Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Prayers of the Righteous

I 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.

The first mention of Elijah in the Bible is when he approached the most powerful man in Israel and told him confidently that there would be no rain or dew in the nation until he said so. That's a bold statement, especially considering that Ahab had the power to have Elijah killed. Ahab was probably the most wicked ruler ever to reign over Israel, and his wife made him seem like a nice guy by comparison. These two were pagans who served the false god, Baal, and had no qualm with killing those who did not believe like they did. This was the most corrupt era in the history of Israel. Immediately after making this pronouncement, Elijah went into hiding because Ahab and Jezebel wanted him dead.

While Elijah was hiding, God provided for his needs in miraculous ways. Finally, in I Kings 18:1, we're told that God spoke to Elijah and told him to go back to see Ahab because He was about to send rain.

I Kings 18:1
And it came to pass after many days, that the word of the LORD came to Elijah in the third year, saying, Go, shew thyself unto Ahab; and I will send rain upon the earth.

So Elijah went to Ahab and ended up challenging the prophets of Baal to a showdown between their false god and the true God. After their idolatry was exposed for what it was to all the people of Israel, and the nation was cleansed from their filth, Elijah again spoke to Ahab.

I Kings 18:41-46
41 And Elijah said unto Ahab, Get thee up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of abundance of rain.
42 So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he cast himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees,
43 And said to his servant, Go up now, look toward the sea. And he went up, and looked, and said, There is nothing. And he said, Go again seven times.
44 And it came to pass at the seventh time, that he said, Behold, there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea, like a man's hand. And he said, Go up, say unto Ahab, Prepare thy chariot, and get thee down, that the rain stop thee not.
45 And it came to pass in the mean while, that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode, and went to Jezreel.
46 And the hand of the LORD was on Elijah; and he girded up his loins, and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.

So Elijah outran the king's chariot on foot for about eighteen miles. What was so special about Elijah? Why was he able to stand before the wicked leaders of his day and say these things with such confidence? James 5:16 tells us that "the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." This verse is immediately followed by a couple of verses talking about Elijah (who was called Elias in the New Testament).

James 5:17-18
17 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.
18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.

Elijah was no better than any of us, but he had faith and prayed earnestly and God heard him and honored his prayers. His faith was so strong, and he was so confident that God would answer his prayers, that he acted on them and spoke up boldly to Ahab. He didn't just pray and sit back quietly waiting to see if God was going to do something. James 2:20 tells us that "faith without works is dead." Elijah's faith was not dead by any means.

How does all of this apply to our lives today in America? Elijah was one man among an entire nation of people, but his faith and fervent prayer was able to change the nation. How many people do we have in America who have faith in God? How many pray earnestly for this nation? We have the freedom to worship and pray, but has that freedom and ease made us lazy? We talk about persecution because of all those who say all manner of things about us, but there are nations where Christians are being slaughtered because of their faith. I pray that when that type of persecution comes here, our faith will be able to pass the test.

For generations our brave soldiers have been laying down their lives for us to be able to enjoy the freedom we have. If we don't exercise that freedom, then all their deaths are in vain. It is not the soldiers defending our nation from foreign enemies who will lose our freedom, but those of us who allow it to be eroded away by those who seek to destroy us from within. This Memorial Day, Christians in America need to wake up. We need to take some time out of our cookouts and shopping sprees to remember that our lives of ease were bought at a high price. We need to drop to our knees and thank God for all those who willingly gave their lives to keep us free, and to ask for His forgiveness for the way we have taken all of our blessings for granted. We need to pray earnestly for our nation, then stand boldly and reclaim it from the wicked ones who have given it over to idolatry.

II Chronicles 7:14
If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

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