The Confrontation between Elijah and King Ahab in 1 Kings 18
The confrontation between Elijah and king Ahab in 1 Kings 18 is organized around a theme on restoration of the covenantal relationship between Yahweh and the people of Israel. Through the entire narrative, Elijah was on the mission of calling the people of God to repent as they had “forsaken the commandments of the LORD and have followed Baals” (v. 18) and to return to the worship of the LORD and to follow Him wholeheartedly. Elijah’s mission is presented in a chiastic framework in 1 Kings 18.
The story begins with the promise from God that He is going to send rain if His people repent and follow Him again (i.e. “…I will send rain…” in verse 1) and concludes with the fulfillment of God’s promise (i.e. “…there was a heavy rain.” in verse 45) as the people of God repented and returned to Him. In the Bible, “rain” often symbolizes the outpouring of God’s Spirit and His blessings. The Lord loves us but He hates idolatry. He will hold back His blessings in love when we have “idolatry” in our hearts.
The turning point of the entire event is when Elijah ”repaired the altar of the LORD that was broken down.” in verse 30. The altar of the LORD often symbolizes the restoration of our covenantal relationship with God and our wholehearted devotion and worship of our Almighty God. As we rebuild the “altar” of our lives, the Lord will repay to us those years of “famine” in our lives.
The Patterns and Characteristics of a Forerunner Ministry
The narrative in 1 Kings 18 also forms a pattern and characteristics of a forerunner ministry. As we study carefully, we will discover several unique patterns and characteristics of a forerunner ministry.
1. Season of Hiding – Times of Preparation and Training
Before his public confrontation with king Ahab at Mount Carmel, Elijah was led by the LORD into hiding (1 Kings 17:2 – 3). He went into hiding for about 3½ years before appearing again in 1 Kings 18. It seems that going into a place of hiddenness before a public ministry is a pattern of the forerunner ministry.
It is similar for John the Baptist who is known as the forerunner for the coming of Jesus Christ in the New Testament. We do not know much of John the Baptist except the fact that he was in the wilderness for many years. All we know about John is that he was living and hiding in the wilderness before the word of the Lord came to Him in Luke 3:2. Interestingly, both Elijah and John the Baptist had a relatively short “public” ministry in comparison to their time of hiddenness.
“Hiddenness” is a place where God prepares and trains His forerunners for their “future” ministry. It is at the place of hiddenness that the Lord refines and tests the motive and the heart of a forerunner. The place of hiddenness is also a place where character is being built and grown. Most of all, our faith, trust and intimacy with Him are being cultivated and established during this season of hiding. It is at the place of hiding that we become the voice of God, just like Elijah and John the Baptist.
The ministry of forerunner is often strategic and vital in shaping history and preparing the Church. Therefore, they need to be well-prepared and equipped for the task. It is at the place of hiding that a forerunner is being made ready. It is interesting to note that IHOP, which is also known as the Friends of the Bridegroom, is also a place of hiding for many. I believe that the Lord is preparing and equipping many would-be forerunners in the coming age. We need to be patient and submit ourselves to the training and preparation of the Lord, for the moment that He is going to use us!
2. The Voice of God
The forerunner is the VOICE of God. They are the ones who trumpet the very heart and message of God for their time. More than just “echoing”, they have the message of God for the hour and they will bring it to the people of God with great zeal. This means that the forerunner must be sensitive to the voice of God and have the ability to know the heartbeat of God and His kairos word for the NOW!
In 1 Kings 18:1, “the word of the LORD came to Elijah” which launches him into the ministry of the forerunner. The LORD gave Elijah a specific message and a clear mandate. Suddenly, Elijah became the voice of God in confronting king Ahab and calling the people of Israel to repent and return to the LORD.
Mike Bickle is a type of forerunner in these last days. The Lord has given him a message for the Church of Jesus Christ on the Bride of Christ and the Bridal Paradigm. He is the voice of God who is trumpeting and preparing the way of the Lord.
3. Sent by God
A forerunner has to be someone who receives a clear call and mandate from the Lord! He is not self-appointed or man-appointed but one who is appointed and sent by the Lord. He is one who has been set apart with the unction and anointing of the Lord. The ministry of Elijah clearly demonstrated that. In 1 Kings 18:1 – 2, the LORD spoke and appointed Elijah with the mission of confronting king Ahab.
“And it came to pass after many days that the word of the LORD cam to Elijah, in the third year, saying, ‘Go, present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the earth.’ So Elijah went to present himself to Ahab…”
To be a forerunner, we must have a mandate from the Lord. With the mandate of the Lord, we also have the zeal of the Lord, His authority and His power to authenticate our message.
4. Repairing of Altar – Message of Repentance, Return and Restoration
During the reign of king Ahab, the nation of Israel has compromised and strayed away from the LORD. The people of God began to serve and worshiped Baals and the altar of the LORD was broken down. This really provoked and angered the LORD.
Out of His love and jealousy for His people, the LORD called Elijah and gave him a mission of repairing the broken altar of the LORD. In the Old Testament, the altar of the LORD symbolizes a wholehearted devotion to the LORD and a covenantal relationship with the Almighty. The purpose of the ministry of Elijah is to restore the covenantal relationship between God and the people of Israel. His message is a message of repentance and return to the LORD!
This is the very message of a forerunner ministry. The message of a forerunner ministry is a message of repentance, return unto the Lord and restoration by Him! The trumpet call of the forerunner ministry is to call forth a Bride who is worthy of the Lord, a Church that is ready for His return and a people of God who are wholehearted unto Him! This is the message of Elijah. This is the message of John the Baptist. In fact, the message of the forerunner is being stated in Isaiah 40:3,
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.’”
A forerunner’s message is often about calling the people of God to repentance and to return to the Lord so that God will make them ready. John the Baptist preached the same message in the New Testament. His typical message is “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matthew 3:2) and he preached a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.
5. Ministry of Intercession
A forerunner is not only a messenger and a voice of the Lord; he is also an intercessor of the Lord, who births forth the purpose and promise of God through his fervent prayer and intercession.
After Elijah had confronted king Ahab and the people of Israel, repaired the altar of the LORD, and restored the covenantal relationship between God and the nation of Israel, he interceded for the fulfillment of God’s promise in sending the rain in 1 Kings 18:42,
“So Ahab went up and drink. And Elijah went to the top of Carmel; then he bowed down on the ground, and put his face between his knees.”
As a result of his intercession, the LORD sent forth rain (1 Kings 18:45). Therefore, intercession is part of the “job description” of a forerunner.
We are truly unique by virtue of the time in which we are living. We may actually be living in the final prophetic moments preceding the Second Coming of the Lord. The Lord may just raise up an entirely new generation of forerunners out of the wilderness of obscurity to proclaim the same message as John the Baptist: Make the way straight for Christ’s Second Coming!