Elijah, the great prophet of the Old Testament, is an unknown when he comes on the scene.
The first time we read of him, he tells King Ahab that it will not rain unless he (Elijah) says so (1 Kings 17:1). The Bible does not speak of Ahab’s reaction. I reckon that is because Ahab did not have much of one. After all, as noted before, Elijah was an unknown, and the claim of controlling the weather probably seemed absurd.
Elijah disappears into obscurity as suddenly as he appeared. After his words to Ahab, God sends Elijah to live by the brook Cherith. While at Cherith, ravens bring him food twice a day, and he drinks from the stream. After a while, the creek dries up (remember, no rainfall).
Without water in the stream, God sends Elijah to a widow and her son. Because of the drought, they only have enough food for one more meal. God performs a miracle through Elijah, and the family has food every day for the duration of the drought. Meanwhile, King Ahab has an All-Points Bulletin out on Elijah because his nation is starving. Queen Jezebel kills many prophets of God in vengeance and to bring Elijah out of hiding.
God instructs Elijah to inform King Ahab to have Baal’s prophets meet him on Mt. Carmel. Elijah challenges the prophets of Baal to a spiritual firefight. Ahab’s prophets call on Baal to cast fire down from heaven, but since Baal does not exist, their prayers go unanswered. Elijah asks God to devour the sacrifice with fire. Fire falls from the sky and licks up everything in its path (1 Kings 18:17-40).
By the end of 1 Kings 18, Elijah tells Ahab, “…there is a sound of abundance of rain.”
Elijah returns to the top of Mt. Carmel and begins to pray for rain. After his prayer, he tells his servant to go and look toward the sea. The servant does, then returns to Elijah and reports with only three words, “There is nothing” (1 Kings 18:43).
Elijah tells the servant to do this seven more times. Each time the report is the same, “There is nothing.” Then, finally, a small cloud, no larger than a man’s fist, is seen near the horizon. That tiny patch of steam grows into a massive storm, and there is “a great rain.”
All that background to get to this — we must admit, often, “there is nothing” before God will give or do something.
For salvation, we must recognize that, when it comes to righteousness on our part, “there is nothing.” Genesis 6:5, “And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Isaiah 64:6, “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” Romans 3:12, “They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”
Worldly wisdom tells us to dig down deep, go down within yourself, and be the best you can be. Still, God looks inside of us and sees hearts that are “evil continually,” and righteousnesses that are as “filthy rags.”
Some are thinking at this point, “Well, Preacher, you are not a beacon of hope.” Remember, before the rain fell, the message never changed — “There is nothing.” What if Elijah had quit praying after the sixth prayer? What if he had just told his servant, “Let us pack up and go home. If God has not answered by now, He’s not going to answer.”? In our power, we are nothing, but remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 19:26, “But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” Elsewhere the Bible tells us, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13). We are more than conquerors — Romans 8:37, “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.”
Notice, the ability to overcome in these passages is “with God,” “through Christ,” and “through him that loved us.”
In us is no good thing, but through Christ is victory. His righteousness gives us eternal life, and it is only through Him, we can overcome this evil word. This truth does not mean nothing evil will ever befall us, but it does mean that the grace we need to persevere comes from God.
In today’s crazy world, spiritually, we look to the horizon, and “there is nothing.” Spiritually it is dark outside. We may hear “the sound of abundance of rain” in the distance, but the clouds never form until we pray; until we acknowledge — “there is nothing.”
Look to Christ and nowhere else; eventually, the cloudburst of grace and victory will come.