Happy Lord’s Day, friends! In case you just stumbled on, we are working our way through a Bible study written to help prepare tour guests as we travel to Israel soon. However, we want you to come along virtually! Enjoy the study with us, then check back here for live updates from Israel after the study is complete!
Week 1, Lesson 3: Be Like Elijah!
Welcome to our third lesson together! I can hardly wait to host you on our EXPERIENCE ISRAEL TOUR! Not only will we see the sites, experience the culture, and engage the people, but we will grow deeper in our trust of a faithful God. One of the places we will visit is Mt Carmel, the scene of the prophet Elijah’s battle with the Baals. Through Elijah’s experience, we see God’s faithfulness in ways we can identify in our own lives, if we are alert to recognize it and intentional to embrace it.
To understand Elijah’s experience, we need some context. Remember Jacob from Lesson 1? His name was changed to Israel and his 12 sons inherited the land. True to God’s promise to Abraham, each was given land and descendants!
Following David’s teenage conquest of Goliath, he eventually ascended the throne when he was about 30 years old. Despite his faults, David was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22).
Unfortunately, the succession of kings after David were not men after God’s heart, and the kingdom of 12 tribes (sons of Jacob) split in two. David’s son, Solomon built the Temple and reigned over a united kingdom, but one beginning to show some cracks. Israel split following Solomon’s reign. Ten tribes in the north retained the name “Israel,” while two tribes in the south became “Judah.”
On our tour, we will see evidence of the apostasy of Israel as they began to build altars and worship foreign gods. Both kingdoms were ruled almost exclusively by kings who “did evil in the sight of the Lord.” During this time, God sent prophets to proclaim truth to Israel’s kings, but few listened.
One such king was Ahab. 1 Kings 16:29-34 tells us Ahab did more evil in the sight of the Lord than all others. He married an idol-worshipping woman named Jezebel who tried to cut off the prophets of God, and Ahab and Jezebel began to worship Baal, a fertility god. Even before the Hebrew people entered the Promised Land, God warned against worshipping Canaanite gods (Deuteronomy 6:14-15), promising the anger of the Lord would rise up.
It seemed Satan had his evil couple on the throne of Israel, but God had his prophet, Elijah, leading the charge against Baal worship. As sin always does, it brought consequences. Read 1 Kings 17:1-5. What consequence did God send upon the land? What instruction did He give Elijah? How did Elijah respond?
This set the stage for a showdown between Elijah and the Baals. 1 King 18 opens with God’s command to Elijah, which would end the drought. What is the Lord’s command in verse 1?
There is a subplot here, as Obadiah, a servant of Ahab, gets dragged into the scene. On his way to present himself to Ahab, Elijah crosses paths with Obadiah and instructs him to go tell Ahab ‘Elijah is here.’ Obadiah’s response: “Are you crazy!?! He will kill me!”
But God was faithful to Obadiah. He followed the prophet’s instruction and God preserved him!
Thus, Elijah confronted Ahab regarding idol worship and issued a command to gather the 450 prophets of Baal, 400 prophets of Asherah (another idol) and those who eat at Jezebel’s table. Mount Carmel (which we will see) became the gathering point for the great standoff between Elijah and the prophets of Baal. Once gathered, verse 21 says Elijah spoke these words: How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him: but if Baal, follow him.”
Acting alone against pagan prophets, Elijah provided two bulls from which they would choose one to prepare for sacrifice. Elijah took the other and, once both bulls were on the respective altars, Elijah instructed them to call upon the name of their god, and he would call upon his, requesting that fire be sent to the altar.
When they called upon the name of Baal, nothing happened and Elijah mockingly said, Cry aloud, for your god is either meditating, busy, on a journey, or perhaps is sleeping! Despite louder cries, cutting themselves and bleeding profusely, they could not arouse their god.
Then it was Elijah’s turn. Taking 12 stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, he built an altar in the name of the Lord. Around it, he dug a trench. After placing wood on the altar, cutting the bull in pieces, and laying them on top, Elijah commanded his servants to pour water on the sacrifice and the wood three times, until the water filled the trench.
At the time of the evening sacrifice, Elijah said, Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word. Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that You are the Lord God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again.” (Verses 36-37)
Faithfully, the Lord sent fire and consumed the burnt offering, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up the water that was in the trench. (Verse 38) The people responded by falling on their faces saying, “The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God!”
What happened to the prophets of Baal after that? (See verse 40.) Then God brought an end to the drought.
Elijah’s faith was strong because he was convinced of the faithfulness of God! What about you? Do you ever doubt God’s faithfulness when He asks you to take a stand? Have you ever found yourself face-to-face with evil and instructed by God to confront it?
You may not want to hear this but stick with me! Our world is infested with idol worship of all kinds. Some worship money or material things. Some worship screen or sports stars. Some bow at the altar of baby-killing. Some worship the latest scare tactic. Others elevate climate, sexual icons of all types, ecology, animals, and even themselves to positions of god! And it is not slowing down, it is increasing, just as the Bible says it will in the last days!
These are huge global challenges. Will we cave as the Israelites did under Ahab and other evil kings, or will we take a stand and say, “Give me a bull and an altar and let’s dump some water on it because I want to demonstrate how faithful and powerful my God is!”
We all have our personal challenges. But as believers, we also must join together in facing evil put before us collectively. How might you take a stand for righteousness in your city, state, or nation? Elijah, at the Lord’s command, took a stand for his. We would be wise to listen for God’s prompting of us and be like Elijah!