Scripture reading – 1 Kings 18

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The geographical setting of our Scripture reading continued in the northern ten Tribes now known as Israel. The time was during the reign of Ahab, the seventh king of the nation after its division. As stated earlier, the wickedness of Ahab exceeded the sins of all the kings who were gone before him (1 Kings 16:30-33) and provoked “the LORD God of Israel to anger” (1 Kings 16:33).

True to His forewarning (Deuteronomy 11:17; 28:23), the LORD had sent Elijah, who confronted King Ahab and said, “There shall not be dew nor rain…but according to my word” (1 Kings 17:1).

 

1 Kings 18

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” (1 Kings 18:1). Elijah obeyed, and “went to shew himself unto Ahab. And there was a sore famine in Samaria [the capital city of Israel]” (1 Kings 18:2).

Elijah’s Conference with Obadiah (1 Kings 18:3-16)

 

Returning to Israel, Elijah called on Obadiah, who served Ahab as the “governor” [principal steward] of the royal household (1 Kings 18:3). Though he was a man in a powerful and trusted office, Obadiah nevertheless continued to fear the LORD. He used his position to provide safety to one hundred of the LORD’s prophets who escaped Jezebel’s purge of “the prophets of the LORD” (1 Kings 18:3-4).

After three years of drought, the freshwater streams in Israel were dried up. So, Ahab dispatched Obadiah to seek water and grass “to save the horses and mules alive” (1 Kings 18:5). The king divided the lands between himself and Obadiah, and each man went his way in search of water.  As Obadiah searched for water and grass, he was met by Elijah (1 Kings 18:7). Obadiah recognized the prophet “and fell on his face and said, Art thou that my lord Elijah?” (1 Kings 18:7)

Elijah acknowledged his identity and demanded that Obadiah tell the king he was returned to Israel (1 Kings 18:8). Obadiah, however, feared the king would slay him for sparing Elijah’s life and objected to the prophet’s request (1 Kings 18:9-12). He justified himself to the prophet and affirmed his devotion to the LORD, saying, “I thy servant fear the LORD from my youth” (18:12). Proving his faithfulness to the LORD, Obadiah asked Elijah, “Was it not told my lord what I did when Jezebel slew the prophets of the Lord, how I hid an hundred men of the Lord’s prophets by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water?” (1 Kings 18:13)

Elijah then assured Obadiah and said, “As the Lord of hosts liveth, before whom I stand, I will surely shew myself unto him to day” (1 Kings 18:15). Obadiah obeyed the prophet’s demands and “went to meet Ahab, and told him: and Ahab went to meet Elijah” (1 Kings 18:16).

Elijah’s Confrontation with King Ahab (1 Kings 18:17-20)

Approaching Elijah, Ahab accused the prophet of being the one who troubled Israel (1 Kings 18:17). Elijah, however, 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” (1 Kings 18:18).

Proving his faith and confidence in the LORD, Elijah boldly challenged Ahab to “gather…all Israel unto mount Carmel,” along with the 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets (teachers) of the groves (these were false prophets and teachers that Jezebel supported and fed during the drought and famine, 1 Kings 18:19).  

Having rejected the God of Israel, Ahab revealed the depth of his depravity and agreed to the contest between Elijah and the 850 false prophets and teachers who lived in Israel. The king, therefore, commanded the people and all the false prophets and teachers to gather at Carmel (1 Kings 18:20).

Elijah’s Challenge to Israel (1 Kings 18:21-24)

Elijah charged the people and said, “How long halt ye between two opinions?” (1 Kings 18:21). How long dare you serve Baal and sacrifice to him and make a pretense of serving the God of Israel? The people answered Elijah’s challenge with silence, for they “answered him not a word” (1 Kings 18:21). Elijah, the prophet of the LORD, found himself standing alone and facing 450 prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:22).

 

Elijah’s Contest with the Prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:23-40)

Elijah’s challenge was recorded, as well as the details of that challenge between him and the prophets of Baal. The prophets of Baal were instructed to take a bullock, cut it into two halves, and place it upon wood on their altar (18:23). Elijah urged the prophets of Baal to call on their god if he is a god, and let him answer them by sending fire and consuming the bullock (18:24).

The people of Israel agreed to the contest (18:24). Then the false prophets of Baal sacrificed their bullock and, from morning to noon, began shouting, leaping, dancing, crying, and cutting themselves with “knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them” (1 Kings 18:26, 28-29). Yet, Baal was silent, and at midday, Elijah taunted the false prophets and suggested their god was busy talking, hunting, on a journey, or perhaps he was sleeping (1 Kings 18:27). The prophets of Baal continued to prophesy “until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice (about 3:00 pm), that there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded” (1 Kings 18:29).

In the evening, Elijah called the people to come near as he began repairing “the altar of the LORD that wasbroken down” (18:30). He gathered twelve stones representing the twelve Tribes of Israel. He laid wood upon the altar, sacrificed the bull, and then commanded twelve barrels (probably large clay jars) of water be poured on the altar until the trench was filled with water (1 Kings 18:30-35). Elijah then prayed for the LORD to hear his prayer and prove to all Israel that He was God (1 Kings 18:36-37).

The LORD answered Elijah’s prayer and sent fire from heaven, consuming the bull and burning up the stones, dust, and water (1 Kings 18:38-39). Elijah’s contest with the prophets of Baal concluded with him demanding that the people prove their loyalty to the God of Israel by slaying all the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:40).

Elijah Called on the LORD and He Sent Rain (1 Kings 18:41-46)

By faith and before there were any clouds or signs that the drought was ended, “Elijah said unto Ahab, Get thee up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of abundance of rain” (1 Kings 18:41). Then, Elijah ascended Mount Carmel and called upon the LORD (18:42).

Seven times, Elijah prayed, and seven times, he commanded his servant to go to the peak of Carmel and look for a sign of rain (18:43). On the seventh time, the servant saw on the horizon a small cloud. Confident the LORD answered his prayers, Elijah commanded his servant and said, “Go up, say unto Ahab, Prepare thy chariot, and get thee down, that the rain stop thee not” (18:44).

Elijah watched as the first rains in three years approached, and “the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain” (1 Kings 18:44-45).

Closing thoughts –

Our next devotional will reveal that great trials often follow spiritual victories. For now, I will conclude by 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 © 2023 – Travis D. Smith 

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