ELIJAH: PROPHET OF RESTORATION
by Art Katz.
November 05, 2001
"Then Elijah said to the people, "I alone am left a prophet of the LORD, but Baal's prophets are 450 men. Now let them give us two oxen; and let them choose one ox for themselves and cut it up, and place it on the wood, but put no fire under it; and I will prepare the other ox, and lay it on the wood, and I will not put a fire under it. Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD, and the God who answers, He is God" (1 Kings 18: 19-24).
The audacity and boldness of Elijah to say those things! This is a foretaste of the last day's Elijah ministry and that is what we need to appreciate. What heightens our appreciation is that it is also a picture of what must yet come: Elijah must first come and restore all things. The prophetic requirement of the last days is tied up essentially with the restoration of that which was lost, the ancient and the original, the pristine and the first thing.
We are not talking about the restoration of the ministry offices as if that is the thing in itself. It is a means to a larger and other end, namely, the "restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time" (Acts 3: 21b). That is to say, both the restoration of Israel after her yet future calamity, known as 'the time of Jacob's trouble', and the restoration of a church to its pristine and original apostolic glory and power. Truth itself needs to be restored that has been lying in the streets.
Language itself has suffered terrible abuse and defamation. There is restoration work at every hand, and it is an enormously exhausting work. It would be easier to start from scratch than to have to first undo, pluck up, root out and destroy what men have celebrated and want to see continue and to be preserved, that is something other than that which was given at the first. One can only build and plant after one has rooted up, plucked out and destroyed. How many of us
have the stamina to bear the cries and the shrieks of people who do not want to see things rooted up?
There must first come this 'Elijah company' before the Lord Himself returns. John the Baptist was equated with Elijah of whom the Lord described as the greatest of all the prophets, and in doing so, was celebrating the intrinsic 'Elijah' content of what John was. There is a spirit of Elijah, a quintessential, prophetic character that John exhibited that was of spirit and of kind with Elijah and will again picture what is yet future, namely, an 'Elijah company' upon the earth in that same separation, the same audacity and that same confident knowledge of God. They will have the same authority to perform the last day's works of God and to confront a church and a world that have become apostate and challenge them by challenging its prophets and bringing down the demonstration of God and the revelation of God in fire.
If Elijah, who is a prophet of an ultimate end-time wilderness kind, must first come, then what are the constituent elements or the defining characteristics of the Elijah prophet? What kind of prophet must we expect and that God is waiting for, all the more if it is to be corporate? He is not a writing prophet like Isaiah or Jeremiah, but rather he is the prophet of action and confrontation. What are we seeing from this prophet in action that is quintessentially the definition of prophet? There are going to be many false prophets. What is Elijah showing in his obedience to be the one fool? What does it show that inheres in the word prophet? Was Elijah drafted or was he a voluntary conscript? He was chosen but that does not mean that he had no choice in the matter and that he could not have refused it.
It says of Ahab that he was more evil than any of the kings of Israel before him. The conjunction, therefore, between a political Ahab and a religious Jezebel, an illicit, strange, ungodly, vile union brings together the worst of things political and things religious, and makes it a consummate power. We need to understand this, because it is a prefiguring of the last day's world religious and political system to which we are now moving.
It is to that that God sends Elijah. Elijah's authority, power and audacity are not the statement of what he is externally but what he is inwardly and truly, which is the whole truth of what authority in
God is. It is not the audacity that grows from the fact that you are 'macho'. That is a false pompous audacity and is not the basis for confronting Ahab: "As the LORD, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word" (1 Kings 17: 1b).
The remarkable thing is that nothing precedes this description of Elijah. Here is the full-orbed, totally prepared man thrust on the scene of history in that condition of obedience and without anything to indicate how he came to it. We need to ponder that. Elijah is indicative in type of the last day's Elijah company also trained up for ultimate obediences in obscurity and hiddenness. God can take the ordinary elements of our lives and use them to discipline and train us up in a long preparation that is not recognized nor seen by others.
"As the LORD, the God of Israel lives..."
How many of us are satisfied with our present knowledge that is satisfactory for most operating circumstances, but it is not satisfactory to stand before Ahab? Men prefer to remain with the
quotient of knowledge that they presently have because anything more would bring requirement. To know God as Elijah knew him is to welcome suffering, to open ourselves and make ourselves
vulnerable for such tearing, such trials, such dealings and the things that cannot be anticipated, that except God be God, we are likely to perish in any one of those things. Do we have a
knowledge of God just sufficient for our need but not the knowledge of God that exceeds our need, namely, the knowledge of God as a He in fact is and desires to be known?
Is the knowledge of God so dear to us that we are willing for whatever it takes to obtain it? The single factor that describes the Messianic age is "that the knowledge of God shall cover the earth as the waters cover the seas" and it is the knowledge of God as Elijah knew Him.
"...before whom I stand..."
This is a mutually exclusive relationship. If we are going to stand before that God, then we cannot stand before any other. That means that we do not seek the approval of men, nor seek to rise in the religious system and become celebrated. This is to stand solely and exclusively before Him, with full accountability without so much as looking out of the corner of our eye as to how any other man or authority or religious group or prestigious segment will so much as take note of you. It is total and absolute indifference to what men think and say. This is not to encourage some kind of sophomoric, "Well, I do not care what others say." It is rather a refusal to seek acknowledgment from men. We cannot have the two. To stand before God is an absoluteness. How far are we willing to go with God? We will not be able to stand before the judgment throne of God with any kind of confidence, but with unbelievable terror, unless we can say in this life, "As the LORD, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand..."and say it in truth. Whatever the sacrifice in order to make that statement in this life is worth it, just to avoid the terror of standing before the throne of the Lord when he makes that eternal determination of our destiny. We need to know that we stand and to know it in this life.
That one statement out of a man's mouth gives such an awareness of a history with God, of what it takes to make that statement and make that statement to stand as a truth, that even an Ahab will
tremble at the hearing of it. It is no a cliché coming out of Elijah's mouth. It resonates with power and authority because it is the word of truth. It is the statement of the logic of his entire life in God. We need so deeply to respect the statement of Elijah and God is so discreet that He draws the shade and we are not allowed to peer in and press in with our vulgar curiosity to find out how it was done. You can believe that it was done with sufferings, anguish, shrieks and cries in the night and, "Where is God?" and the dark night of the soul, that a man can be brought forth at a point of time
historically to stand before the most dread enemies of God and make those statements, and not only to make them, but also to invoke a judgment upon the nation by his own word.
Elijah was solely, exclusively and totally God's. He was above culture, tradition, value, history and time. He was in that realm with God and the realm to which we ourselves are called and to which Abraham was called:
"Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your
father's house, to the land which I will show you..." (Gen. 12:1b).
It was not just an accidental aspect of the call, but at the heart of it. Those are the places where we are compromised, not because they are necessarily evil, but there is something about the flesh
and father's house and about kindred, family and country that keeps us from an Elijah obedience. How many of us would be ruthless about those things, that though we have fathers and mothers,
nations and family, as far as we are concerned, there is effectually a total and radical severance? We only move when He speaks. That is the call we have, and the ironic thing is that however
precious our forebears and their influence, there is a kind of a tie that connects us that needs to be cut of a soulish kind to release us for the Elijah ministry. It is one thing to shuck off a terrible father and background and a bad past, but how about if it is good? There is a greater danger of spiritual compromise there than in the casting away of that which had no influence.
Elijah was not some exceptional piece of humanity. The key word that distinguishes Elijah's prayer that affected the elements is "earnestly". Other synonyms would be: fervently, intensely and
passionately, or to put it in another way, Elijah prayed as God would pray. He prayed in the name of the Lord. He prayed in keeping with God's own constituent make-up and character, and
God heard that prayer, for it was, as it were, His own. That which makes the prayer earnest is not the man's temperament, but the man's righteousness. The prayer of a righteous man makes
tremendous power available and is dynamic in its working. There has, therefore, got to be some conjunction between effectual prayer and the spiritual standing of the one praying with God.
The resurrection man is therefore eminently the righteous man. The man who has such an identification with the Cross and the identification with the emptying of self in daily relationship is the man who knows the resurrection. He is so righteous that he knows and detests that God should be served out of his own human energy, his own intelligence or his own ability. What is righteousness but God Himself!
We can know to some degree whether we have a prophetic calling by the disposition we have to restore the ancient ways and paths, the things that have fallen down or been knocked down and cast aside. What is God intending that was at the first?
The church in the book of Acts is how it was at the first, but no longer is. The church now is increasingly the sum of traditions, denominations, sophistication, modern technology and methodologies, for example, bringing God down through 'worship'. The whole thing invites being torn down, rooted up and plucked out and something restored that God has given from the first, namely, apostolic Christianity. It has got to be at the end as authentic as it was at the beginning, when the glory of God was in the church, that men were afraid even to join themselves to it. Anyone who violated against the Spirit of Truth, was carried out feet first by the young men.
To restore that before the Lord comes is an epochal and gut wrenching task, because it is so easy to 'go along'. A prophet has the vision for the original and a jealousy for the glory that attended it. He cannot stomach any deviation, counterfeit or modern day equivalent. He wants the glory of God that was at the first, and wants to see the authentic thing restored and knows that it is going to be such a labor to pick up those stones. The prophet not only restores but he keeps and elevates
the consciousness of the true thing before the people of God continually.
The false prophets did not know that they were false. They actually expected that there was a God that would answer them. The vilest form of apostasy is when the people who are apostate do not even recognize or see themselves as apostate, and think that they are fully in the faith.
That is the ultimate apostasy and we need to seriously ask whether we are already describing the condition to which the church has come, even in its best and most celebrated forms. We are not just talking about the mainline churches like the Episcopal and the Methodist, but are we are willing to consider those forms of the church that are the most charismatically celebrated in Christendom today? The apostasy is even worse in those places because it is not even
recognized as apostasy, and so much so, that when one comes to confront and challenge, then that one is called a 'troubler of Israel' and is shown the back door.
The prophetic man has somehow in the deepest corridors of his heart a little tremor of discomfort, that though everyone is shouting 'Amen' and 'hallelujah' and having a great time, there is something in his own heart that cannot say 'Yea' and 'Amen'. It is not yet the authentic thing,
though it purports to be and appears to be and uses all the right language appropriate to being it. The prophet is so attuned to God, who Himself alone is authenticity, that when he comes into the
presence of something that appears to be right and is not, then it registers upon his own soul. How can such a man be found and formed in such a way? It is the crying need of the church in this hour because the deception is far more extensive than we know.
The issue of the prophet is the issue of life or death. It always was and will be again, especially in the last days. The time is coming when we will have to confront the false prophets as Elijah did. We can no longer say, "Well, you are entitled to your opinion. You are not compelled to agree with me." Rather, "Your view is actually lulling people into a false security that will ensure their death and I confront you, for it is wrong." Elijah confronted the false prophets and we are coming to the
hour where we will no longer be able to keep our opinions to ourselves. The issue of who is really true and who is really false is now being required to come out on the table and be an open matter. No present issue is perhaps more critical for the church in identifying and distinguishing the one from the other.