Elijah the Prophet

1 Kings 17 is part of our daily Bible reading today. This chapter introduces us to Elijah the Tishbite, or as we usually call him, the prophet Elijah. Elijah is one of the non-writing prophets. While we today are most familiar with the writing prophets, prophets like Isaiah or Jeremiah who wrote books, there were many other non-writing prophets, prophets who did not write books.

Some of those prophets, like Nathan and Gad, are named in the Bible, while many others are not. Elijah is one of those non-writing prophets; he is, in fact, the best known of those non-writing prophets.

The Importance of Elijah

It was Elijah who worked miracles, a couple of which we see in this chapter.

It was Elijah who publicly proved that Yahweh God is the one true God of Israel and the world by calling down fire on Mount Carmel.

It was Elijah who heard God’s “still, small voice” on another mountain (probably Mount Sinai; 1 Kings 19).

It was Elijah who is referenced in the final verses of the Old Testament (Malachi 4:5 & 6) as coming again to precede the Messiah and who spiritually speaking did come again in John the Baptist.

It was Elijah who appeared alongside Jesus and Moses on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-9).

It was Elijah who James used as an example of prayer in James 5. And it is Elijah who still pops up in our hymns and songs today (remember “Days of Elijah”; I don’t think Isaiah has a song like that!). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ca9LnzJnpjQ

Why Elijah?

So Elijah is without a doubt the best-known of the non-writing prophets and arguably better-known than many of the writing prophets. And I never really questioned why that was. If I thought about it at all, I figured he just got lucky, that the favor of God which allowed him to do and be a part of all these wonderful things was just on him for some random reason.

What I saw in our reading today, though, is that this isn’t the case at all. What I saw in our reading today is that Elijah is the well-known prophet he is because he believed the things God told him.

Elijah Believed God

Elijah believed the things God told him throughout this entire chapter. He believed when God said there would be no rain; though Elijah makes that proclamation on his own, it is likely that God had told him about it previously, and he believed it. Elijah believed he would be fed if he went first to the brook and later to the widow’s home (17:2 & 17:8).

Elijah Shared His Belief

Not only so, but he led the widow into that same belief, first telling her that God had said she would have a miraculous supply of food if she fed him and second encouraging her to act upon what God had said. This idea, in fact, is powerfully stated in verse 16, which says the jar of flour and jug of oil were kept full in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.

God Speaks to Us Today

And Elijah’s belief in the things God told him, the belief which resulted in him becoming the prophet Elijah, is an example for us to follow today. Like Elijah, God has told us things; He has made promises about the future.

He has said He will provide for us (Matthew 6:33).

He has said He will protect us (Isaiah 54:17).

He has said He will bring us into His heavenly kingdom (2 Timothy 4:18).

He has said He loves us with a love that can never fail (Psalm 107).

We Can Believe Like Elijah

Like Elijah, we have to believe that those things will be even though it often looks like they can’t be. Some people call this “seeing life through the eyes of faith”. Some call it “looking at Jesus instead of at the storm”.

I call it “thinking fourth dimensionally”. That’s a term I take from Back to the Future 3. When Doc Brown tells Marty they are going to use a railroad bridge to travel through time in the DeLorean, Marty says that the bridge hasn’t been built yet. Doc Brown replies, “You’re just not thinking fourth dimensionally,” by which he means that though the bridge isn’t built now it will be built in the future when they need it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CUcNM7OsdsY

God’s Promise to Us

In the same way, we don’t always have or see what God has promised us now, but we will have it when we need it; God has promised we will. We can thus “think fourth dimensionally”; we can act and feel as if we have or see these promised things now. That is what Elijah did. That is believing what God tells us. That is living in keeping with the word of the Lord. And that’s what our reading encourages me to do today.

Pastor Doug McCoy