Elijah, a biblical prophet is one of the most interesting characters in the Bible. His life was colorful. God used him during a really important time in Israel’s history to oppose a wicked king and to bring revival to those people. Like many other characters in the Bible, Elijah’s life was not without its challenges. His life was filled with turmoil. There were times when he was decisive and valiant, but there were also times when he was fearful and uncertain. He also demonstrated victory and defeat, trailed by recovery. He recognized the power of God, but he also knew the pits of depression. His life was devoted to the work of restoring true worship In Israel. Ultimately, Elijah urged the people of ancient Israel to turn from sin and to return to the true God and his message is just as important for us today. Elijah’s admonition that God’s people faithfully serve Him with their whole heart is just as relevant now as it was during his time on earth. Here are six things you may not know about Elijah in the Bible.
Elijah Was Chosen By God
God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things. Similar to many of the prophets of the Bible, Elijah didn’t seek to be one of God’s messengers. Instead, God chose him directly for the position. When he was called, Elijah didn’t hesitate to take on his mission, even though it appeared his life would be threatened by the wicked king. Elijah set out at once for the capital city of Samaria to deliver the announcement to King Ahab. Then God sent Elijah into hiding as the drought dried up the streams and withered the crops of the nation (1 Kings 17:7-15; 1 Kings 18:1). Elijah was chosen to confront the followers of Baal simply because he had a relationship with God. In addition to confronting the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, he also performed many miracles: providing an endless supply of flour for a widow and raising a young boy from the dead.
We Don’t Know A Lot About His Past
Elijah’s name means “my God is the Lord.” He came from Tishbeh in Gilead, but little is known of his family or birth. While many prophets of the Bible are introduced with information about family lineage, this wasn’t the case with Elijah. This shows that his selection by God was divine. He came out of nowhere to do the extraordinary at time when he was so desperately needed. Only God can do that.
While we don’t know a great deal about his life, we do know a lot about his nature and character. Elijah was attentive to God’s voice and walking in obedience to His Word. Through this, Elijah found encouragement, reward and victory. Like any human, he struggled with his own frailties, but he was still used mightily by God. Our Heavenly Father uses us for those same purposes.
Prayer Was His Key Strategy
Elijah prayed to God vehemently. His prayers were bold and he called on God to do the miraculous. His requests weren’t small – He prayed for a drought in the land, prayed to raise the widow’s son from the dead and called down a fire from heaven to consume the offering on Mount Carmel. The Bible tells us, “At the usual time for offering the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet walked up to the altar and prayed, ‘O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, prove today that you are God in Israel and that I am Your servant. Prove that I have done all that is at your command. Immediately the fire of the Lord flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones and the dust. It even licked up all the water in the trench!” (1 Kings 18:36,38). We see through Elijah’s life that prayer is truly powerful. His life reminds us that if we trust in God through prayer, it will make a significant impact.
He Suffered With Depression
Depression is often triggered by life circumstances and can really pull you into the pit. There are numerous biblical references to depression. Scripture describes the struggles of people who suffered with depression even though they were faithful servants of God. These men did not suffer primarily because they were sinners. They suffered because they were human and were susceptible to severe pressures.
Elijah grew depressed when he was rebuked while he was anticipating a moment of triumph. His lofty hopes were crushed; he became sick at heart. Up until this point, Elijah had been the epitome of spiritual courage. He now collapses, runs away when Israel most needs his leadership, possibly missing the chance for national repentance and turns suicidal. He suffered from spiritual depression – a specific kind of depression that is related to commitment to God. Elijah’s depression, along with many other biblical characters, alerts us to the fact that being committed to God does not necessarily exempt us from being depressed.
His Life Was Threatened
When the false prophets of Baal were dead, Elijah’s life was threatened by Jezebel, the wicked wife of King Ahab. As Israel’s queen, she brought the worship of her god Baal, influencing King Ahab to worship Baal and set up idols in Israel (1 Kings 16:31; 1 Kings 21:25-26). God’s prophets who bring messages of warning are often hated and accused of being the cause of such suffering. Jezebel and the false prophets of Baal hated Elijah and they did everything in their power to catch him. In a moment of human weakness, Elijah was deeply discouraged. But it wasn’t long before God reassured Elijah and sent him back to face King Ahab. Elijah was sent to deliver the message that Ahab and Jezebel would both die a humiliating death because of all the wicked deeds they refused to repent of (1 Kings 21:20-24).
John the Baptist’s Ministry Was Marked By ‘The Spirit and Power of Elijah’
We can learn about the message of the final Elijah by studying the mission of John the Baptist. Gabriel brought a message from God that a prophet was coming to announce that Jesus was the Christ, the long-awaited Messiah. John the Baptist was the prophet, and Jesus declared that John was an Elijah-like figure, in addition to one who would come later (Matthew 11:14; Matthew 17:12). An angel declared of John’s mission: “And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also go before Him [Jesus] in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:16-17). Ultimately, John the Baptist’s ministry was marked by “the spirit and power of Elijah” fulfilling the prophecy of Malachi 4:5-6. James uses Elijah as an example of prayer in James 5:17-18. He says that Elijah "was a human being, even as we are: yet he prayed that it wouldn’t rain and it didn’t. Then he prayed that it would rain and it did. We see through this that the power of prayer is in God, not within our human nature.
Many people think that the prophets were morally or spiritually superior to us, and it’s easy to think of Elijah in this way. But the truth is, he wasn’t. Like us, Elijah needed correction, encouragement and the knowledge that other believers were standing against Baal too. Elijah wasn’t exceptionally spiritual or superior. He was completely human. But what made Elijah extraordinary was his complete commitment to the Will of God. Elijah gave all his energy and heart so that the world would know the one true God. God uses the ordinary to do the extraordinary.