The Holy Prophet Elijah, commemorated on July 20, is the prophet most loved by the people. This is possibly due to the picturesque Old Testament story about how he turned the Israelite people away from worshipping Baal and toward the awareness that the God of Israel (Yahweh) is the true God. In fact, this is what his name means in Hebrew: Eliyahu – Yahweh is God. The Holy Prophet Elijah was born around 900 B.C. and was active during the reign of the Israelite kings Ahab (871-852 B.C.) and Ahaziah (852-849 B.C.).
If the Psalmist could say that “the zeal of Your house has eaten me up” (Psalm 68.11), then we can say about the Prophet Elijah that the zeal for the Lord God of Israel ate him up, or more precisely, the zeal for recovering the truth that Yahweh is God (Eliyahu – Elijah) and that there is no other God besides Him. He says it himself: “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Sabaoth (Yahweh the God of the heavenly hosts); for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword” (3 Kingdoms 19.10). Perhaps the prophet Elijah’s zeal for the true God is the most impressive and attractive aspect of his personality.
And how could he convince the people of this truth? By showing that Baal is a lie. How? By disproving everything that was said about Baal.
Baal was considered the god of the weather, having power over lightning, wind, and rain, and of course influencing the harvest. Well, Saint Elijah does exactly this: he tries to show how weak Baal was in his very attributes and powers. That’s why the prophet asked God to send a drought upon the land: “As the Lord God of Israel (Yahweh) lives, before Whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word” (3 Kingdoms 17.1). It’s implicitly understood that throughout the whole drought, the priests of Baal made many sacrifices for the sake of rain, which was his special power. But the total drought, which lasted for three years, was not enough to convince the people and the king…
Then, Saint Elijah devised another proof that Baal was a sham: he asks the priests of Baal to bring down lightning from heaven, from their god who supposedly was the master of lightning. He asked for two altars of sacrifice to be built, on each of which would be placed a bull cut into pieces: “You call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of Yahweh; and the God who answers by fire, He is God” (3 Kingdoms 18.24). Only after this occasion did the people turn their heart toward God and falling on their faces, they cried out: “Yahweh is God, Yahweh is God!” (3 Kingdoms 18.39).
What worthy response can we give about falsehood and truth in our times? We live in an Egyptian captivity – enslaved to work and to money – but in which we enjoy “meat, fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic” (cf. Numbers 11.5). We are enslaved to well-being. We pray every year (day?) to Baal to give us a good harvest this year too, to be merciful with us. Yet in doing this, we aren’t aware that all around us, “evil is called good and good evil, light is called darkness and darkness light” (cf. Isaiah 5.20). If this is the case, how can you unmask falsehood?
For those who want to be attentive, the model of the Holy Prophet Elijah is valid even today: may we light the zeal for the Lord our God, may we burn out of love for Him, may we desire to fulfill His commandments. In other words, may we say together with the prophet: “The Lord my God lives, before Whom I stand!” Then He will give us a word which all the servants of falsehood “will not be able to contradict” (Luke 21.15).
Let us finish our reflection on the Holy Prophet Elijah with the most beautiful revelation (theophany) of the Living God, which he experienced during his time on Mount Horeb (Sinai), where he took refuge to escape Jezebel’s wrath:
“Then He said, ‘Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.’ And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice – there will the Lord be” (3 Kingdoms 19.11-12).