Title Page. Lesson Twelve. I Kings 18:17-19. I Kings 18:17-18 17 And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel?
I Kings 18:17-18
17 And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel?
18 And he answered, 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.
I Kings 18:19
19 Now therefore send, and gather to me all Israel unto mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the groves four hundred, which eat at Jezebel’s table.
I Kings 18:20-21
20 So Ahab sent unto all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together unto mount Carmel.
21 And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.
I Kings 18:22
22 Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the LORD; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men.
I Kings 18:23
23 Let them therefore give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: and I will dress the other bullock, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under:
I Kings 18:24
24 And call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the LORD: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God. And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken.
I Kings 18:36
36 And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word.
I Kings 18:37
37 Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again.
I Kings 18:38-39
38 Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.
39 And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The LORD, he is the God; the LORD, he is the God.
I Kings 18:38
Then the fire of the Lord fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.
Pure faith in God will make one more than a match for the powers of opposition. Elijah’s faith brought a consuming fire to prove who was God!
Imagine God handing a believer His résumé at a time when he is in need of help. God wants the job of helping the individual. Think of all the impressive credentials God’s résumé would include. For instance, He could list His role in Creation when He turned chaos into something orderly and beautiful.
He could refer to the time when Israel moaned beneath the crushing weight of Egypt’s rule and how through a series of plagues He broke the will of Pharaoh and wrought deliverance through the blood of a Paschal Lamb. Then, as Pharaoh pursued the Israelites, pinning them against the Red Sea, God engineered a way of escape by miraculous means.
When sin destroyed the relationship between God and man, God designed the plan of redemption, affording mankind an undeserved opportunity to be forgiven and restored. With a wooden cross and three spikes, God built a bridge of reconciliation across the chasm that separated mankind from God. God’s résumé would consist of hundreds, perhaps thousands of pages listing one successful accomplishment after another.
The irony is, God has such a résumé—the Word of God. The Bible is God’s résumé, for it documents His qualifications, accomplishments, and successes. The wonderful thing about God is His qualifications have never diminished! He is the same, yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). We should read God’s Word for faith to face our problems.
God wants the job of helping us in our times of need, and He is well qualified to do so. God is a present help in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1). Further, God is more than qualified to help us, no matter what the problem is. There is no job too big or too small for God; He can handle it! The question is will we, through faith, give Him the opportunity to do the work?
Elijah is an example of someone whose faith in God enabled him to triumph in his hour of trial. Elijah, after he had done all he could do humanly, put his trust and confidence in God’s ability to alter the outcome of events. Elijah was committed to God in an age of compromise. His actions and attitude provided evidence of a solid and unshakable confidence in God.
By putting his faith in God, Elijah was able to resist fear and intimidation that may have otherwise weakened his resolve to be faithful and true to God. Elijah’s example teaches us that faith makes the difference between religious ritual and a victorious life through relationship with God.
When it seems we are up against insurmountable odds, God can cause us to triumph. It does not matter what we are facing—cancer, heart disease, diabetes, financial shortages, marital conflict—God is more than able to help us if we only commit ourselves to Him and trust in His ability. Elijah exemplifies both commitment and faith.
The fire fell on Mount Carmel for Elijah because he was totally dependent on God. As we consider the condition of affairs when Elijah appeared before Ahab and the unfolding events on Mount Carmel, it is clear that faith determines outcomes. Results are not dependent on rituals. Results are dependent on relationship! God will work for us—no matter the odds—if we remain faithful and totally dependent on Him.
Confrontation with Ahab
The showdown on Mount Carmel began with Elijah’s confronting King Ahab. Ahab, like Solomon before him, had allowed his wife to corrupt Israel by promoting idolatry. (See I Kings 11:1-8.) Jezebel, Ahab’s wife, sought both to promote idolatry and to eradicate the worship of Israel’s true God.
She was responsible for the persecution and death of many prophets of Jehovah. The climate of persecution apparently was so severe that Elijah believed he was the only surviving prophet of God (I Kings 18:22; 19:10).
To grasp the severity of the events surrounding the contest on Mount Carmel, we should observe how desperate Elijah appeared to feel. Humanly, Elijah had reached his limits. In his desperation, however, Elijah still retained his confidence in God. Faith seldom operates in ideal circumstances. If faith in God made a difference for Elijah then, it can make a difference for those who steadfastly trust God today. God is no respecter of persons! The Bible makes it clear that Elijah was not unlike contemporary believers (James 5:17).
A Meeting with Ahab
After three and one-half years of drought, God told Elijah to appear before Ahab. This required tremendous faith and courage on Elijah’s part since Ahab blamed Elijah for the famine in Samaria.
Still, Elijah was a man of faith and he obeyed God. Faith overcame fear. God does not give His people a spirit of fear, but of power (II Timothy 1:7). For example, David had every logical reason to fear facing Goliath, yet he ran to engage the giant warrior because his faith in God was greater than his fear of Goliath.
Due to the distressed conditions created by the famine, Ahab and Obadiah, the principal servant or governor of Ahab’s house, were searching for provisions to sustain the remaining livestock. As they searched, Elijah appeared before Obadiah. Obadiah fell on his face before Elijah. Obadiah’s response revealed the level of respect he had for Elijah as a man of God.
Matthew Henry’s Commentary suggests, “One may guess how people stand affected to God by observing how they stand affected to His people and ministers.” We should not little regard how people view us as Christians. Elijah did not command respect from Obadiah; Obadiah volunteered it. Respect is something we must earn. The manner with which we live our faith should stir the hearts of those with whom we come into contact.
Elijah ordered Obadiah to tell King Ahab, “Elijah is here!” Obadiah was reluctant to carry out this message because he feared Elijah would disappear before he returned with Ahab, making the king angry. Fearing for his life, Obadiah appealed to Elijah, reminding him how he (Obadiah) had saved the lives of one hundred of the Lord’s prophets by hiding them in a cave when Jezebel sought to kill them. Elijah gave Obadiah his word that he would not depart until he had seen King Ahab.
Upon their meeting, Ahab accused Elijah of being the source of Israel’s trouble by bringing famine upon the land. The source of the trouble was actually Ahab and Jezebel and their rejection of God, their slaying of His servants, and their establishing of Baal worship in Samaria. The famine was God’s judgment of the sins of Ahab, Jezebel, and those who followed them into idolatry.
Many people, like Ahab, are quick to point accusing fingers at others, attempting to shift the blame for their own problems. They cannot or will not acknowledge their own sins. Sadly, we often are so blinded by our own sins, lusts, or pleasures that we cannot see or admit the truth. Deliverance from sin begins with repentance—acknowledging, confessing, and turning away from one’s sin.
We, like Ahab, may find a sense of comfort or justification in blaming others for our plight, but we really have no one to blame but ourselves and our own depraved sin-nature. The way of the transgressor is hard (Proverbs 13:15). The way to deliverance is repentance.
Challenge to Baal
Elijah could have killed Ahab and ended his weak reign under which the worship of Baal flourished. However, Ahab as a person was not the main culprit. Ahab and Jezebel were only tools in the hands of another power.
It was a spiritual battle and the true enemy was not flesh and blood. (See Ephesians 6:12.) Therefore, Elijah’s request for the contest on Mount Carmel reveals how important it is to target the right enemy—the spirit that motivates and manipulates people, misleading and blinding them—not the people themselves.
The meeting between Ahab and Elijah concluded with Elijah’s request that Ahab gather “all Israel unto mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the groves four hundred, which eat at Jezebel’s table” (I Kings 18:19).
The Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament contends the meeting on Mount Carmel was designed to “give a death-blow to idolatry in Israel.” The purpose of the meeting was twofold: (1) to draw the people of Israel to a place of decision by revealing the true God whom they should serve and (2) to end their vacillating loyalties.
Once the people had gathered at Mount Carmel, Elijah questioned them, “How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him” (I Kings 18:21). Matthew Henry’s Commentary suggests many of the people were “mixing the worship of God and the worship of Baal together.”
They worshiped God to please Him and yet worshiped Baal to please Jezebel. Barnes’ Notes contends the people “wished to unite the worship of Yahweh with that of Baal.” It was obvious to Elijah that Is0rael’s compromise of worshiping at Baal’s altar with Jezebel was not bringing Jezebel, a Canaanite woman, into the true worship of Israel’s God. To the contrary, Israel’s compromise was weakening and polluting their worship, leading them away from God and deeper into idolatry.
Many contemporary churches promote seeker-friendly services that sometimes reduce the worship service to the level of a local burger bar where seekers can “have it their way.” In the process of mixing true worship with worldly motives and methods, the people risk losing their sense of reverence for God.
Reverential fear of God is essential for experiencing conviction and conversion. The church gains nothing but a number whenever it creates an atmosphere where sinners feel comfortable worshiping God without feeling remorse for their sins. True worship elicits a genuine change of heart and behaviors within the lives of sinners.
Elijah referred to this mixture of worship as “halting between two opinions.” Apparently, the people Elijah addressed offered no argument, for they remained silent. Perhaps their silence was an admission of guilt, or possibly it reflected an attitude of gross indifference. In either case, apathy was arguably the prevailing attitude concerning the object of their worship and toward their sinfulness.
Whenever a person’s worship of God becomes lethargic or lacking in fervor or passion, it should be evident that God is competing with worldly interests for that person’s affection.
Jesus taught that mankind cannot have divided loyalties (Matthew 6:24). A Christian cannot love God and also love the things of the world (I John 2:15). If it is difficult for a person to choose between attending a worship service or a recreational opportunity, a problem exists. If we are torn between making material purchases or paying tithes, we have a problem.
If honoring God in any way competes with other interests, we are as guilty as those who stood on Mount Carmel when Elijah asked, “How long halt ye between two opinions?” In such cases of divided loyalties, the individuals have the same problem as those at Carmel—apathy rules their worship and they are content to pay only passing homage to God rather than to put Him first in their lives. Beware! God is a jealous God (Exodus 34:14).
False Sacrifices Made
The prophets of Baal began the contest by preparing a bullock to sacrifice to their god in hopes he would answer by fire. However, there was no answer. As the morning faded away, they grew desperate and began to cry out loudly and to cut themselves. Still no answer came.
They danced frantically before their altar as Elijah mocked them. Either their god was not interested in responding to their pleas, or he was unable to respond. By the time of the evening sacrifice, the 850 false prophets relented.
Perhaps we could learn a lesson from Elijah when dealing with people who worship at altars of another persuasion. Elijah did not fight them. Rather, Elijah allowed them to run the gamut of their ritual to experience firsthand what a dead end it was. Once the futility of their ritualistic worship was evident, Elijah was able to contrast the deadness of their rituals with the power of God manifested during his sacrificial worship experience.
As someone once observed, it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness! Jesus taught that true believers should let their light shine for the benefit of those who walk in darkness. (See Isaiah 9:2; Matthew 5:16.)
It is probable that the conduct exhibited by the false prophets of Baal was nothing new. This manner of self-mutilation was possibly part of their normal ritual. The god of this world cares little about the suffering people endure as they yield their lives and bodies to him. Even today, people offer their health on the altar of licentious living.
The god of this world does not add value to the lives of his subjects. Rather, he steals from them, takes their lives, and destroys all that is good (John 10:10). From the beginning, Satan has sought to strip humankind of every valuable spiritual asset he possesses. It really does not matter how much one sacrifices for him; Satan is not accustomed to giving—only taking!
When Judas Iscariot betrayed the Lord Jesus, surrendering his heart to Satan, the god of this world repaid him by oppressing him with a suicidal spirit. Satan is a thief and a liar and nothing more. He never gives. He only takes.
Consumed by Fire
Fire fell on only one altar—that of Elijah. It is fitting to note that Elijah did not share an altar with the prophets of Baal. He would not mix his worship with those who worshiped Baal.
Similarly, Paul admonished the Corinthian church to recognize the need for being separate from the pagan culture of their time. Corinth was a powerfully gifted church, but it was a church that accommodated sin. The lines of demarcation between the church and ungodly cultural practices were becoming blurred at Corinth. Therefore, Paul wrote to correct their inappropriate allowances.
II Timothy 2:2
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
“And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (II Corinthians 6:14-18).
II Timothy 2:2
Barnes’ Notes states, “There is no principle of Christianity that is more important than that which is here stated by the apostle; and none in which Christians are more in danger of erring.” God continues to seek worshipers who regard truth as a vital component of their worship (John 4:23-24).
True worshipers of God will not mingle their worship at the altars of people who have little or no regard for truth. Elijah’s faith maintained a clear line of distinction between what was true and what was false. God honored Elijah’s dedication to truth, and He will do no less for us today.
Repaired the Altar
The spiritual condition of Israel is best depicted by the altar Elijah repaired before he could offer a sacrifice to God. Apparently, the people had offered no sacrifice on it for some time.
The altar Elijah repaired had either deteriorated through neglect or it had been torn down as a part of Jezebel’s efforts to supplant Israel’s traditional worship with the worship of Baal (I Kings 19:10). In any event, the condition of the altar mirrored the apathy, the neglect, and the compromise prevalent among God’s people.
This observation offers an important consideration for individuals today. The condition of our personal altar always reflects the true state of our personal devotion and consecration to God.
Elijah’s preparation for God’s manifestation of power began with repairing the altar. The fire would not have fallen if Elijah had not repaired the broken-down altar. When we repair the broken-down systems of communication between ourselves and God, we too will experience the power of God anew.
Sacrifice of Water
Once Elijah had finished repairing the altar of the Lord, he dug a trench around the altar, laid the wood in place, and prepared the sacrifice. Elijah then ordered four barrels of water to be filled and poured on the sacrifice and altar, a process which was repeated two additional times. The water drenched the sacrifice and the altar and filled the trench Elijah had prepared.
Elijah’s faith in God was secure. He exhibited no doubts about God’s willingness or ability to demonstrate His power in order to solidify people in the truth and draw the hearts of individuals. Elijah’s faith required no gimmicks. All God needs is genuine, sincere faith—faith without fraudulence—faith that does not stoop to trickery or deceit. God honors true, real, genuine, sincere faith! God worked through Elijah’s faith without fanfare, and He will do the same today.
The pouring of twelve barrels of water on the sacrifice did not promote arrogance; it prevented doubt. It was impossible to doubt God’s acceptance of Elijah’s sacrifice. When fire from heaven consumed Elijah’s sacrifice, the people of Israel responded favorably to God (I Kings 18:39).
People respect honesty, truthfulness, and sincerity, and they will respond to it. Arrogance and pride cause some individuals to resort to trickery and deceit in order to be sensational. The prophets of Baal resorted to all manner of sensationalism. On the other hand, Elijah kept to a straightforward approach and ultimately led the people to God.
Prayer by Elijah
Once everything was ready, at the time of the evening sacrifice, Elijah began to pray. He prayed for three specific things (I Kings 18:36):
• That God would reveal Himself as the
true God of Israel
• That God would vindicate Elijah as His
• That God would confirm the words He
had spoken to Elijah
After Elijah prayed, God answered with fire and consumed the sacrifice. With this awesome display of power, God answered all the petitions of Elijah and greatly impacted the hearts of His people. Elijah’s faith moved God and God moved the people.
A glorious truth emerges from this passage: God will reveal Himself to those who desire Him and seek Him. Those who are deluded by false beliefs can certainly discover the truth if they will sincerely pray. God is not willing that any should perish, but that all come to repentance (II Peter 3:9). If a person prays with an open mind and a sincere heart, God will lead that person into truth.
When people are truly repentant, they will cast off the yoke of false religion and follow after the truth. Just as God revealed the truth to Israel on Mount Carmel, He will reveal Himself to people today by the power of the Holy Ghost.
When the fire of God fell, it changed the landscape as it “consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench” (I Kings 18:38). The fire of God did not leave much behind but changed hearts! When a person truly experiences God via the new birth, he will be a changed person (II Corinthians 5:17).
Conviction about God
Following the manifestation of God’s presence, the onlookers were overcome with conviction. They saw the error of their previous actions and they were fully persuaded of the truth. The audience stood without an argument or a defense for believing in Baal. They were persuaded that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was the true God. They believed it in their hearts and confessed it with their mouths saying, “The Lord, he is the God; the Lord, he is the God” (I Kings 18:39).
In the New Testament, those who believed and obeyed the gospel of Jesus Christ repented of their sins, were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and spoke in other tongues as the Spirit gave the utterance (Acts 2, 10, 19). Belief brought true conviction and an embracing of the gospel, and embracing the gospel brought about true conversion to Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ indwells the believer’s heart by faith. Through faith, the power of God is able to do “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20). Faith moves mountains, dissolves cancers, restores sight to the blind, and brings victory into what sometimes appears to be certain defeat.
Elijah’s faith was such that it brought the power of God into a dismal situation. As a result, God revealed truth and liberated people from the bondage of false religion and the power of sin.
Ahab and Jezebel had supplanted the worship of Israel’s true God with idolatry. God sent Elijah to confront King Ahab and 850 false prophets. Elijah’s faith in God was strong enough to subdue any fear or intimidation he may have felt. After he repaired the altar of the Lord, Elijah prayed and the fire fell. Once the fire fell, truth was revealed and conviction seized the hearts of the people as they confessed the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to be the one true God.
Today’s church may be beset by challenges similar to those faced by Elijah. However, our faith enables us to triumph. When believers living in today’s contemporary society commit themselves to God and repair their personal altars, they will rise to the challenge set before them. Whenever we separate ourselves from the world, putting Jesus Christ first, the fire will fall and the world will know the truth. Further, the truth will always set individuals free!