A STUDY OF 1 KINGS: Our God is Alive and Well 1 Kings 18
Dr. Jerry A. Collins
Through his servant Obadiah we learn, Ahab met Elijah somewhere near Samaria after three and a half years of drought (Luke 4:25; James 5:17).
In other words, there is no mistaken that the land was under difficult stress and much needed relief at this time. But it was the Word of the Lord that prompted Elijah to act not the famine itself.
(1) We learn he is head over Ahab’s household placing him in a prominent position so as to be aware of the going’s on in the palace. (2) He greatly feared the Lord and that is repeated again in verse 12. (3) The demonstration of this fear was his protection of 100 prophets he hid from execution by Jezebel, which is also repeated in verse 13.Now we receive a parenthetical statement about Obadiah. Obadiah gives us some interesting commentary about himself.
PT—The point of this narrative is to reveal that God was engaged within the going’s on here. That he had his sovereign finger on the pulse of the palace with this god fearing servant. God places us where we are the most useful. This man Obadiah was a brave man but he may have also been compromised as well, who stood for God and His prophets in a difficult time. In the center of rebellion against God there was one whose devotion to God was intense and distinguished. Obadiah, at the risk of his own life, had hidden 100 prophets of the Most High God.
Application—Be content with where you are at in life. That does not mean you cannot advance your situation, but it does mean accepting the sovereign hand of God within the affairs of your life as you do. Ensure that the life you are living is consistent with the will of God as far as you can discern that. Then be content to live out your current position as it unfolds over time. God is always using you where you find yourself. Be available. Be hopeful. Be joyful. Be content.
— The drought was so severe that King Ahab himself and his trusted servant Obadiah were out searching for pastureland which again became the impetus for a divine encounter. We see the condition of the land had become a truly serious problem. If they do not do something fast, the animals will die from starvation. God arranged an unexpected meeting between Obadiah and the prophet Elijah by means of this severe drought.
When Obadiah met Elijah, he voiced his submission to the man of God and to God. He did so by calling Elijah his master. However, Obadiah served two masters. Elijah pointed this out by referring to Ahab as Obadiah’s master. To rise as high as he had in Ahab’s government, Obadiah had to have given external support for Ahab while internally following Lord.
PT—So here we might see the spiritual condition of Israel at this time in their history. Obadiah was similar to many believers in the Lord who were living in Israel then. They had divided allegiances, their faith in God was weak, they were fearful for their own safety, and they were slow to respond to God’s word. Does it seem like the church is moving in the same sort of direction within our current society? We, too, may have to check our allegiances in the days ahead. Who knows? And what would be the outcome of your personal evaluation?
Or in what have I offended God or his prophet that revenge should be taken on me in this way.
Obadiah knew that King Ahab conducted an exhaustive search for Elijah to punish him for the drought that his prayers imposed on Israel. Obadiah feared that if he announced that he met Elijah, and the prophet disappeared again, Ahab would punish Obadiah for letting Elijah get away. This reveals the arbitrary nature of Ahab which would make him susceptible to Jezebel’s deceptive schemes later. So, we have double fear—one of God and another of man.
Again, the entire circumstance of Elijah’s ministry revolves around death. The drought, the widow’s sticks, and now Obadiah’s fear of assassination. Elijah boldly steps into these circumstances delivering the messages of God to people facing dire straits.
PT—Ministry is meant for this. People in need of an eternal perspective as they face threatening situations. The purpose of ministry is to focus our attention upon the eternal realities and prepare individuals for their eternal welfare (Colossians 1:28). Here God is using the current circumstances and His prophet to deliver this truth to people desperately in need of it.
Obadiah went to great pains to convince Elijah that he was a believer in the Lord. He must have felt this explanation was necessary because of his position in Ahab’s cabinet as in his defense in verse 13. He obviously struggled with whether he could believe Elijah when the prophet told him he would speak to Ahab (vv. 9 elevating his potential resistance to violating deity. In verse 10 revealing the level of determination to find and kill Elijah. In verses 11-12, and in verse 14 ). The situation from his perspective could not be direr. Having received a second promise from Elijah that he would not disappear . Kindly and wisely, Elijah responded to Obadiah’s legitimate fears. He would not make Obadiah a martyr on Elijah’s behalf. Obadiah finally obeyed the prophet’s command and went to Ahab.
—. Upon the prophet's oath Obadiah was entirely satisfied, and was in no fear of delivering the message. The use of the Obadiah scene establishes the advance the unique authority of Elijah.
Ahab accused Elijah of causing the famine that Ahab and Jezebel’s idolatry caused. But Elijah bluntly tells Ahab the truth, it’s because you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord and you have followed the Baal’s. Ahab called Elijah he that troubles Israel, blaming the drought on him. It’s interesting that with all of the history associated with Israel’s’ founding, and the clear warnings of Moses about idolatry in the land that Ahab had never considered that he might be the source of the problem. Instead, Ahab believed that Elijah had angered the sky-god Baal and therefore Baal withheld rain. The irony, of course, is that Ahab was the true cause of Israel’s trouble having brought idolatry into the land. There is no indication that God told Elijah to do this, but he calls for a contest.
The Carmel range of mountains rising to 1,800 feet at its highest point, extending about 30 miles to the southeast from the shores of the Mediterranean Sea into the south of the Jezreel Valley. The Canaanites built sanctuaries to the pagan weather deities on this mountain. Thus, Carmel was an appropriate site for a confrontation between Elijah, the prophet of the Lord, and the prophets of Baal.
PT—What I like about the Christian faith is that it is out in the open for all to observe. God has nothing to hide. The truth is available in the Scripture for all to access and evaluate. It was founded in an isolated cave or through the bombastic musings of one individual or cast through some type of one on one vision. And so here God is willing to have an open contest for all to witness. Never be fearful of whether the Christian faith can stand against public scrutiny.
—together to once and for all settle the issue of who is the true God in Israel. “The prophets of the groves” were the priests of Asherah, whose cult worship was apparently sponsored by Queen “Jezebel”. These cultic practices took place in the valleys and hidden areas of the land.
— refers to the fact that these prophets of Baal and Asherah were sponsored and supported by the government of Israel, having a special patron in the wicked Queen Jezebel.
PT— Elijah applied a creative alternative to address a spiritual issue that was prevalent in the land. We should be ready to utilize creative and strategic solutions to put forward the will of God whenever it is being violated.
PT— Elijah’s appeal also called his hearers to account for the period of time in which they had not made a decision between the Lord and Baal. , he asked them. “How many more sermons do you want? How many more Sundays must roll away wasted? How many warnings, how many sicknesses, how many toiling’s of the bell to warn you that you must die? How many graves must be dug for your family before you will be impressed? How many plagues and pestilences must ravage this city before you will turn to God in truth? How long halt ye between two opinions?” (Spurgeon).
There was no objection and no repentance. The Israelites had been straddling the spiritual fence just as Obadiah had. They lacked the courage to either defend their position or to change it. Elijah’s call to choose sides rings into our hearts today. No place in the Word of God is there room for a middle-of-the-road position. Jesus declared no one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth (Matthew 6:24). Israel had not totally rejected the Lord, but was seeking to combine worship of Him with the worship of Baal called syncretism. The issue posed by Elijah was that Israel had to choose who was God, the Lord or Baal, and then serve God wholeheartedly. Rather than decide by his message, Elijah sought a visible sign for heaven.
Elijah felt alone. His victory would require a supernatural act of God. Elijah alone stood for the One True God on Mount Carmel. The 450 prophets of Baal would make it more dramatic when God proved Himself here. Elijah had reason to know this was not true. In the recent past, Obadiah told him that he sheltered 100 prophets of God against the persecution of Jezebel and Ahab.
— In this proposed test, Elijah was careful to give the prophets of Baal every potential advantage. They picked the two bulls, and picked which one they would sacrifice and which one Elijah would sacrifice.
—The fire would not come from either Elijah or the prophets of Baal. It had to be supernatural in origin, and supplied by either Baal or the Lord. Again, Elijah gave plenty of advantage to the prophets of Baal. It was thought that Baal was the sky-god, lord of the weather and the sender of lightning (thought to be fire from the sky). If Baal were real, he certainly could send fire from heaven. To put God and himself on the line before the gathered nation of Israel took a lot of faith. Elijah learned this faith over the many months of daily dependence on God, both at the Brook Cherith and at the widow’s house at Zarapeth.
—This challenge is fair. No one can say that this is not a test of who the true God is. All are in agreement, that this should settle the question. There will be no doubt left.
Verses 25-27— Elijah mocked the mysticism of the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel. The prophets of Baal had a devoted prayer life. Here, they prayed long and with great passion. Yet because they did not pray to the God, their prayer meant nothing.
Application: Tell the truth about God’s word when the world is going in the opposite direction. It is even sometimes appropriate to mock the foolishness of the world, such as its blind faith in evolution, feminism, and humanism or their inability to discern reality due to their spiritual blindness and impotence. Imagine yourself as Elijah.
Verses 28-29—This is the sad result of worshipping an imaginary god or the god of our own making. We may dedicate great sincerity, sacrifice, and devotion to such gods, but it means nothing. There is no one there to answer.
—The prophets of Baal were utterly and completely to their religion. They were so committed that they expressed it in their own blood. They had zeal, but without knowledge – therefore their zeal profited them .
An Application—It is appropriate to have zeal for the Lord, His will, and His Word. We should eagerly desire and contend for righteousness. Romans 12:10-11 says, be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence (zeal). Christ gave Himself for us…to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds (Titus 2:14). Be eager to study the Bible. Be dedicated to loving God will all your heart. Be passionate about living with an eternal perspective. Be devoted to making disciples of Jesus Christ.
PT—Certainly, they were zealous, but their zeal was not channeled into godly paths. Zeal in itself is not sufficient, even for ministry on behalf of the Lord. It has been taught that activity, devotion, commitment, and sincerity are the only necessities in serving the Lord. But such zeal can be misdirected and even hinder service. Paul testified about his Jewish kinsmen for I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge (Romans 12:2). In the end, there was no response from these idols.
When it was Elijah’s turn to sacrifice, he first wanted to get the of the people. This was for their benefit, not his own or really primarily for the benefit of God. They needed to pay attention so they would see that the Lord was a true God, in contrast to the silent Baal.
Elijah was very aware that he repaired something that once stood strong. There was once an altar of the Lord at Carmel and in Israel in general. Elijah looked to something that .
It is interesting that he took the twelve stones, instead of the ten of just Israel. The kingdom might be divided, but with God they are still all his people. This reminds them that the law was given to all of them on the way to their Promised Land. The name of Jacob had been changed to Israel when he became a nation of twelve tribes.So this act validates for all Israel Elijah’s worldview as being informed by Israel’s covenants which makes paramount the purging of idolatry in the land.
Just in such manner as sacrifices usually were.
— In wanting to make a deep impression upon the people, Elijah required more of the Lord than he did of Baal. Elijah did not even suggest to the prophets of Baal that they wet down their sacrifice once or twice, much less three times. Yet Elijah did this, confident that it was no harder for God to ignite a wet sacrifice than it was for Him to set a dry one ablaze.
Verses 36-40— —The “God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel” (or Jacob), was the identifying phrase of God’s relationship to the Abrahamic covenant. The faithful One is yet Israel’s God, the only God, and the God with whom they must deal. The title servant reveals Elijah’s function as a prophet and his status before a holy and righteous God. Elijah’s request was twofold: (1) That people would know that the Lord is God, the Creator and Redeemer. When God’s people pray for God’s glory and honor, they are praying exactly this, that the world will recognize God as God. (2) That the people would turn back to the Lord. Their hearts needed to be as aflame with the power of God as that altar.
— Now we have this dramatic sequence. The prayer offered. The fire fell. The fire consumed. The fire licked. The people saw. The people fell. The people declared. The entire sequence conveys they were convinced. The prophets of Baal had passion, commitment, sincerity, devotion, and great energy. What they did have was a God in heaven who answered by . The action of this fire was in every case , contrary to the nature of all earthly and material fire. Elijah’s petition had lasted less than a minute but produced spectacular results. The difference lay in the One addressed.
— Since this was a contest between the Lord and Baal, the prophets of each deity had to be responsible for their respective results. The great sin of King Ahab was his official sponsorship of the prophets of Baal, and now that the fraud of Baal was exposed, his prophets had to answer for it and were dealt with according to the Law of Moses. Elijah simply demanded that the prophets of Baal receive the treatment they promoted for the prophets of the Lord.
Application— Today idolatry is prevalent. Everyone wants to have a god of their own making. Mankind is not interested in submission to a Creator even though the evidence is overwhelming of such. The rebellious heart needs persuasion as to the truth. But that truth is wrapped within the confines of Scripture and if you do not desire to find it there you will never discover it. Israel could not deny the covenant with God and expect to have the truth.
MIXING GOD’S WORD WITH PRAYER HAS A POWERFUL EFFECT
Verses 41-42— Evidently thunder accompanied the falling of the fire (lightning?) from heaven. Elijah told Ahab, who had personally witnessed the contest, that he could celebrate by eating . Ahab evidently went up Mount Carmel from the Jezreel Valley below to eat, but Elijah went up higher to pray for rain . His posture evidenced humility and mourning as well as prayer.
Elijah knew that once the worship of Baal had been defeated, the purpose for the drought was fulfilled. Rain was on the way. Elijah and Ahab would now each do what they wanted to do. Elijah would pray and Ahab would eat. This was stubbornly prayer. It was as if Elijah would not take “no” for an answer, because he had confidence that God’s will was to send rain. He stubbornly furthered the will of God by his persistent prayer. The evidence of the rain came slowly and in a small way, but out of this small evidence God brought a mighty work.
This was a word of faith from Elijah to Ahab. Based only on the sighting of a that was , he knew a torrent was on the way.
—This was an obviously supernaturally empowered 14-mile cross-country run. We don’t know exactly why it was important to God for Elijah to reach Jezreel first; perhaps it was so that he would be the first to tell Queen Jezebel.
· Once again as we are throughout scripture reminded that our God has no rivals. Every world religion is a farce. They worship a God of their own making molded by the hands of demons.
· We may have to take a public stand against false worship that may include a confrontation of some kind. Even though God had not directly instructed Elijah to do so, when Elijah made that public declaration God responded.
· Elijah’s prayer gives us a paradigm for ours: (1) Prayer can be offered in a humble posture. (2) Prayer persists in what it requests. (3) Prayer perseveres until an answer is given.