Where are the Elijahs of God?

Bible Book: James  5 : 16-18
Subject: Elijah; Spirit of God; Commitment; Willingness

Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe writes, “Some may ask, ‘Where is the LORD God of Elijah?’ (2 Kings 2:14). Perhaps the better question is, where are the Elijahs?”[1] Where are the Elijahs of God? James Gilmour (1843-1891) of Mongolia writes, “Do not we rest in our day too much on the arm of flesh? Cannot the same wonders be done now as of old? Do not the eyes of the Lord still run to and fro throughout the whole earth to show Himself strong on behalf of those who put their trust in Him? Oh, that God would give me more practical faith in Him! Where is now the Lord God of Elijah? He is waiting for Elijah to call on Him.”[2]

Dr. F. B. Meyer (1847-1929) writes, “Elijah grew up like the other lads of his age. In his early years he probably did the work of a shepherd on those wild hills. As he grew to manhood, his erect figure, his shaggy locks, his cloak of camel's hair, his muscular, sinewy strength — which could out strip the fiery coursers of the royal chariot and endure excessive physical fatigue — distinguished him from the dwellers in lowland valleys. But in none of these would he be specially different from the men who grew up with him in the obscure mountain hamlet of Thisbe, whence he derived the name of Tishbite. There were many among them as lithe, and swift, and strong, and capable of fatigue, as he. We must not look to these things for the secret of his strength.

As he grew in years, he became characterized by an intense religious earnestness. He was ‘very jealous for the Lord God of hosts.’ Deeply taught in Scripture, especially in those passages which told how much Jehovah had done for His people, Elijah yearned, with passionate desire, that they should give Him His meed of honor. And he learned that this was lacking by the dread tidings that came in broken snatches. Messengers after messenger told how Jezebel had thrown down God's altars and slain His prophets and replaced them by the impious rites of her Tyrian deities -- his blood ran liquid fire, his indignation burst all bounds, he was ‘very jealous for the Lord God of hosts.’ O noble heart! I wish that we could be as righteously indignant amid the evils of our time! Oh for a coal from that pure flame that burnt on thine inner hearth!

But the question was, How should he [Elijah] act? What could he do — a wild, untutored child of the desert? There was only one thing he could do — the resource of all much-tried souls — he could pray, and he did: ‘He prayed earnestly’ (James 5:17).”[3]

James 5:16b-18 reads, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. 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 land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.”

Note three things about Elijah from our text.

I. First, note the willingness of Elijah.

James 5:16b reads, “The effective, fervent prayer . . . avails much. Elijah . . . prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.”

Leonard Ravenhill (1907-1994) writes, “We know Elijah was ‘a man of like passions as we are,’ but alas! we are not men of like prayer as he was!’ One praying man stands as a majority with God! Today God is bypassing men—not because they are too ignorant, but because they are too self-sufficient. Brethren, our abilities are our handicaps, and our talents are our stumbling blocks!”[4] Ravenhill notes, “Elijah prayed, not for the destruction of the idolatrous priests, nor for thunderbolts from heaven to consume rebellious Israel, but that the glory of God and the power of God might be revealed.”[5]

Jesus said, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41b). Remember these words were spoken in relation to prayer.

Elijah was willing to put himself out. 1 Kings 17:1-7 reads, “And Elijah the Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead, said to Ahab, ‘As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word.’ Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, ‘Get away from here and turn eastward, and hide by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan. And it will be that you shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.’ So he went and did according to the word of the Lord, for he went and stayed by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the brook. And it happened after a while that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land.’” 1 Kings 18:41-46 reads, “Then Elijah said to Ahab, ‘Go up, eat and drink; for there is the sound of abundance of rain.’ So Ahab went up to eat and drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; then he bowed down on the ground, and put his face between his knees, and said to his servant, ‘Go up now, look toward the sea.’ So he went up and looked, and said, ‘There is nothing.’ And seven times he said, ‘Go again.’ Then it came to pass the seventh time, that he said, ‘There is a cloud, as small as a man’s hand, rising out of the sea!’ So he said, ‘Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot, and go down before the rain stops you.’ Now it happened in the meantime that the sky became black with clouds and wind, and there was a heavy rain. So Ahab rode away and went to Jezreel. Then the hand of the Lord came upon Elijah; and he girded up his loins and ran ahead of Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.”

Dr. F. B. Meyer comments, “. . . in his prayer he seems to have been led back to a denunciation made years before by Moses to the people — that if they turned aside and served other gods, and worshiped them, the Lord's wrath would be kindled against them; and He would shut up the heaven so there should be no rain (Deuteronomy 11:16-17). Flowing into this mold, his thoughts must have shaped themselves somewhat thus: ‘If my God does not fulfill this threat the people will think that it is an idle tale, or that He is a myth of the past — a dead tradition. This must not be. Better far that the land should suffer the terrors of famine, and the people experience the bitterest agonies of thirst, and that I should be torn limb from limb. It were better that we should suffer the direst physical woes that can blast our national prosperity, than that we should come to think that the Jehovah of our fathers is as dead as the idols of the heathen.’ And so he set himself to pray that the terrible threat might be literally fulfilled. ‘He prayed earnestly that it might not rain.’

A terrible prayer indeed! And yet, was it not more terrible for the people to forget and ignore the God of their fathers, and to give themselves up to the licentious orgies of Baal and Astarte? Remember, too, what a wrong construction might be put upon the utter silence of God Himself. Could anything be more disastrous than that the statute book should be filled with laws which the Lawgiver could not or would not enforce? Nothing could be more detrimental to the true conception of God. ‘These things hast thou done, and I kept silence; thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself: but I will reprove thee and set them in order before thine eyes’ (Psalm 50:21). . . .

And as Elijah prayed, the conviction was wrought into his mind that it should be even as he prayed; and that he should go to acquaint Ahab with the fact. Whatever might be the hazard to himself, both king and people must be made to connect their calamities with the true cause. And this they evidently did, as we shall see (1 Kings 18:10). That the drought was due to his prayer is also to be inferred from the express words with which Elijah announced the fact to the king: ‘There shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word’ (1 Kings 17:1). What a meeting was that! We know not where it took place, whether in the summer palace when Jezebel was at her consort's side, or when Ahab was surrounded by his high officers of state in Samaria. But wherever it took place, it was a subject worthy of the highest art and genius. The old religion against the new; the child of nature against the flaccid child of courts; camel's hair against soft clothing; moral strength against moral weakness.”[6]

Frances Ridley Havergal (1836-1879) shares the following:

There are noble Christian workers,

The men of faith and power,

The overcoming wrestlers

Of many a midnight hour;

Prevailing princes with their God,

Who will not be denied,

Who bring down showers of blessing

To swell the rising tide.

The Prince of Darkness quaileth

As their triumphant way,

Their fervent prayer availeth

To sap his subtle sway.[7]

II. Second, note the wholeness of Elijah.

Elijah was “a righteous man” (James 5:16b). James provides New Testament, divinely inspired commentary on Elijah. He had the righteousness of God by faith.

Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe writes, “The title ‘man of God’ was given to Moses (Deut. 33:1), then to Samuel (1 Sam. 9:6-7), Elijah (1 Kings 2:9-13), Elisha (2 Kings 4:9), and Timothy (1 Tim. 6:11). You need not be a prophet to be a godly person. . . .”[8] The name “Elijah” means, “The Lord – Yahweh or Jehovah – is my God”, or “The Lord is my strength”. Of all the things he was and all the things he was not, he was a man of God! 1 Kings 17:24 reads, “Then the woman said to Elijah, ‘Now by this I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is the truth.’” (Emphasis mine) 1 Kings 17:1 reads, “And Elijah the Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead, said to Ahab, ‘As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word.’” (Emphasis mine)

Dr. Charles Swindoll points out, when Elijah entered his time of isolation he was a spokesman for God but he was not yet a man of God. In verse one he introduced him merely as Elijah the Tishbite but by verse twenty-four as a result of his time alone with God he is addressed as a ‘Man of God.’”[9] Dr. Ivor J. W. Oakley (1929-2003), former principal of the Irish Baptist College, explains, “[Elijah] was outraged because God’s name had been blasphemed, and as a result, altars had been thrown down and priests slain. He prayed earnestly. . . . (James 5:17). Prayerfulness is seen constantly in the life of Elijah. . . . Elijah was a man who belonged to God 100%, who lived in God’s presence, and was very conscious of His nearness, consumed with desire for God’s honour, bent on doing God’s will, and who prayed earnestly, knowing who he was talking to, putting his heart into his prayer and meaning every word he said.

God can do anything with such a man. And anything can happen when such a man is about. Elijah was not swayed by public opinion, and the infidelity and apostasy of others did not shake him. He was lifted above fear. The frowns and disapproval of men did not terrify him. He knew God had laid His hands on his life, and had apprehended him. He was convicted that he had been chosen by God, called by Him, and he was His servant and messenger. . . .

We will never be anything for God or achieve anything worthwhile unless we are His absolutely.”[10]

In 2 Kings 2:1 we read about Elijah and his translation. This is a picture of the rapture of the saints, as we see in the experience of Enoch. Dr. F. B. Meyer explains, “A similar testimony was given to the men of his time by the rapture of Enoch before the Flood, and by the ascension of our Lord from the brow of Olivet. Where did these three wondrous journeys end, unless there was a bourn which was their befitting terminus and goal?”[11]

In Matthew 17:3 we read about Elijah’s appearance at the glorious Transfiguration. Dr. Michael Catt writes, “I believe one reason Elijah was chosen to represent the prophets on the Mount of Transfiguration is that he was a powerful man of prayer. Think about how significant Elijah is, even in the New Testament. He represents the high water mark of the prophets. When John the Baptist came, he was said to be like Elijah. When Jesus asked, ‘Who do men say that I am?’ some said, ‘Elijah.’”[12]

In Revelation 11:7-14 we read about Elijah’s appearance during the Great Tribulation. He will appear with another witness from the Old Testament times. Some say Moses, because he represents the Law and because he appeared with Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration. Others say it will be Enoch, because he too was translated without tasting death.

III. Third, note the weakness of Elijah.

James 5:17 reads, “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours.” Dr. Michael Catt explains, “The New Testament does not present him as a superhero but as a man just like us. Therefore, Elijah knew something about prayer that we can know. He had the kind of prayer life we too can have. Here's the key: he faced his problems and opportunities in believing prayer. He believed God was his source and resource. Maybe the reason we don't receive answers to many prayers is we really don't expect God to answer. We might kneel down, say a few words, and quote a Scripture, but in truth—in our hearts—we don't believe anything is going to change.

Not Elijah.”[13]
While it is acceptable to appreciate the ministry of God’s servants only one should be worshipped, and His name is Jesus. Those in Lystra attempted to idolize Barnabas and Paul. Acts 14:14-16 reads, “But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this, they tore their clothes and ran in among the multitude, crying out and saying, ‘Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them, who in bygone generations allowed all nations to walk in their own ways.” (Emphasis mine)

Dr. F. W. Robertson (1816-1853) writes, “What greater minds like Elijah’s have felt intensely, all we have felt in our own degree. Not one of us but what has felt his heart aching for want of sympathy. We have had our lonely hours, our days of disappointment, our moments of hopelessness, time when our highest feelings have been misunderstood, and our purest met with ridicule. Days when our heavy secret was lying unshared, like ice upon the heart. And then the spirit gives way: we have wished that all were over, that we could lie down tired, and rest like the children from life, that the hour was come when we could put down the extinguisher on the lamp, and feel the last grand rush of darkness on the spirit.”[14]

Dr. Robertson cautions, “Distinguish, therefore, between the Real and the Apparent. Elijah’s apparent success was in the shouts of Mount Carmel. His real success was in the unostentatious unsurmised obedience of seven thousand who had taken his God for their God.

This is a lesson for all. For teachers who lay their heads down at night sickening over their thankless task. Remember the power of indirect influences: those which distil from a life, not from a sudden, brilliant effort. The former never fail: the latter often. There is good done of which we can never predicate the when or where. Not in the flushing of the pupil’s cheek: or the glistening of an attentive eye: not in the shining results of an examination does your real success lie. It lies in the invisible influence on character which He alone can read who counted the seven thousand nameless ones in Israel.

For ministers again —what is ministerial success? Crowded churches — full aisles — attentive congregations — the approval of the religious world — much impression produced? Elijah thought so: and when he found out his mistake, and discovered that the applause on Carmel subsided with hideous stillness, his heart well-nigh broke with disappointment. Ministerial success lies in altered lives and obedient humble hearts: unseen work recognized in judgement-day.

What is a public man’s success? That which can be measured by feast-days and the number of journals which espouse his cause? Deeper, deeper far must he work who works for Eternity. In the eye of That, nothing stands but gold—real work— all else perishes.

Get below appearances, below glitter and show. Plant your foot upon reality. Not in the jubilee of the myriads on Carmel, but in the humble silence of the hearts of the seven thousand, lay the proof that Elijah had not lived in vain.”[15]

1 Corinthians 1:26-31 reads, “For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption— that, as it is written, ‘He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.’ (Emphasis mine)

Charles H. Spurgeon explains, “Elijah failed in the very point at which he was strongest, and that is where most men fail. In Scripture, it is the wisest man [,Solomon,] who proves himself to be the greatest fool; just as the meekest man, Moses, spoke hasty and bitter words. Abraham [the father of the faithful] failed in his faith, and Job [, synonymous with patience,] in his patience; so, he who was the most courageous of all men, fled from an angry woman. He could stand face to face with that woman’s husband, and say to him, in answer to his false accusation, ‘I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father's house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and thou hast followed Baalim;’ yet he was afraid of Jezebel, and he fled from her, and suffered such faintness of heart that he even ‘requested for himself that he might die.’ This was, I suppose, to show us that Elijah was not strong by nature, but only in the strength imparted to him by God; so that, when the divine strength was gone, he was of no more account them anybody else. When grace is for a time withdrawn, the natural Elijah is as weak as any other natural man; it is only when supernatural power is working through him that he rises out of himself, and so the grace of God is glorified in him.”[16] (Emphasis mine) Before we are too hard on Elijah, remember Jezebel introduced the satanic, syncretistic worship of Baal and Jehovah. Elijah was not merely dealing with a strong personality, he was dealing with a satanic principality! We read of her description in 2 Kings 9:22 and her demise in 2 Kings 9:30-37. The dogs licked up the blood of Ahab and ate Jezebel with the exception of her head, hands, and feet. In his famous sermon titled, “Payday Someday,” Dr. R. G. Lee (1886-1978) explains, “dirty, mangy, hungry dogs despised the brains that hatched the foul plot to kill Naboth.” . . . “and despised the hands that signed the decree,” . . . “and despised the feet that hastened to carry out the evil deed.”[17] The spirit of Jezebel is seen in churches as evidenced in Thyatira (Revelation 2:20-22). When you encounter someone operating according the principles of Jezebel, handle that person with prayer.

Charles H. Spurgeon shares the following in his Lectures to My Students: “The times most favorable to fits of depression, so far as I have experienced, may be summed up in the a brief catalogue. First among them, I must mention the hour of great success. When at last a long-cherished desire is fulfilled, when God has been glorified greatly by our means, and a great triumph achieved, then we are apt to faint.”[18] Spurgeon illustrates this principle from the life of Elijah after his great spiritual victory on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18-19).

When God came to Elijah in the cave: Elijah was physically depleted, emotionally depressed, and spiritually deposed. Proverbs 27:8 reads, “Like a bird that wanders from its nest Is a man who wanders from his place.” Obviously, Elijah wandered from the place God put him. Note God’s method of restoration. First, the Lord miraculously dispensed provision of food and rest. Furthermore, He marvelously displayed power, through a hurricane, earthquake, and fire, then spoke with the whisper of a still small voice. Elijah identified this still small voice as God’s. Finally, with a simple question reminded Elijah to return to his God-given responsibilities. In so doing, God mercifully dispelled purposelessness. Psalm 103:13-14 reads, “As a father pities his children, So the Lord pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.” God cares for man in his entirety, after all He made us in three parts: body, soul, and spirit. 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 reads, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.”


Dr. Adrian Rogers (1931-2005) asks and explains, “Where is the Lord God of Elijah? [2 Kings 2:14] Where is He, friend? He’s in the same place He’s always been. Do you know what I want to ask you tonight? Where are the Elijahs of God? and where are the Elisha’s and where are the people who will say oh, God, oh, God, I want a double portion of the Spirit to be upon me.”[19] In similar fashion, Leonard Ravenhill writes, “To the question, ‘Where is the Lord God of Elijah?’ [2 Kings 2:14] we answer, ‘Where He has always been—on the throne!’ But where are the Elijahs of God?’”[20]

[1]Warren W. Wiersbe,, With the Word: The Chapter-by-Chapter Bible Handbook (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1991), 206-207.

[2]Edward McKendree Bounds, Purpose in Prayer (New York, NY: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1920), 8.

[3]F. B. Meyer, Elijah: And the Secret of His Power (New York, NY: Fleming H. Revell Company, n.d.), 13-15.

[4]Leonard Ravenhill, Why Revival Tarries (Bloomington, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 1987), 39.

[5]Ravenhill, Revival, 43.

[6]Meyer, Elijah, 15-17.

[7]Frances Ridley Havergal, “Under His Shadow”: The Last Poems (New York, NY: E. P. Dutton and Co., 1883), 57.

[8] Wiersbe, Word, 211.

[9]Charles Swindoll, Elijah: A Man of Heroism and Humility (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000), 23-24.

[10]Sermon Notes of Rev. Dr. I. J. W. Oakley (23-7-1995 Guisborough Evangelical Church) http://www.ivoroakley.com/Characters%20of%20the%20OT/Elijah/elijah1.htm .

[11]Meyer, Elijah, 190-191.

[12]Michael Catt, The Power of Persistence Breakthroughs In Your Prayer Life (Nashville, TN: B&H Books, 2009), 11. Database © 2011 WORDsearch Corp.

[13]Catt, Persistence, 11.

[14]F. W. Robertson, Sermons Preached at Brighton: By the Late Rev. Frederick William Robertson, “Elijah,” October 13, 1850

(London: Henry S. King & Co., 1872), 76-77.

[15]Robertson, Sermons, 82-83.

[16]Charles H. Spurgeon, “Elijah Fainting,” Sermon Notes (1 Kings 19:4).

[17]R. G. Lee, “Payday Someday”, Sermon Notes (1 Kings 21:18,19, 23).

[18]Charles H. Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students (New York, NY: Sheldon & Company, 1875), 256-257.

[19]Adrian Rogers, “A Profile in Power” Sermon Notes (2 Kings 2).

[20]Ravenhill, Revival, 39.

By Dr. Franklin L. Kirksey, pastor First Baptist Church of Spanish Fort 30775 Jay Drive Spanish Fort, Alabama 36527

Author of Don’t Miss the Revival! Messages for Revival and Spiritual Awakening from Isaiah and

Sound Biblical Preaching: Giving the Bible a Voice [Both available on Amazon.com in hardcover, paperback and eBook]

http://www.amazon.com/Dont-Miss-Revival-Spiritual-Awakening/dp/1462735428 & http://www.amazon.com/Sound-Biblical-Preaching-Giving-Bible/dp/1594577684 / fkirksey@bellsouth.net / (251) 626-6210

© August 2, 2015 All Rights Reserved