Useful Bible Studies > 1 Kings Commentary > chapter 18

Elijah’s work: to turn people’s hearts back to God

1 Kings 18:37

In this prayer, Elijah makes an extremely important statement about the work that God gave him to do. Without this statement, we could think that Elijah’s special work was to declare God’s message to the wicked King Ahab. Or, we might think that it was to show God’s power in an extraordinary manner.

Of course, Elijah did those things too. However, his particular work for God was to turn people’s hearts back to God. God wants people truly to love him in their hearts (Deuteronomy 6:5) and to know his law in their hearts (Jeremiah 31:33-34). By the ‘heart’, we do not of course mean the physical heart – we mean the inner person, or a person’s true and sincere attitudes.

Clearly, people cannot change their own hearts, which are often very evil (Jeremiah 17:9). Only God can change us from our evil attitudes; only God can give us a new ‘heart’ (Ezekiel 11:19-20). That made Elijah’s task particularly difficult. He could not, by any effort of his own, change the hearts of Israel’s people. Rather, he had to pray, and to do what God directed him.

Malachi 4:5-6 refers to this as Elijah’s special work. People had wandered away from the true God, the God of their ‘fathers’, the former members of their families who served God. Elijah had to bring them back to God. This was how John, called the Baptist, was similar to Elijah (Luke 1:17; Matthew 11:11-14). John’s special work, too, was to turn the hearts of the people back to God before Christ came.

Next part: God sends fire to accept Elijah's sacrifice (1 Kings 18:38)


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