“So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one.” (Ezekiel 22:30, NKJV)
In our daily lives, most of us desire to get along well with others, not least with our loved ones, friends and colleagues. It is not in our nature to offend them in public by telling them that something is wrong with their character or actions, because it would be crossing the line of tactfulness. Often, we do not want to come across as “the bad guy”.
This is not the case for Elijah, however. When we are first introduced to him in 1 Kings 17, he simply bursts onto the scene: “And Elijah the Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead, said to Ahab, ‘As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word’” (1 Kings 17:1 NKJV). The Bible gives no hints of his mysterious background nor prophetic credentials, except that he is a Tishbite, from a remote and insignificant village in Israel.
Background to Elijah’s appearance
Before Elijah burst onto the scene, Israel was in spiritual decline, in one of the darkest periods in her nation’s history. Israel had a succession of wicked kings after Jeroboam, but Ahab seems to top them all. God’s Word tells us that he did evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him (1 Kings 16:30). To add insult to injury, he married Jezebel, daughter of the king of the Sidonians, who then influenced all the Israelites to serve and worship her pagan god, Baal. By setting up an altar for Baal in the temple he built in Samaria
and erecting an Asherah pole for pagan worship, Ahab did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel before him (1 Kings 16:33).
How does God respond? Does He send a legion of angels to destroy them? No! Does He send a plague to wipe them all out? Not at all. Instead, He sends an unknown man from a remote village to confront the wicked king. One man who is full of faith and zeal for His glory to be upheld. We are reminded of Paul’s words: “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise… what is weak in the world to shame the strong… what is low and despised… to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1 Corinthians 1:27-29). Indeed, as the Dutch missionary Brother Andrew has testified, “One man with God is a majority.” One man who is faithful and true to His calling.
What is at stake?
By sending the prophet Elijah to king Ahab, God is directly confronting the power of darkness oppressing the people in Israel. We may ask ourselves, what can one person do against the power of the nation, against the power of evil? Yet, God’s Word tells us that it is “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6).
Elijah, whose name means, ‘The Lord is My God,’ pronounces God’s message short and sharp, to the point: “As the Lord, the God of Israel lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.” Elijah is reminding Ahab and his wicked queen that the God of Israel is still sovereign and in control of heaven and earth. In his book God’s Smuggler, Brother Andrew encourages us thus: “The bigger the darkness, the easier it is to spot your little light.”
God has raised up godly people over the centuries to take a stand for the Gospel and for His glory, such as the Apostle Paul, St Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, William Wilberforce, John Wesley, John Sung, and many others. At the local church level, God is calling each of us to stand in the gap, to be His faithful witnesses to those around us, that by our godly lives and testimonies, we may point them to the saving grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. May the Lord grant us courage and zeal to be faithful witnesses for Him. Amen.
– Eld Elgin Chan