Heavenly Fires: Elijah

Heavenly Fires: Elijah

Heavenly Fires: Elijah.

“As Elijah and Elisha were walking along the way and talking, suddenly a chariot of fire appeared, drawn by horses of fire. It drove between the two men, separating them, and Elijah was carried by a whirlwind into heaven.” (2 Kings 2:11).

It was entirely appropriate for Elijah to be taken up to heaven in a chariot made of heavenly fire, since he had a couple of dramatic experiences with fire during his prophetic ministry. His chariot from heaven was driven by horses made of fire as well, so it seems Elijah was totally enveloped in fire as he flew in a whirlwind to his heavenly home.

Elijah’s first major experience with fire was on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18). During his ministry he grew impatient with the double-mindedness of the Israelites. They couldn’t seem to decide between the worship of the Canaanite gods Baal and Asherah, or of Yahweh, the God of their ancestry. The people weren’t afraid even to worship a mix of all these deities. So Elijah demanded that King Ahab bring all his pagan prophets, all 850 of them, to Mt. Carmel to have a duel with Yahweh. All the people of Israel seemed to be there on Carmel, because this promised to be quite a spectacular event. Once everyone settled in on Carmel, Elijah shouted to everyone the reason for this moment… “If Yahweh is God, follow Him! But if Baal is God, follow him!” He proposed that the pagan prophets lay their sacrificed bulls on an altar and pray to Baal to light the sacrifice. Once the pagans were completed with that, Elijah suggested that he would do the same. And whoever’s fire was kindled from heaven, that would be the true God. The pagans did as instructed. They prayed and danced around the altar, and even went so far as to cut themselves in religious frenzy in order to convince Baal of the importance of this moment. They hoped that all that blood from the prophets would impress Baal into action. Finally, after a full day of this fervent pagan activity around the altar, it was obvious that nothing would happen. Baal did not in fact rise to the occasion. Now Elijah’s turn at the altar, when he rebuilt the altar, dug a trench around it, and had the people pour large jars of water over the sacrificed bull. Elijah then had water poured over the altar two more times, drenching the altar and filling the trench, convincing the people that a fire now would be practically impossible. After a thoughtful, simple prayer to Yahweh, a roaring fire from heaven descended and burned up everything, including the bull, the wood of the altar, the stones that made up the altar, and even the dirt surrounding the altar. This divine demonstration of power astounded the people of Israel, and they all fell face down on the ground, chanting “Yahweh is God! Yahweh is God!” The duel was over, and it was no contest.

More heavenly fires occurred with Elijah when he was confronted with a band of fifty soldiers sent from King Ahaziah. The King of Israel wanted to arrest Elijah for giving a word of judgment from God to the King about his time left on earth. Elijah’s prognosis was that the King would never leave his death bed. So Ahaziah sent a squad of fifty soldiers to detain Elijah and bring him back to the King for punishment. When this squad of soldiers reached Elijah, the prophet told the captain, “If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and destroy you and your men.” (2 Kings 1:10). And then fire immediately fell and killed them all. Apparently a slow learner, the King sent  fifty more men to capture Elijah. Once again, fire fell down from heaven and destroyed the whole squad of soldiers. Being as dense as a post, the King sent yet another squad to detain Elijah. This time the captain of the squad was smart enough to ask nicely, recognizing the divine powers that Elijah seemed to hold. The captain was thinking about self-preservation and the livelihood of his soldiers. And Elijah obligingly went to see the King. Just as Elijah had promised through the Lord, King Ahaziah soon died for seeking advice from a pagan deity, Baal-zebub, instead of Yahweh.  Soon thereafter, Elijah once again experienced the fires from heaven, but this time in a way that kept him from death and sent him straight into heaven.