Scripture reading – 1 Kings 18
The geographical setting of our Scripture reading continues in the northern ten Tribes now known as Israel. The time is during the reign of Ahab, the seventh king of the nation after its division. As stated earlier, the wickedness of Ahab had exceeded the sins of all the kings who had gone before him (16:30-33), and provoked “the LORD God of Israel to anger” (16:33).
The drought in Israel continued for three years, until “the word of the Lord came to Elijah in the third year, saying, Go, shew thyself unto Ahab; and I will send rain upon the earth” (18:1). Elijah obeyed, and “went to shew himself unto Ahab. And there was a sore famine in Samaria [the capital city of Israel]” (18:2).
Elijah’s Conference with Obadiah (18:3-15)
Returning to Israel, Elijah called upon Obadiah, who had served Ahab as a steward of the royal household (18:3). Though a man in a powerful, and trusted office, Obadiah had continued to fear the LORD, and used his position to provide safety to 100 prophets of the LORD who had escaped Jezebel’s purge of “the prophets of the LORD” (18:3-4).
Three years of drought had dried up the freshwater streams in Israel, and Ahab had dispatched Obadiah to seek water and grass “to save the horses and mules alive” (18:5). Ahab divided the lands between himself and Obadiah, and each man went his way in search of water. As Obadiah went his way, he was met by Elijah (18:7). Obadiah “knew [Elijah], and fell on his face, and said, Art thou that my lord Elijah?” (18:7)
Elijah then demanded that Obadiah tell the king he had returned to Israel (18:8). Fearful the king would slay him, perhaps for sparing Elijah’s life, Obadiah objected to the prophet’s request (18:9-11). Justifying himself, Obadiah shared how he had revered the LORD from his youth, and spared and fed one hundred of the LORD’s prophets (18:12-13). Elijah assured Obadiah, “As the Lord of hosts liveth, before whom I stand, I will surely shew myself unto him to day” (1 Kings 18:15).
Elijah’s Confrontation with Ahab (18:17-20)
Ahab met Elijah, and accused the prophet of being one who troubled Israel (18:17). Elijah answered the king’s charge, and rebuked Ahab saying, “I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and thou hast followed Baalim” (18:18).
Proving his faith and confidence in the LORD, Elijah challenged Ahab to “gather…all Israel unto mount Carmel,” along with the 150 prophets of Baal, and the 400 prophets (teachers) of the groves, (these were all whom Jezebel had supported and fed, 18:19). Ahab, revealing the depth of his wickedness and rejection of the God of Israel, agreed to the challenge, and commanded the people, and the prophets of Baal to gather at Carmel (18:20).
Elijah’s Challenge to the People (18:21-24)
Elijah charged the people, “How long halt ye between two opinions?” (18:21). How long dare you serve Baal and sacrifice to him, and make a pretense of also serving the God of Israel? The people answered Elijah’s challenge with silence, and “answered him not a word” (18:21). Elijah, the prophet of the LORD, stood alone and faced 450 prophets of Baal (18:22).
Elijah’s Contest with the Prophets of Baal (18:25-40)
The details of Elijah’s challenge are recorded, and how he and the prophets of Baal each had a bullock, that was halved, and placed upon wood on an altar. The prophets of Baal called to Baal from the morning until noon. They shouted, leaped, danced, cried, and cut themselves until they bled (18:26, 28-29). Yet, Baal was silent, and Elijah taunted them suggesting their god was talking, hunting, on a journey, or perhaps he was sleeping (18:27).
In the evening, Elijah called the people to come near, as he begain repairing the altar, and gathering twelve stones representing the twelve Tribes of Israel. He then laid wood upon the altar, sacrificed the bull, and commanded that twelve barrels of water be poured out upon the altar, until the trench around it was filled with water (18:30-35). The prophet then prayed for God to hear his prayer, and prove to all Israel that He was God (18:36-37).
The LORD answered Elijah’s prayer, and sent fire from heaven, not only consuming the bull, but burning up the stones, dust, and the water (18:38-39). Elijah concluded his contest with the prophets of Baal, and demanded the people prove their loyalty to the God of Israel, by slaying all the prophets of Baal (18:40).
Elijah Prayed, and the LORD Sent Rain (18:41-46)
Three years of drought ended with Elijah calling upon the Lord to send rain. Seven times he prayed, and commanded his servant to go and look for a sign a rain. On the seventh time, the servant saw on the horizon a small cloud that grew until “the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain” (18:45).
Closing thoughts – Our next devotional will reveal how great trials often follow great victories. But for now, we conclude reflecting on how the New Testament points to Elijah’s fervent prayer as a model of prayer for all believers. We read,
“The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. 17 Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.” (James 5:16b-18)
Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith