1 Kings 17:1
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.
Well, here he is. Elijah the fiery prophet with a blazing heart and a blazing tongue. What a sight this must have been to all watching. Here suddenly we have this previously unknown man, Elijah, showing up on the King’s doorstep to make a pronouncement of judgment upon the King and his nation. “Hey King! You and all of your people have been living in evil, and it’s about to stop raining, and it won’t start again until I say so! Oh, by the way, I speak for God her, in case you wondered.”
We have to understand that this was a pretty dire pronouncement for any people of that time. This was predominantly an agricultural society, so no rain meant starvation ultimately. This was much more than not being able to take long showers or wash the chariot here. Drought in this day was extremely serious.
Another thing to note here is that God didn’t just wake up, so to speak, and feel cranky and decide to judge the people of Israel. God is not arbitrary, and is never randomly capricious. In fact, God is shown time and time again to be patient and long suffering towards a people who constantly drift away and reject him. We never see God exercising judgment without the people being given ample warning and opportunity to repent.
Ahab was the seventh king to reign over the Norther half of the divided Kingdom of Israel. We all know the story, as we know that back when Solomon ruled as the last king of the unified Kingdom, God told Solomon that after his death that his Kingdom would be taken from him and divided. Why? Well, for the sin and idolatry Solomon had turned to personally, and leading his people in that same direction. Things didn’t get any better as the years went on, as not a single one of the Northern Kings was a Godly man. Ahab just happened to be the worst of the lot.
Just a quick discussion of the theology of the day is in order. It seems that worship of the god Baal was the primary direction the nation had gone under the influence of the evil Jezebel, with worship of Asherah running a close second. Between the two of them, they had 850 prophets serving them. The One True God had one: The man Elijah. It seems almost unimaginable to even consider how Elijah must have felt, and Scripture really never tells us. We can ask ourselves, however, how we would feel? How would we respond?
Apparently Elijah was fully confident in where he stood, and for whom he stood. He said as much, referring to the Lord God of Israel, before whom I stand. Then Elijah made God’s pronouncment: There will not be rain again until I speak it. That is pretty powerful stuff. Here I am, and I stand for God. Here I am, and I speak for God. Here I am, and I speak with the power of God behind me.
Why drought? It was no accident that rain(or lack thereof) was the chosen judgment on Israel. Baal was noted for being the God of the storm. In other words, Baal controlled the rain. This was like a theological dagger into the heart of Baal, this declaration that the rain would stop. This would prove who REALLY controlled the rains.
Elijah confronted Ahab, and the gauntlet was cast down. Armed with the power of God’s Word, Elijah boldly proclaimed it to a hostile audience. Who is our Ahab? Are we willing to do the same thing Elijah did?