Read the story of Prophet Elijah and his encounter with the king and the prophets of Baal here (1 Kings chapter 18: 16-46), and pray God to open our hearts to His teaching today.
The story took place around 873-853 B.C when God’s people were divided into two kingdoms: Judah and Israel.
The kingdom of Israel was ruled by King Ahab. But the true ruler was his foreign wife, Queen Jezebel, one of the most evil women recorded in Scriptures!
Jezebel influenced Ahab and led many false prophets to worship the popular idols of the time: Baal and goddess Asherah. She even urged Ahab to destroy God’s altars and kill His prophets.
But God is always in control. God sent four prophets to speak clearly to Ahab. The most famous prophets were Obadiah and Elijah.
When God’s Prophet confronts a King...
God sent Elijah to warn King Ahab about a great drought (in Chapter 17).
But Ahab still refused to return to God. From that day, a drought and famine began in the Land of Israel which would last for three and a half years. In an agrarian society in the Middle East, that would have been a horrible situation! Elijah also had to suffer with the people.
A far greater Spiritual Drought...
Verses 17-19 describe the spiritual situation in Israel: people had simply abandoned God’s commands and followed a false god (Baal). What was Baal? It was a god of ‘rain’, something people in an agricultural society must have to survive. But rain is created and provided by God, not by a man-made figure.
Yet the worship of Baal was so widespread in the Ancient Near East that it was one the most popular religions at the time. People grew up believing Baal was the one they should worship. No one questioned it.
While Prophet Obadiah was willing to secretly hide God’s prophets away from Ahab, he was too scared to challenge Ahab.
But Elijah was willing to directly confront the king and all his false prophets.
How did Elijah confront the most popular false religion of the time?
Elijah did not start a fight. He first pointed out the real roots of the problem:
“How long will you waver between two opinions?” (1 Kings 18:21)
Israel had not totally rejected God, but was confused by their desire to combine worship of Him with other false gods. Elijah pointed out that Israel must choose the one true God and serve Him wholeheartedly.
Elijah did not attack the people, or try to convert them to his own religion. Elijah simply asked them to make a decision, then prayed and allowed God to reveal Himself.
The truth is not determined by the side that has more popularity or political power. A false religion cannot become true simply because many people are believing in it.
God Himself has the power to reveal His glory to people who pray to Him. We can pray to God to reveal who He really is.
“Elijah said to all the people, Come near to me. And all the people came near him. And he repaired the altar of the LORD that was broken down. And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of the LORD came, saying, Israel shall be thy name" (1 Kings 18:30-31).
Elijah repaired God’s altar. He was not introducing a new religion. Instead he was bringing the people back to the real God they used to know.
The 12 stones represented the 12 tribes of Israel. Although they had already been divided into two kingdoms, they were one under the Lord’s plans and promises. God’s covenant to Abraham covered all people, even when they were divided by conflicts. All people need to return to God.
How did Elijah pray?
Elijah prayed to God, “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. Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.” (18: 36-37)
The phrase “God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel” was an important identification of which God: the one Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (God changed his name to Israel) believed. It was also a reminder of God’s promise and relationship to the covenant with Abraham.
Elijah did not ask for personal victory or vindication for himself, but the revelation of God’s glory and all the people to know the one true God and turn their hearts to God.
Indeed, God answered Elijah’s prayers.
Elijah still wanted God to show kindness and bless the people
Elijah ordered the killing of the false prophets of Baal. Note the Scriptures did not say whether God commanded this or was pleased with it. In Elijah’s situation, these prophets were not only killing God’s true prophets, but also the knowledge of God. We also know God’s plan throughout the book of 1 Kings did not depend on the killing of people.
Elijah then earnestly prayed for rain. It was what the people desperately needed.
Both fire and water came from God. Elijah prayed on the top of Carmel on his own. Although his servant reported no sign of rain 6 times,. Elijah did not give up. He continued to pray. God answered his prayers and the drought ended.
Your Response: Listen to God and Pray...
1. Are we experiencing any ‘drought’ in our lives today? What would be the modern equivalent of Baal (popular false idols) in our hearts? Will you allow God to expose them?
2. Compare the false prophets’ prayers with Elijah’s prayers. What do you notice?
What elements of Elijah’s prayer can be applied to our life situations?
3. Is there any part of our personal relationship with God that needs to be repaired? What steps will you take to repair it?
4. Who can you share this story with?