1 Kings 17:1 – Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.”
In the midst of dark and demonic decline, one man stepped onto the stage of history from prior obscurity. We are not told about Elijah’s parents, upbringing, education, or much of anything else. All we are told is that he was from “Tishbe in Gilead”. Tisbhe is apparently such a small ancient town that, to this day, we don’t know exactly where it was. Elijah started as literally a no one from nowhere. His name means, “My God is Yahweh”.
Gilead is a region known as a remote place of refuge. It was home to rugged mountain men who enjoyed the privacy of the desolate and rocky hill country. The people living there generally lacked social etiquette and educational credibility. There is a television show called “Alone” where outdoor survivalists are dropped into remote areas utterly alone with only a few items. They must build shelter, obtain water, hunt food, and manage a fire to remain alive. The person who can endure this rugged lifestyle the longest without tapping out emotionally or physically each season is declared the winner. Elijah would have won this show. He was a rugged mountain man and looked every bit the part. 2 Kings 1:7 describes the reported sighting of Elijah the unpolished prophet: “He said to them, ‘What kind of man was he who came to meet you and told you these things?’ They answered him, ‘He wore a garment of hair, with a belt of leather about his waist.’ And he said, ‘It is Elijah the Tishbite.’” In many ways, Elijah and his successor many years later, John the Baptizer, are brothers in spiritual battle. Matthew 3:4 reports, “John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey.”
How Elijah got a meeting with the evil king Ahab we will never know. A man of few words, he makes it clear that a battle is brewing between the powerful demon Baal worshipped by Ahab, and the One True God, “the LORD, the God of Israel.” Like Jesus who would later stop a storm by the sheer power of His word, Elijah prophecies that rain will not fall for three years when he will pray to God for rain to fall again. A man of few words, God has Elijah openly and publicly starting a fight with Baal, who was worshipped as the god of rain who was believed to control the seasons, crops, and fertility. In addition to prophesying, James tells us that his power came from also praying (James 5:17-18).
We are then told that “the word of the Lord came to him” which is a common refrain in the Bible. According to the OT scholar Gerhard von Rad the phrase “the word of Yahweh” appears 241 times in the OT, 221 in relation to a prophet. Ahab could and should have repented of his sin and received the Word of the Lord, but instead, like King Pharaoh before him, King Ahab hardened his heart against God and sought to put the prophet to death for commanding him to put his sin to death.
The account of Elijah begins with the authority of the Word of God. Look up the following verses to learn more about the Word of God: Isaiah 40:7-8; Psalm 119:1-16; Proverbs 30:5-6; John 1:1-18; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Hebrews 4:12.
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