THE PROPHET ELIJAH

During the time of the Divided Kingdom of Israel, God sent His prophets to both regions to call them back during their periods of infidelity. The tribes Judah and Benjamin had formed the region of Judah in the South, and the remaining 10 tribes of Israel had formed the region of Israel in the North. Both regions strayed from God; Israel in their worship of other Gods and Judah in their stony hearts. As a whole, both Judah and Israel would meet these prophets with great resistance, often making the lives of the prophets miserable. The prophet Elijah was no exception. 

Elijah was a prophet primarily sent to Israel in the North. The king that he brought God’s messages to was King Ahab and his famous wife Jezebel. Ahab did more evil than all of the kings previously combined. Influenced by his wife Jezebel, Ahab built a temple to Baal, a false God, and worshiped him with his wife. He also resurrected an Asherah pole, a monument to a fertility goddess, whose worship is theorized to be linked with sexual deviancy.

Because of these sins and many others, Elijah was sent to Ahab to inform him that God was withholding rain from the land for three years due to his sins. God then directed Elijah to go into hiding by a stream where ravens brought him food. After the stream dried up, Elijah was directed to go to a widow and her son in Sidon (gentiles) and ask her to feed him. She informs him that if she does, her food will run out and she and her son will die. However, Elijah promises that if she feeds him, God will replenish her food supply until it rains again. The promise is fulfilled, and Elijah stays with the woman and her son. Some time later, the son falls ill and dies. The widow appeals to Elijah who takes the boy, mourns his lifeless body, and asks God to bring him back. Miraculously, the boy is raised from the dead and the widow’s faith is reinforced. 

At the end of three years, Elijah traveled back to Ahab and confronted his worship of the Baals. Elijah called for all of the people of Israel to come to Mt. Carmel where there would be a competition between the 450 prophets of Baal and himself, the prophet of the Lord. They would each build an altar and sacrifice a bull on it. However, they would not light it with fire. The prophets would each pray to their gods and whoever sent down fire would be known as the true God. The people agreed to the contest, and the prophets of Baal went first. They prayed from morning until the evening and even cut themselves amidst the taunts of Elijah. But no fire came. Then Elijah gathered the people of Israel around him, rebuilt the altar of the Lord, poured water over the sacrifice, and prayed for God to send down fire to prove Himself to the people. The Lord does send down fire that consumes the altar and the people proclaim Him as God. The prophets of Baal are seized and executed, and rain finally falls in Israel. 

When Ahab told his wife Jezebel of all that had happened, she sought to kill Elijah. Elijah flees and asks God to let him die. Instead, Elijah is provided with bread and water and sent to Mt. Horeb, the mountain of the Lord. When he arrives, Elijah is told to wait on the Lord at the mouth of the cave. There is an earthquake, strong winds, and fire, but the Lord was not present in any of these. Yet, the Lord was present in a quiet whispering sound. Elijah was sent back to Israel where he continued to rebuke the Ahab and put his successors into place. Once Ahab and Jezebel died and Elijah had called Elisha to follow him, the Lord took Elijah up to heaven in a fiery chariot near the Jordan River, leaving a double portion of his spirit on Elisha. 

In the story of Elijah, we learn many things. First, being a prophet of God is hard. Elijah was faced with death during most of his prophetic mission. In addition, he suffered much hunger and thirst, although God always provided for his needs. He did not have a home, and was often on the run. Next we can learn that through trust in God, amazing works can be accomplished. Elijah calls down fire from heaven, stops the rain for three years, parts the Jordan River, and even uses his prayers to raise the son of the widow in Sidon from the dead. Through much suffering and great faith, God manifests his power. 

Finally, Elijah is a typological figure for John the Baptist. It was prophesied that before the Messiah would come, Elijah would return to prepare His way. Elijah wore animal skins and a leather belt around his waist. John did the same. The place that John would baptize in the Jordan River was near the last spot that Elijah was seen on this earth. Jesus himself testifies that John is the fulfillment of the prophecy of Elijah, preparing the way for the Messiah as the greatest born among women.

Elijah is a very significant figure in the history of Israel. He is considered the greatest prophet of the divided kingdom. In addition, not only does Jesus reference Elijah in his teachings, but Elijah is present with Moses on Mt. Tabor at the Transfiguration signifying that the Law and the prophets have been fulfilled. As Israel continues its journey of unfaithfulness, Elijah gives the model for more great prophets to rise up to call Israel and Judah from their disobedience of God. 

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CATECHESIS

At the National Eucharistic Congress, Decided Excellence Catholic Media - with the help of Bishop William Waltersheid - will be presenting "Beautiful Revelation: The Eucharistic Timeline". Throughout human history, God has left repeated proof of His presence in the Eucharist and that the Eucharist is the source and summit of our Salvation. God has given us the wisdom. Have you taken the time to understand? Read this spiritual journey through time to examine critical moments that God uses to reveal the truth of the Body of Christ.

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