1 Kings 18

Elijah Returns

Three and a half years have passed since Elijah placed a ban on rain and dew in the land of Israel. Elijah has spent many days in Zeraphath with the widow and her son. The Lord tells Elijah that he will soon send rain, so it is time for him to return to Israel and confront Ahab. Elijah obeyed the Lord and left to seek and audience with Ahab. The famine was severe in Samaria, so the people were suffering. Ahab called Obadiah who was a high ranking official in Samaria. He feared the Lord, and he risked his life to save one hundred prophets after Jezebel began persecuting this group. Obadiah split the group into two equal parts and provided them with provisions during both persecution and famine. Ahab sent Obadiah in search of water that he might be able to spare his livestock and they divided the land for their quest. Ahab went searching one direction while Obadiah left in the opposite direction. While Obadiah was on the expedition to find water, he encountered Elijah. He greets Elijah with respect and reverence but seems surprised to see him. Elijah identifies himself and instructs Obadiah to go and tell Ahab that he had returned. The prospect of going to Ahab with this news frightened Obadiah and feared that he might lose his life. Ahab had sought Elijah in the surrounding nations and made those kings swear that they were not harboring the prophet. Obadiah was afraid that when he left to go and tell Ahab that Elijah had returned that Elijah would disappear and then Ahab would have him killed when he could not be found. Obadiah declared his love and faithfulness for the Lord and pointed out that he had served the prophets of the Lord during the persecution of Jezebel. He asks Elijah to reconsider this dangerous mission. Elijah swore an oath that he would see Ahab that day and Obadiah went in search of the king. When Obadiah told Ahab that Elijah had returned, he headed straight for him. Ahab did not greet Elijah with any respect, instead, he was sarcastic and belligerent. Using a rhetorical question, the king expressed his amazement that Elijah had ventured back into his presence and he called Elijah the troubler of Israel. Elijah quickly responded that it was the king who was the one who brought the trouble upon Israel. He and his house had abandoned the commandments of the Lord and followed Baal. Elijah followed this condemnation with a challenge. He was to gather Israel on Mount Carmel along with the prophets of Baal and Asherah that were fed from the queen's table. 

The Showdown On The Mountain

Ahab agreed to the challenge and summoned the people as Elijah had requested. Elijah does not mince words, and he rebukes the people of Israel publicly for their unfaithfulness. Elijah called for a decision, but the people did not say a word. Elijah drew attention to the fact that he stood alone as a prophet of the Lord against the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal. These prophets had numbers and support on their side, but Elijah was not intimidated in the least. Elijah proposed that two sacrificial bulls be given to each group so that they could prepare them. The bulls would be laid on the wood, but the sacrifices were not to be lit. The prophets of Baal would call out, and Elijah would call upon the name of the Lord, and the Gd who answered by fire would be recognized as God. The people agreed, and the stage was set for an intense clash. The prophets of Baal were allowed to go first and choose whichever bull they wished. They took their bull and prepared the animal in the prescribed manner. They called on Baal from morning until noon. They danced about the altar until Elijah began to ridicule his opponents. He urged them to cry louder and offered some scenarios for Baal’s lack of response like he might be meditating, relieving himself, away on a journey, or just asleep. The prophets of Baal renewed their efforts and cried aloud while cutting themselves. This went on until three in the afternoon to no avail, and they finally gave up. Elijah called the people to come near, and he repaired the altar of the Lord. He used twelve stones to restore the altar, symbolizing the twelve tribes of Israel. A trench was dug around the altar, the wood was put in order, and the bull was prepared. Elijah ordered that four jars of water be poured over the offering and the wood. He repeated this three times until the trench was filled with water. Elijah moved closer to the altar, and he began to pray. He called on the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He asked for the Lord to vindicate his name and his prophet. Elijah longed for the people to repent and turn back o the Lord. God answered Elijah's prayer, and fire fell from heaven consuming the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, the dust, and it licked up the water in the trench. The people saw it and knew that there was no question about who was God. They fell on their faces before the Lord and began to repeat, "The Lord, he is God." Elijah ordered the people to seize the prophets of Baal, and he led them down to the brook where they were slaughtered in accordance with the law. 

The Rain Came Down

Elijah instructed the king to go and eat a meal because rain was coming. Ahab complied, and Elijah went to the top of Mount Carmel to pray. He bowed down to the ground and began to call upon the Lord for rain. He sent his servant to go to a higher elevation and look toward the sea for rain. The servant did as he was told and this continued seven times. The seventh time the servant traveled to the summit, he saw a small cloud rising from the sea. Elijah sent him to Ahab in haste to instruct him to leave so that he would not be trapped in the downpour. The sky grew dark, the wind began to blow, and torrential rains began to fall. Ahab made his way toward Jezreel, and the Lord gave Elijah strength and speed in such a measure that he outran Ahab who was in his chariot and arrived at Jezreel before the king arrived.

Things To Consider:

  • How was God at work before Elijah returned?
  • Why is the fear of man so powerful?
  • Why do you think Elijah challenged the people publicly?
  • Do you think it was hard for Elijah to continue when he called the people to repentance the first time, and they ignored him?
  • Why is it so difficult to go against the crowd?
  • Why do you think Elijah tried to remind the people of their past as he repaired the altar and used the twelve stones?
  • What do you think the water was to convey to the people?
  • What did the fire show the people?
  • Why must we put sin to death in our lives?
  • How many places do you see Elijah's faith on display?