A Hairy Man From Gilead

Series: Days of Elijah: God’s Righteous Mountain Man


Sermon Outline By Terry Siverd

Cortland Church of Christ / January 14, 2018

We are now week two into a new Sunday AM sermon series titled, “Days of Elijah:  God’s Righteous Mountain Man”.

Last Sunday we examined the historical backdrop that prompted God to arouse the voice of the prophet Elijah.

Following the reigns of King David and King Solomon (forty years each), the nation of Israel underwent a

split that divided it into a northern kingdom (ten tribes) and a southern kingdom (Judah & Benjamin).

Elijah is about to be sent by God to deliver a dire word of prophecy to the northern kingdom.

For eighty or so years the northern kingdom had been experiencing a downward spiral.

This disintegration (unraveling) has been masked by occasional improvements economically and politically.

But from a spiritual vantage point this MATRIX OF EVIL has spanned eight decades and spawned a rapid descent.

Up to this point in time, Israel (the name for the northern ten tribes) has had seven kings:  all of them EVIL.

King #7 (Ahab) now sits on the throne and his reign has been poisoned by an unholy marriage alliance with Jezebel.

Ahab’s wife Jezebel is a WICKED and conniving princess (a wicked “witch” of the west). 

Jezebel’s father, Ethbaal, was a king of Sidon (NE corner of the Great Sea) and strong proponent of Baal.

He had murdered his predecessor in order to usurp his throne.

Ahab’s father, King Omri, had very likely arranged the marriage of Ahab and Jezebel to strengthen trade alliances.

1Kgs.16:29-33 provides a synopsis of Ahab’s reign - -

Now Ahab the son of Omri became king over Israel in the thirty-eighth year of Asa King of Judah, and Ahab the son

of Omri reigned for twenty-two years.  And Ahad the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord more than all who

were before him.  And it came about, as though it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam

 the son of Nebat, that he married Jezebel, the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians, and went on to

 serve Baal and worship him.  So he erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he built in Samaria.

 Ahab also made the Asherah.  Thus Ahad did more to provoke the God of Israel than all the kings of Israel before him. 

At this point in time King Ahab is essentially labeled by God as “the worst of the worse”.

During the reign of King Ahab EVIL (especially idolatry) was not only tolerated, it came to be celebrated.

J. Oswald Sanders writes, “Elijah appeared at ZERO HOUR in Israel’s history…

Like a meteor, He flashed across the inky blackness of Israel’s spiritual night.”


Elijah is the most mentioned and most extolled Old Testament prophet in all of the New Testament.

More than Isaiah; more than Jeremiah; more than Ezekiel; and more than Daniel.

In the New Testament, Elijah appears with Moses and Jesus on the mount of transfiguration (Lk.9:30).

Pertinent to our study, one scholar has noted that, “the greatest prophet is reserved for the worst age.”

Yet the truth is we don’t know a lot of specifics. 

There is a mystique about Elijah.  Elijah was indeed a kind of mystery man.

We do not know who his parents were.  Neither do we know anything about his education or occupation.

And we know nothing of any previous accomplishments prior to the history recorded in 1Kgs.17:1ff.

1Kgs.17:1 states, Now Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the settlers of Gilead, said to Ahab…

He is called, “Elijah the Tishbite” - - perhaps a reference to the city of his birth or residence.

We know that there was a town named Tishbe in the province of Naphtali, an area north of the Sea of Galilee.

But scholars have not yet been able to identify a town named Tishbe in Gilead.

He was one of “the settlers of Gilead”, which may indicate that he had moved to Gilead.

The forests of Gilead produced the world-renowned balm of Gilead derived from the gum of trees.

Another option - - the word “Tishbe” means sojourner - - Elijah the sojourner, who was of the settlers of Gilead.  

Gen.31:21 speaks of “the hill country of Gilead” - - located on the upper end of the Dead Sea.

Gilead was a mountainous area located east of the Jordan, and was considered a backward region, culturally speaking.

Sometimes we tend to place prophets upon a pedestal, as if they belong to some super-human category.

But from the New Testament we learn from James that Elijah was a man with a nature like ours (Js.5:17).

The word here is “homo-pathos” and it is a colorful word rendered in a variety of ways.

KJV / a man subject to like passions as we are  ……  NEB / a man with human frailties like our own

NIV / a man just like us  ……  NCV / a human being just like us

This “homopathos” quality will be seen quickly and repeatedly in our study of the life of Elijah.

I have titled this morning’s sermon:  A Hairy Man From Gilead.

That description comes from 2Kgs.1:8 - - He was a hairy man with a leather girdle bound about his loins.

In the New Testament John the Baptizer is described in similar language (Mt.3:4) - - Now John himself

 had a garment of camel’s hair, and a leather belt about his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey.

While we known nothing of Elijah’s parents, his name is one that would have likely been given by godly parents.

The name Elijah means, My God is Jehovah.

From Js.5:16 (the effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much) we learn that Elijah was a righteous man

To summarize, this is what we know for sure.  Elijah was a Tishbite, who dwelt in the mountains of Gilead.

He was a fully human, hairy, mountain man who wore a leather girdle, was righteous and whose very name declared, Jehovah is My God.

What we are not told explicitly we conclude implicitly:   Elijah was ready, willing and able to do the will of God.

We don’t know how God recruited Elijah for this daunting assignment.

Maybe God spoke to him like He did to Jonah (Jon.1:1) or maybe God revealed His will via a dream as with Joseph.

We detect no sense of hesitancy on the part of Elijah.  The text of 1Kgs.17:1b reads as follows,

Elijah…said to Ahab - - As the Lord, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand,

surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.

On the face of it this declaration may seem somewhat innocuous (harmless).

If we read this verse superficially the JUDGMENT OF GOD doesn’t exactly jump off the page.

Let’s consider carefully the words delivered by Elijah to King Ahab.

How this audience with the king came to transpire we do not know.

But here we have a hairy mountain man, crude of dress and likely unsophisticated of speech, addressing a King.

Under typical circumstances he would likely have not be allowed to approach the king, but here he does so nonetheless.

Leon Wood suggests that this rendezvous may have taken place when King Ahab was in his “vacation” palace

in Jezreel rather than in his primary palace in Samaria.  If so it may have been more laid back and less “policed”.

Elijah’s message was BRIEF but WEIGHTY - - lending itself to one who showed up unannounced.

Get Go - - get in, get it, get going.

Elijah’s message to king Ahab began with an introduction which came in the form of an oath - -

 As the Lord, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand…

A similar introductory oath (as the Lord lives)  is used by King Saul in 1Sam.14:39.

Elijah uses this phrase again in 1Kgs.18:15, and Elisha (whom Elijah mentored) uses it twice (2Kgs.3:14 & 5:15).

First of all, this introduction serves to remind King Ahab that Jehovah is THE GOD of Israel - - not Baal!!!

Elijah went right to the heart of the matter.  King Ahab is in trouble with Jehovah God because he has welcomed Baal.

Secondly, there is an unequivocal declaration that JEHOVAH LIVES and that (by implication) Baal does not.

Thirdly, Elijah makes it very clear where he stands on this sinful matter, before whom I stand.

This was Elijah’s way of identifying which side he was on:  Jehovah’s - - not Baal’s.

The utterance of these simple words by Elijah took great courage.

Under King Ahab Baal worship had become the “state religion”.

Although it had not yet happened, very soon Jezebel would destroy many of the prophets of God (1Kgs.18:4).

The main message delivered by Elijah was also brief but to the point and quite DIRE (ominous) (1Kgs.17:1b) - -

Surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.

In this part of the world water was of utmost importance and the land prospered in proportion to the rain that fell.

Elijah’s declaration was DARK and FOREBODING - - neither dew nor rain these years.

No message could have been more serious in the ears of the king!

It wasn’t just that the rainfall would be slightly diminished, but rather that there would be NO DEW NOR RAIN.

No early rains; no heavier winter rains; no latter spring rains.

And it wasn’t just that this drought would last one or two seasons, but that it would extend for years.

Js.5:17b states, it did not rain for three years and six months. i.e., 42 months covering four full growing seasons.

Finally, Elijah makes the king aware that he (as Yahweh’s servant), and he only would bring the drought to an end.

This proclamation signaled a CATASTROPHE (in all caps).

Few messages could have been so disturbing and shocking at this one delivered by Elijah.

Without rain wells dry up; food does not grow; suffering becomes intense; people starve and die.

Translated into one word, Elijah’s words meant FAMINE.

Elijah knew the weight of his words, but King Ahab must have thought him to be demented.

Israel would soon discover the weight of his words - - God’s WRATH was stirred because of their worship of Baal.

Elijah’s words were brief but bold.  Jehovah lives, Baal does not.

You have worshiped Baal and your sins come with a serious penalty.

The irony here is that Baal was the pagan god of rain and good crops whose specialty was making farmers prosperous.

Elijah’s decree to King Ahab and Israel was essentially a challenge given by Jehovah God to the false god Baal.

If at first King Ahab deemed Elijah to be a lunatic, the rainless days and weeks that passed coupled with a daily

bombardment of complaints from the people would have soon caused the King to re-think his assessment of Elijah.

One can only imagine that King Ahab also began to second guess the theology of his queen Jezebel.

1Kgs.18:10 indicates that an APB (all points bulletin) was put out of Elijah.

The climax of this story comes later on in 1Kgs.18 when Elijah confronts the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel.

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