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James tells us in 5:17, 18,
17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain; and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the sky poured rain, and the earth produced its fruit.
James recognized that Elijah was not perfect, even in his faith. After accomplishing his greatest work in the showdown with the prophets of Baal, we read in 1 Kings 19:3, “he was afraid and arose and ran for his life.”
How is it that he could be so fearless one day and so fearful the next? Did he not know that God could protect him just as easily then as before? The only ones who would criticize him, of course, are those who have never walked in his footsteps. Elijah, after all, was as human as the rest of us.
In fact, that is of comfort to us, for it is the very thing that allows us to identify with Elijah. Scripture does not allow us to attribute to him a level of faith unattainable to the common man.
Jezebel had already killed most of the prophets in the land. Obadiah had hidden a hundred prophets in a cave (1 Kings 18:4). Yet that very act shows how real the threat was. Elijah's fear was well justified from the human standpoint. But why did he move from faith to fear?
The answer came by revelation about thirty years ago. Once Elijah’s showdown against the prophets of Baal had been won, the remnant of grace thought they had won the spiritual battle and ceased to pray for Elijah. When he lost his prayer support, he ran in fear. A prophet must be bold enough to confront all opposing forces, but the fact is, even prophets need prayer support.
Elijah’s sense of loneliness could well have been caused by a genuine discernment that prayer support from the remnant of grace had diminished. He complained to God in 1 Kings 19:14, “I alone am left.”
No one is an island to himself, nor is any prophetic project a one-man show. The prophet is merely the point man for a supporting body of people, and for this reason, any reward received by the prophet is shared by that whole body.
Jesus said in Matt. 10:41,
41 He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward; and he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward.
This is based on the principle of identification. Because the remnant of grace supported Elijah, they are equal shareholders in Elijah's reward. Elijah was more visible than the remnant in general, but he was not independent of them.
Specifically, Elijah was a man like the rest of the remnant of grace in his day. All of them had to deal with human nature, and so, when Elijah failed to overcome the wrath of Jezebel, they all failed. Nonetheless, to the extent that they succeeded up to that point, they were all rewarded without condemnation. Elijah was afterward taken up in a whirlwind (or “chariot”) as if he had done nothing wrong.
Elijah hid from Jezebel in the same cave of Mount Horeb where Moses once sat. While he was there, God told him in 1 Kings 19:17,
17 Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place.
Elijah had reached the full extent of his ministry on earth. The work was yet unfinished, but another would be raised up to finish the work under a double anointing.
The Elijah ministry prepares the way for the double anointing ministry. John was “Elijah” to Jesus in the same manner. There have been many Elijahs throughout history, and many are with us today. We await the end of Elijah's ministry, so that the work may be completed under “Elisha.” Then the same remnant of grace will be called to give prayer support once again to those who are more visible in the Elisha calling.
James reminds us that Elijah prayed for the rain to cease, and it ceased for 3½ years. This drought was not world-wide in that day, for the word “earth” in those days was not a reference to the planet itself, but to the portion of land revealed by the context. In this case, it was the land of Israel and perhaps extending into the immediate region. We are told only that Israel itself suffered from drought (1 Kings 18:5).
God has always used drought to accomplish His purposes. Drought causes famine, and God used the famine in Joseph's day to force the people to come to him for food. Joseph, of course, was a type of Christ in His second appearance, so the drought in his day prophesied of another in the last days. Amos 8:11, 12 says,
11 “Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord God, “when I will send a famine on the land, not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, but rather for hearing the words of the Lord. 12 … They will go to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, but they will not find it.”
The famine of Elijah was a type of this new famine that has come upon the Church in the latter days. As in the days of Joseph, its purpose is to draw men to the remnant of grace in order to hear the word. Before Christ’s first appearance, God raised up John the Baptist in the spirit and power of Elijah to prophesy during a famine of hearing the word of God. It prepared the way for those hungry and thirsty for the word to find satisfaction in Christ.
We have seen a greater and longer famine of the word in our own time. This new famine now precedes the second appearance of Christ and correlates with the time of the Laodicean Church of Revelation 3.
We cannot lose sight of the other side of Elijah's call, which is to pray for rain—the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, which in turn brings about an end to the famine of hearing the word. They will find the word among the remnant of grace, because, as Paul says in Rom. 11:7, they have eyes to see, while the rest of the people are blinded.
Meanwhile, the hidden company of prophets were fed by Obadiah. While they are in the most danger, they also receive provision from God, even as Elijah was fed by the “ravens” (Heb. areb) Ferrar Fenton renders verse 5,
5 So he went and did as the Ever-Living said, and settled near the brook Kerith, which runs into the Jordan, and the Arabs brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening, but he drank from the brook.
The Scriptures show that the remnant of grace (Elijah company) must endure hardship along with everyone else. However, the divine purpose for this is to teach them faith and total dependence upon God. Furthermore, their main focus is upon bringing the former and latter rain to the earth through the prayer of faith. They must understand as well the divine plan and purpose for the temporary drought and not fight against it. In this, a revelation of timing can be most helpful, for they must know when to pray for drought and when to pray for rain. Both kinds of prayer spring from the same faith.
When the current drought has run its course, I believe we will then see the Autumn feast days fulfilled, even as revealed in the story of Elijah. When Elijah raised the widow's son from the dead in 1 Kings 17:22, it was a type of the resurrection of the dead that will fulfill the feast of Trumpets.
When Elijah called upon the people to choose which God they wished to follow, that showdown represented the Day of Atonement, and the people repented.
When Elijah then prayed seven times for rain, it represented the seven days of the feast of Tabernacles. The rain then came on the eighth day of Tabernacles, and Elijah outran the chariot of Ahab (1 Kings 18:46). You might say he was “caught away” (Greek: harpazo). This “catching away” is the fulfillment of the eighth day of Tabernacles—not the common understanding of the “Rapture.” Elijah's experience was much like Philip's in Acts 8:39, when he was “caught away” to a town called Azotus.