Revival: The Revelation of Resurrection (Part 2)
In 1 Kings 17, Elijah brought the word of the Lord to Ahab, King of Israel, that there would neither be rain nor dew for a period of years until Elijah spoke again for the Lord. Chapter 18 opens with the Lord telling Elijah to show himself to Ahab and then promising that He would send rain on the earth. There had been a drought for three years; it was a perfect setting for the manifestation of the resurrection power of the Lord. Today, we find ourselves in a similar posture.
At this time in Israel, there had been a severe drought for three years. In such a climate, rain is necessary for the production of food for the people and the maintenance of the land. At planting, the crops were put out and they depended on the early rain to cause the seed to germinate and sprout. Usually, there followed months of little or no rain while the crops grew receiving the necessary moisture from the dew and being exposed to the harshness of the elements which brought a strength and maturity to the crop. As harvest approached, the farmers knew that God would send a latter, or harvest rain, that would take the crop on to full maturity.
Our life in the Lord is very similar. When first born again, most believers usually experience an abundance of the former rain that causes the Seed planted in their hearts to begin to take root and sprout. After that, and sometimes for years, there is generally a season when the work of the Holy Spirit is much less apparent; similar to comparing the work of the dew with that of the rain. During that time, the believer is exposed to the harshness of the elements of the earth -- deliberately by the Lord -- in order to bring strength of character and maturity. For a believer to come to full maturity, it is necessary that there be a latter, or harvest, pouring out of the Spirit, the Rain of God. What is true for the individual is also true for the corporate Individual, that is, of His Body. For the Church to come to the measure of the fullness of the stature of Christ that is His plan, we will also encounter the former and latter rain - including the drought that may separate the two.
Israel in Drought
Israel, the covenant people chosen by God to bear His Name, had come to perhaps the extreme depth of their fall from fellowship with their Lord. Ahab had married Jezebel, a Sidonian princess who turned the king and the people from their lukewarm relationship with the Lord to fervent and zealous worship of Baal and Asherah. These deities were Canaanite gods of the kind God told Joshua to thoroughly purge from the land of their inheritance. Among the reasons for the command of the Lord not to partake of their worship was that their focus was entirely upon SELF-worship and was (is) the antithesis of God. It catered to the fallen nature of man in stark contrast to the redeemed nature delivered of bondages and taken into the plan of God for man from the foundation of the world. The Lord's anger was so kindled against the Canaanite deities because they, by figure, were the single most powerful obstacle in the way of His children coming into the fullness of His heart for them. It is no less the case at this hour as well.
The animosity against Elijah held by Ahab and Jezebel is understandable when we realize that a true man of God is on the scene and willing to speak for the Lord. By contrast Obadiah, the governor of Ahab's house, feared the Lord but was more filled with the fear of man than the fear of God. Although he protected two groups of fifty prophets from the slaughter by Jezebel, he was terrified that the king or queen would find out the truth concerning his life and his love for the Lord. There are many today in that same position. They do have a fear and a love for the Lord, but, because it might cost them their job, their income, or (God forbid) their ministry, they remain silent, paralyzed by the fear of man.
It is apparent that Elijah had acquired the reputation by his life, and the Life by which he lived, that he indeed was a man of God. Notice that he did not advertise his spirituality nor his relationship with God. Remember, he was a Tishbite of the inhabitants of Gilead. In fact, approximately three years had passed between 1 Kings 17:24 and 18:1 and nothing is recorded as having been heard from Elijah. At their meeting, Ahab's words to Elijah speak of his awareness of the damage that a man of God could do to a deceived people.
Ahab was concerned that the man of God would cause quite a stir among the people. Elijah had just such a plan in mind.
The Test of Two Opinions: The Fire of God
Elijah called for a showdown between the prophets of Baal and himself He was willing to place his full trust in the abilities and willingness of the Lord to show Himself strong if they were foolish enough to think that their god was even a match. Elijah's challenge began as he confronted the people:
Elijah had an experience; the others had a theory.
After the prophets of Baal had their turn trying to call forth the manifestation of their god to no avail, Elijah went about preparing before the Lord. First, he repaired the altar of the Lord that was broken down; that speaks of returning to the awareness of where the altar of the Lord is actually located: the heart (v. 30; Ps. 51:17). Then, Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes of the sons of Jacob; the number 12 speaks of the rule or government of God and the stones speak of the God-created materials by which He builds His own habitation and a place for the offering of true, spiritual sacrifices (Eph. 2:20-22; 1 Peter 2:3-8). In other words, he was yielding to the Divinely ordained and provided for way over and against the disarray and ruin into which it had fallen.
Following his preparation, Elijah sought to make absolutely certain that there would be no mistake about Who had answered by fire. He completely soaked the altar and sacrifice three times, thereby displaying his reliance upon the Resurrection Life of God and his total unwillingness to have this event even remotely related to his own life or abilities. Then, at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice -- the Beginning of a New DAY -- Elijah drew near and said:
As we have seen, Elijah's heart was that the people called by His Name would bear the testimony of the Lord. His total and complete reliance was on the Lord's ability -- and desire -- to tum the hearts of the children to their Father and Elijah would touch His heart on behalf of His children. It is no wonder that the Lord gave us the promise of the ministry of Elijah as the sendoff from the Old Testament to the New and that the Lord Jesus would say of John the Baptist that he was Elijah of whom it was promised would tum the hearts to the Father and declare the Father's heart to His own.
When the fire of the Lord fell, it was not for the punishment of the people. Instead it was a type of the fulfillment of His heart's delight that was accomplished on Calvary. In that instant, He consumed all that lived by its own life (the burnt sacrifice), all of the works of man (the wood), the vessels themselves (the stones), the fallen nature itself (the dust), and all that would be a hindrance to the fulfilling of His purpose in His people (the flood that would seek to quench the fire of God). On Mt. Carmel that day there was a confrontation of the powers of this earth with the very One Who had created them. Years later, the real encounter would occur on another mount called Calvary; but, on the Third Day ...
The Sound of Rain
And Elijah said unto Ahab, Get thee up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of abundance of rain.
In telling Ahab to go eat and drink, Elijah was telling him to go attend to the things of his own natural life. Elijah had more important things to which he needed to attend. Instead of taking a vacation from the strenuous ordeal that had just occurred, he knew that for the rain to come there was some labor to be engaged. The position that Elijah assumed on the ground with his head between his knees is a position of labor and travail associated with childbirth in that part of the world. Although knowing that there is something to be brought forth for a long time, the actual time of arrival is often extremely intense, uncomfortable and often frightening for those experiencing it for the first time. Paul was intimately acquainted with the travail process as he told the Galatians that he was in labor, travailing again until Christ was formed in them (Galatians 4:19); there is the corporate example of Revelation 12:2 which speaks of the Church in travail to birth Christ into the earth.
Look to the Sea
Elijah told his servant to look to the sea. The sea is always a type of large groups of people brought together for a corporate purpose (Revelation 4:6; 15:2). In other words, Elijah knew that which the Lord was doing would arise from the people and not from the harlot organizations typified by that woman Jezebel (Revelation 2:20-23). He also knew that it would be in a season chosen of the Lord following His perfected work and purpose; hence Elijah's admonition to go back seven times, the number of completion. It is no surprise to find that eight follows seven; it is interesting to note, however, that the new beginnings of God (implied by the number eight) always rest upon the completion of a work of His own hand.
In seeing the cloud rising out of the sea, like a man's hand, Elijah saw rising from the people the smallest indication that the promised rain, or outpouring of the Life of God, was upon them and rising from them. In this hour, as well, it is apparent that there is a great event in God stirring deep in the hearts of His people. The Church is in labor at this very moment and pained to give birth. The Lord in His grace and mercy is not allowing any to see exactly what this Man-child is going to look like; although we can be sure of this,
Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. 1 John 3:2 (KJV)
When the Lord arises from the midst of His people, truly portraying what we have known by position, He as Head and we as His Body that together fully manifests the Man, Jesus Christ, then we shall truly see Him as He IS: the same yesterday, today and forever! (Hebrews 13:8) The anticipation is so high in the hearts of some that they can scarcely breathe without thinking of seeing the Birth of their Expectation. The traditions and containers of the past will not be able to handle what the Lord is about to do. What then are we to do in the meantime?
To be ready to receive what the Lord is preparing, we must look to Him for our direction and not to the ways or schemes of men. We must let the Lord send us to Cherith where we come face to face with commitment to Him and receive His provision for our lives, let Him take great joy to give us to eat of the Bread of Life and feed us the meat that He desires for us to receive in order that we grow strong and mature. We must obey Him as He sends us to Zarephath, the place of refinement, that He may set us in the Body as it pleases Him and temper us together with our brothers and sisters in Christ (1 Corinthians 12:18, 24). Then, when He is ready, we must yield to Him all that we have held dear and allow Him to take us up to where He abides and receive His vision, His perspective that we, like Elijah and so many others, may know that we are dwellers in two realms. For our citizenship is in Heaven, out from which we look for the appearing of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
As we allow the Lord to consume us, we come to a place of unity with Him and in Him that no other experience or plan on earth can produce. Being lost in Him causes us, as it did Elijah, to look to Him for literally everything -- especially His Life. We must come to where unless we are revived by His Life, we had just as soon die! It is from that place of desperation that the Fire of God falls -- and after the Fire comes the Rain!