Study 3 - Adopting God’s perspective
Elijah stood both before the Lord and with the Lord. He developed a God-centred perspective on what was happening in his nation. He saw through God’s eyes, felt through God’s heart, and proclaimed God’s word of judgement on the land, ‘There will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word’ (1 Kings 17:1).
The prophet wasn’t speaking off the top of his head. He knew that God had chosen the Israelites ‘above all the nations’ (Deut. 10:15) and had promised them a land of their own – a fertile land, not one like Egypt, where they had to use treadmills to get water out of the Nile in order to prevent the land from drying up.
‘Love and serve me,’ the Lord had said, ‘and I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and oil’ (Deut. 11:13, 14). But then Moses had warned the people that if they sought other gods, ‘then the Lord’s anger will burn against you, and he will shut the heavens so that it will not rain and the ground will yield no produce, and you will soon perish from the good land’ (Deut. 11:17).
So when Elijah told Ahab, ‘The rain is going to stop,’ he wasn’t thinking to himself, ‘How can I impress the people? I know. I’ll pray that God will stop the rain.’ Not at all! He remembered that the Lord had said, ‘Follow me and I’ll bless you with rain, but go after other gods and the rain will stop.’ Since the people had decided to go after Baal, Elijah simply prayed, ‘God, fulfil your word.’
That was an amazing prayer: Elijah actually asked God to devastate the nation, to bring it crashing down. ‘O God, deal with this generation,’ he was saying. ‘Bring it to its knees. Shut up the heavens. Bring chaos.’ I wonder how long it took him to find the passion and courage to pray that. An equivalent modern-day prayer might be, ‘O God, stop the oil supply. Let there be huge lines at petrol stations and terrible problems heating homes and fuelling businesses. Bring the nation’s economy to a standstill. Let the banks crash!’
To pray a prayer of that magnitude you have to be standing very close to God. This wasn’t a normal request like, ‘Lord, bless us on Sunday. Impress people by the lively meetings we have.’ Elijah had a passion for God’s glory and for his people. ‘I want to serve God’s purposes in my generation,’ he was saying. ‘Whatever God wants me to do, I want to do – whatever it costs.’
Elijah was committed to the vindication of God’s name. As an Israelite, he would be personally affected by the consequences of his prayer. He was no angel who could deliver his message and then retreat to another sphere. He was a man just like us.
‘After my return to London, I decided to do something to help my brothers in the seminary. I suggested we meet together every morning from six until eight to pray and read the Scriptures. After the evening prayer, my communion with God was so sweet that I would continue praying until after midnight. Then I would go to a brother's room, and we would pray together until one or two in the morning. Even then, I was sometimes so full of joy that I could not sleep. At six in the morning, I would again call the brethren together for prayer.’