The Spirit and Power of Elijah

"And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, . . . to make ready a people pre­pared for the Lord" (Luke 1:17).

E. E. CLEVELAND, Associate Secretary, General Conference Ministerial Association

 

The desire for power in the heart of the minister is not a selfish one when it has as its object "to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." The power of Elijah is available only to those who possess the spirit of Elijah. A brief examination of the spirit of Elijah must, then, of necessity precede any discussion of his power.

First of all, his was a spirit of humility. He was doubtless aware of his own limita­tions. There is no record that he ever as­pired to the throne of Ahab despite his influence with the people. Moved at times by a power that did supernatural things, Elijah was content to retire to the seclusion of the cave or the quietness of the wilder­ness. From his behavior after his most successful "effort" (on Mount Carmel), one would conclude that he was not at all sure of himself. As a matter of fact, God chided him on this occasion for being "too retiring," but He loved the man.

The spirit of Elijah was not a spirit of compromise. A thing was right or wrong with him and there was no question as to where he stood. Hear the voice of this ancient evangelist as it pounds like a ham­mer upon the sin-dulled consciences of an apostate people: "How long halt ye be­tween . . ." (1 Kings 18:21). "Your position is untenable," he tells them. The church can hear again, with profit, a voice that knows no compromise.

The spirit of Elijah was an unselfish spirit. As an evangelist Elijah shared what he knew with his young associate. After testing the young prophet in "efforts" at Gilgal, Bethel, and Jericho, the older man, though facing heavenly retirement, was nevertheless concerned for the efficiency of the young man Elisha. He was not afraid that the young man, upon discovering the secret of his power, would outshine him. He knew that the work would be finished by younger, stronger men than he. He evi­dently realized that his business was to make men, not break them. What a scene! Standing on the south bank of the river Jordan, the experienced evangelist makes a last generous gesture. "Ask what I shall. do for thee, before I be taken away from thee" (2 Kings 2:9). This man knows that he is about to go on sustentation (celes­tial). He is not zealous that his record as a soul winner, healer, or prophet be un­excelled. The great mission of his life has been to "make ready a people."

Also worthy of note at this point is the attitude of the young intern, Elisha. There was apparently no premature urge on his part to "take over" in the meetings at Gil-gal, Bethel, and Jericho. There is also no indication that he permitted his diploma from the school of the prophets to swell his head, making him scornful of the knowl­edge of the older man, gained in the school of experience. There is almost an eagerness on the part of the young man to be a good learner. Consider his request: "I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me" (2 Kings 2:9). Elisha knew that the power of Elijah accompanies his spirit.

To the possessor of Elijah's spirit the power is consequential. A power that with­held rain, parted rivers, healed the sick, and brought reformation to a backslidden people—for such the whole creation stands in desperate need. That this need will be met we are assured by an evangelical minis­try fired with the passion to "make ready a people prepared for the Lord."


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E. E. CLEVELAND, Associate Secretary, General Conference Ministerial Association

August 1955

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