Elijah Bible Study # 2
1 Kings 17:13-18:21
1 Kings 17:13 Then Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go, do as you have said, but make me a little bread cake from it first and bring it out to me, and afterward you may make one for yourself and for your son. 14 For thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘The bowl of flour shall not be exhausted, nor shall the jar of oil be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain on the face of the earth.’” 15 So she went and did according to the word of Elijah, and she and he and her household ate for many days. 16 The bowl of flour was not exhausted nor did the jar of oil become empty, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke through Elijah.
Elijah Raises the Widow’s Son
17 Now it came about after these things that the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became sick; and his sickness was so severe that there was no breath left in him. 18 So she said to Elijah, “What do I have to do with you, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my iniquity to remembrance and to put my son to death!” 19 He said to her, “Give me your son.” Then he took him from her bosom and carried him up to the upper room where he was living, and laid him on his own bed. 20 He called to the Lord and said, “O Lord my God, have You also brought calamity to the widow with whom I am staying, by causing her son to die?” 21 Then he stretched himself upon the child three times, and called to the Lord and said, “O Lord my God, I pray You, let this child’s life return to him.” 22 The Lord heard the voice of Elijah, and the life of the child returned to him and he revived. 23 Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper room into the house and gave him to his mother; and Elijah said, “See, your son is alive.” 24 Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.”
18:1 Now it happened after many days that the word of the Lord came to Elijah in the third year, saying, “Go, show yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the face of the earth.” 2 So Elijah went to show himself to Ahab. Now the famine was severe in Samaria. 3 Ahab called Obadiah who was over the household. (Now Obadiah feared the Lord greatly; 4 for when Jezebel destroyed the prophets of the Lord, Obadiah took a hundred prophets and hid them by fifties in a cave, and provided them with bread and water.) 5 Then Ahab said to Obadiah, “Go through the land to all the springs of water and to all the valleys; perhaps we will find grass and keep the horses and mules alive, and not have to kill some of the cattle.” 6 So they divided the land between them to survey it; Ahab went one way by himself and Obadiah went another way by himself.
7 Now as Obadiah was on the way, behold, Elijah met him, and he recognized him and fell on his face and said, “Is this you, Elijah my master?” 8 He said to him, “It is I. Go, say to your master, ‘Behold, Elijah is here.’” 9 He said, “What sin have I committed, that you are giving your servant into the hand of Ahab to put me to death? 10 As the Lord your God lives, there is no nation or kingdom where my master has not sent to search for you; and when they said, ‘He is not here,’ he made the kingdom or nation swear that they could not find you. 11 And now you are saying, ‘Go, say to your master, “Behold, Elijah is here.”’ 12 It will come about when I leave you that the Spirit of the Lord will carry you where I do not know; so when I come and tell Ahab and he cannot find you, he will kill me, although I your servant have [g]feared the Lord from my youth. 13 Has it not been told to my master what I did when Jezebel killed the prophets of the Lord, that I hid a hundred prophets of the Lord by fifties in a cave, and provided them with bread and water? 14 And now you are saying, ‘Go, say to your master, “Behold, Elijah is here”’; he will then kill me.” 15 Elijah said, “As the Lord of hosts lives, before whom I stand, I will surely show myself to him today.” 16 So Obadiah went to meet Ahab and told him; and Ahab went to meet Elijah.
17 When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is this you, you troubler of Israel?” 18 He said, “I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father’s house have, because you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord and you have followed the Baals. 19 Now then send and gather to me all Israel at Mount Carmel, together with 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of the Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.”
God or Baal on Mount Carmel
20 So Ahab sent a message among all the sons of Israel and brought the prophets together at Mount Carmel. 21 Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people did not answer him a word. NASB
1 Kings 17:13-14 Elijah said to her, "Don't worry about a thing. Go ahead and do what you've said. But first make a small biscuit for me and bring it back here. Then go ahead and make a meal from what's left for you and your son. This is the word of the God of Israel: 'The jar of flour will not run out and the bottle of oil will not become empty before God sends rain on the land and ends this drought.'"
15-16 And she went right off and did it, did just as Elijah asked. And it turned out as he said—daily food for her and her family. The jar of meal didn't run out and the bottle of oil didn't become empty: God's promise fulfilled to the letter, exactly as Elijah had delivered it!
17 Later on the woman's son became sick. The sickness took a turn for the worse—and then he stopped breathing.
18 The woman said to Elijah, "Why did you ever show up here in the first place—a holy man barging in, exposing my sins, and killing my son?"
19-20 Elijah said, "Hand me your son."
He then took him from her bosom, carried him up to the loft where he was staying, and laid him on his bed. Then he prayed, "O God, my God, why have you brought this terrible thing on this widow who has opened her home to me? Why have you killed her son?"
21-23 Three times he stretched himself out full-length on the boy, praying with all his might, "God, my God, put breath back into this boy's body!" God listened to Elijah's prayer and put breath back into his body—he was alive! Elijah picked the boy up, carried him downstairs from the loft, and gave him to his mother. "Here's your son," said Elijah, "alive!"
24 The woman said to Elijah, "I see it all now—you are a holy man. When you speak, God speaks—a true word!"
1 Kings 18:1-2 A long time passed. Then God's word came to Elijah. The drought was now in its third year. The message: "Go and present yourself to Ahab; I'm about to make it rain on the country." Elijah set out to present himself to Ahab. The drought in Samaria at the time was most severe.
3-4 Ahab called for Obadiah, who was in charge of the palace. Obadiah feared God—he was very devout. Earlier, when Jezebel had tried to kill off all the prophets of God, Obadiah had hidden away a hundred of them in two caves, fifty in a cave, and then supplied them with food and water.
5-6 Ahab ordered Obadiah, "Go through the country; locate every spring and every stream. Let's see if we can find enough grass to keep our horses and mules from dying." So they divided the country between them for the search—Ahab went one way, Obadiah the other.
7 Obadiah went his way and suddenly there he was—Elijah! Obadiah fell on his knees, bowing in reverence, and exclaimed, "Is it really you—my master Elijah?"
8 "Yes," said Elijah, "the real me. Now go and tell your boss, 'I've seen Elijah.'"
9-14 Obadiah said, "But what have I done to deserve this? Ahab will kill me. As surely as your God lives, there isn't a country or kingdom where my master hasn't sent out search parties looking for you. And if they said, 'We can't find him; we've looked high and low,' he would make that country or kingdom swear that you were not to be found. And now you're telling me, 'Go and tell your master Elijah's found!' The minute I leave you the Spirit of God will whisk you away to who knows where. Then when I report to Ahab, you'll have disappeared and Ahab will kill me. And I've served God devoutly since I was a boy! Hasn't anyone told you what I did when Jezebel was out to kill the prophets of God, how I risked my life by hiding a hundred of them, fifty to a cave, and made sure they got food and water? And now you're telling me to draw attention to myself by announcing to my master, 'Elijah's been found.' Why, he'll kill me for sure."
15 Elijah said, "As surely as God-of-the-Angel-Armies lives, and before whom I take my stand, I'll meet with your master face-to-face this very day."
16 So Obadiah went straight to Ahab and told him. And Ahab went out to meet Elijah.
17-19 The moment Ahab saw Elijah he said, "So it's you, old troublemaker!"
"It's not I who has caused trouble in Israel," said Elijah, "but you and your government—you've dumped God's ways and commands and run off after the local gods, the Baals. Here's what I want you to do: Assemble everyone in Israel at Mount Carmel. And make sure that the special pets of Jezebel, the four hundred and fifty prophets of the local gods, the Baals, and the four hundred prophets of the whore goddess Asherah, are there."
20 So Ahab summoned everyone in Israel, particularly the prophets, to Mount Carmel.
21 Elijah challenged the people: "How long are you going to sit on the fence? If God is the real God, follow him; if it's Baal, follow him. Make up your minds!"
Nobody said a word; nobody made a move. The Message
One of the reasons we are studying Elijah is because his life is a picture of the end times church witness for God. He is standing for God, against an unholy alliance of power politics and religion. Ahab, as the head of state, and Jezebel, the leader of the false religion, picture the anti-Christ and his false prophet.
(I am led to make each of these lessons a “stand alone” study, so there will be themes and ideas repeated, in the 5 studies. I can’t think of any harm in the repetition of truth, but if you would be studying them back-to-back, it may seem a little unnecessary.
17:13A servant of God, truly led by God may seem very bold, even arrogant at times. They are so sure of the God that they serve that they ask for others to believe for the impossible. They look past the facts to the God who can alter the facts anytime He wants to. They are not intentionally stepping on toes, but it sure does feel like it.
17:14 Me: Hey Elijah, you are NOT in Israel!
Elijah: I know that is my point, the God of Israel is the God of all, even Zarephath, Jezebel’s home town.
Turns out the drought and the famine was affecting this area too. And the God who was in charge of it, had chosen to provide for this widow. Jesus would use this to excite anger in a crowd, during His ministry. It is an example of how when the Jewish people refused to reach out beyond their borders, God reached out anyway. Their call was to be a light to the nations, but they (like the church) got to caught up in the blessings and never proclaimed His faithfulness beyond their borders.
This provision of the sovereign God, will get you through to the next provision of the sovereign God. But the amazing thing is, he is asking a gentile to believe this, about an unseen God.
17:15 Desperation leads to acts of faith. Really if the prophet is a liar, we only miss one meal, our ‘last’ meal anyway, so “she went and did according to the word of the Lord”, which is exactly the statement of how Elijah lived his life.
17:16 “And they lived happily ever after” Nope, the Bible is not that simple, but they were provided for in the midst of a drought, by a miraculous provision day by day, no big jar to look to in the corner, just a little jar with just enough for the next meal, one meal at a time. Such is the life of faith.
17:17 Tragedy, unforeseen, terrible, overwhelming crashes into our lives. The widow and Elijah will display the two responses to tragedy. “Why God?” versus “Now what?”
Quite unexpectedly, in the midst of a period of God’s supply and relative ease and quiet, disaster strikes. The widow’s son is taken sick and actually dies--with the prophet of the living God living right in her home! Elijah had most likely been teaching this lady and her son the truth of God. She, however, like so many people today, may have been more interested in the physical blessings, in the interesting elements of the spiritual nourishment and in the daily miracle than in really getting to know God. The Lord, however, was more concerned that she get to know Him because He was her real need.
J. Hampton Keathley, III
17:18 The widow launches into a time of sentence blaming Elijah. His holy living in the midst of this little family has brought conviction on the woman, and since all she knows is a ‘god’ whose favor can be bought or lost, she connects her sin to her sons death and connects it all to the presence of Elijah.
What is the primary good God wants for us? I believe it is Christlikeness. He is committed to transforming our lives into the image and likeness of His Son (Rom. 8:28-29). But due to our proneness to wander, our tendency to live independently of Him and manage our own lives, God must sometimes orchestrate suffering or pain. This is illustrated in the pictures of the Vine Dresser (John 15) and that of a father who disciplines or trains his children (Heb. 12:5f).
In the pictures of the ancient Roman method of threshing grain, one man is always seen stirring up the sheaves while another rides over them in a crude cart equipped with rollers instead of wheels. Sharp stones and rough bits of iron were attached to these cylinders to help separate the husks from the grain. This simple cart was called a tribulum--from which we get our word “tribulation.” When great affliction comes to us, we often think of ourselves as being torn to pieces under the cruel pressures of adverse circumstances. Yet as no thresher ever yoked up his tribulum for the mere purpose of tearing up his sheaves but to disclose the precious grain, or remove the chaff from the grain, so our loving Savior never puts us under the pressure of sorrow and disappointment needlessly.
17:19 Elijah displays tremendous restraint here, no arguing back, no “the only reason either of you is alive is because of me.” He just asks for the boy and carries him up to his room.
17:20 Alone with a corpse and a God, he poses a question. Is this Your ‘final’ word? Is the boys life gone for good? Not hearing a response he ‘goes to work.’
17:21 Praying, interceeding, putting his life on top of the boy 3 times.
17:22 The living God, the hearing God, the merciful, prayer-answering God, chooses to put life back into the boy.
17:23 Elijah carried him up, and now Elijah “brought” him down. He carried him up lifeless and limp, interceeded to the God of all, and brought him down with the breath of life, that only God can provide, animating the boys life.
17:24 NOW, the miracle of provision day in and day out was not enough, the widow had to see power over life and death to fully trust and fully believe in Elijah’s God. That is our ultimate
question, our ultimate fear the thing that is always “out there” in our mind and heart. When we know, really know that He has conquered death, hell and the grave, we are given great peace.
18:1 God hid Elijah, but Elijah was not hiding. Part of the punishment for Israel was a withdraw of the prophet and the prophetic word. Now that it was time for the showdown, Elijah would be revealed to Ahab, in God’s time, in God’s way. “I will send rain” is the promise, but first the nation will be prepared by seeing portrayed for them the futility of Baal and the awesomeness of God.
Elijah’s 3 1/2 years in hiding was not wasted. It serves to remind us that in the process of the larger purpose of God for one’s life, God is always at work to test, train, and prepare us for other things. We need to learn the importance of being faithful in the smaller responsibilities of life. Now three years have passed and it is time for God to make His point to Israel through the prophet. Elijah was a tool being sharpened and fashioned for things to come, but it is no different for us--if we are available to be sharpened and used.
18:2 Severe - the word used to describe the famine gives a hint of the pain and problems that were being caused by a lack of rain.
18:3,4 Obadiah, a faithful servant of God, working ‘high up’ in a corrupt government. Using his position to preserve life, providing shelter and provision for the persecuted prophets. If he is caught it would cost him his life, so his is no ‘easy life.’
18:5 Sadly the king is not looking for God, not repenting and turning in any way from his idol worship, no, his highest goal at this point is “grass.” The temporary fix, to keep some animals alive, with no thought for why the famine continues or how much longer it may continue.
18:6 The strategy of splitting up allows Elijah to meet up with Obadiah first.
18:7 Obadiah, knew the importance of the word of God and ‘honored the prophet as a prophet.’
18:8 A simple command is given, but in Obadiah’s mind a flood of ‘what if’s?’ comes rushing in and fear follows fast on the trail. God is in the business of stretching us to become more effective vessels for His purposes. We, however, like to stay within the comfort zones of our little routines, which include our places of work and even our places of spiritual ministry. This was the case with Obadiah but the Lord had other plans for him--just as He has for us. It was God’s plan to use the younger prophet to announce Elijah’s presence to Ahab. Due to the conditions, this was no small challenge.
18:9 Again just like the widow woman, the simple presence of Elijah brings conviction, in such a manner that the person asks, “What sin have I committed?”
18:10 Maybe you don’t know, here is a quick update, you are all ten of the ten most wanted!
18:11,12 I believe God is protecting you, but I have a much harder time believing He is protecting me. I am going to do this, you will disappear and I will get killed, end of story.
In times of real persecution, serving the Lord can be life threatening, as it was for Obadiah. For most of us, our fears generally fall into three categories: (a) fear of failure, (b) fear of rejection, and (c) fear of loss, i.e., fear we might have to give up something we think we must have to be happy. The cost of this rejection can be anything from being snubbed or having people think we are odd or dumb, to loss of a job, or even one’s way of life.
Fear can paralyze and thus neutralize us. Fear can keep us from venturing out and being available to the Lord. This was what was happening to Obadiah. But we have a mighty God who has promised to stand with us so we can overcome our fears. We are told in 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity (fear), but of power and love and discipline (a sound mind).” We need the encouragement of others, as happened here. We need the power of a Spirit-filled, Word-filled life. We need genuine love that is willing to sacrifice for God and others. And we need the discipline of sound mind thinking that counts on the promises and principles of Scripture.
Obadiah’s thinking was undermining his ability to respond to Elijah’s request and need. It shows us how we need to bring every thought into captivity and to think with the perspective of the promises and principles of God’s Word.
18:13 Obadiah is arguing that since he did a good thing back there and got away with it, he should not have to do this ‘good thing’ because this time he might get killed. He is being asked to step up to a new level of commitment, and he is resisting it. He understood that the command of the prophet was the command of God, but he counted what could 'possibly’ be his cost and he wanted to be 'let off.’
18:14 Obadiah says, I know how this is going to end, with me dead.
18:15 Elijah makes it clear that this is the timing of God. It is God’s plan and it will happen today. It is God’s word.
As believers in Christ and especially as leaders, we need to help others to see the majesty of the Lord and see that our lives are ordered and directed by that same majesty. This illustrates why it is so important for leaders to be models of integrity, men and women who are faithful and stable. One of the signs of decay in a church or in a nation is when the leadership acts as capricious children governed by their own whims and fancies (cf. Isa. 3:4).
18:16 Argument over, Obadiah submits to the word of the Lord.
18:17 When man will not accept that his actions are the cause for God’s judgment, he will place the blame on God’s messengers, which is actually God.
Confrontation is rarely painless, never easy, often rejected, and always risky. But in some conditions it is commanded by Scripture, illustrated in Scripture, and often essential to spiritual growth, godliness and biblical change. Of course, confrontation needs to be done according to biblical principles, in a biblical way, for biblical reasons, and out of right motives. We usually avoid it for selfish reasons--out of fear of the consequences to ourselves. Such a response is neither faith nor love. It is cowardice. It is pleasing ourselves rather than acting in faith and love. “Better is open rebuke Than love that is concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy” (Pro. 27:5-6).
This directly applies to our times and it is only going to get worse as the end approaches. Oh how this scene has been repeated throughout history. Whenever people disturb our comfort zones, challenge our opinions, values, and sources of trust with the truth of God’s Word and His calling, we often react in resentment and self-denial. Then, as a protective mechanism, we label them as “troublers” rather than dealing with our own hearts.
18:18 Elijah can’t ignore this and sets the record straight. The sins of you and your fathers, have not been repented of, they have been piling up and so the judgment must come, has come.
When we turn away from following the Lord through fellowship with Him in the Word, we experience what we can call the vacuum action of the soul, or the pursuit of life through our own devices and the substitutes offered in the world around us. When we turn away from a personal relationship with the Lord, from depending on Him through His Word, we naturally turn to what we think will make us happy, secure, and significant. The Bible defines this as vain imaginations or futile speculations of the heart (Rom. 1:21; Eph. 4:17; Jer. 2:4-5).
All false routes to joy, . . . have one thing in common: they represent strategies for living that in some measure we can control. They do not require us to yield our core commitment to dependence. God’s message is consistent: utter dependency is the route to satisfaction.
18:19 Elijah now commands the king to get the false prophets and gather them for a 'showdown.’ His emphasis on them eating at Jezebel’s table speaks again of the alliance of politics and religion, that enabled the 'religious’ to eat well and prosper. Power corrupts religion. It has always puzzled me that the “400 prophets of the Asherah” are never mentioned as showing up. Did Jezebel have an idea that this was not going to go well and so kept these back?
18:20 The king obeys the prophet, this is how it is to be in God’s kingdom. Nothing and no one is above the word of the Lord.
It would seem reasonable to conclude that both King Ahab and his subjects were expecting Elijah to pray for rain to end the drought. But not so. Neither Ahab nor the people were in any way ready for the blessing of rain. The Lord had them under judgment for neglecting His Word and for their idolatry, which they had as yet failed to acknowledge. There were some serious issues in their lives that had to be faced before God could bless them with rain. How like us! We want God’s blessings without facing our responsibilities concerning our relationship with Him and the need for deep down repentance. Much of Christendom today, departing from the message of the Bible, appeals to this desire for blessing without calling attention to man’s real need as set forth in Scripture.
18:21 Elijah asks the ultimate question and the people’s silence is deafening. Had the power of Ahab, scared them. Did the shear numbers 450 to 1 make them think they should stay silent. Interestingly, they do not swear allegiance to Baal at this point. They are silent, waiting to see what will happen.
With the words, “How long” the prophet was asking them what it was going to take to wake them up. How much of God’s discipline would they have to endure before they realized the way of life they’d chosen was not working? Not only had God closed the blessings of heaven, but He was revealing the emptiness and barrenness of the life they had chosen. What was it going to take?
First Kings 18:21, like Matthew 6:19-21, is a challenge concerning heavenly treasure and a call for a radical evaluation of our lifestyle, our sources of trust, our goals in life, and our commitment. Jesus sees earthly and heavenly fortune hunting to be in direct competition. He says, do not lay up earthly treasure, but lay up heavenly treasure. We might prefer it to be a question of both/and whereas He shows us it is an either/or.
The principle of 1 Kings 18:21 and that of Matthew 6:19f means that as long as the idols of this world fascinate us, i.e., the things we think we must have to be happy--money, power, praise, attention--we are going to find life miserable. White writes, “We were created to have one center. To have two is to be miserable and to enjoy neither spiritual things nor material.”