“And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word” (1 Kings 17:1).
The Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 6:12 that Christians “wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” In the struggle, it sometimes seems as if the victory will be won by the rulers of darkness. The words of the prophet Isaiah (59:9-15) portrays the difficult situation.
“Therefore, is judgment far from us, neither doth justice overtake us: we wait for light, but behold obscurity; for brightness, but we walk in darkness. 10 We grope for the wall like the blind, and we grope as if we had no eyes: we stumble at noonday as in the night; we are in desolate places as dead men. 11 We roar all like bears, and mourn sore like doves: we look for judgment, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far off from us. 12 For our transgressions are multiplied before thee, and our sins testify against us: for our transgressions are with us; and as for our iniquities, we know them; 13 In transgressing and lying against the LORD, and departing away from our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood. 14 And judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter. 15 Yea, truth faileth; and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey: and the LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no judgment.”
These terrible verses accurately describe the awful conditions that existed in Israel during the reign of King Ahab (874 BC – 853 BC) and his heathen, treacherous wife, Jezebel. Because of their many transgressions, God had given Israel up so that they became a people characterized by spiritual blindness and moral darkness.
Falsehood and anger hardened hearts so that individuals could not speak honestly one to another. Truth was fallen in the street and ruthlessly trampled on underfoot. Idolatry had become the state religion. The worship of Baal was widespread. This religion was popular, in part, because Baal had no power to challenge bad behavior. Baal had no prophets to preach against that which was wrong. Baal had no authority to cry out against injustice and cruelty. Israel had no reason to fear Baal. In the words of Isaiah, the Enemy had come in like a flood (Isa. 59:19).
A flood is an abnormal deluge which results in the submerging of the land. Life is suddenly lost. Property is destroyed. A deluge threatens to carry everything before it, and leaves behind a destructive path. There is tremendous power in a flood. The world has seen the Enemy come like a flood so many times.
Soon after this century began there was the Great War. It was fought to MAKE THE WORLD SAFE FOR DEMOCRACY. It was said to be “THE WAR TO END ALL WARS”. And for a while it seemed that mankind had learned to live together during the Roaring Twenties. Life was good. Too good, for these years were followed by the Great Depression of the 1930’s. Despite the violence promoted by the gangsters, despite hunger and hardship, people were wholesome, and decent and God fearing in America.
In Europe things were changing. German rationalism had undermined belief in the Word of God. The church lost its spiritual power as the political parties emerged to provide the masses religion. One man in particular emerged and called himself The Fuehrer. Swiftly he moved to rearm his nation, despite international sanctions. Boldly did he march into neighboring territories to reclaim the land for the German people. No one resisted these bloodless conquests. Finally, his ravenous appetite could not be contained. On September 1, 1939, Adolf Hitler gave the order to invade Poland. World War II began in earnest. By using the Blitzkrieg, the nations of Europe fell. Like a flood, German soldiers, dressed in black, surged over the face of the world conquering without being conquered.
The only thing that saved Europe from total occupation by the Nazis was the promise of the last part of Isaiah 59:19. God was going to be faithful and save the Land of the Reformation. “When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against Him.”
Rising up the Allied Forces, Nazi Germany was defeated, from a divine perspective, by the Spirit of the Lord. So was the Empire of Japan, which had united with the Nazis in the struggle for world conquest.
After the war, life in America moved on. During the forties and fifties, families were re-united. Homes were built. The GI Bill allowed millions to get a college education. It seemed that the Enemy was dead. But the Enemy was not dead, only defeated.
In the early sixties, the Enemy returned to America in the form of a Moral Flood. There was an internal deluge of free sex, the use of drugs, and open rebellion against all authority. Young people tuned in, turned off, and dropped out of society. Cities erupted into flames admist shouts of “BURN! BABY BURN!”
Race riots were reported daily on the news. Meanwhile, the President of the United States tried to fight a secret war in the Far East in a little nation called Vietnam. Napalm bombs were dropped, which burned the skin off of men, women, and children as they ran screaming down the streets. Agent Orange was used to strip the forests of the leaves so that the enemy could be spotted.
On college campuses, the war protest movement found strength. Students marched to the gates of the White House and shouted in disrespect to the president, “HEY! HEY! L. B. J. HOW MANY BABIES DID YOU KILL TODAY?”
In the South, police chiefs, such as Bull Conners in Alabama, turned the dogs loose to control blacks from marching in civil protests. Meanwhile, in the North, in Chicago, during the 1968 Democratic convention, Major Daley turned the police loose to beat up protesters of the war. The sixties became a decade of decadence, and violence, as citizens killed leading political figures such as President John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy.
As the Enemy can come in like a flood internationally, and nationally, so the Enemy can come in like a flood locally to do great harm to God’s people. More than one church has found itself suddenly, without warning, fighting for its very spiritual survival. The Enemy has attacked America. The Enemy has come in like a flood to destroy relationships, turn hearts away from God, spread fear, and cause loss of faith.
When Northern Israel established themselves as a separate kingdom, the Enemy came in like a flood. In fifty-eight short years there was a deluge of sin.
The prophets of God were killed.
The Word of God was forgotten.
False gods were set up to worship.
Immorality was encouraged.
Political leaders were routinely assassinated.
“The Enemy had indeed come in like a flood, and it looked as though there was no barrier left which could stem its devastating effects. Then it was that the Spirit of the Lord lifted up a standard against him, making public demonstration that the God of Israel was highly displeased with the sins of the people, and would now visit their iniquities upon them. That heavenly standard was raised aloft by the hand of Elijah” (A.W. Pink).
Elijah was to be God’s witness to the nation of Israel, for God has never left Himself without a witness on Earth. Even in the darkest days of human history, the Lord raised up a holy standard.
In the days of the ante-diluvian, when the earth was filled with violence, and every imagination of the heart was only evil continually, the Lord had an Enoch, and a Noah to preach.
When the Hebrews were deduced to servitude in Egypt, the Lord gave them Aaron and Moses. So it has been all through history. During the dark days of King Ahab, the gospel light was going to shine brightly once more through Elijah.
The name Elijah means “My God is Jehovah” or “Jehovah is my God.” This name summarizes the mission and message of the prophet which was to preach against Baalism, by reminding the people of the one true God. As the people had become a stranger to God, so Elijah was a stranger to Israel. This aspect is brought out in the fact that Elijah was called “the Tishbite.” The word Tishbite means “stranger here.”
Though Elijah was a stranger to the people of Northern Israel, he was not stranger to God. He was no stranger to the truth. He was no stranger to confrontation for righteousness sake. And he was no stranger to hardship.
His place of origin was Gilead, which means “rocky.” The mountainous terrain of that country made it rocky. Like his countryside, Elijah would need a rocky, or strong constitution, for the Enemy is never easily defeated. Anyone who has ever challenged the behavior of someone else knows how difficult is the task, how dangerous the assignment and how emotionally draining it is. That is why it seldom happens more than once. No one involved in spiritual conflict ever comes out of the situation unscared, and unchanged.
The Bible says that the righteous are as bold as a lion, yet even the lion can get mauled and bloodied in spiritual battles. I was reminded of this recently from the life of C.H. Spurgeon. When you read biographies of this great champion for the truth, you find Spurgeon appearing like a young David ready to do battle with the Philistines of his day in the city of London.
Charles Spurgeon was full of youthful vigor and romance, an eager general, a spiritual Napoleon, in the Lord’s army. There was a holy boldness in Spurgeon’s early years, reflected in his sermons that have been preserved. With unusual eloquence and great passion, Spurgeon bearded the Enemy in England. He was like a roaring lion in the pulpit. Bravely did he fight, year after year, against the powers of darkness.
The Enemy fought back. The Lord’s lion was wounded, and bloodied, and then finally, he was killed in the cause of his King. By all accounts, Spurgeon’s battle against liberal Baptist ministers “Downgrading” the importance of the Word of God was his undoing. His heart gave out at the age of 57 (June 19, 1834 – Jan 31, 1892). It was broken.
Despite the desire of individuals to stand for what is right, there is no glory in time. This world does not place any laurels on the brows of spiritually bold people. Very few even understand what the problem is. We love Elijah today for his holy boldness before King Ahab, and before the people of the northern kingdom, but in his generation, he was not honored. He was a hunted man. He was marked for death. Despite the trauma he would face, Elijah was called upon to deliver a very difficult message to the most powerful man in all of Israel. Conscious that God was with him,
Elijah did not shrink from the task. Once he was brought before the king, Elijah declared, “As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word” (1 Kings 17:1).
By invoking the name of the living Lord, Elijah was taunting the dead gods of Baalism. By predicting a drought of several years, Elijah was telling something which was bound to strike fear and terror into the hearts of the people if they believed it to be true.
The land which once flowed with milk and honey was about to be turned into a vast desert land, resulting in famine, pestilence, and death. The true, living God, was going to withhold rain. No false god could produce it. There were several reasons why Elijah could be so bold in his prediction before King Ahab.
First, Elijah was a man who knew the Word of God, and he knew the God of the Word. In the word of God, it was written that the Lord would withhold His blessings on an apostate people.
Second, Elijah was a man of faith. He believed the word of God and so he began to pray. As a man of prayer, the rains stopped. For six months Elijah had tested the power of prayer before he went before the king. Once before the King, Elijah could tell the ruler of Israel what he knew by prayerful experience. It would not rain. God would fulfill His Word, which was believed, and prayed over. The day had arrived when the living God of Israel was stirred to action to reclaim His chosen people. The glory of God was coming back. The glory was to come in two stages.
First, the glory of God would come in judgment. It would not rain, according to the word of the Lord, and people would know it was the LIVING GOD who withheld the rain.
Second, the glory of God would come in mercy, for after three years and six months, the rain would return. In all of this the Spirit of the Lord was going to come to Israel. The Spirit of the Lord came to lift up a standard against the Enemy.
Herein is a principle of faith to believe. When the Enemy comes suddenly, like a flood, let the Church remember that the power of the flood is limited. The Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against it.
The Christian nations of the world can take hope.
America can take hope.
The local church can take hope.
The glory of God is coming again to us!