1 Kings 18:20–21, 37–39; 19:1–3a, 13b–18comment (0)
January 6, 2011
By Jay T. Robertson
Related Scripture: 1 Kings 18:20–21, 37–39; 19:1–3a, 13b–18
Explore the Bible
Assistant Professor of Christian Studies, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile
A HILL ON WHICH TO STAND
1 Kings 18:20–21, 37–39; 19:1–3a, 13b–18
Choose Your Camp (18:20–21)
In 1 Kings 17:1, Elijah had taken the key of faith and locked the windows of heaven, declaring, “As the Lord the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.” The drought continued for three-and-a-half years. Death covered the land of Israel like a blanket. King Ahab searched high and low for Elijah as the drought persisted but he was unsuccessful. Chapter 18 begins with God declaring to Elijah that He is going to send rain upon the earth. Elijah obediently headed back to meet Ahab. On the way, he ran into Obadiah, Ahab’s household manager. He instructed Obadiah to announce to Ahab that he was back and had a word from the Lord. Elijah’s purpose was not to accuse Ahab but to call the nation back to national repentance. So he challenged Ahab to gather the people to Mount Carmel, a high ridge that rose out of the Mediterranean Sea to a height of about 1,700 feet and was associated with the worship of Baal. In other words, Elijah was giving the Baal worshipers a home-field advantage. Ahab assembled 450 prophets of Baal, 400 prophets of Asherah and the general population on Mount Carmel, as Elijah requested. The prophet then issued his second challenge, addressed to the people. It was time to decide: “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, then follow him.” The people were trying to hold together two mutually exclusive loyalties. But this was impossible. The Lord and Baal could not both be the true God.
Trust in God’s Help (18:37–39)
Elijah rebuilt the altar. He then soaked it with water to remove any doubt about the miracle that was about to occur. Elijah’s prayer was simple and brief (62 words), without any of the false prophets’ elaborate antics. He was a man of prayer, not a worker of magic who needed to manipulate a reluctant god by formulas or actions. When Elijah prayed for the fire to fall, he asked the Lord to remind the people that He was the covenant God of Israel. He prayed that God would vindicate him as His true prophet and that the people would know that the Lord is God and repent from their evil idolatry. The people had not answered Elijah (18:21), but God answered him without delay. Fire fell immediately. It consumed the altar and sacrifice. With fear in their hearts, the people cried out, “The Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is God.” The false prophets were killed and then God sent rain.
Watch for Slips (19:1–3a)
Elijah’s victory on Mount Carmel was one of the glorious moments in Israel’s history. The Lord had revealed Himself in dramatic fashion, in fire and in rain, and the people had responded in a massive confession of faith, apparently returning to their covenant loyalty to God. Only good things could follow such an event. However, that was not what happened. Upon returning to Jezreel, Ahab recounted the day’s events to his wife, Jezebel. She was not pleased at all. She was as committed to Baal as Elijah was to the Lord. The events on Mount Carmel did not lead her to repentance but to fury. Jezebel vowed she would kill Elijah, and her track record of killing the prophets of God (1 Kings 18:4, 13) made clear that these were not idle words. Elijah fled for his life.
Climb Back Up (19:13b–18)
At Mount Horeb, God asked Elijah what he was doing there. Elijah said Israel had rejected the covenant and become idolatrous, he was the only prophet left and Jezebel planned to kill him. Elijah implied that God could not save him or turn the nation back to the covenant. The Lord’s word to him reaffirmed His uniqueness, His sovereignty over all nations and the importance of the prophetic word. God confirmed Elijah’s call to active service by sending him to anoint two kings and a prophet to serve in his place. God also reminded him that He still had 7,000 in Israel who had not bowed the knee to worship Baal. God’s word cannot be silenced, and as a part of this remnant, Elijah could expect His protection and empowerment.