A STUDY OF 1 KINGS: Our God is Alive and Well 1 Kings 18

Dr. Jerry A. Collins



Verses 1-6—Now it happened after many days that the word of the Lord came to Elijah in the third year. 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).  

—saying, "Go, show yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the face of the earth." 2 So Elijah went to show himself to Ahab. Now the famine was severe in Samaria. 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.

 Ahab called Obadiah who was over the household. (Now Obadiah feared the Lord greatly; 4 for when Jezebel destroyed the prophets of the Lord, Obadiah took a hundred prophets and hid them by fifties in a cave, and provided them with bread and water.) Now we receive a parenthetical statement about Obadiah. Obadiah gives us some interesting commentary about himself.  (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.

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.

Then Ahab said to Obadiah, "Go through the land to all the springs of water and to all the valleys; perhaps we will find grass and keep the horses and mules alive, and not have to kill some of the cattle." 6 So they divided the land between them to survey it; Ahab went one way by himself and Obadiah went another way by himself. 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.

Verses 7-8—Now as Obadiah was on the way, behold, Elijah met him, and he recognized him and fell on his face and said, "Is this you, Elijah my master?" 8 He said to him, "It is I. Go, say to your master, 'Behold, Elijah is here.'" 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?

Verses 9-10— He said, "What sin have I committed, that you are giving your servant into the hand of Ahab to put me to death? Or in what have I offended God or his prophet that revenge should be taken on me in this way.

As the Lord your God lives, there is no nation or kingdom where my master has not sent to search for you; and when they said, 'He is not here,' he made the kingdom or nation swear that they could not find you. 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.

Verses 11-12— And now you are saying, 'Go, say to your master, "Behold, Elijah is here."' 12 It will come about when I leave you that the Spirit of the Lord will carry you where I do not know; so when I come and tell Ahab and he cannot find you, he will kill me, although I your servant have feared the Lord from my youth. 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.   

Verses 13-16—Here again Obadiah attempts to justify his double fear. Has it not been told to my master what I did when Jezebel killed the prophets of the Lord, that I hid a hundred prophets of the Lord by fifties in a cave, and provided them with bread and water? And now you are saying, 'Go, say to your master, "Behold, Elijah is here"'; he will then kill me." Elijah said, "As the Lord of hosts lives, before whom I stand, I will surely show myself to him today." 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 what sin have I committed elevating his potential resistance to violating deity. In verse 10 he made the kingdom or nation swear that they could not find you revealing the level of determination to find and kill Elijah. In verses 11-12he will kill me and in verse 14 he will then kill me elevating the threat to impending death otherwise). The situation from his perspective could not be direr. Having received a second promise from Elijah that he would not disappear as the Lord of hosts lives, before whom I stand, I will surely show myself to him today. 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.

So Obadiah went to meet Ahab and told him; and Ahab went to meet Elijah. 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.



Now that, we have been given an introduction of the main characters, we are about to see a significant contrast in worldviews between the prophet Elijah and the King of Israel, Ahab. The sinful king, unlike the prophet, has no faith in the covenant blessings or curses God made with the nation.



Verses 17-19When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, "Is this you, you troubler of Israel?" He said, "I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father's house have, because you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord and you have followed the Baal’s. 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.

—Now then send and gather to me all Israel at Mount Carmel. 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 with 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of the Asherah, 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.

Who eat at Jezebel's table 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.

Verses 20-21— So Ahab sent a message among all the sons of Israel and brought the prophets together at Mount Carmel. 21 Elijah came near to all the people and said, "How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him."  

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. How long, 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).

—But the people did not answer him a word. 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.

Verses 22-24— Then Elijah said to the people, "I alone am left a prophet of the Lord, but Baal's prophets are 450 men. 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.

Now let them give us two oxen; and let them choose one ox for themselves and cut it up, and place it on the wood, but put no fire under it; and I will prepare the other ox and lay it on the wood, and I will not put a fire under it. 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.

Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, He is God."— 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.

And all the people said, "That is a good idea”. 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 25-27So Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, "Choose one ox for yourselves and prepare it first for you are many, and call on the name of your god, but put no fire under it." 26 Then they took the ox which was given them and they prepared it and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon saying, "O Baal, answer us." But there was no voice and no one answered. And they leaped about the altar which they made. 27 It came about at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, "Call out with a loud voice, for he is a god; either he is occupied or gone aside, or is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and needs to be awakened." 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 true 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— So they cried with a loud voice and cut themselves according to their custom with swords and lances until the blood gushed out on them. 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.

When midday was past, they raved until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice; but there was no voice, no one answered, and no one paid attention. The prophets of Baal were utterly sincere and completely devoted 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 nothing.

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.

Verses 30-35—Then Elijah said to all the people, "Come near to me." So all the people came near to him. When it was Elijah’s turn to sacrifice, he first wanted to get the attention 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.

—And he repaired the altar of the Lord which had been torn down. 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 revive something that once was.

Elijah took twelve stones according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, saying, "Israel shall be your name." 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. 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 with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord, and he made a trench around the altar, large enough to hold two measures of seed. 33 Then he arranged the wood and cut the ox in pieces and laid it on the wood. This was a very meticulous and deliberate preparation. Just in such manner as sacrifices usually were.

And he said, (to make this even more challenging) "Fill four pitchers with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood." And he said, "Do it a second time," and they did it a second time. And he said, "Do it a third time," and they did it a third time. 35 The water flowed around the altar and he also filled the trench with water. 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— At the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet came near and said, "O Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant and I have done all these things at Your word. 37 Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that You, O Lord, are God, and that You have turned their heart back again."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.

Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. 39 When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, "The Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is God."  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 not have was a God in heaven who answered by fire. The action of this fire was in every case downward, 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.

Then Elijah said to them, "Seize the prophets of Baal; do not let one of them escape." So they seized them; and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there. Elijah prevailed over the false prophets of Baal and keep covenant by mandating the death of the false prophets (Deuteronomy 13:13-18; 17:2-7; 18:9-22). 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.



Verses 41-42 Now Elijah said to Ahab, "Go up, eat and drink; for there is the sound of the roar of a heavy shower." 42 So Ahab went up to eat and drink. But Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he crouched down on the earth and put his face between his knees. Immediately on the heels of this successful confrontation, the drought begins to end. 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 go up, eat and drink. Ahab evidently went up Mount Carmel from the Jezreel Valley below to eat, but Elijah went up higher to pray for rain but Elijah went up to the top of Carmel. His posture evidenced humility and mourning as well as prayer.

43 He said to his servant, "Go up now, look toward the sea." So he went up and looked and said, "There is nothing." And he said, "Go back" seven times. 44 It came about at the seventh time, that he said, "Behold, a cloud as small as a man's hand is coming up from the sea." Elijah knew that once the official 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 persistent 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.

And he said, "Go up, say to Ahab, 'Prepare your chariot and go down, so that the heavy shower does not stop you.'" 45 In a little while the sky grew black with clouds and wind, and there was a heavy shower. And Ahab rode and went to Jezreel. This was a word of faith from Elijah to Ahab. Based only on the sighting of a cloud that was as small as a man’s hand, he knew a torrent was on the way.

Then the hand of the Lord was on Elijah, and he girded up his loins and outran Ahab to Jezreel. 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. Although Obadiah paints Ahab as someone to be feared, Elijah dominates all throughout the narrative from the moment he meets the king. Ahab only speaks once (18:17), and Elijah silences him. Otherwise Ahab does what Elijah says (18:19-20; 41-42, 45) or watches from the sidelines so quietly as to be invisible (18:21-40). The king is as impotent as the God he worships (vv. 26, 29).

PT—James reminds us of one thing we can say about this prayer and prayer warrior, the effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit (James 5:17-18).



·         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.