Once again, I am sitting to write out my lesson for this coming Sunday. At Southern Calvert Baptist Church, we are walking through the entire Bible over a three year period. Last week, we covered the lesson on Elijah and the widow woman from I Kings 17. Jesus actually uses this woman’s faith as an example of what genuine faith looks like. She heard the Word of the Lord and she chose to trust the Word of the Lord, even when it meant putting her life and future on the line.
Elijah is a man of faith. He has a very difficult task ahead of him. He was called by God to take a very difficult message to the leadership of Israel. He publicly rebukes King Ahab for his wicked ways and then he prays according to the Word of God. As a result of that prayer, it does not rain in Israel for three and a half years. There is a severe famine in the land and everyone is suffering. The widow from the previous chapter was suffering because of this event. King Ahab is enraged and his wife actually begins putting to death the prophets of the Lord. One of King Ahab’s own servants, a man who fears the Lord, hid one hundred of the Lord’s prophets in two different caves so that they could not be put to death. He also provided food and water for them. King Ahab does not know about this. Elijah has survived the persecution but he is on the run. Things are bad in Israel physically, politically, spiritually etc. This is where our story picks up in I Kings 18.
I. Elijah stands strong in the face of persecution
Elijah’s genuine relationship with God has sustained him during this difficult time. God has continued to communicate with Elijah through His Word. Elijah was a man who was familiar with the Word of God. He was a student of the Law of Moses. He knew how to listen for the voice of the Lord.
Now it happened after many days that the word of the LORD came to Elijah in the third year, saying, “Go, show yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the face of the earth.” (I Kings 18:1)
The Word of the Lord is specific, giving clear instructions to Elijah. He is commanded to stand before King Ahab and pray for rain. This is basically a walk into the lion’s den for Elijah. Do you put yourself in a position to hear from the Lord through His Holy Word? Are you a student of the Word of God the way that Elijah was? Do you have a personal relationship with God where He communicates with you and you communicate with Him?
So Elijah went to show himself to Ahab. Now the famine was severe in Samaria. (I Kings 18:2)
Did you notice Elijah’s response? This is another sign of having a personal relationship with God. Elijah obeys the Word of the Lord. It is not enough simply to hear from the Lord. When the Lord speaks clearly and specifically, a person with a personal relationship with God obeys Him. Do you obey the Word of God, even when it is difficult?
7 Now as Obadiah was on the way, behold, Elijah met him, and he recognized him and fell on his face and said, “Is this you, Elijah my master?”
8 He said to him, “It is I. Go, say to your master, ‘Behold, Elijah is here.”‘ (I Kings 18)
When a person stands strong on the Word of God, the Lord uses him to strengthen and encourage others. Elijah and Obadiah meet one day. Elijah shares the Lord’s message with him. This causes Obadiah to fear greatly. Why?
for when Jezebel destroyed the prophets of the LORD, Obadiah took a hundred prophets and hid them by fifties in a cave, and provided them with bread and water. (I Kings 18:4)
Obadiah is a man who fears the Lord. When Jezebel was hunting down the prophets of the Lord and putting them to death, Obadiah intervened and protected one hundred of them. This is risky because Obadiah works for King Ahab.
9 He said, “What sin have I committed, that you are giving your servant into the hand of Ahab to put me to death?
10 “As the LORD your God lives, there is no nation or kingdom where my master has not sent to search for you; and when they said, ‘He is not here,’ he made the kingdom or nation swear that they could not find you.
11 “And now you are saying, ‘Go, say to your master, “Behold, Elijah is here.”‘
12 “It will come about when I leave you that the Spirit of the LORD will carry you where I do not know; so when I come and tell Ahab and he cannot find you, he will kill me, although I your servant have feared the LORD from my youth.
13 “Has it not been told to my master what I did when Jezebel killed the prophets of the LORD, that I hid a hundred prophets of the LORD by fifties in a cave, and provided them with bread and water?
14 “And now you are saying, ‘Go, say to your master, “Behold, Elijah is here”‘; he will then kill me.” (I Kings 18)
Obadiah fears for his life. He needs encouragement because although he fears (respects) the Lord, he realizes that obeying the Lord in this situation could cost him his life. He is between the proverbial rock and a hard place.
15 Elijah said, “As the LORD of hosts lives, before whom I stand, I will surely show myself to him today.”
16 So Obadiah went to meet Ahab and told him; and Ahab went to meet Elijah. (I Kings 18)
Elijah reminds Obadiah of the character of God and Obadiah takes courage and obeys the Lord, no matter the cost. Do you have someone like Elijah in your life who encourages you to obey the Word of the Lord no matter what else happens? You need one, just like I need one.
Not only does Elijah encourage Obadiah to obey the Lord, he models obedience by the way that he confronts sin.
II. Elijah continues to confront sin
Elijah does not simply talk to others about the importance of obeying God, he is an example of obedience.
17 When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is this you, you troubler of Israel?”
18 He said, “I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father’s house have, because you have forsaken the commandments of the LORD and you have followed the Baals. (I Kings 18)
Elijah is called by the Lord to stand before a wicked ruler who led the children of Israel into idolatry and confront his sin openly. This is not an easy task. No one really likes/enjoys confrontation yet, sinful behavior must be confronted. King Ahab has had over three years to come to his senses and repent of his actions yet, he remains proud and he continues to be defiant before the Lord. The people have followed their King in defiance and they need to be confronted as well.
19 “Now then send and gather to me all Israel at Mount Carmel, together with 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of the Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.”
20 So Ahab sent a message among all the sons of Israel and brought the prophets together at Mount Carmel.
21 Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people did not answer him a word.
22 Then Elijah said to the people, “I alone am left a prophet of the LORD, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men.
23 “Now let them give us two oxen; and let them choose one ox for themselves and cut it up, and place it on the wood, but put no fire under it; and I will prepare the other ox and lay it on the wood, and I will not put a fire under it.
24 “Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD, and the God who answers by fire, He is God.” And all the people said, “That is a good idea.”
25 So Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one ox for yourselves and prepare it first for you are many, and call on the name of your god, but put no fire under it.” (I Kings 18)
Elijah calls for a public meeting to see whose God will respond when called. The numbers are staggering. Elijah takes on 850 of the idols worshipers. He is not afraid because the Lord has commanded him to do this. He trusts the Word of God and takes a public stand on the promises of God. He has already done this before when he stood before King Ahab and prayed that it would not rain in the land of Israel. All have seen the promise of the Lord come to pass, as it is written in Deuteronomy. The idol worshipers are to call on their gods and Elijah will call on the God of Israel in a public demonstration. The stage is set for victory and defeat. One God will reign at the end of this showdown. Do you take a stand for the Word of God even when you are alone and everyone else is against you? Are you choosing to live counterculture for the glory of God? Most simply go with the flow of the times. The people who have a genuine relationship with God stand on the promises of God, especially when it is not popular.
Then they took the ox which was given them and they prepared it and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon saying, “O Baal, answer us.” But there was no voice and no one answered. And they leaped about the altar which they made. (I Kings 18:26)
The false prophets go first. They cry out to their gods all morning and receive no answer. They worked themselves into a frenzy as they cried out to their gods. This is a form of mindless worship that takes place when people worship false gods.
27 It came about at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, “Call out with a loud voice, for he is a god; either he is occupied or gone aside, or is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and needs to be awakened.”
28 So they cried with a loud voice and cut themselves according to their custom with swords and lances until the blood gushed out on them.
29 When midday was past, they raved until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice; but there was no voice, no one answered, and no one paid attention. (I Kings 18)
Elijah continues to confront the false prophets as things are clearly not going their way. Elijah even begins to taunt them in their mindless worship, encouraging them to yell louder. Things got so bad for the false worshipers that they began to cut themselves in their frenzy. This is a common practice among pagans whose worship is mindless repetition. Their gods still do not answer because their gods are not real.
30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” So all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the LORD which had been torn down.
31 Elijah took twelve stones according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD had come, saying, “Israel shall be your name.”
32 So with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD, and he made a trench around the altar, large enough to hold two measures of seed.
33 Then he arranged the wood and cut the ox in pieces and laid it on the wood.
34 And he said, “Fill four pitchers with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.” And he said, “Do it a second time,” and they did it a second time. And he said, “Do it a third time,” and they did it a third time.
35 The water flowed around the altar and he also filled the trench with water.
36 At the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant and I have done all these things at Your word.
37 “Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that You, O LORD, are God, and that You have turned their heart back again.” (I Kings 18)
When it was the proper time for the evening sacrifice, a time established by God in His Word, Elijah takes his turn. Elijah is still working according to his knowledge of the Word of God. He prays according to the promises of God as revealed in His Word. He prays according to the character of God as revealed in His Word. This is genuine worship, not some mindless frenzy. Elijah’s mind is engaged in this worship. This worship has meaning because it is according to the Word of God.
Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. (I Kings 18:38)
The Lord hears and responds in a public manner. This was a courageous act on Elijah’s part and the impact is evident.
When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, “The LORD, He is God; the LORD, He is God.” (I Kings 18:39)
The people repent and turn away from their idol worship and they worship the One, True God, the God of the Bible. This is what happens when true believers confront sin and take a stand for the Word of God. Others are profoundly impacted in a positive way. Elijah is not finished. According to the Word of God, those who lead others to worship false gods must pay the price for their actions. They are to be put to death.
Then Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; do not let one of them escape.” So they seized them; and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there. (I Kings 18:40)
All of the false prophets pay with their lives for their actions. These same people had no problem when the true prophets of God were being put to death by Jezebel. In fact, they probably benefited from their competition being eliminated. Now the bill is due and they pay a heavy price for their lifestyles.
III. Elijah needs encouragement
Word gets back to Jezebel of all that has happened and all that the Lord has done through Elijah. Instead of repenting and begging for mercy, something that the Lord extends freely, she doubles down on her defiance.
Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and even more, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.” (I Kings 19:2)
Jezebel continues to rebel against the Lord and threatens to murder Elijah. Even though Elijah has seen all of the amazing things that God has done, he still is susceptible to fear, like we all are.
3 And he was afraid and arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.
4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree; and he requested for himself that he might die, and said, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers.” (I Kings 19)
Elijah is discouraged. He has given over to his fear and it has driven out his faith in the Lord. This is what fear does. Fear and faith cannot exist in the same place. One drives out the other. Elijah encouraged Obadiah to have faith and overcome his fear. Now Elijah has surrendered to his fear and he needs to be encouraged to surrender to faith instead of fear.
5 He lay down and slept under a juniper tree; and behold, there was an angel touching him, and he said to him, “Arise, eat.”
6 Then he looked and behold, there was at his head a bread cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank and lay down again.
7 The angel of the LORD came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise, eat, because the journey is too great for you.”
8 So he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mountain of God. (I Kings 19)
The Lord intervenes and encourages Elijah.
Then he came there to a cave and lodged there; and behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (I Kings 19:9)
The Word of the Lord comes to Elijah again, to encourage him even more. Elijah needs to finish what he began. The leaders must be confronted and pay for their decisions. Elijah feels all alone so God has to remind him that He is with Him and there are others who still fear the Lord.
“Yet I will leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him.” (I Kings 19:18)
This reminder breaks the paralysis of fear. Elijah is encouraged to continue on in this battle for his people. He breaks out of his depression and continues to follow the Lord. There is more to come but we will leave with this cliff hanger. The good news is, Elijah is back on the right track. What is going to happen to Jezebel and the evil King Ahab? We will find out in our next lesson so stay tuned in.
Are you being encouraged by the Lord so that you can encourage others? Do you stand on the promises of God even when times are tough? When fear rears its ugly head, do you surrender to it or, to you continue to trust the Word of the Lord? How are you encouraging others daily? Do you confront sin for the sake of others or, do you just allow it to continue unchecked, even though it ruins lives left and right? What are you going to do with what you have learned from the Word of God in this lesson?
May the Lord help us be encouraged and be an encouragement to others for His glory and for our own good!