Elijah #2 Tuesday, October 17, 2017 Top
From The Book Running In The Rain (KJV)
By, James L. Thornton
ELIJAH BACK IN ISRAEL:
Elijah #2 Is A Continuation From Elijah #1.
We find Elijah back in Israel after three and one half years in a foreign country living on the provisions God had supplied to a widow woman. No rain had fallen during this period of time and severe conditions existed in Israel.
In this study Elijah confronts Ahab and the false prophets on Mt. Carmel. The following is a list of the things we will cover in this Study #2.
1. Elijah Back In Israel
2. Obadiah, Ahab’s Governor
3. The King And His Master
4. Elijah Denounces The King To His Face
5. The King Obeys The Prophet’s Command
6. Israel’s Conversion
7. The Consequences Of Indecision
8. A Change Of Affection
9. The Test Of Fire
10. The Failure Of The Prophets
11. Their God Was Contemptible
12. Elijah Mocked Them
13. Their God Did Not Answer
14. Repairing The Altar Of Jehovah
15. Water On The Sacrifice
16. Elijah’s Prayer, His Irresistible Weapon
17. The Fire Fell From Heaven
18. The End For Those False Prophets
(1.) ELIJAH BACK IN ISRAEL:
The drought lasted for three and one half years, (Luke 4:25)
then the call from God came to Elijah again.
1 Kings 18:1. And it came to pass after many days, that the word of the LORD came to Elijah in the third year, saying, Go, shew thyself unto Ahab; and I will send rain upon the earth.
2. And Elijah went to shew himself unto Ahab. And there was a sore famine in Samaria.
Like an insidious plague, drought builds slower, spreads farther, lasts longer, and touches more lives than any other natural disaster. As we write Ethiopia is held in the grip of an extended drought which will claim millions of lives.
Drought’s impact ripples like heat off pavements, crops die, food costs soar, livestock starve, water tables drop, fires rage, and heat takes human lives.
The most infamous drought in North American history was the "dust bowl" of the 1930s which withered crops from the Prairie Provinces through the Great Plains and left much of the area forever changed into desert.
The 1988 drought was the costliest natural disaster in U. S. history, with losses of more than 39.2 billion dollars. Fires burned more than 12.6 million acres of the Yellowstone national park. Much of the corn, wheat, and other crops were devastated, the cattle, hog, and poultry farm losses ran into billions of dollars, thousands of municipalities had to ration water, and worst of all there were more than 10,000 heat related deaths.
Much of the world is subject to drought at any given time. Abraham experienced a drought not long after he came into Canaan and left for a while to go to Egypt. (Genesis 12:10) Jacob later went to Egypt because of drought and his family remained there for 400 years. (Genesis 46:6)
So drought was no new thing to the people who lived in the near east and probably caused little alarm when it did not rain after Elijah left the palace of Ahab. (1 Kings 17:1)
But, as I said, drought is a slow process, and its effect does not take place suddenly, so life at the palace continued as before. As the weeks wore into months, and the months into years without rain, and the grass had long ago dried up, concern must have set in about the crops and livestock as the streams, and water supply, dried up.
At first threats had been freely uttered against Elijah, who was perversely regarded as the author of all this misery and the neighboring countries were scoured to find him. Moreover reprisals were made on the system, which he represented, by a fierce persecution of the prophetic order, of which he was a part.
At first, especially if Elijah was unknown before the drought began, both king and people, under the malign influence of Jezebel, professed to regard his threatening with contempt. The more so as the prophets of Baal would not fail to assure them of the protection and blessings of "the lord" of nature, Baal.
But as the months and years passed by, and neither rain nor dew fell the heavens were as brass, the earth like iron, the pastures languished, the fruits of the earth failed, the cisterns became dry, man and child and beast began to suffer the extremities of thirst. And when the entire nation was in dire straits, we cannot doubt that the tone and temper of the country underwent a change.
When the drought lasted through the third year and into the fourth, and when absolute ruin and death stared the nation in the face, the heart of people was slowly being turned backward, from Baal and Ashtoreth, to the Lord God of Israel.
The Lord looked upon the sufferings of his people, and upon their changing attitudes towards him, and he told Elijah to return to Ahab and he would send rain upon the earth.
Thank God "His Mercy Is Everlasting."
At the bidding of God the prophet leaves his Gentile dwelling, takes an affectionate farewell of the humble widow, winds along the old highway by the coast road, and reaches the dominion of Ahab. In Elijah we see his courage, his unwavering confidence in God, and unhesitating obedience to his divine command.
"Hide thyself at Cherith," said God before, and Elijah went. "Show thyself unto Ahab," God says now, and into the very jaws of the lion the prophet goes without murmur or pause.
The conditions of the country are most distressing. There is drought everywhere. The marshes are dry; the fountains have ceased; the most torrent-beds can yield little or no water.
(2.) OBADIAH, AHAB’S GOVERNOR:
Extended drought affects every person from peasant to king, and for this reason Ahab set out, not only to find grass and water to save the remaining horses and mules alive, but to find the person, he felt, responsible for the drought.
1 Kings 18:2. “And Elijah went to shew himself unto Ahab. And there was a sore famine in Samaria.
3. And Ahab called Obadiah, which was the governor of his house. (Now Obadiah feared the LORD greatly:
4.For it was so, when Jezebel cut off (Slew v.13) the prophets of the LORD, that Obadiah took an hundred prophets, and hid them by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water.)”
In these verses we are introduced to one of the most remarkable men in the Old Testament, in fact in the entire Bible, the governor of Ahab’s house, Obadiah.
Seemingly the whole nation, under the malign influence of Jezebel and Ahab, had abandoned the God of their fathers, and turned itself to the licentious worship of Phoenician gods. The altars of Jehovah had been overthrown, and a determined effort was made by Jezebel to stamp out His Prophets and Professors of Jehovah.
We should expect, as a result—what Elijah really believed to be the case (1 Kings 19:10)--that to find a pious man we must search the land as with a candle. If we would look for them it would be away from the habitat of men, "In caves and dens of the earth," near the brook Cherith, or the cottage of Zarephath, or wandering about "In sheepskins and goatskins," & etc. (Hebrews 11:37, 38)
But we should hardly hope to find them in the cities of Israel, in broad light of day, in conspicuous positions, least of all would we look for them in Samaria, where Satan’s seat was, the fortress and citadel of Baal. Or, if we were so audacious, despite the Godlessness of the times and the precariousness of the city, as to count on some saints in Samaria, we would never search among the great men (Jeremiah 5:5); we would go to the cottages of the poor.
We would never dream of finding any followers of the Lord occupying an exalted position, living under the shadow of the Palace, or in close contact with the determined and unscrupulous queen.
But if we were assured that even in Ahab’s Palace, under the same roof with Jezebel, a devout and steadfast servant of Jehovah was to be found, we would certainly have expected to find him in some insignificant servitor, some poor retainer of the place. That any high official, that a Minister of State, could retain his piety in that cesspool of corruption, that hotbed of idolatry and immorality, and at the very time that Jezebel was cutting off the Lord’s Prophets, would seem to us altogether out of the question.
"What communion," we would ask, "hath light with darkness? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?" (2 Corinthians 6:15)
Yet we find Obadiah, the administrator of the Palace of Samaria, the trusted and faithful minister of Ahab, the third ruler in the kingdom, "Feared the Lord greatly" (1 Kings 18: 3), and though surrounded by Baal worshipers, never bowed the knee to Baal. Though risking his life daily, by his devotion to Jehovah, yet served him truly, and succored his prophets.
We have a parallel to this in the New Testament where Paul speaks of "The saints in Caesar’s household." “All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar's household.” (Philippians 4:22) Also of Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward. (Luke 8:3).
Philippians 1:13. So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places;
14. And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
When Paul wrote these words he was in Rome awaiting the verdict of his trial before Caesar. (Philippians 2:23) The year was A.D. 63, the palace of the Caesars was occupied by Nero. Of all those born of women, Nero was perhaps the meanest, basest, most infamous, the most profligate of any.
This Nero was murderer of brother, murderer of mother, of wife, of lovers; persecutor and butcher of the Christians, sworn foe of goodness and purity in every shape, patron and abettor of every kind of abomination---and according to some the "Beast of Revelation."
When we are informed that under his roof, in the midst of the corruption he created, saints are found. We cannot but be impressed with the fact that the wisdom of God has preserved for our encouragement two or three conspicuous instances, one under the old dispensation, and two under the new, of Holy Men and Women living and thriving in a Palace under the most adverse conditions, amid the overflowing of ungodliness.
1. The Apostle Paul lets us know that we are not to desert our post of duty, "Wherein he is called, therein abide with God." (1 Corinthians 7:24)
Let us not forget that every man’s life is a plan of God; that we have been placed where we are by him, and placed there to do his work. (Esther 4:14) Let us not forget, also, that his “grace is sufficient” for us; “that with every temptation he will make a way to escape.”
It was a great mistake of the Hermits and Religious Order of a past age to leave the world because it was so wicked, for this was to take "salt" out of the earth, and leave it to corruption. Churches also have deserted huge sections of our cities, moving out into "better neighborhoods" and leaving thousands of people to fend for themselves against the evils of society. If the men and women, who alone can leaven society, shut themselves up in a cloister or study, it is simply leaving it to the devil to do his worst. (we are all missionaries)
Obadiah was called by the providence of God to be governor of Ahab’s house. The post must have been one of extreme difficulty, of constant trial, and imminent peril. We see from 1 Kings 18:10-14 the kind of man he had to deal with, and how, from day to day, he carried his life in his hand. But he did not desert the state of life into which it had pleased God to call him. He considered that he was there for some good purpose. That he had a work to do which he only could do, and he resolved to stop and do his duty.
Obadiah waited and endured, and at length the opportunity came to fulfill his calling. When Jezebel would exterminate the Lord’s Prophets, then the steward of the palace understood why he had been placed in that perilous and responsible position. It was that he might “Save much people alive.” (Genesis 50:20) Then he did what, perhaps, only he could have done. He took a hundred of the Lord’s prophets, hid them in two caves, and fed them with bread and water. (1 Kings 18:13)
2. It is only the power of God which could keep men Holy in Ahab’s or Nero’s or Herod’s palace.
It is altogether beyond the power of human nature to work the moral changes which Christianity has wrought either to convert men or to preserve them from falling back into depravity. When we note a person like the Apostle Paul, who was a persecutor and an injurious, or like Augustine, who was a devotee of heathen religion, or John Newton, former captain of a slave ship, That such an one should be suddenly stopped, transformed, ennobled, and should preach the faith which he once persecuted, this is very difficult to account for on human ground.
That men and women, who, at their work place, or home environment, are subjected to every evil influence, pride, passion, shame, everything combining against religion--- That these should, nevertheless, "Denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, live soberly, righteously, and Godly" (Titus 2:12) in the Sodom around them. This is no less a miracle of divine grace.
The influences that preserved an Obadiah, a Paul, an Eubulus, a Pudens, and Linus, and Claudia (2 Timothy 4:21) must have been from above.
3. If religion held its own in Ahab’s, or in Nero’s court, it will hold its own and win its way anywhere.
How can we ever despair of our religion so long as we have such proofs that it is the "Power of God unto salvation" (Romans 1:16)? “But where sin abounded, grace (Divine help) did much more abound: (Romans 5:20)
Society, both in our workplace and on our streets, may be very godless; it may be changing for the worse; the masses in our large towns may be very brutal and animalistic in nature. They may be utterly estranged from religion in every shape; But whatever America is like, and whatever England is like, its state is nothing like so desperate as was that of Rome under Nero, or Israel under Ahab.
Again, the natives to whom we send our missionaries, no doubt they are debased, sensual, apathetic, or even hostile to our religion; But are they really worse; is their case more hopeless than that of Ahab’s, or Nero’s subjects?
And if the days of persecution are not ended; if in many countries the sword is still against Christianity, can we find among them all a more aggressive persecutor than Jezebel, or a more unprincipled inquisitor that Nero? We cannot pretend that our sufferings are anything like theirs.
No longer are the prophets hunted like partridges; no longer are they clad in skins of wild beasts, or dipped in cauldrons of pitch; no longer do we hear the bloodthirsty cry of spectators screaming, "Down with the Christians." And yet, despite those terrible mockings and scourgings, those agonies in the amphitheater, those privations in the caves, religion, in Samaria, and Rome alike, held its ground.
In Israel, seven thousand, true-hearted confessors would neither be tempted nor terrified into bowing the knee to Baal (1 Kings 19:18). In Italy, the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the Church; neither Nero, nor Decius, nor Diocletian, could stop the onward march of Christ’s baptized host, and now it is a matter of history how one day the Empire woke up to find itself Christian.
4. If men could be saints in Ahab’s, and Herod’s, and Nero’s palace, they may be saints anywhere. There will be thousands upon thousands who will wear the crown of righteousness whose names never made public record, yet recorded in heaven.
How constantly do men plead the adverse circumstances in which they are placed as a reason why they cannot serve God. Sometimes it is a Godless street in wicked city, sometimes it is an irreligious household, or infidel workplace, or their trade is such, their employers or associates are such, that they cannot live a Godly life.
But the example of Obadiah, the example of those saints of Caesar’s household, convict them of untruth and cowardice. They cannot have greater temptations or fiercer persecutions than befell those Roman saints. If they proved steadfast, and lived in sweetness and purity, which of us cannot do the same wherever we may be placed?
5. The saint’s of Ahab’s and Nero’s courts shall rise in judgment with this generation, and condemn it. This generation will need no condemnation from their judge. (Matthew 7:41; John 5:45)
(3.) THE KING AND HIS MASTER:
For three and a half years king and prophet have not met (Luke 4:25). For three and a half years, forty and two months, twelve hundred and sixty days (Daniel 7:25; Revelation 11:,3; 12:6; 13:5) the mystical period of persecution and blasphemy, the plague of drought has affected the land.
But now the time---God’s "fullness of time" has arrived for it’s removal. The time to favor Israel is come, and the king and the prophet meet again. Seldom in all history has there been such a meeting. It was an anxious moment for each of them. It was a critical moment in the history of the Church. Let us mark the words; let us observe how they bear themselves; We shall surely learn something from their demeanor and discourse.
1 Kings 18:7. And as Obadiah was in the way, behold, Elijah met him: and he knew him, and fell on his face, and said, Art thou that my lord Elijah?
8. And he answered him, I am: go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here.
16. So Obadiah went to meet Ahab, and told him: and Ahab went to meet Elijah.
Elijah would seem to have waited in the place where Obadiah left him until Ahab appeared. He is not going to take the place of a suppliant. Subject though he is, he is Ahab’s superior. He has a commission higher and nobler than the king’s.
Elijah, who during the terrible drought was concealed, now at the word of the Lord, came to show himself to Ahab, as God was about to give rain. What a meeting! One of the worst of kings with one of the noblest of prophets. What confrontation will there be in the great day of judgment! What reversals of past confrontations! What reversals in the order of superiority!
It is Elijah’s task to reprove the king; hence, in a manner he summons him before him. "BEHOLD ELIJAH" The proud monarch, who has scoured all lands in search of him, must now humble himself to go before the prophet.
1 Kings 18:17. And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel?
The two are face to face; it is a solemn moment; the conflict is God’s, and both heaven and the regions of hell are moved in view of the issue.
There is no doubt that Ahab fears to meet Elijah. It is true that Ahab is the first to speak, and accuses the prophet of troubling the land, yet it is probable that, though he put on a bold front, he was from the first thoroughly cowed. We may well believe that, despite his brave words when Jezebel was at his side, and the cheap courage he manifested when he had the court and the priests of Baal at his back, he must have looked forward to this meeting with something like apprehension.
He had good cause for misgivings and fears. First, he was to encounter a true prophet, and one vested with supernatural powers. Of one thing he could have no doubt, as to the "sure word of prophecy" in Elijah’s lips was true. No less than the widow of Zarephath, he had proof that the word of the Lord on Elijah’s lips was true (1 Kings 17:24). "He spake and it was done." He had announced a drought, and it had come to pass, a drought beyond precedent, a drought which still cursed the country, and was at that moment taxing its resources. (1 Kings 18:5)
Another thing Ahab must have been equally certain, that this drought was no chance thing which had happened to him. The coincidence between the word and the event negative that idea. He must see in it the finger of God; He must have recognized in the prophet the power of God. Now the man, for whom he had been searching over hill and dale, in town and hamlet, in his own and in adjoining lands, has proposed a meeting.
Clearly, then, he is not afraid, and he almost compels an interview---"I will surely show myself unto him today." (1 Kings 18:15) Even if Ahab ascribed his power to magic or witchcraft, still men like him tremble in the presence of a sorcerer. We cannot wonder, therefore, if Ahab’s courage almost failed him, and if he looked forward to the meeting with something like dread.
But he remembers how full of threatening and fury he himself had been, and he feels he must put on a bold front; he must carry himself proudly; he must accuse the prophet with wrongdoing. And so, when at last they meet, the king is first to speak.
1 Kings 18:17. And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel?
Words have often served to conceal men’s thoughts; they are often a veil to hide abject fears. Now, we have heard words like these, we have read of them from other mouths than Ahab’s. It is a common charge against the prophets and people of God.
The saints are always in the wrong, and made to carry the blame.
It is always those "who turn the world upside down;" (Acts 17:6)
Always those who "Exceedingly trouble our city." (Acts 16:20)
Our lord was accused of sedition.
The first Christians were called, "Enemies of the human race."
All manner of evil is said against then falsely.
Ahab only speaks "after his kind." He saw that Elijah had been instrumental in bringing down the drought and the terrible famine which accompanied it. He never pauses to ask what moved Elijah to call for a drought, or what caused Elijah’s God to send it. The same charge is made, and with the same unreason and perversity at the present day.
(4.) ELIJAH DENOUNCES THE KING TO HIS FACE:
1 Kings 18:18. And he (Elijah) answered, I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father's house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and thou hast followed Balaam.
(The Righteous Are Bold As A Lion.)
It has been supposed, by some, that Ahab hoped to abash (rattle) the Tishbite, perhaps to have him at his feet suing for pardon. If so, he must have completely misjudged his man. And why should the prophet sue for pardon, when he was clearly master of the situation, it is difficult to imagine? There is no trace of fear in his words. The truth has nothing to fear. And the truth was then, and it is now, that the trouble and the suffering of the world spring out of sin, out of forgetting and forsaking God. This boldness, this high tone, this absence of the slightest indication of alarm, seems to have completely discomforted Ahab, who ventured no reply.
The King Endures The Upbraiding Of The Prophet. Ahab is charged with the ruin of his country, and is speechless. His courage has evaporated. He who would accuse Elijah cannot defend himself. Though anointed king, he is weak and helpless (2 Samuel 3:39), and accepts his subject as his superior. How soon have they traded places?
Ahab has been hunting for the prophet’s life, has been vowing vengeance upon him if found. Now he has found him, and he trembles before him. And this is because his conscience has made him a coward. He knows in his inmost heart that Elijah has spoken the truth; that God is on his side; and he is afraid of him, just as Saul, giant and king though he was, was afraid of the lad, David.
5. The King Obeys The Prophet’s Commands.
1 Kings 18:19. Now therefore send, and gather to me all Israel unto Mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the groves (Asherah) four hundred, which eat at Jezebel's table.
20. So Ahab sent unto all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together unto Mount Carmel.
Elijah might be king from the commands he issues. "Send and gather to me"---observe "to me" "all Israel unto mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal and Asherah…" It is probable that, though Ahab hoped for rain, still he anticipated no good to his or Jezebel’s prophets from this meeting.
He, no doubt, would have disobeyed if he dared. But he has found his master, and it is in this uncouth, untutored Gileadite. At Elijah’s bidding his heralds go throughout the land. The prophet has had a triumph already. The truth and consciousness of right, and the power of God’s presence have proved greater than scepter and crown.
It would take some days for the news to reach everyone. And finally all Israel stood at the meeting place on Mount Carmel.
(6.) LET US FOLLOW ISRAEL’S CONVERSION:
It was for this purpose that Elijah was sent to chastise Israel. In every instance when God chastises, whether it be a nation or an individual, his sole purpose is to bring them to a place of repentance. After three and one half years of extreme drought, God looked upon the suffering of his people and sent Elijah back to them to offer them an opportunity to repent.
There is a large plateau on Carmel which overlooks the valley of Jezreel which has a wide area with enough room to accommodate a very large congregation of people. The Mediterranean Sea is on the western side of the Carmel range. It was to this prominent plateau no doubt that Ahab summoned Israel.
Can we imagine Elijah standing on a prominent place, surrounded on the one hand by the King and his court, with the prophets of Baal and the prophets of Asherah in attendance, and on the other hand the thousands of the people of Israel. Yet Elijah’s main concern centered around the people of Israel, and so he begins his address to them.
From the conversion of Israel on that day at Carmel we may gather some lessons as to the true doctrine of conversion, the conversion of a man from sin to righteousness, from the power of Satan unto God. Let us follow the steps which Elijah took to lead them toward conversion.
Elijah Urged A Change Of Mind.
1 Kings 18:21. And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? If the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.
"…Came Unto All The People,.." Elijah is concerned, not so much with the King, as he is with the people of the Lord. His object was, not to prove that it was Ahab, and not he, that had troubled Israel, but to prove that Jehovah, not Baal, was God.
"…And said, how long halt ye between two opinions,…" The same word translated "halt" in the K.J.V., is used in ver. 26 of the swaying, tottering, dance of the prophets of Baal where they are leaping back and forth. The word denotes the passing over from one place to another—between two opinions.
"How long are you going to jump back and forth between two opinions?" "How long?" Elijah’s voice of stern, yet sorrowful, rebuke must have struck deep into many hearts that day, yet "They answered him not a word."
For Indecision There Is No Defense. Jesus Forecast A Day When Multitudes Would Stand Before Him Speechless. (Matthew 22:12)
"Halting between two opinions" was a true description of the mental condition of the greater portion of the people. Some, no doubt, were blind devotees of the reigning idolatry; Others consented to its rites, and practiced them through fear of the penalty of resistance, or in hope of some secular reward. Others, who had remained true to Jehovah, had hid themselves in caves and dens, so no one was brave enough to take a stand for him.
As a whole "the people" were what we call "wishy-washy"— those who tried to keep good terms with God and the Devil— leaning sometimes to one side and sometimes to the other, swayed by the influences that happened to be strongest upon them at the time. The "Halters" Are Still The Majority.
How few amongst the multitude of the world have resolved in heart and soul that they will go entirely with the devil. It is time you made up your mind one way or the other. That Elijah’s rebuke of the people for "halting between two" implies their power and obligation to decide.
It Is The Responsibility Of Every Man And Woman As Regards His Own Religious Opinions. Opinions, mental judgments, convictions, thoughts, these are the roots from which the fruits of all religious feelings and actions grow. Proverbs 23:7 “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: ...” We cannot well exaggerate the importance of the relation that thoughts bear to the highest interests of our being.
It is thought that inspires affection, moulds character, guides the will, determines conduct, and rules man: God holds every one of us under obligation to think for himself, judge for himself, believe for himself. Let us use with up-rightness of spirit all the means within our reach for the formation of right opinions, and welcome and follow the light that shines from heaven upon our way. It is our duty to carry out, or put into practice, our own honest convictions— "If the Lord be God follow him."
7. The Consequences Of Indecision.
It gets increasingly difficult to choose for the good as the years pass and we get older.
Ecclesiastes 12:1. Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them;
Evil Habits Grow In Strength As The Years Pass:
The simple sprig of ivy can be gathered by a child’s hand, but after the growth of years, though it is killing the tree, you cannot tear it off. A worldly man, who is now impervious to good, never meant to be what he is, but expected that, when the stress of making his status was over, he would have time and inclination to attend to affairs of the soul. Unnoticeably God seems to have “Given him over to a reprobate mind, because he did not like to retain God in his knowledge." (Romans 1:28)
Joshua 24:15. And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; ..."
Hebrews 3:15. While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation.
So We See The Urgency Of The Need For Making The Right Decision- "How Long?" Elijah asks. "When will Israel be true and steadfast in her allegiance to her God and true king?"
2. There will also come the loss of opportunity to choose. Even if it were easier to decide for God next year, it would be madness to delay.
Proverbs 27:1. Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.
James 4:14. Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.
Jesus gives us a good example of a person who procrastinates in the parable of the rich fool. (Luke 12:13-21)
3. Finally will come irreparable ruin and then judgment. If opportunity for God is lost, it will not be re-created after death. See how Jesus spake of Capernaum, of Chorazin, of Jerusalem, because they did not seize the opportunity while it was obtainable. (Luke 10:13-15)
Luke 19:42. Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! But now they are hid from thine eyes.
Revelation 22:11. He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still.
Ecclesiastes 12:14. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.
In the face of such penalties press home the question on the undecided.
(8.) A CHANGE OF AFFECTION:
The second thing Elijah urged in the conversion of Israel was for them to put their affection on Jehovah. Believing Baal to be God they had yielded to him their homage and service. Elijah was out to prove to them beyond a doubt that Jehovah was the true and all powerful God and Baal was only a powerless idol. The heart of man, for the most part, goes with the understanding.
Proverbs 23:7. For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: ...
When they learned of Baal’s impotence; when they saw that they had been deceived, and that the Lord alone sustained them, blessed them, there was strong revulsion of feeling; their heart was turned back again; their affections went forth to him whom they had slighted and wronged. And with all new-born love there will be remorsefulness; grief that we have grieved the Eternal Love. That is what we call repentance.
4. Repentance Will Bring A Change Of Conduct.
1 Kings 18:21."…? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. .."
Repentance Is An About-Face, A Change Of Direction. Faith expresses itself in obedience. When the mind is convinced that the Lord is God and the heart is persuaded, what follows should be a change of conduct.
Colossians 3:1. “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.” 2. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. 3. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.
True conversion involves a turning from following the idols of the world and beginning a new life of following the Lord God.
1 Thessalonians 1:9. ".., and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God;"
In Colossians 3:5-9 Paul gives us a partial list of things we should turn away from and continues in verses 10-16 with the things we should practice.
It is not enough to merely believe on the Lord, although this is essential to salvation, but James tells us that "Faith without works is dead." (James 2:26b)
Ephesians 5:1. Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children;
Conversion is the outward and visible change resulting from a change of heart. Without this change of conduct there is no change at all. The conversion of Israel on that day was not an emotion, an experience, an ecstasy, but a change from Baal-worship to Jehovah-worship. It was a change from impurity and devilry (Deuteronomy 32:17 & 1 Corinthians 10:20) to righteousness; it was a turning "from idols to serve the living and true God." (1 Thessalonians 1:9)
This was Elijah’s first task; his main object. And this is the first step towards the conversion of a soul. That it should "Know the only true God and Jesus Christ" (John 17:3). At the basis of conversion lies the knowledge of God and self.
How many conversions are deferred because men will not look facts in the face? That is all the preacher asks of them, "If there is a God, then serve him, if there is a judgment then prepare for it." Decision of character is necessary to the great change. When the Prodigal says, "I will arise," the first step has been taken. And it is only the first step that costs.
(9.) THE TEST OF FIRE:
1 Kings 18:22. Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the LORD; but Baal's prophets are four hundred and fifty men.
Elijah stood alone as the prophet of the Lord. If the prophets fed by Obadiah had come forth from their caves, they did not stand forth on Carmel in their official character. It also seems that the seven thousand which had not bowed their knees to Baal (1 Kings 19:18) were not willing, or were too fearful, to take a stand with him. One thing he knew that he alone was left to prophesy and to confront the whole hierarchy of false gods. Still addressing the people Elijah proposes a test to prove which was the true God.
1 Kings 18:23. Let them therefore give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: and I will dress the other bullock, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under:
They were wealthy, Elijah was poor. It is fitting that Elijah should choose a bullock as the sacrificial victim. The image of Baal was a bull. This animal was regarded by the ancients as the emblem of fire. We have the name of this god still preserved in our English bull.
The test was to be fair and above board. Not only might the priest of Baal choose their bullock, cut it in pieces after their approved method, and lay it on the wood of their altar; but they must "put no fire under."
This, Elijah emphasized because under some heathen altars holes were dug, in which fire, or in some cases boys, were concealed, that came through cracks between the stones and set the wood on fire to make simple people believe that the sacrifice was consumed by miraculous fire. This Elijah would not permit.
1 Kings 18:24. And call ye on the name of your gods, …
As Elijah is still addressing the people, not, as yet, the prophets of Baal and Asherah (v.25), this change of person is significant. He sorrowfully assumes that they have taken Baal and Asherah for their gods.
1 Kings 18:24b. “…, and I will call on the name of the LORD: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God.”
It must have been by special divine directions that Elijah was moved thus to put the relative claims of God and of Baal to a public test. It appeared to give every advantage to the worshippers of Baal. Baal was the fire god, or lord of fire. His followers imagined that Baal was the fire, or body, of the sun, rather than it’s light.
Elijah’s first object was to demonstrate, before this great convocation on Carmel, the absolute impotence and nothingness of their idol god. ("An idol is nothing in the world." (1 Corinthians 8:4) He had been proving for three and one half years that Baal and Asherah had no dominion over the weather.
And that they could not discharge that primary function of a god, that is to control nature and give his devotees rain from heaven and fruitful seasons (Leviticus 26:4; Deuteronomy 11:17; 1 Samuel 12:17-18; 1 Kings 8:36; Psalms 68:9; Jeremiah 2:23; Joel 2:23; Amos 4:7; Acts 14:17). Now Elijah offers to prove that Baal has no power over the fire.
It is to be observed that there is no mention of rain. We might have expected after the drought that this would be the test. But that could not be promised until the Lord had first been recognized as God. He will also prove that the Lord whom he serves can give both fire and rain.
1 Kings 18:24c. "... And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken."
They accepted Elijah’s proposition, but whether eagerly or reluctantly it is difficult to say. The Hebrew merely conveys that they admitted its fairness and reasonableness.
1 Kings 18:25a. And Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal, …
Having gained the assent of the people, for whose verdict he and the prophets of Baal were now contending, and who were, consequently, entitled to be consulted as to the sign which would satisfy them, Elijah turns to the band of 850 prophets, who probably in all the bravery of their sacrificial vestments (2 Kings 10:22), occupied a separate position on the hill top, between the king and the people, and repeats his proposal to them.
1 Kings 18:25c. Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first; for ye are many; and call on the name of your gods, but put no fire under.
The first choice was given to the priests of Baal. Every pre-eminence and advantage which he gives them will make his triumph, when it comes, all the greater. Elijah again speaks of the immense superiority of their numbers ("for ye are many"), but no doubt he was only too glad to find a reason for their taking the lead. Elijah will give Baal precedence, they should go first, choose their own bullock, and make their own preparations. He is anxious that their inability shall be fully manifested before he shows his own power.
(10.) THE FAILURE OF THE PROPHETS:
1 Kings 18:26a. And they took the bullock which was given them, ...
When the appeal of Elijah to the people had gained their applause, he had the prophets of Baal at his command. The test he had proposed was so fair that they could not reasonably object to it and the voice of the people rendered it impossible for them to evade the trial. The prophet of the Lord accordingly pressed the matter home upon his adversaries in the words of the text.
The prophets of Baal and Asherah were obliged to proceed to the trial which ended in their humiliation and loss of face. Evidently they declined to choose a bullock so one was given them.
1 Kings 18:26b. “.., and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. ...”
Their prayer began early. Everything seems to have been in readiness soon after daybreak; and soon afterwards the cry arose, "O Baal, hear us." The worship of the true God should not be any less zealous. The early morning was chosen by devoted servants for worship of theLord from antiquity. (Genesis 19:27; 22:3; Exodus 24:4; Job 1:5; Psalms 5:3; 88:13; Mark 1:35)
Their prayer was persistent. They continued their supplications, "even until noon." as the sun rose higher and higher their hopes rose with it. As it neared the zenith they felt it was now or never, and 850 voices in full chorus cried, "O Baal, hear us."
(11.) Their god was contemptible.
1 Kings 18:26c. ... But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made.
For three and one half years their cry for rain had gone unanswered, and now, their cry for fire to come down and consume the sacrifice was also unanswered.
Baal was destitute of the attributes they attributed to him. Paul summed this up when he called them "dumb idols." (1 Corinthians 12:2)
How different is the true God! He Is A Spirit--Invisible—Omniscient—Omnipresent, Omnipotent—Holy—Just—Good. He claims, and should receive, the homage of all our faculties.
1 Kings 18:26. .. And they leaped upon the altar which was made.
They began to "leap upon the altar." this is the same word that is translated "halt," in verse 21. It was a description of the reeling, swaying, bacchantic dance of the priests of Baal and Asherah.
Elijah was silent from sunrise till noon and when the experiment had a fair trial he rallied the idolaters with a ridicule that was full of exclamations, and arguments of why Baal was not answering them.
(12.) ELIJAH MOCKED THEM:
1 Kings 18:27a. “And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; ...”
"He is a god;" in your estimation, so, "cry loud:" and long, to get his attention, was Elijah’s mockery of them. Here is one of the few examples of irony in the scriptures. This same type of rhetoric was used by our Lord, "art thou a master in Israel and knowest not these things?" (John 3:10)
1 Kings 18:27b. “…; either he is talking, ...”
"He (your god) is so thrilled with the sound of his own voice and with the voices of his associates in the shrine that he cannot hear the ordinary voices of mortals." This same word is also translated, "meditating." "Or else he is in a deep study," "therefore cry aloud."
1 Kings 18:27c “..., or he is pursuing, ...”
"Or, he is so engaged with some other matter that he cannot hear, or does not have time for, your feeble voices."
1 Kings 18:27d. …, or he is in a journey, ...
"Maybe he’s on a trip." "…Or he is so far away that your prayer will be useless unless you can cry aloud."
1 Kings 18:27. “…, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked.”
"Maybe he’s daydreaming". "Maybe he is taking his midday siesta, therefore, you must raise a clamor about his ears to arouse him, or you pray in vain." Elijah’s derision raised the clamor of the prophets of Baal and Asherah to a fever pitch.
1 Kings 18:28. And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them.
Although they were under the watchful eyes of their king and patron, and of the entire body of people, yet it is still impossible to doubt their sincerity. "…They cried aloud…" Eight hundred and fifty voices in full chorus cried, "O Baal, hear us!"
"…, And cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them." They urged their entreaties with frantic gestures and mingled their own blood with their sacrifice. Idolatry is essentially cruel, and this contrasts strongly with the service of Jehovah, who declared through Moses that his servants should not mutilate their bodies. (Leviticus 19:28; Deuteronomy 14:1-2)
13. Their God Did Not Answer
1 Kings 18:29. And it came to pass, when midday was past, and they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded.
In vain the priests cry and leap, and cut themselves in their savage rites; and there came no answering voice from their deaf and dumb idol. Elijah allowed them all the time he could, considering the great work he had himself to do, which would absorb all the rest of the day. They continued their frenzied cries; they pursued their calling, "they cried and prayed," "until the time of the evening sacrifice."
The time of the evening sacrifice was offered at the ninth hour, or three p.m. The scripture is emphatic concerning the futility of their cries. "And There Was Neither Voice, Nor Any To Answer, Nor Any That Regarded." "But No Voice Came, No One Answered, No One Paid Any Attention."
When evening set in they gave up the contest in despair. There is an evening in which all contests with Jehovah shall so terminate. (Matthew 25:31-32)
Elijah left the priests of Baal prophesying in despair. Satan, if permitted, could have brought fire down (Job 1:12; Revelation 13:13); but God restrained him. The Septuagint (LXX) has a curious variation and addition here: "and Elijah the Tishbite said to the prophets of idols, stand back; I will now make ready my offering."
1 Kings 18:30a. “And Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me. And all the people came near unto him. ..”
He was done with the priests. They have had their opportunity; his turn has come. The people had gathered around the altar of Baal, and some, no doubt, had joined their prayers with those of the priests. Verse 24a, "And call ye on the name of your gods." Now they must stand around the altar he is about to build. He will have eye-witnesses and ear-witnesses. There must be no suspicion of imposture.
The people were now convinced that Baal was not able to hear his priests; so they drew around Elijah, and observed the order in which he proceeded with his preparation.
(14.) REPAIRING THE ALTAR OF THE LORD:
1 Kings 18:30b. …. And he repaired the altar of the LORD that was broken down.
Then there had been an altar of the lord on camel. This altar may have dated from a time when there was no house built unto the name of the Lord. Some great man, as Abraham, or Samuel, had built an altar there, and its relics remained as a memorial of the piety of earlier times. It is likely that it had been restored by some of the "seven thousand who had not bowed their knees to Baal" (1 Kings 19:18), or by the one hundred who had been fed by Obadiah. (1 Kings 18:13.)
We can hardly be mistaken in saying that this was one of the "altars thrown down" (1 Kings 19:10), by command of Ahab or Jezebel. Elijah’s repairing it was an act of profound significance. Elijah would not use the altar used by the priests of Baal. The service of Jehovah must be pure. It must not be contaminated by the remotest connection with idolatrous abominations.
The Apostle Paul reiterates this to the Corinthians.
2 Corinthians 6:15. And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
16. And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
17. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,
This rebuilding of the altar of the Lord showed Elijah as a restorer of the law and true religion.
1 Kings 18:31. “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:”
This was done to show that, though ten of the tribes had separated from the house of David, still, in worship, there should be no division, but unity. Throughout the Old Testament twelve stones represented the unity of the children of Israel. Likewise Joshua commanded that twelve stones be taken from the Jordan River and be set up as a memorial to their entrance into Canaan. (Joshua 4:9, 20)
1 Kings 18:32. And with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD: ...
As the minister of Jehovah, Elijah took the twelve stones he had salvaged from the former altar, and rebuilt it in the name of, and by the authority of, and for the glory of, Jehovah, and dedicated it to his service.
Let us note the meticulous care with which Elijah went about building an altar and the detail, as to the wood, and the preparation of the sacrifice.
1 Kings 18:32b. “…: and he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two measures of seed.”
Various interpretations have been given as to how large the trench was, so, we will just say he dug a big trench around it. The people, along with Ahab and the prophets of Baal, must have wondered, "why the trench?"
1 Kings 18:33. “And he put the wood in order, and cut the bullock in pieces, and laid him on the wood, ...
Why did he not dispense with the wood? The heavenly fire certainly didn’t need it, for it fell upon the sacrifice before it touched the wood, and was so fervent that nothing could stand before it. In the preparation Elijah obeyed all the instructions of the law regarding the offering of a burnt sacrifice. He thus publicly taught that all the ordinances of the law were binding on the kingdom of Israel.
The law provided that the sacrifice should be offered only by the priests, the sons of Aaron (Leviticus 1:8). As the priests of Jehovah had long been exterminated by the order of Jezebel, Elijah exercised the higher commission of his office as prophet of Jehovah, which embraced within itself the authority for all priestly acts. (1 Samuel 16:1-13)
(15.) WATER ON THE SACRIFICE:
1 Kings 18:33. .., and said, Fill four barrels with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice, and on the wood.
To the astonishment of all the spectators, Elijah ordered that four barrels of water be poured on the sacrifice. Did he not know that water was the most precious commodity in the land? Did he not realize that the drought had dried up rivers and lakes and streams and wells, to the point where gold and silver could not purchase it? And here is Elijah asking that four barrels of this precious substance be poured on the altar of sacrifice.
Two questions arise. How big were the barrels? Where did the water come from?
The Hebrew word (kad) has been translated "pitcher" fourteen times and "barrel" four times, so it seems that it was a large portable jar carried on the shoulder, mostly by the women, which held about 3½ gallons. (Genesis 24:16)
The water could very well have been brought from the Mediterranean Sea which was on the western side of Carmel, but most likely from some spring which came out of the side of the mountain.
1 Kings 18:34a. “And he said, Do it the second time. And they did it the second time.”
Greater astonishment must have come, when, after great effort and sacrifice, of bringing the first four barrels of water and pouring them on the altar, Elijah commanded them to do it a second time.
1 Kings 18:34b. “... And he said, Do it the third time. And they did it the third time.
35. And the water ran round about the altar; and he filled the trench also with water.”
This last sentence seems to indicate that after twelve barrels of water had soaked the sacrifice, and the altar, and the wood, Elijah himself filled the trench around the altar. The object of the repeated drenching of the sacrifice, and the altar, was to preclude all suspicion of fraud. Idolatrous priests were accustomed to set fire to the sacrifice from a hollow place concealed beneath the altar and this practice was well known in Elijah’s day.
Sometimes a man or boy was hidden under the altar for this purpose and many of these died of suffocation in the ensuing fire. Elijah intended, by the people watching him lay the stones, and the great quantity of water, which gave everything a profuse soaking, to avoid all suspicion of fraud.
(16.) ELIJAH’ PRAYER, HIS IRRESISTIBLE WEAPON:
1 Kings 18:36a. “And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, ...”
The evening sacrifice was probably offered then, as it certainly was at a latter day, at the ninth hour (3 p.m.), which became the hour of prayer in New Testament times (Acts 3:1), This was also the hour that Jesus died on the cross (Mark 15:34). All preparations by Elijah are complete. It is the time for Jehovah to put an end to the contest. There is an evening coming in which all contests with Jehovah shall so terminate.
When Elijah completed his preparations for offering his sacrifice, the prophets of Baal stopped their ranting and raving and gathered to watch, hoping that the servant of Jehovah likewise would fail. And, should Elijah fail, then would they fall upon him and destroy him. No doubt such thoughts flashed through their minds; but the moment has arrived; the preparations are complete.
1 Kings 18:36b. “…, that Elijah the prophet ...” This designation of Elijah is unusual. Only here and in Malachi 4:5, elsewhere he is "The Tishbite", or, "The Man of God."
1 Kings 18:36c. “… came near, and said, LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, ...”
Not only does the sacred name stand at the head of his prayer, it is mentioned three times. (The LXX Four Times) He wanted the people to know to whom he was calling upon.
Two Things Are To Be Noticed Here.
First, That this formula had only once before been used, and that by God himself, before the giving of the law, at the burning bush. (Exodus 3:6 & 15)
It was when God revealed himself in flaming fire, that he had proclaimed himself the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.
Secondly, That the variation "Israel," in place of Jacob (ver.31),
Not only to proclaim the Lord as the "God of Israel", but also to suggest that the name and privileges of Israel belong to all the sons of Jacob. The LXX adds, "Hear me, O Lord, hear me this day by fire"—most of which is borrowed from the next verse.
1 Kings 18:36c."...., let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word."
"Prove Yourself To This People." "Prove Me By Thy Glory." "Prove that everything was done according to thy word." "The drought, the ensuing famine, the contest with Baal, and the miracles you are going to perform today, prove it by sending fire and rain."
1 Kings 18:37. “Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again.”
The prayer reminds God of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. That, "Thou art the self-existent, covenant keeping God."
It sues for mercy to the penitent. “And that thou hast turned their heart back again."
Elijah speaks with such faith as if God had already answered with fire and the people had already believed and repented. The blessings of the covenant are predicated, or conditioned, upon faith and repentance. Without Repentance There Is No True Faith.
How few are the words of this prayer (63)! No vain repetitions. How wide the contrast with the clamor of Baal’s priests!
17. Fire Fell From Heaven
1 Kings 18:38a. “Then the fire of the LORD fell, ...”
Not lightning, as some would have us believe, but supernatural flames and heat emanating from God himself. Less than a century before, at the close of Solomon’s prayer of dedication, the same fire had fallen on the sacrifice, and had been kept burning in the temple by the priests. (2 Chronicles7:1)
1 Kings 18:38b. “…, and consumed (Heb., Ate Up, Devoured) the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, ...”
There Was No Mistake About It!
It was indeed the fire of Jehovah miraculous fire, for it worked downward, contrary to the ordinary operation of fire, which works upwards. So hot that the very stones and dust were vaporized (2 Peter 3:12). They were vitrified, volatilized, dissolved …
The destruction of the altar pointed to the will of God that patriarchal high places should be removed, and that all Israel should henceforth worship at the Levitical altar of the temple at Jerusalem. This is the last instance on record in which God accepted a sacrifice on a Patriarchal altar.
1 Kings 18:38c. “…, and licked up the water that was in the trench.”
"Licked" is clearly onomatopoetic (imitating the sound), like our lick. It expresses well the action of tongues of flame licking up the water. This well represents the decent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost when, "There appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them." (Acts 2:3) The demonstration was irresistible. The people were filled with wonder and amazement.
1 Kings 18:39. “And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The LORD, he is the God; the LORD, he is the God.”
Here Is An Act Of Reverence Toward God.
The total consumption of the sacrifice, along with the stones of which the altar was constructed, the dirt which was packed between the stones, and the water, which is the natural enemy of fire, was so overwhelming, and convincing, that the people fell on their faces in reverence of Jehovah. They recognized in the fire the token of the divine presence, and they gave to God the ultimate homage, as was so often demonstrated in the Bible by those convinced of his magnificence.
Here was an act of reverence toward God; it was also the sign of their renunciation of Baal. This prostration before the Lord was accompanied by a confession in words, "the Lord, he is the God; the Lord, he is the God." The Apostle Paul reiterates the importance of confession in our salvation.
Romans 10:9. “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
10. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
But even the words of confession must be followed by deeds. The prophets of Baal have now to be sacrificed.
(18.) THE END FOR THOSE FALSE PROPHETS:
The law required this. (Deuteronomy12:1-11; 13:1-18)
1 Kings 18:40. And Elijah said unto them, Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape. And they took them: and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there.
Elijah acted immediately upon the false prophets. The people had not fully recovered from their terror and awe before he proceeds with judgment. Many times the judgment and retribution of God is swift, consider Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:24-25), also King Herod. (Acts 12:21-23)
Hebrews 10:31. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
1 Kings 18:40b. … And they took them: and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there.
The story has the ring of truth, and was doubtless preserved in writing by an eyewitness, probably Obadiah, as he was the minister of Ahab’s house (1 Kings 18:3). The compiler of the books of the Kings having made use of court records which covers a span of 450 years. (1 Kings 16:20, 27)
Elijah could but lead the way as the prophets numbered 850. (Do not think that the prophets of Ashere escaped the slaughter) Obviously, Elijah merely superintended the slaughter. Josephus rightly explains; "They slew the prophets at Elijah’s instigation."
This action of the prophet in instituting this wholesale slaughter in the hour of his triumph has been repeatedly arraigned and denounced, but most unjustly. According to some, it was an act of gross fanaticism and cruelty. Others have seen in it a wild and terrible vendetta for the murder of the Lord’s prophets.
It is necessary for those who challenge Elijah’s conduct in this respect, who call him bloody, vindictive, & etc., to settle their account with the law which he obeyed. And, indeed, with Him who has approved this deed, and has forewarned us that he too will act in like manner. (Luke 19:27)
It is true that the spirit of Elijah was not the spirit of Christianity (Luke 9:56), but it is forgotten how different was the dispensation of Elijah from that of the new covenant. In that age idolaters must receive their just recompense of reward, because the judgment to come had not then been revealed. Therefore justice must be measured out to men in this life.
We do not avenge idolatry or irreligious now with fire and sword, not because the thing is any less sinful, but because the duty has been taken out of our hands. Our religion instructs us to leave it to him who has said, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay." (Romans 12:19)
In Elijah’s day it was a duty laid upon the Jewish people, however distressing and harrowing it might be (Exodus 22:20; Deuteronomy 13; 17:2-7), to provide that the worshippers of false gods, and especially the teachers of such worship, should be put to death. It was primarily the duty of the authorities, of the theocratic King and his subordinates, to execute these injunctions.
But the King of that age was corrupt and powerless, and more so, was himself idolatrous. So great was the depravity of the time that the false prophets enjoyed the favor of, and protection of, the court, and the true prophet was everywhere being hunted to death.
It was only Elijah that could put the law in force and he only in the hour of his triumph. Elijah held a commission higher than the King, as the prophet of the Most High God. He had just proved that "The Lord, He is God." It was now for him to prove that God’s law was no dead letter, by carrying out that law by executing the false prophets.
The people had put God back on his rightful throne by falling on their faces and proclaiming Him to be the Lord by popular acclamation. Then they had joined in exterminating the prophets of Baal, and now it was time for God to remove the curse.
In the next Study #3 we will observe Elijah in prayer and in answers God sends rain once again on the land.
We thank you for reading the study on Elijah.
We will continue the study of Elijah in another chapter called Elijah #3.
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By, James L. Thornton