In the days of Elijah the prophet
The first time we hear of Elijah the Tishbite in the Scriptures is in 1 Kings 17:1, when he comes to prophesy against Ahab who became king of Israel after his father Omri, the previous king died. Ahab was very wicked, following in the ways of his father and grandfather. All of them did evil in the sight of the Lord. Ahab’s reign was particularly marked by evil more than any before him. Not only was he disobedient to God, but he, as a king over Israel, engaged in abominable practices, and led the people in doing likewise, including idol worship and perversity in the temple. So, the prophet Elijah was sent to him to declare God’s judgment on him and all is house.
James, the brother of Jesus, in his letter to the Church speaks of one of the judgments against Ahab and Israel that Elijah prayed over the land because of Ahab’s woeful wickedness.
“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. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.” James 5:17-18
No rain meant no crops.; No crops meant no harvest. Therefore, no food. Instead, there came a major famine throughout the land. To say that Elijah was just a man like all other men, on the face of it, seems like false modesty or excessive humility. The idea does not match the record of his deeds or, the supernatural provisions he received from God during the draught. You can read the full story in 1 Kings 17.
There is also the account of the miracle of provision God gave through Elijah to the woman, a widow of Zarephath, who, when he met her, had nothing in her house, but a “handful of flour in a bin and a little oil in a jar.” Before the man of God spoke to her, she was gathering kindling wood to go home to prepare a final meal for her and her son, before they succumbed to the drought and died. Elijah instructed her to go and prepare as she had planned, but to make a small cake for him first and then make some for herself and her son.
So, let’s recap. Elijah the Tishbite, a prophet, hereafter referred to as “was a man,” is instructed by God to go to Zarephath, a pagan city, somewhere between Tyre and Sidon (today’s Lebanon) to a woman there, whom God has commanded to provide for him during the famine. He meets her at the entrance to the city, only to find out that she has nothing to provide for herself and her son, let alone accommodate him for an extended period of time.
So she tells “was a man” [Elijah] her circumstance and he immediately sympathizes with her and they both prepare for their funerals. No, No!!, NO!!!! This is so amazing!!! After hearing her sad story of woe, he may have expressed his compassion for her situation, but we have no account of such a conversation. What we have is this. He instructs her to do what she had planned, (make a cake for her and her son) but to make a small cake (a small loaf) for him, “was a man,” first, then make some for herself and her son. Then, “was a man” declares to her a promise from God.
“For thus says the LORD God of Israel: “The bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the LORD sends rain on the earth.’ ” 1Kings 17:14
Somewhere between, her gathering sticks to make a small loaf of bread for herself and her son and then die, and hearing a promise from God to provide for her and her son, a miracle of faith takes place in the woman’s heart. She goes straightway and does what “was a man” instructed her to do, making a small cake for him and then some for her and her son. After this, they all ate and lived and the oil and the flour did not diminish, day after day, for the duration of the drought and famine.
When she heard the promise of the Lord. She did not hesitate, but she went immediately, and did what Elijah the TIshbite, the prophet, “was a man,” said. And God supernaturally provided for her and her son, and the prophet.
Then there was the miraculous healing of her son. While the miracle of provision was still in force the woman’s son became sick and died. So, the woman came to “was a man” in her grief and distress, vigorously complaining that he had brought judgment on her house because of her sins, because now her son who was sick, was now dead.
So, “was a man,” took the child up to the room where he was staying in their house, during the famine. He did as the Lord instructed him to revive the child and he was miraculously raised from the dead and returned to his mother.
Then the woman said to “was a man,” “Now by this I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in your mouth is the truth.” 1 Kings 17:24
Just one more “was a man” incident.
There was the showdown with Ahab and the prophets of Baal. One “was a man” against 450 prophets of Baal and the “400 prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezabel’s table.” You can read the full story in 1 Kings 18.
Take a moment and review the story of “was a man” and the Prophets of Baal. It will do your soul good!
“Now Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one bull for yourselves and prepare it first, for you are many; and call on the name of your god, but put no fire under it.” So they took the bull which was given them, and they prepared it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even till noon, saying, “O Baal, hear us!” But there was no voice; no one answered. Then they leaped about the altar which they had made.
And so it was, at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, “Cry aloud, for he is a god; either he is meditating, or he is busy, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is sleeping and must be awakened.” “So they cried aloud, and cut themselves, as was their custom, with knives and lances, until the blood gushed out on them. And when midday was past, they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice. But there was no voice; no one answered, no one paid attention.
Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” So all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the LORD that was broken down. And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD had come, saying, “Israel shall be your name.” Then with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD; and he made a trench around the altar large enough to hold two seahs of seed. And he put the wood in order, cut the bull in pieces, and laid it on the wood, and said, “Fill four waterpots with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice and on the wood.”
Then he said, “Do it a second time,” and they did it a second time; and he said, “Do it a third time,” and they did it a third time. So the water ran all around the altar; and he also filled the trench with water. And it came to pass, at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near and said, “LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word. Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that You are the LORD God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again.”
Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and the stones and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench. Now when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, “The LORD, He is God! The LORD, He is God!” And Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal! Do not let one of them escape!” So they seized them; and Elijah brought them down to the Brook Kishon and executed them there.
Then Elijah said to Ahab, “Go up, eat and drink; for there is the sound of abundance of rain.” So Ahab went up to eat and drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; then he bowed down on the ground, and put his face between his knees, and said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” So he went up and looked, and said, “There is nothing.” And seven times he said, “Go again.”
Then it came to pass the seventh time, that he said, “There is a cloud, as small as a man’s hand, rising out of the sea!” So he said, “Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot, and go down before the rain stops you.’ ”Now it happened in the meantime that the sky became black with clouds and wind, and there was a heavy rain. So Ahab rode away and went to Jezreel. Then the hand of the LORD came upon Elijah; and he girded up his loins and ran ahead of Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.” 1 Kings 18:25-46
So, Ahab returned to his house and told Jezebel what “was a man” had done and that he had killed all their prophets. Then Jezebel swore to kill “was a man,” in the same way he had killed the prophets. So “was a man” fled from Jezebel fearing for his life. But the Lord came to him as he was hiding in a cave in the wilderness beyond Beersheba and told him to go stand on the mountain before the Lord.
Then the Lord passed by him, and there was a great wind that tore into the mountain and broke the rocks into pieces. Then there came an earthquake, and then a fire, but the Lord was not in any of these. After the fire there came a still small voice. Calling him out of the cave and sending him to anoint Hazael, King of Syria and Jehu, King of Israel and anoint Elisha to replace, him, “was a man.”
All the acts of Elijah, “was a man” are written in the book of Kings.
What then is the message of James 5:17? Was Elijah merely a man, an average, Joe? Is the Holy Spirit through James telling us that anything Elijah did, any “is a man” of us can do? The answer is yes and no.
First no. If that were the case everything any believer says would be happening all around us all the time. On any given day on a whim, we could go out and supernaturally multiply flour and oil that would be used daily and never run out for at least three and a half years. Or we could stop any hearse in a funeral procession and take the body out of the casket and breathe on it and the dead would come back to life. Or we could just tell the rain to stop falling on the earth for three and a half years and it would happen. If saying Elijah was a man is intended to be an object lesson for us to go and do likewise, then we should see these kinds of things happening all the time.
The message of Elijah “was a man” is that he was indeed a man, but not just, any man. He was a man obedient to the will and Word of God. He was a man who prayed. He was a man who, when he heard clearly from the Lord, he did what God instructed him to do, without question or hesitation.
He did nothing of himself. But whatever God told Him to do he did it without doubting, without argument or excuses. He just did it!
This is what a man of faith and prayer can do. Elijah’s “was a man-ness” was clearly evident when after slaying 450 of the prophets of Baal he ran for his life and hid in a cave in fear of Jezebel’s determination to kill him. He was strong and courageous one minute, and fearful and cowering in the next. Very human. Very “was a man”-like.
But, it was not for his cowering that God made him an example for us all. It was for his prayerful and faithful obedience to God that he is forever remembered in God’s Word. Do you want an anointing like Elijah’s? Then ask for it. But when you do be sure you are willing to live the life that it will require. Any “was a man” can.
We are the image of God to the World. So, when we speak the Word of God in faith, when we pray in faith, when we act in faith, we have all the hosts of Heaven backing us up.