The Doctrine of Elijah
Elijah was a prophet to the Northern
Kingdom around 850 BC, during the reigns of Ahab and Jezebel, Ahaziah, and
Jehoram, all of whom had rejected Bible doctrine. God chose Elijah to take
God’s message to these rulers and their subjects, and to represent God in
Israel. In order to fulfill this commission, Elijah had to know and
practice the plan of God for his life. The world system’s viewpoint and
practice would not have helped him to do God’s will – in fact, it was
precisely this habit of relying upon the world’s viewpoint and practice by
Israel’s kings and citizens which Elijah was commissioned to preach
Highlights from the Study of Elijah the
Elijah believed the Lord.
had the courage to rest, to act, to speak at the appropriate times.
was involved in risk-taking prayer.
spoke out against spiritual apostasy, including its effects upon the
nation and people.
tended to overestimate his own importance at times, which resulted in
worry, confusion, disillusionment, self-pity, and defeat.
prepared for the future.
Scripture: Central passages
dealing with Elijah are
1 Kings 17-22; 2 Kings 1, 2, 3, 9, 10; 2 Chronicles 21:12; Ezra 10:11;
Prophet: Elijah was a prophet
to the Northern Kingdom. His hometown was Tishbe [about seven miles east
of the Jordan and about seven miles south of the Caesarea line, near
present day Pella] (1 Kings 17:1, 24; 18:22).
Ahab, Rain, and Ravens: Elijah
told Ahab (King of Israel 874-853 BC) that God would judge Israel for
her idolatry by withholding rain for three years (1 Kings 17:1; 18:1).
Elijah then went into hiding by the brook Cherith which ran east of the
Jordan, to escape Ahab’s anger. It was here that the ravens brought food
to Elijah to sustain him during the drought (1 Kings 17:1). Elijah
prayed and God answered (James 5:17-18).
Zarephath: God then moved
Elijah to Zarephath, a city located between Sidon and Tyre, about a mile
inland from the Mediterranean, where he stayed with the widow and her
son. The incidents of the flour and oil which were miraculously renewed
and the resuscitation of the widow’s son occurred here (1 Kings
God’s Spokesman: The prophet
was the spokesman for God. His judgment of Israel was simply the
transmission of God’s judgment which had already been pronounced
(1 Kings 17:8-24).
False Prophets Challenged:
Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal (the fertility god of Canaan
whose worship included lascivious rites and child sacrifice) and the
prophets of Asherah (Canaanite mother goddess, the consort of Ei and
associated with Baal) to make an altar and to ask that their sacrifice
be miraculously consumed by their gods. These false prophets called upon
their gods for hours and gashed themselves with knives to no avail.
Elijah then built an altar to the Lord, drenched it with water, and
asked the Lord to burn his sacrifice. The Lord sent down fire from
heaven and consumed the sacrifice, the altar, and the water. Elijah then
had the prophets of Baal killed (1 Kings 8:19-40).
Prayer for Rain Answered: At
the conclusion of the three-year drought judgment, Elijah prayed for
relief (James 5:17-18), and the Lord sent a heavy rain to Israel (1
Jezebel’s Revenge: Jezebel,
Ahab’s wife, sought to take revenge on Elijah because of his involvement
in the deaths of the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 19:1-2).
Elijah’s Failure: As a result
of Jezebel’s threats, Elijah shifted his occupation from the Lord, His
plan, His provision, and the ministry which He had given Elijah, to
himself and his circumstances. Elijah fell into the “I alone am left”
syndrome of self-pity and overemphasis upon his own importance. He
became occupied with himself and the details of life. This shift in
occupation resulted in worry, confusion, disillusionment, and a mental
attitude of defeat (1 Kings 19:1-14; Romans 11:3-5). Note how his shift
in occupation dominated his mental attitude, confidence, purpose, faith,
and activity. Elijah was useless at this time.
The Lord’s Solution: The Lord’s
solution was for Elijah to reorient to the divine plan, and then to
carry out that plan. Elijah was to go and anoint three men whom the Lord
would then use to execute divine judgment. They were the king of Aramaea,
the king of Israel, and Elisha
(1 Kings 19:15-18).
Elisha the Servant-Prophet:
Elijah anointed Elisha as a prophet. Elisha served Elijah until the Lord
promoted them both: Elijah to heaven, and Elisha to Elijah’s job
(1 Kings 19:19-21).
Divine Judgment on Ahab: Elijah
pronounced divine judgment upon Ahab because Ahab had taken part in the
conspiracy against Naboth (1 Kings 21:17-26). When Ahab heard of this
judgment, he repented (a moral change of thinking involving the whole
person, including a change in viewpoint, intent, and will), and
therefore the Lord removed the divine discipline from Ahab
(1 Kings 21:27-29).
Divine Judgment of Ahaziah:
Elijah pronounced the sin unto death upon Ahaziah, who became king of
Israel after his father Ahab (2 Kings 1:8), because of Ahaziah’s strong
negative volition (idolatry and demon inquiry) (2 Kings 1:1-6, 15-18).
Ahaziah then sent three consecutive military units of 51 men each
against the prophet. The first two units were destroyed. The leader of
the third unit asked Elijah to call off the destruction (2 Kings
1:9-14). Elijah was told by the angel of the Lord, “Go down with him; do
not be afraid of him.” Elijah was to personally deliver God’s message to
Ahaziah. Elijah obeyed
(2 Kings 1:15-16), and King Ahaziah died (2 Kings 1:17).
Divine Judgment on Jehoram:
Near the end of his life Elijah sent a letter to Jehoram, king of Judah.
The letter communicated divine judgment upon Jehoram (the sin unto
death) because of Jehoram’s negative volition and idolatry (2 Chronicles
Three Stops: On Elijah’s last
day on earth, he went to Bethel and to Jericho, where he apparently had
business with the prophets in each place, and to the Jordan River.
Elisha went with him against the initial desire of Elijah.
At Bethel and Jericho the local schools of prophets told Elisha that the
Lord would take Elijah that day
(2 Kings 2:1-7). From this we learn that Elisha is recognized by the
other prophets as the servant and possibly the heir to Elijah.
Five Final Events: Five major
events occurred at the Jordan River (2 Kings 2:8-15).
At Elijah’s command, the river parted and a path formed through it (a
miracle that attested that God was guiding and working His will).
Elisha requested a double portion of Elijah’s spirit (this possibly
refers to the prophetic ability from God and the authority which goes
A chariot and horses of fire and a windstorm took Elijah to heaven
(translation without physical death).
After witnessing all of this, Elisha picked up Elijah’s
fallen mantle, and commanded the river to part again, thus
demonstrating that Elijah’s prophetic ability and authority had fallen
The local school of prophets quickly recognized that Elisha had taken
Elijah’s place as prophet (here we see demonstrated a continuity in
the ministry where there is a desire and willingness for it.
Prototype of John the Baptist:
Elijah was the prototype for John the Baptist (Malachi 4:5-6; Matthew
Mark 9:11-13; Luke 1:17).
Elijah and Moses: Elijah and
Moses appeared with the Lord at the transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-8;
Mark 9:1-8; Luke 9:28-36). Moses was the great lawgiver from the
priestly tribe of Levi, the one who led the Israelites out of slavery
and into nationhood, and Elijah was the great prophet in a time of
apostasy who called the nation and its leaders back to God. There were
many similarities between the two men:
Both witnessed about the Son of God.
Both were examples for the disciples in times of pressure (rejection,
Both were great communicators for the Lord. They supported the Son and
They were two different personalities, from different times in the
nation’s history, but with the mission of communicating the Word of
the Lord and calling people into right relationship with Him.
Both courageously delivered the Word of God to negative political
rulers. They stood in the gap.
The physical lives of both were miraculously ended by God. Moses was
privately taken in death and to heaven by God. Elijah was publicly
taken to heaven without undergoing physical death. Both then returned
at the transfiguration to witness to the reality of heaven and the
kingdom of God.
Principles and Warnings:
Principle. Have the courage to
communicate the Word of God and to serve God even when it includes going
against the political or religious flow (1 Kings 17:1; 18:1-24;
21:17-26; 2 Kings 1:1-15; 2 Chronicles 21).
Warning! Do not fall for crusader self-righteousness or
arrogance. Believers are not commissioned to run other people’s lives.
Believers are not to be self-righteous or arrogant.
Principle. There is a time to
run and a time to fight. Elijah did each at the appropriate time.
Warning! Evaluate the issues, the objectives, the short-term and
long-term plan of God, and God’s timing. Be sensitive to His leading.
Principle. God is able to
provide every requirement for life in His service. The unusual and the
miraculous are the usual and the natural to the Lord.
Warning! God has promised t provide the needs for life in His
service. He is not obligated to fulfill a believer’s every whim or
provide extras unless He so chooses.
Principle. The prophet in the
Old Testament period (pre-incarnation) was a spokesman for the Lord. He
was to communicate the Word of God. In later dispensations
(post-incarnation), God uses other special communicators. Today, in the
church age, the Word of God is transferred to people by the
pastor/teacher and evangelist
(2 Timothy 4:1-5; Titus 3:15; 1 Kings 18:16-18).
Warning! Study so that you have the Word of God to communicate.
Traditions, fads, and popularism will not do.
persistent prayer is a risk-taking venture in man’s eyes, but is
effective and pleasing in God’s eyes.
Warning! This requires fellowship with the Lord
(John 15:7), knowledge of the word (John 15:7), and
faith (James 1:6).
Principle. Faith will be
tested. God may answer in increments instead of all at once. This tests
and strengthens our faith.
Warning! Do not quit too soon. If God said it, believe it. He
will answer. The rain in 1 Kings 18 is an example.
God commands us to do, He will give us the ability to carry this out
until His plan for us is fulfilled.
Warning! Execution requires faith in action on all fronts.
Principle. Do not overemphasize
your own importance. This will result in worry, confusion,
disillusionment, self-pity, and defeat. Your activity will be
neutralized as a result.
Warning! Do not underestimate God’s desire to use you.
Principle. Occupation with
self, circumstances, people, and things will also result in worry,
confusion, disillusionment, self-pity, and defeat. Again, neutralization
Warning! Be occupied with and apply the doctrines of “Fear of the
Lord” and “Occupation with Christ.”
Warning! You live in the world. Do not divorce yourself from
Biblical common sense and reality.
Principle. If you fail through
preoccupation with the details of life, then recover, get up, and move
on. Recovery requires that you find out where you are in the plan of
God, execute God’s plan for you, and confess. Recovery always includes
confession, a search for the appropriate doctrine to apply, and faith
application of the doctrine.
Warning! Do not give up. Failure does not mean you are finished,
nor does it eliminate you.
Principle. God’s sovereign
grace plan keeps going. There is always a job to do, and a remnant to do
Warning! The functional remnant is made up of positive, growing,
Principle. Prepare for teamwork
and continuity in the ministry. Elijah was known by the school of
prophets. When he selected Elisha to continue the prophetic ministry,
the prophets also recognized him.
Warning! Operate under divine guidance through the Word of God,
not through any desire to build an empire or to secure a following for
yourself and your ideas.
Principle. The Lord desires
believers to respond to Him by faith, and to depend upon Him. This
pleases Him. The Lord responds to faith.
Warning! Do not expect the Lord to do that which is contrary to
His Word. All of the “faith” in the world will not cause Him to act
contrary to His stated will.