“Turning hearts in the end time” here we come. The heart does enough work in one hour to lift a 150-pound man to the top of a three-story building, enough energy in twelve hours to lift a 65-ton tank car one foot off the ground, or enough power in seventy years to lift the largest battleship afloat completely out of the water.
Prophet Malachi predicted the coming of Elijah, which was fulfilled in the birth, ministry, and life of John the Baptist (Luke 1:17; Matt 17:11-13). John’s ministry consisted of turning the hearts of the fathers to their children; that is, his ministry will bring reconciliation of the people of Israel with the Lord.
A restored relationship with God brings a restored relationship with family members. God is so concerned with His relationship with man, and man should reflect that union with his fellow man, especially with family members. The word family is mentioned around 396 times in the Scriptures. This tells us that family members are obviously important to God. For that reason, the Lord has released “the spirit of Elijah” to bring restoration to this unique institution.
Reconciliation and restoration should not be confined to the ecclesiastical aspect only, but also maintain a healthy relationship in the commercial and government spheres, respectively. In the words of Gordon E. Bradshaw, “the church must develop and maintain a strong relationship with believers in both the marketplace and the municipality as well.” A healthy relationship is vital for the success of these dimensions. Solomon said, “A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart (Eccl 4:12b).
King Ahab seemed to be concerned with the commercial and governmental aspects of his kingdom while neglecting the ecclesiastical feature and its core doctrines. Ahab and his wife, queen Jezebel, led the people astray and propagated Baal worship. By marrying Jezebel, king Ahab made Israel prey to moral degradation in almost every facet of life. Idolatry is not restricted to Ahab and Jezebel’s spirit only; it is one of Satan’s schemes; it has infiltrated our society at many levels. God sent Elijah, whose name means, “God is Jehovah,” to restore the broken worship of Jehovah.
Interestingly, both the widow of Zarephath and Jezebel came from Sidon; one dedicated to the worship of Baal, the other—though a poverty-stricken Gentile lady who lived in a foreign land—was devoted to the worship of God. In spite of the crucibles that Prophet Elijah and the widow of Zarephath faced, God provided for their needs. Even when they were amid scarcity, God ceased not to sustain both. The reciprocity in the narrative is worthy of mentioning here. While the widow met Elijah’s physical needs, he reciprocated by providing an endless supply of flour and oil and by raising her child from death. Her ministry brought Elijah and her people into unison, while Elijah’s ministry brought union between her family and the dead child. There was a reciprocal treatment! Reciprocity is a crucial component of cooperation.
After three years of famine, Elijah prayed, and God sent rain. From turning hearts to a family reunion, we now move to turning hearts at the altar where Elijah admonished the people at Mount Carmel to recommit themselves to the true worship of God. After the adnomination, which is presented in First Kings 18:22-24:
Then Elijah said to the people, “I alone am left a prophet of the LORD, but Baal's prophets are 450 men. “Now let them give us two oxen; and let them choose one ox for themselves and cut it up, and place it on the wood, but put no fire under it; and I will prepare the other ox, and lay it on the wood, and I will not put a fire under it. “Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD, and the God who answers by fire, He is God.” And all the people answered and said, “That is a good idea.”
The contest ended during the evening sacrifice when Elijah prayed, and fire came and consumed the sacrifice. I like how the author of the lesson applies this passage. He states:
The all-consuming fire fell, not upon the guilty but upon the sacrifice, pointing forward to Jesus, who was made “sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21, NKJV). Confession and praise burst from the people’s lips. Because they did not respond to God’s call, the false priests were executed. Then refreshing rains ended the curse upon the land.
As a result of Elijah’s ministry at Carmel, the people turned their hearts to focus towards the worship of the true God, and the Bible records the people’s response, “The Lord, He is the God; the Lord, He is the God” (1 Kgs 18:39). In other words, there was a significant turning to God. Elijah’s message was a call to repentance and obedience to the commandments of God.
John went forth in the spirit and the power of Prophet Elijah; he prepared people for the first Advent of Christ. His work was similar to that of Elijah’s; he had the same burden to “call people to repentance for the kingdom of God is at hand” (Matt 3:2). John’s message called families to true worship; his message is relevant for us today.
As Seventh-day Adventists, we see ourselves as the Remnant of Bible prophecy. Our role as a Church is a similar to the role John the Baptist played. We are heralds of Elijah and John’s message, heralds of Bible prophecy, heralds of uniting and restoring families. Ellen G White states:
Our message must be as direct as was that of John. He rebuked kings for their iniquity. Notwithstanding the peril his life was in, he never allowed truth to languish on his lips. Our work in this age must be as faithfully done. (RC, 339)
I like to recall the words of Robert Folkenberg, in his book We Still Believe, who said,
It is this: As Seventh-day Adventists, we believe we have a prophetic role to play as God’s remnant church in the last days. … I believe it is this sense of special mission that has made Seventh-day Adventists place such a high priority on evangelism.
Before Christ can come for the second time, the remnant will preach the three angels’ message found in Revelation 14. As John the Baptist’s message brought reconciliation and restoration, so does the message at the end of time. (Rev 14:6-11).
Youssry Guirguis currently serves as a full-time Lecturer at Asia-Pacific International University (AIU), Muak Lek, Thailand and also as an adjunct professor at the Adventist Institute for Islamic & Arabic Studies at Middle East University (MEU), Beirut, Lebanon.
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Gordon E. Bradshaw, The Technology of Apostolic Succession: Transferring the Purpose of God to the Next Generation of Kingdom Citizens (Washington, DC: Whitaker House, 2014), 21.
Ellen G. White, Reflecting Christ (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 1985), 339.
Robert Folkenberg, We Still Believe (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press, 1994), 49.