1 Kings 18:16-19:21
Odadiah trusted that Elijah would not run away and informed evil king Ahab that Elijah wished to see him. Ahab greeted the long-lost prophet with an insult (1 Kings 18:17).
Elijah denied being a troublemaker. It was Ahab and his father’s family who had abandoned the Lord’s commands and followed Canaanite fertility gods. Elijah demanded that the prophets of these ‘gods’ should be assembled and brought to him along with the people from all over Israel. There was going to be an epic showdown.
Elijah challenged the assembly of Israel. If the Lord is God, as he had proved time and time again rescuing the Israelites, then they should follow him. If Baal, the Canaanite deity, proved himself to be God then they should follow him. They should stop wavering (1 Kings 18:21). But the people said nothing. We can set this challenge to thousands of people today. They waver about following God and doubt his actual existence, choosing to worship themselves and created items instead. God doesn’t like lukewarm waverers. He wants fully committed believers with faith.
Ahab assembled the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. Elijah took charge of the proceedings. He asked for two bulls. The prophets of Baal could choose one, cut it into pieces and put it on wood but not set fire to it. Elijah would do the same. The prophets would call on the name of Baal. Elijah would call on the name of the Lord and they would see who answered by fire.
The Baal prophets went first, they prepared the bull and shouted for Baal from morning until noon, dancing around the altar. Elijah started to taunt them (1 Kings 18:27). The prophets slashed themselves with swords and spears until their blood flowed. Blood is the universal currency in the spiritual realm. Demonic entities want payment in blood. We were saved by the precious blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. There was no response to their frantic prophesying or their bloodletting.
It was now Elijah’s turn. He told the Israelites to ‘Come here to me’ (1 Kings 18:30). He repaired a ruined altar of the Lord using 12 stones, one for each of the tribes of Israel. He dug a trench around it. He arranged the firewood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he told the Israelites to pour water all over the sacrifice, the wood and completely fill the trench. It would have been far too easy for God to set fire to dry wood. God loves a challenge. He wanted to prove that no natural force could have achieved the same victory; just as God had whittled Gideon’s fighting men down to a fraction of their strength before winning an impossible battle (Judges 7:8).
Elijah prayed to God to demonstrate that he was God over Israel and that Elijah was his prophet. Fire came down from heaven and not only burned up the sacrifice and the wood, but it also consumed the stones, the soil and licked up all the water in the trench (1 Kings 18:38). This was not just a stray spark. This was fire of the Lord. The people fell prostate and turned to God (1 Kings 18:39). Elijah then had the prophets of Baal seized and slaughtered.
Elijah told King Ahab to leave the mountain as heavy rain was approaching (after the three-year drought). Elijah went up to the top of Mount Carmel but didn’t look out for clouds himself. He asked his servant to do this seven times. Meanwhile, Elijah had bent down with his face between his knees. The seventh time that Elijah’s servant looked, a small cloud had appeared. This heralded heavy rain.
Elijah, with the power of the Lord upon him, was able to run faster than Ahab’s chariot all the way to Jezreel. Our Pastor tells a story of a missionary in Africa who had to stay up all night because the local witch doctor had said he would come to kidnap the missionary’s son to kill him and eat him. In the middle of the night, the witch doctor passed through the locked front door – using his occult power – to find the missionary waiting for him. The witch doctor ran off at high speed, bounding across fields with giant strides due to demonic assistance. The missionary, to his great surprise, was able to keep close behind him throughout a high-speed chase until he had chased the witch doctor far away. The next morning, the witch doctor knocked on the missionary’s door, apologised and handed over his books of spells. He now knew that the Lord is the true God because when the missionary pursued him, he had felt fire coming from the missionary burning his back. The Holy Spirit can allow his servants to move extremely fast when He wants us to.
Elijah ran away from Ahab’s terrifyingly evil wife, Jezebel, and ended up in the desert. Even after his great triumph at Carmel, he was depressed and despondent (1 Kings 19:4). God send an angel to feed him until he had the strength to travel for forty days and nights to Horeb, the mountain of God.
God asked Elijah what he was doing in a cave on the mountain. God told him to stand out on the mountain as he passed by. There was a great wind, then an earthquake, then a fire until finally God showed up as a gentle whisper. God told Elijah who to anoint (1 Kings 19:15-16) and reassured Elijah that he was not by himself. God had kept seven thousand faithful people in Israel (1 Kings 19:18).
Elijah went and found his successor, Elisha. Elijah claimed Elisha for the Lord by throwing his cloak over him. This did not put Elisha off, who slaughtered his oxen and cooked them on his ploughing equipment. This signified that Elisha was fully committing himself to his new life as a prophet.
Paul stood up the aristocratic council of Athens, the Areopagus, and skilfully told them that they were already worshipping God as they had an altar inscribed: ‘To an unknown God’. Paul was there to tell them all about him.
God, who made everything, does not live in temples. He does not need us to serve him, because everything belongs to him already. From one man, Adam, he made every nation of man. God made us so that we ‘would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us’ (Acts 17:27). We are his offspring, ‘for in him we live and move and have our being’ (Acts 17:28).
As we are God’s offspring, God must be a living being like us and not an image made of gold, silver or stone crafted by man. Paul said that God would not overlook the ignorance of worshipping idols any longer and commanded everyone to repent. God has set a day for us all to be judged by the man he has appointed and raised from the dead. Paul converted a few members of the council with his speech but some sneered at the concept of the resurrection of the dead.
Paul went to live with fellow tent-makers Aquila and Priscilla. They were Jews who had been expelled from Rome, along with all the others, by the emperor Claudius. Paul was joined by Silas and Timothy and devoted himself to preaching. When the Jews opposed him, Paul shook out his clothes in protest and turned to the Gentiles with a clear conscience (Acts 18:6). We have to move on to more fertile ground if people refuse to be saved. However, Paul had made some noteworthy converts including Crispus, the synagogue ruler and his entire family.
God fed the Israelites in the desert with ‘the bread of angels’ despite their constant disobedience and disrespect. Jesus gives us the bread of life when we believe in him and ask him to come into our lives as our personal Saviour.
The Israelites were given water to drink in the desert, gushing from a rock. When we ask the Holy Spirit to enkindle his fire within us, we will have streams of living water flowing from us bringing refreshment and healing to those in their own personal wildernesses.
We can be thankful that God our Father gracefully fed and prospered us when we sinned and rebelled long before coming to Christ due to his love for us.
He gives us more than enough and we should never doubt his providence or wilfully put him to the test. I will always trust in him and his deliverance.
Image: Gmihail at Serbian Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0 RS https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/rs/deed.en, via Wikimedia Commons