Series: The Discipline of Sonship; The Prophetic Voice
Sun AM 22 October – Kobus Swart
Mal. 4:5-6; 1 Kings 17:1-14; 1 Kings 18:1-45; James 5:17; Matt. 11:14; Matt. 17:12; Matt. 21:13; Luke 1:17; Eph. 4:11-13; Phil. 3:17; John 1:19-23
The world is in chaos more than ever before. It is my conviction that what is required in this hour is the ministry of Elijah – not as a single “superman”, but an Elijah-company that will move in the spirit and power of Elijah. This is what God is busy forming and shaping, and it is not an easy process (Mal. 4:5).
Let’s first look at Elijah in the Old Testament. The first verse of 1 Kings 17 is interesting; Elijah appears from nowhere. At that time, Ahab was the king of Israel, and during his reign, idolatry took over. The altar of Baal was erected and people worshipped him. Jezebel, the wife of Ahab, had thrown down all of God’s altars. She slew all the prophets of God and replaced them with other gods and other prophets. This was the condition of Israel when God commissioned Elijah to go and face the king. This is what he said: “…As the LORD, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word” (1 Kings 17:1). This is a mighty statement to make in front of a king. Although he was standing in front of the king, in his heart he was only aware of one thing: as always, he was standing before the LORD! He got the king’s attention.
This is where God has put the Church now – maybe not the whole Church, but at least a representative group, is going through a preparation phase. People pray for other ways in which God is going to intervene, but God is waiting for us because He wants to do it through his Church.
Elijah went through a very thorough preparation before the final confrontation with Ahab. God gave Elijah this instruction: “Go away from here and turn eastward and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan” (1 Kings 17:2-3). We must not see Elijah as a “superman” of sorts. 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 earth for three years and six months (James 5:17). There was prayer behind his statement to the king. He was a man like us, but he was a man of prayer. Jesus said, “My house shall be called a house of prayer” (Matt. 21:13). Elijah spoke to Ahab face to face – this must have taken a lot of moral strength, but there was a humility in Elijah that we must not miss. He was not arrogant. What was the source of his strength? He knew that God was alive (1 Kings 17:1). He was positioned correctly. He was conscious of a higher presence. So God told Elijah to go to Cherith. The name ‘Cherith’ means ‘cut off, cut down’. God was busy with Elijah. There, during the drought, he was fed by ravens, and he had the brook Cherith, a little stream of water (1 Kings. 17:4-6). Was God busy purifying the motives of Elijah? Is God presently purifying the motives of His Church? Was it to show Elijah that he depended totally on God? How many of you have reached a place where your total dependence is on God? Every saint, every Christian, every believer that God is preparing to be part of the Elijah company, everyone who would yield great power with men, must win it in some hidden “Cherith” first. Do not look at ‘Cherith’ as a physical get-away. You can go through a ‘Cherith’ experience even in a crowd. Cut off, cut down, being tested to the uttermost, until you trust God. Then the brook dried up (1 Kings 17:7). I do not know how long Elijah sat there, but suddenly the water stopped flowing. God got his attention. Often, we find ourselves sitting by a drying brook of Cherith. The first question in our minds will be, “Has God forgotten about me?” It seems almost inevitable that we have to go that route, and hit the bottom, in order to build that trust and boldness that we find in Elijah. Then the Word of the Lord came to him (1 Kings 17:8). The Word of God will find us! God wants us to trust Him, not His gifts. Many people have turned God into something like an ATM machine. Do not serve God for His gifts; serve Him for who He is.
So the word of God caught up with Elijah and gave him the next instruction: he was instructed to go to Zarephath. (1 Kings 17:8-9). ‘Zarephath’ also has a meaning: “to refine, to test, a smelting furnace”. That is where God sent him, and he had to walk about 140km to get there! God’s plans and His demands are for explicit obedience. But here is some comfort and reassurance: when God puts you through a test like that when He puts you through the furnace, He will also supply your needs. In this case, God supplied a widow and her son. She was busy making food for the last time because her foodstuff had run out (1 Kings 17:10-14). The drought went on for three years and six months. During this period, God was busy preparing Elijah to break the drought. Zarephath is the place where God empties us of our self-will, our self-sufficiency, our self-dependence. Then, the Spirit of God fills the emptiness.
We must learn to live on the Word of God. For almost three and a half years, Elijah lived with this woman and her son, and then the next instruction came, “Go show yourself to Ahab!” (1 Kings 18:1-2). By now, of course, Ahab, and the nation were panicking because of the drought. When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is this you, you troubler of Israel?” He said, “I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father’s house have because you have forsaken the commandments of the LORD and you have followed the Baals. Now then send and gather to me all Israel at Mount Carmel, together with 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of the Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table” (1 Kings 18:16-19). Amazingly, the whole nation gathered. Can you imagine the authority that would be required for a nation to listen? Then came Elijah’s test: So Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one ox for yourselves and prepare it first for you are many, and call on the name of your god, but put no fire under it” (1 Kings 18:25). He gave them an opportunity to call on their god to start the fire to burn the sacrifice. They began to cut themselves because obviously their God did not have the power, and nothing happened (1 Kings 18:28).
By then Elijah had the people’s attention. Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” So all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the LORD which had been torn down (1 Kings 18:30). This was boldness, but he was prepared. If you only do the will of God, and the will of God works through you, there is a boldness second to none. Elijah had it, he was prepared; he was ready. Elijah took twelve stones according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD had come, saying, “Israel shall be your name.” So with the stones, he built an altar in the name of the LORD, and he made a trench around the altar, large enough to hold two measures of seed. Then he arranged the wood and cut the ox in pieces and laid it on the wood. And he said, “Fill four pitchers with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.” And he said, “Do it a second time,” and they did it a second time. And he said, “Do it a third time,” and they did it a third time. The water flowed around the altar and he also filled the trench with water (1 Kings 18:31-35). Why did he do this? To prove that nobody would do anything fake on the human level. No human manipulation! He created an environment where the one and only God would do it. It was at the time of the evening sacrifice. He said 1) Let it be known that you are God in Israel 2) that I am Your servant 3) That I have all these things at Thy Word. That is critically important. These three ingredients should back up that kind of demonstration of power (1 Kings. 18:36-38). Is this not the kind of thing that will get the attention of nations? Not church programs! God’s people, an Elijah-company, must be prepared, will be prepared and is being prepared for this final demonstration.
So what happened next? Elijah slew all of the false prophets! (1 Kings 18:40). Now Elijah said to Ahab, “Go up, eat and drink; for there is the sound of the roar of a heavy shower” (1 Kings 18:41). In the natural, there was no sound, no cloud, nothing; but in the spirit, he could hear the sound of a heavy shower. So Ahab went up to eat and drink. But Elijah went up to the top of Carmel, and he crouched down on the earth and put his face between his knees. He said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” So he went up and looked and said, “There is nothing.” And he said, “Go back” seven times (1 Kings 18:42-43). Sunshine, blue skies – the drought continued. By the third time, anyone who had not been sent by God would be thinking, “I’ve made a mistake, this is not going to work”. But not Elijah; He sent his servant seven times. It came about at the seventh time, that he said, “Behold, a cloud as small as a man’s hand is coming up from the sea.” And he said, “Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot and go down, so that the heavy shower does not stop you'” (1 Kings 18:44). This was all the prophet Elijah needed. In a little while, the sky grew black with clouds and wind, and there was a heavy shower. And Ahab rode and went to Jezreel. Then the hand of the LORD was on Elijah, and he girded up his loins and outran Ahab to Jezreel (1 Kings 18:45). This skinny prophet of God outran Ahab!
Back to Malachi 4:5-6: “Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD” (Mal. 4:5). What will he do? “He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse” (Mal. 4:6). This is very important. Elijah has a commission. When John the Baptist was born, Jesus was quick to say that this prophecy about Elijah was fulfilled in John the Baptist (Matt. 11:14, Matt. 17:12; Luke 1:17). Elijah was a man of miraculous powers, but John never performed any signs! (Jn 10:41). Was John the Baptist the fulfilment of the Elijah that would come according to Malachi 4? What was the real purpose of the coming of Elijah in the person of John the Baptist? Coming in the spirit and power of Elijah must be referring to something else. This grace that John the Baptist carried refers to an anointing which is needed in every generation. It is not a once-only fulfilment in John the Baptist. He is needed in successive generations, and specifically, before the final “great and terrible day of the Lord“. He must come to bring families together, fathers to their children and children to their fathers – to make ready the way of the Lord, to make His paths straight! (Matt 3:3)
The Church has always been called to be a family. It is not a congregational list. This scripture in Malachi is talking about a relational restoration to prepare God’s people for their works of service (Eph. 4:11-13). This is our work of service; this is the anointing that rested upon Elijah; apostolic and prophetic grace rested on Elijah. More than any other apostle in the Bible, Paul modelled the relationship between a father and a son. The Church on earth must come to the place of not only being a restored apostolic life but a fully mature life. This is where things are getting stuck at the moment. It has to go beyond an apostolic people and come to the FULL STATURE of Christ. Paul, says, “Brethren, join in following my example and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us” (Phil. 3:17).
How did John the Baptist describe himself? “I am a VOICE of one crying in the wilderness, ‘make straight the way of the Lord’!” What was his first message? “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!”(Matt 3:2). The Elijah company that God is raising up must become this VOICE in the earth. (John 1:20-23). What is required? Not an institution, not an organisation, nor a wonderful building, but a voice carrying authority in the heavenlies; a voice that can shut and/or open the heavens when necessary! The voice that will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children with their fathers before God comes and smites the land with a curse!
Elijah was a man like us, but he knew how to pray! Are we faithful in our prayer life? True prayer is a connection with God through His Holy Spirit. Time alone with God, time in the Word is very necessary. In this hustle-bustle, this situation that the world finds itself in, it is required for the true Church, those whom God is busy forming into an Elijah-company, to spend time with God and His Word. Go through the tests, go through your brook of Cherith, go through Zarephath, go through the smelter’s fire and come out with divine authority – ready to be that VOICE!