Finally, the Lord sends a true prophet, Elijah to speak some truth into to kings of Israel. Jeroboam began in 930 b.c. and Ahab in 874 b.c., something like 60 years of depravity, of fake religion that misled all the people of Israel (Northern Kingdom). Elijah enters the scene and speaks to Ahab,
“As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.” 1 Kings 17:1
Elijah is initially fed by ravens, sent by God, to give him food. He drank from a brook until it dried up, then the Lord sent Elijah to Zarephath where a widow would supply his needs from a jar of flour and a jug of oil that “will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land” (1 Kings 17:14).
The widow’s son became ill and eventually died. In her grief she lashed out at Elijah, “Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?” 1 Kings 17:18. Elijah took her son to the upper room and cried out to the Lord. God answered by reviving the boy an d Elijah gave the boy to his mother and said, “Look, your son is alive!” 1 Kings 17:23
And so the legacy of Elijah is established.
Three years into the famine, Ahab enlists Obadiah (not the prophet) to search for food and water. The go in opposite directions to cover more land when Elijah meets Obadiah. Elijah tells Obadiah to let Ahab know that he wants to talk. Obadiah is afraid to tell Ahab, but Elijah assures him this is a good plan.
Ahab greets Elijah spitefully, “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?” 1 Kings 18:17. Elijah sets the record straight, unafraid of what this man could do to him,
“I have not made trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “But you and your father’s family have. You have abandoned the Lord’s commands and have followed the Baals. Now summon the people from all over Israel to meet me on Mount Carmel. And bring the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat a Jezebel’s table.” 1 Kings 18:18-19
Game on! Elijah has been given clear direction from the Lord and will now demonstrate the impotence of Baal and Asherah in front of everyone. At the same time, he will discredit Jezebel, the one who seems to be the one running things in Ahab’s name (not that Ahab is good, I just think he’s a sloth while Jezebel is off killing prophets and establishing her rule).
Elijah poses a test to prove God is the one true God and Ahab’s people enthusiastically agree. But as the test begins, the prophets of Baal fail to pass the test, from morning till noon, “there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made” (1 Kings 18:26). Elijah taunted them (must have really been a crazy scene), “but there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention” (18:29).
It’s important to note that Elijah took “twelve stones, one for each of the tribes” (1 Kings 18:31) here. God is the God of unity even though the kingdom is divided, he has not forgotten the lower kingdom.
Now Elijah steps up and builds an altar to God. He even uses the precious water (my guess is this is sea water, not drinkable) to completely cover the sacrifice…three times…totally drenched! The Lord responds to Elijah’s prayer and “burns up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench” (18:38). The people figured out that God was real and Baal was false (clever). They seized the prophets of Baal and slaughtered them. Elijah prays for the drought to end and God brings rain on the land.
Elijah tells Ahab to go have dinner “for there is the sound of a heavy rain” (1 Kings 18:41) coming from the distance. After 3 years of no moisture, surely this would get their attention!
What was Elijah’s response?
The power of the Lord came on Elijah and, tucking his cloak into his belt, he ran ahead of Ahab all the way to Jezreel. 1 Kings 18:46
He ran. Somehow he was more afraid of Jezebel than anything else that happened. Strange, but somewhat comforting to know a man of such faith is still a man, still human, still vulnerable. Not that I’m one ounce of the man Elijah was, but the narrative is here for a reason. May God help us all to understand.