LESSONS FROM THE LIFE OF ELIJAH
“Fire on the Mountain”
(Notes from this past Sunday Sermon)
- The Bible passages are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible
- The Scripture passages appear in green
I Kings 18
1 After a long time, the word of the Lord came to Elijah in the third year: “Go and present yourself to Ahab. I will send rain on the surface of the land.”
2 So Elijah went to present himself to Ahab. The famine was SEVERE in Samaria.
- 1 year at the brook
- 2 years in Zarephath
- Imagine what it would be like after 3 years of drought and no rain.
3 Ahab called for Obadiah, who was in charge of the palace. Obadiah was a man who greatly feared the Lord 4 and took 100 prophets and hid them, 50 men to a cave, and provided them with food and water when Jezebel slaughtered the Lord’s prophets.
5 Ahab said to Obadiah, “Go throughout the land to every spring of water and to every wadi. Perhaps we’ll find grass so we can keep the horses and mules alive and not have to destroy any cattle.” 6 They divided the land between them in order to cover it. Ahab went one way by himself, and Obadiah went the other way by himself.
- We can see the desperation of the nation after all these years they are hoping to find even a small patch of grass to maybe save some cattle.
- Ironic that Ahab goes in the opposite direction as Obadiah, another man of God.
7 While Obadiah was walking along the road, ELIJAH SUDDENLY MET HIM. When Obadiah recognized him, he fell with his face [to the ground] and said, “Is it you, my lord Elijah?”
8 “It is I,” he replied. “Go tell your lord, ‘Elijah is here!’ ”
9 But Obadiah said, “What sin have I committed, that you are handing your servant over to Ahab to put me to death? 10 As the Lord your God lives, there is no nation or kingdom where my lord has not sent someone to search for you. When they said, ‘He is not here,’ he made that kingdom or nation swear they had not found you. 11 “Now you say, ‘Go tell your lord, “Elijah is here!” ’
12 But when I leave you, the Spirit of the Lord may carry you off to some place I don’t know. Then when I go report to Ahab and he doesn’t find you, he will kill me. But I, your servant, have feared the Lord from my youth. 13 Wasn’t it reported to my lord what I did when Jezebel slaughtered the Lord’s prophets? I hid 100 of the prophets of the Lord, 50 men to a cave, and I provided them with food and water. 14 Now you say, ‘Go tell your lord, “Elijah is here!” ’ He will kill me!”
- Elijah SUDDENLY MET him is, I believe an indication that Elijah “appeared” there supernaturally. I come to this conclusion based on Obadiah’s fear that Elijah will be transported away and leave him “holding the bag” with Ahab coming.
15 Then Elijah said, “As the Lord of Hosts lives, before whom I stand, today I WILL present myself to Ahab.”
16 Obadiah went to meet Ahab and report to him. Then Ahab went to meet Elijah. 17 When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is that you, you DESTROYER of Israel?”
18 He replied, “I have not destroyed Israel, but YOU AND YOUR FATHER’S HOUSE have, because you have ABANDONED the Lord’s commandments and FOLLOWED THE BAALS.
- As is typical human response, Ahab sought to blame Elijah for the problems that had befallen him and the nation rather than accept responsibility and make changes. When we disregard the Lord there will be consequences, and usually not pleasant, but the only fix is repentance and restoration, by God’s grace these are available to all of us.
19 Now SUMMON ALL ISRAEL to meet me at Mount Carmel, along with the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah WHO EAT AT JEZEBEL’S TABLE.”
20 So AHAB SUMMONED ALL THE ISRAELITES and gathered the prophets at Mount Carmel.
- If the king summons ALL Israel then who should not be there?
- Who is Jezebel? –Ahab’s wife
- Ate at her table means that she was providing for them and maintaining them. It indicates her approval and support of the rebellion.
Why Choose Mount Carmel?
- Name: Means “Fruitful Field” and it was a fitting place to have this challenge and ultimately to bring an end to the drought, if not of rain then at least of the presence of God—or rather the people’s lack of seeking for God.
- Incredibly High – offered good vantage for the thousands who would be summoned to see the spectacle and ultimately the triumph of the God of Israel.
21 Then ELIJAH APPROACHED ALL THE PEOPLE and said, “HOW LONG WILL YOU HESITATE BETWEEN TWO OPINIONS? IF YAHWEH IS GOD, FOLLOW HIM. BUT IF BAAL, FOLLOW HIM.” BUT THE PEOPLE DIDN’T ANSWER HIM A WORD.
- Think about how this recalls Joshua’s challenge to the people before entering the promised land, “Choose this day whom you will serve…”
Joshua 24:15 (HCSB)
15 But if it doesn’t please you to worship the Lord, choose for yourselves today the one you will worship: the gods your fathers worshiped beyond the Euphrates River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living. As for me and my family, we will worship the Lord.”
- Notice the people were silent, unlike in Joshua’s day when the heartily responded to him
The Prophet’s Challenge
22 Then Elijah said to the people, “I am the only remaining prophet of the Lord, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men.
23 Let two bulls be given to us. They are to choose one bull for themselves, cut it in pieces, and place it on the wood but not light the fire. I will prepare the other bull and place it on the wood but not light the fire. 24 Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of Yahweh. The God who answers with fire, He is God.” All the people answered, “That sounds good.”
25 Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Since you are so numerous, choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first. Then call on the name of your god but don’t light the fire.”
- Elijah is giving every possible advantage to the false prophets so that in the end there will be no question who the One True God is over Israel.
- He gives them first choice of the bull
- He gives them first chance to prove that their god is real
- He give them the whole afternoon to accomplish their challenge.
26 So they took the bull that he gave them, prepared it, and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “Baal, answer us!” But there was no sound; no one answered. Then they did their lame dance around the altar they had made.
27 At noon Elijah mocked them. He said, “Shout loudly, for he’s a god! Maybe he’s thinking it over; maybe he has wandered away; or maybe he’s on the road. Perhaps he’s sleeping and will wake up!”
28 They shouted loudly, and cut themselves with knives and spears, according to their custom, until blood gushed out on them. 29 All afternoon, they kept on raving until the offering of the evening sacrifice, but there was no sound, no one answered, no one paid attention.
30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near me.” So all the people approached him. Then he REPAIRED THE LORD’S ALTAR THAT HAD BEEN TORN DOWN:
31 Elijah took 12 stones—according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, saying, “Israel will be your name”—
32 and he built an altar with the stones in the name of Yahweh.
Then he made a trench around the altar large enough to hold about four gallons.
33 Next, he arranged the wood, cut up the bull, and placed it on the wood. He said, “Fill four water pots with water and pour it on the offering to be burned and on the wood.”
34 Then he said, “A second time!” and they did it a second time. And then he said, “A third time!” and they did it a third time.
35 So the water ran all around the altar; he even filled the trench with water.
Elijah’s Prayer and God’s Power
36 At the time for offering the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet approached the altar and said, “Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, today LET IT BE KNOWN that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that at Your word I have done all these things.
37 Answer me, Lord! Answer me SO THAT THIS PEOPLE WILL KNOW that You, Yahweh, are God and that You have turned their hearts back.”
38 Then Yahweh’s fire fell and consumed the burnt offering, the wood, the stones, and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench.
39 When all the people saw it, they fell facedown and said, “YAHWEH, HE IS GOD! YAHWEH, HE IS GOD!”
The Steps Elijah Takes
- Why does Elijah do the specific things that he does in preparation for his turn?
- Repair a damaged altar – reminder of how Israel had fallen from their relationship with God, the altar had been destroyed mostly by neglect.
- 12 Stones – point us to the heritage of Israel and remind us of God’s presence and power in Israel’s past which they had turned their back on.
- The Name of Yahweh – This is who it is all about, Elijah will be calling on the covenant God to prove Himself to the people.
- Four Gallons of Water drenches the sacrifice – Elijah is creating a scenario in which God would truly have to show up in a major way to demonstrate His power.
- The Time of the evening Sacrifice – Specific
The Victory on Mount Carmel
40 Then Elijah ordered them, “Seize the prophets of Baal! Do not let even one of them escape.” So they seized them, and Elijah brought them down to the Wadi Kishon and slaughtered them there.
41 Elijah said to Ahab, “Go up, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a rainstorm.”
42 So Ahab went to eat and drink, but Elijah went up to the summit of Carmel. He bowed down to the ground and put his face between his knees.
43 Then he said to his servant, “Go up and look toward the sea.” So he went up, looked, and said, “There’s nothing.” Seven times Elijah said, “Go back.”
44 On the seventh time, he reported, “There’s a cloud as small as a man’s hand coming from the sea.” Then Elijah said, “Go and tell Ahab, ‘Get [your chariot] ready and go down so the rain doesn’t stop you.’ ”
45 In a little while, the sky grew dark with clouds and wind, and there was a downpour. So Ahab got in [his chariot] and went to Jezreel.
46 The power of the Lord was on Elijah, and he tucked his mantle under his belt and ran ahead of Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.
What would some of the Headlines in the Next Day’s New Read?
- · God Showed Up!!
- · Light the Fire, Lord!
- · (You Fill in the Blank)
The Victory is Clear and Powerful
- The prophets of Baal are executed. This might seem extreme, but it is the punishment for Blasphemy and turning the people away from the Lord, Yahweh.
- Then there’s a startling promise given to Ahab by Elijah. The THREE YEAR drought is about to end. Hurry up and get home cause the rain’s coming.
- Why end it now? Because the people had returned, at least for the moment.
Then….What the Heck Happened?
1 Ahab told Jezebel everything that Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “May the gods punish me and do so severely if I don’t make your life like the life of one of them by this time tomorrow!” 3 THEN ELIJAH BECAME AFRAID AND IMMEDIATELY RAN FOR HIS LIFE.
(to be continued…)