"And the woman said to Elijah, 'Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in your mouth is truth" (1 Kings 17:24).
She knew. Now she knew. After all she had been through with the prophet, this was the moment. To her, "now" he was a man of God. He had been so for a long time, but now she knew it. She was utterly convinced. Doubt gave way to confidence. Elijah, in her eyes, was a man of God.
Is this not the desire of the genuine Christian man or woman? Do we not want the people in our lives ”especially those we are called to love, serve and protect” to believe we are legitimate people of God? We, of course, must be careful with this desire. It can become hypocritical. We must not become actors. We reject this Pharisaical error. We only want people to see us as godly, if it is truly so. But once real, we want others to be blessed by that reality, to have what has happened to us impact them for the better.
This is what flowed from Elijah's life. Through his obedience to God, privately and publicly, he became a man of God, seen by this woman as such. What are some of the foundational elements that led to this woman's confession? What elements from Elijah's life can modern people of God aspire to?
1. Love God's Reputation
Elijah was jealous for the Lord (1 Kings 19:10). He hated the Baal worship he saw unfold in Israel. King Ahab had married a cancer named Jezebel. From Sidon, she brought the Sidonian god with her. She hated Yahweh and sought to kill any allegiance to Him by adding Baal. The addition of Baal would lead to suffocation of true worship, for addition leads to suffocation. Systematically, Jezebel rampaged against the worship of God. In Northern Israel, her plan succeeded.
Elijah saw this. He hated it. From a nowhere town and with an unknown past, Elijah began to grieve. He mourned, but he would be comforted. The Spirit within him yearned jealously. His very name "Elijah" spoke of his heart, for "Elijah" means "God is Jehovah." In other words, God is God. Baal isn't.
**The man of God must love God's name and reputation.** High regard for God's reputation is his daily passion. He holds a deep concern for it. Is this not how Jesus taught us to view the world? "And when you pray, pray like this, 'Jesus said, "our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name'" (Matthew 6:9). The first prayer request off human lips to the divine throne is for His name ”His reputation” to be hallowed. It's what we want more than anything.
2. Love God's Word
Elijah burst onto the scene bluntly and briefly. Appearing before Ahab, he announced a drought that would last some years. His prophetic word would stop the rain, and only his prophetic word would release the rain. The prophecy was bold, but why did he make it? Because it was intensely biblical. God had promised the nation that if they turned aside to other gods He would "shut up the heaven, so that there will be no rain, and the land will yield no fruit" (Deuteronomy 11:16-17).
Perhaps Elijah had pondered Scriptures like this one. Perhaps, as he saw Israel engage in idolatry, he began to believe God's judgement was now ripe. However it developed, he clearly had become a man who was willing to believe God and His word. He was a lover of God's reputation, and this made him love God's word.
**The man of God must love the word of God.** Christ has redeemed us, which means He has redeemed us from our own self-governance. We used to love our word, our thoughts, our perspectives, more than any other. We used to self-govern. But now we have Him. We have His word. We have the Bible. Men of God love it and come under it. We pray, "Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law" (Psalm 119:18).
3. Pray To God
Missing from the 1 Kings 17 passage is the prayer like of Elijah. Later in Elijah's story, we read of his prayer after the contest against the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:41-46). But before meeting Ahab, there is no mention of his prayer life. We know he prayed beforehand, however, from James. He tells us, "Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth" (James 5:17).
Before the meeting with Ahab, Elijah prayed. Putting the various timelines together, it appears he prayed for about six months before going to Ahab. This was no weak prayer, either, for the results would be obvious to all. It either would or wouldn't rain. There was no middle ground. The request was big, but so was his God.
**The man of God must pray.** Do not allow yourself to think you cannot, ”...That you are somehow too weak for it, unable. This is a demonic thought, for by the blood of Jesus Christ and with the aid of the Holy Spirit, you can. Elijah was a 'man with a nature like ours'" (James 5:17). He was not superhuman, but all man, blood and flesh, and sweat like you and me. Prayer is war, and there is a battle entering into it, but the man of God will pray.
4. Attend God's School
After confronting Ahab, God told Elijah to take flight. He ordered him to the brook Cherith. There, Elijah would hide. He would drink the water of the brook, while ravens would bring him meat every morning and evening. God sent him there for his own protection, for Jezebel was on a rampage. God sent him there for Israel's judgement, for prophetic silence was part of God's discipline for Israel (Deuteronomy 32:2). But God also sent him there for schooling, for Cherith itself means a "place of cutting." At that brook, God would cut, chisel and shape His man.
At the brook, Elijah learned from God. Lessons on dependance, provision and protection flowed with the waters. But a major lesson Elijah would learn was how to be alone, solitary. As the days passed by, he had only God. No human eyes or mouths or ears were there for Elijah to interact with. But this lesson was all important for the man because his life was to be solitary. Even when surrounded by thousands on Mount Carmel, the man was alone.
**The man of God is willing to attend God's school.** He has His cutting work to perform in our lives. We must come under it. We must learn, like Elijah, that even the greatest blessings from God cannot replace God. The brook was a wonderful gift, but the giver is infinitely more wonderful. God is the ultimate gift, for He gives all the best gifts to His men (James 1:17).
5. Prove God's Power
Eventually, the waters at Cherith dried up for Elijah. He was not immune to the drought, even though his sin had not caused it. In this, Elijah demonstrated the heart of Christ who was willing to come under our curse in order to defeat it. So Elijah ran out of water because Israel ran out of water. At that point, God told him to go to the Gentile city of Zerephath, Sidon. A Sidonian princess had poisoned Israel, but now God would bless a Sidonian widow.
When Elijah arrived in town, he found the widow collecting sticks for a fire. It would be the last time she baked, for her and her son had run out of flour and oil. She planned to stoke her oven one last time and bake her one last batch of bread. She told Elijah they would eat the bread and await death. Upon hearing this, Elijah asked her to do something massive, ”..Feed him first. If she did, the jar of flour and the jug of oil would not empty, Elijah promised. Unlike Israel, the Gentile widow believed. Israel looked to Baal for flour and oil, but this woman believed God for it. Her oil and flour did not end and â€œshe and her household ate for many days" (1 Kings 17:15).
Elijah proved the power of God to this woman. He told her what God would do, and God did it. He had asked her to put God first. If she did, benefits would flow. She went for it and God's power was manifested.
**The man of God proves the power of God.** We make claims about the power of God. He brings peace, satisfaction and joy, we say. In abiding connection to our Christ vine, His life flows into ours, and we bear that fruit. When that fruit is born, we are proving the power of God. Every man is surrounded by friends, family and churches that need to see the power of a life submitted to God. This, like Philadelphia's open door, is an opportunity to testify of God's grace. With all our technical, educational and medical advancements, one would think our culture would have peace. We are the most clothed, housed and fed of peoples, yet we have little rest. The man of God proves the power of God by allowing the rest of Christ to flow into him.
6. Express God's Heart
Elijah lived off the widow's hospitality for a time. One day her son became ill, and severely so. His breath left him. The child had died. She raged against Elijah, feeling this was somehow God's judgment upon her life. Elijah then did something unimaginable. He asked for the boy and brought him to the upper chamber, Elijah's room. There, he cried to God, imploring Him. Three times he stretched himself out upon the child and asked for the child's life to return. The Lord listened to Elijah, and the boy revived.
When Elijah behaved this way, he was living out the very heart of God. God hated the death of that boy, and every person in all of history, infinitely more than the woman or Elijah ever could. He had not made mankind for death, but we are steeped in it because of our sin. When the boy was raised, he became the first of a handful of instances in the Old and New Testaments when God would revive a human life. Elisha would perform a similar miracle; so would Peter and Paul. Jesus would do it three times. But why only this small sample? Why isn't every little child raised? Well, these mini-resurrections point to the final resurrection. God's heart is to raise everyone, to heal everyone, to defeat death for all. When we believe in Christ, we become partakers of the future and great resurrection. He was raised so that we might be truly raised, "...Not into a living dead state" like we are in now, but a full life state where there is no death whatsoever. Elijah's desperation accurately expressed God's heart over the death of mankind. He hates it.
**The man of God expresses God's heart.** His heart will break where God's heart breaks. Elijah expressed this heart. He stepped into this woman's mess as an ambassador of God's great love. God's people today are to operate as emissaries of God's heart. The Laodicean error was "lukewarmness,” deadly because it presents God as lukewarm, which He is not. He is fire. We must open the door to Christ and allow friendship with Him to heat up these hearts of ours. Revive us, Oh Lord!
7. Her Response
After all this, the woman spoke: "Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth" (1 Kings 17:24). The proof is in the pudding they say. She had found a man who was consistent through and through.
Elijah had been a man of God before meeting this widow, but now she knew it to be so. May this unfold from the lives of people today. May there be other men and women and boys and girls who feel strongly that we are people of God.