By Pastor Hal Mayer
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Welcome to Keep the Faith Ministry. Thank you for joining me again today as we continue to study the life of Elijah and the impact he made on his times. We have a wonderful, but challenging work to do in the last days as the third Elijah. Those who follow God’s law will be a powerful witness against an increasingly wicked and rebellious world.
Ahab was the last of seven kings that steadily brought Israel to the bottom. One picked up where the other left off, and carried the apostasy and rebellion further. This principle is also true at the end of time. In our day, leaders, no matter what their political stripe continues do to the same.
Just think about it. Increasingly, we have leaders in western or developed nations who compromise on social and moral principles that God has established for our good and for our protection. Like in the days of Elijah, each successive generation of leaders is worse than the one before in undermining the constitutions and laws that have made the nation strong. More and more they open the door to pressure from groups that want to change definitions like marriage, and the meaning of life, the place of recreational drugs, and many other things.
And churches aren’t far behind. In fact, as the nation becomes more liberal and determined to pursue an ungodly course, church leaders seem to also take steps down. It is as if the churches are leavened by the worldliness of society who are their members. And as many churches compromise more and more, it drags society down even further.
Before we move on, let us pray for God’s guidance and understanding as we study the scripture. Please bow your head with me if you can… Our Father in heaven, thank you for Your wisdom, and love. We need it badly today as we try to discern our times. Thank you for sending Your son to die for us on the cross. What a precious opportunity for us to find salvation and walk with God. In an age of rebellion, may we have a deep and genuine sorrow over the sins of the people and of the nation. In an age of apostasy, may we, like Elijah, feel deeply for the salvation of the people. In an age of lawlessness, may we find power to be a living witness to the worship of the true God and obedience to His law. As we study today, please help us understand God’s purpose for His people in the last days. In Jesus’ name, amen.
The race to the bottom is accelerating just like it did at the time of Ahab. For instance, more and more nations are adopting laws that permit same-sex marriage. The issue has reached a tipping point in which it is almost impossible for them to resist the pressure to compromise and place the nation in jeopardy with God. But the nations are also working to legalize street drugs, which have become prevalent among society. They try to legalize gambling, prostitution, and all manner of schemes to deface the image of God in man. Crime and murder are everywhere. I am astonished when I read of the terrible crimes committed by the ungodly. It is as if we are at the time that fulfills the prophecy of Enoch whom the apostle Jude wrote about in his epistle, verses 14-16.
“And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him. These are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts; and their mouth speaketh great swelling words, having men’s persons in admiration because of advantage.”
Friends, now turn with me in your Bibles to the book of Amos 8:11. Listen to the words of this important prophet. “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.”
Notice that the prophet uses the symbol of a famine to describe what it is like to not have the word of the Lord. When a nation or church turns its back on the word of the Lord, it lands in serious trouble. And this is speaking of the last days in which we are living now. Is there a famine for the hearing of the word of the Lord? Is there a spiritual drought among those who claim to be God’s people? Remember a spiritual drought is not easy for church people to see. They think they are ok, when in reality they are not.
Notice that in the last days, there will be the same problem that Elijah faced in his day. The rebellion of the kings of Israel, the northern kingdom, and especially Ahab and Jezebel, grieved the Spirit of God. This left the nation in spiritual famine and opened the door for all manner of sin. God therefore brought on a famine for bread and water as an illustration of the spiritual famine for the word God.
When Elijah came on the scene, the nation was in total rejection of the principles of heaven. Ahab and Jezebel had turned their backs on God and had raised up alters to Baal and Ashtaroth in many places. They had suppressed and forbidden the practice of the true worship of Jehovah. They pressured the people to leave behind the God of their fathers and follow Baal. They persecuted those who defended the law of God and His true worship.
They were determined to root out the hated sect of those who kept the law of God. Long before, the priests and Levites had been fired from their jobs. They knew that they could not survive in Israel without the support of the tithes and offerings, so they left their lands, homes and possessions and went south to Judah, where they could continue their work for the Lord.
Now Ahab and Jezebel took steps to end any opposition to their plans. Today, we have certain groups of people that want to accomplish the same thing. There are people, for instance, who are determined to normalize homosexual lifestyle. They also want to limit freedom of speech so that no one can freely speak against their lifestyle or agenda. They want laws that require schools to teach their lifestyle to children. Some countries already have laws that criminalize those who teach Bible truth concerning God’s views of homosexual lifestyle.
Ahab and Jezebel were very liberal and wanted everything that God had forbidden to be part of society. They did everything they could to prevent the people from fulfilling their obligations to God including persecution of God’s Bible workers known as the prophets of the Lord. They set up a society that would be very dangerous to anyone who would protest their profligacy. They set up a spy system to find these traitors. And when they found them, they executed them for their so-called “treason.” Things got so bad that these prophets of the Lord had to hide in a cave.
God’s people have always found refuge and solace in the wilderness. The natural surroundings are also a good training ground for their characters. Elijah, for instance, was from the mountainous area of Gilead. His training in nature was perfect for him to understand God. If he lived in Samaria he would have been leavened by the prevailing direction of society.
John the Baptist was also a man of the wilderness. He knew God through nature, something he could have never accomplished in Jerusalem or any of the other cities of Israel and Judah. The same principles are in play today for those who will be the third Elijah. Those who have the greatest opportunity to know God and become His friend are living in the rural areas amid God’s second book of nature.
And who is the third Elijah? Well, that’s God’s messengers today who bear the pointed testimony and the counsel of the True Witness. See Revelation 3:14. The first Elijah had the job of confronting almost universal apostasy and restoring the true worship of God in the land. The second Elijah, or John the Baptist, prepared the way for the first advent of the Messiah by a message of revival and reformation in the midst of prevailing apostasy. He too urged the people and the church to restore the true faith in preparation for the Messiah’s arrival.
The third Elijah has the same work as the previous two. They have both the responsibility of confronting the apostasy and that of restoring the true worship of God in the nations. They will uphold God’s true Sabbath in light of almost universal disregard for it. The Holy Sabbath of the seventh day has been trampled in the dust by most people. God’s law does not mean much to them. Yet, it was King David’s meditation all day long. “O how love I thy law!” he said. “It is my meditation all the day.” Psalm 119:97.
Elijah’s love for God’s law led him, under the unction of the Holy Spirit moving upon his personality and character, to do things that no one else was willing to do. But he had to pay a price. He had to be isolated from society for quite some time out there by the brook Cherith. Do you think he complained about being lonely? I don’t think so. He had God’s fellowship. He could pray and meditate on God’s purpose for His people. He could plead for the revival of the true worship of God, and a change in the spirit of the government and the oppressive laws they were imposing.
Eventually, when the famine pressed sore, and the brook Cherith dried up, Elijah was sent to the Zidonian town of Zarephath. There he discovered a desperate household immersed in poverty and want, and nearly ready to die. The widow woman had given up hope, but God miraculously intervened and her pitifully meager fare became a sustaining supply of food for her household. Elijah and the widow woman and her son survived when everyone else was starving to death. Do you think that is going to happen in the last days? I believe that it is inevitable. The way things are going these days, I suspect that the consequences will not be far off.
But God’s people will be preserved like Elijah. God’s diet for His faithful prophet in that little home was simple but healthful. It was vegetarian, vegan in fact. Notice that while at the brook Cherith, those ravens brought Elijah bread and flesh. He was not eating a vegetarian or plant based diet in those early days of his ministry. But as he got closer to the confrontation with the apostasy, his life was increasingly simple. No doubt the plant based diet kept his mind clear and sharp. God was trying to teach Elijah too. And through Elijah’s experience He is teaching us how to prepare for the similar crisis that is soon to come over worship. We must be simpler and clean in our eating habits. Drop off the flesh foods and move to a plant based diet. That is Elijah’s example for us.
Imagine eating day after day for at least a year with a man like Elijah. Do you think the widow woman counted it a privilege? While Israel’s king and his minions were trying to find Elijah to kill him, the widow woman of Zidon, a citizen of Jezebels’ own country, was eagerly learning about the true God. I’m sure she learned about prayer from Elijah too, for Elijah was a man of prayer. He probably taught her to pray to God. What a blessing it would have been to have such good company.
And yet, we are given the privilege to eat with Christ, the best company of all. He says, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” Revelation 3:20. When you reverently open God’s word, Christ knocks on your heart’s door. If you let Him in, He will cause you to ride on the high places of the earth and feed you with the heritage of Jacob, Isaiah 58:14. As you honor Him by keeping His law sacred, He will fill you up with the richness of His grace. You will never be the same again.
Oh friends, don’t you want that experience? I do. I don’t want to live in worldliness. I want to live with Christ. I want His word to fill me with rich food for my mind and heart. Here we are at a time in earth’s history when nations are spying on one another, and on their own citizens, collecting mega-volumes of digital data on them, and creating a huge surveillance engine to track their associations and activities. They are intruding into their lives in an unprecedented way. The significance of this is important. This is in essence resurrecting the principles of the dark ages when the Roman church ruled the world.
The Bible says that by all this expensive infrastructure they are preparing to make war with the Lamb. Listen to it from Revelation 17:12-15. “And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast. These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast. These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful. And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.”
This is all about control, and it is all about forcing the nations to worship and reverence an earthly power that is energized by Satan himself. The final crisis over false worship will be similar to the time of Ahab and Jezebel. And it will be fierce! God’s people will be brought under the dominion of nations and rulers whose primary purpose will be to coerce them to practice a faith forbidden by the law of God.
Speaking of the Roman religious power, Revelation 13:7 says, “And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.”
This is a global religion spoken of here. It is oppressive and God’s people will have to go into hiding if they are going to be faithful to the Lord, just like the prophets of the Lord in Elijah’s time.
Listen to what God will do however, for His people. Just when his judgments will be poured out on the rebellious and wicked nations of the earth, He will protect His faithful ones. I’m going to read from Isaiah 26:20-21.
“Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast. For, behold, the LORD cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain.”
The nations and churches will do everything they can to stop God’s faithful army, the third Elijah, from giving the final warning to come out of Babylon (Revelation 18:4), turn to God and uphold His Holy Sabbath and the Ten Commandment law. Eventually, though they are oppressed and though some will even be killed for their faith, God will hide them and protect them from His judgments.
These nations have already set up the spying agencies and other tools to be able to have total surveillance so that they can eventually root out those who are faithful to God. All the spying, all the cameras, all the equipment to manage the organization and processing of data is being done at the expense of the citizens on whom they are spying. They are creating the most expensive and oppressive regime in all of history. Hitler and his SS troops would have been proud of this system. When it is all implemented in an effort to stop God’s people from doing their work, you will have to be under the protection of God.
One leader picks up where the previous leader left off. One leader undermines the constitution and human rights in one way, and the next leader does it in another way. President George W. Bush, for instance, undermined the U.S. Constitution by torture in secret prisons, indefinite detentions, tribunals instead of trial by jury, etc. And it was all in the name of the war on terrorism. He also did these things on U.S. citizens, which especially offends the Constitution. These, by the way, were all features of the Inquisition of the dark ages. In other words, President Bush restored ancient methods of injustice that America’s constitution was designed to prevent.
Now President Barak Obama undermines the U.S. Constitution in another way. He is especially involved in redistribution of wealth and stripping the middle class out of society, which has been a bulwark against tyranny. By doing this, he paves the way for a powerful leader to assume the role of a strong man. He is also laying the foundation for the final attack on religious liberty through the new health care law, which requires businesses to do things that some business owners cannot conscientiously do. They either close down their businesses completely, or reduce their employee’s work hours to part time, so that they don’t have to do pay for things that their faith does not permit.
The new health care law itself offends the constitution by requiring people of faith that have certain convictions to disobey it if they are going to be faithful to their conscience. Does that sound familiar? Will there come a time when you will have to disobey the law of the land if you are going to be faithful to God. Once established, the intrusion on religious matters will expand to other things, including Sunday observance and other religious matters.
What the next president will do is uncertain, but no matter what his party, he will take this process further along. It happens in disconnected ways, it seems. Each issue that chisels away at the constitution may not appear connected to the others. But gradually, with the various political parties leading out in America, a new social order is being built. And most people don’t even realize it. Eventually, all these pieces of the puzzle will come together, and we’ll wake up one day and realize that our rights and liberties are gone, and that we are living in a total surveillance state, which has the power to enforce its decrees and laws on the people in an oppressive way.
We should not fear the new order if we are in Christ. Others have been through it before. They have suffered and even given their lives for their conscience’s sake. Some nations are like that even today. It’s just that America and the British Commonwealth nations of the developed world were established on other principles altogether. They were built upon the principle of liberty. They were constructed around a legal framework that was intended to prevent such developments as we are seeing now. But ultimately, they will succumb to what the Bible predicts will be a global religion.
The angels are holding the winds of strife in check until all the details are in place, tested, the bugs and kinks worked out, the cracks sealed. Then a huge crisis will come upon the whole world that will cause “men’s hearts to fail them for fear.” When that happens, all the protections of liberty that have been gradually eroding will be finally pushed aside and God’s people will be thrust into the crucible of crisis. They will be blamed as Elijah was for being a troubler of Israel. They will be accused of being the cause of the calamities and disasters that will especially target the cities of the nations.
Again, if we are in Christ we do not fear these things, but can understand them clearly so that we can help others make their way out of Satan’s grasp. The third Elijah will have a conviction and a sense of duty to the God of heaven, Elijah’s God.
This is the true meaning of the third Elijah. Like the ancient prophet, they will face an angry ruler and churches determined on rebellion. They will face the laws of national and global apostasy and proclaim the true Sabbath of rest that has been God’s law since creation. They will open the Bible to hungry souls like Elijah did, and explain to them the will of God.
Oh friends. Let us be part of that. Your eternal destiny depends on your present choices. So, let us live for Jesus and learn to love God’s word. Let us have a passion for His law and uphold these marvelous principles of His kingdom. Let us prepare to become the third Elijah.
Now let us come back to the story of Elijah to understand a little more about living in a total surveillance society and what God plans to do with His faithful people during that time.
After Elijah had lived in the home of the widow for a good long time, God takes the widow woman into the deepest trial and test of her faith. And she really struggles. God had saved her and her son alive during the famine, and now her son takes sick and rather quickly and unexpectedly dies.
1 Kings 17:17, 18 “And it came to pass after these things, that the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, fell sick; and his sickness was so sore, that there was no breath left in him. And she said unto Elijah, What have I to do with thee, O thou man of God? Art thou come unto me to call my sin to remembrance, and to slay my son?”
This trial is almost too much for her to bear. She lost her husband, and her economic standing sometime before, and now she loses the only thing she has left. This is her only son and was her comfort in her loneliness. She wonders if she has committed some sin, or perhaps her past sin of worshipping Baal is the cause of this sorrow. She has shown great hospitality to the prophet. How could she be repaid with this terrible ordeal, the death of her son?
Think about it for a minute. What do you think God wanted to do by letting this thing happen to her? It is important to understand that God allows our most precious possessions to be taken from us so that we learn to turn to Him. Her faith was not as strong as it could be. Her experience was not as rich as it could be. Sometimes God allows us to suffer pain in order to open our eyes to how we have allowed other human beings to take the place of God.
God blesses to strengthen our faith. But a downward change in circumstances can also be His blessing. Adversity helps us turn to Him in more earnest prayer and think through our lives to see if there is anything in them that is not in harmony with His word. But in pain and suffering God opens to us a window of heaven that we would not otherwise enjoy. In this world, my friends, we must rejoice no matter what state we are in, whether in temporal or earthly prosperity, or in poverty, pain or sorrow.
Her son was the widow’s only comfort in her widowhood. He was her only son. The dear woman had expected her son to die by starvation, a much worse fate than death by sickness. But he had been miraculously saved by Elijah’s arrival. Now her son’s death overwhelmed her with sorrow because it seems so unnecessary. Did she forget the blessings she had received, the miracles that had happened and were still happening? How easy is it for us to forget what God has done for us in the midst of a terrible trial? We are often quick to blame God when things don’t go well with us. Yet it is often God who brings both the blessings of prosperity and the blessings of adversity.
This woman had every expectation that God would do her good. After all, she had looked after a great prophet of the Lord. She probably did his laundry, cleaned his room as well as made his bread every morning. She had been employed to sustain him and had strong reason to think that she would be protected from harm and danger. Yet she loses her child in death. Imagine the shock and the disappointed expectations. Would she now turn her back on God?
The unexpected and sudden trouble led her to speak passionately and contend with Elijah. “What have I do to do with thee, oh thou man of God.” “Haven’t I looked after you and cared for you and given you a place in my house? Haven’t I been obedient to your instructions and the instructions of your God?” You can see how she felt. She essentially blames Elijah and by extension, Elijah’s God for the death of her son. To her, Elijah was God’s representative and she anguished whether or not her sins were so great that not even her service in God’s cause kept her from its punishment. Had she committed some sin for which she was now paying the price? Often people think like that when they go through adversity. They think God is punishing them for some great sin in their lives. Adversity is one of the ways God brings us to repentance for our sins, but it is not the only reason for adversity. Job had severe adversity, and he had not offended God.
But now in her extreme anguish the widow grasps at anything to find some rationale for the deadly sickness. She seemed to forget the blessings and mercies that God had shown her and her faith was deeply tried. But it is more than a trial of her faith. Let us think more deeply about the terrible ordeal she was going through.
God was taking this woman into His hidden ways. He intended to show her something about Himself that she would never understand unless she went through this trial. She is now going to understand in some small way, the mystery of the separation between God and His only begotten son, Jesus Christ, as He took the weight of the whole world on Himself there in Gethsemane. He was going to show this woman something of the pain He would suffer as Christ took on Him all the sins that have ever been committed and that will ever be committed and repented of. She could never fully understand the pain of separation between the Father and the Son when Christ was on the cross, but by the loss of her only son, she would get a little glimpse.
Think about it, my friends. Elijah was able to show this woman from the heathen nation of Zidon something he could not show to his own people in Israel. He showed her a glimpse of the love of God for the lost world, especially for those were “far off,” as she was.
Oh my friends, God loves you. He loves your neighbors. He loves those that are near in their understanding of His truth, but he also loves those that are far away from it. He longs to use you to reach them. He longs to use you as His third Elijah to enter into their sufferings and help them understand God’s love and the need to repent and prepare for the coming of the Lord in the clouds of Glory.
Before you blame the woman for her reaction to Elijah, remember that she was specially honored of God. Her connection with His prophet and God’s special favor in providing meal and oil every day for her and her son might cause her heart to be lifted up above what is right. She could have become proud in her prosperity when all around her people were starving and dying. This affliction would keep her humble and dependent on God.
In this world, we are often blessed greatly by our heavenly Father, who is so very good to us. He manifests Himself to us every day with the blessings of heaven. All we have to do is open our eyes and look around us. Yet we must be prepared for the reproofs and rebukes of God’s providence at times. What we think is strong and unmovable is actually very tentative and passing. Therefore, we must rejoice in the good times with the view that we must also rejoice in the so-called “bad” times, when God’s providence takes on a different hue.
It is easy to be strong and happy when things are going well, but when affliction “toucheth thee, thou art troubled” Job 4:5. It is in affliction, however, that we should have more confidence in God than in the good times. It is during affliction that we must rest our faith more firmly in the hand of our Savior. It is during affliction that we must trust earnestly in God’s providence. And it is in affliction that we must rejoice even more fervently in His Love.
Elijah was distressed for the boy and was heartbroken by his mother’s tears and pain. He feels the affliction too. He is touched by her sorrow. In this way, Elijah is a type of Christ. He sensed the loss.
Elijah, through the power of God, miraculously fed this young man and his mother with bread, but it wasn’t the kind of bread to prevent sickness and death. It was earthly bread. Now God, through Elijah was going to teach an important lesson for all time; that human life is not as important as spiritual life.
Jesus said to the apostate Jewish leaders in His day, “Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” John 6:49–51.
You see, Elijah was about to teach that life does not consist in earthly bread and that the most important bread is spiritual bread. A man may eat of the spiritual bread and have eternal life. This bread is the word of God, which is Christ who came down from heaven to die a cruel death as man’s substitute. Christ gave His flesh, His life for the fallen human race. Understanding His sacrifice on the cross is the way in which that heavenly bread nourishes the sinner and restores His eternal life as he surrenders to its power. As we study God’s word under the influence of the Holy Spirit we are fed with this heavenly manna. He have life from above. And as we conform our earthly characters in harmony to Christ’s character, we receive more bread and nourishment from heaven.
Earthly sickness and death are nothing compared to spiritual sickness and death. God let this child die so that Elijah could show this woman the true miracle. It was not the miracle of earthly bread that mattered so much. It was the miracle of life in God. God used Elijah to miraculously restore the dead to life, a fitting symbol of the cross of Christ.
I Kings 18:19, “And he said unto her, Give me thy son. And he took him out of her bosom, and carried him up into a loft, where he abode, and laid him upon his own bed.”
Elijah does not discuss the problem with the women. He doesn’t defend himself. And he doesn’t defend God. He doesn’t have the answer. He trusts God, but he is deeply troubled by this terrible turn of events. He can say nothing because he has nothing to say. He cannot console her. He cannot preach to her. He cannot reason with her. Sometimes, my friends, this is the way it is. There is nothing you can say. You can only keep your mouth shut in the presence of one going through so much pain and agony. Like Elijah, all you can do is take the problem to God. Oh, how often we forget that this is the place to go for every trial and every emergency.
Listen to this simple statement from Ministry of Healing, page 48, “In every emergency we are to seek help from Him who has infinite resources at His command.” And that promise is as much for you as it was for Elijah. Memorize it. Cherish it. Repeat it over and over again.
Elijah simply asks her to give her son to him. He has a room of his own in a loft on the second floor of the house. Perhaps it was up under the eaves as lofts often are. In this loft, he could remain hidden for a long, long time and spying eyes would not see him. One wonders if this loft was already there when Elijah arrived, or if it had to be built especially to make room for him. Either way, it was dedicated to the prophet, and it was not only his special place to sleep and keep a few things. It was his special place of prayer. It was his alter to his God.
My brothers and sisters, do you have a special place in your home that is an alter to your God? Is there a place where you can come in prayer and ask for God’s guidance, and take your troubles, pains and sorrows? Oh friends, this is very important. Take all your cares to your heavenly Father. Don’t try to solve your problems on your own. You need His wisdom and grace for everything and especially in every emergency.
Elijah takes him up into his own room and lays him on his own bed. Then he humbly pleads with God that the child be restored. He prays that the breath will come back into the body of the child so that He can live again.
Listen to Elijah’s prayer in verse 20, “And he cried unto the Lord, and said, O Lord my God, hast thou also brought evil upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by slaying her son?”
Think about what is included in Elijah’s prayer as he reasons with God. “Look what this woman has done for me,” he prays. “She has cared for me. She has hidden and protected me from spying eyes. She has fed me with bread and water. She has nurtured me and succored me and taken care of all my earthly needs. I am here sojourning with her because You sent me. Surely, You have taken all this into consideration, and yet You have allowed this child, her only son, to die. Perhaps You even took his life on purpose. Why, my God, have You done this to this widow who is already afflicted because of her widowhood? You are a God of widows and the afflicted. How can You allow this terrible suffering to come upon her as well? What will others think? This widow is the best of my benefactors. Will others who hear about this be afraid to entertain me because wherever I am, I bring death? All Israel is dying because of the word that You gave me to speak unto Ahab withholding the blessing of rain. Now, even the foreigners are afflicted with death under my presence.” While this is not spelled out in every word, a careful analysis of what Elijah said involves all these ideas.
Now, here is the rest of Elijah’s prayer; verse 21, ”And he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried unto the Lord, and said, O Lord my God, I pray thee, let this child’s soul come into him again.”
Why does Elijah stretch himself on the child? It is enormously symbolic. It is as if he is trying to show that he would like to put his own breath and warmth into the child. He was showing his identity with him. He symbolically covered him while under divine inspiration and pleads with God for his resurrection. This symbol represents Christ who came to this earth to breathe life into humanity again, and offer a way of escape from sin and resurrection to eternal life.
Elijah’s divine impulse to lie on the child was a sign of what God would do by His power and by His grace in raising dead souls to spiritual life. If they are willing, the Holy Ghost comes upon them, overshadows them, and puts life into them. When you, who are dead in your trespasses and sins, take the life of God into your own soul, you are restored to eternal life in Christ. It is a spiritual and miraculous act of God!
But there are other layers of symbolism too. Elijah covered the boy’s body with his own, hand-to-hand, feet-to-feet, heart-to-heart. In the same way, spiritually speaking, isn’t that what Jesus did for us when He became one with the human race? He took our body, our hands, our feet, and our hearts. He fully identified with us and entered into our sufferings and sorrows. He even entered into our death so that we might have eternal life. Elijah symbolically entered into this child’s experience as he lay on top of him three times just as Christ would enter into the experience of the human race. Remember, Elijah is not a man of many words. He is a man of action. Elijah’s inspired act, illustrates the fullness of Christ’s humanity and his oneness with the human race.
Christ was so close to the human family that he stretched out on the cross and took our penalty so that we could escape eternal death. Hand-to-hand, foot-to-foot, heart-to-heart, He fully took our place on the cruel cross. He took our punishment, so that we could be spiritually restored from head to toe. His heart was broken so that our hearts might be healed. Because of His sacrifice in taking what was rightfully ours, we can have what was rightfully His.
Listen to this wonderful statement from the Review and Herald, March 21, 1893, “The world’s Redeemer was treated as we deserve to be treated, in order that we might be treated as he deserved to be treated. He came to our world and took our sins upon his own divine soul, that we might receive his imputed righteousness. He was condemned for our sins, in which he had no share, that we might be justified by his righteousness, in which we had no share. The world’s Redeemer gave himself for us. Who was he?–The Majesty of heaven, pouring out his blood upon the altar of justice for the sins of guilty man.”
But there is more. Elijah, already a man of prayer, pled with God to restore this young man’s life. Elijah pled with God to revive him. Do you think that we, as the third Elijah, must plead with God to revive His Spirit on our lives, our homes, our schools, our communities and our churches? God needs you to plead with Him in prayer for lost souls. If you don’t have that experience, how can He work? But when we do this, He will work to bring them back to life. Oh, friends, this is your work. It is my work. We are to seek the lost, and plead with God to move upon them with His Holy Spirit, just as Elijah pled with God for the resurrection of this dear child. Friends, we must become men and women of earnest prayer, otherwise you cannot become part of the third Elijah.
God did not treat this widow woman the way she deserved. Instead he showed His love for her by this deep lesson of loss and restoration. He intimated the loss of His own Son in His death on the cross. We don’t know if she fully understood the lesson, but Elijah is teaching us too. Do you think God puts you through pain, sorrow and loss so that He can do the same with you, to teach you something about Himself so that you can enter into His sufferings? You will, if you are part of the third Elijah.
By the way, the Hebrew word nephesh translated “soul” in these verses appears 700 times in the Old Testament and has been translated in many different ways. But never once does the word nephesh attach or even imply the idea of an immortal entity with a conscience existence separate from the body. Translating it “soul” in this particular passage is misleading. More likely it should have been translated “life” as it is in some other instances of its use. For instance, later in the same story, Elijah asks the Lord to take his life, or nephesh (1 Kings 19:4). The translators correctly used the word “life” for nephesh in this case. “Life” is the term that is more in harmony with what Elijah is asking of God for the child. “Let this child’s life come into him again.”
Elijah stretched himself on the child three times and prayed to God. He had perseverance. And God answers the earnest and persevering prayer. Friends, this is vitally important to understand. Sometimes God doesn’t answer our prayers right away because He wants us to be more earnest and learn perseverance. This is important if you are going to stretch your faith. If you are going to have power, you have to have persevering prayer. If you are going to have spiritual influence, you have to have persevering prayer. If you are going to fulfill the full work of the third Elijah you have to have persevering prayer.
Verse 23, “And Elijah took the child, and brought him down out of the chamber into the house, and delivered him unto his mother: and Elijah said, See, thy son liveth.”
This is the first time in history that anyone had been raised the dead to life. Never before had it happened in Israel. But it happened to this Phoenician woman who had faithfully obeyed the Lord’s instructions. The resurrection of her son relieved the woman in more ways than one. First, she was relieved of the pain of her loss. Second, she was relieved of her feelings of guilt for her past sin of worshipping Baal. Third, she was relieved of the idea that the God of heaven was vindictive like the Phoenician gods. And fourth, she was relieved of her concern over Elijah’s presence.
Here is a lesson in the power of prayer, and the power of the One who answers prayers. Notice also that this is about the power of the One who can give life back again. In this sense, there is another spiritual lesson. When we are dead in sin, God is gracious to us, and extends His love and forgiveness. And when we repent we are given pardon and restored to a new life in Christ. The child Elijah raised from the dead is a fitting example of what Christ can do in your life.
Just imagine her joy! Now instead of tears of sorrow, there were tears of happiness. The widow’s heart was full and her thoughts turned to Elijah and his God. “And the woman said to Elijah, Now by this I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in thy mouth is truth.” That’s I Kings 17:24.
She knew that before, but somehow losing her son caused her to waiver. The widow’s confidence in God was restored and strengthened by the resurrection of her son. Her faith is revived and she acknowledges Elijah’s prophetic role. She gave herself up to the direction of God’s word through the prophet. She is now a believer and a worshipper of the true God of Israel. No longer does she worship Baal.
Keep in mind that all this happened in Zarephath, a border city of Zidon. The widow had kept Elijah’s presence a secret. Not even the miraculous increase in meal and oil became known. If others had discovered Elijah’s presence, Ahab would have discovered him too.
Elijah was not looking for earthly praise. He was more interested in doing good than being known for it. And apparently the people of Zarephath did not notice anything unusual in or about the home of the widow woman. Perhaps she lived at the end of an obscure street, with very few passersby. Perhaps she also had other types of visual protection like a hedgerow or some trees that would keep prying eyes out of her business. We don’t really know how, but Elijah was obscure and unnoticed in Zarephath. Even the raising of the dead did not attract attention. This was private pain and private joy. It was too dangerous to share with others. God protected Elijah from being discovered so long as He saw fit to keep the devastating and deadly drought in place.
In God’s providence, He will also protect those who confront the apostasy of the land in this our day. He will use His faithful people, the third Elijah, to teach the way of salvation to the lost even while they are persecuted for righteousness sake. They may have to hide in solitary places for a while. They may have to go into strange lands. They may have to live in unfamiliar circumstances, but God knows where they are and He watches over them with special care. In the midst of almost universal apostasy, He watches over the true Israel. “Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep,” says Psalm 121:4. That is our God, my friends. He never misses anything. He is always there; always awake. He never turns His back on faithful souls who are earnestly trying to do His will.
And thus it was with Elijah. God was always caring for him, whether it was by the brook Cherith, being fed by the ravens, or under the care and hospitality of the widow woman. All were under God’s direction and all obeyed Him. Do you think God can do that today? I do. Do you think God will do that for you? I do. If you do, then you need not have fear for tomorrow. You need not have fear of the trouble that is coming upon the planet. You need not fear persecution or state-sponsored oppression. You just keep doing your work and adjust to the circumstances. You may have to work secretly, and for a time, even hide from the powers that be. But God will always sustain you, for God has promised that “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.
Friends, do you try to follow the counsel of the prophet? Or do you ignore what the prophet says and live your life the way you want to? Many Christians, want the benefits and blessings of God, but they don’t want to live the life or “walk the walk” as is often said. If you want to succeed in your quest for eternal life; if you want to succeed in overcoming sin; if you want to succeed in becoming the third Elijah, you must follow and obey the counsel of the prophets. And in these last days, God has provided inspired instruction for us. Do you follow it? Or do you quibble over the sacrifices involved?
There is one more thing to notice about the death of the child. God permitted it to happen to deepen the woman’s faith in Him. Elijah was soon to leave her. By taking her through this valley of pain and anguish, the resurrection was sweeter, and her confidence in the God of Israel was deeper and stronger. She was abundantly satisfied with God, and would never doubt His love again. And she would continue to worship and obey the God of Israel, even when the prophet was no longer with her.
Do you believe the prophet even though the prophet is no longer with us? Could one of the reasons why God allows us to go through pain in this life is to understand God more deeply? I do. I’m convinced of it. God ordains pain and suffering that we may cling more tightly to Him. Pain is sometimes the best thing to deepen our confidence and faith in God.
Note that all this was going on while Elijah was in exile in a strange land. We are strangers in a foreign land. This earth is not our home. But we are forced to live here in this increasingly wicked world. Elijah was being pursued and persecuted by the powers of earth. He had to be in hiding. But God used this time of hiding to teach wonderful lessons to the fallen Phoenician woman about a loving God that would give her salvation. In addition, He is teaching us too. We will have the same experience if we become part of the last Elijah in history.
Elijah is a man of prayer and therefore he is a man of power. You can have the same power as Elijah if you persistently plead with God for it. If you are going to fulfill the principles of the third Elijah it is vital.
Friends, do you want to be part of the third Elijah? Do you want your life to be like Elijah’s? Do you want his power with God? If you do, then you can respond to the call of God to bring your life into harmony with the prophet’s life. Do it today. You may not have direct inspiration that the ancient prophets had. But what God needs are those who love Him with all their hearts, and those who love the lost like He does. When you have a burden for souls, your zeal will be according to knowledge and you will make every effort to save others around you.
Let us pray. Our heavenly Father, we are so grateful for the story of Elijah. Thank You for the lessons that are contained in it, and the important instructions it holds for us in our times. We pray that we will be able to develop similar persistence and earnestness in prayer. You are just as willing to work miracles today as You were then. But we are weak in power because we do not act in faith and earnest prayer. Please, Father, make us strong in faith and prayer. May we ever turn our hearts to the Master. May we always minister to all the souls we can find. And keep us faithful until Jesus comes in the clouds of glory. In Jesus’ name, amen.