You’ve probably heard the story, but let’s refresh your memory. Two sacrifices are prepared atop Mt. Carmel for a special competition before the nation of Israel. One for the false god Baal, and the other for the One True God. After calling out to their god all day, the prophets of Baal get zero response. However, mere moments after the lone prophet Elijah prayed a short request to the Lord, fire rains down upon the offering, affirming the Lord’s rightful place as the only real God.
While an iconic, well-remembered account like this reveals the power of God, that’s not all we can learn from the life of Elijah. One of the greatest prophets in Israel’s history comes from the remote, uncivilized hill country of Gilead. As most others from that region in that time, this rugged mountain man likely tended sheep before his grand appearance. He first shows up in 1 Kings 17 calling out King Ahab on sin along with the entire nation. Apart from winning the big contest at Carmel, he is also well-known for riding a chariot of fire into heaven.
But as we look more closely at his story, we discover so much we can learn about that famous One True God. In addition, we understand so much more about the prophet himself and similarities that mirror normal people like us. Together, let’s look briefly at a few lessons from the prophet’s story in 1 Kings 17-19 that will bring you hope and encouragement today.
GOD HAS THE POWER TO DO THINGS WE'VE NEVER SEEN BEFORE
As we read through Elijah’s story, we see how the prophet has a knack for asking for some impossible things. The contest at Mt. Carmel shows us that he has no issue asking for fire to fall from heaven because he knows God has the power to answer. Can you even imagine asking for something so unbelievable?
But there’s another notable example of praying for something impossible in the prophet’s story. While in the town of Zarephath in 1 Kings 17, a young boy dies, leaving his widowed mother all alone. Elijah prays over the boy and he comes back to life to the great joy of his mother. But get this – prior to this story in Scripture, someone being raised from the dead has not yet happened. Without any evidence that God would respond affirmatively to a prayer like that, Elijah prays in faith and confidence that God can answer a huge, supernatural, first-of-its-kind request.
How often do we limit our prayers to only the things we’ve seen? Ephesians 3:20-21 says, “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus…” Friend, He can do SO MUCH MORE than we can even think about! Don’t be afraid to pray big, crazy prayers like Elijah did. God might just say yes!
GOD USES IMPERFECT PEOPLE
God’s Word is full of countless examples of His use of imperfect people. Elijah is no exception. While Elijah was a prophet of great faith, he wasn’t without his failures. Toward the end of his story in 1 Kings 19, we find him consumed by fear instead of empowered by faith. For a time, he wallowed in depression, discouragement, and self-pity. James 5:17 even tells us that he was “a man with a nature like ours.” He wasn’t superhuman. He was flawed, but still obedient to the Lord and highly influential in Israel’s history.
In case you didn’t know, He can use you for incredible purposes, too. You don’t need to have the entire Bible memorized. You don’t need to have never missed a single Sunday at church. You don’t need to have a spotless past. A heart submitted to the Lord is all that’s needed for Him to work through you to deliver truth, love, and the hope of the gospel to those around you.
GOD LOVINGLY LETS US REST WHEN WE NEED IT
Following the fiery finale at Mt. Carmel, Ahab’s Queen Jezebel, a follower of Baal, sends a threatening message to the mountaintop victor. Engulfed in fear, Elijah goes on the run. For quite some time, he travels across Israel and deep into the wilderness in an attempt to survive. Eventually we find him completely exhausted physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. But how the Lord reacts to Elijah’s weariness is something you’ll want to notice. Instead of admonishing Elijah for running away and stopping for a much-needed break, He gives the prophet exactly what he needs – food and rest.
In Priscilla Shirer’s study on the life of Elijah, she comments on the love and mercy God pours out when our bodies are worn out too.
WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT ELIJAH?
Life in the Morning co-host Mandy Bowman recently completed a Bible study on the life of Elijah by Priscilla Shirer. She highly recommends it as a study that will both encourage and challenge you. You’ll learn even more about God’s characteristics, prayer, and how He uses our experiences to prepare us for big things to come. Get your copy of the study now: Elijah – Bible Study Book: Faith and Fire
Your Life 90.5 also has a collection of Bible study kits you can borrow to help you learn more about God and grow closer in your walk with Him. Reserve a set for your women’s ministry or small group for free at our Lending Library.