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Leadership and Discipleship, Part 10: Leaders Require Followers

Written by Gary North on April 23, 2016

And he said, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life to take it away (I Ki. 19:14).

Elijah was at his wits’ end. He knew that he had been faithful to God. At Mount Carmel, God’s demonstration of power had persuaded the representatives of the people to slay the false priests. It looked as though they were ready to renew the covenant. As God’s prophet, Elijah would have become their spiritual leader: announcing God’s law, threatening God’s historical sanctions, and training up a new generation of priests to replace the false priests. Yet within weeks, he was isolated on a mountain, hiding from the wrath of the king’s wife.

He had no followers. That was his problem as he saw it. “I, even I only, am left.” How does a man serve God as a prophet if there is no one left who believes him?


God gave him the answer. Elijah had announced a warning to the nation, as every prophet had to: God’s covenant sanctions. As in the case of every Old Covenant prophet, God promised to stand behind Elijah and impose those sanctions (I Ki. 19:17). This was the mark of a true prophet: because the prophet announced both God’s law and God’s sanctions in history, God would impose the promised covenantal sanctions, thereby confirming the prophet’s judicial word.

Sanctions – point four of the biblical covenant model — were the validating mark of a prophet. His God-given authority to declare Gods word as an anointed individual, yet outside the ecclesiastical hierarchy, was demonstrated by the presence of God’s sanctions, both positive and negative. This is why Elijah challenged the false priests in terms of a public display of God’s fire, symbolic of the ultimate negative sanction.

The disciple of the prophet might hope to inherit the prophetic office, but without the power to invoke supernatural sanctions, the mantle would prove useless. God said not to fear anyone who would announce things that did not come to pass (Deut. 18:22). If he also told them to follow false gods, he had to be executed (Deut. 16;20). It was this that had brought the false priests on Mount Carmel under the people’s lawful sanctions.

There have been no prophets since the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. The office was annulled because God’s covenantally binding verbal revelation in history has ceased. The Bible is complete. God no longer guarantees to any person that He will support that person’s warning of imminent sanctions. There is no divine threat attached to any supposed “new word” from God. This is another reason why we should conclude that John wrote the Book of Revelation prior to A.D. 70. Had he written it after that final Mosaic sanction in history, then the office of prophet cannot be said to be annulled in New Testament times.


It was not simply that God promised to impose negative sanctions in history against those who refused to obey Elijah. God also pointed out that there were 7,000 people remaining in the land who had not bowed the knee to Baal, 7,000 pairs of lips that had not kissed him (l Ki. 19:18). That meant that Elijah had followers. They were not visible to him. Even as a prophet, he had not known that they were there. But God had reserved unto Himself 7,000 covenant-keepers who had not been so intimidated by the prevailing culture that they would break their covenant through a public act of covenant renewal with a false god.

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