam had done to bring in idolatry was too superficial. He would take this work much, much farther and deeper, even to its ultimate conclusion if he could, the full overthrow of the worship of God, and the removal of anyone who would oppose the new “progressive” order in Israel. But to do this he had to give the religion of Baal royal patronage. And by uniting church and state, he was able to enforce false worship on all of Israel.
Marrying Jezebel showed that Ahab had deliberately broken his sacred trust, and that he was determined to use his leadership to move the nation away from God’s commands. His selfish nature could not comprehend what God expected of him as leader and guardian of His people. He thought nothing of breaking the second commandment by image worship. Nor did he hesitate to introduce other gods and break the first. Ahab thought that his predecessors didn’t do enough to overthrow righteousness in Israel. Making light of the lesser sins always makes way for greater sins, and Ahab excelled in great sins, not only for himself, but he pressured others to follow his example.
Baal was viewed as the supreme God who controlled the elements of nature like the weather, especially rain storms. The worship of Baal was a fertility rite that involved the grossest licentiousness as part of the notion that participation in the sensual cult would bring the blessing of fertility to the ground. When God created man He blessed him with sexuality and set boundaries around it so that it would remain pure and undefiled. But paganism exalted in deeds of sensuality of all types. By bringing Baal worship to Israel, Ahab and Jezebel also brought with it all the trappings and gross immorality of its rites.
Whereas God had taught His people, Israel, to keep the Holy Sabbath that God had appointed at creation, Jezebel, whose religion involved worshipping the sun, moon and stars and other elements of nature, tried to get Israel away from the true worship of God on His holy Sabbath day.
Keep in mind, Jezebel was a progressive liberal like so many today. She was not only determined to bring in false worship, but to also change society with alternative lifestyles. When a leader goes against God’s law regarding worship, he becomes an advocate of alternatives to every other thing that God has ordained.
According to chapter 16:32, Ahab built a temple to commemorate the worship of Baal in Samaria, the royal city, as a rival place of worship to the temple in Jerusalem the royal city of the southern kingdom. He also raised up an alter for Baal in the temple. By using the alter of Baal, Ahab acknowledged that Israel was dependent on him and sought his favor. Ahab was determined! And Jezebel strengthened him in his resolve.
Israel’s fall into full idolatry was facilitated by Jezebel’s control over Ahab. She was ruthless, and let it be known that Israel would not follow the Lord God. The Bible says that Ahab (supported by Jezebel), did “more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him,” 1 Kings 16:33. Ahab didn’t just rebel against God, he deliberately did things to provoke the Lord. He had the history of his predecessors. He had seen the ruin of his fathers who went before him. Yet he still defiantly rebelled against the Lord.
You know how it is. When someone decides to go out and rebel, they have no fear of God. They become angry at God and dive right into all manner of wickedness and overthrow every trace of restraint upon them. And they try to get others to go along with them in their rebellion. Have you seen anyone like that? This is the way Ahab was. His heart was hardened and he was angry at God.
Being a pagan idolater Jezebel was naturally a persecutor as all pagan rulers were. And she made Ahab into one as well. They would not tolerate any opposition to their agenda. They began to systematically persecute those that would oppose them. We are told that Jezebel hunted down the prophets of God and killed them.
Let me explain to you what happened. Bible history is very clear. When Jeroboam ruled Israel, he set up alternative places of worship to Jerusalem and told the people to go to them. He was paranoid that the people would leave him and go back to Jerusalem and then his kingdom would be overthrown. Listen to what the scripture says about what he did in 2 Chronicles 11:13 & 14. Speaking of Rehoboam, Solomon’s son who ruled in the southern kingdom of Judah, the Bible says that “the priests and Levites that were in all Israel resorted to him out of all their coasts. For the Levites left their suburbs and their possession, and came to Judah and Jerusalem…”
In other words, the priests and Levites that were scattered throughout Israel, the northern kingdom, left their homes, properties and possessions and went to Judah to live under Rehoboam. Here is the reason. It is found in the rest of verse 14. “for Jeroboam [ruler of Israel, the northern kingdom] and his sons had cast them off from executing the priest’s office unto the Lord. And he [Jeroboam] ordained him priests for the high places, and for the devils, and for the calves which he had made.” In other words, he fired the priests and Levites that were dedicated to the worship of God, and he replaced them with men he appointed to lead the people into pagan worship. He ordained them and made them the pastors of the flock. Jeroboam set up a rival system of worship, which was in conflict with the worship of the true God.
Can you imagine a leader in God’s church replacing good, dedicated men who love and preach the truth, with those who preach falsehood and who carry the “hellish torch of Satan” into the pulpits? I can. I have seen this happen in our day on more than one occasion.
Now notice 2 Chronicles 11:16. “And after them out of all the tribes of Israel such as set their hearts to seek the Lord God of Israel came to Jerusalem [in the southern kingdom], to sacrifice unto the Lord God of their fathers.”
Rehoboam followed the Lord for about three years at the beginning of his seventeen year reign, but then he forsook the Lord and became evil. During his early years, faithful souls followed the priests and Levites and left Israel in the north and came to Judah in the south because they could still worship the God of their fathers.
Some years later, when good king Asa was ruling in Judah, it happened again. Faithful souls in Israel realized that if they were going to worship the true God, they had no choice but to follow the example of the faithful priests and Levites who had lost their jobs and gone to Judah. Asa, by the way, was contemporary with Omri and Ahab. Here is what it says in 2 Chronicles 15:9 about good king Asa who did all he could to restore the worship of God in the kingdom of Judah. “And he gathered all Judah and Benjamin, and the strangers with them out of Ephraim and Manasseh, and out of Simeon…” Where had these strangers come from? They came from the northern tribes of Israel, namely Ephraim, Manasseh and Simeon. Then the Bible says, “for they fell to him out of Israel in abundance, when they saw that the Lord his God was with him.” So, the northern kingdom lost these faithful souls in spite of the attempts to keep them there. They followed the truth. Things were so bad in Israel that they knew they had no choice but to worship where the Lord was honored. The Bible says in verse 11 that they offered sacrifices to the Lord. And then listen to verse 12. They were so tired of apostasy that “they entered into a covenant to seek the Lord God of their fathers with all their heart and with all their soul.”
Friends, when you see apostasy in the nation and in the church, do you determine in your heart to seek the Lord God of your spiritual fathers with all your heart and with all your soul? You should, you know. That is the only way to fortify yourself for the coming struggle. And a struggle is coming, my friends. Your relationship with Christ will determine whether you survive or not. The strength and depth of your burden for souls caught up in apostasy is a measure of your unity with the heart of God.
In the midst of apostasy and rebellion, God always has his agencies among men that are especially prepared for the emergency. When the priests and Levites left Israel, there was no more influence against evil. So, God raised up prophets in Israel to defend the law of Jehovah. These prophets were not gifted with the Spirit of Prophecy like Elijah. They were what we call today Bible workers, religious instructors, like those that Samuel trained in the schools of the prophets many years before. And they upheld the law of God and the Spirit of Prophecy before the people, which, at the time, were the writings of Moses. They taught the people from the sacred oracles that God had given through him.
But Jezebel hated these witnesses of truth. In 1 Kings 18:4, it says that “Jezebel cut off the prophets of the Lord.” What does it mean to “cut off?” Obadiah said it more plainly in verse 13, “Was it not told my lord what I did when Jezebel slew the prophets of the Lord…?” You see, Jezebel put many of these prophets of the Lord to death! She had no conscience. Jezebel worked very hard to eliminate any voice of dissent, any voice of reproof, any voice of righteousness. Obadiah saved some. But he could not save them all.
These faithful men worked carefully, quietly and stealthily among the people. How do we know? Well, think about it. We know that Obadiah hid 100 prophets of the Lord and sustained them in a cave during the time of drought. Why? Because their lives were threatened by Jezebel. These were the ones who survived Jezebel’s purge. It was dangerous to uphold God’s law in those days, just like it will be at the end of time, when the rulers will persecute those who will uphold the Sabbath of God’s law before the apostate nations.
Also, in those days, there weren’t any synagogues or other places of worship in Israel. We do not read about alters or sacrifices to the Lord. We don’t read of anyone burning incense to the Lord either. You see, public worship was restricted to the worship of Baal. You could not openly worship the God of heaven; otherwise you would end up in trouble with the rather dictatorial and bloodthirsty government. For a Jew this would have been quite a change. Jews worshipped God on His appointed Sabbath, the seventh day of the week. But Baal worship was quite different from the worship of God. Ahab and his predecessors had no doubt changed the day and object of worship. The Sabbath fell into disregard. Satan loved to get God’s people turning their backs on the Sabbath because it has always been a special sign between God and His people.
But the prophets of the Lord worked among the people to remind them of God’s law and the holy Sabbath. They had to work from house to house, from door to door, in private meetings with families in their homes, instructing and encouraging the people to remain faithful to God. It was probably because of these prophets that there were 7,000 who had not bowed the knee to Baal. No wonder Jezebel wanted to kill them!
I might add that these fellows were self-supporting missionaries. They did not receive a stipend from the church because there was no church structure to pay them. It had collapsed with the flight of the priests and Levites to the southern kingdom. Do you think that this is what might happen in the last days just before Jesus comes? What if the government removes the tax-exempt status of certain churches that promote and uphold the true Sabbath? What if laws are enacted that forbid anyone to preach or carry out ministerial functions without a government license so that the government can control what preachers preach. That has happened in some countries in the past, hasn’t it? Putting pressure on churches to conform to government orders is a very common feature of dictatorial governments. And when churches don’t comply, they lose their recognized status as churches. They can no longer hold public meetings. Their pastors can no longer function as ministers in the usual way. They have to work secretly, or privately. It is very interesting that the Bible tells us plainly what is going to happen to Sabbath-keeping church structures under the persecution of the last days. They will collapse, just as they did in the days of Ahab when false worship is enforced by government law. But the Lord always has His church, even if it has to be organized directly by the Holy Spirit.
These prophets of the Lord were part of that. They were forced to work “underground.” Things might have even been so dangerous that they could not openly go to the market to buy or sell. They may have had to have others, surrogate shoppers; do their purchases for them. But most likely, they survived by the generosity of the people to whom they brought God’s truth at the very time when truth was being crushed by a wicked king and apostate prophetess.
They were so very burdened for the salvation of the people that they risked their lives to find the ones that were open-hearted. They worked around the political and social system that Ahab and Jezebel had set up. They did not ask their permission. They did not seek their counsel. They did not try to openly oppose their rebellion. They knew that would be futile. So, they went from home to home like the good Waldensians many centuries later in Europe, to encourage the people to live the true faith.
Do you think Ahab and Jezebel liked what these prophets were doing? Oh no… I don’t think so. They had their own prophets; 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of the groves, 1 Kings 18:19. These prophets of the Lord were a nuisance.
When they discovered that these prophets were going about undermining their plans and showing the people the truths of God’s word, they became very angry. They decided they must do something about it. Otherwise, people would lose confidence in the government. They needed to establish some way to control these unruly elements in society. In the end, they determined to kill them. But this was not an easy task. How do you find them? How do you track them down when they are like the wind? Ahab and Jezebel and their minions didn’t know where they came from and they didn’t know where they went, but they could see that there were some who were persuaded not to bow the knee to Baal in spite of their best efforts to get them to do so.
So it became even more dangerous; deadly in fact. What do you think Ahab and Jezebel did to apprehend these faithful followers of God? What would you do if you were Ahab? I’ll tell you what I think they did. All we have to do is see what governments do today to eliminate those they think is a threat. Ahab was a powerful dictator, as all kings were. The more dictatorial a government is, the more tools they use to control the people.
Though the Bible doesn’t say it, Ahab and Jezebel would have had to set up some sort of surveillance to spy on their own people. Perhaps they even organized a “National Security Agency” to eavesdrop on their homes and conversations. No, they didn’t have all the cameras, digital technology, drones and other high-tech devices that governments have today. But they worked on the same principles. Agents would be sent out to discover if there were secret meetings in homes. Anyone suspected of sympathy with the true worship was put under surveillance and tracked. Neighbors and friends would be subtly interviewed to find out if they had noticed any unusual or suspicious activity going on, any secret meetings, or any strangers in town. They could have even promoted the mantra “If you see something, say something,” like some governments do today. They did whatever they could to find out where these prophets were. They painted them as traitors and made them look like they were undermining national security.
Under this surveillance society, it became very dangerous for these prophets to do what they knew they were called to do. They had to hide or disguise themselves. They had to be very careful what they would say until they believed they were in a friendly environment.
And Ahab and Jezebel didn’t hesitate to murder any of the prophets that they could find. And this created fear. Fear is always the tool of dictators to control the population. Jezebel was especially zealous in executing anyone that remained loyal to God’s law. There was no such thing as a fair trial. If you were suspected of being one of the prophets and were caught by the spies or security agents of these wicked rulers, you would surely lose your life. And if someone refused to inform the government on these prophets, they might also suffer.
Think about this now… God allowed some of his messengers to suffer the fate of martyrdom for the cause of truth. No doubt this made quite an impression on souls that were paying attention. When these prophets were persecuted and driven from the social life of the nation, and forced out of sight, no doubt their friends, and those who had harbored them suffered severely too. Perhaps they too lost their lives because they sympathized with truth. That is the nature of persecution. And any society that rejects the Bible and the law of God will inevitably become a persecuting society. Why is that? It is because they do not want to hear any witness against their behavior, any reproof or dissent.
When one of the prophets was captured, no doubt the detainee was questioned about who his friends were, where he found lodging and food, and where he intended to go next. They lost all their rights as citizens of Israel. Perhaps some were even tortured in secret prisons, or were held indefinitely without a trial. Maybe they were put in stress positions, or attack dogs were used on them to cause them to fear and humiliate them. The situation was so bad that the people were afraid to speak up for fear that they would be suspected of treason.
Do you think that is what will happen to God’s faithful people in the last days that will be sent with the message of reform to the people? Certainly! This story is prophetic in the sense that it reveals to us the principles that we see being developed today to deal with God’s people eventually. They are not being used that way now. They are being used against terrorism. But one day, once they are well developed, matured and well practiced in various ways, they will then be turned on new targets. They will be used on those who are accused of bringing the judgments of God upon the land for its wickedness.
Can you imagine the fiendish glee this brought to Satan to see Israel in spiritual drought? Can you imagine the sorrow that this brought to Christ? Listen to this from Prophets and Kings, page 115.
“For many years they had been losing their sense of reverence and godly fear; and now it seemed as if there were none who dared expose their lives by openly standing forth in opposition to the prevailing blasphemy. The dark shadow of apostasy covered the whole land. Images of Baalim and Ashtoreth were everywhere to be seen. Idolatrous temples and consecrated groves, wherein were worshipped the works of men’s hands, were multiplied. The air was polluted with the smoke of the sacrifices offered to false gods. Hill and vale resounded with the drunken cries of a heathen priesthood who sacrificed to the sun, moon and stars.” End of quote.
Just imagine what this must have been like for the 7,000 who had not bowed the knee to Baal. They were afraid to speak up, lest they lose their lives. They could hardly believe what was happening to their beloved nation and church… No doubt there was a lot of “sighing and crying” going on over the apostasy among those 7,000.
As the people worshipped the gods of sun, moon, stars, earth, fire and storm, they were turning their backs on the true source of these blessings. They forgot that these elements were in the hand of God and controlled by divine omnipotence. Never before had they fallen so low in apostasy. Nothing short of a powerful intervention of God could save the nation from utter destruction. But God still loved Israel and had compassion on those who had been led into sin. He was about to unleash one of the mightiest of His prophets on the apostate king and people. Through him they were to be led back to loyalty to the God of their fathers in a powerful stroke.
It is so very sad to see the character of the princes and people of Israel in the time of Ahab. You might expect that God would cast off the people who had so blatantly and defiantly cast Him off. But that isn’t the way God works. Instead of casting Israel off, God sent them an enormous blessing. Never was Israel so blessed with a good prophet, then when it was so cursed by a bad king. Ahab was very bold to sin. But Elijah was very bold to reprove him.
Hardly does sacred history record a darker time for God’s people than under the spirit and power of King Ahab. But hardly does sacred history shine any brighter than when under the spirit and power of Elijah. Elijah was a man who loved God more than his life. Elijah saw the intractable apostasy of Israel and his heart was torn by the boldness and presumption of Ahab in leading the people to turn their backs on God. His righteous heart was vexed by the wicked heart of the king. The best way to describe Elijah’s close communion with Christ is to say that after his work on earth was done, he was translated without seeing death. That is a privilege he shared with only one other prophet, the prophet Enoch. See Jude 14.
Perhaps because of his loyalty to God and His law, as a representative of the faithful in the last days who will do the same, he was invited to be with Moses when Christ was transfigured on the mount. Elijah is the great symbol of reform and reformation. But he is also a great symbol of intercessory prayer. Elijah is the great representative of those who will do a similar work in the last days of Sabbath reform. By restoring the true worship of God, Elijah was the great type of the end time people of God who will restore true worship in a wicked and apostate world.
Listen to it from Malachi 4:5, 6. “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”
Other prophets prophesied and wrote, but Elijah prophesied and acted. He wrote nothing, but his actions cast more luster on his name and character than any written books could have ever done. When you think of the miracles Elijah did during his earthly ministry, you can see that Elijah was a man who, more than any other, except for Christ Himself, had the Spirit and power of God. He prefigured John the Baptist who was the second Elijah. John brought stern reproof and also reformation, and prepared the way for the Messiah. God intends to do such a work one more time before the close of probation. He wants to use you and me to expose the sins of Babylon and defend and uphold the Sabbath of His law, and prepare the way for the second coming of Christ. God’s true people in these last days are the third Elijah.
In the face of the abject apostasy of Israel, God called Elijah to do a great and powerful work of reform. The apostasy got so bad that his heart was stirred by the Holy Spirit for the honor of God and His law.
The Bible doesn’t tell us anything about Elijah’s parents, his family, or his tribe. All we know is that he was from a place known as Tishbeh in Gilead, a mountainous area east of Samaria across the Jordon River. The tribe of Gad and half of the tribe of Manasseh divided that region. But we don’t know if he was native to either tribe.
Elijah was used to the pure natural environment of the mountains. It seems obvious that his parents loved and honored God in their home. God’s word in those days was the Pentateuch, or the books of Moses. They believed that obedience to God’s law was the only way to have the blessing of God. In those days, there were no places of worship that were worth going to. Jeroboam had established two places of worship in Dan and Bethel, but these were so corrupted that it was impossible to attend them without putting up with all manner of speculative nonsense, entertainment and outright idolatry and licentiousness. No doubt they had to hold worship services in their own home, since there was no place else to do so. Perhaps they invited a few friends to join them.
Elijah was not a well-educated person in the schools of the day. They would have polluted his faith and undermined is loyalty to God and His law. The schools of Elijah’s time trained the youth in skepticism concerning the Jewish faith. The teachers that were hired were, no doubt, sympathetic to the pagan Baal worship that prevailed under Ahab and Jezebel. They taught the mystical pagan concepts of the origins of the earth and mankind and mocked at those who believed the Genesis record in the books of Moses. They exalted human reason over God’s word just like many do today.
Under those conditions the Spirit of God came upon Elijah and moved him to leave his mountain home and go to Samaria and confront the wicked king. Just imagine the scene. Elijah did not ask permission to see Ahab. He just walked into the palace and entered the throne room uninvited and unattended, as if he had every right to be there, and pronounced the awful sentence of doom, “As the LORD God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.” 1 Kings 17:1. Then he turned around and disappeared, leaving the shocked king in blubbering bewilderment.
Elijah’s surprise appearance, and his surprise disappearance left Ahab in astonishment. He was arrogant and proud. How dare this stranger walk into the palace of the powerful monarch and pronounce reproof and judgment upon him!!? No doubt he sensed that this was indeed a message from God. Yet, he knew that if he acknowledged it, he would lose face with his people, and would be under severe pressure from Jezebel. “Where did this man come from?” Ahab must have demanded. Who is he, and by what authority does he speak this way?
But where a man comes from is not so important as what he is. Keep in mind that Elijah had no established reputation in Israel. But his reproof would catapult him into infamy. He had never been a speaker, writer or any other type of prominent person. God had kept him hidden in the hills waiting for this very moment. He often uses the obscure, the hidden, and the mysterious to surprise his enemies.
Elijah was a man of character and decisive action. Perhaps he was an unrefined country farmer who was not familiar with the ways of court and of national politics. But the times were rough. It was an hour of crisis. Gross sin and rebellion had invaded the people of God. It was time for action to check the apostasy, lest the whole nation be engulfed in terrible ruin. Rough spirits are called to rough services. Like the Reformation, which needed a startling man like Martin Luther to break the hold of Rome on the people, so, God chose Elijah to startle Ahab and deal with the difficult and unique circumstances of his times. Elijah handled the situation like a valiant warrior. His name reflects his zeal. It means “Jehovah is my God.”
James 5:17 tells us that Elijah was a man of like passions as we are, which suggests not only that he was a human being, but that he was more hot and eager than most of us. He was not going to play the politically correct game that most people were playing in those days.
Elijah was moved by a strong force of character, inspired by the Holy Spirit. The apostle James tells us that he actually prayed that God would withhold the rain. Listen to the apostle. “Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months.” “And he prayed again,” verse 18, “and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.”
Clearly Elijah was a man of earnest prayer. He had a connection with God that was strong and pure. He knew God, and God knew him. He opened his heart burdens before the Lord. He was distraught at the gross wickedness and evil deeds of the king and nation, and he pled with God for a solution. He was indignant that the people on whom God had bestowed His special blessing should turn on Him and worship the imaginary Phoenician gods of nature. He was passionate for the honor of God and he begged God to do something drastic, if necessary. He saw the confusion in the hearts and minds of the people and longed for them to turn their hearts back to God.
Let me ask you a question. When you see church members in rebellion to God and His law, are you moved with passion for the law of God? Or are you rather nonchalant about them? Or worse, do you write them off as hopeless cases? Do you pray, as Elijah did, for something to happen that would check the apostasy? The prophet Ezekiel said the mark of God’s protection is placed only on those “that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst [of the church].” That’s Ezekiel 9:4.
Capture this thought. Elijah was a passionate man, but those passions were not directed at self-indulgence. They were directed to the honor of God, and God could use him mightily.
So, it is as if Elijah is at home one day, earnestly pleading with God over the sins of Israel. God moves upon him and the next day he is in the palace of Ahab pronouncing heaven’s judgment on Israel for their wickedness. His abrupt arrival makes it appear as if he just dropped out of the sky perhaps in a fitting symbol of the offended heavens. He did not whisper the divine sentence to the people. He fearlessly went straight to Ahab who had the power and responsibility to reform the nation. The declaration of no rain was a reproof of the sins of Ahab, which, as you recall, were worse than all his fathers before him to the time of Jeroboam.
Elijah told Ahab that he was God’s messenger “before whom I stand.” It is the living God that he represented, who is not like the gods Ahab worshipped. “I stand in God’s stead,” said Elijah. “I am his messenger, and I am here to intervene in your determined wickedness and rebellion. In spite of what it looks like now, the nation will suffer the chastisement of God.” Elijah reminded Ahab that his gods do not bring the blessing of rain; it is the God of heaven who does this, and to whom Ahab owes allegiance.
Do you think Ahab liked to hear what Elijah had to say? Think about how politically incorrect this would be in our world today. To talk about the judgments of God is seen as fear mongering. If you preach a sermon on God’s displeasure with the wicked, you would likely be labeled a lunatic. No one, it seems, wants to hear what God says these days. We are again at a time when it seems that everyone wants to go their own way, and turn their backs upon the God of heaven. They want to live whatever lifestyle they want. They want to marry whomever they want. They want to live in sin regardless of the displeasure of God. They want to eat what they want. They want to watch or listen to whatever they want. Most people today don’t care what God says, even among Christians.
Do you think we are in a time of apostasy similar to that of Israel in the days of Ahab and Jezebel? Of course we are! We are living in the last days. The same sins and rebellion exist in our generation that existed in Elijah’s. May God help us to earnestly plead with God for a solution.
Elijah defied Ahab and Jezebel and openly exposed the wickedness of the king by his plain words. No doubt he warned him that he had better repent. He declared that there would be neither dew nor rain indefinitely until God was ready to restore it. The fruitful land so blessed with rich abundance would be turned into barrenness. Baal was worshipped as the source of life and blessing. He was the great storm god who brought rain and moisture to the earth to make the plants grow. Elijah’s declaration was an affront to Baal, and the prophets of Baal, and the prophets of the groves. “Expect no rain until you hear from me again.”
After Elijah delivered his message he turned and left the palace before the king could recover himself and detain him. The Lord came to him and said, “Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan. And it shall be, that thou shalt drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there.” 1 Kings 17:3, 4
The long and grievous period of drought began as soon as the words left Elijah’s mouth. From that moment forward there was neither dew nor rain. The heavens became like brass. The earth became dry and scorched. The sun shown intensely, the heat searing every blade of grass and every tree and flower. They withered and died in a fitting symbol of what had happened to Israel spiritually.
Meanwhile, Elijah was at the brook Cherith. He did according to the word of the Lord. God knew how to protect his servant. He sent him into hiding knowing Ahab would try to find, arrest and kill him.
The Bible says in verse six, “the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening; and he drank of the brook.”
Ahab was angry at Elijah. He saw Elijah as the cause of all the troubles he faced. He didn’t realize that it was God who had ordained the drought to bring Israel back to her spiritual senses. The natural disaster was a wake up call, just like natural disasters often are today.
But Ahab didn’t think about all that. He was angry that Elijah had reproved him, and to him the drought was because of Elijah, not God. To acknowledge that the drought was from God would be to destroy all he had tried to build. Ahab viewed Elijah as a national security problem. He was the cause of the natural disaster that was destroying the land. Elijah had a death sentence hanging over him. In the soon-coming final conflict, God’s faithful people will be seen as the cause of the natural disasters that will wreak havoc on the nations. They will be accused of undermining national security, and will be sentenced to death.
Listen to this from the book Great Controversy, page 591. “Under the rule of Rome, those who suffered death for their fidelity to the gospel were denounced as evildoers; they were declared to be in league with Satan; and every possible means was employed to cover them with reproach, to cause them to appear in the eyes of the people and even to themselves as the vilest of criminals. So it will be now. While Satan seeks to destroy those who honor God’s law, he will cause them to be accused as lawbreakers, as men who are dishonoring God and bringing judgments upon the world.” End of quote.
Ahab did what modern government leaders do to their perceived enemies. He hunted for him all throughout Israel. He likely used his surveillance network to find him. The Bible tells us that he sent his spies everywhere. They, no doubt, looked for him in every town and village. They questioned those who lived near him, and those who were even minimally acquainted with him. If they could have had the technology we have today, perhaps they would have had surveillance cameras, collected cell phone metadata, monitored telephone conversations, sifted through internet traffic, and stored billions of terabits of data in facilities like the one in Utah. They may have even sent out drones to hunt him down and liquidate him if they could. They would have canceled his passport, like they did to recent U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower, Edward Snowden.
They sent out their diplomats to all the surrounding countries to pressure them to find and extradite Elijah to Israel. Obadiah told Elijah about it. Listen to it from 1 Kings 18:10. Obadiah says, “As the LORD thy God liveth, there is no nation or kingdom, whither my lord hath not sent to seek thee: and when they said, He is not there; he took an oath of the kingdom and nation, that they found thee not.”
Imagine that! They put diplomatic pressure on the nations to ensure that they were not giving Elijah asylum. Meanwhile, Elijah was at Israel’s brook Cherith, and later in the Phoenician town of Zarephath with the widow. Elijah was hidden away from all spying eyes. God knows how to hide His servants when He has more use for them.
Elijah represents those who will have to restore the true worship of God in the last days. They will have to do it in the midst of international apostasy and rebellion to the Law of God. Their lives will be in danger. They will be hunted from nation to nation, and treated as criminals and traitors. Every human means will be used to root them out and detain them. Only the protecting hand of God will save them. Their dependence and trust in God will be an example to the wicked world around them of God’s marvelous protection even from high-tech digital surveillance and other tools that are currently being developed. They will uphold God’s Seventh-day Sabbath law found in the fourth commandment, even though there will be laws with severe punishments against them.
The key issue in Elijah’s day was loyalty to the God of heaven, which is manifested in faithfulness and obedience to His law versus loyalty to Satan’s alternative laws. The last conflict centers around worship, just as it was in Elijah’s day. Satan has always wanted the worship due to Christ, and has always bent every effort to get human beings to worship him instead of the Lord God.
Friends, you need the protection of God, like Elijah. You need the presence of the Holy Spirit. Your loyalty to God is at stake in the great controversy between Christ and Satan. Now is the time to raise the standard. Now is the time to learn how to keep God’s law fully, and reflect Christ in your character, so that you will have experience depending on Jesus for everything. The powers of earth are powerless against the almighty God. All the tools being developed today to restrict and control God’s people will fall to nothing when God protects His people. So, now is the time to come under His protection.
Let us pray. Our Father in heaven, thank You for the story of Elijah. It helps us understand our times. It helps us comprehend what is coming upon Your faithful people, the third Elijah in the last days. May we be ever more faithful to You. May we learn to live by faith. And may we walk with Jesus so that we are under His protection when earthly protection is removed. In Jesus’ name, Amen.