“And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the LORD God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.
(1 Kings 17:1)
A reflection of the last days can be seen in this chapter in Elijah’s life. Israel had forsaken the true faith of their fathers for an idolotrous religion that was pressed upon them by Ahab’s marriage to Jezebel – a satanic union of church and state . The land seemed to flourish in prosperity that was undoubtedly attributed to this new religion of Baal. Baal, or course, is the god of love who preaches a kinder, gentler gospel message than that old, stern and judgmental Jehovah and is more in tune with the pleasures of the world. Satan’s job is not to try to convince us that sin is not sin, but rather that we can get away with sin because God will always forgive us, understand our human failings and cover our sin with His love. That is the god of Baal, and that is precisely why the people loved Baal and hated the prophets of God.
How like today! We have a form of godliness, but we have denied the power thereof because we have pulled away from the holiness and fear of God that our grandfathers preached to us. We denigrate the old Brush Arbor revivals, and then wonder why the modern church is so anemic. But although we are disenchanted with the old message, we still adhere to the idea of Jesus … we just manufactured it into a different form that has an uncanny resemblance to the golden calves at the foot of Mt. Sinai.
Elijah was chased to the Brook Cherith to be fed by the ravens until the brook dried up. Every morning and every evening the birds came to sustain him. I’m not sure how Elijah felt about being fed these delicacies from birds, but this is certainly not the same picture that we see in how today’s ecclesiastical royalty is being served. But then, neither are they the type of preachers that we would expect to march into Ahab’s throne room and tell him that he is going to Hell.
When there was no sustenance left in Israel, Elijah is sent out of the country to Zidon. When there is no more movement of the Holy Spirit in the Church, God will start moving outside it. Elijah meets a widow in the gate of the city. Why the gate and not the well or somewhere nondescript? I don’t know, but the gate of the city was always the place of judgment. Perhaps there is a message there, but at any rate, he sends her off for some food and water with a pronouncement from God that He will sustain them … not lavishly, perhaps, but God will sustain them for 3-1/2 years.
This is a picture of the church in the last days – a shell of her former self, outside the denominational structure, in the shadow of the Jezebel Whore of Revelations, with just enough of the meal of the Word of God and the oil of the Spirit to sustain herself through this time of spiritual famine. One day at a time. There was only enough for them to be sustained by the faith that God would keep them for one more day. I don’t know how bad the endtimes will be, but both Jesus and Daniel said that it would be worse than anything the world has seen since the beginning of time. That seems to match the picture we see here in Zarephath.
“Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast. For, behold, the LORD cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity…” (Isaiah 26:20-21)
When the day of reckoning finally came, Elijah was sent to Obadiah to call Ahab. God could have sent him directly to Ahab, but He didn’t. He used Obadiah. In Obadiah, we see a picture of yet another church in the last days, but this one is not the oppressed church of the Widow of Zarephath, but of a worldly church that is still attached to the kingdom of this world. Yes, Obadiah hid the prophets from Jezebel’s wrath, but he never disassociated himself from Ahab. Out of his own mouth he confessed that Ahab was still his lord. Here is the compromised church hanging onto its weakness for prosperity and comfort, not willing to stand up and challenge the sin and unrighteousness of the worldly system that they are part of and not willing to leave it for the scarcities of the desert. It is this Obadiah that God chooses to engage in this last great challenge between the prophet and the king.
The story of Mount Carmel is rich with imagery – the water, the fire, the judgment, and the sound of abundance of rain, all of which would be better served in another article – but it is the picture of the two churches that concerns me here. I hear talk of the “triumphant church”, of the great things to come and how we will move into the greatest Church Age that we have ever seen. I have even heard that the wealth of the sinners will be laid up for the just and so thereby transferred over to us and we will get rich. Why do we so desperately hang on to this? Is it because we can no longer see the world for what it really is? Have we become an Obadiah church, touting our “good works” as an excuse for our compromise with the world, and in doing so have aligned ourselves with Ahab, even calling him lord and are unwilling to make an stand for truth and righteousness?
Perhaps God, in His incredible mercy, will allow the Church to be engaged again in the last showdown between the Spirit of Elijah and the Church of Baal. Not all is well with the Church, nor will it ever be as long as we retain our worldliness and refrain from reproving the world of its sin. There will be some hard choices to be made in that day. When Elijah stood alone on top of Mount Carmel, where was Obadiah? Do we fear, as did Obadiah, to confront the world and take a stand against a false religion of love, peace, and prosperity in the face of lust, sin, and covetousness?
God in His mercy may yet engage the Church in these last days, but I believe it will be more to sift her with the “sieve of vanity” (Isaiah 30:28). The choices we will face will not only be hard, but it will seem radical and extreme. It will be a solitary stand against that which seems to be normal, but it is a choice that we will have to make nonetheless.