Series: General | Title: Learning from the OT Leaders : Elijah – Naturally Supernatural | Sermon by: Pastor Balan Swaminathan | Location: House of Intercessory Prayer Ministries, Halifax, NS Canada | Date: Sunday February 18, 2018
Elijah – Naturally Supernatural
In this sermon, we are going to talk about another great leader from the Old Testament – Elijah. A prophetic voice in the wilderness rather than that, a prophetic voice in the Northern Kingdom of Israel. When we think of Elijah, fire comes in our mind. Some may say that bread and meat comes in their mind but for now let that be fire.
I want to take you through a historical timeline for us to understand the situation in which Elijah was operating in. This is very important for this sermon. I want to take you back a thousand years before Christ.
- The Kingdom of Israel was under the leadership of Saul, David and Solomon from 1030 to 931 BC. In 931 BC the kingdom was divided, it’s a biblical story, into Northern Kingdom and Southern Kingdom.
- The Northern kingdom was called the Kingdom of Israel or the Kingdom of Samaria which include the cities of Shechem and the city of Samaria.
- The Southern Kingdom was called the Kingdom of Judah and Jerusalem was the capital city of the Southern Kingdom.
- The Northern Kingdom was formed by ten tribes except the tribe of Judah and Benjamin and the rulership was under Jeroboam. He’s from the tribe of Ephraim.
- The Southern Kingdom was formed by two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, under the leadership of Rehoboam – son of King Solomon.
- Prophets like Elijah, Elisha, Amos and Hosea – they prophesied in the Northern Kingdom. Prophets such as Obadiah, Joel, Isaiah, Micah, Jeremiah, Zephaniah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Ezekiel, Daniel, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi – they prophesied in the Southern Kingdom over a period of time under the rulership of many kings.
- Now remember that Elijah prophesied in the Northern Kingdom around 904 to 850 BC – for over 50 years. During the time of Elijah, the Northern Kingdom was under the rulership of King Ahab.
- Elijah lived during the reign of Israelite Kings Ahab, and a short time under the King Ahaziah and Jehoram during the Ninth Century. We can place Elijah on the timeline somewhere around 864 BC – that was the time Elijah was operating under the anointing that God has given, he was natural, but he was supernatural too.
A quick historical setting to know the condition of the Kingdom of Israel at the moment when Elijah was prophesying.
- The Israelite King by name Omri had allied himself with the Phoenician cities of the coast and his son Ahab who was married to Jezebel. Jezebel was the daughter of Ethbaal – the king of Tyre and Sidon.
- Ethbaal was a priest in the temple of Astarte, which is the Phoenician equivalent of Roman Venus or Greek Aphrodite – goddess of love, beauty and sexuality.
- Under Astarte, sexual immorality was part of the worship.
- The priest of Astarte was a prostitute. Ahab should have never married Jezebel, but he did.
Her name Jezebel originally means the prince Baal exists. We remember Baal was a weather god and he was worshiped in the Syro-Palestinian world in Biblical Hebrew Jezebel name simply means – there is no nobility.
- Now Jezebel is an evil woman. As Ahab married Jezebel, he went to serve and worshiped Baal. So Ahab became a Baal worshiper at the time when Elijah appeared in front of him.
- Ahab set up an altar in the temple of Baal.
So when the wicked King Ahab married a wicked woman Jezebel, the daughter of the priest of Astarte, the wickedness in the Kingdom of Israel multiplied. Everywhere there were temples made for Astarte and statues were made for Jezebel.
We read that in 1 Kings 16:29-33 In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab the son of Omri became king over Israel; and Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty-two years. 30 Now Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him. 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. 32 Then he set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal, which he had built in Samaria. 33 And Ahab made a wooden image. Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him.
Sudden Introduction of Elijah
Ahab was such a wicked king and Jezebel added to him and they literally spoiled the land, you can imagine the wrath of God that is about to come upon this land. At that set up Elijah appeared suddenly in front of King Ahab as we read in 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.”
When a nation is going through such a wicked situation God brought this great leader who is now standing in front of Ahab. The nation of Israel is going to be punished for all the support they have been providing for the cult religion.
- Elijah was a great leader who appeared on a political and religious set up to challenge the apostasy – the falling apart or the renunciation of faith. Everybody was denying God and were worshiping Baal.
- Elijah came at the right time and he challenged the cult leaders like King Ahab and Jezebel.
- He confronted them physically and he challenged the people of Israel saying, how long will you falter between two opinions. If the Lord if God, follow Him, or if it is Baal follow Baal.
- If we think about Elijah, it is very interesting as the Word of God does not say that he has any family, he had no friends either. He had nobody to stand with, he was just all alone. But he was totally depending on God.
Elijah’s ministry is characterized by a couple of supernatural instances.
- Elijah was fed by a raven in the brook of Cherith. He was drinking water from the brook. (17:1-6)
- Elijah was asked to go to Zarephath to serve the widow, she had a bin of flour and a jar of oil. She wanted to cook bread and eat the last meal with her son, and they wanted to die. (17:8-16)
- There was a great famine and God sent Elijah to minister to her, the son died eventually, and God sent Elijah again to revive the son. Miraculous things were happening. (17:17-23)
- Fire came down in Mount Carmel when Elijah was standing in front of all the Baal prophets. The fire of God came and consumed all the sacrifices. (18:36-38)
- All supernatural things were happening in Elijah’s life but he was also afraid of Jezebel at times. He came under the broom tree and he was crying out to God and he was praying that he might die. He said, Lord it is enough, take my life. Because I am nothing, I am nobody and I am not better than my fathers. An angel of God appeared there suddenly, fed him and told him, you need to walk, you need to run for a long time Elijah (19:5-7). The Bible says Elijah could walk forty days and forty nights with the meal that was fed by the angel. How good would it have been if you are fed by the angel of God? We don’t need to buy our provisions.
- Elijah again called the fire from heaven and he consumed the captain along with 50 men of the King Ahaziah. A man with fire. (2 Kings 1:9-12)
- He divided the Jordan river and walked through river Jordan, miraculous things. (2 Kings 2-8)
- Eventually he was raptured into the presence of God in a whirlwind, he did not see physical death. (2:11)
His leadership qualities are very evident as he proved himself to be a leader in a non-religious environment. Elijah’s ministry is made of several episodes.
1. Leaders are Ordinary People
Bible says Elijah was a man with a nature like us. 2 Kings 1:8 They replied, “He had a garment of hair and had a leather belt around his waist.”
- Elijah was an ordinary man living in the wilderness.
- Most of leaders in the Bible were down to earth.
- Think about Moses – a great man of God but he was just a shepherd. David – a shepherd boy. Noah – although he was not a carpenter, he was forced to be one. Abraham – his father was an idol worshiper, God pulled him out of his traditions.
- Most of the leaders in the Word of God are just ordinary men and women like us and God used the ordinary to do extraordinary things.
James 5:17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months
What is your nature today? Rebelling? Is that our nature? At times we rebel, we rebel against God too.
Elijah was like our nature, at times we are lazy, Elijah was like us.
- We don’t know about his childhood and upbringing at all.
- But looks like Elijah had a very humble beginning.
1 Kings 17:1-3 Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.” 2 Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah: 3 “Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Cherith Ravine, east of the Jordan. 4 You will drink from the brook, and I have directed the ravens to supply you with food there.” 5 So he did what the Lord had told him. He went to the Cherith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. 6 The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook. 7 Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land.
Think about the beginning of this great man of God, he had a very humble beginning. Some of us complain when we come to this nation, I don’t have what I used to have in my nation. I’m not blessed with all the blessings that I still experience when I go back to my nation. We are paid hourly and sometimes we are paid less than the minimum salary, we have complaints. Do you? Yes? But think about Elijah, he had a very humble beginning. He was a prophet and nature obeyed his word. But where is he sitting now? Near a brook.
- Think about his life, he had to start his career with the ration that was provided every day, limited food. How much can a raven carry?
- Every morning he had to wait for the raven to come. He had to look at all the directions as to where the raven is coming from. If the raven doesn’t come, he has to starve. Think about ourselves being in that situation, we complain.
- He had to drink the water from the river.
- The Bible says the brook dried one day, that means he had no water. Leaders are ordinary people. When we look at somebody who is leading, they may appear very great in front of people but they have an ordinary life like you and me. They go through more than what we go through. Think about the great leaders of this nation, how much they struggle, the number of people they deal with, the amount of opposition they face, how many talks they need to deliver. Think about those lives, leaders are ordinary people, they are just like us.
- Elijah went through all the toughness and roughness of life as he was beginning his ministry. Same thing with us.
- At times he felt like giving up. Don’t we feel that too? Elijah was just not an exemption he was just going through the same thing.
To become a leader, we don’t have to be rich or popular, or short or tall, we don’t need to have a great personality to become a leader. Leaders are ordinary people. Elijah is a hairy man, but he is a great leader.
2. Leaders never give up in Prayer
1 Kings 18:41-46 Then Elijah said to Ahab, “Go up, eat and drink; for there is the sound of abundance of rain.” 42 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, 43 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.” 44 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.’ ” 45 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. 46 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.
Remember this, Elijah declared three years of drought. When the drought ended, Elijah was not sure what should come when the drought ends. He was not sure whether it is not going to rain or not as the clouds were clear. Because Elijah spoke God’s Word, it is supposed to rain. Elijah prophesied over the situation saying that there will not be rain for three years. But he did not expect it to rain automatically. Elijah went to pray. His face touched the ground and put his face between his knees. Some of may not be able to do this. Why was Elijah in such a situation praying to God? Humiliating himself and humbling himself? Prophesy has to come true. Will a prophesy come true automatically on itself? No. Elijah had to pray.
- A Prophesy will come true when we pray about it.
- Prophecy comes true when we obey God and follow His footsteps
- When we cancel the opposing forces of the enemy through prayer a prophesy comes true
Elijah prophesied, but the prophecy did not come true until he prayed for that. Sometimes we have complained, saying God spoke to me through the man of God and prophesied to me but things did not happen. Whose problem is it? God’s problem? Its our problem! We think that things will happen automatically, no that is not the case. When we get Prophetic words, God wants us to hold onto it and keep praying about it. Keep fasting and praying about it. When the prophetic word comes to you, Satan will become very active. He will try his level best to make sure that the prophetic word will not come true in your life. We need to cancel all powers of the devil; to make sure that the prophetic word comes true in your life. That is exactly what Elijah is doing right now.
Verse 44 says – before he even went to pray, as per his faith, he says he hears a sound of abundance rain. But there was no rain, yet Elijah could hear that. A man of great faith.
- He went to Mount Carmel a few days before, and fire had come down.
- There he had knelt down and put his face between his knees; his posture tells us that he is humbling himself to pray.
James 5:16-18 Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. 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. 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.
He was a righteous man and he prayed earnestly. Now he is praying and humbling himself asking God so that the prophecy will come true. Leaders never give up in prayer. Leading people involves responsibility and we need to pray about it.
3. Leaders are always Zealous for God
- Elijah’s life tells us that leaders have a great zeal for God.
- Leaders are determined, no matter what comes in my way, I will not walk away from God.
- They are determined to achieve what God wants them to achieve. There will be ups and downs, just like the life of Elijah. But we should never lose the zeal. Leaders never take a step backward, instead they will move forward.
- Leaders have a burning zeal within them for God. Do you have the zeal with you right now?
- When things are not going well, leaders don’t keep quiet, they will do something about it.
- They don’t try to adjust or compromise, they will try to do what God wants them to do.
- When they see things that are not in order, they burst out and they try to bring things into discipline.
1 Kings 19:10 So he said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.”
1 Kings 19:14 And he said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; because the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.”
Do you know when, where, why and how the zeal for God comes in the life of a leader?
- When people forget the covenant (the Word of God) – a zeal comes within the heart; God woke him up in the middle of the night and asked him to pray. Why does God do that? God does that in many others’ life too. The burning zeal comes to us when we see people not walking according to the Word of God.
- Elijah found that altars are brought down. What does it mean? It means there is no prayer. Elijah saw this happening in front of him, the Word of God was being turned down, there was no prayer.
- Even the prophets were being killed, that means the prophetic voice ceases – we stop hearing from God. How can a true leader keep himself quiet when he sees people not praying, stop listening to God and don’t read the Word of God? The zeal inside a true leader rises to bring back the order.
Psalm 119:139 My zeal has consumed me because my enemies have forgotten your words.
Think about it, a very meaningful Psalm. Who has forgotten the Word of God? Not his family, not his church, but his enemies. If we were there we pray saying, Lord put them under wrath, take them to hell. But the Psalmist says, my zeal has consumed me. He couldn’t sleep, eat or drink. He has been fasting, for whom? For his enemies. The zeal of God shakes a man or woman of God. At the same time, he is an intercessor. Leaders are intercessors too.
- Elijah was challenging people to follow God or Baal.
- Elijah saw the people of God coming to church giving offerings and also going to pagan festivals and making their sacrifices.
- Elijah saw people sitting in the front row of the church, taking part in the Holy Communion. They will also go there and eat food that are offered to idols.
- He saw people brining tithes and offering to the church and sacrificing at the pagan altar
He saw this happening and he could not keep quiet. Elijah came to the people of God, not the enemies but his own people – children of Israel.
1 Kings 18:21 And Elijah came to all the people, and said, “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people answered him not a word.
Elijah is saying separate yourself from this wicked generation.
4. Great leaders are hard to be found, but they are easy to be replaced
- True leaders also identify their successor, they mentor them and train them.
- Success without a successor is a failure.
- True leaders don’t invest in buildings, but they invest in the lives of the people. You are called to lead and invest, to invest in the lives of our children. More than buying homes, investing in stock market, we need to invest in the life of our children. True leaders invest in the life of people.
- True leaders, at the end of their lives, make their lives unnecessary – Myles Munroe (Bahamian Minister – in his last Television interview before his death). True leaders when they come to the end of their life don’t hold anything with them because they know they are going to go away. Its already handed over. Even the Bahamas Ministry, when he is gone, the ministry is still continuing. He has already invested in the lives of people there.
God spoke to Elijah, go return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus and when you arrive, you will see Elisha the Shaphat of Abel-Meholah plowing in the field. You shall go and anoint him as a prophet to take your place.
1 Kings 19:19-21 So he departed from there, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he was with the twelfth. Then Elijah passed by him and threw his mantle on him. 20 And he left the oxen and ran after Elijah, and said, “Please let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.” And he said to him, “Go back again, for what have I done to you?” 21 So Elisha turned back from him, and took a yoke of oxen and slaughtered them and boiled their flesh, using the oxen’s equipment, and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he arose and followed Elijah, and became his servant.
Elisha was taken by Elijah during the short span of time to train him in the ministry. Elijah wanted to go from Gilgal to Bethel and Elisha wanted to come with him. But Elijah wanted Elisha to stay, but Elisha insisted to come with Elijah. As a leader Elijah took Elisha there and from Bethel to Jericho, from Jericho to Jordan before he was caught up in the whirlwind. Elisha was willing to make his successor without holding anything in him.
Great leaders train their successor.
- Moses left Joshua, when Moses was gone, Joshua was right there to take up the job.
- Jesus trained twelve disciples.
- Apostle Paul trained Timothy and Titus.
- Here we see Elijah training Elisha so that the next leader can be easily found.
God wants us to invest in the life of people, more than property or buildings.
- God certainly wants us to invest in the life of our children.
- God wants us to invest in the life of people that God has given in our hands.
- God wants us to invest in the church to bring up leadership in the church.
Elijah was a very rare personality; we cannot find another Elijah. God brought him in the right time in the history. But Elisha was already there, it was not hard to replace Elijah. When Elijah was gone, he was already there for the job. He went back to the river Jordan, in the same way Elijah parted the river Jordan Elisha did.
We believe that God has called each one of us to lead and we can apply these principles of a great leader in our own lives.
- Leaders are ordinary people
- Leaders Never Give up in Prayer
- Leaders are always zealous for God
- Great leaders are hard to be found, but they are easy to be replaced