The ground is parched. Gusts of wind fill the dry air with dust from the powdery earth. Every green thing has long since withered. As far as the eye can see, everything is barren and wasted. The three-year drought has taken its toll, and the people – from the king to the lowliest peasant – have become desperate.
This drought has come upon Israel because their king, Ahab, led the people into the worship of Baal. Ahab had done more to provoke the God of Israel than all the other kings of Israel. As a consequence, God sent the prophet Elijah to announce that God would withhold both rain and dew. The months and years have gone by and everyone languishes under the conditions of famine.
However, there has been a sudden turn of events. King Ahab has recently met with Elijah, who has called the king to a showdown between his idols and the God of Israel. Elijah has issued the challenge, requesting that all of Israel – together with the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of the Asherah – meet on Mount Carmel. Thousands can be seen climbing the rocky cliffs as all of Israel and the entourage of Baal and Asherah ascend the mountain.
After all the people are assembled, Elijah comes near and asks, “How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him, but if Baal, follow him.” But the people do not answer him.
Elijah continues: “Now there are 450 prophets of Baal here. I am the only prophet who serves the Lord. I have a proposal. We will take two oxen … the prophets of Baal will take one oxen and I will take the other. Each of us will prepare a sacrifice. The exception will be that no fire will be placed under the sacrifice. Then the prophets of Baal and Asherah will call on their god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The God who answers by sending fire from heaven to consume the sacrifice will be acknowledged as the true and living God.” All the people think it is a great idea.
So the prophets of Baal prepare their sacrifice and call on the name of Baal from morning until noon saying, “O Baal, answer us.” But there is no response. They began to leap about the altar in a ceremonial dance.
At noon, Elijah begins to mock them, saying, “You need to call out with a loud voice. Maybe your god is occupied with something else or gone out, or is on a long journey. Maybe he is asleep and you need to wake him up.”
So the prophets begin to cry with a very loud voice. They began cutting themselves with swords and lances, bleeding profusely, to show their sincerity. In a flurry of striving and human effort to contact the divine, and to somehow win the favor of a god that they know little about, these 450 men rant and rave until the time of the evening sacrifice. There is still no answer; with all their effort and sacrifice they are unable to move the deity.
By now Elijah is obviously annoyed and bored with all the confusion and commotion. Feeling that he has given them the better part of the day to obtain a response from Baal, he steps forward and calls the people to gather around him.
Kneeling down, Elijah begins repairing the altar of the Lord. He arranges the sacrifice on the altar and digs a trench around it. Then he instructs the people to fill four pitchers of water, and throw it on the burnt offering and on the wood.
Three times he instructs them to fill the pitchers and soak the sacrifice until twelve full pitchers of water have been emptied out upon it. Then Elijah says, “O, Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, today let it be known that Thou art God in Israel, and that I am Thy servant, and that I have done all these things at Thy word. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may known that Thou, O Lord, art God, and that Thou hast turned their heart back again.”
Instantly the fire of the Lord falls upon the sacrifice and consumes it, licking up the water that was in the trench. When all of the people see it, they fall on their faces and exclaim, “The Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is God!”
We Need the Spirit of Elijah
Few can read Elijah’s story without being moved by the powerful demonstration of God’s power. Who would not thrill at the prospect of God answering a two sentence-long prayer with such a display of the supernatural?
Yet all too often our prayers can resemble the rantings and ravings of the prophets of Baal than the confident faith-filled prayer of Elijah. Perhaps one reason is because there is too little knowledge of God and not much fellowship with Him. Consequently, prayer becomes an effort to persuade God to do something, or to coerce Him into blessing us.
Elijah’s spirit and attitude was so precious in the sight of God that the Old Testament ends with this admonition from the prophet Malachi: “Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord.”
Five hundred years later, in fulfillment of Malachi’s prophecy, John the Baptist came to prepare the way for the Messiah, preaching in the wilderness. Referring to this prophecy, Jesus said this of John the Baptist: “And if you care to accept it, he himself is Elijah who was to come.”
Was Jesus supporting reincarnation? No, before the birth of John the Baptist the angel of the Lord spoke of John, saying, “And it is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
John was a man with the spirit and ministry of Elijah. So precious was the spirit of John that Jesus said of him, “Among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater that John the Baptist.” What was it about the life and spirit of Elijah and John the Baptist that so moved the heart of God? Why is the account of Elijah and John important to us today?
We must realize that before God visits the earth in awakening power, and before He sends an outpouring of His Spirit, He sends His servants forth in the spirit and power of Elijah to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
The book of Revelation speaks in figurative language of the witnesses who will herald the approach of the day when “the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ.” They are said to have the spirit and power of Elijah. Today, God desires for men and women to carry that same spirit and anointing of Elijah … to herald the next visitation of His Spirit which is quickly approaching.
What was unique about the spirit and power of Elijah that John the Baptist emulated? While John the Baptist didn’t call down literal fire from heaven, both he and Elijah had a common power to move multitudes of men, women, and children to repentance.
Both men had the power to call people to accountablity before God. Both were ruthless against sin. Both were fearless in confronting evil. Elijah boldly challenged 850 false prophets and saw a nation repent in one day. John baptized multitudes as a sign of their repentence. The Bible records, “Jerusalem was going out to him, and all Judea, and all the district around the Jordan. “
John was able to discern those who were truly repentant, and quick to point out those who were not. When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for repentance, he said to them, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” He then reprimanded them for their false sense of righteousness and their fruitless lives.
John was not afraid to single people out for their specific sins. He reproved Herod for his unlawful union with his brother’s wife, and for other wicked things he had done. John’s uncompromising stand against sin led to his own beheading; Elijah’s stand against sin caused Jezebel to seek his life.
An Intense Passion for God Alone
The depth of fellowship that both Elijah and John had with God is unmistakeable. God confirmed His word through Elijah with signs from heaven. He was a man so close to God that he did not see natural death – instead, God sent a chariot of fire down to bring Him up to heaven.
The lives of both Elijah and John were marked by great periods of time spent seeking the face of God. Both of their lives were marked by the spirit of self-denial; they cared more about seeking God and doing His will than about earthly pleasures and comfort. This was the secret of their power with God and man.
The prophet Jeremiah once prophesied, “If they had stood in My council, then they would have announced My words to My people and would have turned them back from their evil way and from the evil of their deeds … Is not My word like fire and like a hammer which shatters a rock?” The power of these men to bring multitudes to repentence is an indication of the time they spent hearing God’s counsel.
Elijah referred to this counsel when he prayed, asking God to send fire from heaven: “Let it be known that I have done all these things at Thy word.” Elijah did not confront the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel because he thought it would be an easy way to rid Israel of the false prophets. He did not soak his sacrifice with water because he thought it would be more impressive. He did not “hope” that God would see his sincerity and bless his efforts.
There was no anxiety in his prayer. There was no strife to coerce God into answering him. There was no need for much speaking, nor was there any reason to contort his flesh to prove his sincerity. He had come to Mount Carmel in obedience to God.
He had challenged the prophets of Baal by direct command from the Lord. He had prepared his sacrifice and soaked it with water just as God had instructed him beforehand. He had followed God’s directions to the letter. All that was left was to simply pray and watch the fire fall.
Jesus taught, “When you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition, as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them … Pray then this way: …‘Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’”
Loud speaking, great numbers of people crying out to God, a multitude of words, a flurry of fleshly striving and sacrifice is not what moves God to action. Elijah prayed in accordance with the will of God. In essence, he prayed according to what he already knew was God’s will, for God had given him an expressed command. Consequently he became a conductor for God’s power to be unleashed on the earth, resulting in God’s will being done on earth just as God had willed it in heaven.
In stark contrast stands the admonition of Ezekiel: “Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel who prophesy, and say to those who prophesy from their own inspiration, ‘Listen to the word of the Lord! Woe to the foolish prophets who are following their own spirit and have seen nothing. They say, ‘The Lord declares,’ when the Lord has not sent them; yet they hope for the fulfillment of their word … but it is not I who have spoken.”
Those who would walk in the spirit and power of Elijah must be done with speaking from their own inspiration and from saying presumptuously that their message is from God. Time must be spent in the mount with God, waiting upon Him, receiving His word, and hearing His instruction. There are no short-cuts to this.
Elijah was wholeheartedly devoted to the task unto which God had given him. His life was marked by obedience. He had certain faith. After the people repented, Elijah had the unpleasant task of slaying 850 false prophets. Then he said to the king, “Go up, eat and drink; for there is the sound of the roar of a heavy shower.” Elijah spoke this with strong confidence, notwithstanding the fact that there had been no rain for over three years, and that at that moment there was not a cloud in the sky. But Elijah heard the roar of God’s voice in his spirit and in that spirit he prophesied.
Ahab went up to eat and drink, but Elijah went up to the top of Mount Carmel. There he crouched down on the earth and put his face between his knees to pray. While he was praying, he said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” The servant looked and returned, saying, “There is nothing.”
Elijah did not weaken in faith, but continued praying and sending his servant back to look. The seventh time the servant looked toward the sea, he saw a cloud the size of a man’s hand. It was only a matter of hours before the sky grew black with clouds, wind, and a heavy shower.
Why was Elijah praying so earnestly on the mountain? Was he trying to get God to fulfill the prophecy that he had spoken? Was he afraid that it would not rain, and that he would be in trouble with King Ahab? It appears that his motive in prayer was none of these. In certain faith, Elijah stood fearlessly to challenge the prophets of Baal – confident of the word God had spoken to him, confident that God would send the fire.
Then why was he so earnest in prayer? Had not God promised the rain? Yes. There was no reason to doubt the promise. But Elijah understood another principle. Elijah aligned his prayer with the will of God: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” He prayed God’s will into existence on earth and became a channel for God’s will and power. Elijah continued in prayer until he saw the rain coming.
Elijah’s life was one of continual self-denial. Instead of eating and drinking after the victory over the prophets of Baal, Elijah continued to seek the Lord. When Elijah learned that Jezebel sought to kill him, he did not run to the widow’s home where he had found provision during the famine. He ran instead to Horeb, the mountain of God, to a cold desolate cave … and there God called him to the mountaintop to seek the counsel of the Lord.
Both the lives of Elijah and John the Baptist were marked by deep humility. After the fire fell on Mt. Carmel, Elijah fled into the wilderness to escape the wrath of Jezebel. He prayed, “Lord, take my life, for I am not better than my father.” Here was a man who, in all his righteousness and holiness, in all his power and anointing, understood his utter need for God’s mercy and salvation.
Jesus would later point out the power of this humble attitude to move the heart of God. When He was talking to certain ones who trusted in their own righteousness, and viewed others with contempt, Jesus told this parable:
“Two men went up to the temple to pray. One man stood and said, ‘God, I thank Thee that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax-gatherer. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax-gatherer was not even willing to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God be merciful to me, the sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one who exalts himself shall be humbled, but he who humbles himself shall be exalted.”
“Thank God I’m not like the Pharisee,” we may say. When was the last time we turned our noses up when an unbeliever offended us with his carousing or disorderly behavior?
Under the power and anointing of the Spirit of God, people from all over Judea had been coming to John the Baptist to repent of their sins and to be baptized. When Jesus arrived from Galilee, he presented Himself to John and requested baptism. John, not knowing at this time that Jesus was the Messiah, looked into that majestic face and saw a holiness he had not seen in any other man. In deep humility, not even considering how he would appear before his followers, John responded, “I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” But Jesus insisted.
When John was lifting Jesus up out of the waters of baptism, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove upon Him. He also heard a voice out of the heavens saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
This was the very sign that John had been expecting. The Spirit of God had previously instructed him beforehand that the one upon whom the Holy Spirit descended like a dove would be the Messiah. Immediately John called out, “Behold, the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world!” What an honor to be able to make such an announcement.
Speaking of Jesus after this incident, John told his followers, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” Let’s not forget that this same Jesus attended a dinner at the house of a Pharisee where a harlot burst into the house uninvited and threw herself at His feet. Weeping in repentance, she washed his feet with her tears and dried his feet with her hair. The Pharisee’s only response was to call Jesus’ holiness into question because he let a harlot touch him, thinking “surely if this man was a prophet he would know what type of person this woman is.”
The self-righteous Pharisees did not like Jesus because they were jealous of His popularity, and feared that they would lose their place of honor among the people. Therefore, they sought to kill Him. Dear reader, lest we think we are not at all like the self-righteous Pharisees, let us ask ourselves: how many times have we disobeyed or resisted the Spirit of God because of fear of what people might think, or because we fear we might lose our reputation?
John’s great humility was marked by his statement to his disciples, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
Deep humility, power to bring men and women to repentance, courage, fearlessness, a holy hatred for sin, intimate knowledge of God’s will, certain faith, and an ability to align yourself with God’s will and pray down a visitation of God’s Spirit – none of this can be found apart from spending time seeking God. The Scriptures tell us that God is looking down from heaven to see if there is anyone who seeks for God.
The year of God’s visitation is upon us. But, as Israel missed the visitation of God when the Messiah walked among them, let us not think that we are unable to miss it. If it were impossible to miss His visitation, then He would not warn us of the possibility.
Jesus asked his disciples, “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” When God visits our nation in awakening power, will you be on the crest of the wave? Will you be in the place with God that you, like Elijah and John, will have the privilege to usher in a move of God’s Spirit? Will you be able to announce and advance this next move of God’s Spirit? Or will you be on the outside looking in?
In the coming awaking, will you have the deep humility of Elijah and John which came from spending time in His Holy presence. Will you receive a message from him which will enable you to stand boldly and proclaim the word that God has clearly spoken?
Let us not be like the prophets that Ezekiel and Jeremiah spoke of, who prophesy from their own inspiration, who follow their own spirit, and do not have a message from God.
It is this power, this anointing, and this spirit of Elijah that is needed in the Church today to prepare us for the great and awesome day of the Lord, when God will once again visit this nation in awakening power. Will you be like Elijah who placed himself on the Holy Mount of God to pray for the rain, or will you carry on with business as usual?
Copyright © Bob and Rose Weiner 2007, All Rights Reserved