The Prophet Elijah
The Prophet Elijah lived during the reign of the impious Israelite King Ahab, who worshipped the idol Baal and also forced the people to do so. Elijah came to Ahab and in the name of God announced to him, ‘‘Because of your godlessness, there will be neither dew nor rain during these years except by the word of my mouth."
So it came to pass. A terrible drought began. Even the grass died and there was a famine. Elijah, by God’s will, settled in the desert by a stream where ravens brought him bread and meat, and he drank the water from the stream. When the stream dried up, God ordered the Prophet to go to the pagan town of Zarephath in Sidon to a poor widow and live with her. This widow, who lived with her son, had only one handful of flour and a little oil. Going to Zarephath, Elijah told her to bake bread for him and promised that the flour and oil would not diminish as long as the Lord did not send rain to the earth. The woman trusted the Prophet of God and did as he told her, her flour and oil did not diminish. Soon this widow’s son fell ill and died. The Prophet Elijah for three days prayed to God for him and the boy came back to life.
The drought lasted for three and a half years. Elijah, at God’s command, again came to Ahab and suggested to him that he gather the Israelite people on Mt. Carmel. When Ahab had assembled the people, Elijah said, "You are satisfied with being godless. Become acquainted with the true God. Come, let us offer sacrifice. You, to Baal, and I, to the Lord God, but let there be no fire put under it. Whoever sends down fire from Heaven to light the sacrifice, that will be the true God." All agreed.
The priests of Baal were the first to bring sacrifice. They prepared an altar, put a calf on it and for a whole day hopped around and cried out around it, "Baal, Baal, hear us!" But there was no answer. Evening came. Then Elijah prepared an altar, dug a ditch around it, put firewood and the calf on the altar and told them to pour water on the sacrifice, so much so that the ditch was filled. Then Elijah turned to the Lord with prayer, immediately fire from the Lord came down from Heaven, and burned not only the firewood and the sacrifice, but also obliterated the water which filled the ditch and the stones of which the altar was built. All the people fell on the ground in fear and cried out, "The Lord is the true God; the Lord is the true God!"
After this Elijah went up to the summit of the mountain and began to pray for rain. A wind blew from the mountain, revealing in the skies great clouds, and heavy rain began to fall.
Despite the miracles, Queen Jezebel, wife of Ahab, continued to persecute Elijah for putting all the priests of Baal to death. Elijah hid in the desert since they sought to kill him. It seemed to him that he was the only believer in God and he lost heart. But the Lord reassured him, and appeared to him when Elijah spent the night in a cave on Mt. Horeb.
The voice of God said to him, "Elijah! Come and stand on the mountain in the sight of God." There blew a strong wind, which tore up the mountains and shattered the rocks, but the Lord was not in this wind. Then, there was an earthquake, but the Lord was also not in the earthquake. Then fire appeared, but the Lord was not in the fire. After all this there was the blowing of a calm wind, and in this was the Lord.
The Lord consoled Elijah and said that among the Israelites there were still 7,000 men who did not worship idols, and that after him He would raise up among them the Prophet Elisha, whom He commanded Elijah to anoint.
This appearance of the Lord showed Elijah that the Lord not only is punishing and stern Judge, but a merciful Father. It also prefigured the coming to earth of Jesus Christ, Who would come not to judge and punish, but to forgive and save people.
Elijah, in accordance with God’s direction, anointed Elisha as a prophet, who then became his disciple. Once when they were together, Elijah said to Elisha, "Ask what I shall do for thee before I am taken away from thee,"
Elisha replied, "I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me."
Elijah said, ‘Thou hast asked a hard thing; nevertheless, if thou see me when I am taken from thee, then shall it be so unto thee; but if not, it shall not be so." They went on further. Suddenly there appeared a chariot of fire with horses of fire, and Elijah was taken up into Heaven in a whirlwind.
Elisha, seeing this, cried, "My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof!"
These words of the Prophet Elisha meant that the holy Prophet Elijah, by his prayers, protected the kingdom of Israel from its enemies better than all the Israelite forces, the chariots and horses. At this time the mantle, that is, the outer garment of Elijah, fell at Elisha’s feet. Elisha lifted this up and with it received the double gift of prophecy.
Note: See I Kings, chaps. 16-19; II Kings, chaps. 1, 2:1-15.
(from: The Law of God by Fr. Seraphim Slobodskoy)