Maranatha Media

In the Spirit and Power of Elijah

Posted May 16, 2020 by Colin Nicolson in Everlasting Gospel
138 Hits

When we hear these words – in the spirit and power of Elijah – apart from Elijah, which Biblical character immediately comes to mind?  John the Baptist.

Luke 1:15-17

15               For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb. 

16   And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God

17   And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

To understand what Gabriel meant by the words in the spirit and power of Elias, we need to take a look at the life of Elijah.  There is much to learn from a study of the life of Elijah.  I refer you to chapter 6 of Adrian’s book “The Agape of God” which addresses the calling fire down from heaven on the two captains with their 50s and the slaying of the prophets of Baal.  It is not my purpose to cover those matters today.  I want to present some evidence that defines the meaning of the “spirit and power of Elijah” in the life of Elijah outside of his human frailty.

1 Kings 17:1                And Elijah the Tishbite, [who was] of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, [As] the LORD God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.

What do we know about Elijah the Tishbite?

Among the mountains of Gilead, east of the Jordan, there dwelt in the days of Ahab a man of faith and prayer whose fearless ministry was destined to check the rapid spread of apostasy in Israel. Far removed from any city of renown, and occupying no high station in life, Elijah the Tishbite nevertheless entered upon his mission confident in God's purpose to prepare the way before him and to give him abundant success. The word of faith and power was upon his lips, and his whole life was devoted to the work of reform. His was the voice of one crying in the wilderness to rebuke sin and press back the tide of evil. And while he came to the people as a reprover of sin, his message offered the balm of Gilead to the sin-sick souls of all who desired to be healed.  {PK 119.1}

Gilead was a mountainous region on the east side of the Jordan River taken during the exodus by Israel from Sihon, king of the Amorites and Og, king of Bashan.  Moses divided the land between the tribes of Reuben, Gad and part of Manasseh.

We are not given any details of the ancestry of Elijah so we do not know much about him other than he was a “Tishbite” from Gilead.  We don’t even know to which tribe he belonged.  However, we do know he was called of God to bring a message of repentance to his people.

As we just read, in reproving the sin of the people, in rebuking sin, in pressing back the tide of evil, in doing all of that, contained within the message of Elijah we are told, was the balm of Gilead.  And while he came to the people as a reprover of sin, his message offered the balm of Gilead to the sin-sick souls of all who desired to be healed.

What is the balm of Gilead?

Jeremiah 46:11          Go up into Gilead, and take balm, O virgin, the daughter of Egypt: in vain shalt thou use many medicines; [for] thou shalt not be cured

We can see in this text that the balm of Gilead is a superior healing agent, both physically and spiritually.  It is believed the balm of Gilead was a fragrant medicinal resin obtained from a certain tree or trees that grew in Gilead and it had powerful healing properties.  The idea that it is produced from the sap of a tree is supported by the Hebrew word H6875 “tser-ee” which is from an unused root meaning to crack (as by pressure) hence to leak; distillation, that is, balsam: – balm.  It was so highly regarded for its healing properties as a universal cure, that it was, and still is, used figuratively as an agent of spiritual healing and in fact the only certainty for spiritual healing.

As we just read in Prophets and Kings about Elijah, …his message offered the balm of Gilead to the sin-sick souls of all who desired to be healed.

Who else spoke words that offered the balm of Gilead?  Here is a description of the words Jesus spoke to the crowds leading up to the feeding of the 5,000.

The people listened to the words of mercy flowing so freely from the lips of the Son of God. They heard the gracious words, so simple and so plain that they were as the balm of Gilead to their souls.  {DA 365.1}

So, spiritually speaking, what is the balm of Gilead?

The Lord is coming, and we want the leprosy of sin to be cured. The grace of Christ is the balm of Gilead for the cure of sin, the atoning sacrifice. If we will consent to accept the prescription for sin, to repent, to believe, to receive the righteousness of Christ, how changed will be all our thoughts! Old things have passed away; all things have become new. A new heart will I give you, and then a new song will be placed on our lips.  {Lt144-1893.7 – written in 1893 from New Zealand.  Previously unpublished, these words do not appear anywhere else in her writings.}

What is the balm of Gilead?  It is the grace of Christ which is His atoning sacrifice.

So when Elijah was reproving the people for their sins, and we are told that his message offered the balm of Gilead to the sin-sick souls of all who desired to be healed, then it can only be that his message must have offered the grace of Christ which is the balm of Gilead for the cure of sin, the atoning sacrifice.  So, if Elijah’s message offered the grace of Christ to sin-sick souls, in what manner would such a message be given.

Well, let’s have a look and see what we can find.

1 Kings 18:17, 18

17   And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, [Art] thou he that troubleth Israel? 

18   And he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father's house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and thou hast followed Baalim.

Here we have the record of the words spoken by Elijah but the written text does not convey the expression in Elijah’s voice or his body language.  The Bible simply says And he answered.  There is no evidence he spoke in anger.  There is no evidence he spoke in disrespect.  The record simply says he answered.

This is what we read in PK page 139 of that moment Ahab faced Elijah.

The king and the prophet stand face to face. Though Ahab is filled with passionate hatred, yet in the presence of Elijah he seems unmanned, powerless. In his first faltering words, "Art thou he that troubleth Israel?" he unconsciously reveals the inmost feelings of his heart. Ahab knew that it was by the word of God that the heavens had become as brass, yet he sought to cast upon the prophet the blame for the heavy judgments resting on the land.  {PK 139.3}

Although Elijah was being falsely blamed for the drought and famine, and although from verse 18 it is clear that the words of Elijah’s answer were direct and bold, remembering he was speaking to the king of Israel, yet he must have spoken calmly to Ahab.  Here is why.  Firstly, as we just read, Ahab seems unmanned, powerless in the presence of Elijah, so Elijah did not need to raise his voice or speak harshly because the Spirit of God is at work on Ahab’s heart.  Elijah did speak boldly and he did speak directly in calling out Ahab for his sin and the sins of his fathers, but Ahab’s reaction in verse 20 does not indicate any animosity towards Elijah.  Verse 20 simply says, So Ahab sent unto all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together unto mount Carmel.  There is no evidence of an adverse reaction from Ahab.

This is the description of Elijah’s response to Ahab in PK page 140.

Standing in conscious innocence before Ahab, Elijah makes no attempt to excuse himself or to flatter the king. Nor does he seek to evade the king's wrath by the good news that the drought is almost over. He has no apology to offer. Indignant, and jealous for the honor of God, he casts back the imputation of Ahab, fearlessly declaring to the king that it is his sins, and the sins of his fathers, that have brought upon Israel this terrible calamity.  {PK 140.1}

Now, the first sentence of the next paragraph is telling:

Today there is need of the voice of stern rebuke; for grievous sins have separated the people from God.  {PK 140.2}

What is needed today? – the voice of stern rebuke.  If then, the voice of stern rebuke is what IS needed today, what is NOT needed today?  The stern voice of rebuke.  Oh, how that hit home for me when I realised it.  How much of the balm of Gilead is offered through a stern voice of rebuke?  None.

It was at this point in my preparation of this sermon, that the thought occurred to me, “Search the EGW Writings on the specific term stern voice.”  Guess what?  On one occasion only did Mrs White use that term and here is what she said:

….but the stern voice of rebuke and denunciation is uttered against those who will not be drawn to Christ…. {RH October 21, 1890, par. 7}

Now I was perplexed.  Having confidently arrived at the idea that the balm of Gilead cannot be offered with a stern voice, I was confronted with these words.  So, I read more widely in the RH article and this is what I read.  The article is called “Danger in Rejecting Light”.  What a marvellous article.

A proper fear of God, in believing his threatenings, works the peaceable fruits of righteousness, by causing the trembling soul to flee to Jesus. Many ought to have this spirit today, and turn to the Lord with humble contrition, for the Lord has not given so many terrible threatenings, pronounced so severe judgments in his word, simply to have them recorded, but he means what he says.  {RH October 21, 1890, par. 6}

The love of God is to be dwelt upon, and when it is presented in the demonstration of the Spirit, it has power to break down every barrier which separates Christ from the soul, provided the sinner will yield to its influence, and make an entire surrender to God; but the stern voice of rebuke and denunciation is uttered against those who will not be drawn to Christ, who will not be affected by the marvellous display of his love.

How is this done?  Her next words explain it.

The word of God declares, “He that believeth not shall be damned.” “Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” In these words there is something terrible to evil workers, and by these they should be convicted of their self-sufficiency, and feel the terror of the Lord.  {RH October 21, 1890, par. 7}

Right there I could see the problem.  I had been reading this all wrong!  It is not my voice or your voice or the voice of Elijah or the voice of John the Baptist or any other human voice that is required to take on stern or harsh or condemning tones in rebuking sin.  The stern rebuke, the condemnation, the something terrible to evil workers is in the very word of God.  But where does the stern rebuke, the condemnation, the terror of the Lord manifest? – in the mind of the sinner.

This is how it happens.

It is not God that puts the blinder before the eyes of men or makes their hearts hard; it is the light which God sends to his people, to correct their errors, to lead them in safe paths, but which they refuse to accept,—it is this that blinds their minds and hardens their hearts. They choose to turn from the light, to stubbornly walk in sparks of their own kindling, and the Lord positively declares that they shall lie down in sorrow. When one ray of light which the Lord sends is not acknowledged, there is a partial benumbing of the spiritual perceptions, and the second revealing of light is less clearly discerned, and so the darkness will constantly increase until it is night to the soul. Christ said, “How great is that darkness!”  {RH October 21, 1890, par. 3}

So, what then is our part in bringing both the words of stern rebuke and the stern words of rebuke to others who desperately need to hear those words?  How do we do that?

Love for one another is not to be manifested by praise and flattery, but by true fidelity. The love of Christ will lead us to watch for souls; and if we see one in danger, we shall tell him so plainly and kindly, even at the risk of his displeasure. The religion of Christ is not to be controlled by impulse. We need to pray much, and lean wholly upon God. We need to hold the truth with firmness, and in all righteousness; but while we speak the truth with fidelity, we should speak it in love, as it is in Jesus. {BEcho April 23, 1894, par. 9}

With these thoughts in mind, I then had to reconcile what I had read in PK 140.

He has no apology to offer. Indignant, and jealous for the honor of God, he casts back the imputation of Ahab, fearlessly declaring to the king that it is his sins, and the sins of his fathers, that have brought upon Israel this terrible calamity.

Elijah is indignant.  What does indignant mean?  It is usually taken to mean anger but it can also mean aggrieved. It comes from the Latin word indignus meaning “unworthy” in that the thing said or done was so unworthy that it engendered a response.  How readest thou?  Did Elijah’s indignation represent anger in his heart towards Ahab or was he aggrieved because of the condition of Ahab’s heart towards God?  This is inspired writing because it seeks out the thoughts and intents of our hearts.  How readest thou?  Did Elijah know the words of Proverbs 15:1?

A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.

Remember what we read in PK 119?

Among the mountains of Gilead, east of the Jordan, there dwelt in the days of Ahab a man of faith and prayer whose fearless ministry was destined to check the rapid spread of apostasy in Israel.

Elijah was a man of faith and prayer and his ministry was fearless.  What is it that casts out fear?  1 John 4:18 – There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.

Elijah knew the love of God that is why he is described as a man of faith and prayer with a fearless ministry.  That is why Ellen White was able to write as we read earlier:

His was the voice of one crying in the wilderness to rebuke sin and press back the tide of evil. And while he came to the people as a reprover of sin, his message offered the balm of Gilead to the sin-sick souls of all who desired to be healed.  {PK 119.1}

Surely it must be that a message that offered the balm of Gilead which is the grace of Christ, His atoning sacrifice, to the sin-sick souls of all who desired to be healed, then that message must be presented in a way that allows sin-sick souls, under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, to recognise and receive healing.  Since the stern words of rebuke are in the word of God in the mind of the sinner, is it necessary or even helpful for God’s messenger to also deliver the stern words in a stern manner?  What did we just read in BEcho April 23, 1894, par. 9?

The love of Christ will lead us to watch for souls; and if we see one in danger, we shall tell him so plainly and kindly, even at the risk of his displeasure.

James 5:17 tells us that:              Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months.

This explains why Elijah had a crisis of faith.  His crisis of faith came because he was a man subject to like passions as we are.  The slaying of the prophets of Baal and the calling down of fire to destroy men’s lives was because Elijah was a man subject to like passions as we are.  None of this was a manifestation of the spirit and power of Elijah.

So to be clear, what does a manifestation of the spirit and power of Elijah look like?

What was it that constituted the power of Elijah? “As the Lord liveth, before whom I stand” [1 Kings 17:1]—this was ever the watchword on his lips; and in these words lay his power. His message was from God; it filled his whole being. {Ms117-1907.20}

Elijahs are called for at this period of earth’s history. Today, messengers are to go forth in the same spirit, with the Word of God in their hands, and the Spirit of God in their hearts, speaking words of warning and entreaty and pleading with God in earnest supplication. If ever there were a time for deepest humiliation before God, it is now. Let those to whom the Lord has given this message to bear humble their hearts before Him and be afraid. God can use only those who are lowly in spirit. {Ms117-1907.21}

Now we know how the spirit and power of Elijah manifests.  It manifests in people having their Bibles in their hands, so they know their Bibles, they have the Spirit of God in their hearts, so they know the character of their God because they don’t judge or condemn, they speak words of warning and entreaty and they plead earnestly and humbly before God for themselves and for the souls of others.  This is the manifestation of the spirit and power of Elijah in the lives of God’s people.

With that in mind, we will now go to the life of John the Baptist.

Luke 1:15-17

15   For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb. 

Notice the linkage between temperance and the infilling of the Holy Spirit in this verse.  This is highly relevant for us today and here is why.

John the Baptist went forth in the spirit and power of Elijah, to prepare the way of the Lord, and to turn the people to the wisdom of the just. He was a representative of those living in the last days, to whom God has intrusted sacred truths to present before the people, to prepare the way for the second appearing of Christ. And the same principles of temperance which John practiced should be observed by those who in our day are to warn the world of the coming of the Son of man. {CTBH 39.1}

So here we can see that the health message is part of the manifestation of the spirit and power of Elijah.

16   And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God

17   And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

The message John brought to the people was a message of repentance as was the message brought to the people by Elijah as is the message God wants brought to the world today.  And the church of John’s day was little different in many ways to the church of today.

He saw his people deceived, self-satisfied, and asleep in their sins. He longed to rouse them to a holier life. The message that God had given him to bear was designed to startle them from their lethargy, and cause them to tremble because of their great wickedness. Before the seed of the gospel could find lodgment, the soil of the heart must be broken up. Before they would seek healing from Jesus, they must be awakened to their danger from the wounds of sin.  {DA 103.5}

What was designed to startle them from their lethargy, and cause them to tremble because of their great wickedness? – The message that God had given him to bear.  What was that message?  It was a proclamation of the coming of the Messiah and a call to repentance.

John proclaimed the coming of the Messiah, and called the people to repentance. As a symbol of cleansing from sin, he baptized them in the waters of the Jordan. Thus by a significant object lesson he declared that those who claimed to be the chosen people of God were defiled by sin, and that without purification of heart and life they could have no part in the Messiah's kingdom.  {DA 104.4}

The people in the church in John’s day were in the same condition as the people in the church in the last days.  Revelation 3:17   Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:

God does not send messengers to flatter the sinner. He delivers no message of peace to lull the unsanctified into fatal security. He lays heavy burdens upon the conscience of the wrongdoer, and pierces the soul with arrows of conviction. The ministering angels present to him the fearful judgments of God to deepen the sense of need, and prompt the cry, "What must I do to be saved?" Then the hand that has humbled in the dust, lifts up the penitent. The voice that has rebuked sin, and put to shame pride and ambition, inquires with tenderest sympathy, "What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee?"  {DA 104.1}

Can you see again here that the voice of stern rebuke is in the word of God in the mind of the sinner?  Who is it that lays heavy burdens upon the conscience of the wrongdoer?  God through Christ.  Who is it that pierces the soul with arrows of conviction?  God through Christ.  Who is not charged with responsibility for doing these things?  The one who comes in the spirit and power of Elijah.  What is the responsibility of the one who comes in the spirit and power of Elijah?

Men will go forth in the spirit and power of Elijah to prepare the way for the second advent of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is their work to make crooked things straight. Some things must be torn down; some things must be built up. The old treasures must be reset in a framework of truth. They are to preach God’s Word; their testimony must not be molded by the opinions and ideas that have been regarded as sound, but by the Word of God which liveth and abideth forever. They are to lift up Christ and call sinners to repentance. They are to practice the graces of Christ, to pursue a straightforward course, breaking down skepticism and urging upon all their personal responsibility to be kind and courteous, to do good and to win souls to Jesus. {Ms15-1888.30}

I want to go back to Luke 1:16, 17.

16   And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God

17               And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

 

When we think of the power of Elijah, we tend to think of the mighty miracles he performed – shutting up and opening up the heavens, bringing fire down from heaven on Mt Carmel, raising the dead, dividing the waters of the Jordan.  But John “did no miracle” yet all of the power Elijah had was manifested in him.  In what way?  It was in the word that he preached and this is borne out in John 10:41 – And many resorted unto him, and said, John did no miracle: but all things that John spake of this man were true.  The power of God is not always shown in what are commonly called miracles.  The one who has the word of God dwelling in him, has the miracle by which all miracles were ever performed.

In conclusion, I want to leave you with a description of when the world was last shaken by people who came in the spirit and power of Elijah.

Thousands were led to embrace the truth preached by William Miller, and servants of God were raised up in the spirit and power of Elijah to proclaim the message. Like John, the forerunner of Jesus, those who preached this solemn message felt compelled to lay the axe at the root of the tree, and call upon men to bring forth fruits meet for repentance. Their testimony was calculated to arouse and powerfully affect the churches and manifest their real character. And as the solemn warning to flee from the wrath to come was sounded, many who were united with the churches received the healing message; they saw their backslidings, and with bitter tears of repentance and deep agony of soul, humbled themselves before God. And as the Spirit of God rested upon them, they helped to sound the cry, “Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment is come.” {EW 233.1}

 

Imagine what will happen when this message of the loving character of God with the third angel’s message is taken to the world in the spirit and power of Elijah.