The Return of the Prophet
By Pastor Hal Mayer
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Welcome to Keep the Faith Ministry. Thank you for joining me today as we look carefully again at God’s word. We need God’s word more than ever and it is our privilege to link the principles we find embedded in scripture to our daily lives. And since we are living in the last days, it is crucial that we understand the Bible as a prophetic book that reveals a lot of detail about our times.
The story of Elijah is full of natural connections to the end-time issues we face today. If we only just spend time with God and study His word, He will quench the thirst of any dry and dusty soul. I need it. You need it. And God has provided. I pray that He will provide for you today as we study.
Now, as we begin our study on Elijah today, let us pray. Our Father in heaven, thank You for Jesus Christ who is the captain of our salvation. Thank You for loving us with an everlasting love. May we be filled by Your Holy Spirit with love in return. Thank You for the Bible and for the story of Elijah. As we study further today, open our minds so that we may see and understand the principle of the times in which we live in a new and living way. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.
Friends, let us open our bibles to 1 Kings 21:25. We need to understand what it was that Elijah was confronting on Mount Carmel. Here is a passage that confirms how Ahab worked to overthrow the true worship of God in the land. “But there was none like unto Ahab, which did sell himself to work wickedness in the sight of the LORD, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up.”
It says that Ahab sold himself to work wickedness. Ahab had married Jezebel probably so that he could have a treaty with the Zidonians, a Phoenician tribe that controlled the land between Israel and the Mediterranean Sea. Israel needed access to the sea for commercial and economic purposes. But the king of Zidon, Ethbaal, Jezebel’s father and the high priest of Baal, may well have extracted a promise from Ahab to link the two countries in religion in order to marry his daughter and enter into the treaty. Ahab may have thought that once married he could renege on the agreement. But he did not understand the character of Jezebel. She brought with her hundreds of priests of Baal and prophets of the groves. They would help organize Israel into Baal worship. And there was nothing Ahab could do.
Did you notice who stirred up Ahab to do this evil work? It was Jezebel. But what does this mean that Jezebel stirred him up? Friends, this means that Jezebel didn’t leave anything to chance. She knew she could get Ahab to yield to her demands if she fed his carnal passions, which the worship of Baal involved. He was probably a regular visitor to the young female prostitutes in the house of Baal. The house of Baal was the central “red light district” of Samaria. But there were idolatrous temples of Baal and Ashtoreth multiplied in other places too.
But you may wonder how I know this. The Bible tells us that nature worship was always condemned by God. “Thou shalt have no other God’s before me,” is the first of the Ten Commandments given upon Mount Sinai. But for some reason, there was a thirst among God’s people to worship the gods of earth, fire, water, sun, moon and stars. And the Baals and Ashtoreths were these gods. The main god, Baal, was the storm god who supposedly caused the earth to be fertile and yield her fruit. The other Baals controlled other elements of nature.
Israel was punished because she went into pagan nature worship. This thirst for nature worship is described in the most graphic sexual language in scripture, perhaps to impress them with the offensiveness of the problem. Listen to how Jeremiah describes Judah who also eventually apostatized into pagan nature worship. It’s from Jeremiah 2:20. “When upon every high hill and under every green tree thou wanderest, playing the harlot” and then in verse 24 he says, “A wild ass [or donkey] used to the wilderness, that snuffeth up the wind at her pleasure; in her occasion [or when she is in heat] who can turn her away? all they that seek her will not weary themselves; in her month they shall find her.”
But Jeremiah also speaks of Israel’s idolatry in terms of sexuality too. In the next chapter (verse 9) he says, “because of the lightness of her harlotry, she polluted the land and committed adultery with stones and trees.” This pagan nature worship was described this way because cult prostitution and sexual mysticism was a big part of the nature worship process and it very suitably represented spiritual adultery. Agricultural fertility was woven together with sexual fertility in a most pornographic nature cult that corrupted almost the entire nation of Israel.
Baal was the god of storm and controlled the rain. Here is how it worked in the Phoenician cult. It happened that in the mystical concept of Baal, he had to fight a cyclical life and death struggle every year with the death god, Mot. Baal would be challenged and temporarily overcome by Mot in the hot dry summer. And Mot would leave him for dead. But because of the fertility rituals, the licentious rites practiced by humans, he would be resurrected in the autumn to overthrow Mot with cooler temperatures, storm and rain.
The chaotic weather in the autumn was attributed to this struggle between the two gods when Baal comes back to life. The drought cycle could only be relieved by two things in the religious cult, ecstatic pleasure (that is, sexual pleasure) to appease Baal and self-mutilation or pain to appease Mot. So the priests of Baal would cut themselves with knives and lancets to appease the death god, or the god who brought drought, while on the other hand, they would participate in sexual abandon to appease Baal, the storm God, and get him to bring rain again. This licentious ritual was fulfilled each year within the agriculture cycle and was designed to show the people how to worship these gods so that society would be stable and there would be plenty of food.
But this was no business for Israel. Theirs was not a heathen religion. To adopt these rites and rituals was to overthrow their allegiance to the living God of heaven. To become entangled in this religious cult was an abomination and an insult to Jehovah. It was the grossest apostasy and called for stern measures.
Listen to what Hosea says about Israel in chapter 2:12, 13. “And I will destroy her vines and her fig trees, whereof she hath said, These are my rewards that my lovers have given me: and I will make them a forest, and the beasts of the field shall eat them. And I will visit upon her the days of Baalim, wherein she burned incense to them, and she decked herself with her earrings and her jewels, and she went after her lovers, and forgat me, saith the LORD.”
It is interesting that those who worshipped false gods also decked themselves with earrings and jewels and are classed with prostitutes. Do you think that God views outward adornment in a similar way today? I don’t think most people realize this. Perhaps they do this ignorantly and God winks at it until He brings them the truth about adornment. The Bible associates outward adornment with false worship and wickedness. When we don’t have the inner beauty of the adornment of the heart, we feel we have to put something else on to make us beautiful, when in reality, it just lowers our image in the eyes of God and man.
Baal worship involved male prostitutes as well as female prostitutes.
In 1 Kings 14:24 it says, “And there were also sodomites in the land: and they did according to all the abominations of the nations which the LORD cast out before the children of Israel.” The Hebrew word translated Sodomites refers to male temple prostitutes. These male prostitutes conducted themselves after their unnatural manner, for which God destroyed them. They practiced an unnatural affection, “men with men, working that which is unseemly,” they “burned in their lust one toward another” Romans 1:27. Baal worship was noted for its licentiousness with both genders. Male prostitutes were part of the temple cult.
Baal worship also involved infanticide. Listen to the account of Israel in 2 Kings 17:16, 17. “And they left all the commandments of the Lord their God, and made them molten images, even two calves, and made a grove, and worshipped all the hosts of heaven, and served Baal.” That’s referring to the two calves that Jeroboam erected in Dan and Bethel (you’ll find that in 1 Kings 12:28, 29). But then we are informed of this shocking sacrifice. Verse 17 says, “And they caused their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire, and use divination and enchantments, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord to provoke him to anger.”
So, they sacrificed their children to Baal! Where did they get children they could sacrifice? One way of getting them was when a cultic prostitute would get pregnant, they may not have aborted the child, but let it come to full term. Once the baby was born there would be a sacrifice. There may well have been other children sacrificed too.
This terrible practice of sacrificing children was observed in horror by Elijah and the 7,000 who had not bowed the knee to Baal. Imagine the abhorrence of those who loved God. Imagine the revulsion and disgust in the hearts of those who witnessed these things. Baal worship was sick. Israel descended into sensuality and licentiousness and murder through infanticide. Sensuality had become the sin of the age. Do you think that today, sensuality is the sin of our age? That’s what we are told in Medical Ministry, page 142.
Notice also that like Ahab the people “sold themselves to do evil.” They expected some kind of benefit for their wickedness. And isn’t that the way Satan does business? He will suggest that you will have some benefit by sacrificing your morality. But in the end it is all disappointment, regret and sorrow and you lose your eternal salvation as a result.
Jezebel lit a fire of carnal passion in Ahab that blazed out of control. He was addicted to sexual sin. It was much like it is for those who are slaves to pornography. When a man is addicted to pornography, he can think of nothing else. Ahab’s heart was so spiritually dry, that all that was in there was tinder that could ignite the fire of passion. And the fire in his bosom was made hot in crazed pursuit of sexual gratification though the worship of Baal. Jezebel made his weak and vacillating character a flaming torch. Under Jezebel’s encouragement, Ahab became a very immoral man. And Jezebel played on his burning lusts by integrating him deeply into the licentious worship of Baal.
But just getting Ahab deep into his own licentiousness and sin wasn’t enough for Jezebel. She used him to strengthen the laws and decrees requiring Baal worship throughout the nation and all Israel, almost, went a whoring after Baal. Baal worship became the state-enforced religion. Do you know that the Bible teaches that in the last days there will be a state-enforced religion? Yes, it’s true.
Let me give you just a little more history of the times. You may remember that the apostasy started under Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, who took over the northern kingdom when it was divided after the reign of Solomon. Jeroboam set up two calves and made laws that the people should worship them. He also fired the priests and Levites and in their place ordained those whom God had not ordained and placed them in charge of the worship, even the lowest of the people. Then each of six kings that followed him did worse than the ones before.
Omri, Ahab’s father, added to the wickedness by setting up new laws and statutes, to pressure or even force Israel to worship false gods. 1 Kings 16:25 says that “Omri wrought evil in the eyes of the Lord [which refers to false worship as it almost always does when God says that] and did worse than all that were before him.”
By then the true worship of God was already in trouble in Israel. The prophet Micah, in chapter 6:16 passes judgment on Israel by saying that “the statutes of Omri are kept” in the land. In other words, Omri began to make strict worship laws that would enforce false worship. These statutes were already in place when Ahab married Jezebel. Jezebel set out to complete what her father-in-law had done. Jezebel was a persecutor because that is the nature of pagan leaders. And she made Ahab into a persecutor also.
Things had gotten so bad in Israel that those who wanted to remain true to God had to hide their worship. And it was brutal. Jezebel and her minions along with Ahab’s agents persecuted these people. Many of the prophets of the Lord were put to death by Jezebel and those that remained had to hide in caves and were essentially out of commission. They were cut off from usefulness. They could no longer encourage the people to be faithful to the Lord, which must have been very difficult for them. Jezebel had quite an enforcement agency that included 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of the groves. They were important to the whole system, both as priests of the pagan worship and to help make sure that everyone complied with the worship laws that had apparently been imposed by Omri, Ahab’s father, and strengthened by Ahab and Jezebel.
Ahab and the people became addicted to licentiousness. Carnal passion is that way, my friends. It leads to the grossest and most polluted moral debasement possible. Ahab was led like a bull with a ring in his nose, into deeper and deeper sin. The worship of Baal was wicked. They didn’t have all the technology we have today like print publications, film and the internet. So, Ahab vented his passions in the house of Baal with the temple prostitutes. He was a perfect slave of his lusts and he was at their slightest beck and command. He lost his respect for himself and he lost his respect for others. Even life itself was not precious to him. He was guilty of the blood of those who opposed him. Friends, do you know anyone that has sold themselves to work wickedness? There are many today, even among those who profess to be God’s people and yet they sell themselves for a little financial or social advantage and will do wickedness in order to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. And it often involves sexuality in some way or another.
Ahab voluntarily submitted to the dominion of sin. His life is a testimony of how low you can go when you let yourself slide into sin. And all the more because Ahab was an Israelite. Imagine Satan’s glee when he could get Ahab under his control.
This is what led to Elijah’s confrontation with Ahab. It was for this reason that Elijah pled with God for the rain to stop. He pled with God to stop the wickedness by bringing a drought upon the land.
Let me read a passage out of the book Prophets and Kings, page 115. This gives a glimpse of the condition of things as it was during that awful time.
“Under the blighting influence of Ahab’s rule, Israel wandered far from the living God and corrupted their ways before Him. 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 (male gods) and Ashtoreth (female gods) were everywhere to be seen. Idolatrous temples and consecrated groves, wherein were worshiped the works of men’s hands, were multiplied. The air was polluted with the smoke of 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.”
Elijah was moved upon by the Holy Spirit to confront this iniquitous and terrible situation. One man with a very strong constitution was sent by God to confront the wicked king. He was not someone that could be cowed by threats or intimidation. He was not someone that could be dissuaded from God’s message because of policies or politics. He was firm and decided. He was a giant of a man spiritually. Do you think God needs such men today?
Here it is from Prophets and Kings, page 142 “God calls for men like Elijah…, men who will bear His message with faithfulness, regardless of the consequences; men who will speak the truth bravely, though it call for the sacrifice of all they have.”
You see, when Elijah went into hiding, he had nothing but the clothes on his back. He didn’t have a home to go to. They would have found him there. He could not go to his friends. He would be found there. God knew exactly where Elijah would be safe, alone in the wilderness at the brook Cherith. Ahab and Jezebel were left with the consequences of the stoppage of rain. There was nothing they could do. And it was severe. 1 Kings 18:2 says that there was a sore famine in Samaria. And the priests of Baal and the prophets of the groves did all their incantations, their immoral rites and they plied all the tools of their trade to get the imaginary god Baal to send rain. And it went on for years – 3.5 in fact. One year by the brook Cherith or however long the brook Cherith lasted, and up to 2.5 years with the woman of Zarephath.
The drought in Israel was really, really bad. Listen to this account of it in Prophets and Kings, page 123 – 125. When Elijah pronounced the sentence of judgment to Ahab, “The prophet’s words went into immediate effect. Those who were at first inclined to scoff at the thought of calamity, soon had occasion for serious reflection; for after a few months the earth, unrefreshed by dew or rain, became dry, and vegetation withered. As time passed, streams that had never been known to fail began to decrease, and brooks began to dry up. Yet the people were urged by their leaders to have confidence in the power of Baal and to set aside as idle words the prophecy of Elijah. The priests still insisted that it was through the power of Baal that the showers of rain fell. Fear not the God of Elijah, nor tremble at His word, they urged, it is Baal that brings forth the harvest in its season and provides for man and beast…
“A year passes, and yet there is no rain. The earth is parched as if with fire. The scorching heat of the sun destroys what little vegetation has survived. Streams dry up, and lowing herds and bleating flocks wander hither and thither in distress. Once-flourishing fields have become like burning desert sands, a desolate waste. The groves dedicated to idol worship are leafless; the forest trees, gaunt skeletons of nature, afford no shade. The air is dry and suffocating; dust storms blind the eyes and nearly stop the breath. Once-prosperous cities and villages have become places of mourning. Hunger and thirst are telling upon man and beast with fearful mortality. Famine, with all its horror, comes closer and still closer.”
Just imagine what that must have been like. Starvation is a terrible way to go. Yet this is what was happening. What does “terrible mortality” mean? It mean’s my friends, that animals and people were dying off is great numbers. And mourning was everywhere.
That is really serious! If Ahab had any conscience left, however, Jezebel made sure that he gave no voice to it. “Jezebel utterly refused to recognize the drought as a judgment from Jehovah. Unyielding in her determination to defy the God of heaven, she, with nearly the whole of Israel, united in denouncing Elijah as the cause of all their misery. Had he not borne testimony against their forms of worship? If only he could be put out of the way, she argued, the anger of their gods would be appeased, and their troubles would end.” That’s Prophets and Kings, page 126.
And listen to this from the same book page 137. “Thus it had come to pass that God was now visiting His people with the severest of His judgments. The prediction of Elijah was meeting with terrible fulfillment. For three years the messenger of woe was sought for in city after city and nation after nation. At the mandate of Ahab, many rulers had given their oath of honor that the strange prophet could not be found in their dominions. Yet the search was continued, for Jezebel and the prophets of Baal hated Elijah with a deadly hatred, and they spared no effort to bring him within reach of their power. And still there was no rain.”
You see, Jezebel would have killed Elijah if she could have because she blamed him as the cause of the drought. Jezebel and Ahab hunted Elijah all over the nation and the nations around. Prophets and Kings, page 126 says, “Urged on by the queen, Ahab instituted a most diligent search for the hiding place of the prophet.” And Jezebel was relentless. They sent around spies throughout all the land of Israel. The surveillance was very penetrating. And she sent diplomats and ambassadors to all the foreign countries around them too.
I’ll read on; “To the surrounding nations, far and near, he sent messengers to seek for the man whom he hated, yet feared; and in his anxiety to make the search as thorough as possible, [Ahab] required of these kingdoms and nations an oath that they knew nothing of the whereabouts of the prophet.”
They looked everywhere, so they thought. As the famine dragged on, and became more intense, they no doubt redoubled their efforts to find the man whom they blamed for all their troubles. Jezebel was crazed.
She did the same thing to Elijah that will be done to those who uphold the law of Jehovah in the last days. In this way Elijah’s story is prophetic about our times. Let us ever remember that the scripture is written for us upon whom the ends of the world are come.
Listen to this from Great Controversy, page 614 – 615. “Those who honor the law of God have been accused of bringing judgments upon the world, and they will be regarded as the cause of the fearful convulsions of nature and the strife and bloodshed among men that are filling the earth with woe. The power attending the last warning has enraged the wicked; their anger is kindled against all who have received the message, and Satan will excite to still greater intensity the spirit of hatred and persecution.”
So, you see, God’s people will be accused falsely. Finger pointing and blame shifting is a natural human response when the heart does not want to understand the truth that condemns their sins.
But Elijah’s message was not about punishment so much as it was about repentance and forgiveness. God wanted to forgive and heal them, but He somehow had to wake them up to their folly.
But the search for Elijah was in vain. The prophet was safe, protected by God even though he had a death sentence hanging over him. But Jezebel’s surveillance society failed her.
In our day, Satan wants to make sure that the surveillance society doesn’t fail this time. He thinks that with all the electronic equipment and software, that he can tighten down the screws and get everyone under control. He wants to scare you. But if you are in Christ, there is no fear. If you are in Christ, there is no reason to tremble before man. God has His ways and means of dealing with all that equipment and software. That’s easy for Him. The hard part is getting our cooperation and surrender.
Notice that Ahab searched for Elijah. Do you think that is what they will do to you? With all the cameras and digital spying that is available today, they will be using every tool out there to find those who are loyal to the God of heaven. Like Elijah you will have to flee to the remotest part of the earth. Listen to it from Great Controversy, page 626.
“As the decree issued by the various rulers of Christendom against commandment keepers shall withdraw the protection of government and abandon them to those who desire their destruction, the people of God will flee from the cities and villages and associate together in companies, dwelling in the most desolate and solitary places. Many will find refuge in the strongholds of the mountains.”
Do you remember that Elijah prayed that it might not rain? That’s found in James 5:17, 18. Do you think he stopped praying once the drought started? I don’t think so. In fact, I think he intensified his praying during the drought. He had nothing else to do out there by the brook Cherith. At least he could talk to the woman of Zarephath when he was with her. But by the brook, he had nothing to do but pray. What do you think he prayed about? Elijah prayed that God would turn the hearts of the people back to the God of heaven. He prayed that the drought would awaken them to their sin and their rebellion.
Listen to it from Prophets and Kings, page 133. “Through the long years of drought and famine, Elijah prayed earnestly that the hearts of Israel might be turned from idolatry to allegiance to God. Patiently the prophet waited, while the hand of the Lord rested heavily on the stricken land. As he saw evidences of suffering and want multiplying on every side, his heart was wrung with sorrow, and he longed for power to bring about a reformation quickly. But God Himself was working out His plan, and all that His servant could do was to pray on in faith and await the time for decided action.”
And friends, when you have given out your last piece of gospel literature, when you have talked to the last unconverted soul about surrendering their heart to Christ, when you have earned and spent the last of your money, when you have preached your last sermon, and you have to flee to the mountains for refuge, you too will not have anything to do but pray. That’s all. Pray for the lost souls who may yet, in the last moment of time, surrender their hearts to the Lord God of Israel. You may not be able to do much, but you can pray. You can plead with God for protection, for souls and for your fellow believers that they will remain faithful.
Finally, God told Elijah to face Ahab. It was time for action. Now, let us look at 1 Kings 18:1 “And it came to pass after many days, that the word of the LORD came to Elijah in the third year, saying, Go, show thyself unto Ahab; and I will send rain upon the earth.”
Elijah may have thought after a couple of years, that the drought had gone on long enough. But he waited for God’s instructions. The drought was in its fourth year when God told him to return to Israel.
Now, please understand this. It is a good thing in a bad time, when God calls his messengers and ministers out of their obscurity. It is a sign that there is going to be rain! They may be hated by most, feared by many, but the righteous know their time. They rejoice to hear the plain message of the Lord. Isn’t it that way today, my friends? In a time when there is so much wickedness, in a time when there is so much false teaching, in a time when there is so much corruption and apostasy among those who claim to be the followers of Christ, don’t you just love to hear faithful messengers give the old message of truth? It is like water to a parched and thirsty soul.
Elijah’s return to Israel was to be like that. The 7,000 who had not bowed the knee to Baal must have wondered if ever Elijah would return. And when he did they must have rejoiced in hope that something could be done, not just to bring rain on the earth, but to bring the rain of God’s spirit into the hearts of the people.
Yes, the straight testimony of the Lord through his faithful messengers is a welcome sound to those who love God. When there is no prophet the people perish spiritually. Elijah was no longer in Israel and had not been active for 3.5 years. The prophets of the Lord, the Bible workers from the schools of the prophets were in hiding and they too were inactive. The people of Israel were languishing. There was a drought in the land, but there was a greater drought in their souls.
So, Elijah obeyed the Lord. He said his final goodbyes to the widow woman of Zarephath and began the journey back to Israel to find Ahab. It must have been difficult for Elijah to part from this little family that now meant so much to him. Elijah must have taught her much. She was rooted and grounded, no doubt, in her faith in God. Whether she was ever baptized we have no idea.
I’m sure it was hard for the woman to see Elijah go. No doubt he promised her that the living God of Israel would continue to look after her. Perhaps there was still the miracle of the bread and oil that supplied their needs even after Elijah left. There is a lot that we don’t know, because we never hear of this woman again. I don’t know about you, but I want to meet her in heaven someday. I suspect she will be there, don’t you?
Now, Ahab and Obadiah had a problem. Their animals were dying off, and they would not have had many left by this time. There wasn’t any grass for them and they had no stored food for them. What were they to do?
1 Kings 18:3-7 “And Ahab called Obadiah, which was the governor of his house. (Now Obadiah feared the LORD greatly: For it was so, when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the LORD, that Obadiah took an hundred prophets, and hid them by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water.) And Ahab said unto Obadiah, Go into the land, unto all fountains of water, and unto all brooks: peradventure we may find grass to save the horses and mules alive, that we lose not all the beasts. So they divided the land between them to pass throughout it: Ahab went one way by himself, and Obadiah went another way by himself. And as Obadiah was in the way, behold, Elijah met him: and he knew him, and fell on his face, and said, Art thou that my lord Elijah?”
Obadiah is an amazing person. He is a very good man. He is a great man in the court of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. He is the head, or governor of the palace in Samaria. He has a position of honor, power and trust. He is the one they trust with all things practical. He manages everything for them.
But Obadiah is one of those rare men of very high station who is yet faithful to God from his youth. Those who start out fearing the Lord in their youth, often have a distinction of faithfulness to the Lord when they are grown up. Obadiah’s greatness shines all the more brilliantly because of what he did to preserve God’s prophets. Perhaps, he managed to keep things quiet about that around the palace. If Jezebel had found out about what he did with the prophets of the Lord, she would have executed him. Yet, somehow he kept those prophets alive, right under Jezebel’s nose. He risked his life for them. God always has resources, my friends. Often they are in high places and in positions of honor and trust. And He has them in waiting for the time when He needs them. You can rest assured that God knows what He is doing.
And you may wonder how it is that a man as wicked as Ahab and a wicked woman such as Jezebel would prefer a man who was so eminently good to look after all their affairs. But there is an answer to that. Even the wicked want someone they can trust to look after them. They needed someone who was honest, industrious and ingenious. The man who is true to his God will be faithful to his earthly sovereign, though he is wicked and evil.
Obadiah was unable to reform Ahab. Nor was Ahab able to corrupt Obadiah. They were both settled in their characters. He that was filthy would be filthy still, and he that was holy would be holy still. Do you think that is the way it will be at the time of trouble when Christ leaves the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary and declares, “It is finished?” Yes, that is what the Bible says. And herein is yet another prophetic parallel to the last days of earth’s history.
To fear God is very important. To fear God in good times and places is not so difficult. But to maintain that fear of God in bad times and places, is the evidence of genuine fear of the Lord. It is easy when you have the freedom to do so. But the genuine fear of God is tested by the persecution of bad times. It shines brighter and is more powerful when under adversity.
Obadiah was a remnant of God among all manner of people, high and low, rich and poor. He was of the 7,000 that had not bowed the knee to Baal. God is never left without a remnant, my friends. When evil is in the ascendency, God always has those who will be faithful to him. He has His remnant today too. What a wonderful group to be in! They are the ones who will survive the coming crisis. The trouble is, we are still in the good times. We are not in the bad. And we are lazy in our faithfulness to the Lord. The test and trial will overwhelm most of us.
Ahab and Obadiah personally went out and looked for grass and water for the horses and mules so that they might not lose all the beasts. Providence ordained Ahab to see how bad things really were with his own eyes on account of the judgment against him. Perhaps, this was so that he would be more receptive to Elijah’s counsel, who would direct him to the only way in which the drought could be stopped.
It is interesting that Ahab was concerned about saving the beasts alive, but he wasn’t concerned about his people. He wanted to find water for the dumb animals, but he wasn’t interested in bringing spiritual life to the subjects of his kingdom. He was busy trying to protect himself from the symptom of the disease, not the cause. Ahab was concerned more about his assets than about his own soul.
But it was as if Elijah had been spirited away by the spirit of the Lord. And when Elijah suddenly appears in front of him while he is hunting for water, his first thought is that Elijah has been spirited back into Israel. And he fears what might come next.
I personally think it is very ironic how that at the end of his ministry on earth, God actually does spirit Elijah away in a glorious chariot, never to be seen in person again, except on the mount of transfiguration with Christ. You see, while on earth, Elijah had been keenly interested in Christ and His mission.
Elijah was chosen, along with Moses, to be with Christ on the mount of transfiguration as a witness to the importance of his work in connection with the work of Christ. He was there with Moses because their work together is a type of the work that God’s people in the last days must do. The law, represented by Moses because God gave him the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai and the straight testimony of Elijah are both necessary to understand the saving grace of Jesus. Both of them go hand in hand.
Friends, we would never understand salvation’s grace, unless we understand the enormity of sin by the law and the straight testimony. We need the law, because that is the standard of heaven. We need the testimony because our minds have an amazing capacity to justify self and minimize sin. Often we need someone to come and show us our sin, just as Elijah showed Israel their sin.
Without the standard of the law, grace becomes cheap and insipid. It becomes uninspiring and loses its appeal. David said, “O how I love thy law! It is my meditation all the day,” Ps 119:97. He was telling us how important the law is and that we are to love it and meditate on it like he did. The more we love Christ, the more we love the law of God, the Ten Commandments. The more we love Jesus, the more we partake of the grace and power He gives us to overcome sin. When we meditate on the life of Christ, we get a clear picture of the law and its perfection of righteousness. The more we meditate on Christ and the law, which He came to uphold, the more meaningful than ever His marvelous grace becomes.
We cannot do away with the law. Friends, the law cannot save you. Only Christ can save you. But the law must be understood in its perfect character. It is the way in which we understand our sin and also what God expects of us. Elijah and Moses both point to Christ if understood correctly. They both reveal His love and His power to save.
No doubt providence had arranged that Obadiah go by the way in which Elijah was coming. God works that way. He arranges things. Obadiah was shocked to see Elijah, and he fell on his face in great respect. “Art thou that my lord Elijah?” he asked. Here is the man who as a father tenderly looked after the sons of the prophets in the caves who now bows as a son to the spiritual father of the prophets.
Elijah answered him in verse 8, “Go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here.”
But Obadiah was worried. Do you remember what was on his mind? Everyone knew how that Elijah had appeared out of nowhere, and then disappeared into nowhere, as prophets are likely to do. It was that way with the sons of the prophets as well. They were working secretly and were like the wind. You didn’t know where they came from, or where they were going. This was very frustrating to Jezebel and Ahab. But Elijah’s reputation for disappearing was well-known. Obadiah is afraid that Elijah will make a fool out of Ahab and then he would be killed for it.
Verses 9-15, “And he said, What have I sinned, that thou wouldest deliver thy servant into the hand of Ahab, to slay me? 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. And now thou sayest, Go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here. And it shall come to pass, as soon as I am gone from thee, that the spirit of the LORD shall carry thee whither I know not; and so when I come and tell Ahab, and he cannot find thee, he shall slay me: but I thy servant fear the LORD from my youth. Was it not told my lord what I did when Jezebel slew the prophets of the LORD, how I hid an hundred men of the LORD’s prophets by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water? And now thou sayest, Go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here: and he shall slay me. And Elijah said, As the LORD of hosts liveth, before whom I stand, I will surely show myself unto him to day.”
Elijah must have smiled at Obadiah’s lack of confidence. He needed some kind of reassurance. He had been living under the threat of being discovered for what he had done with the prophets of the Lord for a very long time. He has so long secretly and furtively provided for those persecuted Bible workers, that his first thought was that perhaps this was going to expose him and be the end of him. Obadiah thinks that perhaps the spirit of the Lord has carried Elijah in the past, and now again in the present, for suddenly Elijah is there. And now what will happen if the spirit of the Lord carries him somewhere else yet again while he is going to find Ahab?
Obadiah knows that Ahab deserves no favors from Elijah and certainly Elijah does not deserve any mischief from Ahab. He knows that tyrants and persecutors like Ahab are often unreasonably outrageous, even towards their friends and confidants.
Elijah is familiar with God’s power. He is not concerned for himself. He knows that God can protect him from Ahab. Elijah promises him that he is not playing games and that he will speak with Ahab that day.
Verse 16, “So Obadiah went to meet Ahab, and told him: and Ahab went to meet Elijah.”
Now think about this for a minute. Ahab has searched all over for Elijah. He has set up as total a surveillance system that was possible to capture him. He had spies everywhere. He had rewards out for Elijah. He had ambassadors looking for him in foreign countries. He even put pressure on the other nations. And all those things failed to find Elijah. He had hoped that he could surprise Elijah and thereby triumph over him. But now Elijah surprises him and he trembles to meet him. He hates Elijah, but he fears him.
Imagine the scene. Ahab is out looking for water and grass to feed the animals, and suddenly, there is Obadiah calling after him. Ahab turns hoping against hope that Obadiah has good news about water somewhere so that he can provide for his beasts. Obadiah runs to Ahab and, out of breath, tells him that Elijah is back and that he is demanding to see Ahab.
While this should have been hopeful news for Ahab, he is angry. When he sees Elijah, he said to him, verse 17, 18 “Art thou he that troubleth Israel? And he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and
thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and thou hast followed Baalim.”
This meeting was between a bad king and a good prophet, as bad a king as ever the nation had been plagued with and as good a prophet as the church has ever been blessed with.
But Ahab had better not touch him. He may have remembered what happened to Jeroboam when he tried to smite a prophet. Do you remember what happened to Jeroboam? It is in chapter 13. A prophet, whose name we do not know, came to Bethel where Jeroboam had set up an alter and a calf for the people to worship. He prophesied against Jeroboam and the false worship he had set up. Jeroboam became angry with him. Now look at verse 4. “And it came to pass, when king Jeroboam heard the saying of the man of God, which had cried against the altar in Bethel, that he put forth his hand from the altar, saying, Lay hold on him. And his hand, which he put forth against him, dried up, so that he could not pull it in again to him.” When the king pleads with the prophet to ask God to restore his hand, he did so, and Jeroboam’s hand was restored.
Ahab knew this story. So he dare not try to harm the prophet physically. But he spoke angry words to him. “Art thou he that troubleth Israel?” He demanded. This was no less an affront to Elijah as physical injury would have been. What a contrast this was to the way in which Obadiah treated Elijah. Both men revealed their true character by the way they treated the prophet.
The way people treat the messenger or minister who brings the truth, the straight testimony, reveals much about their attitude toward the God of heaven. And the way they treat those messengers shows how they would treat Christ, were He to come to them today. I hope you are always going to welcome the messenger of truth, even if he or she brings a message of reproof.
Ahab is stupid. Here, Elijah has come to bring rain and refresh the earth that is parched with drought and Ahab speaks this way to him. Ahab is desperate, but he still is blind to his sin.
Elijah is indignant and returns the accusation on Ahab. “I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and thou hast followed Baalim.”
The best and most righteous men have often been accused of being the cause of public disasters or grievances. They get blamed for disturbing the peace, when in reality it is the ones who place the accusation who are guilty of this. Their processes may have been slow and gradual so as not to stir up an objection. But they are nevertheless the cause of evil. When someone protests the compromise or sin, the protestor gets blamed for creating controversy or trouble.
But who is really responsible for the trouble? It is laid upon those who have stealthily and quietly shifted loyalties from God to alternative worship. It is laid upon those who are gradually and continually lowering the standard of Christianity. It is laid upon those who bring the hellish torch of Satan into the pulpits of God’s church. It is also laid at the feet of national leaders who continually lead the nation away from God’s law and the Bible. Ahab was responsible for the apostasy in both church and state. It is those who invite God’s judgments that are the guilty ones, not those who merely foretell the danger and warn of the consequences.
Elijah doesn’t stop to wait for Ahab’s answer. There is nothing Ahab can say. He is now under the control of Elijah and he’d better do what Elijah says. Elijah represents a much higher king than Ahab. He represents the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And he now orders a convention or conference with all the people present on Mount Carmel, where once had been an alter to the Lord. This may well have been a famous high place where the true worship of God was upheld as well as it could be, but eventually it had fallen into disuse and disrepair. Verse 19, “Now therefore send, and gather to me all Israel unto mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the groves four hundred, which eat at Jezebel’s table.”
Notice that Ahab was instructed to bring all Israel there to meet Elijah. No one was to be exempt from this important day. No doubt at least many came eagerly. They wanted to see this famous man who had been hunted for so long. They were, no doubt, very curious about him.
But also notice Elijah demanded that all the prophets of Baal must be there too, and all the prophets of the groves. All together there were 850 of them who were supported by the state. They ate at “Jezebel’s table,” or they were supported from her treasury. They were to make a personal appearance before Elijah. They had to come from all over the country wherever they were. These were Jezebel’s enforcers. They were charged with the job of making sure that the people observed the worship of Baal. They also doubled as spies, no doubt, in order to find, if possible, the hated Elijah and also the prophets of the Lord, if they could. The prophets of the groves were Jezebel’s personal chaplains, who lead out in the licentious worship around Samaria.
Friends, do you think God needs messengers like Elijah today? Where are they? Yes, there are thousands who have not bowed the knee to Baal. But where is the voice of stern rebuke? It is politically incorrect to reprove sin. Those who do are not appreciated.
But here is the testimony of the Lord in Prophets and Kings, page 140. “Today there is need of the voice of stern rebuke; for grievous sins have separated the people from God. Infidelity is fast becoming fashionable. ‘We will not have this man to reign over us,’ is the language of thousands. Luke 19:14. The smooth sermons so often preached make no lasting impression; the trumpet does not give a certain sound. Men are not cut to the heart by the plain, sharp truths of God’s word.”
You see, my friends, the story of Elijah is a story about our times as well. The gradual apostasy of the nations, leads the church in the same direction. And the gradual apostasy of the church, leads the nation further from God. They potentiate each other. Do we have this happening today? We certainly do. Have you noticed how that the church to a large extent mirrors society? And if the church will not resist the progress of sin in society, how can she retain her own purity? Rapidly, the people in both church and state are being led to disaster. There is “a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord” Amos 8:11.
But a time of trouble is coming, my friends, that will throw the world and all those who claim to be followers of Jesus into the crucible of test and trial. You must have your life pure and holy like the life of Elijah. If you are not living a consistent life, how can God use you to bring His people back to the place they should be? How can God use you to warn the world? How can He use you to awaken souls that are unaware of the times in which we live?
Today, we see the rise of the surveillance state again. Do you think that this is by accident? I don’t. It was prophesied by the story of Elijah. Do you think you can escape from it? I don’t think so, except for the mighty hand of God.
Elijah lived in an age of surveillance. Wicked kings and rulers are doing the same today, only more so, because they have the technology. It is expensive. But God is showing it to us now, because we are near the time when the focus will turn from preventing terrorism to persecuting God’s people. The information system that is being developed is especially preparing for the coming confrontation between the world of darkness and the world of light.
God is showing us all this so that we can learn to trust Him completely and also so that we can understand its enormity so that we will not fear man. God plans to knock the whole thing over one day, my friends. He plans to overthrow it all in defense of His people. By seeing and understanding it now, we will also be prepared then to understand the power of God to overthrow it.
Let us pray. Our heavenly Father, how grateful we are that we serve an all-powerful God who has our best interests in mind. Thank You for Your grace that opens to us the things of prophecy so that we may see how they are being fulfilled in our day. Please send us Your Holy Spirit so that we may live by the principles of heaven. Purify our lives and give us the power to overcome our sins. We realize that there is a massive surveillance system being matured and finalized so that all will come under the new world religious order. We see it coming and we recognize that we can do nothing about it. Only the angels of God can slow it down. They see what is happening and they are prepared for it. We want to be prepared for it too. May the God of Elijah send His angels to stand by our side and teach us what we need to know to prepare for the coming conflict. We trust You to defend us when it is in the best interests of Your cause. And thank You for Your love and power. In Jesus’ precious name, amen.