And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor ram these years, but according to my word. I Kings 17:1

Amazing appearance!

Elijah the Tishbite . . . said unto Ahab. . . .

Perhaps, you are inclined to criticize the writer of this history? You remark that here he introduces a character to his readers, and speaks of him as if all his readers should be thoroughly acquainted with him, while fact is that in his entire narrative he never even mentioned him before?

Perfectly true: like a brilliant and wholly unexpected flash of lightning in a pitch black night Elijah appears here on the stage of the history of God’s kingdom. And, too, you are expected to know him, to recognize him at once: And Elijah the Tishbite said unto Ahab!

Yet, you never heard of him before. This is positively the first time you meet him. You do not know whence he is, for even the cognomen “Tishbite” does not supply you with any certain information about this man. And you would like to inquire, perhaps, into his past. Where did this man come from? Was he a Gileadite? Even this does not seem sure at all, for the statement that he was of the inhabitants of Gilead may denote nothing more than that he dwelled in that wild country for some time, was a stranger, an immigrant in that Trans-Jordanic region. Who are his parents? Where was he born? Did he have an education? Does he bring credentials that authorize him to intrude into the palace of the king, and to deliver the dreadful message which he brings?

But all your inquiries are vain!

Elijah appears without introduction, he presents himself to the king of Israel for just a brief moment, delivers his brief message in staccato notes and disappears!

One flash, one mighty clap of thunder, then all is once more profoundly, distressingly, oppressively still.

You are disappointed, and continue to inquire?

Beware, lest your inquiries lead you in the wrong direction, and your curiosity become the cause of your failure to hear the Word of God that comes to you through this amazing appearance! Beware lest your investigation result in your collecting so many facts about the man Elijah that because of these you are incapable of seeing the Elijah of the Scriptures!

Do you not remember that the Jews of Jesus’ time, the scribes and Pharisees, knew all about Him, and occasionally made use of that knowledge to soothe their own conscience, and quiet the fears of their unbelieving hearts, and to find an excuse and justification for their rejection of Him and their opposition to Him? “And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?” John 6:42. And they made the reasonable deduction that He could not possibly be the “bread of life that came down from heaven”. And so did his own countrymen know Him: “Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? And his sisters are they not all with us,” And they concluded that His words of wisdom could not possibly be true and genuine, and certainly could not be accepted. . . .

And they were offended in Him! Matt. 13:56-56.

Beware, lest in Elijah, too, you be offended!

Men like him need no introduction. You need not know the details of their natural life. Fact is, they are better omitted, in order that he may boldly stand forth as the Elijah of revelation, the man that standeth before God.

And Elijah the Tishbite said. . . .

Hear him!

Elijah: my God is Jehovah!

Elijah: the prophet that standeth before God!

Elijah: the ambassador, who before the wicked king of Israel swears by the living God, and announces that He is Israel’s God!

Mighty figure is he, not, indeed, if you inquire about his origin and character and the facts of his life, for then you will discover a man of like passions as yourself: but when you contemplate him as he here appears, without introduction: a representative of the Most High, declaring war to the end upon the powers of darkness!

For such is Elijah: a light in darkness. And his voice is like the angry roar of the lion, like deep, mighty thunder. . . .

Because he speaks for God in times of apostasy and great wickedness.

Dark, indeed, it was in the land that was Elijah’s field of labor. He labored among an apostate people. For the ten tribes, we recall, had revolted from Judah, and from the house of David, after the death of Solomon; and they had established a separate kingdom under Jeroboam, who made Israel to sin. And whatever may have been the occasion of this revolution, and whatever one may judge of the reason they offered for their insurrection, certain it is, that their breaking away from the house of David was a schismatic act, disapproved by Jehovah. For in the loins of Judah was “the Lion of Judah’s tribe”, and with the house of David God established His everlasting covenant; and to break away from them was to separate themselves from God’s covenant. And though outwardly the kingdom of the ten tribes was more prosperous often than that of Judah, and though numerically they were the more powerful, yet they represented the schismatic church.

And soon they began to reap the fruit of their apostasy.

They became separated, too, through the sin of Jeroboam who made Israel to sin, from temple and altar and priesthood, and worshipped the golden calves their wicked king had made for them. And from that time there was a continual and rapid descent into the pit of corruption and destruction. In his wrath God gave them wicked kings to rule over them. All walked in the sins of Jeroboam. And the people followed their kings in the way of apostasy and iniquity.

And just now, at the time of the first appearance of Elijah, the man of God, the darkness was thickest!

About sixty years of history the kingdom of Israel had passed through, a history of increasing wickedness. Six kings had reigned over them, all walking in the sins of Jeroboam. But the sixth had been worse than all his predecessors, for Omri wrought evil in the eyes of the Lord, and did worse than all that were before him.” I Kings 16:25. And now Ahab reigned, the seventh from the beginning of the kingdom. And again we read of him: “And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord above all that were before him”. I Kings 16:30. He even surpassed his wicked father in iniquity. To Jezebel, the wicked heathen princess, he had joined himself in wedlock. She was the daughter of Ethbaal, king of Tyre and Sidon, who had killed his brother and usurped the throne. It was through Jezebel that the worship of Baal was introduced into the kingdom of Israel. Baal was the chief god of the Phoenicians, the Canaanites, and all the Western Asiatics, related, perhaps, to Bel of the Babylonians. His name means Lord and he was worshipped as the cause and sustainer of all physical life, and of all the reproductive and generative powers in nature. To him Ahab, at the instigation of his wicked wife, who was a much stronger character than the king, built a temple and made an altar in Samaria. Baal was worshipped by the royal family, and the people soon found it expedient to follow suit. A swarm of priests and prophets of Baal were introduced into the land, and occupied places of honor and importance.

And the prophets of Jehovah were persecuted and killed!

The apostasy was complete!

O, to be sure, there were even then still seven thousand that had not bowed the knee to Baal, but they were hid, and did not dare to show themselves openly.

The antichristian powers of darkness prevailed!

The powers of evil were dominant among Israel. They occupied all the positions of power and influence: on the throne, in the schools, in the places of worship. And the cause of God’s covenant appeared completely lost!

And in that darkness, suddenly, unexpectedly, no one knows whence, appeared Elijah!

He stands before God!

His name is Elijah: my God is Jehovah!

He swears by the living God, the God of Israel!

He invades the very camp of the enemy, and there declares war!

Mighty man of God!

Standing before God!

That phrase expresses the characteristic position of Elijah.

Therein, in that position, lies his great significance as a man of God.

And it, too, explains to us the secret of his power.

It is expressed in his name. He is Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead. This probably means that he was born in Tishbe, but that he had migrated to trans-Jordanic Gilead, and dwelled there as a stranger in a strange land. But his name, Elijah, is significant, for it means: My God is Jehovah! There was a clear confession in that name. There was a confession in that name which was a loud protest. It meant: My God is Jehovah over against Baal and all his forces of darkness! The name pictures this man of God as standing before God in opposition to the wickedness of his day!

It is evident from his oath.

He swears by Jehovah, the God of Israel, the living God! And in every word of this oath he emphatically announces that he stands before God. For to swear by Jehovah indicates to stand in His presence, to speak before His face and to call upon Him as a witness of the truth of one’s words. And the announcement is both emphatic and antithetical. A strong confession, and a powerful protest and condemnation of the powers of darkness there are in this oath. Elijah’s God is Jehovah, the I AM: Baal is not. Jehovah is the God of Israel, a relation that has its source and eternal ground in God’s free and sovereign election: Baal can never be Israel’s God, despite the efforts of a wicked king and a cruel queen to enthrone him as lord over God’s heritage. And this Jehovah, who is the God of Israel, is the living God! He acts, He sees and hears, He knows and speaks, He is mighty in all His works. Baal is dead!

Thus the man of God swears confesses, protests, condemns. . . .

And he openly declares his own position: before whom I stand!

And that is always the position of the Church in the world: she stands before God!

And that is always the calling of the Church in the world; she openly declares: I stand before the living God!

Even to the end of this world, even in that dark period of oppression that is still to come over the whole world, the “two witnesses” are the “two olive trees’ and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.” Rev. 11:4.

For to stand before God is the position of the servant-friend, of him that stands in covenant-relation to the only Potentate of potentates, the Lord of the whole earth, Jehovah is His name, the living God. It means to be conscious of standing before His face, of being the object of His grace, of tasting His goodness. It means to receive all power and authority to speak and to act, to fight and to suffer, from Him alone. It signifies to act and to speak in His name and in His behalf. . . .

That is the significance of Elijah.

And that is the secret of his power!

For apparently precarious and impossible is his position and stand. Baal is represented by thousands upon thousands; he has power over the sword; the mighty and the noble are on his side. . . .

And Elijah is a lonely figure!

But he stands before Jehovah!

His will be the victory!

And Elijah said. . . .

But what did he say to the wicked king?

Was he, perhaps, the court-preacher, that must always be careful to please the king and speak flattering words?

He declared war!

Nay more: he even now announced that Jehovah, before whom he was standing, and who is the living God, would reveal His power, and would bring to nought the power of darkness as represented by Baal: “there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word!”

The question,—which is not a question at all, but is vainly raised as such by the powers of iniquity,—was, as always: who is GOD? Ahab and Jezebel, and all apostatizing Israel answered: Baal is God! Or, at least, they declared that Baal also was God. It was Baal that was the cause of all the generative and reproductive powers in nature; Baal that gave rain and fertility, crops and prosperity, according to his worshippers, or rather, according to the wicked pretention of his adorers. The heavens and the earth, therefore, must bear witness, that Jehovah is God, and He alone is Lord of all!

It shall not rain!

Neither shall there be dew!

And lest the shut heavens and the cracked earth be interpreted as a “natural phenomenon”, or lest, perhaps, the drought be attributed to the displeasure and wrath of Baal, the judgment of God is connected with the servant of Jehovah, with the word of him that standeth before God. He must bring the announcement of Jehovah’s judgment to the king; and he shall have the power to shut and to open again the heavens: according to my word!

For this the man of God had prayed: the prayer of the righteous!

Even in the wilds of Gilead he had been standing before God. And his soul had been sorely grieved at the sight of Israel’s apostasy and of the reign of the wicked in the land of the covenant. And he had prayed that it might not rain. . . .

Even as often the church, standing before the God of the earth, prays for His coming in the way of judgments!

And the prayer is heard. It was heard then; it is always heard. . . .

Until the coming of Him that always stands before God!

Come, Lord Jesus!