1 Kings 17:1

Elijah: A Man Just Like Us
1 Kings 17:1

Great Commission Church
Intro: Abraham Herschel – “To be a prophet is both a distinction and an affliction.” Elijah was no exception. 

This man from the desert seemed to be at times fearless/invincible on the one hand but cowardly/weak on the other. He is unique. He could run faster than a horse-driven chariot. He is one of only people in Scripture taken to heaven before they tasted death. He is the only one, other than Jesus, who, will return to earth before the “Day of the Lord” (according to Bible prophecy). Only he and Mosest have seen the backside of God as He passed by. If that is not strange enough, he is the only one with an anointing strong enough to call fire down from heaven. Yet, Elijah was also very human. He showed unbalanced emotions. He had moments of doubt and moments of delight, just like you and me. He lived in a time of excessive occult activity. He was the focal point in the clash between Yahweh and Baal. Elijah was a walking contradiction of foresight and blindness, of faith and fear, of power and weakness. One day he killed 850 false prophets, but not long after he ran away from one woman. He dared to demand that a dying widow feed him before she fed herself and her son their final meal. Then years later he raised that same son from the dead. In a fit of self-pity, he complained to God that he was the only faithful one left in Israel. And God had to burst his bubble by telling him there were 7,000 others who had not bowed their knees to Baal. He murmured about being hungry, yet somehow ate food brought to him daily by ravens. Elijah was a prophet’s prophet. 

Elijah stands next to Moses, who was the greatest OT prophet. It was Moses and Elijah who appeared on the Mount of Transfiguration with the Lord Jesus (Matt 17:3). Moses represented the Law at that meeting and Elijah represented the prophets. 

Even though Elijah did not write Scripture like other prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, etc.) his ministry and impact are unforgettable. He was remembered in different periods of history in the Bible. 

•    He was mentioned at the end of Malachi’s book (4:5-6). 
•    The angel Gabriel declared that John the Baptist would go before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1:17). 
•    When Jesus cried out from the cross in Aramaic, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani,” bystanders thought He was calling for Elijah (Mark 15:34-35). 

What was the heart of Elijah’s ministry? He was a human being who dared to believe God would use him.

Why did a prophet like Elijah appear when he did?

The times in which Elijah ministered were some of Israel’s most sinful days. It was during the reign of King Ahab, perhaps the worst of all of Israel’s monarchs. 

1 Kings 16:30 Now Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD, more than all who were before him. 
1 Kings 16:31 And it came to pass, as though it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took as wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians; and he went and served Baal and worshiped him. 

Elijah prophesied among the worship of demons. “Baal” means “lord, master, owner, possessor.” 

He was allegedly the god of the storm and the god of fertility, present in the dew/rain. The absence of rain meant the absence of Baal, who must periodically submit to his god, Mot (death), only to be revived later to once again water the earth.

Elijah’s name means “my God is Yahweh.” He was almost certainly a loner of a man. We know hardly anything else about him, but his opening statement to Ahab tells us some things about his relationship to the God of Israel.

1 Kings 17:1 And Elijah the Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the LORD God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word.”

Without introduction, without warning, without explanation, Elijah suddenly appears in the Bible. Out of the blue. Just like that.

J. Oswald Sanders – “Elijah appeared at zero hour in Israel’s history…like a meteor, he flashed across the inky blackness of Israel’s spiritual night.”

The prophet confronted the wicked King Ahab with a staggering word – there would not be a drop of rain, not even dew on the grass, unless Elijah himself commanded it. 

“Let’s get this straight right here and now, Ahab! You think you have the most power/authority in this land, but you do not. That belongs to the LORD God. Can you stop the rain? No. But He can. He is able to lock up the rain clouds for as long as He chooses.”

“When He tells me, I will tell you.”

Extraordinary. Bold. Ridiculous? Immodest? “I will let you know when it will rain again” was Elijah’s shameless prediction.

Not since the days of Moses had there been anyone like him.

Put yourself in King Ahab’s sandals. You just heard a prophet say that his God would soon destroy everything by withholding rain.

There is one word Ahab would focus on in that prophecy: “there shall not be dew or rain these years.” 

The people of Israel could withstand a drought for a few weeks, maybe even a few months. The wells would not dry up immediately.

But no rain for years and everything either dies or leaves. No more kingdom. “Curse this prophet for cursing us!”

“As the LORD God of Israel lives”

(a)    Elijah’s God is alive and active – a direct contrast to Baal, who was thought to be alive only during the rainy season.

His God is not what the deists would call an “absentee watchmaker” – a God who made the world and left it to run on its own.

The God of Elijah is on top of things. He stays in constant touch day and night with His people and all His creation. 

Nothing escapes God’s notice, and everything that is happening matters deeply to Him.

(b)    Elijah speaks at “oath level” on behalf of His God.

He speaks as God’s final word on the subject. He speaks with extraordinary assurance that what he says is right. 

The point he made to Ahab was that his words were as reliable as the very existence of God. 

Elijah’s word was literally as dependable as God Himself. “If God lives, then my word is true,” Elijah was saying. “If there is a God, it’s not going to rain.” The reverse was also true, “If it rains, there is no God.”

A much-neglected Bible teaching concerns the difference between God’s promise and God’s oath.

Both are guaranteed. It is impossible for Him to lie. 

A promise is often conditional – there is an “if/then” part. If the person obeys, then the promise is fulfilled. (2 Chron 7:14; John 3:16)

On the other hand, an oath is a sworn statement. It is carried out without any conditions. When God swears an oath, nothing can stop it from being fulfilled. 

Gen 22:16-17 “By Myself I have sworn, says the LORD, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son— blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven...” 

Heb 6:13 For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself…

When humans make an oath, they always swear by someone greater. We do this to convince others that we are absolutely telling the truth (ex. “I swear on my mother’s grave”; president of the USA generally takes the oath of office with his hand on the Bible).

Elijah swore by God when he pronounced his oath to Ahab. “As the LORD God of Israel lives before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word.”

This was a word that could not be changed, even if every Israelite fasted and prayed for many days. 

The prophet did not worry that it might rain and nervously bite his nails for the next 3 years asking himself, “What have I done?”

When God grants the oath all doubting disappears.

Heb 6:16 For men indeed swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is for them an end of all dispute. 

“As the LORD God of Israel lives” means that God was behind this prophecy that there would be no more rain. It was not really Elijah’s word at all; it was an unchangeable and immediate word from heaven. Elijah was simply the vehicle that brought the word.

This man Elijah, who stepped on the scene out of nowhere, spoke with a level of authority that seldom appears on earth.

So what?


James 5:17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. 
James 5:18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.

How was Elijah like us?

He lived in an evil day. He knew the same God we know.

If God could use a man as human as Elijah, there is hope for all of us!

Rees Howells – “I’m a perfectly natural man except when the Holy Ghost comes on me.”

He was not frightened to stand before an evil, ungodly king. The fear of God had driven out Elijah’s fear of man. Therefore, he had the kind of spiritual courage that is given only to those who linger in the presence of the living God.

Since Elijah was a man like us, we are called to become men and women like him.