1 Kings 18
Baal was the Canaanites’ chief fertility god as well as the storm god in charge of clouds, wind, and rain—all necessary for crops to grow. Ancient statues show him gripping a lightning bolt in his left hand, ready to hurl it as a spear toward earth. The three-and-one-half year drought had been a great embarrassment to worshipers of Baal. So, Elijah’s test to Baal’s followers seemed like a good opportunity to vindicate their god and they readily agreed to it.
This chapter (I Kings 18) is one of the most significant chapters of the Bible. It could be titled “Winner Takes All” or “The Fight of the Century.” It is the showdown between the living God of heaven and the idols of men on earth. After three years of drought, God tells Elijah to come out of hiding and go back to show himself to Ahab. He was a wanted man; Ahab thought of him as a snake, a viper. No doubt, the stench of death was all around. The famine was severe by now…
1. Read 1 Kings 18:1-15. (See the map after the previous lesson to follow Elijah’s travels.) Besides Elijah, who else was learning about faith in God at this time? How?
2. What is Elijah commanded to do and how does he respond?
Read I Kings 18:16-40. There are 3 main groups represented at this showdown: the “No Comment Fence-Sitter” Israelites, Ahab + Jezebel’s Baalites, and Elijah plus God. Let’s look at them one at a time to glean our lessons.
3. Why was this showdown necessary for them? What did Elijah do in v. 31-32, 36 to remind them of their identity?
4. Divided allegiance is as wrong as open idolatry. It is likely that hundreds, if not thousands, congregated on Mount Carmel in answer to Elijah’s directive for Ahab to summon them (v. 19). The people were lukewarm toward God, “straddling the fence,” perhaps trying to combine both religions. The easiest thing to do in the hour of decision is to remain uncommitted. But, with God, it’s either/or, not both. Read Revelation 3:15-16; James 4:4-5. What does the Bible say about people who try to “straddle the fence?”
5. Your Life’s Journey: Follow the steps below to overcome being a “no comment fence-sitter” in your life.
· Step 1: Choose to become committed to God and His ways. One of God’s purposes was to turn the hearts of the people back to Himself. This involves a choice. Read John 8:12. If you haven’t made this choice for your life already, why not do it today?
· Step 2: Choose to stay committed. Read the following questions and answer any that apply to your life. Have you felt that tension between your Christian faith (often snubbed as “traditional”) and the pull of your modern culture? In what ways is the tension most challenging to you and why? Have you sometimes been tempted to desert some of God’s ways to fit in better by taking the “embrace the best of both worlds” approach? Or, have you stood firm for God and His ways in spite of opposition? What have been the results of any of these choices?
6. In today’s passage in 1 Kings 18, contrast the religious practices of the Baal worshipers with Elijah as a worshiper of the true God.
7. What does God honor? Read also Romans 10:8-13; Ephesians 2:8-9; and Hebrews 11:1,6. How do these scriptures encourage you as a Christian?
Think About It: When we stray away from Christ as our life, we have no alternative but to return to self-generated, self-centered, and self-disciplined religious experience and the “counsel of the ungodly.” (Bob George, Growing in Grace, p. 36)
8. Review from last week: What had Elijah come to know and understand about God over the previous 3 years that prepared him for this very public challenge?
9. Discuss Elijah’s prayer and God’s answer.
10. How did the people respond?
11. In 1 Kings 18:15, Elijah refers to God as “The Lord Almighty (NIV)” / “The Lord of Hosts (NAS).” This is a very meaningful title for God. Read any or all of the following verses where this title for God is also used: 1 Samuel 17:45; Isaiah 5:16, 6:3; Jeremiah 11:20, 31:35, 50:34; Zechariah 7:9-10. List what is told about Him as the Lord of Hosts.
12. Your Life’s Journey: In what ways does your life reflect the reality of God’s being Lord of Hosts? For instance, do you find reassurance in His power or have you experienced His help? Are there some fearful situations that you have given over to Him?
13. Your Life’s Journey: Allow God to grow you; you can become the Elijah in your sphere of influence. As Elijah did, you can make the choice to be committed to God and the specific job He has given you to do. Elijah points out the truth and doesn’t back down. John Knox, Scottish evangelist of the 1600s, once said, “God and one are a majority.” Never underestimate the influence of one unique, totally dedicated life.
· What is your sphere of influence right now in your stage of life?
· Where do you need to be totally committed to Him?
· Make a list right now of 5 people in your sphere of influence who need to know the one true God and commit to pray for God to reveal Himself to them in an unmistakable manner. In confidence, wait for and watch Him work.
14. Read 1 Kings 18:41-46. How did God, through Elijah, finish up His Mount Carmel demonstration?
15. What does it teach us about God?
Our day is characterized by mediocrity. Christians blend into the scenery of the times. God looks for special people at such difficult times, and His methods are often surprising. We expect flash; He uses ordinary, everyday lives. He uses women who are engaged in constant ministry to their families in their homes. It may be to only 1, 2, or 3 people. We shouldn’t look down on that. What we must remember is that first and foremost, we stand before God. He looks for men and women whose hearts are completely His, who won’t blend into the scenery of their culture, bowing the knee to idols. God found a man who was completely His. Would God find you to be completely His today?