Chevrolet. NASCAR. No.3. The Intimidator. The Man in black. In the word association game, any racing fan knows what comes next — Dale Earnhardt. The finest stock car driver the world has ever seen was tragically killed in a crash at Daytona speedway. In any sport, there is always one person standing far above the rest. Joe Montana, Michael Jordon, Tiger Woods, A.J. Foyt — and for stock cars, Dale Earnhardt. He dominated the field — everyone else raced for second place.
And now, just as talk begun about Dale winning the Winston Cup championship, he’s gone. The fans are shocked. Dale was the best — none come close. Yet it’s hard to explain the vast amount of mourning for him — people who most likely never met Dale Earnhardt lay flowers at the track and hold candlelight vigils for him. Why?
We need role models.
In the Bible, Paul says imitate him as he imitates Christ (1 Corinthians 4:16, 11:1). But I can’t do that. First, I can’t imitate Jesus — he’s perfect. So right away I’m in trouble. We can imitate Paul, you may say. No I can’t. Here was a guy who (after Jesus revealed Himself) immediately left everything he knew and adopted as his mission the spread of the Gospel. I can’t imitate him either.
Perhaps none of these work for you. You can’t be like Jesus, Paul is too lofty of a goal, and your parents were alcoholics who abandoned you as a kid. What do you do? Who do you pattern your life after? One guy mentioned in the Bible is exactly like us; the name may surprise you.
- Peter? It’s easy to relate to him — he always said the wrong thing at the wrong time. But it’s not Peter.
- How about James and John? When things didn’t go their way they wanted to call down fire from heaven! (Luke 9) But it’s not them.
- John became known as the apostle of love. Surely he is the role model the Bible speaks about? Nope.
It’s Elijah. That’s right, Elijah. The Mount Carmel Elijah? You bet. James specifically calls Elijah as a man who is like us.
Elijah 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. (James 5:17 KJV)
Let’s take a quick review of the famous Mount Carmel episode.
And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel? And he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and thou hast followed Baalim. Now therefore send, and gather to me all Israel unto mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the idols four hundred, which eat at Jezebel’s table. (1 Kings 18:17-19 KJV)
At this point in Israel’s history, Ahab was king. He was not one of Israel’s better kings; he was down right wicked. His queen was Jezebel — we’ll come back to her a little later. But for the Mount Carmel story, suffice it to say a drought was in the land, and Ahab blamed not the spiritual wickedness of himself and the nation, but Elijah. So Elijah presents himself to the king, issuing a challenge between himself and the 450 prophets of Baal. Who can have their god call down fire from heaven? Two bulls are selected, and Elijah gives them first choice.
And they took the bullock which was given them, and they prepared it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made. And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or perhaps he sleepeth, and must be awaked. And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with swords and lances, till the blood gushed out upon them. And it came to pass, when midday was past, and they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded. (1 Kings 18:26-29 KJV)
They strike out. Nothing. Nobody heard them. Gods made by man’s hand can’t hear. Isaiah speaks of a craftsman who cuts down a tree and burns part of it in the fire to cook with, but with the rest makes a god and falls down to worship it and ask for deliverance. (Isaiah 44:14-17). Does this make sense? In any event, the prophets of Baal accomplish nothing. Their god does not answer, so it’s up to Elijah.
And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again. Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The LORD, he is the God; the LORD, he is the God. (1 Kings 18:36-39 KJV)
The LORD responds. Nothing of the alter is left — even the stones are gone.
But back to our original issue — role models. That’s it, you say, I could never be like Elijah. But this is NOT the story we’re looking for. Stay with me for a minute; it’s not the Mount Carmel episode we’re interested in, it’s what comes after this great victory that’s important for us.
You can imagine Ahab and Jezebel were not too happy — not only does their god not answer, but all their prophets are wiped out as well. In the beginning of 1 Kings chapter 19, Jezebel threatens to kill Elijah. So what does this mighty man of God do? He flees. (1 Kings 19:3)
Elijah was afraid. This I can relate to. Fear is an emotion most of us have from time to time.
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7 KJV)
The Lord does not want us to be afraid. He gives us the power and ability to carry out anything he asks of us. Many of the men in the Bible experienced fear; many required a special word of encouragement from the Lord Himself — Isaiah in Isaiah 43:1-2, Paul in Acts 18:9-10, and so on. I can relate to fear; I’m sure most people could as well. But that wasn’t Elijah’s only problem.
But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers. (1 Kings 19:4 KJV)
Now he’s depressed! Depression can frequently come after fear. After fear does its part to paralyze us, depression sets in and we dwell on our own resources, becoming depressed at our lack of ability to change the situation. Again, many men of the Bible became depressed. Even Paul.
For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: (2 Corinthians 1:8 KJV)
Paul got depressed — you can imagine why. He was shipwrecked, stoned, left for dead, beaten, and more (As for myself, it would only take one beating to be depressed, but then Paul had more character than I). But Paul did get depressed just as Elijah did.
I can relate to depression. But Elijah doesn’t stop there.
And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away. (1 Kings 19:10 KJV)
Now he’s pouting and prideful, which leads to a question: Why did God judge Sodom and Gomorrah? The answer isn’t what you think. Ezekiel tells you in chapter 16 verse 49, where he presents a list of the problems of Sodom — first on the list is pride. Pride is the root of all sin — it caused the fall of satan originally (Isaiah 14:12-14).
So Elijah is fearful, depressed, desires to end his life, and prideful. I can relate to each of these. So what you say? Remember the words of James, Elijah is a man like us! And so we see he is. But wait, remember the Mount Carmel episode? How many of us thought we can’t be like that? Let’s go back and take another look at the words of James — if Elijah was a man like us, we can turn that around to say we can be like Elijah.
Recall Elijah’s simple prayer “LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word. Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that You are the LORD God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again. (1 Kings 18:36-37 KJV)”. Simple prayer, yet look at the results — the Lord honored his request. Many times we forget we don’t need to shout at God, and He doesn’t give extra points for wordiness. However, passion, commitment and a sincere heart do count. James says “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. (James 5:16 KJV)”.
Elijah prayed it wouldn’t rain, and it didn’t for 3 1/2 years. God is not a genie who grants wishes, but I wonder what would happen if we had faith when we prayed — would mountains move? Would we get the same results as Elijah? Yet we can pray like Elijah, because we are like him.
How abut boldness? Elijah was outnumbered 450 to one, yet it didn’t bother him. We see in the Bible time and time again God doing much with little (Gideon in Judges 7:2-9). Always remember God and you are a majority anytime, anywhere. Don’t we want the boldness of Elijah? Can’t we use that in our schools, and in our jobs? We are like him.
Finally, Elijah was raptured (2 Kings 2:6-11). Just as we will be.
See now, we can be like Elijah! Just as we can identify with his faults and problems, we need to realize we can have our prayers answered, have boldness in time of difficulty, and be raptured just as he was. If Elijah was a man like us, never forget we can be like Elijah.
We need role models — let’s try Elijah for a change.