Tuesday, April 9, 2013

CXXXVI - I Kings 17:1-18:46 - The Prophet Elijah

In I Kings chapter 17, the great prophet Elijah is introduced.  This is just the first of much that we will see of Elijah in our study of the entire Bible.

A brief background:  Ornery Omri's son Ahab has just become king of Israel.  Ahab was more evil than any of the kings before him in either Israel or Judah.  He married the notoriously unGodly Jezebel, the daughter of a Baal priest.  She was an evil influence on Ahab and all of Israel.  Elijah was called to be a prophet of God and was given an understanding of a problem in the nation Israel.  There was a "religious" conflict among all the citizens of Israel.  Israel was confronted with three possibilities:  1)  The people could give their total loyalty to Baal Melkart, which was introduced and pushed upon the people by Jezebel.  2)  They could exclusively serve the Lord God of Israel alone, as stated in the first two of the Ten Commandments.  or 3)  They could take the what they considered the most favorable features of each and seek to serve both the true God and Baal.  Jezebel of course plus her following chose the first, giving total allegience to Baal Melkart.  Ahab, and most of the citizens of Israel opted for the latter, hoping to placate both the Lord and the Caananite gods.  But Elijah, a prophet of God, insisted that worshipping the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was to be exclusive, and His commandments and statutes were to be strictly adhered to.  There were relatively precious few in Israel that shared Elijah's thoughts on this.  We're going to see how Elijah was forced to drastic actions to "wake up" Israel, knowing Ahab and Jezebel would try to discredit him and actually threaten his life.

I Kings 17:1-->  Without fanfare or introduction, Elijah suddenly comes on the scene, in the presence of Ahab and his royal court.  Elijah wastes no time in making an attention-getting statement.  He told king Ahab that the God of Israel will cause a drought of both rain and dew for the next few years, and it will go away only upon Elijah's spoken word.  The Scripture gives no account of Ahab's or Jezebel's immediate reaction to this statement, but it's easy to imagine the shock and anger they felt.  And they must have responded in something of a threatening manner because verse 2 tells us that God told Elijah to leave, turn eastward and hide.  God promised to provide for him through the ravens, which He did.  In verse 7 the brook from which Elijah was getting his water dried up due to the drought.  God instructed him to go to the region of Sidon and a widow would provide enough food and water for Elijah.  The proceeding verses tell the story of the widow having a jar with a little bit of flour and a jar with just a little bit of olive oil.  As she made bread with the flour and olive oil, the two jars never ran out.
Vss 17-24  -  This is one of a very few recordings of the greatest type of miracle ever performed:  The widow's son became ill and died.  The widow was of course distraught and cried out to Elijah, being a man of God.  She was angry that such a powerful man of God would allow this tragedy in her life.  Elijah took the dead body of the boy, laid him on his bed, stretched himself out on the boy three times, and pleaded with God to bring the boy back to life.  God granted Elijah's request and restored the boy to life.  Elijah brought the living boy back to his mother.  This story is not to be taken lightly, as God has not done this many times.

Chapter 18  -  The time has now come for Elijah to make a challenge to expose Baal for the fake that he is.  The drought has produced a famine throughout Israel, even in the capital Samaria.  Ahab and Obadiah (a Godly man) were out to find some grass to feed the horses.  {Horses must be fed and kept healthy, as they were the backbone of the army.  Even Ahab was smart enough to know that.}  While the king's wife Jezebel was having all the men assassinated that were loyal to God, Obadiah had hidden a hundred of them in two caves in a desparate attempt to save Israel.  {Obadiah knew that Israel could be saved only by the nation returning to God.}  Ahab and Obadiah went in two different directions in search of feed for the horses, and Elijah met up with Obadiah.  Elijah instructed Obadiah to tell Ahab that Elijah is here and wants to see him.  Elijah had to convince Obadiah that God would protect him from being killed by Ahab and Jezebel.  The meeting was arranged and when Ahab saw Elijah, in verse 17, he called him a "troubler of Israel".  Ahab blamed the famine on Elijah because of the initial warning given by Elijah about three years earlier.  (Three years of no rain or dew is a loooonnnng time.)  "Blame the Messenger" was popular even back then.

I Kings 18:17-46  -  The Battle on Mount Carmel

Ahab and Jezebel were loyal to the many gods of Baal.  Elijah was loyal to only the Lord God, Creator of the heavens, the earth, and the universe.  Elijah challenged Ahab to gather all of the Baal priests and all representatives from the ten tribes to meet on Mount Carmel and they can settle the question as to Who is the one true God.  He told Ahab that he alone would represent God, and Ahab could bring all 850 prophets and priests of Baal.  After they had all gathered on Mount Carmel, (vs. 20) Elijah asked the mass of people that had gathered there, "how long will you waver between two opinions"?  Make up your minds now.  Today!  {Only 450 Baal priests showed up.  Jezebel held 400 Ashteroth priests back in Samaria}  Elijah led the challenge.  He stressed that he by himself would stand for God angainst 450 Baal priests.  He said that both he and they would prepare a bull sacrifice and call upon God and Baal to bring fire upon the altar that held the bull.  He said "the God Who answers by fire - He is God".  The mass of people agreed that this test would reveal the true God.
Verse 25 - Elijah instructed the Baal priests to prepare their sacrifice, "But do not light the fire!".  But rather, they were to call on Baal to light the fire.  All 450 of them began calling on Baal, but there was no response.  They started early in the morning.  About noon (vs 27) Elijah began taunting them.  He laughed, scoffed, and ridiculed their ridiculous dancing and shouting.  In jest, Elijah said maybe he (Baal) is deep in thought and can't pay attention.  Maybe he is busy.  Maybe he is travelling.  Maybe he is sleeping.  (KJV) Maybe he is pursueing.  (that was a jestive term that meant maybe he was going to the bathroom.)  In verse 28, the Baal priests got more desparate and started slashing themselves "until the blood flowed".  {Elijah seems to be enjoying this, but he dares not disregard what is at stake in this.  Actually, all of Israel is at stake.)  They continued their shouts and dances until the evening.  This would have been about nine straight hours.  Then in verse 30, it was Elijah's turn.  He built his altar with twelve stones.  (Ever notice how the Bible places special emphases on numbers?  Especially 12, 7, and 3)  Elijah proceeds to arrange the wood properly, the place the sacrificial bull onto the altar.  Then, he calls for a barrell of water to be poured onto the wood three times.  The water completely drenched the wood and even filled up the trench that was dug around the altar.  Then, in verses 36--> Elijah calls on the name of the Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel.  He asks God to let His power be known so that all of Israel could see Who is the true God, and that Israel would turn their hearts back to where they belonged.  Then (vs 38) the fire of the Lord struck the alter, the wood, even licking up the water in the trench, consuming everything.  When the people saw this they fell prostrate and cried "The Lord - He is God!  The Lord - He is God!"  Then Elijah commanded them to capture all the prophets of Baal.  They would be taken down off Mount Carmel and put to death.

Then in vs 41, Elijah tells Ahab to go, eat and drink, for there is heavy rain coming.  Ahab did as he was told, but Elijah went back up Mount Carmel.  There he told the people around him that the rain was coming from the sea (Mediterranean Sea), which it did, and scattered all the people, including Elijah.

So, it took a courageous prophet like Elijah to force the people of Israel to make up their minds.  He also proved to Ahab that Baal was a fraud, and the only true God was the Lord God of Israel.  One would assume things would then begin to turn around for Ahab and Israel, but not so fast................
.............next post  -  Ahab tells Jezebel what happened.

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