by William J. Stewart
There are several occasions when events which took place in the Old Testament are used as lessons in faith for us in the New Testament. Consider the faith of Abraham, as he was willing to give his son Isaac as a sacrifice to God (Genesis 22). It is not until we come to the book of Hebrews that we are told the patriarch concluded “…God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense” (11:19).
Another case where an Old Testament character and circumstance is used as a faith lesson in the New Testament is found in the prophet Elijah. 1 Kings 17:1 tells us that Elijah foretold a drought which would come; but when we come to the writing of James, we find that he in fact prayed for the drought (James 5:17). Why pray for a drought? It was a punishment upon the people of Israel for their sins (1 Kings 16:33; Deuteronomy 28:22, 24), and used to persuade them to repent. 3 1/2 years later, we read of Elijah’s showdown with the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel. God was faithful, giving his prophet victory over the false prophets of Baal. As a result, the heart of the people was turned back to the Lord (1 Kings 18:37-40). Thus, it was time for Elijah to pray again, that the rain might come. Let us consider his prayer and the events which followed.
The Proclamation of Faith (1 Kings 18:41)
Elijah believed that it would rain. Given the victory of the LORD that day, and the turning of the hearts of Israel back to the LORD, the prophet expected that God would bring an end to the drought. God’s promise in the Law was that if Israel had departed from Him, and the curses pronounced against them were engaged (Deuteronomy 28), if they turned again to the LORD thereafter, He would restore them in the land and bless them with prosperity (Deuteronomy 4:29-31; 30:1-5). Elijah believed God’s promise, and proclaimed it publicly.
The Prayer Of Faith (1 Kings 18:42-44)
Believing that God would restore the rain, and having declared it aloud, Elijah then ascended to the top of Mount Carmel “bowed down on the ground, and put his face between his knees.” He prayed. As he had formerly prayed earnestly for the drought to come, now he petitioned God for the drought to end.
“Go up now, look toward the sea,” Elijah commanded his servant. “Nothing,” came the reply. Six times, the servant was sent to look toward the sea, and six times, the servant reported there was nothing. There was no physical evidence available for Elijah to lay his expectation upon—the skies were blue and cloudless. However, his faith was secure in the promise of God.
“Go again,” Elijah commanded, a seventh time. The servant came back, excited, “There is a cloud, as small as a man’s hand, rising out of the sea!” How many are ready to declare a heavy rain, having seen a single cloud in the sky, a cloud small enough that it can be hidden behind your hand? Elijah was, and he did. Ahab, “prepare your chariot, and go down before the rain stops you!”
That small cloud was evidence enough for him to declare God had answered his prayer—it was going to rain!
The Power of Faith (1 Kings 18:45-46)
Elijah believed it would come to pass. He prayed that it would come to pass, and at the sight of one tiny cloud, he knew it had come to pass, before a single drop of rain fell.
“Now it happened in the meantime that the sky became black with clouds and wind, and there was a heavy rain.”
Elijah’s prayer was answered! But why? Was it because he was a man through whom the Lord performed miracles? No. Was it because he was a prophet, and thus had knowledge of future events? No. How is it that this man of God prayed for rain, and it rained? Hear the words of James:
“Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit” (5:17-18).
There was no special power or ability in Elijah’s possession that affected the rain on that day. James plainly reveals, it was because he, as a righteous man, prayed that God would bring forth rain, according to the promise of God. If we will pray in faith, then we too will see the fulfillment of prayer as Elijah did. The apostle John wrote:
“Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him” (1 John 5:14-15).
What a blessing! Friend, let us believe that God will do what He has said He will do. Believing, let us pray for God to do what He has said He will do. And thus, believing and praying in faith, we will see God’s answer to our prayers.