(In Part 1, Norman presented Elijah as a man who knew his union with God. He saw through the negative of the apparent problem to the resources of God and by faith spoke the solution into existence. Part 2 continues rh l Kings 18 with God’s dealings through Elijah to expose the impotence of the self-life.)
After three years of drought, the word of the Lord came to Elijah and said, "Go show yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain upon the Earth." You can see here that what lies behind our word is God’s word, for Elijah had said to Ahab, "According to my word there will be neither rain nor dew." One thing the flesh can never take is to see us talking as if we know every-thing is God. They don’t know that we live with a wink: it isn’t we, it’s He. So in the hidden private life, God had indicated to Elijah that there would he neither dew nor rain, and there hadn’t been. Now there would be rain. And so he went to show himself to Ahab.
I like to watch the inner strength of people when they know where they are going. The word of the Lord just comes. It may not even appear to be the word of the Lord, but just be something that comes to us. Don’t he afraid of yourself. If you’re in union life, you are the way by which God is thinking, speaking, and acting. So don’t be afraid of your thinking, speaking, and acting. If it’s a big thing, you can wait until you are sure. But the point is to operate from an assured position. We can cut the "maybe’s" out of our lives when we realize that we act as God. Our will is God’s will, for it is God working in me "to will and to do of His good pleasure." Therefore, He expresses His will through my will. So when it became clear to Elijah that this was what God said to do, he did it.
Because the country was in desperate condition, Ahab had gone to great extremes to try to find out where there was water. He sent to every nation to try to find Elijah, this man who was troubling them. He sent Obadiah in one direction, while he went in another in their search for water.
Elijah met Obadiah, and Obadiah recognized Elijah. When Elijah told Obadiah to tell Ahab that now there would be rain, Obadiah became terrified for his own life and said, "I won’t do that, for I know you are a man of the Spirit. And if I go tell Ahab, the Spirit of God may take you elsewhere, and you may be sure that Ahab in his rage will kill me if I tell him you’re here, and then you disappear." Then, in defense of himself, Obadiah said, "Haven’t you heard, Elijah, that when Jezebel was slaughtering the prophets of the Lord, I had them by fifties in the cave and fed them bread and water?" That took some doing. Fifty men in two batches, maybe, one after the other, hidden in a cave and fed. So Obadiah was not with the Jezebel party. He was with God and identified
himself with God.
Only Two Types of People
There are two sorts of men, redeemed and unredeemed. The redeemed person can wobble, but because he is redeemed, he’ll come back to his redemption, to who he is in Christ. The unredeemed person may wobble and listen to the word, but he’ll go back to his unredemption, which is the devil. The redeemed per-son may have Christ and yet not have found his union, but because he is Christ’s, he will come back to Christ. Now, that was Obadiah. Obadiah was on God’s side, but because he didn’t know union as Elijh did, he became frightened. Ahab, on the other hand, would listen, and Elijah could talk to him, but because he belonged to the devil, he would always go back to the devil. Jezebel was a fixed devil, and Elijah never spoke to Jezebel, except to tell her what was coming to her.
Elijah became frightened later and ran for his life, but there was a difference between his fear and Obadiah’s. Elijah moved slightly for a time through his flesh fears, but because he knew union, he knew when to come back to where he belonged. Obadiah didn’t know union, so Elijah was unable to have fellowship with him because you can’t have fellowship with those who don’t know the One who is reality. Obadiah was caught up in self-fear and didn’t know how to move over into where Elijah was. Because Elijah was doing God’s will, he could walk into the very presence of Ahab and not be concerned about what happened to him. Obadiah was a godly man, but he was one of those who
identify outwardly with Christ and are used of God and do His works, but never actually find Him. So we don’t hear of Obadiah anymore, but we bless God for men like Obadiah. He meant something to God because God said, "I have seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal."
Someone may say, "Well, I don’t know whether or not I’d be like Obadiah. Maybe I would be afraid; maybe I wouldn’t go all the way." Don’t say that! Say, "God, I’m yours. You make me go all the way. If in my humanity, my temptation level, my soul level, I don’t know if I would, that’s all right because I’m saying You’ll get this through." Stand on the faith. Don’t try and get yourself right; don’t examine yourself. Say, "God, I’m yours. That’s settled. You grabbed me. You moved me into your crucifix-ion, resurrection, and ascension. I’m with you there, and now it’s up to you to keep me there. If I need a little widow dealing with, give me some widow dealings, that’s all." So don’t remain in condemnation; don’t remain in question. Move into Who you are. You are not you. You are joined to Him and He is in you and you’re in Him, crucified, risen, and ascended, and He is expressed by you. Stay there and leave Him to inhabit any area in which something needs to be settled. It can settle you a little more in who you are, that’s all, a little more recognizing it’s He, not you. When we read these things such as about Obadiah, don’t let us run into condemnation or conviction. The Lord is showing us things.
Now Elijah moved into what God had planned. He had had plenty of time at the Brook Cherith and at the widow’s house to make plans. And, of course, his plan and God’s were one and the same because he was in union with God. The plan was that there would be a public show which would be a demonstration of the destruction of the self-life. By self-life I mean the life we operate as though we were fighting the battle by our independent selves (an illusion) and don’t know union. God was going to come in a destructive way, by burning fire. That was what happened at Calvary.
When Elijah met Ahab, Ahab said what flesh always says: "You troubler!" God bless you if you are a troubler! If you are not a troubler, you haven’t gotten very far yet. Notice that the widow didn’t say, "Elijah, you troubled me when my son was sick." Instead she said, "I am troubled about my sin." She had come through, for unredeemed flesh doesn’t see sin in itself; it says, "You are the troubler with your salvation witness and the change you’ve brought into our whole life because you are now God’s per-son." This kind of thing will happen. You will be a troubler. There is no liberation without offense, and that is the offense of the cross. That’s what human Jesus wept over. There had to be those who could not take it, and He longed to take them up like chickens under the mother hen’s wing. But they wouldn’t come. This is a good thing for us to remember. If your life is God by you, you are a troubler. There may be someone who seems impossible. It’s really the first sign of grace in them because grace has to start negatively. Through their opposition to you, their misery, wrongness, and darkness, they are being prepared for the light. So, for you to be an offense to them is to be a blessing to them, though, of course, they won’t feel like it.
In this case, Elijah was straight with Ahab. He said, "I’m not the trouble. It is you who has done it." There is nothing that is trouble on the out-side. It is only the way we react to our troubles that is the problem. After saying that to Ahab, Elijah said, "Let’s prepare a plan. Get all the people and all eight hundred of the prophets of Baal together." There was in Elijah this sense of authority, and we do carry authority. That’s how our word gets home. They said of Jesus that He talked as one having authority, not as the scribes. This type of authority made an impression on Ahab.
Again I say Ahab was appealable to. The difference between Ahab and Jezebel was that Elijah couldn’t bar-gain with Jezebel. She sent a message to Elijah saying, "You’ll be dead in a day." But Ahab didn’t talk like that, and so he could hear that voice.
All through scripture people like Felix, like Agrippa, almost said, "I’d like to be a Christian" (Felix, when he said, "I would like to hear more of this another time"). There were those who were appealable to, but they are on the wrong side. And so the power of darkness has a hold of them. Self-centered self has a hold. They swing back there unless, of course, they are prepared to take the steps of faith. They see right and wrong, but because they haven’t moved over and received Christ and Christ received them, they can’t get right. There are others who see right and wrong, but although they don’t realize union, they’re right because they know Christ. So they move back to where they belong.
Ahab was the first type, and died. The Bible tells in very strong terms that Ahab was more wicked than the other kings before him. Ahab’s wickedness was weak wickedness; Jezebel’s wickedness was strong. Therefore, Ahab would listen to what Elijah said and could see that this was something which had come from God.
Two Fires: External and Internal
We come now to one of the most famous stories of Bible history, the one about the fire of God burning up the sacrifice with the water poured over it. When Ahab had gotten the people and the priests together, Elijah told them, "Don’t hesitate between two opinions. If the Lord is God, follow Him; if Baal, then follow him." He proposed that they should have this test. The prophets of Baal were to make an altar, prepare a sacrifice, and Elijah would do the same. Then each would call upon their god, and the one who answered by fire, he would be God. All the people agreed to this.
That is the kind of incident which has tremendous drama. It’s beyond our present experience, and so to that extent, on a historical level, it doesn’t touch us because we don’t see that sort of thing happening today. That’s because God isn’t really interested in the external; He’s interested in the internal. He’s interested in people being for people in love, God expressing His love by us. These outer forms may help you or may not help you. There’s no evidence that this interlude of fire really changed this group, although, doubtless, there must have been some who changed. And there already were seven thousand who had not bowed to Baal. But Israel as a whole went into idolatry. The kings that followed Ahab were just as evil as Ahab, and there’s no evidence that Israel turned back to the Living God.
The fire of Pentecost is something different. When the Holy Ghost comes at Pentecost, there’s an inner change, not an outer change, and the whole world knows that we are changed people. The outer doesn’t do the work, although it may be preparation for an inner relationship. It wasn’t a preparation in Ahab, for although he humbled himself for self-interest, he didn’t change. Thank God, in many cases, the outer is preparation, and people do move into a relationship with God like the widow did.
The interpretation that has meaning for the present day is that self-effort can’t get us there. These priests cried all day, cut themselves with knives and bled, and ran and jumped around. Self can’t change self because at bottom there is no independent self: it is really Satan’s disguised way of living through us. Baal was simply an expression of what they were in "themselves," run by Satan.
Some of these newer things that we have today, as psychology and transcendental meditation, are merely self trying to change self. They can’t help. There is a psychology that is preached with Christ here and there that can help, and there are here and there psychiatrists who will bring people to Christ. But, on the whole, all this is a mass of human self-effort. We have it in politics where the government promises to do good for all. But we know it won’t work. Only a remedy that brings people to Christ is a true remedy. Self only brings up further self in manifestations of hates, problems, differences, battles, and so on. The lesson we get from the priests of Baal is that self can’t deliver.