Free Bible study - Elijah and the test

Focus Passage: 1 Kings 18

We all want God to do great miracles for us. Why does God seem to do great miracles in the Bible and not always for us? As we look at this second bible study on Elijah, we will see that God did something great to change the heart of a nation. God gave put forth a test to show who was the real God. Elijah had faith to do the miracle and so must we if we are going to do great things for God.

For three years, Elijah had hidden himself at the brook Cherith and then with the widow in Zarephath, but now he was commanded to "show himself" to wicked King Ahab. But along with God's command was God's promise that He would send rain and end the drought that He had sent to punish the idolatrous nation for over three years. Everything that Elijah did was according to the Word of the Lord (v. 36), including confronting the king and inviting him and the priests of Baal to a meeting on Mount Carmel. Ahab called Elijah "the troublemaker in Israel," but it was really Ahab whose sins had caused the problems in the land.

Mount Carmel was located near the border of Israel and Phoenicia, so it was a good place for the Phoenician god Baal to meet Jehovah, the God of Israel. Elijah told Ahab to bring not only the 450 prophets of Baal but also the 400 prophets of the Asherah (Astarte), the idols that represented Baal's "wife." It seems that only the prophets of Baal showed up for the contest (vv. 22, 26, 40) or that they made the offering for both Baal and his “wife”.

1.      Why does Ahab think that Elijah is the troubler of Israel? (18:17) What has Ahab done to be the real “troubler”? (18:18)

Everything that Elijah did was according to the Word of the Lord (v. 36), including confronting the king and inviting him and the priests of Baal to a meeting on Mount Carmel. Ahab called Elijah "the troublemaker in Israel," but it was really Ahab whose sins had caused the problems in the land. Surely Ahab knew the terms of the covenant and understood that the blessings of the Lord depended on the obedience of the king and his people. Both Jesus and Paul would be called "troublemakers" (Luke 23:5; Acts 16:20; 17:6), so Elijah was in good company.

2.      What groups did Elijah want to assemble? (18:19-20) How many people do you picture being present on Mount Carmel?

Representatives were present from all ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom, and it was this group that Elijah addressed as the meeting began. His purpose was not only to expose the false god Baal but also to bring the compromising people back to the Lord. Because of the evil influence of Ahab and Jezebel, the people were "limping" between two opinions and trying to serve both Jehovah and Baal. Like Moses (Ex. 32:26) and Joshua (Josh. 24:15) before him, Elijah called for a definite decision on their part, but the people were speechless. Was this because of their guilt (Rom. 3:19) or because they first wanted to see what would happen next? They were weak people, without true conviction.

3.      How did the people respond when Elijah confronted them with their double-mindedness? (18:21)

The people of Israel have assembled at Carmel. It is going to be quite a contest. Elijah knew what was in the hearts of the people. They were pretending to worship the living and true God, but they were also worshiping Baal. The reason the people did not answer Elijah is that they were guilty of sin. It is that type of double-talk -- a two-faced way of life -- that today has become so abhorrent and is a stench in the nostrils of God. The double standard of many Christians has turned off many people as far as the church is concerned. If the average unsaved man knew the church as I know it today, I have my doubts that he would ever darken the door of a church. If there ever was a place where things should be made clear and plain, simple and forthright, it is in the church. Unfortunately, that is where there is more double-talk and beating around the bush than any place else.

4.      How do people react today when they are confronted with a lukewarm faith? How does the Lord want them to react and why is that so difficult for many?

Answers will vary, but most make excuses or try to change the subject. God wants people who are committed to him and willing to serve others. That requires that people surrender themselves and trust in him. you can not hold on to the world and god at the same time.

5.      What does Elijah propose as a test to show who is the true God? How did the people respond to the confrontation Elijah proposed between Baal and God? (18:22-24)

Elijah weighted the test in favor of the prophets of Baal. They could build their altar first, select their sacrifice and offer it first, and they could take all the time they needed to pray to Baal. When Elijah said he was the only prophet of the Lord, he wasn't forgetting the prophets that Obadiah had hidden and protected. Rather, he was stating that he was the only one openly serving the Lord, and therefore he was outnumbered by the 450 prophets of Baal. But one with God is a majority, so the prophet had no fears. Surely the prayers of 450 zealous prophets would be heard by Baal and he would answer by sending fire from heaven! (See Lev. 9:24 and 1 Chron. 21:26.)

6.      Has your devotion to God led you to any showdown? What logic or test would you give to tell why you worship Yahweh and not one of the other gods present in the world?

Answers will vary. Any test has to be something that we know that God will do. The one thing you can always point to that makes the true God different is the cross and love of God. Other gods want people to come to them. The true God came to us.

7.      What preparations did Elijah make in the sight of the people before he prayed to God? (18:30-35) Why make the sacrifice harder than what the prophets of Baal faced?

But the altar had been destroyed, probably by the prophets of Baal (19:10), so Elijah rebuilt it and sanctified it. By using twelve stones, he reaffirmed the spiritual unity of God's people in spite of their political division. Elijah had given the prophets of Baal some advantages, so now he gave himself some handicaps. He had a trench dug around the altar and filled it with water. He put the sacrifice on the wood on the altar and had everything drenched with water. Elijah was making it so difficult that people would know that the true God did this and not some trick.

8.      How did Elijah address God in prayer? (18:36-37) Why must our prayer be about God in our times of crisis and not about ourselves?

At the time of the evening sacrifice, he lifted his voice in prayer to the God of the covenant, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. His request was that God be glorified as the God of Israel, the true and living God, and make it known that Elijah was His servant. But even more, by sending fire from heaven, the Lord would be telling His people that He had forgiven them and would turn their hearts back to the worship of the true God.  

9.      What happened to the altar of the Lord when Elijah prayed? (18:38) How did the people react when they saw fire burn up Elijah’s offering? (18:39)

Suddenly, the fire fell from heaven and totally devoured the sacrifice, the altar, and the water in the trench around the altar. There was nothing left that anybody could turn into a relic or a shrine. The altar to Baal still stood as a monument to a lost cause. The prophets of Baal were stunned, and the people of Israel fell on their faces and acknowledged, "The Lord, He is God!"

10.  How did people react to the tragedy of 9/11? What was the problem with their worship and adoration of God?

The churches were packed for a few weeks after nine eleven. The problem was that people didn’t want God they were begging for his protection. They wanted his gifts to add to their own defenses. They did not want a releationship with the Lord.

11.  What prediction did Elijah make to Ahab concerning the drought? (18:41) Why was it so important that the rains come after this display of God’s power?

Elijah had announced three years before that it was his word that stopped the rain and only his word could start it again (17:1). He was referring to the power of his prayers, the words that he spoke to the Lord (James 5:17-18). It had been a long and disappointing day for King Ahab, and Elijah sent him to his retainers to get something to eat. Elijah went to the top of Carmel to pray and ask the Lord to send the much-needed rains. "Every day we live," wrote missionary Amy Carmichael, "we have to choose whether we should follow in the way of Ahab or of Elijah." Matthew 6:33 comes to mind. If the rains did not come, then the Lord would not have fulfilled his promise and be only a God of anger and not one of mercy and provision.

12.  What did Elijah perceive that God was doing in Israel through this showdown? What is God doing when He allows crisis to come on a nation or even on the church?

The three years of famine set up this dual. People would not have come in good times, but wanted to see why they were starving and why Baal or God had not provided food for them. God wanted people to return to him and see him as the only giver of the things we need. God must resort to bad times to get the attention of people today. We ignore God when things are good. We pay attention and begin to pray when we face a crisis that is bigger than we can handle.

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