Read 1 Kings 18
Elijah and Obadiah
18 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.
Now the famine was severe in Samaria, 3 and Ahab had summoned Obadiah, his palace administrator. (Obadiah was a devout believer in the Lord. 4 While Jezebel was killing off the Lord’s prophets, Obadiah had taken a hundred prophets and hidden them in two caves, fifty in each, and had supplied them with food and water.) 5 Ahab had said to Obadiah, “Go through the land to all the springs and valleys. Maybe we can find some grass to keep the horses and mules alive so we will not have to kill any of our animals.” 6 So they divided the land they were to cover, Ahab going in one direction and Obadiah in another.
7 As Obadiah was walking along, Elijah met him. Obadiah recognized him, bowed down to the ground, and said, “Is it really you, my lord Elijah?”
8 “Yes,” he replied. “Go tell your master, ‘Elijah is here.’”
9 “What have I done wrong,” asked Obadiah, “that you are handing your servant over to Ahab to be put to death? 10 As surely as the Lord your God lives, there is not a nation or kingdom where my master has not sent someone to look for you. And whenever a nation or kingdom claimed you were not there, he made them swear they could not find you. 11 But now you tell me to go to my master and say, ‘Elijah is here.’ 12 I don’t know where the Spirit of the Lord may carry you when I leave you. If I go and tell Ahab and he doesn’t find you, he will kill me. Yet I your servant have worshiped the Lord since my youth. 13 Haven’t you heard, my lord, what I did while Jezebel was killing the prophets of the Lord? I hid a hundred of the Lord’s prophets in two caves, fifty in each, and supplied them with food and water. 14 And now you tell me to go to my master and say, ‘Elijah is here.’ He will kill me!”
15 Elijah said, “As the Lord Almighty lives, whom I serve, I will surely present myself to Ahab today.”
Elijah on Mount Carmel
16 So Obadiah went to meet Ahab and told him, and Ahab went to meet Elijah. 17 When he saw Elijah, he said to him, “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?”
18 “I have not made trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “But you and your father’s family have. You have abandoned the Lord’s 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 Jezebel’s table.”
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.”
But the people said nothing.
22 Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only one of the Lord’s prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets. 23 Get two bulls for us. Let Baal’s 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.”
25 Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “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.” 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.
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. 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 seahs 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.
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.”
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.
39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!”
40 Then Elijah commanded them, “Seize the prophets of Baal. Don’t let anyone get away!” They seized them, and Elijah had them brought down to the Kishon Valley and slaughtered there.
41 And Elijah said to Ahab, “Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain.” 42 So Ahab went off to eat and drink, but Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel, bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees.
43 “Go and look toward the sea,” he told his servant. And he went up and looked.
“There is nothing there,” he said.
Seven times Elijah said, “Go back.”
44 The seventh time the servant reported, “A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea.”
So Elijah said, “Go and tell Ahab, ‘Hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.’”
45 Meanwhile, the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain started falling and Ahab rode off to Jezreel. 46 The power of the Lord came on Elijah and, tucking his cloak into his belt, he ran ahead of Ahab all the way to Jezreel.
This is one of the most action-packed chapters in all of 1 Kings! At the beginning of this passage, tensions are high as there has been famine in the land for three years. Similar to the famine found in 2 Samuel 21, God sometimes uses famines as punishment for Israel’s disobedience. Sometimes, this will lead people to repentance and to correct their wrongdoings (which also happens with King David in 2 Samuel 21). However, in 1 Kings 18:5 we see King Ahab continue to try to make due on his own by searching for “grass to keep the horses and mules alive.”
Despite the death and strain the three years of famine has caused, Ahab’s hardened heart remains opposed to repentance. This is entrenched stubbornness and pride! At the beginning of chapter 17, Ahab was told that there would be a famine except by the word of God. Ahab knows who has the power to reverse the famine, but due to his pride, he would rather leave his palace and take on the role of a livestock caretaker than repent. The amount of shame Ahab had to endure lowering himself to such menial tasks speaks to the depth of his pride. Sadly, this toddler-like response is seen in our current struggles today when we try to fix things by ourselves when God has told us to turn to Him.
Although Ahab and heretical prophets wouldn’t turn to God, God still had a plan for His people remaining in the land. As seen with Obadiah, some of the people in the land had not hardened their hearts, but they felt oppressed by the rulers and likely by the heretical prophets. God wanted to give them the courage and proof that He was still present and worthy to follow. He wanted their hearts even though he couldn’t have the hearts of their leaders. Elijah is called to meet with Ahab and help set up wonders for God to perform.
As with most wonders, God wanted there to be no doubt who performed this wonder. The watering of the burnt offering 3 times would have rendered the offering nearly impossible to light with fire. However, the fire that followed had strength beyond expectation engulfing the burnt offering and surrounding area. It was so impressive that the only explanation was “The Lord indeed is God.” Like Obadiah, God has asked us to follow Him even if God doesn’t have the hearts of the leaders over us. Obadiah’s time had prophets and miracles to give them courage and remind their people of God, but we have an even greater event in Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection!
- What area of your life are you the most reluctant to seek out God in?
- To give yourself courage in pursuit of God, ask yourself the following question. How has God revealed Himself and His provision in your life?
- Like Obadiah, how are you trying to further God’s kingdom whether or not you are facing opposition or difficulty?
In Chapter 18 of Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis explains the problem of pride:
“Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind. . . . The Christians are right: it is Pride which has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began. Other vices may sometimes bring people together: you may find good fellowship and jokes and friendliness among drunken people or unchaste people. But pride always means enmity–it is enmity. And not only enmity between man and man, but enmity to God.
In God you come up against something which is in every respect immeasurably superior to yourself. Unless you know God as that–and, therefore, know yourself as nothing in comparison–you do not know God at all. As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.”
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