"But there was none like unto Ahab, who did sell himself to do that which was evil in the
sight of Jehovah, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up" (1 Ki. 21:25 ASV).
Leaders have a great responsibility, because they have a great deal of power. Ahab, the king of Israel, began his reign with very little conviction in his heart. His wife was Jezebel, a foreign woman who worshipped idols. When she came to Samaria, she brought her idol worship with her. Ahab's religion meant very little to him, so it was not much of a sacrifice of conviction for him to give up the worship of God and worship Baal along with his strong minded wife. She ruled Ahab and Ahab ruled the nation.
The religion of Baal became the dominating religion of the kingdom. All the court lords and ladies followed the lead of the king and queen, and all the people who loved to be in style — and that was most of them — followed the lead of the king and court. Of course they all knew that the religion of Jehovah was the true religion, but it was not the style any more to worship God. So nearly all of them went the popular way.
Elijah was not a crank. He was not stubborn for the mere sake of being different or odd. He was not anxious to stir up trouble. He loved peace and harmony, but he loved God more. His conscience would not allow him to forsake Jehovah.
His courage led him to stick by his convictions, even though it meant a break with the king and even though it made him a social outcast. He had sense enough to look beyond the authority and demands of an earthly king to the authority and will of the King of the universe. He had discernment enough to see through the glamour and show of unthinking multitudes to the real principles of conduct and teaching. He could see the paltriness and emptiness of Baal's religion in contrast with the genuineness and abiding quality of the religion of Jehovah. To Elijah, persecution and even death were minor things as contrasted with loyalty to God.
Of course Elijah was misrepresented. At court he was spoken of as, "the troubler of Israel." He was so hated by the queen that she planned constantly for some means to get him out of the way. At times it was necessary for him to flee for his life; but while that was extremely discouraging, it did not take away his loyalty to God.
He preferred to eat the scraps of the ravens' food in the dark canyon near the Dead Sea than to sit as a liveried nothing in the palace of Ahab in Samaria. He chose rather to hear the voice of Jehovah in the lonely mountain cave than to listen to the empty jabber of Queen Jezebel.
It cost Elijah just about everything that flesh holds dear to maintain his religious and moral integrity, but he knew that the reward was worth far more than the price he had to pay. Every age has its Elijahs, unpopular, misrepresented, and abused while they lived, but the foundation stones upon which humanity has been enabled to step across one swirling crosscurrent after another down through the stream of time.
Pomp and pageantry and show are not a test of principles, but they do command a big following. What is in style and what is right are often two different things. The real test is the will of God! Just as the Rock of Gibraltar still stands, though it has been obscured by many a cloud and lashed by many a storm, so the will of God is supreme and eternal, though often clouded and lashed by the conflicting currents of earthly leadership and popular clamor.
Ahab and Jezebel were drunk with power. The nation reeled like a drunken man in the intoxication and revelry of Baal worship. But out on Mount Carmel one day the proud king and his clamoring followers saw Baal's worship go down in defeat (1 Ki. 18). They saw the prophets of Baal — 400 of them — work themselves up in an all-day frenzy of pleading and shouting and bodily mutilation, but no answer came from their idol.
Then in the evening they heard the prayer of faith borne from the heart of Elijah to the throne of God. They saw the answer of Jehovah as the fire fell and consumed the sacrifice, the altar of stone, and even the water in the trenches. Fallen to the earth in penitence and humility, the people acknowledged their wrong. From their hearts went up the cry, "Jehovah, he is God" (1 Ki. 18:39 ASV).
Baal is abroad in the land today — not the old fish god of the Philistines and Sidonians, but the god of human exaltation and lust of the flesh. His religion is voiced in the maxim, "Whatever is, is right." It is further explained in the teaching, "Follow the earthly great and powerful, no matter what they do. Do not be out of style." This is the philosophy of "Political Correctness."
This god has all but taken possession of even the religion that claims to be Christian. He has branded the God of the Bible as "out of date" and fit only for the age of superstition. He is proclaiming from the ivy towers of educational institutions and from the centers of social prominence that to be religious in the Bible way is a matter of ignorance and lack of sense. Like the Pied Piper of Hamlin, he plays his tune in the halls of colleges, in the pulpits of fine churches, and echoes his claims from the lips of the prominent and powerful among religious denominations.
But men and women of Elijah's type will fear God and keep His commandments, though ostracized socially and belittled religiously. We must not think that days like Elijah's are gone. There is plenty of opposition now, and discouragement and persecution for people who love the Lord and are willing to serve Him. It takes different forms, but it is just as effective and deadly.
A good old song says,
A follower of the Lamb;
And shall I fear to own His cause,
Or blush to speak His name?"
The Lord Himself has issued this challenge: "For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of man also shall be ashamed of him, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels" (Mk. 8:38 ASV).