Elijah appeared during what could be called one of the darkest times in the entire region for God’s people. Paganism was wide-spread. Though the Kingdom of Judah during this time was undergoing something of a religious revival (under the good kings Asa and Jehoshaphat), they Kingdom of Judah soon become little better than vassals of Samaria. (Omri’s intermarriages with Judah gave his house brief control over Judah even.) Pagan worship flourished.
Elijah challenged the pagans boldly, and won at Mt. Carmel. During one of his (many) forced exiles from Samaria, he receives God in a cave atop Mt. Horeb. God tells him:
“Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; and when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria; and Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint as King over Israel; and Elisha the son of Shaphat you shall anoint to be prophet in your place. And him who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay, and him who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay. Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Ba’al, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” (1 Kings 19:15-18)When people look at this text, they see God putting kings in place to execute his wrath upon the house of Ahab. I would like to take a step backwards. On what basis does God make these claims? While one can understand why Jehu would be interested in securing the support of Elijah (through his successor Elisha), of what good is an Israelite anointing a Syrian king?
God can make these proclamations through His universal kingship over the entire Earth. In his treatise on the Incarnation, St. Athanasius the Great likened God to a King, and the Earth to a city he founded. The areas of the Earth were ruled by the temporal rulers in his mind as regents. If their work was poor, God could choose to dismiss them at His will. Even in those areas which reject His authority, this does not change God’s dominion over these lands. If he wills a new ruler to be installed, such is His right.
In addition to the two Kingdoms, God reveals two more players in this “game.” Elisha will become the successor to Elijah. There can also be seen a prophecy in the final sentence from God. He states 7,000 would be left in Israel who has not been stained by the idolatry rampant around them. If they are left, implied is that the others wouldn’t be. Here we see the destruction of the Kingdom of Samaria foretold I believe. With the 7,000, we see the beginnings of the Church in a certain way.
This prophesy also has much to say for the Kingdom of Judah, though we may not realize it at first. Those 7,000 exist in Samaria, in the world. They are not part (at least by their original nature in birth) of the Davidic Kingdom. Yet we know that the Davidic Kingdom would reign forever once the Messiah became King. I believe the only way to explain this anomaly is through what is known as the Social Kingship of Christ.
When we say the Kingship of Christ, it is not meant in terms of an earthly theocracy, ruled by the Pope acting in the person of Christ. While at times this has been how it appeared, it really is much deeper than this. With Christ as King, He claims dominion over all of heaven and earth. Though there continue to be earthly princes and rulers, they are called to acknowledge Christ’s superior Kingship over them, just as a vassal may be left with full autonomy, yet he is still required to acknowledge who his lord is.
Those 7,000 are his heralds. They are the ones who call upon the people and rulers of nations to acknowledge the supremacy of this ruler. Is this not the Catholic Church? Are we not made up from the world? Yet do we not serve the eternal King of David’s house? Do we not make disciples of all nations to follow and serve this King?
Yet who is this ruler? What will he be? How will he rule? The prophet Isaiah provides the most exhaustive prophecy concerning the rule of the anointed King of Judah, as such he will be our next figure.