Elijah appears suddenly on the pages of scripture and history with no introduction. His ministry was nothing short of phenomenal and faith-inspiring, and despite the insistence of James that Elijah was, ‘a man just like us’, (James 5:17) you are left wondering what it would have been like if both he and his successor, Elisha, had continued in a long ministry together, side by side. All we know as the epic drama of Elijah’s ministry unfolds, is the thing that separates him from all of the other men sharing the name during this day – he is ‘Elijah the Tishbite’.
We’re aware of the astonishing stories, the miracles, the dilemmas, the fear and anguish that accompanies his life, including the rather odd and itchy choice of clothes. Elijah was a man just like us, true, but he was a man with a ferocious love, trust, faith and ambition for the person and purposes of the majestic, holy and unique God that he served. Therein lies a stirring and profound challenge that throws down a gauntlet in this present day with all its challenges, terrors and fears. It’s a confrontation to the saints who even in this day and age. despise the choices of other saints in the democracy that we so value, because of their own fears and haunting concerns of heart and ultimately, their lack of trust in God who alone, reigns supreme over time and history. It’s also the balm that repairs the heart, vision, dreams and aspirations of all the church.
Many years ago, J.B.Phillips published his book, “Your God is too small” where he asserts that too many of us, are crippled by a limited idea of God. Resident Policeman, Pale Galilean, and Perennial Grievance are some of the stereotypes he demolishes before suggesting ways we can discover the real God of the Bible for ourselves. It emerged from a growing conviction that “if it is true that there is Someone in charge of the whole mystery of life and death, we can hardly escape a sense of futility and frustration until we begin to see what He is like and what His purposes are.” Phillips doesn’t have to look far to see in Elijah a startling revelation that we need to visit afresh in our day and age.
Elijah’s encounter with King Ahab and the big showdown with the false prophets is one worth reading and meditating on (1 Kings 18:16-45). It’s worth reading because you need to see the revelation that Elijah not only already has, but wants to communicate to a onlooking generation that purports to have its vision and values initiated and directed by God alone. Elijah raises the bar on the onlookers, determining that if there is a God in Israel, then He, and He alone is the one that will answer by fire.
Jump back in history and we hear Moses encouraging the people with God’s word, that there is no other God – not a single one except YHWH. He is the only One. Not only that, but God’s wise and learned command is that Israel would have no other God but Him. Any other god was one of their own making. Man made gods, mere idols – impotent, powerless, pathetic, weak and tied to a single location – and always made out of wood or stone. Gods other than YHWH were created out of the immense stupidity and foolishness of mankind, and more than that, they were and are pretend gods, created by the imagination of sinful mankind in rebellion to the real God.
And that is where Elijah’s great revelation comes in. The god who answers by fire is the real God. Elijah taunts the many false prophets that if their creation, borne out of their depraved imagination was a real god then surely he would hear them! (1 Kings 18:27) They are unaware that in the process of declaring other gods which they have created, that they are in fact declaring themselves to be god.
The revelation that Elijah has is an important one for you because of what lies ahead in the coming days. You are going to have to make important choices. Elijah’s revelation to you is not that this YHWH is one god among many, but that there can only be one God, and He is it. He is the God.
We’ve lost sight of the majesty and supremacy of God in these days. It is not that He is supremely more (here come the big words – look them up!) omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and immutable than we are. He is different, unique. He is not the same as humans. He is the creator. He’s infinitely more powerful on a scale that is beyond our comprehension to a level that means with Him, nothing is impossible. That makes Him the God that makes a difference, who alone, without any assistance form any created being, is able to initiate and effect total and utter breakthrough in the most difficult circumstance that life on this planet can possibly bring.
He’s not as small as we have at times unwittingly made Him appear both by our words or actions. We have forgotten how awesome He is. The fallen angel created by him with a mere word (called satan) is no match to His immeasurable wisdom, genius and knowledge. When life is falling to pieces it is the God (remember, there are no other real gods, only the pretend-ones we make) who can help us, restore us, redeem us and transform us. He is our great hope – and we know Him in Jesus.
Elijah got it right. the God who answers by fire, He is God. He’s the only God we have. The only God that can make a difference, because there is no other god. Now you need to take a long look at Jesus and start to connect the dots together because a storm is gathering across every nation. Get your heart ready. Who are you going to turn to in your moment of need, of crisis, of despair or when you need a friend? Jesus is that One. He is the God that all mankind needs to turn to – never failing, for ever faithful and utterly trustworthy. He is not just as good as His Word, He is His word. He is what He says He is.
The God? It’s a strange turn of phrase, but it is true – but it also takes away some of our ‘chumminess’ and adds distance and weightiness to Him. He’s not our buddy, our pappa or our secret helper. He is the God who needs nothing, is entirely sufficient in Himself, lacking in nothing, never-changing, never becoming more awesome or increasing by one millionth of a micron in gloriousness. He is infallible, unsearchable, indescribably holy and perfect.
Having read that and beginning to feel very small, remember also, mystery of mysteries, that He says He will never leave you or forsake you, and that He has a plan for your life – and more mind numbing, includes you in His inheritance – having removed your sins as far as the east is from the west and having removed all of your sin, shame and guilt!
Elijah saw the sheer magnificence of the revelation that had already gripped his Tishbite heart, nothing and no one compares with the God.
He is awesome.