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053 The Prophet Elijah, King Ahab and a famine in Israel

Elijah … said unto Ahab, As the LORD God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.’ (1 Kings 17:1)

Key Verse:

“How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him!” (1 Kings 18:21)

(1 Kings 6-18)

In the last lesson, we studied the story of Solomon, son of the prophet David. We saw how God gave Solomon exceptional wisdom and judgement. In the time of King Solomon, Jerusalem was the most beautiful city in the world. But of all the things which Solomon constructed in Jerusalem, nothing surpassed the beauty of the Temple of the LORD God. King Solomon built the Temple to replace the Tent of Meeting, the special tent of worship, that Moses and the Israelites had constructed in the wilderness. Solomon employed

two hundred thousand workers for seven years

to build this beautiful place of worship. Today one can still see in Jerusalem the great stones of the foundation of the temple that Solomon built.

When the temple was finished, the priests sacrificed thousands of sheep and bulls which speak of the Redeemer who would come and shed His precious blood for sinners. This is how they consecrated to God the temple that they had built for His name. After they had offered those animals and burnt them on the bronze altar of the temple, the priests carried the ark of the covenant (which had been in the Tent of Meeting) and placed it in

the Most Holy Place of the new temple.

When the priests left the Most Holy Place, immediately the glory of the LORD filled the room. Just as the glory of God filled the Most Holy Place in the tent of worship which Moses and the Israelites made in the wilderness, so the glory of God filled the Most Holy Place in the temple that Solomon built in Jerusalem.

Concerning the rest of Solomon’s life, the Scriptures tell us the latter part of his reign was not like the beginning. Read what is written in the first book of Kings, chapter eleven. Again, we will notice that the holy Word of God does not hide the sins of the prophets.

The Scripture says: “But

King Solomon loved many foreign women

 … For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God, as was the heart of David, his father (1 Kings 11:1,4)

Then Solomon built on the hills east of Jerusalem high places for all of his foreign wives,

to burn incense and offer sacrifices to their gods.

When he did this, God was angry with Solomon, because he had turned his back on the Word of the true and living God. Then God said to Solomon, “For as much as this is done by thee, and thou hast not kept my covenant and my statutes, which I have commanded thee,

I will surely tear the kingdom away from thee,

and will give it to thy servant. Notwithstanding, in thy days I will not do it, for David thy father’s sake: but I will tear it out of the hand of thy son. Howbeit, I will not tear away all the kingdom, but will give one tribe to thy son, for David my servant’s sake, and for Jerusalem’s sake, which I have chosen” (1 Kings 11:11-13)

Thus the Scriptures tell us that after Solomon died,

there was fighting and strife within the nation of Israel.

The twelve tribes of Israel which came from the children of Jacob, split in two, just as God had told Solomon. They were no longer one nation; they became two nations,

Israel and Judah.

The ten tribes of Israel in the north of the land formed the kingdom of Israel. The tribe of Judah, joined by the little tribe of Benjamin, formed the southern kingdom of Judah. Judah was the tribe of King David and the lineage through which God had promised to bring the Messiah into the world.

The Scripture relates how

those two nations had many kings.

Most of the kings of Israel and Judah were wicked leaders; they turned their backs on the LORD and followed the religions of the nations around them. Among all those kings of Israel, one was more evil and wicked than all the others. Do you know who it was? It was

King Ahab.

Ahab was the eighth king after Solomon.

Concerning Ahab, the Scripture says:

“Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the LORD than any of those before him.” (1 Kings 16:30)

He also married

Jezebel,

an evil woman who rejected the Word of the LORD. Furthermore, Ahab built in Israel a temple to the name of Baal whom the surrounding nations considered to be God. Thus Ahab greatly angered the LORD by leading the Israelites to follow an empty, false religion and its lying, false prophets.

However, in that time there was a man in Israel who walked with God. His name was

Elijah.

One day, God sent Elijah to King Ahab. 

“Elijah . . . said unto Ahab, As the LORD God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.”      (1 Kings 17:1)

Thus, for three and a half years no rain fell on the land of Israel.

The famine became severe throughout the land.

In chapter eighteen, the Scripture says: (1 Kings 18:1,2,17-46) “And it came to pass, after many days, that the word of the Lord came to Elijah in the third year, saying, Go, show thyself unto Ahab, and

I will send rain upon the earth.

And Elijah went to show himself unto Ahab. And there was a severe famine in Samaria … And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he who troubleth Israel? And he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and

thou hast followed Baalim.

Now, therefore, send, and gather to me all Israel unto Mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal, four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the idols, four hundred,

who eat at Jezebel’s table.

So Ahab sent unto all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together unto Mount Carmel. And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God,

follow him;

but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word. Then Elijah said unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the Lord; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men. Let them, therefore, give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under it; and I will prepare the other bullock, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under it. And call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the Lord; and the God who answereth by fire, let him be God. And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken.

And Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal, Choose ye one bullock for yourselves, and prepare it first; for ye are many. And call on the name of your gods, but put no fire under it. And they took the bullock which was given them, and they prepared it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made. And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud; for he is a god.

Either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is on a journey, or, perhaps, he sleepeth, and must be awakened. And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with swords and lances, till the blood gushed out upon them. And it came to pass, when midday was past, and they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that there was neither voice, nor any answer, nor any that regarded. And Elijah said unto all the people,

Come near unto me.

And all the people came near unto him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord that was broken down. And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of the Lord came, saying, Israel shall be thy name. And with these stones

he built an altar in the name of the Lord;

and he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two measures of seed. And he put the wood in order, and cut the bullock in pieces, and laid it on the wood, and said, Fill four barrels with water, and pour it on the sacrifice, and on the wood. And he said, Do it the second time. And they did it the second time. And he said, Do it the third time. And they did it the third time. And the water ran round about the altar; and he filled the trench also with water. And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah, the prophet, came near, and said, Lord God of Abraham, Isaac and of Israel,

let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel,

and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the Lord God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again. Then the fire of the Lord fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces, and they said,

The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.

And Elijah said unto them, Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape. And they took them. And Elijah brought them down to the brook, Kishon, and slew them there. And Elijah said unto Ahab, Get thee up, eat and drink; for

there is a sound of abundance of rain.

So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he cast himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees, and said to his servant, Go up now, look toward the sea. And he went up, and looked, and said, There is nothing. And he said, Go again seven times. And it came to pass at the seventh time, that he said, Behold, there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea, like a man’s hand. And he said, Go up, say unto Ahab, Prepare thy chariot, and get thee down, that the rain stop thee not. And it came to pass in the meanwhile, that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode, and went to Jezreel.

And the hand of the Lord was on Elijah;

and he girded up his loins, and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel”.

This amazing story is full of the glory and power of God, and does not really need our comments. However, before we close this lesson, we ought to take note of what the prophet Elijah said to the people of Israel. Before he challenged the four hundred and fifty false prophets of Baal, Elijah said to the people, “How long will you waver (stay undecided) between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God,

follow him!”

At first, the Israelites gave no response. However, when they saw how the LORD God answered the prayer of Elijah in causing fire to rain down from heaven upon his altar, the whole crowd fell down prostrate and cried, “The LORD, He is God! The LORD, He is God!” Thus, in a single day, God’s prophet, Elijah, exposed and discredited the false prophets of Baal before everyone and turned the hearts of the Israelites back to the LORD their God!

Why did God answer Elijah’s prayer?

Because Elijah loved the LORD God and believed His Word. Why did God ignore the prayer of the prophets of Baal? Because they were not praying to the one true God who had revealed Himself to Abraham, Isaac, and the nation of Israel. The prophets of Baal ignored God’s Word and followed their own religious traditions. They were zealous in observing their rituals, but they did not serve the living God—therefore,

all their religious zeal was meaningless.

They were like the men in the proverb: “Ten men dig a deep hole, ten men fill it—there is plenty of dust, but no hole!” Like that, the prophets of Baal had plenty of religion, they made a lot of noise with their prayers and sacrifices, but it was all in vain—because

it was not founded upon the Word of the Living God.

Thus, on that important day, the prophet Elijah commanded the Israelites to choose either:

*The LORD God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob or the empty religion of Baal;

*The truth or a lie;

*The way of righteousness or the way of unrighteousness;

*The reliable Word of God or the unreliable words of man’s religion.

What would be your response to Elijah’s question:

“How long will you waver between two opinions?” How long will you waver between the true Word of God and the worthless traditions made by men? The Holy Scripture says: “No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and money” (Matt. 6:24) You cannot mix serving the LORD God and serving an empty religion.

“How long will you waver between two opinions?”

In the next lesson we plan to look at the story of a prophet who spent three days inside a huge fish.

God bless you as you consider what Elijah told the Israelites, when he said,

“How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him!” (1 Kings 18:21)

We would invite you to answer the questions attached and send them together with any questions that you might have