Elijah Bible Study #3
1 Kings 18:22-46
22 Then Elijah said to the people, “I alone am left a prophet of the Lord, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men. 23 Now let them give us two oxen; and let them choose one ox for themselves and cut it up, and place it on the wood, but put no fire under it; and I will prepare the other ox and lay it on the wood, and I will not put a fire under it. 24 Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, He is God.” And all the people said, “That is a good idea.”
25 So Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one ox for yourselves and prepare it first for you are many, and call on the name of your god, but put no fire under it.” 26 Then they took the ox which was given them and they prepared it and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon saying, “O Baal, answer us.” But there was no voice and no one answered. And they leaped about the altar which they made. 27 It came about at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, “Call out with a loud voice, for he is a god; either he is occupied or gone aside, or is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and needs to be awakened.” 28 So they cried with a loud voice and cut themselves according to their custom with swords and lances until the blood gushed out on them. 29 When midday was past, they raved until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice; but there was no voice, no one answered, and no one paid attention.
30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” So all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord which had been torn down. 31 Elijah took twelve stones according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, saying, “Israel shall be your name.” 32 So with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord, and he made a trench around the altar, large enough to hold two measures of seed. 33 Then he arranged the wood and cut the ox in pieces and laid it on the wood. 34 And he said, “Fill four pitchers with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.” And he said, “Do it a second time,” and they did it a second time. And he said, “Do it a third time,” and they did it a third time. 35 The water flowed around the altar and he also filled the trench with water.
36 At the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant and I have done all these things at Your word. 37 Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that You, O Lord, are God, and that You have turned their heart back again.” 38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. 39 When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, “The Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is God.” 40 Then Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; do not let one of them escape.” So they seized them; and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there.
41 Now Elijah said to Ahab, “Go up, eat and drink; for there is the sound of the roar of a heavy shower.” 42 So Ahab went up to eat and drink. But Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he crouched down on the earth and put his face between his knees. 43 He said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” So he went up and looked and said, “There is nothing.” And he said, “Go back” seven times. 44 It came about at the seventh time, that he said, “Behold, a cloud as small as a man’s hand is coming up from the sea.” And he said, “Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot and go down, so that the heavy shower does not stop you.’” 45 In a little while the sky grew black with clouds and wind, and there was a heavy shower. And Ahab rode and went to Jezreel. NASB
22-24 Then Elijah said, "I'm the only prophet of God left in Israel; and there are 450 prophets of Baal. Let the Baal prophets bring up two oxen; let them pick one, butcher it, and lay it out on an altar on firewood—but don't ignite it. I'll take the other ox, cut it up, and lay it on the wood. But neither will I light the fire. Then you pray to your gods and I'll pray to God. The god who answers with fire will prove to be, in fact, God."
All the people agreed: "A good plan—do it!"
25 Elijah told the Baal prophets, "Choose your ox and prepare it. You go first, you're the majority. Then pray to your god, but don't light the fire."
26 So they took the ox he had given them, prepared it for the altar, then prayed to Baal. They prayed all morning long, "O Baal, answer us!" But nothing happened—not so much as a whisper of breeze. Desperate, they jumped and stomped on the altar they had made.
27-28 By noon, Elijah had started making fun of them, taunting, "Call a little louder—he is a god, after all. Maybe he's off meditating somewhere or other, or maybe he's gotten involved in a project, or maybe he's on vacation. You don't suppose he's overslept, do you, and needs to be waked up?" They prayed louder and louder, cutting themselves with swords and knives—a ritual common to them—until they were covered with blood.
29 This went on until well past noon. They used every religious trick and strategy they knew to make something happen on the altar, but nothing happened—not so much as a whisper, not a flicker of response.
30-35 Then Elijah told the people, "Enough of that—it's my turn. Gather around." And they gathered. He then put the altar back together for by now it was in ruins. Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes of Jacob, the same Jacob to whom God had said, "From now on your name is Israel." He built the stones into the altar in honor of God. Then Elijah dug a fairly wide trench around the altar. He laid firewood on the altar, cut up the ox, put it on the wood, and said, "Fill four buckets with water and drench both the ox and the firewood." Then he said, "Do it again," and they did it. Then he said, "Do it a third time," and they did it a third time. The altar was drenched and the trench was filled with water.
36-37 When it was time for the sacrifice to be offered, Elijah the prophet came up and prayed, "O God, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, make it known right now that you are God in Israel, that I am your servant, and that I'm doing what I'm doing under your orders. Answer me, God; O answer me and reveal to this people that you are God, the true God, and that you are giving these people another chance at repentance."
38 Immediately the fire of God fell and burned up the offering, the wood, the stones, the dirt, and even the water in the trench.
39 All the people saw it happen and fall on their faces in awed worship, exclaiming, "God is the true God! God is the true God!"
40 Elijah told them, "Grab the Baal prophets! Don't let one get away!"
They grabbed them. Elijah had them taken down to the Brook Kishon and they massacred the lot.
41 Elijah said to Ahab, "Up on your feet! Eat and drink—celebrate! Rain is on the way; I hear it coming."
42-43 Ahab did it: got up and ate and drank. Meanwhile, Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel, bowed deeply in prayer, his face between his knees. Then he said to his young servant, "On your feet now! Look toward the sea."
He went, looked, and reported back, "I don't see a thing."
"Keep looking," said Elijah, "seven times if necessary."
44 And sure enough, the seventh time he said, "Oh yes, a cloud! But very small, no bigger than someone's hand, rising out of the sea."
"Quickly then, on your way. Tell Ahab, 'Saddle up and get down from the mountain before the rain stops you.'"
45-46 Things happened fast. The sky grew black with wind-driven clouds, and then a huge cloudburst of rain, with Ahab hightailing it in his chariot for Jezreel. And God strengthened Elijah mightily. Pulling up his robe and tying it around his waist, Elijah ran in front of Ahab's chariot until they reached Jezreel. THE MESSAGE
Verse 22 - The other prophets were hidden away, on this day the only one publicly proclaiming the God of Israel is Elijah. 450 to 1, proving once again, the majority is not automatically right.
Verse 23 - The choice of oxen as the test, will serve the additional purpose of being a sacrifice for the sins of the people when God ‘torches’ it. His wrath against an idolatrous nation must be poured out, either on the people or the bull. No doubt satan could have sent fire, but God did not permit it.
Three times Elijah mentions putting no fire under the sacrifice (twice in vs. 23 and once in vs. 25). So What’s the Point? God does not ask us to give Him a hand with the impossible. Sometimes we are guilty deforming God into our own little helpless idol who must be helped along by the fires we build under Him to consume our sacrifice. Does this mean we are to sit by and do nothing? Of course not! Elijah repaired the altar and the sacrifice and he did it according to the principles of the Word. But he put no fire under the sacrifice.
Verse 24 - The test consisted of an answer “by fire.” Elijah declared, “The God that answers by fire, He is God.” But why fire? Baal was worshipped as the Lord of Fire, the Lord of the Sun. Some even worshipped him by passing their children through the fire (2 Kgs. 16:3). So the failure of Baal to bring down fire would demonstrate the fallacy of their beliefs about Baal. In Scripture, fire is used symbolically to communicate certain spiritual principles according to the contexts:
Satan, as the deceiver, is powerful and can bring some answers to man’s prayers, but only under the permissive will of God, and never to man’s true blessing or benefit. He undoubtedly had the power to bring fire from heaven in answer to the ravings of the Baal priests just as the magicians in Egypt were able to counterfeit some of the miracles performed by Moses, but here, God’s sovereignty overruled in order to make the issue clear. So today, people can find some semblance of joy and peace in false religions and in the details of life, money, power, and position, but they will always fall short of true and lasting peace. This only comes through faith in the Savior and through intimate fellowship with Him. In the end times God will permit false miracles to be done by the false prophet to attest to the anti-Christ, we need to be aware of this. Many will be deceived by the display of power, but will not discern the source of the power.
Verse 25 - Elijah lets them go first, because he knows his time is God’s time, the time of the evening sacrifice, the time of Jesus’ death, 3pm.
Verse 26 - 9am to 12 noon, a whole lot of nothing. Much yelling and calling but no answer,
not even a spark or a tiny bit of smoke.
Verse 27 - 3 hours of listening to this causes sarcasm to rise up in Elijah. “Maybe he is in the bathroom!”
Verse 28 - Cutting themselves and causing themselves pain, to gain the favor of their false God. Such displays cause us to be grateful for a God who sacrificed His Son for us, any suffering we go through He is with us. He is redeeming it.
Verse 29 - No voice, no answer. Makes us grateful to the God who is the Word, speaking to us, encouraging us.
Verse 30 - The repair of the altar, is always the first step. Whether Israel was starting over on the building of the temple or Elijah was preparing the ‘test’, the altar is repaired first. And the altar wasn’t just broken down it had been torn down. Evil forces are not content to wait on time to wear down the house of worship, they want to destroy it. The altar is God’s choice as the means which we come to Him in worship.
One of the words used for offering a sacrifice in the Old Testament was qarab. It meant “to come near, approach, draw near,” and then, “to offer, bring.” Another word used, alah, meant literally, “to go up, ascend, climb.” The ascent of the smoke of the sacrifice symbolized access to God through a sacrifice that satisfied God’s holiness in anticipation of the substitutionary death of His Son.
For God to hear our prayer, we need to repair or correct those things in our lives that hinder fellowship with Him. Please review the following important passages: Compare Isaiah 59:1f; Psalm 66:18; Proverbs 28:9; Matthew 5:23-24; 1 Peter 3:7; with 1 John 1:9; Psalm 32:1f; 51:1f; and Proverbs 28:13.
verse 31 - Note also how Elijah repaired the altar--he used 12 stones. Why 12? Elijah was addressing the northern kingdom of ten tribes. After Solomon, the kingdom had been divided into the southern kingdom of two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, and the northern kingdom of the remaining ten tribes. This demonstrated God had never accepted this division. One of the things that always hinders the impact of God’s people in the world is disunity. God wants His people united and working together. This is clear in John 17.
verse 32 - “in the name of the Lord” An altar dedicated to the true God, the almighty God, the Lord of Hosts.
Verse 33 - Again doing everything as God directed him to do it.
Verse 34 - 12 pitchers of water, 12 ‘watered down’ tribes of Israel.
Verse 35 - Water the ‘enemy’ of fire, on the sacrifice, around the sacrifice, everywhere, making the situation even more impossible.
Verse 36 - When he addressed God as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, he was specifically thinking and praying in the light of the covenants and promises and the principles that related to Israel such as: (a) God would not forsake His people; (b) they were to be a nation of priests to the nations of God’s salvation in the coming Messiah; (c) they were to avoid idolatry at all costs; (d) for obedience there would be blessing but for disobedience there would be cursing or the cycles of discipline as spelled out in Deuteronomy 28-29 and Leviticus 26; and (e) they were to be a people of the Word of God. This was to be their daily diet that they might remember the mighty works which He had done. In other words, Elijah’s prayer was motivated and directed by the principles and promises of Scripture.
Verse 37 - “That Thou hast turned their heart back again.” Elijah sought no credit for the results of this miracle. It was all the work of the grace and power of God (1 Cor. 3:5-7; 15:10). Grace! Grace! Grace! Elijah wanted the people to have their confidence not in him, a mere man, but in the Lord and His Word which Elijah followed (1 Cor. 2:1-5). Also, Elijah wanted people to realize something of God’s love and mercy: that without God’s grace that had pursued them like the hound of heaven, they would have proceeded deeper and deeper into sin and the judgment they so richly deserved.
Verse 38 - The stones, representing the 12 tribes, the dust representing man. When God’s fire comes all that is of us is consumed and then to Him goes all the glory. The fire is obviously supernatural because it moves from the top to the bottom.
Verse 39 - Elijah name means the Lord is God, and the people shouted it.
Verse 40 - The most dangerous people in a society are people who claim to speak for God but are false, so now is the time to eliminate them.
Verse 41 - Would Ahab be executed at this time too, no. Mercy is extended to this king again. Only the spiritual man, relying on the promise of God, could
“hear” the sound that Elijah is talking about.
Verse 42 - The contrast is obvious again, Ahab, goes off to fill his belly and Elijah goes off to pray, for an end to the drought. He had the promise of God, but still he prays.
Verse 43 - Go and look, would 6 “no” answers be enough to discourage us, to make us quit. How often do we stop at 6 when the answer is coming at 7.
Verse 44 - Don’t despise the small beginnings, when God starts it, it will finish and it will finish strong. Get going Ahab, the river that you crossed to get here will be un-crossable soon.
This scene provides a second contrast of persons. It shows that Elijah prayed in faith, expectantly. He prayed believing God’s specific promises and with perseverance he continued in prayer, never fainting, wavering or doubting. “Seven times” he told the servant to return. Seven is the number of completion or perfection in Scripture. It is not a magical number. It simply teaches us what perseverance and unwavering faith accomplishes. It is designed to teach the principle of Luke 18:1, “that at all times they (men) ought to pray and not to lose heart.” The need is to keep going until we see evidence of an answer. Elijah wasn’t saying he’d quit after seven.
Another contrast of persons is seen in the servant who kept running back and forth, up and down the mountain to Elijah while Elijah remained steadfast in prayer. The servant is like many believers who pray a few minutes, look out the window and think, “just like I thought, nothing.” Then they try something else and when that doesn’t work, they try a little more prayer. But to pray like that is to be like the double-minded man of James 1:5 who asks, doubts, wavers, asks, then doubts and so on. Elijah did not doubt even after six negative reports. He continued to pray. Why? Because he was standing confidently on what God had promised! Elijah knew God’s will from God’s direct promise.
Have you ever been like this servant? Have you found yourself running back and forth, almost frantic because God didn’t seem to be listening? Well, I certainly have faced that in my own life and I suspect you have too. Let me make four suggestions that can help.
(1) Be sure your prayer is grounded in the Word. This gives confidence.
(2) Be sure your prayer is not from carnal or wrong motives, but directed by biblical principles. Rest in the intercessory ministry of the Holy Spirit who always prays according to the will of God (Rom. 8:26-27).
(3) Keep on asking, looking, and knocking in a faith that rests in God’s fatherly care, love, and timing (Matt. 7:7-8).
(4) Above all, ask the Lord to teach you what He wants to do in you and through you during this period of waiting.
If prayer is so important, why is it so many believers are continually halted in their prayer life? Well, it’s no accident. It is the result of satanic scheming plus our own natural tendencies. Satan doesn’t mind if we witness near as much as he minds if we pray because he knows it is far more important to talk to God about people, than to talk to people about God. It’s when we start talking to God about people that our witnessing becomes most effective.
The same applies to studying the Word, teaching it to others, or Christian activity. If Satan can keep believers off their knees, and keep us running up and down the various mountains of our lives, very little of the Word will really take hold. Instead spiritual pride will develop and the activity will become just busy activity, but ineffective. Prayer is a very important dimension in the life of every believer. May the Lord enable us to keep the dimension of the power of prayer in focus.
Verse 45 - Heavy rain, when the answer comes it comes strong and sure. The sacrifice has been accepted, the long awaited rain can now come.
Verse 46 - Samson was given the strength of God and made the strongest man ever. Here Elijah is given the speed of God and made the fastest man ever. Ahab wouldn’t give him a ride, but he would arrive first nevertheless, and when Jezebel saw Elijah coming first any thought that maybe the rain had come in answer to a pray to Baal would be removed.