Free Bible Study - Elijah and Forgetting

Where do you seek answers? Sadly, those who know the Lord often do not turn to Him for answers. They seek other “experts” and fail to seek out the one who can really help. Ahab and Jezebel’s son falls and is near death, but does not turn to the Lord. He turns to others who cannot help instead of turning to the true God who can heal.

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Focus Passage 2 Kings 1

Here is the story of Ahab and Jezebel’s son, Ahaziah who reigned only two years before his death. A decade or so before Ahaziah's accident, Elijah had won his great victory over Baal (1 Kings 18), but Ahab and Jezebel hadn't been convinced or converted and neither had their family (1 Kings 22:51-53). When Ahaziah was severely injured by falling through a lattice, he turned for guidance to Baal and not to the Lord God of Israel. "Baal" simply means "lord," and "Baal-Zebul" means "Baal is prince."

The announcement that he would die should have moved Ahaziah to repent of his sins and seek the Lord, but instead, he tried to lay hands on the prophet. Ahaziah knew that Elijah was a formidable foe, so he sent a captain with fifty soldiers to bring him to the palace; but he underestimated the prophet's power. Did Ahaziah think that he could kill the prophet and thereby nullify the prophecy? (The Lord's words in v. 15 suggest that murder was in the king's mind.) Or perhaps the king hoped to influence Elijah to change the prophecy. Years before, Elijah ran away in fear when he received Jezebel's threat (1 Kings 19), but this time, he remained where he was and faced the soldiers unafraid.

1.      Who do you seek out when you need answers? What makes them a reliable source of information?  

Answers vary, but those lucky enough to have a good mentor or guide will appreciate their influence in our lives. Such people are very valuable and are a gift from the Lord.

2.      How far away is Ekron (1:2) from Samaria? (see map on back of page) Why do you think this king went outside the country when there were probably priests of Baal back in Israel?

Why did the king decide to send messengers forty miles away to Ekron to consult the priests of Baal? True, Elijah had slain the 450 prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:19, 22, 40), but that was ten years ago. Surely other priests of Baal were available in the land. The king's parents had fed hundreds of these priests at their table (1 Kings 18:19), and it wouldn't have been difficult for King Ahaziah to import priests of Baal to serve as court chaplains. Perhaps he sent to Ekron for help because he didn't want the people in Samaria to know how serious his condition was. The temple of Baal at Ekron was very famous, for Baal was the chief god of that city, and one would expect a king to send there for help. Note that Ahaziah asked the priests of Baal for a prognosis and not for healing.

3.      What message did God send Elijah to share with the messenger of the King? (1:3-4) What was the problem of the king of Israel at the heart of this message?

Elijah intercepted the royal envoys and gave them a message that would both rebuke and sober the king. Why did he want to consult the dead god of Ekron when the living God of Israel was available to tell him what would happen? He would surely die! This ominous declaration was made three times during this event—twice by Elijah (vv. 4 and 16) and once by the messengers (v. 6). Instead of being spokesmen for Baal, the messengers became heralds of God's Word to the king!

4.      Why do you think that we have such a strong desire to know the future? How would it impact you if you knew what the stock market was going to do next week or about the day of your death?

Answers will vary, but probably include a desire to control the future. Sadly, most of us would rather not know as Ahaziah does when we will die. If you can’t change it, you just make the days between now and then miserable.

5.      How did the messengers describe the man they met? (1:7-8) What do you think is going through the king’s mind when he figures out who the prophet was?

It seems incredible that the king's messengers didn't know who Elijah was and didn't learn his identity until they returned to the palace! Elijah was Ahab's enemy (1 Kings 21:20) and Ahaziah was Ahab's son, so certainly Ahaziah had said something to his courtiers about the prophet. The description the messengers gave of Elijah reminds us of John the Baptist who ministered "in the spirit and the power of Elijah" (Luke 1:17; Matt. 3:4). The phrase "a hairy man" (kjv) suggests his garment rather than his appearance. The niv reads "with a garment of hair." Like John the Baptist, Elijah wore the simple camel's hair garment of the poor and not the rich robe of a king (Matt. 11:7-10). It would seem that fear and anger are going through the mind of the king when he hears that it is Elijah.

6.      How might the outcome have been different if Ahaziah had consulted with the Lord first?

While there was a promise to Ahab that his line would be destroyed (1 Kings 21:22), God might have spared Ahaziah from this death. After all, God did give Ahab a reprieve when he humbled himself ( 1 Kings 21:28-29)

7.      How does the king try to undo the prophecy of God? (1:9) What is the result of the kings attempt to overcome Elijah?

The announcement that he would die should have moved Ahaziah to repent of his sins and seek the Lord, but instead, he tried to lay hands on the prophet. (This reminds us of King Herod's seizure of John the Baptist; Matt. 14:1-12.) Ahaziah knew that Elijah was a formidable foe, so he sent a captain with fifty soldiers to bring him to the palace; but he underestimated the prophet's power. Did Ahaziah think that he could kill the prophet and thereby nullify the prophecy? (The Lord's words in v. 15 suggest that murder was in the king's mind.) Or perhaps the king hoped to influence Elijah to change the prophecy. Elijah's reply meant, "Since you called me a man of God, let me prove it to you. My God will deal with you according to your own words." The fire that came from heaven killed all fifty-one men. This judgment was repeated when the second company of fifty arrived.

8.      Why do you think that God killed these 100 men who seemingly were only following orders from the king? Why do you think God allows bad things to happen to people today?

We must not interpret these two displays of God's wrath as evidence of irritation on the part of Elijah or injustice on the part of God. After all, weren't the soldiers only doing their duty and obeying their commander? These two episodes of fiery judgment were dramatic messages from the Lord that the king and the nation had better repent or they would all taste the judgment of God. The people had forgotten the lessons of Mount Carmel, and these two judgments reminded them that the God of Israel was "a consuming fire" (Deut. 4:24 and 9:3; Heb. 12:29). King Ahaziah was a proud man who sacrificed two captains and one hundred men in a futile attempt to prevent his own death. These were not innocent men, the victims of their ruler's whims, but guilty men who were willing to do what the king commanded. Had they adopted the attitude of the third captain, they too would have lived.

9.      How does the third captain approach Elijah differently than the first two? (1:13) How does God treat this man differently?

Insisting that Elijah obey him, the king sent a third company of soldiers, but this time the captain showed wisdom and humility. Unlike the king and the two previous captains, he submitted himself to the Lord and His servant. The third captain's plea for himself and his men was evidence that he acknowledged Elijah's authority and that he would do God's servant no harm. The Lord's words in verse 15 suggest that the danger lay in the hands of the captains and not in the hands of the king. Perhaps the king had ordered them to kill Elijah en route to the palace or after he had left the palace. If the king had to die, he would at least take Elijah with him!

10.  What difference does our attitude make when we are put in difficult situations? What can we learn from the third captain?

The third captain showed a willingness to submit to the Lord. He came and recognized God’s power even as he did his duty. There will be times that we must do something that is distasteful, but we can do it as well with honor toward God and a desire to please Him. The other men tried to order Elijah down from the hill as if the king was more powerful than God. This third captain recognized God’s power and fell on his knees before the true God and His servant.

11.  How has the Lord’s message changed from the first prophecy (1:3-4) till the last (1:16)? What does that tell you about God and about the king?

The king was in bed when Elijah confronted him and for the second time told him he would die. How many times must the Lord repeat His message to a wicked sinner? The king would leave this world with "you will surely die" ringing in his ears, yet he refused to obey the Word of God. Again, we're reminded of Herod's response to John the Baptist, for Herod listened to John's words but still wouldn't repent (Mark 6:20). After about two years on the throne, Ahaziah did die, just as Elijah had predicted, and his younger brother Jehoram (or Joram) became king.

12.  What is the best response when God punishes us or people that we love? What have you learned from this text about the need for obedience to God?

Answers will vary, but should include repentance when we have sinned against God. Only fools like Ahaziah think that they can tell God what to do. When God speaks, we need to listen. Christians should listen because the loving Heavenly Father sees danger coming in our lives and is warning us of the consequences of what we are doing. The wicked should listen because God will punish evil as it destroys the lives of others. They cannot stop God or His control of the world. 

Free Bible Study - Elijah and Naboth's Vineyard

Focus Passage: 1 Kings 21

We often think of God in the Old Testament as punishing. I prefer to think of Him warning people of consequences. Ahab and Jezebel kill a man to take his vineyard. There are consequences for that action just like there are consequences for politicians today who misuse the power of their office. Our God will not be mocked. God announces the consequences for evil life. The twist at the end of the story is what god says about Ahab.

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Ahab and Jezebel had a summer palace at Jezreel, but the king couldn't enjoy it fully without a vegetable garden. Powerful people acquire one thing after another, but in all their acquiring, there's never any real satisfaction. "Thou shalt not covet" is the last of the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:17) but perhaps it's the most difficult one to obey. Even more, a covetous heart often leads us to disobey all the other commandments of God. The first eight Commandments focus on forbidden outward conduct making and worshiping idols, stealing, murdering, and so on—but the last two commandments deal primarily with the hidden desires of the heart.

1.      How do most people feel about a bully who takes what he wants by force?

Answers vary, but most people are repulsed by stories of the rich or powerful taking what they want at the hands of the ordinary people. Find such a story in the newspaper or have people recount stories like this that they know.

2.      What did Ahab want from Naboth? (21:1-2) On what grounds did Naboth feel that it was wrong to sell his vineyard at any price?

Ahab and Jezebel had a summer palace at Jezreel, but the king couldn't enjoy it fully without a vegetable garden. Powerful people acquire one thing after another, but in all their acquiring, there's never any real satisfaction. The king wanted Naboth's vineyard because he coveted a garden convenient to the palace. Ahab masked his covetousness by first offering to buy the vineyard or trade it for another piece of property. It was a reasonable offer, but Naboth was more concerned about obeying God's Word than pleasing the king or even making money. Naboth knew that the land belonged to the Lord and that He loaned it to the people of Israel to enjoy as long as they obeyed His covenant. All property had to be kept in the family (Lev. 25:23-28), which meant that Naboth was forbidden to sell his land to the king. Displaying his usual childishness, Ahab went home, went to bed, and pouted.

3.      What is Ahab’s mood when he doesn’t get what he wanted? (21:3-4) What does Ahab’s reaction reveal about him as a person?

After hearing God's judgment in the last chapter, (20:42), Ahab went home to pout. Driven by anger and rebellion against God, he had a fit of rage when Naboth refused to sell his vineyard. The same feelings that led him to a career of power grabbing drove him to resent Naboth. Rage turned to hatred and led to murder. Naboth, however, wanted to uphold God's laws: It was considered a duty to keep ancestral land in the family. This incident shows the cruel interplay between Ahab and Jezebel, two of the most wicked leaders in Israel's history.

4.      How do you react when you cannot have your way? How do those emotions affect your relationships with others? How do they affect your ability to have other things you want?

Answers will vary, but the class should be encouraged to talk about how anger, tantrums, and other reactions are viewed by family and friends. We can be honest that such displays of emotion may help us get what we want or may turn people away from us. Neither is usually very helpful in the long run.

5.      What did Ahab’s wife Jezebel do to end Ahab’s sulking? (21:5-10) Why was she so concerned about his behavior?

Jezebel devised a scheme that appeared legal to get the land for her husband. Jezebel was a resolute woman who never allowed the truth to stand in the way of what she wanted. Since she came from Phoenicia, she had the Gentile view of kingship, which included being important, getting what you want, and using your authority to take care of yourself. She thus fabricated an official lie, on official stationery, sealed with the official seal. She had two “scoundrels” testify against him since two witnesses were required to establish guilt. They testified that he had blasphemed and the punishment for blasphemy was death by stoning.

6.      To what extent should bosses, rulers and governments be able to take land or do what they want within the boundaries of their authority?

This may be a hot topic since government routinely takes land for building roadways and imposes taxes or rules without having to ask permission of those affected. We all know that this sometimes has to be done, but it might be helpful to discuss if there should be any transparency in such actions or consideration for those affected.

7.      What do the actions of the leaders in Naboth’s city say about them? (21:11) Who else was killed that this passage doesn’t tell us about (2 Kings 9:26) and why was it necessary for them to die as well?

The weak rulers in Naboth's city followed Jezebel's orders, conducted their illegal trial, took Naboth and his sons (2 Kings 9:26) outside the city, and stoned them. Nobody in the family was alive who could inherit the land, so Ahab felt he was free to take it. The officers notified Jezebel, not Ahab, of the execution, so it's obvious who had the power in the royal family. But the land didn't belong to Ahab, and the law says, "Thou shalt not steal" (Ex. 20:15, KJV). The vineyard hadn't even belonged to Naboth—it belonged to the Lord. Ahab was stealing property from God!

8.      Why is it impossible for an evil ruler not to taint those who he or she rules?

Jezebel had obviously influenced and perhaps threatened the leaders of the town. Her evil put anyone who wanted to stand up for good in a bind. Everyone saw what she was doing to Naboth and they seem to not have wanted to join him in death by standing up for truth. The class can probably give modern examples of how corruption in business and government spreads down from the top.

9.      What judgment does Elijah pronounce on Ahab and his house? (21:20-24)

God told Elijah just what to say to the evil king. Ahab had shed innocent blood and his guilty blood would be licked up by the dogs. What a way for the king of Israel to end his reign! Previously, Ahab called Elijah "the troubler of Israel" (18:17), but now he makes it more personal and calls the prophet "my enemy." Actually, by fighting against the Lord, Ahab was his own enemy and brought upon himself the sentence that Elijah pronounced. Ahab would die dishonorably and the dogs would lick his blood. Jezebel would die and be eaten by the dogs. All of their posterity would eventually be eradicated from the land. They had enjoyed their years of sinful pleasure and selfish pursuits, but it would all end in judgment.

10.  How does Ahab react to the news? (21:27) What surprising thing does God do now (21:28-29)

Instead of going home to pout, Ahab actually repented! What his wife thought about his actions isn't recorded, but the Lord who sees the heart accepted his humiliation and told it to His servant. The Lord didn't cancel the announced judgments but postponed them until the reign of Ahab's son Joram. See 2 Kings 9:14-37. Ahab was slain on the battlefield and the dogs licked his blood at the pool of Samaria (22:37-38). Because of the postponement of the judgment, the dogs licked his son Joram's blood on Naboth's property, just as Elijah predicted (2 Kings 9:14-37). Later events proved that Ahab's repentance was short-lived, but the Lord at least gave him another opportunity to turn from sin and obey the Word.

11.  How does this story show the power of coveting? What is the best defense for coveting?

This story of lies, murder, and stealing begins with a desire for someone else’s property. His emotions caused him to steal what was not rightfully his by murdering the owner. In some ways, it is much like the story of David and Bathsheba. The best defense against such coveting is to be thankful for what you have. Ahab had plenty of lands that belonged to him. He just wanted that land because it was convenient. Such greed and desire often cause our downfall.

Time Line

David dies 970

Ahab reigned 874-853

Elijah ministered 875-848

Ahaziah reigned 853-851

Elisha ministered 898-797

Israel destroyed 722



Free Bible Study - Elijah and Flight

Focus Passage: 1 Kings 19

Fear is irrational and it causes us to do things that we regret. Oddly, our greatest time for fear is often right after success. We expected greater things to happen and were disappointed. We felt like the whole world was caving in on us because we didn’t accomplish what we wanted to do. So it is for Elijah. He has just performed the greatest miracle of his life and one of the greatest in the Old Testament. Now he runs for his life in fear.

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It is always encouraging to read "Elijah was as human as we are" (James 5:17). In 1 Kings 18 and 19, we see Elijah at his highest and at his lowest. If Elijah could have described to a counselor how he felt and what he thought, the counselor would have diagnosed his condition as a textbook case of burnout. Elijah was physically exhausted and had lost his appetite. He was depressed about himself and his work and was being controlled more and more by self-pity. When the great miracle did not produce revival in Israel, the prophet concluded that he had failed in his mission and decided it was time to quit. But the Lord didn't see it that way. He always looks beyond our changing moods and impetuous prayers, and He pities us the way parents pity their discouraged children. The chapter shows us how tenderly and patiently God deals with us when we're in the depths of despair and feel like giving up.

1.       Have you ever seen someone have a midlife crisis? What was that like?

Answers will vary, usually a person is so tired and demoralized that they just sit and wonder how they can go on. They may find themselves having trouble planning and moving forward with life.

2.       Why was Queen Jezebel determined to kill Elijah the prophet? (19:1-2) Why do you think that she sent a message instead of just sending troops to arrest or kill the prophet?

Ahab was a quitter, but not his wife! Elijah was now a very popular man. Like Moses, he had brought fire from heaven, and like Moses, he had slain the idolaters (Lev. 9:24; Num. 25). If Jezebel transformed the prophet into a martyr, he might influence people more by his death than by his life. No, the people were waiting for Elijah to tell them what to do, so why not remove him from the scene of his victory? If Elijah disappeared, the people would wonder what had happened, and they would be prone to drift back into worshiping Baal and letting Ahab and Jezebel have their way. Furthermore, whether from Baal or Jehovah, the rains had returned and there was work to do!

3.       What did Elijah pray when he had fled to a lonely place? (19:3-5) Why do you think that he wasn’t more excited about his great victory on Mount Carmel?

Jezebel may have suspected that Elijah was a candidate for a physical and emotional breakdown after his demanding day on Mount Carmel, and she was right. He was as human as we are, and as the ancient church fathers used to say to their disciples, "Beware of human reactions after holy exertions." Her letter achieved its purpose and Elijah fled from Jezreel. In a moment of fear, when he forgot all that God had done for him the previous three years, Elijah took his servant, left Israel, and headed for Beersheba, the southernmost city in Judah. Charles Spurgeon said that Elijah "retreated before a beaten enemy." God had answered his prayer (18:36-37) and God's hand had been upon him in the storm (18:46), but now he was walking by sight and not by faith. (See Ps. 16:7-8.)

4.       Where do you go when life seems to be too much for you? What do you think God wants you to pray in those times?

Answers will vary, but we hope that people are praying for God’s help and for understanding of what to do next. God had to force Elijah into seeing those answers. God wants us to ask for them.

5.       How did God miraculously care for Elijah in the desert? (19:6-9) Why was this a necessary first step even before God could encourage His servant?

Elijah was all spent. God had to meet his physical needs before Elijah was ready to have his spiritual needs met. But while the prophet was asleep, the Lord sent an angel to care for his needs. In both Hebrew and Greek, the word translated "angel" also means "messenger," so some have concluded that this helpful visitor was another traveler whom the Lord brought to Elijah's side just at the right time. However, in verse 7, the visitor is called "the angel of the Lord," an Old Testament title for the second person of the Godhead, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. We aren't told how long the Lord permitted Elijah to sleep before He awakened him the second time and told him to eat. The Lord knew that Elijah planned to visit Mount Sinai, one of the most sacred places in all Jewish history, and Sinai was located about 250 miles from Beersheba, and he needed strength for the journey. What did God say to Elijah when the prophet had taken refuge in a cave? (19:9)

6.       Where did Elijah go (19:8) and why is that place special?

The Lord knew that Elijah planned to visit Mount Sinai, one of the most sacred places in all Jewish history, and Sinai was located about 250 miles from Beersheba, and he needed strength for the journey. But no matter what our destination may be, the journey is too great for us and we need God's strength to reach the goal. How gracious God was to spread a "table in the wilderness" for His discouraged servant (Ps. 78:19, and see Ps. 23:5). Elijah obeyed the messenger of God and was able to travel for forty days and nights on the nourishment from those two meals.—Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) - Old Testament

7.       How did Elijah express his despair about his circumstances? (19:10) What did God command Elijah to do? (19:11)

In this reply, Elijah reveals both pride and self-pity, and in using the pronoun "they," he exaggerates the size of the opposition. He makes it look as though every last Jew in the Northern Kingdom had turned against him and the Lord, when actually it was Jezebel who wanted to kill him. The "I only am left" refrain makes it look as though he was indispensable to God's work, when actually no servant of God is indispensable. God then commanded him to stand on the mount at the entrance of the cave, but it doesn't appear that Elijah obeyed him until he heard the still, small voice (v. 13). Another possibility is that he did go out of the cave but fled back into it when God began to demonstrate His great power.

8.       To what extent do you think Elijah was justified in being discouraged by his circumstances?

Answers will vary. Do not be afraid to let the people be honest about all that Elijah had been through. He had been through a tough ministry that included 3 years in isolation and a real threat of death.

9.       What disturbances of nature did Elijah witness from inside the cave? (19:11-13) In which of the manifestations that Elijah saw was God present? (19:11-13)

What was God trying to accomplish in Elijah's life by means of these awesome and frightening object lessons? For one thing, He was reminding His servant that everything in nature was obedient to Him (Ps. 148)—the wind, the foundations of the earth, the fire—and He didn't lack for a variety of tools to get His work done. If Elijah wanted to resign from his divine calling, the Lord had someone else to take his place. As it turned out, Elijah didn't resign but was given the privilege of calling his successor, Elisha, and spending time with him before being taken to heaven. After this dramatic display of power, there was "a still, small voice," which has also been translated "a gentle whisper, a tone of a gentle blowing." When the prophet heard that voice, he stepped out of the cave and met the Lord. The mighty power and the great noise of the previous exhibitions didn't stir Elijah, but when he heard the still, small voice, he recognized the voice of God. For the second time (see Jonah 3:1), he heard the same question, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" and once again, Elijah repeated the same self-centered evasive answer.

10.   What question did God repeat in the "gentle whisper"? (19:13) Is Elijah’s answer any different? What does that tell you about Elijah’s spiritual state?

What are you doing here?" The prophet's reply didn't really answer the question, which explains why God asked it a second time (v. 13). Elijah only told the Lord (who already knew) that he had experienced many trials in his ministry, but he had been faithful to the Lord. But if he was a faithful servant, what was he doing hiding in a cave located hundreds of miles from his appointed place of ministry? God was saying to Elijah, "You called fire from heaven, you had the prophets of Baal slain, and you prayed down a terrific rainstorm, but now you feel like a failure. But you must realize that I don't usually work in a manner that's loud, impressive, and dramatic. My still, small voice brings the Word to the listening ear and heart. Yes, there's a time and place for the wind, the earthquake and the fire, but most of the time, I speak to people in tones of gentle love and quiet persuasion."

11.   What "marching orders" did Elijah receive from God? (19:15-17)

First, the Lord told Elijah to return to the place of duty. When we're out of the Lord's will, we have to retrace our steps and make a new beginning (Gen. 13:3; 35:1-3). The honest answer to the question "What are you doing here, Elijah?" was "Nothing! I'm having a personal pity party!" Elijah's first responsibility was to anoint Hazael to be king of Syria. This was a Gentile nation, but it was still the Lord who chose the leaders. "[The] Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses" (Dan. 4:25, nkjv). Then he was to anoint Jehu to be king of Israel, for even though the nation had divided, Israel was still under the divine covenant and was responsible to the Lord. His third task was to anoint Elisha to be his own successor. Elijah had complained because the past generation had failed and the present generation hadn't done any better (v. 4). Now God called him to help equip the future generation by anointing two kings and a prophet.[7How many faithful worshipers did God report to be in Israel? (19:18)

12.   What lessons have you learned from Elijah and from the Lord’s encouragement of His prophet? 

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.

If you would like a copy of this study with student guide in Microsoft word that you can use in your small group, just click here. Enjoy!

Free Bible study - Elijah and the drought

Focus: 1 Kings 17

Why would God inflict hardship on his people? Why would He allow war or famine to ravish his people and make things difficult for them? Will God still allow hardship to come on people today? Yes, and it is an act of love for a stubborn people. When we see Elijah for the first time, his message is one of drought and it will be that drought that will set up a time of learning for a stubborn people.

Elijah the Tishbite suddenly appears on the scene and then leaves as quickly as he came, only to reappear three years later to challenge the priests of Baal. His name means "The Lord (Jehovah) is my God," an apt name for a man who called the people back to the worship of Jehovah. Wicked King of Israel, Ahab, who reigned from 875-848 BC, had permitted his wife Jezebel to bring the worship of Baal into Israel and she was determined to wipe out the worship of Jehovah. Baal was the Phoenician fertility god who sent rain and bountiful crops, and the rites connected with his worship were unspeakably immoral. Like Solomon who catered to the idolatrous practices of his heathen wives, Ahab yielded to Jezebel's desires and even built her a private temple where she could worship Baal. Her plan was to exterminate the worshipers of Jehovah and have all the people of Israel serving Baal. As we shall see, God had other ideas.

1. What was one of the worst pieces of news you’ve ever had to convey to another person?

Answers will vary. Ask what made it such bad news? Why did you feel that you had to share it?

2. What was the prophecy that Elijah took to Ahab, king of Israel? (17:1) How do you imagine Ahab felt about Elijah after Elijah pronounced judgment on him?

The Jewish people depended on the seasonal rains for the success of their crops. If the Lord didn't send the early rain in October and November and the latter rain in March and April, there would soon be a famine in the land. But the blessing of the semiannual rains depended on the people obeying the covenant of the Lord (Deut. 11). The land belonged to the Lord, and if the people defiled the land with their sinful idols, the Lord wouldn't bless them.

It's likely that Elijah appeared before King Ahab in October, about the time the early rains should have begun. There had been no rain for six months, from April to October, and the prophet announced that there would be no rain for the next three years! The people were following Baal, not Jehovah, and the Lord could not send the promised rain and still be faithful to His covenant. God always keeps His covenant, whether to bless the people for their obedience or to discipline them for their sins.

3. After speaking with Ahab, why do you think that God directed Elijah to hide? (17:2-3) How were Elijah’s needs met while he was alone in the desert? (17:5-6)

"Go, hide yourself!" was God's command, and three years later the command would be, "Go, show yourself!" By leaving his public ministry, Elijah created a second "drought" in the land—an absence of the Word of the Lord. God's Word was essential to their spiritual lives, it was refreshing, and only the Lord could give it. The silence of God's servant was a judgment from God. The ravens didn't bring Elijah the carrion that they were accustomed to eating because such food would be unclean for a dedicated Jew. The Lord provided the food and the birds provided the transportation! Just as God dropped the manna into the camp of Israel during their wilderness journey, so He sent the necessary food to Elijah as he waited for the signal to relocate.

4. What kind of faith is required for living with just enough for each day and no more? What would you learn by being put in that situation?

The famine was something that Elijah could not control and the area that he was sent to had few resources so he could provide on his own. Here he would have to learn to trust the Lord. Food would come each day and like the people of Israel in the desert, he would come to depend on his Lord. There are often times that we need to go through hardship in order to learn to trust God. The hardship makes us ready for the large task ahead in our lives.

5. Where did God send Elijah after the brook dried up? (17:7-9) What two requests did Elijah make of the widow at Zarephath? (17:10-11)

Elijah lived at Cherith probably a year, and then God told him to leave. God's instructions may have shocked the prophet, for the Lord commanded him to travel northeast about a hundred miles to the Phoenician city of Zarephath. God was sending Elijah into Gentile territory! Even more, he was instructed to live with a widow whom God had selected to care for him, and widows were usually among the neediest people in the land. Since Phoenicia depended on Israel for much of its food supply, food wouldn't be too plentiful there. But when God sends us, we must obey and leave the rest to Him, for we don't live on man's explanations—we live on God's promises. The widow spoke of Jehovah as "the Lord your God" (v. 12, italics mine), for she could easily discern that the stranger speaking to her was a Jew; but even this isn't evidence she was a believer. It's probable that Elijah remained with her for two years (18:1), and during that time, the widow and her son probably turned from the worship of idols and put their faith in the true and living God.

6. What do the ways God chose to provide for Elijah during the drought tell you about how God may take care of you in tough times?

God used the supernatural in both cases, but the food did not just appear. He used the birds and an old widow. In the case of the widow, Elijah’s presence meant that she and her son would not die. Notice, also that the Lord “gives us each day our daily bread”. It would be comfortable to have a large store of food to draw on, but God gives us just what we need each day. 

7. What promise did Elijah make if the widow would be obedient to God? (17:14) How would you have reacted to Elijah’s request in view of the promise?

The woman's assets were few: a little oil in a flask, a handful of barley in a large grain jar, and a few sticks to provide fuel for a fire. But Elijah's assets were great, for God Almighty had promised to take care of him, his hostess, and her son. Elijah gave her God's promise that neither the jar of grain nor the flask of oil would be used up before the end of the drought and famine. God would one day send the rain, but until then, He would continue to provide bread for them—and He did.

8. What did the woman of Zarephath assume when her son became ill and died? (17:17-18)

The mother's response was to feel guilty because of her past sins. She believed that her son's death was God's way of punishing her for her misdeeds. It isn't unusual for people to feel guilty in connection with bereavement, but why would she point her finger at her guest? She recognized Elijah as a man of God, and perhaps she thought his presence in the home would protect her and her son from trouble. Or maybe she felt that God had informed her guest about her past life, something she should have confessed to him.

9. How would the miracle of the flour and oil have appeared to the widow in retrospect if her son had died?

She could have been glad that her son had lived with her an extra two years, but she could easily have been angry with God for giving life and taking it away. Her life would mean nothing as a widow if she did not have a man in the house.

10. When Elijah took the son from his mother, what question did he have for God? (17:19-20)

Elijah's response was to carry the lad to his upstairs room, perhaps on the roof, and to cry out to the Lord for the life of the child. He couldn't believe that the Lord would miraculously provide food for the three of them and then allow the son to die. It just didn't make sense. Elijah didn't stretch himself out on the boy's dead body in hopes he could transfer his life to the lad, for he knew that only God can impart life to the dead. Certainly, his posture indicated total identification with the boy and his need, and this is an important factor when we intercede for others. It was after Elijah stretched himself on the child for the third time that the Lord raised him from the dead, a reminder that our own Savior arose from the dead on the third day.

11.  How did the widow react when her son was returned to her alive? (17:23-24)

The result of this miracle was the woman's public confession of her faith in the God of Israel. She now knew for sure that Elijah was a true servant of God and not just another religious teacher looking for some support. She also knew that the Word he had taught her was indeed the Word of the true and living God. During the time he lived with the widow and her son, Elijah had shown them that God sustains life (the meal and oil didn't run out) and that God imparts life (the boy was raised from the dead).

12. In what way do you find it easy or difficult to obey God when you don’t know what the outcome will be?

During these three years as an exile and a hunted man (18:10), Elijah has learned a great deal about the Lord, about himself and about the needs of people. He has learned to live a day at a time, trusting God for his daily bread. For three years, people have been asking, "Where is the prophet, Elijah? Is he able to do anything to ease the burdens we carry because of this drought? But the Lord is more concerned about the worker than the work, and He has been preparing Elijah for the greatest challenge of faith in his entire ministry.

if you would like a copy of this study in Microsoft word that you can use in your small group, just click here. Enjoy!