For as long as I can remember, Elijah has been an awe-inspiring model for me. This prophet of the Old Testament holds a special place in my spiritual journey. I am inspired by his courage standing on Mount Carmel in front of the prophets of Baal, by his zeal in guiding the people of Israel, by his faith in resurrecting the son of the widow in Zarephath. Elijah proves the possibility of having an indestructible faith in the face of an adverse society. This resonates with our current culture and our beliefs as an end-time church, proclaiming the message of Elijah. Elijah serves as a model for educators and for our church and its message as a whole. But what is this message, and how is it linked to education?
Elijah is remembered by most Christians primarily because of his mighty appearance on Mount Carmel. He asked the people, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” (1 Kings 18:21, NIV). This message of “final judgement” is obvious. But in looking closely at the life of Elijah, another message appears. We see this message in his prayer on Mount Carmel: “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.” (1 Kings 18:36-37, NIV). His primary focus is not on judgment, but on turning the hearts of the people back to God. Bridging the gap between God and man is the mission of the prophet. Mount Carmel was only the starting point for a revival and reformation effort in Israel. Paul calls this the word of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:19, NIV).
Elijah showed the link between education and reconciliation when he rebuilt the schools of the prophets. These schools were the means by which the people were educated and were led to renew their relationship with God and be reconciled to God. The schools of the prophets and our schools today serve the same purpose: the reconcile people with God. Our mission as teachers, pastors and administrators is to be ambassadors for Christ, to heal wounds in this torn world. Elijah’s service lasted much longer than the short moments on Mount Carmel. During these mostly unnoticed years after Mount Carmel, he invested in future generations to complete the work of reconciliation. And these largely unseen works are the real reason that he belongs to the hall of fame.