I mentioned in my last post that there is some mystery surrounding the prophet Elijah. As specifically relates to his origin, there are more questions and speculations than definite answers. His story begins in I Kings 17.
I Kings 17:1a "And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead…" (KJV)
This introduction is pretty strange. Often when a character in scripture is introduced we learn who their father was, where they were from, and a bit about their situation. But here, we learn only his name and that he was a Tishbite or from Tishbe, although no one is certain exactly where that was located, except that it was in Gilead. Gilead was a region east of the Jordan River where the tribes of Rueben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh were situated, yet we do not know from which of the three tribes Elijah came. And this begs the question: Why would Elijah leave his home country, travel over the Jordan into Israel - a place where prophets were being slaughtered by a regime that hated God - and begin his ministry to a people who did not want to hear from him?
The mystery surrounding his origin and how he seemingly just appeared out of nowhere has led some commentaries to make comparisons between Elijah and the High Priest, Melchizedek, who we read about in Genesis 14 and who the author of Hebrews describes in this way:
Hebrews 7:1-3 “This Melchizedek was king of the city of Salem and also a priest of God Most High. When Abraham was returning home after winning a great battle against the kings, Melchizedek met him and blessed him. Then Abraham took a tenth of all he had captured in battle and gave it to Melchizedek. The name Melchizedek means “king of justice,” and king of Salem means “king of peace.” There is no record of his father or mother or any of his ancestors—no beginning or end to his life. He remains a priest forever, resembling the Son of God.” (NIV)
Melchizidek is the forerunner of the Son of God, and Elijah is the forerunner of John the Baptist. Jesus said in Matthew 11:14 about John the Baptist:
“And if you are willing to accept what I say, he is Elijah, the one the prophets said would come.” (NIV)
He was quoting from Malachi 4:5:
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord:” (NIV)
Just as John the Baptist courageously called out the sin of an evil king (Mark 6) and declared the coming of the Messiah, (John 1) at Elijah’s sudden appearance, as we will see later, he made a bold declaration of judgment against the evil King Ahab and Queen Jezebel and to all the backslidden, idolatrous Israelites, and called the people back to worship the One True God.
Elijah means, “my God is Jehovah.” As we study this amazing prophet we will see how he lives out his name. Everything that he said and did declared that Jehovah is the only God. He stopped calling good evil and calling evil good. (Isaiah 5:20) Obeying God through faith, He selflessly left his country to preach the Word of the Lord to a people who would likely reject him and his message.
It's the beginning of a new year, and many people use the fresh start to kick off some new good habits, get rid of bad habits, and set a few new goals. I encourage you today to take away two things from this study of the prophet Elijah. 1, it does not matter where you come from, nor does it matter who your family is - God has a powerful call on your life, and He wants to use you to spread His Word to a world that has forgotten Him. 2, take some time to examine your own life. Is there an idol that you have placed before the One True God? Do you have unrepentant sin that you need to be rid of once and for all, or have you found yourself calling what is evil good? Have you selfishly pursued what you want above what the Lord has for you?
As you seek the Lord for answers to these questions, I pray for boldness and selflessness to make any changes He calls you to make.