Dr Gooding suggests that as we study this ‘heavy stuff’, it should bring comfort to our hearts. Elijah’s ministry was one of restoration. God already knew his purposes for Elijah when he sent him to contend with the prophets of Baal, showing by his acceptance of Elijah’s sacrifice that he was the true God. God also inspired Malachi to write about Elijah’s future role, ‘before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes’ (4:5). The Lord Jesus explained that Elijah’s ministry was partly fulfilled in John the Baptist. John preached repentance and pointed the people to the Lamb of God; but another part is still future.
Elijah had become discouraged and thought he stood alone, but God told him that he had seven thousand who had not bowed to Baal. In Romans 11, Paul tells us that there is still a remnant, and he is one of them. There will come unprecedented judgment on Israel, but at his appearing the nation will acknowledge Jesus of Nazareth ‘whom they pierced’ as their Messiah, and their restoration will be full.
James explains the value of Elijah’s prayers, and encourages us to pray for the restoration of those who have gone astray. Malachi’s prophecy has been partially fulfilled, but we can rest assured that God will finally complete the story of the ministry of Elijah.