The Spirit and Power of Elijah

by Dr. John Yates


spirit power elijah


Introduction

The Western church has often been compared with the church in Laodicea , materially prosperous but spiritually “wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked” (Rev 3:17).


We are often arrogantly certain that we know in what form the next “move of God” will come, meanwhile neglecting various foundational patterns laid down in the Bible that are universal for all humanity.

Amazed by our own technology we have uniquely developed a “microwave spirituality” fixated on rapid fire solutions and intense experiences.  Since these foci, by their very nature, go against the grain of God’s order, they cannot produce enduring fruit.  Counter to these trends, especially among men, God is restoring the essential order of genuine fathering.

v5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. v6 And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a curse.” (Mal 4:5-6)  By God’s own testimony, unless the ministry of Elijah precedes a divine visitation,1)In the Old Testament terms this text refers to the Day of the LORD, the consummation of all things, and in the New Testament it is connected to the life and ministry of Jesus.  More broadly, it applies to any historical divine visitation to the people of God e.g. Rev 2:5, 16; Rev 3:3; Rev 20, and to the Second Coming. the result will be a curse.2)The word translated “curse” is a technical term [herem] used in the Old Testament for God’s holy war against his enemies, it means “utter destruction” e.g. Deut 7:26. The solemnity of this text was felt so strongly by its translators into Greek, and by Old Testament scribes, that they deliberately altered the order of the passage so that the final word of their Bible would not threaten the annihilation of the land.

The Problem with Men3)This paper may seem rather sexist, but it seeks to pick up an important biblical concern.

Many Australian men (notwithstanding differences between age groups) still fit the emotionally detached, achievement driven stereotypes of masculinity. Many males are quite isolated, lonely and unconnected. A great proportion of church – going men are very under – pastored. Few are regularly visited in their work place (or home) by their shepherd and interaction usually occurs on the pastor’s territory and concerns church related activities.  This is a poor reflection of God as an interested Father.4)A true shepherd images the God intimately present in all of life, “The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day, [Gen 48:15].

The frequency of many social problems in wider society – crime, recidivism, domestic violence, sexual abuse, educational failure, divorce – can be traced back to a lack of good fathering.5)Link Here  This is a particularly acute problem for indigenous people.  As one very perceptive young aboriginal woman said to me, “You see these young men wandering the streets of Belmont , they all have the same problem, none of them have fathers.”  The reviving of the spirit and power of Elijah is the divine solution to these problems.

The Spirit and Power of Elijah

In the tradition of Old Testament prophetic ministry Elijah alone has an intimate and immediate successor, Elisha. At the heart of the relationship between these two men is that the older imparts to the younger the power to make sons.  This develops in a number of steps.

Persecuted by Jezebel, depressed, alone, afraid and feeling like a helpless victim (1 Ki 19), Elijah is commanded to pass on the baton, “Elisha …you shall anoint to be prophet in your place” (1 Ki 19:16).6)This shows us “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours” [James 5:17 ], and teaches us that no matter how defeated we are feeling, the spirit and power of Elijah remains our commission.  Elijah instantly obeys God’s command, “So he departed from there and found Elisha …and cast his cloak7)The sign of his prophetic vocation. upon him.” (1 Ki 19:19).8)Elijah himself is obedient to the inner spirit of what would later be known as The Great Commission, “obey all that I have commanded you.” [Matt 28:20]. As a model disciple, Elisha leaves all behind to follow his master (1 Ki 19:20-21).9)He images the discipleship demanded by Jesus, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple…. any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” [Luke 14:26,33].

Knowing his master must depart the earth (2 Ki 2:1, 4), Elisha steadfastly (2 Ki 2:2,4, 6) refuses to be separated from him and petitions,  “Please let there be a double portion of your spirit on me.” (2 Ki 2:9).  Biblically, this means that Elisha stands in relationship to Elijah as his first born son, the one who is granted twice the inheritance of any other heir.10)Deuteronomy 21:15-17.  Elisha does exactly twice as many miracles as his mentor [28], but this is only a sign of a deeper relationship.

Crucially, Elisha knows himself to be God’s choice as the beloved son of Elijah because he witnesses his mentor’s ascent to heaven. “v11 behold, chariots of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. v12 And Elisha saw it and he cried, “My father, my father!….” And he saw him no more.” (2 Ki 2:11-12).  These words express a deep inner knowledge of sonship, the young prophet senses in his spirit that the anointing of Elijah now lives in him.  The outward sign that the authority of Elijah is imparted to Elisha, is that his mantle, the sign of his prophetic office, immediately clothes him with miraculous authority (2 Ki 2:13-14).

Elijah was a solitary forerunner without precedent  – he has no spiritual father (1 Ki 17:1). Elisha however goes forth in the power of his prophetic father to parent many other prophets11)2 Kings 4:43 indicates this was about one hundred. (2 Ki 4:38; 2 Ki 6:1). This transmission and multiplication of sonship is the spirit and power of Elijah. From this perspective we can better understand the crucial nature of the New Testament Elijah figure, John the Baptist.

The Ministry of John the Baptist

v16 And he (John) will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, v17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” (Luke 1:16-17)

This angelic prophecy about John gives first place to his role in reconciling family relationships.  While the Gospels do not explicitly show John exercising this ministry, certain words of Jesus about him explain their force, “ “v12 Elijah does come first to restore all things…. v13 But I tell you that Elijah has come….”” (Mark 9:12-13)

The ‘restoration of all things'12)Mark 9:12 is citing the Greek translation of Malachi 4:6.  See also Acts 1:6; 3:21 means the return of the whole of creation to its original pre – fallen dignity.  Biblical thought traces the degradation of the world to the fall of the first created ‘son of God’ (Luke 3:38), Adam. His rebellion against God as his Father distorted the image of fatherhood, divine and human, that he passed on to the entire human race. With the foundational reality of fathering corrupted, all other relationships have been spoiled. From this perspective, the turning of the hearts of fathers to children, initiated by John,  was a prophetic sign that the heavenly Father was about to renew the universe with a revitalized humanity at its centre.  John’s ministry pointed to this end – time reality, but Jesus brought it into being.

Jesus takes us to the Father

The turning point for humanity’s  restoration to the Father is Jesus’ ascension, “go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’(John 20:17).13)The sonship Jesus humanity enjoys by nature is about to be imparted to his followers by grace.  Seeing Christ’s return to heaven (Acts 1:6-11) was the final and climactic earthly revelation to the apostles that humanity had been elevated to the glory Jesus enjoyed with the Father “before the foundation of the world(John 17:5).  Like Elisha, the apostles were permitted by God to witness the reality of their future destiny in the heavenly realm, in the heart of the Father (Col 3:1-3).

Elisha possessed an external mantle of authority and had sons after his own prophetic likeness, but the disciples receive the “promise of the Father” and “are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:48; Acts 1:4). This is the power of the Holy Spirit poured out from the ascended Jesus (Acts 2:33 ) at Pentecost.  From now on, through the power of the Spirit and by testimony to what has been accomplished in Christ, men and women are changed from “children of wrath(Eph 2:3) to “sons of God” (Gal 3:26).

In the heavenly Spirit (1 Pet 1:12), we know God in a new way, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,” (Eph 1:4). Knowing the unconditional blessings of the Father’s heart, our hearts are likewise turned to bless those sons and daughters that God has given us. We have the power to multiply sons.

Returning to the Blessed Father

Paul testified to the rarity of spiritual fathering,14)This is not the same as mentoring or spiritual direction, especially when these are paid positions.  “For children are not obligated to save up for their parents, but parents for their children.” [2 Cor 12:14].For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”(1 Cor 4:15 ).   There are several reasons why such “fathers” are uncommon.  Firstly, their preparation is a sovereign work of God.  You cannot be trained for fathering through any course, programme or emotional experience.  Secondly, such preparation is arduous. We learn the ways of God through many tribulations, disappointments and struggles. Thirdly, God’s work of preparing mature believers to care for his beloved children takes many years of the Spirit’s ministry in your own life.  You cannot take others where you have not been yourself.

Nevertheless, because “spiritual fathering” is so crucial for the stability and maturity of the church, God perseveres with this purpose for decade after decade.  Once the Father has raised up a cohort of true fathers, the church can again become true to its nature as “salt” and light”.15)Matthew 5:13-14   Through these servants the corruption of society (predominantly due to fatherlessness) can be reversed, and a standard raised up about “the restoration of all things”. The elders are about to return to the gates of the city.16)Proverbs 31:23

Conclusion

It is not popular charisma that brings us closest to the heart of God, but the discipline and nurture of spiritual parents whose love images the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  I am anticipating a release of a generation of earnest fathers amongst the people of God, beginning, as always, amongst the faithful remnant.17)E.g. Isaiah 37:31-32, Rom 11:1-5.  Elijah failed to understand this principle, hence his despair [1 Ki 19:9-10, 18].

If these realities are true, you need to be asking of your life  – “Am I such a father, am I praying to be such a father?” Alternatively, are you able to recognise that through Jesus God has already set such a person in your life?  If not, pray that he would bring such a person to you.

All of us need to share God’s own desire that very soon in this land every (spiritually) young person will have the sort of mature, intimate and focused care that genuine shepherding can provide?  These are matters for sober reflection and earnest prayer, for without this impending release of the spirit and power of Elijah our land will remain under a curse (Mal 4:5-6 ).

References   [ + ]

1. In the Old Testament terms this text refers to the Day of the LORD, the consummation of all things, and in the New Testament it is connected to the life and ministry of Jesus.  More broadly, it applies to any historical divine visitation to the people of God e.g. Rev 2:5, 16; Rev 3:3; Rev 20, and to the Second Coming.
2. The word translated “curse” is a technical term [herem] used in the Old Testament for God’s holy war against his enemies, it means “utter destruction” e.g. Deut 7:26. The solemnity of this text was felt so strongly by its translators into Greek, and by Old Testament scribes, that they deliberately altered the order of the passage so that the final word of their Bible would not threaten the annihilation of the land.
3. This paper may seem rather sexist, but it seeks to pick up an important biblical concern.
4. A true shepherd images the God intimately present in all of life, “The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day, [Gen 48:15].
5. Link Here
6. This shows us “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours” [James 5:17 ], and teaches us that no matter how defeated we are feeling, the spirit and power of Elijah remains our commission.
7. The sign of his prophetic vocation.
8. Elijah himself is obedient to the inner spirit of what would later be known as The Great Commission, “obey all that I have commanded you.” [Matt 28:20].
9. He images the discipleship demanded by Jesus, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple…. any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” [Luke 14:26,33].
10. Deuteronomy 21:15-17.  Elisha does exactly twice as many miracles as his mentor [28], but this is only a sign of a deeper relationship.
11. 2 Kings 4:43 indicates this was about one hundred.
12. Mark 9:12 is citing the Greek translation of Malachi 4:6.  See also Acts 1:6; 3:21
13. The sonship Jesus humanity enjoys by nature is about to be imparted to his followers by grace.
14. This is not the same as mentoring or spiritual direction, especially when these are paid positions.  “For children are not obligated to save up for their parents, but parents for their children.” [2 Cor 12:14].
15. Matthew 5:13-14
16. Proverbs 31:23
17. E.g. Isaiah 37:31-32, Rom 11:1-5.  Elijah failed to understand this principle, hence his despair [1 Ki 19:9-10, 18].

John Yates

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *