The record of Elijah in 1 Kings 17 & 18 is an example of the way God uses the prophet under inspiration. Note that the Bible is very clear that it is God who controls the prophet and not vis-versa.
Note the example of the prophet Balaam, who wanted to curse Israel but could not, in Numbers:
- Num 23:11, 12 - Then Balak said to Balaam, “What have you done to me? I brought you here to curse my enemies, and behold, you have only blessed them!” But Balaam replied, “Should I not speak exactly what the LORD puts in my mouth?”
- Num 23:26 - But Balaam replied, “Did I not tell you that whatever the LORD says, I must do?”
- Num 24:12, 13 - Balaam answered Balak, “Did I not already tell the messengers you sent me that even if Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not do anything of my own accord, good or bad, to go beyond the command of the LORD? I will speak whatever the LORD says.
Saul experienced something similar:
- 1 Sam 10:10, 11 - When Saul and his servant arrived at Gibeah, a group of prophets met him. Then the Spirit of God rushed upon him, and he prophesied along with them. All those who had formerly known Saul and saw him prophesying with the prophets asked one another, “What has happened to the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?”
- 1 Sam 19:23, 24 - So Saul went to Naioth in Ramah. But the Spirit of God came upon even Saul, and he walked along prophesying until he came to Naioth in Ramah. Then Saul stripped off his robes and also prophesied before Samuel. And he collapsed and lay naked all that day and night. That is why it is said, “Is Saul also among the prophets?”
Thus, we have the repeated witness that the prophets can prophesy nothing except what the Lord tells to do and say.
This was also true of Elijah - He only performed the miracles he was instructed to perform by the Spirit of God. This is part of the general principle of inspiration recorded in the NT:
2 Peter 1:20, 21 - Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of
Scripture comes from one’s own interpretation. For no such prophecy
was ever brought forth by the will of man, but men spoke from God as
they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
For more information about how the prophets were "inspired", see the appendix below.
APPENDIX - Prophetic Inspiration
We have this in 2 Tim 3:16 -
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for instruction, for
conviction, for correction, and for training in righteousness
The same idea is expressed in various way throughout the Bible such as: 2 Peter 1:19-21. See also 2 Sam 23:2, Neh 9:30, Eze 2:2, 11:5, 24, Micah 3:8, Zech 7:12, 2 Peter 1:19-21, Rom 1:2, 3:2, Heb 3:7, 5:12, 9:8, Mark 12:36, Acts 28:25, 1 Tim 4:1.
The central question here is what does, “God-breathed” (2 Tim 3:16, 17) or “inspired” mean? That is, Did God inspire men or words? Or, Did the Holy Spirit prompt ideas or dictate? To answer this central question of inspiration we observe the following:
The mechanism of inspiration in the Bible was quite varied.
- Some writers saw visions and then recorded the vision (Dan 8:1, 2, 10:1-3, Revelation (numerous times), etc.), 2 Cor 12:1, 2,
- The prophet is awake and talking directly with a messenger (Zech 4:1, 2)
- Luke researched events and interviewed witnesses before compiling his Gospel and Acts
- Some passages are direct quotes from non-inspired sources (see table below) that the Bible writer used.
- Balaam was possessed and unable to curse Israel (Num 23, 24)
- Some passages are clearly direct quotes from God (eg, the 10 commandments in Ex 20:1-17, 31:18, Deut 10:4, 5)
- Moses even used another person (Aaron) to deliver his messages (Ex 7:1, compare Ex 4:15, 16)
- A dictation model of inspiration would have all four Gospels recording the same event in exactly the same language; but significant variations are obvious.
The Apostle Paul had many experiences directly with God such as:
- Acts 18:9 - One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking; do not be silent.
- Acts 23:11 - The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about Me in Jerusalem, so also you must testify in Rome.”
- Acts 22:17, 18 - Later, when I had returned to Jerusalem and was praying at the temple, I fell into a trance and saw the Lord saying to me, ‘Hurry! Leave Jerusalem quickly, because the people here will not accept your testimony about Me.’
- Acts 16:9, 10 - During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
- 2 Tim 4:17 - But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message would be fully proclaimed, and all the Gentiles would hear it. So I was delivered from the mouth of the lion.
- Acts 27:23 - For just last night an angel of God, whose I am and whom I serve, stood beside me
- Acts 12:7 - Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and woke him up, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his wrists.
- Acts 9:3-6 - As Saul drew near to Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?” “Who are You, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” He replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
The language of the Bible is quite varied and depends on the background of prophet. John wrote very simply (at times, stretching Greek grammar); Paul and Luke used quite complex Greek constructions with a large vocabulary; Matthew’s Gospel is very Hebraistic is style; Peter’s two epistles are quite different in style because he used different translator-secretaries to record them (Silas in the first instance, 1 Peter 5:12). If the Holy Spirit had dictated the Bible, its style would be uniform.
Thus, the Bible writers had a variety of experiences showing that there is no single way that God deals with His prophets.