A photo capturing a serene sunset over a mountain peak, with a beam of light shining down, symbolizing how Elijah was called by God to fulfill his divine purpose.

How Was Elijah Called By God?

The calling of the prophet Elijah by God is a fascinating story of divine appointment. If you’re looking for a quick answer, here it is: God called Elijah suddenly and directly, appointing him to be a prophet speaking God’s words to Israel during a time of idolatry and immorality under an evil king.

In this comprehensive article, we will explore the full story of Elijah’s calling. We’ll set the historical context, analyze the biblical account, and see how Elijah responded. We’ll also draw out key lessons about responding when God calls people for special purposes today.

The Historical Context: Israel in a Dark Time

The Kingdom Divided

After the reign of King Solomon, the united kingdom of Israel split into two kingdoms around 930 BC. The northern kingdom was called Israel and the southern kingdom was called Judah. This division was a consequence of Solomon’s sin of idolatry and the rebellion of Jeroboam (1 Kings 11-12).

The division brought unrest and instability to the Promised Land.

The northern kingdom of Israel had 19 kings over the next two centuries, but not one of them was considered righteous. Some of the kings instituted calf worship, Baal worship, and various other idolatries. There were constant power struggles, assassinations, and other evil acts.

The people turned away from worshipping Yahweh to worshipping pagan idols. The northern kingdom was in a downward spiral of wickedness.

King Ahab’s Evil Reign

One of the wickedest kings to rule over Israel was King Ahab. He reigned from 874-853 BC. The Bible says, “Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him” (1 Kings 16:30). Ahab married the Phoenician princess Jezebel, who promoted the worship of Baal in Israel.

Under Ahab’s rule, idolatry flourished.

Ahab also shed much innocent blood. At Jezebel’s urging, Ahab had many of God’s prophets killed (1 Kings 18:4). Furthermore, Ahab seized land unjustly, including the vineyard of Naboth (1 Kings 21). The prophets Elijah and Micaiah boldly confronted Ahab’s wickedness, but he refused to repent.

By the middle of the 9th century BC, Israel had turned so far from God that the situation seemed hopeless. The Promised Land was filled with wicked kings and false prophets. But in the midst of this dark time, God raised up one of the greatest prophets – Elijah.

Elijah Abruptly Called to Be God’s Prophet

The Sudden Call

Elijah’s calling from God came suddenly and unexpectedly while living a quiet life in the wilderness area of Gilead. Out of the blue, God instructed him to go immediately to King Ahab with a sobering message of judgment for idolatry in Israel (1 Kings 17:1).

Without hesitation or question, Elijah obeyed God’s directive and boldly delivered this hard-hitting prophecy to the king’s face. He did not gradually work his way into the prophetic office but was abruptly catapulted into this divine assignment.

God supernaturally empowered this fiery prophet for the mammoth task before him. Though Israel had Hit rock bottom spiritually, the Lord raised up Elijah as a solitary voice to jar the people from their religious stupor.

His very name Elijah (“my God is the Lord”) rang out like a clarion call for radical revival in Israel. This sudden call and equipping verified that divine enablement precedes duty. God does not assign roles without granting grace equal to the demands.

Sent to Confront Ahab

As his first assignment, Elijah confronted wicked King Ahab who had led Israel into full-blown Baal worship. Imagine the courage it took for Elijah to stand solo before the highest official in the land and deliver a blistering rebuke.

He wasted no time but immediately obeyed God’s instructions to the letter by declaring:

  • A severe drought was coming for “these years” at Elijah’s word (1 Kings 17:1).
  • The drought would end only at Elijah’s word (1 Kings 18:1).
  • These judgments aimed to wake Israel out of idolatry back to loyalty to the true God (1 Kings 18:18).

Rather than surround himself with supporters, Elijah bravely delivered this message alone and then disappeared from the public eye. God miraculously sustained him both physically and spiritually during this lengthy showdown between Baal and Yahweh worship (recorded in 1 Kings 17).

Three years later Elijah emerged as boldly as when he had vanished.

Miracles Performed Raising a boy from the dead (1 Kings 17:17–24)
Provisions Supplied Food delivered by ravens (1 Kings 17:2–6)
Testimonies Recorded A widow testifying God’s provision (1 Kings 17:13–16)

This dramatic calling inaugurated one of the most significant prophetic careers in biblical history. Practically overnight, Elijah was catapulted from obscurity into national prominence as God’s fiery prophet sent to confront idolatry in Israel.

His instantaneous commissioning verifies that divine callings often entail immediate action, not prolonged preparation. When the Lord calls someone to serve His purposes, the time is right, and His grace goes with the summons.

Elijah’s Courageous Obedience to His Call

Fearless Before the King

Elijah was a prophet of God who spoke truth to power. When wicked King Ahab allowed the worship of false gods in Israel, Elijah confronted him, saying “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” (1 Kings 17:1).

This took great courage, as Ahab could have easily killed Elijah for defying him.

But Elijah was not afraid because he relied fully on God’s protection. God told Elijah to hide by the Brook Cherith, where ravens brought him bread and meat twice a day (1 Kings 17:2-6). This miraculous provision gave Elijah the confidence to later confront Ahab again and challenge the prophets of the false god Baal to a showdown on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:1-2).

though outnumbered 450 to 1, Elijah emerged victorious, showing that the Lord alone is God.

Dependence on God for Provision

When the brook Elijah had been drinking from dried up from the drought, God told him to go to Zarephath where a widow would supply him with food (1 Kings 17:8-9). This took faith, as Zarephath was deep in enemy territory. But Elijah obeyed, and when he met the widow, he asked her for bread.

She said she only had a handful of flour and a little oil left, just enough to make one last meal before dying (1 Kings 17:12). Elijah challenged her to use the last of what she had to make him bread first, and her jar of flour and jug of oil would not run out until the drought ended (1 Kings 17:13-14).

Amazingly, she did not go hungry, showing that God can multiply even the smallest provision when we trust in Him.

This story of the Brook Cherith and widow of Zarephath shows that Elijah had to display courageous obedience and radical dependence on God’s promises. Rather than relying on his own resources, he had to trust that God would guide and provide in every situation.

As James 5:17 says, “Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years.” Like Elijah, when we follow God’s call for our lives, we must do so with courage, faith and utter reliance on Him who holds the future.

Principles for Responding to God’s Call

God Still Calls People Today

God continues to call people into His service even in modern times. As it was in biblical days, God taps certain individuals through the Holy Spirit to fulfill special purposes according to His divine plan.

However, unlike the overt callings of prophets like Elijah, today’s calls often come through more subtle whispers or nudges. As Christians, we need spiritual discernment to recognize God’s voice and direction for our lives.

When God calls someone, He equips them for the task or ministry ahead. However, we have a role to play by preparing ourselves through prayer, studying Scripture, godly counsel from others, and staying sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading.

As we draw close to God, we’ll be better able to hear His calls and respond promptly. The principles for answering God’s call remain constant whether it’s dramatic or gentle – humble obedience, faith in God’s empowerment, and persevering commitment to fulfill the calling.

Steps to Take When Called

If you sense God calling you to a particular ministry or position, here are some key steps to take:

  • Pray for wisdom and confirmation of the calling through God’s Word and other believers.
  • Count the cost honestly since answering God’s call requires sacrifice and perseverance.
  • Discern if you have the spiritual gifts or natural talents needed using tools like 16 Personalities tests.
  • Seek godly counsel from mature Christians who can provide guidance and accountability.
  • Move forward in faith believing that God equips those He calls and will open the needed doors.

Remember, walking in God’s calling leads to immense blessing and purpose even through hardships and trials. As Elijah discovered, God rewards faithful obedience to His call with powerful manifestations of His presence and miracles that bring glory to Him alone.


The calling of Elijah stands out for its abruptness and clarity. Yet God still calls people today for special purposes, though usually not so dramatically. As we’ve seen, responding requires courage, obedience and utter reliance on Him.

When we walk closely with God, we too can discover His calling and equiping to carry it out for His glory.

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