An upstart named Elijah stood before Ahab, Israel’s king. Elijah had no credentials that would have impressed Ahab. First Kings 17:1 describes him simply as, “Elijah, who was from Tishbe in Gilead” (NLT). Nothing notable about that. Elijah came from a nowhere town – mentioned nowhere else in Scripture, location still unknown. It lay somewhere in Gilead, a wild, mountainous land east of the Jordan River – Israel’s version of the wrong side of the tracks.
Scripture doesn’t tell Elijah’s lineage. Apparently, he had no prestigious relatives who could call in favors to secure him an audience with the king. Further, Elijah had no striking good looks or charismatic ways to commend him. Some who met him offered this pithy description: “a hairy man … with a leather belt around his waist” (2K 1:8 CJB). Not the refined figure we might expect to see standing before kings …
When Elijah stood before Ahab, he used a single phrase to identify himself and the authority by which he spoke.
Today’s New International Version renders Elijah’s words this way: “As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.”
Other translations render the phrase “whom I serve” in a similar way. That rendering makes an accurate statement about Elijah. He did serve Adonai, the living God of Israel. Yet this rendering does not capture the essence of Elijah’s words.
New American Standard and New King James come closer to the original meaning. In NASU, Elijah says, “As the LORD, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand …” Better. Yet, still, we don’t grasp the impact of the Hebrew word translated “before.” It’s the word paniym, meaning “face.” Here, and many other times throughout the Old Testament, it means “in the presence of,” or, more literally, “before the face of.”
Elijah could stand before Ahab, speaking so boldly and with such authority, because he regularly stood before the face of JHVH, the God of the covenant Name …
Beloved of the Lord, be blessed to stand before his face.
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From The Elijah Blessing: An Undivided Heart, © 2012 by Deborah P. Brunt. All rights reserved.