Moses, Elijah and Messiah

Despite enjoying relative peace, the Northern Kingdom of Israel had lapsed into spiritual decline. King Ahab had married Jezebel, the daughter of the king of Sidon, a neighbouring nation. Ahab was a peace-maker and strongly influenced by his wife. She was young and beautiful, and ready to rule. With the queen beside him, King Ahab was weak and insipid. With the king beside her, Jezebel was powerful and supreme.

To please his wife, Ahab had built a temple, and promoted the worship of Baal rather than worshipping and following after the LORD God of Israel.

And so, the LORD sent Elijah the prophet.

"As the LORD God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word." (1 Kings 17:1)

There would be no rain, or forming dew for the next three years.

While King Ahab was not impressed, his wife, Jezebel, was furious. She was determined that this type of prophet, with his anti-kingdom messages had to be eliminated. And so Jezebel arranged for all the prophets of the LORD to be killed and replaced with more contemporary and favourable advisors to the king. These new advisors included four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal, and four hundred prophets of Asherah.

King Ahab was caught between a rock and a hard place. What could he do? So many people had died, what use would it be for more bloodshed? And besides, his new advisors seemed quite knowledgeable and were very supportive of his regime. The future of the kingdom was looking good, or so it seemed.

The Sages say that Aaron, the brother of Moses, was a peace-maker. It was because of this characteristic that Aaron was over-powered by the people in the sin of the golden calf, at Mt Sinai. Apparently, Aaron reluctantly went along with the rebellion, in an attempt to avoid the shedding of blood and to delay for more time. Moses, on the other hand, was more concerned for the sanctity of God's Name, than for keeping the peace. When Moses finally returned from the Mount he immediately quashed the rebellion, and three thousand lay dead. The lesson: as a peace maker, Aaron could not lead the people alone. Aaron needed Moses, as much as Moses needed Aaron, so that together they could lead the Children of Israel onto the Promised Land.

Like Aaron, King Ahab needed a Moses to help him rule the people. Elijah the prophet was his Moses. Unfortunately, Ahab had declared Elijah to be an enemy of Israel. "Then it happened when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said to him, 'Is that you, O troubler of Israel?' And he answered, "I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father's house have, in that you have forsaken the commandments of the LORD and have followed the Baals.'" (1 Kings 18:17-18)

Elijah's reappearance after three years was at the command of the LORD and was intended to show the people that the LORD God was still the God of Israel, and that He would turn their hearts back to Him.

Elijah instructed Ahab to gather the prophets and the people to Mount Carmel.

Elijah rebuked the people of Israel. "How long will you falter between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is god follow him.' But the people answered him not a word." (I Kings 18:21) The influence of Baal worship, introduced by King Ahab and his evil wife, Jezebel, had caused a spiritual blindness to come upon the people of Israel. Unable to see clearly, Israel had fallen away from the path of the LORD and from His commandments, and stumbled into the path of uncertainty.

Then came the challenge. Two separate offerings would be prepared. One by the prophets of Baal, and the other by Elijah, and " . . . the God who answers by fire, He is God." (1 Kings 18:24) It was agreed.

The prophets of Baal prepared their offering first, and called upon their god, from morning until midday, and then from midday until the time of the evening offering. But there was no answer, though the prophets cut themselves and danced around frantically.

Then it was Elijah's turn.

"Then Elijah said to all the people, 'Come near to me.' So all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the LORD that was broken down." (1 Kings 18:30)

There are some interesting similarities between the events at Sinai with Moses and the events at Mt Carmel with Elijah.

Just as Elijah called the people to come near, so too, Moses was commanded to call the Children of Israel to come near to the foot of Mt Sinai, in readiness to receive the Torah. "Then the LORD said to Moses, 'Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes. And let them be ready for the third day. For on the third day the LORD will come down upon Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people . . . When the trumpet sounds long, they shall come near the mountain." (Exodus 19:10, 11, 13)

Like Moses, so too Elijah. It was as if Elijah and the people of Israel who had gathered at Mt Carmel were at Mt Sinai reenacting the events of their forefathers centuries beforehand. Like their forefathers before them, the people of Israel were called to come near. "So all the people came near to him." (1 Kings 18:30)

When Moses gathered the Children of Israel at the foot of Mt Sinai, he constructed an altar of twelve pillars. "So Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the judgements. And all the people answered with one voice and said, 'All the words which the LORD has said we will do.' And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD. And he rose early in the morning and built and altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars according to the twelve tribes of Israel." (Exodus 24:3-4)

The twelve pillars represented the unity of Israel. And in confirmation, the Children of Israel answered with one voice emphasizing their one heart to follow the LORD and to walk in His ways. "All the words which the LORD has said we will do."

Before Elijah presented his offering it is recorded that " . . . he repaired the altar of the LORD that was broken down." (1 Kings 18:30). The two events: Moses at Mt Sinai and Elijah at Mt Carmel appear mysteriously linked. It was as though Elijah was repairing the same altar that Moses had constructed at the foot of Mt Sinai centuries earlier. It was as though, the people who had gathered at Mt Carmel, were now watching Elijah rebuilding the altar that Moses had built. "And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD had come saying, 'Israel shall be your name.' Then with the twelve stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD . . . " (1 Kings 18:31-32)

Sadly, during the days of Elijah, not only had the Northern Kingdom of Israel fallen into spiritual decline, but the people of Israel were divided into two kingdoms.

In spite of this, Elijah took twelve stones representing the one nation, Israel. And like their forefathers, at Mt Sinai, the people of Israel were united under the message of the prophet to return to the LORD.

The prayer of Elijah reflected this message of unity to a divided people, "Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that you are the LORD God, and that you have turned their hearts back to you again." (1 Kings 18:37)

Then when the fire of the LORD consumed Elijah's sacrifice all the people saw it and fell on their faces declaring, "The LORD, He is God! The LORD, He is God!" (1 Kings 18:38-39)

Elijah stood victorious, the people with conviction, "The LORD, He is God! The LORD, He is God!" Its uniting call and steadfast devotion has echoed down the centuries as the heart-cry of a persecuted people wanting to return to the LORD.


Significantly, the LORD promised to send His messenger, who like Elijah, would turn the hearts of that future generation in preparation for the arrival of the Messiah.

"Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the LORD, whom you seek, will suddenly come to his temple . . . " (Malachi 3:1)

The Sages taught that "the messenger" who would come would be none other than Elijah himself.

When the Messiah came, He took three of His disciples up a mountain. While on the mountain the Messiah's appearance changed, and both Moses and Elijah appeared and spoke to Him. "Now after six days, Yeshua took Peter, James and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; and he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking to him.

"Then Peter answered and said to Yeshua, 'Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, let us make three tabernacles; one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.' While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, 'This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!'" (Matthew 17:1-5)

The sukkah is a reminder of God's protection and preservation of Israel despite harsh circumstances and hostile neighbours. The theme of sukkah is that Israel can survive against every opposition, and will survive though outnumbered by his enemies. The Feast of Tabernacles is a holy day of the LORD given to Israel to commemorate this truth. Every year the Jewish people celebrate this feast and remember the survival of their ancestors who despite the harsh desert conditions, and in spite of hostile neighbours, they survived living in tents for forty years. Even today the feast takes on new meaning and deeper understanding as the Jewish people recall their recent experiences and how they have survived the centuries despite being exiled from the Land, and in spite of wandering from nation to nation.

The sukkah also reminds us that the people of Israel are uniquely the People of God. Entering the sukkah is like entering another world. Whilst the world may appear the same, the smells and sounds are different. Even the sense of His Presence is somehow different–almost tangible–like being wrapped in a cloud or surrounded by a protecting fire. Enter the sukkah and you leave a world ensnared by the ways of men. Enter the sukkah and you walk the path of the righteous, and learn the ways in the LORD. Enter the sukkah and you enter the embrace of His reassuring Presence. Here within the fragile sukkah rises the courage and boldness of the faithful whose hearts are blessed with the readiness to serve the Creator and join Him in His eternal project–bringing light and hope to a darkened world.

The unity of Israel is also pictured at the suggestion of building the three tabernacles, or sukkot. Under the sukkah of Moses the people of Israel are united by embracing the Torah, the commandments of God and to walk in His ways. Under the sukkah of Elijah the people of Israel are united by embracing the message of the Prophets to return to the LORD their God. Under the sukkah of Messiah Yeshua the people of Israel are united by embracing the future hope of redemption and being a holy nation under God.

After coming down from the mountain, where they saw Moses and Elijah speaking with the Messiah, Yeshua's disciples asked Him concerning Elijah the prophet.

"'Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?' Yeshua answered and said to them, 'Indeed, Elijah has come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished. Likewise the Son of Man is also about to suffer at their hands.' Then the disciples understood that he spoke to them of John the Baptist." (Matthew 17:13)

John the Baptist (Yohanan, the Immerser) was from the tribe of Levi and he had come in the spirit of Elijah, to prepare the way for Messiah Yeshua, exactly as foretold. Yohanan came preaching repentance and water immersion as the first steps to returning to the LORD, and to walk after His Messiah.

"In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!' For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying: 'The voice of one crying in the wilderness: "Prepare the way of the LORD; make his paths straight."' Now John himself was clothed in camel's hair, with leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem, all Judea and all the region around the Jordan went out to him and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins." (Matthew 3:1-6)

At that time, many came to Yohanan and were immersed believing the Messiah would arrive soon. When He arrived, Yohanan announced to the crowd and presented Yeshua, son of David, "Behold, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29) Since then, both Jew and Gentile have come to faith in Messiah Yeshua, believing Yohanan's message, that Yeshua is the Promised One.