Study 1 - Now Elijah…
The Western world faces a spiritual dilemma. Millions declare themselves Christians and want the church to marry them, baptise their babies and bury their dead. The church adorns such events with respectability, but for everyday life the gospel is regarded as outdated and irrelevant. People don’t really want God, but somehow they don’t want to let go of him.
Moral standards are on the move. ‘We’re more liberated today,’ it’s claimed. ‘You have to make room for change.’ It’s rapid change too! In the 60s, it was unusual for a marriage to end in divorce. Now half of marriages fail. A few decades ago, our society wouldn’t tolerate abortion. Now statistics show that vast numbers of pregnancies end that way. In spite of this horrifying statistic, ever increasing numbers of children are now born to unwed mothers. How quickly a nation can change its standards!
A spiritual landslide
Fifty-eight years before Ahab became King of Israel, Solomon was on the throne. His father, David, had fought to establish the kingdom, and Solomon had built up a mighty empire whose splendour became a conversation piece in the highest society. In that fifty-eight years after Solomon, seven kings came and went, each more evil than the one before. By the time Ahab came to power, the nation hardly knew whom they supposedly worshipped.
King Ahab had married a wicked and forceful Baal worshipper named Jezebel. She did not say, ‘Perhaps I could have a private chapel in your palace. Then I could worship my own god.’ No, Jezebel was committed to seeing Baal worship dominate the nation.
Ahab, however, was indifferent to spiritual things; that’s how he could marry Jezebel in the first place. He mixed his religions. He married an idolater, yet called his children Ahaziah and Jehoram, meaning ‘Yahweh has grasped’ and ‘Yahweh is exalted’, implying, ‘Even though I’ve married Jezebel I still want to include the Lord.’
Everything about Ahab was vague. By sharp contrast, everything about Elijah was clear-cut. The Bible sometimes gives a few introductory remarks about its heroes, such as how their parents were prepared, or details of birth, or some important childhood events. Elijah, however, seemed to appear from nowhere. We have no record of his past. He just arrived. His prologue is this, ‘Now Elijah…’ (1 Kings 17:1). He hadn’t been there a minute ago, then he was there, then he was gone again. Eventually he disappeared into heaven. Maybe he was a spaceman or an angel! No. Elijah was a man just like us. And God wants us to become men and women just like him.
Suddenly, standing before King Ahab was a unique figure, totally different from the rest of his generation. Quite how he worked his way through the hierarchy to a meeting with the king must remain a mystery. God alone can arrange such a rendezvous. He told Ananias that Paul was ‘my chosen instrument to carry my name before…kings’ (Acts 9:15). Paul didn’t know how this would happen, but it happened. David, an obscure shepherd, was brought before King Saul, and Moses confronted mighty Pharaoh. God is well able to raise people out of obscurity and to give them a voice before the nation’s leaders. Doubtless he will do so again.
‘Here is the great evangelical disaster – the failure of the evangelical world to stand for truth as truth. There is only one word for this – namely accommodation. The evangelical church has accommodated to the world spirit of the age. First, there has been accommodation on Scripture, so that many who call themselves evangelicals hold a weakened view of the Bible and no longer affirm the truth of all the Bible teaches – truth not only in religious matters but in the areas of science and history and morality… This accommodation has been costly, first in destroying the power of the Scriptures to confront the spirit of our age; second, in allowing the further slide of our culture. Thus we must say with tears that it is the evangelical accommodation to the world spirit around us, to the wisdom of this age, which removes the evangelical church from standing against the breakdown of our culture.’ Francis A. Schaeffer, The Great Evangelical Disaster, Crossway, 1984, pp. 37-38.