Read 1 Kings 17:1; 18:10; 19:1-4; 21:20-21; 22:34, 37-38; 2 Kings 1:8-9; 2:11; 9:30, 33, 36
"Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also o Jesus might be made manifest in our body" (2 Corinthians 4:10)
I hope the selected verses from a number of chapters of the two books of Kings cover the essential feature of Elijah's life and ministry, a feature which is spoken of in New Testament language as of being always delivered unto death, that life, the life of Christ, may be manifested in us.
The Sentence of Death
If you were asked what were the outstanding characteristics of Elijah, possibly the immediate and obvious reply would be, The power of God. Perhaps of all the prophets he somehow expresses to us something of the enormous, tremendous energy of God. Or you might say the boldness and zeal which was so clearly and strongly seen in that life. While that is true and Elijah, of all the prophets, speaks to us of the power of God, it is also not without significance that there never was another prophet so often threatened with death as Elijah. It has been an eye-opener to me to realize that one of the great marks of this man was, what we should call in New Testament language, the Cross, or, shall we say, that he was being continually given over to death. Of course, when the times are such as they were, death is everywhere threatening the people of God. It is no light and easy thing to live for God in a world like outs, where the prophets of the Lord are persecuted and hunted and slain by Jezebel. But I think that sometimes Elijah must have stopped and said to himself, Well, who am I that my life should be sought like this? We read of Ahab sparing no pains and no expense, hunting in every neighboring land for this man, making the rulers of those lands swear that they had no knowledge of his where-abouts. We read the strong language of Jezebel who, with a terrible oath, swore to take away his life. We read how Ahaziah once, twice, and a third time sent a captain of fifty with his fifty to make Elijah come down; at their failure another fifty men, and when they did not return, another fifty. Surely we begin to realize that every man's hand seems to be against Elijah. In some peculiar and concentrated way, his life is sought.
Well, that is, of course, just the other side of the experience of a man who is afire with zeal for the Lord. The two things go together. It is no contradiction, and Elijah's life is sought again and again for this very simple reason, not because he is anything in himself, but because he stands in a downright, whole-hearted, uncompromising way for the Lord; and, dear friends, that means the constant assault of death.
You notice, of course, it is no theological matter with Elijah, nor was it with Paul, though his statement in 2 Corinthians may be taken and made the basis for theological reasonings in respect of our crucifixion with Christ, and of our being delivered over to death. But the Apostle every day and in most practical and most painful ways knew the thing, not as theology, but as experience; and Elijah too is not fighting or being fought by death in some vague and visionary fashion, but in the most practical circumstances of daily life his life is sought. Why? Because he stands for the Lord. There is an easier way, and I wonder whether perhaps with some of us the trouble has not been that, while we have with our heart longed to be consumed with zeal for the Lord, and have prayed and earnestly desired to know the power of God, when the practical issue has arisen, as it always does, we have found that this way, instead of being a way of enthusiastic accomplishments, is one of having a life sought; a way of suffering, of humiliation, of trial; and we have perhaps drawn back and said, No, no that way That cannot be the way! Well, let us just notice again that even in the case of Elijah, who in the minds of many of God's people stands out as the great example of a man full of power, his own personal sense of things was not that of being full of power and getting on very well and prospering and doing the work of the Lord, but it was that he was being hunted for his life. That may encourage us or it may reprove us according as we have, or have not, hearts that love the Lord and choose everything for Him.
~Harry Foster~ [co-worker with T. Austin-Sparks]
(continued with # 2)