Now Elijah, who was from Tishbe in Gilead, told King Ahab, “As surely as the LORD, the God of Israel, lives—the God I serve—there will be no dew or rain during the next few years until I give the word!” (1 Kings 17:1, NLT)
Elijah was a remarkable man. So remarkable, that many thought him to be superhuman. There is some evidence for that. He did not experience death; rather he was “translated.” Elijah appeared 1,000 years later at the transfiguration of Jesus. And some believe Elijah will appear again as one of the two witnesses prior to the return of Christ (cf. Revelation 11:1-12). All of that is impressive, yet James 5:17 says that Elijah was a man “as human as we are.”
Crisis may build our character, but even more crisis reveals our character. When crisis comes into your life it will reveal greatness or smallness. Elijah came on the scene at Israel’s darkest hour. After the kingdom divided after the death of Solomon, Israel had 19 kings. Each king was a little worse than the king before. The timing was right. The greatest OT prophet came at the hour of Israel’s greatest need. Elijah was the right man at the right time.
1 Kings reports that Elijah was from a small village called Tishbe. We don’t really know anything about its location, but we do know that Gilead was a rough, rugged, mountainous region. By geography, Elijah was a country boy. He was probably a shepherd, spending the vast majority of his time alone. He would have only the smallest villages. Ironically, God called this unvarnished, uncultured man to deal with the most sophisticated culture and the most powerful people of his day.
The point I want you to see is that Elijah was an unlikely choice. What were his credentials? Did he have education or experience? There was nothing about him that would cause the nation to observe that he was the likely choice to leave his small community and step onto a very large platform as God’s spokesperson. That’s fairly consistent with others we see God use in the Bible. Think about David, who wasn’t even regarded by his father enough to be presented to Samuel. Think about the prophets, many of whom were uneducated farmers and shepherd. Think about the disciples who were day laborers or fishermen. Think about Paul, though highly education was a Christian killer and persecutor of churches. He was the one selected to begin the gospel movement beyond the borders of Israel to the known world.
As a pastor, the number one reason I get for a negative response to an opportunity to serve is not “I won’t,” but “I can’t.” Whenever I hear someone say, “I can’t do that,” I am reminded that God’s preference is always the unlikely person. God uses unlikely people and places in them in large spaces so his glory can be displayed.