Elisha the Tishbite
Lesson 45
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“Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.” (James 5:17,18)

The Testament prophet, Elijah, is mentioned 28 times in the New Testament. He had a popular legacy during the time of the apostles for at least six reasons: First, he was an ordinary man through whom God accomplished extraordinary things. As a young man, Elijah embarrassed the petulant King Ahab, angered his wicked wife, Jezebel, rebuked a nation almost totally given over to idolatry, proved that Baal was no god. Second, they regarded Elijah to be a man of valor because he slaughtered 450 prophets of Baal after he proved they were false prophets. Third, Elijah was the first prophet in Old Testament times to raise a person from the dead. Fourth, God took Elijah to Heaven in a chariot of fire without experiencing death. Fifth, Peter, James and John saw Elijah on the mountain where Jesus was transfigured. Sixth, the last two verses of the book of Malachi end with the promise of a coming Elijah: “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.” (Malachi 4:5,6)

Elijah’s ministry lasted a mere 24 years, but he is considered to be one of the greatest prophets in Old Testament times. His greatness had nothing to do with his family tree, his education, his personal wealth, or assets. In fact, James emphasizes this point by saying, “Elijah was a man just like us.” Let there be no mistake – Elijah’s greatness stemmed from god’s greatness. This is because he dedicated his life in service to God and glorified His holy name, especially at a time when such behavior was politically and religiously incorrect! Pay attention because Elijah’s life story contains certain experiences that have powerful end time parallels.

How it Started

The twelve tribes of Israel were divided into two nations after Solomon died (around 920 B.C.). The popular and talented Jeroboam became king over the ten tribes in the North, and Rehoboam, an insolent son of Solomon, was king over two tribes in the South. Both kings were evil minded in god’s eyes and Jeroboam was considered more evil than Rehoboam. Jeroboam led Israel to commit great sins against God, the very One who appointed him to be king over the ten tribes! (1 Kings 11:31) Jeroboam did not trust God’s leadership. His goals were self-serving and he didn’t want the kingdom united. Jeroboam reasoned that Israel would not remain divided as long as the twelve tribes shared the same religion, so he resorted to a scheme to prevent Rehoboam from reuniting the twelve tribes. All the Jews were required by law to go up to Jerusalem three times a year to observe Passover, Pentecost and the Feast of Tabernacles. Jeroboam knew as long as his people regarded the high priest in Jerusalem (who favored the rule of Rehoboam) as their spiritual authority, his control over the ten tribes would not be secure. So, Jeroboam’s scheme included displacing the religion of Israel with a “new” religion. Consider these words from the Bible:

“Jeroboam thought to himself, ‘The kingdom will now likely revert to the house of David. If these people go up to offer sacrifices at the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem, they will again give their allegiance to the lord, Rehoboam king of Judah. They will kill me and return to king Rehoboam.’ After seeking advice, the king made two golden calves. He said to the people, ‘It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’ One he set up in Bethel, and the other in Dan. And this thing became a sin; the people went as far as Dan to worship the one there. Jeroboam built shrines on high places and appointed priests from all sorts of people, even though they were not Levites. He instituted a festival on the fifteenth day of the eight-month, like the festival held in Judah, and offered sacrifices on the altar. This he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves he had made. And at Bethel he also installed priests at the high places he had made. On the fifteenth day of the eighth month, a month of his own choosing, he offered sacrifices on the altar he had built at Bethel. So he instituted the festival for the Israelites and went up to the alter to make offerings.” (1 Kings 12:26-33) Amazingly, the people accepted Jeroboam’s new religion quickly. It is hard to believe that the Israelites accepted the new changes so readily, but they did. Their behavior demonstrates a profound truth about humankind. People can be led astray very quickly if their religious experience is not based on a personal understanding of God’s Word. At the Great Tribulation, the “Jeroboam phenomenon” will occur again when the Antichrist forces everyone to participate in a new one-world religion.

From Bad to Worse

Jeroboam/s blasphemy deeply offended God. One day, the old prophet, Ahijah, had a message for Jeroboam and he told Jeroboam’s wife, “Go, tell Jeroboam that this is what the Lord, the god of Israel, says: ‘I raised you up from among the people and made you a leader over my people Israel. I tore the kingdom away from the house of David and gave it to you, but you have not been like my servant David, who keep my commands and followed me with all his heart, doing only what is right in my eyes. You have done more evil than all who lived before you. You have made for yourself other gods, idols of metal; you have provoked me to anger and thrust me behind your back. Because of this, I am going to bring disaster on the house of Jeroboam. I will cut off from Jeroboam every last male in Israel – slave or free. I will burn up the house of Jeroboam as one burns dung, until it is all gone.’” (1 Kings 14:7-10) History records that Jeroboam ruled over the ten tribes for about 20 years before he was killed and his whole family slaughtered. After Jeroboam’s reign, a series of evil kings followed who were even more wicked than he was! Like a roller coaster gaining speed as it rolls down an incline, sin and apostasy continued to accelerate in Israel after Jeroboam died. About 35 years after Jeroboam was killed, a selfish and temperamental man named Ahab became king of Israel. His wife was a Sidonian woman, named Jezebel, who was notorious for her glamour and her ambition. The Bible says, “There was never a man like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, urged on by Jezebel his wife. He behaved in the vilest manner by going after idols, like the Amorites the Lord drove out before Israel.” (1 Kings 21:25,26) This background information on Israel’s descent into decadence is important if we are to appreciate the appearing, loyalty, courage and actions of a young man, Elijah the Tishbite, who seemed to come out of nowhere.

Elijah Called

About 870 B.C., northern Israel’s decadence had become so evil that God stepped in. He called a “country boy” from a remote desert territory of Gilead to be His spokesman. (God often chooses the most unlikely people to do awesome work.) As a youth, Elijah did not fill his mind with the foolishness of idolatry nor did he chase after the meaningless pleasures of carnal dissipation – pleasures which idolatry not only approved, but exalted. Elijah was devoted to god; deeply concerned and grieved by the idolatrous behavior of his people. Elijah knew that god’s wrath toward Israel’s behavior was long overdue. Elijah wanted to make a difference, but he recognized that he was only a youth and powerless to do anything about it. He had no influence, no pulpit and no money. To him, it seemed as if there was nothing he could do – except pray.

Elijah was a good student of God’s Word and was intimately acquainted with the writings of Moses. He knew the covenant that the Lord gave to Moses at Mt. Sinai was conditional. At Sinai God said, “If after all this you will not listen to me, I will punish you for your sins seven times over. I will break down your stubborn pride and make the sky above you like iron and the ground beneath you like bronze. Your strength will be spent in vain, because your soil will not yield its crops, nor will the trees of the land yield their fruit.” (Leviticus 26:18-20) Elijah was also acquainted with Solomon’s published prayer which was proclaimed in Jerusalem when the temple was dedicated about 75 years earlier. Solomon had prayed, “When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain because your people have sinned against you, and when they pray toward this place and confess your name and turn from sin because you have afflicted them, then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your servants, your people Israel. Teach them the right way to live, and send rain on the land you gave your people for an inheritance.” (1 Kings 8:35-36)

These and other Old Testament references gave Elijah an idea of how to pray for Israel. James writes, “Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years.” (James 5:17) The sincere prayer of Elijah touched God. God was very aware of Israel’s great wickedness, and in Elijah, God saw a sincere young man who was jealous for His honor. One day, God appeared before Elijah and told him that He heard Elijah’s prayers. Consequently, there would be no more rain until Elijah asked for it again. In other words, God gave Elijah the authority to determine when the famine would end! Wow! God placed enormous power in the hands of a young man from Tishbe. God told Elijah to go before Israel’s king and deliver the message that the young prophet could control the rain. Think about it for a moment. This would be like driving to Washington D.C., presuming that you would get access to the President of the United States, to tell him that it was not going to rain until you said so. Elijah’s faith was so compelling that it allowed him to take God at His word. Without hesitation, Elijah set out for Samaria to find King Ahab. Upon finding the king, Elijah approached him without introduction or savvy court etiquette and made this declaration: “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…” (1 Kings 17:1) That said, Elijah abruptly turned and departed. The King was surprised, and then bemused. No doubt some of the king’s attendants laughed out loud at the youthful folly of Elijah. “So here’s a young man who thinks he can control the rain! Yeah, right!” Laughing and mocking, they joked, “That kid must have been out in the desert sun too long.”

The Bible does not mention how long it took for the reality of the situation to dawn on Ahab. Depending on the season. 30 days without rain is not unusual in Palestine. Sixty days without rain is not deadly, but serious. Ninety days without rain and water shortages becomes a problem. It only takes about four months for serious signs of famine to appear. When it became evident that a famine was under way, the Holy Spirit brought a memory to the king and his officials of the sudden appearance and bold declaration of the young man. He seemed to come out of nowhere and disappeared just as fast. Where did this Elijah go? How could he control the rain? At his first claim appeared to be absolute folly, for no man could control the rain – or could they? As the days continued to pass without a drop of rain, it became apparent that someone had caused the rain to cease!

End Time Parallel

There is an important end time parallel here. Revelation predicts that during the Great Tribulation, there will be no rain for three and half years (the same length of time as in Elijah’s day)! A worldwide famine is coming for the same reasons that a nationwide famine occurred in Elijah’s day. Consider this text: “These have the power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over the waters to turn them into blood, and smite the earth with plagues, as often as they will.” (Revelation 11:6, KJV)

Many Christians believe the Two Witnesses mentioned in Revelation and Moses and Elijah. My study has led me to a different conclusion. During the Great tribulation, the Two Witnesses will empower 144,000 prophets of God to do miraculous things just like Moses and Elijah. Like Moses and Elijah, God’s servants will exercise supernatural powers as they see fit. Why will God grant so much power to His prophets during the Great Tribulation? I find there are two reasons: First, when incredible miracles can be performed at will, the miracle working person automatically gets a great deal of respect and attention. Second, when a miracle working person has something to say that is hard to accept, the miracles give added credibility. During the Great Tribulation, god will grant 144,000 prophets miracles working powers so that their antagonistic message will be carefully and thoughtfully considered by people whose minds are dull and darkened by idolatry and sin. Notice how God used this identical process during the days of Paul and Barnabas, “So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there [among the pagans in Iconium], speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders.” (Acts 14:3, insertion mine, italics mine) Why did God give Paul and Barnabas miracle working powers? God gave these powers to Paul and Barnabus in Iconium to confirm the veracity of His messengers among the pagans.

“You Troubler of Israel”

During the third year of famine, Elijah could see that the famine was causing suffering which was overwhelming the whole land. Illness, malnutrition and death had decimated humanity and beasts. All the vegetation was either dead or dormant. Famine had swallowed up the land that once flowed with milk and honey. The suffering of thousands of children moved Elijah’s heart. Starvation is a slow death and the untimely death of multitudes of sick people who wasted away with protracted suffering stirred Elijah’s compassion. The fact that he asked for the famine that caused all this suffering and carnage troubled Elijah’s conscience! Incredibly, in spite of the famine and the suffering it caused, Israel still did not repent. When he could tolerate the decimation of his people no longer Elijah petitioned the Lord to send rain. James writes, “Again he [Elijah] prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.” (James 5:18, insertion mine) This is a touching point. Every now and then, God allows a human being to experience His dilemma. God knows all about pain. When God called Abraham to offer his cherished son, Isaac, on an altar, God wanted Abraham to feel His own loss when He sacrificed His own dearly beloved Son on the cross. When God granted Elijah the power to control the famine of Israel, He also allowed Elijah to feel what He feels when He left with no other remedy than to cause extreme suffering in getting humanity’s attention. When Elijah had enough, he prayed for rain with the same intensity that he prayed for famine.

The Bible says, “After a long time, in the third year, the word of the Lord came to Elijah: ‘Go and present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the land.’ So Elijah went to present himself to Ahab…”(1 Kings 18:1,2) As the famine continued, Elijah had become the most wanted man in Israel, dead or alive. In today’s terms, Ahab and his cohorts regarded Elijah as a terrorist. To their way of thinking, Elijah had brought great harm to Israel. Tens of thousands of people were dead and the survivors were quick to blame Elijah! Ahab wanted Elijah captured and ordered that he be put to death at any cost. When Ahab learned that Elijah wanted to see him, he was surprised! The king went immediately so that he could capture the prophet. “When he saw Elijah, he said to him, ‘Is that you, you troubler of Israel?’ ‘I have not made trouble for Israel,’ Elijah replied. ‘But you and your father’s family have. You have abandoned the Lord’s commands and have followed the Baals.’” (1 Kings 18:17,18) As the king approached Elijah, Ahab spoke first, blaming him for Israel’s misery. Elijah did not blink; neither did he patronize the king. He simply confronted the king with unvarnished truth. At that moment, the king knew better than to lay hands on Elijah – he could sense that divine power rested upon the young man. More than three years of suffering kept the temperamental king from doing anything rash. Ahab had enough sense to realize that he was talking to a prophet of the Most High God who had control over the rain. Think about this story for a minute. Who brought trouble upon Israel? Was it Ahab, Elijah or God? Ahab was exceedingly wicked, Elijah was vexed at Israel’s apostasy, and God was angry about the degeneracy of the whole nation. In a sense, all three brought trouble upon Israel! God wanted repentance and reformation, Elijah wanted the God of Abraham to be exalted, and Ahab wanted relief. The point is that God honored Elijah’s prayer because Israel violated His covenant! This famine did not occur simply because Elijah asked for it, nor was it an arbitrary act of God. This famine did not occur because God loved Elijah and hated Israel. God does not work that way. Punishment by famine was a clearly stated provision contained in the covenant given at Mt. Sinai. When God honored Elijah’s prayer, God was lawful and timely in doing so. Remember, this issue is also significant during the Great Tribulation. Famine is coming and the famine will be “just” because God is lawful in everything He does!

End Time Parallel

During the Great Tribulation, authorities will regard the 144,000 servants of God as “troublers of all nations.” The 144,000 will be found throughout the world, each in his or her own land and tongue. (Presently, the approximate ratio is one of God’s servants per 50,000 people.) As servants of God, they will be hated and hunted for the same reasons Elijah was hated and hunted: First, when God’s servants exercise their miracle working powers, death and destruction will often follow. Remember the plagues that Moses called down on Egypt? Remember when Jesus exorcized the demons out of the two men in Matthew 8? (The demons were sent into a herd of pigs, which ran over the cliff and drowned themselves. Therefore, the owners of the pigs blamed Jesus for the great financial loss they suffered.) Remember when Paul and Silas set a young slave girl free from demonic possession and her owners became furious? (Acts 16) In a similar way, the 144,000 will use their miracle working powers as they see fit to overthrow demonic control. They will demolish foolish arguments and break the strongholds of demons with God’s power! The 144,000 will anger people who love evil and people who are exposed by the 144,000 will hate them. The Holy Spirit, just like Ananias and Sapphira, will strike down people, who try to lie to God. (Acts 5) God’s servants will have awesome powers during their 1,260 days of empowerment. Please do not forget that God’s servants will also perform miracles of healing and restoration. God’s servants will receive a lot of respect from those who love truth, but people who love evil will hate them. Jesus said, “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it can be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” (John 3:20,21)

The second reason the 144,000 will be regarded as “troublers of the nations” during the Great Tribulation centers around their antagonistic testimony. Because the Great tribulation begins with several deadly judgments from God (global earthquake, meteoric firestorms, two asteroid impacts), religious and political leaders in every nation will use their authority of martial law to appease God. In other words, a time is coming when the religious and political leaders of the world will mandate the worship of god in hopes that He will be appeased and cease His horrific judgments. However, the 144,000 will proclaim God’s truth with unvarnished clarity and their opposition to the laws of the land will anger authorities. Like Elijah, God’s servants during the end time will be regarded as “troublers of the nations” and the authorities will hunt them down to be jailed or killed.

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