1 Kings 18:1 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.”
After a long time, in the third year – All this while there had been no dew and no rain.
“Go and present yourself to Ahab” – Throughout this narrative, the intiative comes from God and his prophet. Ahab, like Baal, is impotent: he cannot bring rain, he cannot find Elijah, his god is impotent. So passive is Ahab in this chapter, that he is recorded as speaking only once, v17.
“I will send rain on the land” – But not before a very public and dramatic demonstration of Yahweh’s power, as opposed to Baal’s impotence. For, if God had simply sent rain, it could have been argued that Baal had recovered and had sent it himself. So, before Yahweh sends rain, Baal must be discredited, demonstrated to be a non-entity. And this must happen openly, publicly, in ‘prime time’. In order to demonstrate that Yahweh is the true and living God, there must be a ‘god contest’ in Israel (Davis).
1 Kings 18:2 So Elijah went to present himself to Ahab. Now the famine was severe in Samaria,
The famine was severe in Samaria – Samaria was the capital, and Ahab’s main place of residence.
1 Kings 18:3 and Ahab had summoned Obadiah, who was in charge of his palace. (Obadiah was a devout believer in the LORD.
Obadiah – ‘This man, a worshipper of Yahweh from his youth (v12), had remained loyal to his God. His loyalty was proved by the great personal risk he had taken, concealing and feeding a hundred faithful prophets in the face of Jezebel’s campaign to wipe them out. He is a challenging figure, quietly living out his faith at the heart of the nation’s apostasy. But he is also a very human figure, terrified that Elijah would vanish again before a meeting with Ahab could be arranged, and that he would be held responsible and executed.’ (NBC)
This man was in charge of Ahab’s palace – Like Joseph and Daniel, he was entrusted with a senior position in a pagan government, because of his honesty and integrity. ‘Note, Those who profess religion should study to recommend themselves to the esteem even of those that are without by their integrity, fidelity, and application to business.’ (MHC)
Obadiah, then, was a senior civil servant. He was also a devout believer in the Lord, and this impelled him to protect the prophets of the Lord, v4. He had not followed the majority of faithful believers in emigrating to Jerusalem, 2 Chron 11:13-16, but had remained in the north where he reamined a secret but sincere worshiper.
‘God will never leave himself without witnesses in this world. Aye, and he will not leave himself without witnesses in the worst places of the world. What a horrible abode for a true believer Ahab’s court must have been! If there had been no sinner there but that woman Jezebel, she was enough to make the palace a sink of iniquity. That strong-minded, proud, Sidonian Queen twisted poor Ahab round her fingers just as she pleased. He might never have been the persecutor he was if his wife had not stirred him up; but she hated the worship of Jehovah intensely, and despised the homeliness of Israel in comparison with the more pompous style of Sidon. Ahab must yield to her imperious demands, for she would brook no contradiction, and when her proud spirit was roused she defied all opposition. Yet in that very court where Jezebel was mistress, the chamberlain was a man who feared God greatly. Never be surprised to meet with a believer anywhere. Grace can live where you would never expect to see it survive for an hour.’ (Spurgeon)
Similarly, Joseph feared God in the court of Pharaoh, Daniel was a trusted counsellor of Nebuchadnezzar, Mordecai waited at the gate of Ahasuerus, Pilate’s wife pleaded for the life of Jesus, and there were saints in Caesar’s household. (Spurgeon)
1 Kings 18:4 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.)
Obadiah had taken a hundred prophets and hidden them in two caves – This protection was the fruit of his devotion to Yahweh, v3, and would have been highly risky for him. Jezebel was intent on killing off the Lord’s prophets, but Obadiah’s quiet faithfulness limited her evil intentions.
‘Sometimes Yahweh attacks evil with the in-your-face style of an Elijah, 17:1, and sometimes he frustrates it by the simple”] subversion of an onobtrusive agent.’ (Davis) Obadiah’s was a hidden, rather than a confrontational faithfulness. His role was like that of the Dutch resisters in WW2, who saved the lives of thousands of Jews, compared with the activities of the soldiers who landed on the beaches of Normandy. Both were involved in the same conflict, but in very different ways.
What does Christian faithfulness look like in a strongly Moslem country? What does it look like in a Christian who is the only believer in an unbelieving household?
When is it right to go underground, like Obadiah, and when is it right to go public, like Elijah?
The Lord has people even where the throne of Satan is, Rev 2:13.
1 Kings 18:5 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.”
“Maybe we can find some grass to keep the horses and mules alive so we will not have to kill any of our animals” – Note the contrast: Jezebel is intent on killing off the Lord’s prophets; Ahab meanwhile is concerned for his livestock. ‘Ahab’s care was not to lose all the beasts, many being already lost; but he took no care about his soul, not to lose that; he took a deal of pains to seek grass, but none to seek the favour of God, fencing against the effect, but not enquiring how to remove the cause.’ (MHC)
1 Kings 18:6 So they divided the land they were to cover, Ahab going in one direction and Obadiah in another.
1 Kings 18:7 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?”
Obadiah recognized him, bowed down to the ground, and said, “Is it really you, my lord Elijah?” – ‘As he had shown the tenderness of a father to the sons of the prophets, so he showed the reverence of a son to this father of the prophets.’ (MHC)
Obadiah and Elijah. They are very different personalities, and faithfulness to the Lord calls forth very different qualities in each of them. ‘Elijah seems bold, confrontational, intrusive, while Obadiah appears hesitant, cautious, and fearful.’ (Davis) There is room for both approaches; faithfulness comes in more than one flavour. ‘You are not called to great works but to good works, not to flamboyant ministry but the faithful ministry, not to be a dashing but only a devoted servant.’ (Davis)
1 Kings 18:8 “Yes,” he replied. “Go tell your master, ‘Elijah is here.'”
1 Kings 18:9 “What have I done wrong,” asked Obadiah, “that you are handing your servant over to Ahab to be put to death?”
Obadiah knows that Elijah has been known to disappear rather effectively!
1 Kings 18:10 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.
“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” – Ahab had been searching far and wide for Elijah. It may be that his purpose in doing so was not so much to punish Elijah, but to persuade him to reverse the ‘curse on the land’.
1 Kings 18:11 But now you tell me to go to my master and say, ‘Elijah is here.’
1 Kings 18:12 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.
1 Kings 18:13 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.
1 Kings 18:14 And now you tell me to go to my master and say, ‘Elijah is here.’ He will kill me!”
1 Kings 18:15 Elijah said, “As the LORD Almighty lives, whom I serve, I will surely present myself to Ahab today.”
Obadiah is nervous that Elijah might not do as he said, and present himself to Ahab. Only Elijah’s solemn oath persuades him. For Obadiah, faithfulness is mixed with fearfulness.
1 Kings 18:16 So Obadiah went to meet Ahab and told him, and Ahab went to meet Elijah.
1 Kings 18:17 When he saw Elijah, he said to him, “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?”
“Is that you, you troubler of Israel” – Contrast this greet with that of Obadiah, v7 – “Is it really you, my lord Elijah?” ‘He durst not strike him, remembering that Jeroboam’s hand withered when it was stretched out against a prophet, but gave him bad language.’ (MHC)
Elijah had come with news of the end of drought, and to call Israel back to her god, but he is greeted with contempt.
‘Obadiah feared God greatly; Ahab had sold himself to work wickedness; and both discovered their character by the manner of their address to the prophet. One may guess how people stand affected to God by observing how they stand affected to his people and ministers.’ (MHC)
‘Note, It has been the lot of the best and most useful men to be called and counted the troublers of the land, and to be run down as public grievances. Even Christ and his apostles were thus misrepresented, Acts 17:6.’ (MHC)
Ahab holds Elijah responsible for what has happened. Her regards Elijah as polluting and dividing the nation. In this, of course, he is entirely mistaken: it is he himself who has brought all this on Israel, as the next verse makes clear.
Ahab feared Elijah, ‘as Herod feared John’. (MHC)
Note, then, that if you promote the welfare of God’s kingdom, you may well be counted a trouble-maker by the world.
1 Kings 18:18 “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.”
“I have not made trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “But you and your father’s family have” – ‘Those that procure God’s judgments do the mischief, not he that merely foretels them and gives warning of them, that the nation may repent and prevent them.’ (MHC)
In our own day, Christians may be regarded as ‘turning the world upside down. But, in fact, they are turning it the right way up.
“You…have followed the Baals” – ‘Baal’ is usually identified with Hadad, the storm-god, who was the most important god in the Canaanite pantheon. Baal had power over rain, wind, clouds, and therefore over fertility. His power, however, was challenged by that of Mot, god of death, sterility, and aridity. However, the term also refers to local gods, including, in this chapter, Melqart, the god of Tyre.
‘Temples of Baal at Samaria and Jerusalem are mentioned in 1 Kings 16:21 and 2 Kings 11:18. They had been erected at the time when the Ahab dynasty endeavored to fuse the Yahweh worshipers and the Baal worshipers into a single people under the same national Tyrian god. Altars on which incense was burned to Baal were erected in the streets of Jerusalem, (Jer 11:13) apparently on the flat roofs of the houses. (Jer 32:29) The temple of Baal contained an image of the god in the shape of a pillar. (2 Kings 10:26f) In the reign of Ahab, Baal was served by 450 priests, (1 Kings 18:19) as well as by prophets. (2 Kings 10:19) Baal worshipers wore special vestments when the ritual was performed. (2 Kings 10:22) The ordinary offering made to the god consisted of incense. (Jer 7:9) On extraordinary occasions the sacrifice was a human being. (Jer 19:5) At times the priests worked themselves into a state of ecstasy and slashed themselves with knives as they danced.’ (1 Kings 18:26,28) (ISBE)
1 Kings 18:19 “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.”
“Summon the people from all over Israel to meet me on Mount Carmel” – The confrontation between the Lord and the false gods will not be done ‘in a corner’. It will be a public display. Mount Carmel juts out along the Mediteranean coast due west of the Sea of Galilee. Near to the Phoenicean border, the influence of Baalism was probably strong, and Carmel is referred in some ancient annals as ‘the mountain of Baal’. Yahweh was prepared to concede home advantage to Baal.
‘It was great condescension in God that he would suffer so plain a case to be disputed, and would permit Baal to be a competitor with him; but thus God would have every mouth to be stopped and all flesh to become silent before him. God’s cause is so incontestably just that it needs not fear to have the evidences of its equity searched into and weighed.’ (MHC)
The four hundred prophets of Asherah – But they seem not to have turned up to the contest. The comment that they eat at Jezebel’s table is significant: their absence at Carmel must be linked to the absence of Jezebel herself. The threat from both the prophets and the queen remains, and will surface at the beginning of the next chapter.
1 Kings 18:20 So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel.
Mount Carmel – ‘There is some evidence that the Carmel range was a traditional site for the worship of Baal, in which case Elijah was giving the prophets of Baal the advantage of fighting on home ground.’ (NBC)
1 Kings 18:21 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.
“How long will you waver between two opinions?” – The sense of ‘wavering’ is ‘limping’, of not knowing which foot to stand on.
‘Elijah did not accuse the people of outright apostasy but of hesitating between two opinions. This suggests they had been trying to worship both Baal and Yahweh to secure the maximum advantages of both! Baal was primarily a weather-god and hence responsible for the harvest; Yahweh, on the other hand, may have been popularly thought of as a god from the desert regions of Sinai. (cf. Hab 3:3-7) Or perhaps, like the Arameans in ch. 20, they thought of Yahweh as ‘a god of the hills and not a god of the valleys’ (20:28). Either way, it would have seemed likely to the people that Yahweh was out of his depth where agriculture was concerned, so it made good sense also to worship Baal, the acknowledged expert in such matters. Elijah swept away such syncretistic thinking. The people must make a decision: Yahweh or Baal.’ (NBC)
This verse should not be understood as suggesting that the people are neutral, any more than a man who wavers between his wife and another woman can be described as ‘neutral’. While undecided as to whether the Lord or Baal is the true God, they are continuing to worship the latter, v24, while allowing the altar to the Lord to become delapidated, v30.
Harvard Professor Harvey Cox said, “Not to decide, is to decide not to.”
Jesus said, “You cannot serve two masters,” Mt 6:24.
Davis notes the following reaons for the appeal of Baal worship to the Israelites: (a) it carried royal sanction – Queen Jezebel was an avid devotee; (b) it carried the appeal of tradition – Baalism was no new fad, but went back hundreds of years; (c) it carried an appearance of relevance – Baal was the storm and fertility god, he sent fire, lightning and rain, grain, oil, water and wine. He could revive the dead, heal the sick, grant progeny; (d) it carried the appeal of sensuality – cultic prostitution was linked to Baal worship.
‘It is a very bad thing to halt between God and Baal. “In reconcilable differences (says bishop Hall) nothing more safe than indifferency both of practice and opinion; but, in cases of such necessary hostility as betwixt God and Baal, he that is not with God is against him.” Compare Mk 9:38,39, with Mt 21:30. The service of God and the service of sin, the dominion of Christ and the dominion of our lusts, these are the two thoughts which it is dangerous halting between. Those halt between them that are unresolved under their convictions, unstable and unsteady in their purposes, promise fair, but do not perform, begin well, but do not hold on, that are inconsistent with themselves, or indifferent and lukewarm in that which is good. Their heart is divided, (Ho 10:2) whereas God will have all or none.’ (MHC)
“If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him” – This formulation assumes that theology informs discipleship. ‘Commitments have consequences. Elijah will not allow you to attend a “God contest” simply so that you can conclude, “Well, now we know that Yahweh is the real God. What movie do you want to see? Elijah, the Bible, Yahweh himself, will not allow you the comfort of such detachment…The God of the Bible…is not an idea you play with but a King to whom you submit’ (Davis).
‘Despite what some scholars argue, Elijah does not accept the existence of many gods, thinking only that Yahweh is the strongest.’ (NAC)
1 Kings 18:22 Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only one of the Lord’s prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets.”
“I am the only one of the Lord’s prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets” – But numbers are of no consequence to Yahweh. ‘Popularity does not determine reality’ (Davis).
‘He knew very well that Obadiah was left, who, though not exactly a prophet, was a man of mark; but he seems to ignore him as if he were of small account in the great struggle. I suppose it was because this man of iron, this prophet of fire and thunder, this mighty servant of the Most High, set small store by anybody who did not come to the front and fight like himself: I know it is the tendency of brave and zealous minds somewhat to undervalue quiet, retired piety. True and accepted servants of God may be doing their best under great disadvantages, against fierce opposition, but they may scarcely be known, and may even shun the least recognition; therefore men who live in the fierce light of public life are apt to underestimate them. These minor stars are lost in the brilliance of the man whom God lights up like a new sun to flame through the darkness. Elijah flashed over the sky of Israel like a thunderbolt from the hand of the Eternal, and naturally he would be somewhat impatient of those whose movements were slower and less conspicuous. It is Martha and Mary over again, in some respects.’ (Spurgeon)
1 Kings 18:23 Get two bulls for us. Let them 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.
1 Kings 18:24 “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.”
‘Elijah, doubtless, had a special commission from God to put it to this test, otherwise he would have tempted God and affronted religion; but the case was extraordinary, and the judgment upon it would be of use, not only then, but in all ages. It is an instance of the courage of Elijah that he durst stand alone in the cause of God against such powers and numbers; and the issue encourages all God?s witnesses and advocates never to fear the face of man.’ (MHC)
‘The prince of the power of the air, if God has permitted him, could have caused fire to come down from heaven on this occasion, and gladly would have done it for the support of his Baal. We find that the beast which deceived the world does it. He maketh fire come down from heaven in the sight of men and so deceiveth them, Rev 13:13,14. But God would not suffer the devil to do it now, because the trial of his title was put on that issue by consent of parties.’ (1 Ki 18:25 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.”
1 Kings 18:26 So they took the bull given them and prepared it. Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. “O Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made.
Danced – lit. ‘hobbled’. The same word as in v21, ‘waver’.
1 Kings 18:27 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.”
‘Myths of Baal portray him traveling, fighting war, visiting the underworld, and even dying and coming back to life. Elijah knows these beliefs and plays on them when he taunts Baal’s followers.’ (New Geneva)
“Busy” – The word so translated lit. means ‘to withdraw’, and Elijah probably means that Baal may be relieving himself.
“Travelling” – ‘In the Ugaritic materials Baal’s sister Anat comes to his house looking for him, only to be told that Baal has gone hunting.’ (Davis)
1 Kings 18:28 So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed.
1 Kings 18:29 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.
They continued with their frantic prophesying – Note the descriptions of their behaviour in this and the preceding verses. They had numbers on their side, zeal on their side, time on their side (they prophesied for the whole day). They were full of religious zeal, but because this was directed at a non-existent god, there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention. This frantic activity contrasts with Elijah’s calmer approach, v36. Yahweh is not impressed by frenzied religious activity.
1 Kings 18:30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come here to me.” They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the LORD, which was in ruins.
“Come here to me” – he wants to make sure they can see there is no cheating.
He repaired the altar of the Lord, which was in ruins – ‘to intimate to them that he was not about to introduce any new religion, but to revive the faith and worship of their fathers’ God.’ (MHC)
This was ‘one of the high places which the writer of Kings is keen to condemn in normal circumstances. But circumstances here were not normal, for the very survival of Yahweh’s worship in Israel, indeed the survival of Israel itself, was at stake. The issue was no longer where Yahweh might be worshipped, but whether Israel would continue to worship him at all – whether Israel would remain Israel.’ (NBC)
‘He could not bring them to the altar at Jerusalem unless he could unite the two kingdoms again (which, for correction to both, God designed should not now be done), therefore, by his prophetic authority, he builds an altar on Mount Carmel, and so owns that which had formerly been built there. When we cannot carry a reformation so far as we would we must do what we can, and rather comply with some corruptions than not do our utmost towards the extirpation of Baal.’ (MHC)
1 Kings 18:31 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.”
Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob – Here is ‘an implicit condemnation of the existence of the northern kingdom’ (H.L Ellison).
‘Elijah emphasizes the oneness of the people, despite the division of the kingdom. In this way he also underscores that the contest at Mount Carmel is not significant for the northern tribes only, but for the southern tribes as well.’ (Ex 20:25 24:4 Jos 4) (New Geneva)
‘Though ten of the tribes had revolted to Baal, he would look upon them as belonging to God still, by virtue of the ancient covenant with their fathers: and, though those ten were unhappily divided from the other two in civil interest, yet in the worship of the God of Israel they had communion with each other, and they twelve were one.’ (MHC)
‘The reader is reminded by this (and the reference to the evening sacrifice taking place in Jerusalem at the same time, v36) that Israel still consists of twelve tribes despite the present division of the nation (18:31).’ (www.biblicalstudies.org.uk/article_elijah.html)
1 Kings 18:32 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.
‘Elijah was no priest, nor were his attendants Levites. Carmel had neither tabernacle nor temple; it was a great way distant from the ark of the testimony and the place God had chosen; this was not the altar that sanctified the gift; yet never was any sacrifice more acceptable to God than this. The particular Levitical institutions were so often dispensed with (as in the time of the Judges, Samuel’s time, and now) that one would be tempted to think they were more designed for types to be fulfilled in the evangelical anti-types than for laws to be fulfilled in the strict observance of them. Their perishing thus is the using, as the apostle speaks of them, (Col 2:22) was to intimate the utter abolition of them after a little while, Heb 8:13.’ (MHC)
1 Kings 18:33 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.”
“Fill four large jars with water” – ‘Elijah made sure that the cards were seen to be stacked against him, soaking the sacrifice and the wood with water which flowed into a trench around the altar. Since water would have been a rare commodity after three years of drought, the emptying of the jars over the sacrifice was a double act of faith. Elijah was trusting God for rain as well as fire.’ (NBC)
Fresh water was, of course, very scarce. Sea-water may have been used, for the sea was nearby.
Ian Paul writes:
‘There is a river along the base of Mount Carmel, but as you say, there was a drought, so it might well not have been flowing. If you visit Israel, one of the things you will notice is that, in just about every ancient site, you will see a sign for a cistern. One of the most spectacular is at Herod’s mountain fortress at Masada, by the Dead Sea, where there is a sophisticated system for gathering water into a series of cisterns. So there would very likely have been a cistern near to the site of the sacrifice, and water would have been fetched from there.’
‘No possibility of spontaneous combustion here!’ (Provan)
1 Kings 18:34 “Do it again,” he said, and they did it again. “Do it a third time,” he ordered, and they did it the third time.
1 Kings 18:35 The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench.
‘Israelites were not witless. They knew wet stuff doesn’t burn. Elijah had stacked the deck again Yahweh, so that when his fire came there could be no other explanation except that it was an “act of God”.’ (Davis)
1 Kings 18:36 At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “O LORD, 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.”
‘His prayer shows his supreme faith at this crucial moment in Israel’s history-a history whose beginnings were recalled by naming Yahweh as the God of Israel’s ancestors. The prayer also shows Elijah’s priorities: his petition that he would be vindicated as Yahweh’s servant is framed by two petitions that Yahweh would be acknowledged as the true God of Israel.’ (NBC)
In contrast with the frenzied activity of the Baal-worshipers, Elijah’s approach is simplicity itself. He prays, and fire falls, v38.
‘Please note the assumption on which the Baal prophets operate: God will begin to do things if only we get a flurry of passionate religious activity going. Do we not then have our own “evangelical Baalism?” Christians and churches in the west seem to believe that God will surely work if only we… spend longer in personal devotions and more time in private prayer; belong to a home Bible study group or form a peer accountability group; get more people involved in our visitation evangelism programmes; attend week-end marriage enrichment seminars or hold a singles’ retreat; start neighbourhood clubs for kids or early morning men’s prayer breakfasts or provide mothers’morning out; hold more missions conferences and increase “faith promise” giving; or add a spring Bible conference; solicit someone to direct the 5th and 6th grades choir; becomes involved in a parachurch ministry on a local college campus or go on a short term mission trip to Jamaica or take the youth on a ski trip to Colarado; get a church bus ministry off the ground and spearhead the start of a Christian school; and be able to dim the lights in the sanctuary to create ambience, while spending quality time with spouses and families. All this Christian busyness is as exhausting as Baal worship, even minus the gashes. Most of these are not illegitimate activities…but might an illegitimate rationale drive them? Are these means of grace or gimmicks designed to manipulate, impress, or stir up God? You may not be a prophet of Baal but you may think like one. If only we…then God will…’ (Davis) Cf. Mt 6:7-9.
1 Kings 18:37 Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”
1 Kings 18:38 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.
The fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice – Cf. Lev 9:24, which parallels the burnt-offering, the fire, and the prostration of the people. See also 1 Chron 21:26; 2 Chron 7:1. ‘Divine fire blazed at the two major liturgical moments in Old Testament life, at the inauguration of both the tabernacle and the temple worship. That fire was Yahweh’s green light, indicating that he would accept this worship and that Israel should proceed to approach him in this way.’ (Davis) Here, too, then, the fire indicates that Yahweh has accept Elijah’s sacrifice. We have here not only a demonstration of the reality of Yahweh but of his readiness to be gracious.
The fire…burned up…the stones – ‘to show that it was no ordinary fire, and perhaps to intimate that, though God accepted this occasional sacrifice from this altar, yet for the future they ought to demolish all the altars on their high places, and, for their constant sacrifices, make use of that at Jerusalem only. Moses’ altar and Solomon?s were consecrated by the fire from heaven; but this was destroyed, because no more to be used.’ (MHC)
1 Kings 18:39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The LORD-he is God! The LORD-he is God!”
1 Kings 18:40 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.
This account of the slaughter of the prophets of Baal is sometimes taken to indicate a fanatical streak in Elijah. But it is line with the sanctions imposed by Deut 13.
The severity of the punishment meted out reminds us that apostasy is no trivial matter. And God deals with it not with a sticking plaster but with deep and painful surgery.
‘Remember Israel was a theocracy; what we call church and state functioned as one. And here Elijah simply carries out Israel’s constitution, the provisions of Yahweh’s covenant law, relating to solicitation to apostasy.’ (Davis)
‘The real God stood up on that day on Mt Carmel, but the real God has also come down, Jn 1:1,14 and calls you to serve him. You’ll find him the same: using such different servants, making such disturbing demands, liberating you from you recurring pagan thinking, lacing his severity with grace, and exposing your shoddy level of holiness.’ (Davis)
1 Kings 18:41 And Elijah said to Ahab, “Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain.”
1 Kings 18:42 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.
1 Kings 18:43 “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.”
1 Kings 18:44 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.'”
1 Kings 18:45 Meanwhile, the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain came on and Ahab rode off to Jezreel.
Ahab rode off to Jezreel – Ahab had a second home there, in addition to his residence at Samaria.
1 Kings 18:46 The power of the LORD came upon Elijah and, tucking his cloak into his belt, he ran ahead of Ahab all the way to Jezreel.