Author: Jim Colson
The prophet Elijah was involved in an event in opposition to 450 prophets of Baal in which God sent fire down to consume an ox, wood, barrels of water, and even the stones of the altar and everything around it.
The outcome was not a good one for those 450 prophets who, in the face of the severe persecution of Queen Jezebel, had abandoned Yahweh and went to serve the pagan deity.
But after God acted, the rank and file Israelites were probably convinced that Jezebel’s power was less than that of the God whose fire from heaven consumed everything, and they proclaimed, “The Lord, He is God!”
A note on the margin of my Bible says the name Elijahmeans “The Lord is God” or “The Lord, He is God”. The words would have been something like Elis Yahweh(God is LORD) which in short form is simply Elijah.
I then realized had I been there when Elijah confronted the 450 prophets of Baal, I would have heard the people shouting “Elijah! Elijah!” The Bible doesn’t state it, but I wonder if Elijah actually earned his name during that event. People may have referred to him after that as “The Lord, He is God” prophet, or simply started referring to him as Elijah, and when his story was written down, that name stuck.
But the mystery behind the name is that this wasn’t the prophet’s story at all. I suspect if Elijah were here today, he would ask, “Don’t you get it? The whole point of my name is so you would focus on Him, not me!”
As fascinated as we are with the story of the prophet, his mountaintop and valley experiences, his strengths and weaknesses, he would have us focus on the real story. Within a couple of days, Elijah himself would be fearfully hiding out from Jezebel, afraid for his own life. Though he had seen the mighty hand of God, his perspective seemed to be on the here and now.
But majestic Yahweh’s thoughts may have been about 700 years in the future.
When the main story, God’s story, the salvation story, was nearing its climax, Yeshua Messiah would exclaim from the cross “Eli Eli Lama Sabachthani!” People listening nearby thought he was calling for Elijah to come rescue him. They still didn’t get the narrative or even comprehend whose story was unfolding in front of their very eyes.
They evidently had no idea that Elijah wasn’t the one who would or could do the saving, which was actually the province of one whom he was named after. And they further had no inkling why it would be in El’s character to allow the Messiah, the one who should be King, to die ignominiously on a cross, without a finger having been lifted in his defense.
Fortunately for us, the writer of Matthew laid out the meaning of those words in plain ancient Greek (which eventually found its way to English): “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Only through study of scriptures, Old Testament and New, can we come to an approximate understanding why God would have done such a thing. Jesus was evidently quoting from Psalms 22 when he said those words, and it’s possible we can only understand his thinking by contemplating the entirety of that Psalm.
In any case, the evidence of scripture shows that part of the Elijah story, The Lord He is God story, is that Jesus was forsaken. It was indeed in God’s character to forsake sin, and Jesus had become sin. My sin and your sin. We should have been forsaken, and not Him. But because of this odd construct, this scandalous, even offensive, method of reconciliation, God could and did forsake his son instead.
The biggest and yet most unbelievable part of God’s story is He set the whole thing up because He loved me. And you.
And when I think of that, just like those long ago Israelites, I want to shout “Elijah! Elijah! Elijah!”