1 Kings 17-18

EliasToday, I want us to consider 1 Kings 16:29 through chapter 18. So grab a Bible and turn to 1 Kings 16:29. At The Table during this season of Pentecost we are examining the heroes of prayer. And the prophet Elijah has made our top 5 list. Elijah was a man of prayer, which made him a man of confidence, and a man of hope. In this account we see Elijah in action. b/c of the evil of king Ahab, Elijah, by the power of God, stopped the rain. For context lets 1st look at 1 Kings 16:29. It says:

29 In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab son of Omri became king of Israel, and he reigned in Samaria over Israel twenty-two years. 30 Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him. 31 He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, but he also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him. 32 He set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he built in Samaria. 33 Ahab also made an Asherah pole and did more to arouse the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, than did all the kings of Israel before him.

b/c of Ahabs evil ways, God acts. And it says in 17:1: Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab: As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word. There were consequences for Ahabs actions. Yet, in the midst of famine and drought, God provides for Elijah. In 17:2-6, God hides Elijah in a secret oasis, where he is cared for. And when the oasis dries up, God blesses a widow and her son through Elijah and provides for them all in 17:7-24.

Meanwhile the land remains dry, b/c, through Elijah, God is proving Himself to Ahab and the nation. And after a time of waiting, it is time for Wrestle Mania, where God exposes these fake gods to His people. Drop down to 1 Kings 18. v. 1 says: After a long time, in the third year, the word of the Lord came to Elijah: Go and present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the land. 2 So Elijah went to present himself to Ahab. Drop down to v. 17:

17 When Ahab saw Elijah, he said to him: Is that you, you trouble maker of Israel? 18 I have not made trouble for Israel, Elijah replied. But you and your fathers family have. You have abandoned the Lords commands and have followed the Baals. 19 Now summon the people from all over Israel to meet me on Mount Carmel. And bring the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebels table.

God is picking a fight, a fight that will prove His worth to His people, calling them back to Himself, b/c He desires relationship w/ His people.

20 So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel. 21 Elijah went before the people and said: How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.

Its as if Elijah says: Lets set up a scientific experiment and see the results. The true God will show Himself. The proof is in the pudding.

But the people said nothing. 22 Then Elijah said to them: I am the only one of the Lords prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets. 23 Get two bulls for us. Let Baals prophets choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. 24 Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by fire -he is God. Then all the people said: What you say is good.

The people accept the terms of the contest, so Elijah lays out the rules. He says to the prophets of Baal in v. 25:

Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first, since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire. 26 So they took the bull given them and prepared it.

Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. Baal, answer us! they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made.

27 At noon Elijah began to taunt them. Shout louder! he said. Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.

Or as the NLT says: Perhaps he is daydreaming, or is relieving himself.

28 So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. 29 Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.

Like my friends from the coffee shop, and many others today, these prophets of Baal believed in a god that was distant. So they felt they must convince their god to act. Frantically calling out, and harming themselves, just to get their gods attention.

30 Then Elijah said to all the people, Come here to me. They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the Lord, which had been torn down. The people of Israel had apparently disassembled the altars of God that were throughout the land. So the following verses describe the rebuilding of Gods altar:[1]

31 Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, saying: Your name shall be Israel. 32 With the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two measures of seed. 33 He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them: Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood. 34 Do it again, he said, and they did it again. Do it a third time, he ordered, and they did it the third time. 35 The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench.

Now, I know there are some seriously, experienced woodsmen in the room today. My guess is that the 1st thing you all do when preparing your campfire is to entirely drench your dry wood w/ gallons of water, right? No, of course not. But that is what Elijah does. Elijah wants to make sure the people of Israel know w/o out a doubt that God is acting and there is no trickery.

36 At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 37 Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.

Elijahs prayer is solely focused on the glorification of God and His plan of redemption, not to prove Elijahs competence, or that Elijah was right, but so that God would be seen in His glory. What a wonderful focus of prayer! May our prayers move from focusing on our wants to His greatness!

What was the result of this faithfulness? 38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. The science experiment is over, the champion of Wrestle Mania has been crowned. And: 39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried: The Lord -he is God! The Lord -he is God! And then, the prophets of Baal are destroyed, and God in the face if Ahabs defeat, tells Elijah to prepare Ahab for rain, and by the will of God the land is drenched w/ rain.

The good news we see in this passage is that God is powerful and created us to be in relationship w/ Him. He desires to be close to His people. In the face of disobedience, God allowed the consequences of Ahabs leadership to come to pass in a famine. And then God called His people to witness the realities of serving fake gods. God invited His people to come close and witness His power in this miracle of consuming fire, followed by rain on a weary land. The good news is that God is powerful and created us to be in relationship w/ Him.

[1] Barry, J. D., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Mangum, D., & Whitehead, M. M. (2012). Faithlife Study Bible (1 Ki 18:30). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

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