Read 1 Kings 18:18-29
· V. 17 – “The troubler of Israel” is a great label for someone in your household – human or beast – who causes unrest and anxiety whenever s/he enters the room.
· V. 19 – From some historical digging around, we discover that Carmel was most likely a center of Baal worship. It appears that Elijah not only is challenging the Baal prophets, he’s giving them home field advantage.
· V. 21 – A perennially relevant question. In every generation there is a large “middle category” of folks who don’t see themselves as among the world but at the same time aren’t ready to declare themselves as God’s servants prepared to do whatever He’s said. The western church is filled with such.
· VV. 28, 29 – I’ll quote a commentator at length who finds application for today’s church:
Please note, however, the assumption on which the Baal prophets operate: God will begin to do things if only we get a flurry of passionate religious activity going. Do we not then have our own ‘evangelical Baalism’? God will surely work if only we…spend longer in personal devotions and more time in private prayer; belong to a home Bible study group or form a peer accountability group; get more people involved in our visitation evangelism program; attend week-end marriage enrichment seminars or hold a singles retreat; start neighborhood clubs for kids or early morning men’s prayer breakfasts or provide mothers’ morning out; hold more missions conferences and increase ‘faith promise’ giving; or add a spring Bible conference; solicit someone to direct the 5th and 6th grades choir; become involved in a parachurch ministry on a local college campus or go on a short term mission trip to Jamaica or take the youth on a ski trip to Colorado; get a church bus ministry off the ground and spearhead the start of a Christian school; and be able to dim the lights in the sanctuary to create ambiance, while spending quality time with spouses and families. All this Christian busyness is as exhausting as Baal worship, even minus the gashes. Most of these are not illegitimate activities (I am not opposing e.g., more time spent in Bible study or mission trips), but might an illegitimate rationale drive them? Are these means of grace or gimmicks designed to manipulate, impress, or stir up God? You may not be a prophet of Baal, but you may think like one. If only we…, then God will… - Dale Ralph Davis
Read 1 Kings 18: 30-40
· V. 31 – Seeing Elijah select twelves stones according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, we conclude that for Elijah this is more than just a spiritual contest between two deities. He’s recalling the nation that once was united, pointing them back to what they had lost. Elijah is a prophet of Israel, calling the nation to return to their covenant with God and to the promise held out for them to be a light to all the nations. We too need such prophets who see remember the past, see the big picture.
· V. 30, 32 – As a side note, it’s interesting to see an authorized altar outside of the Temple in Jerusalem (1 Kings 8: 22, 28, 31). This is definitely not ideal, a concession to the broken reality. So, the twelve stones point to the ideal, yet the altar they form is a bit of an accommodation.
· The whole setup is to demonstrate the supreme power of God, and to show that He works along improbable and impossible lines. From this passage, we can conclude that God doesn’t need _____________ to fulfill His purposes. With which several items could you fill in that blank? Draw encouragement from the great resourcefulness of God, and let’s get to prayin.’
· V. 40 – The great slaughter of the day isn’t due to Elijah being in a fit of temper or even as Elijah the Vigilante. This is Elijah the Prophet of Israel carrying out the capital punishment prescribed in the Torah (Deuteronomy 13) against those who turn people away from the one God.
Read 1 Kings 18: 41-46
· Which New Testament passage looks back on this passage, and what is its point?
· If you answered the previous with James 5:16-18 and prayer, you’re a winner! You’re even more of a winner if you get to prayin’ this morning! But I’m not like Elijah, you say. And of course, that was James’ point: you’re built of the same stuff, and more importantly, worship the same God.
· V. 41 – Since there weren’t yet rainclouds in view (v. 44), we wonder exactly what rain sounds Elijah heard. He did have in his pocket God’s promise that rain was on the way after he sees Ahab (18:1). So perhaps as faith sees things that aren’t visible, it also hears things that aren’t auditory.?
· V. 42 – Three things to notice from this little verse: 1) The prayers of those who pray allows the feastings of others to go on. An important principle, that. 2) There are different postures in prayer: it seems that on Carmel Elijah stood while praying; here he bows down Middle Eastern style. To a degree, postures aid our prayers. 3) A more philosophical point: since God has already told Elijah rain is on the way, why then does he pray? Because in God’s good scheme, His works and humanity’s prayers operate in tandem.
· When Elijah stood before the prophets at Baal, it took only one prayer to bring down fire. Now, away from the crowds, he’ll need a stronger – or at least a more persistent – faith. Keep asking, seeking, and knocking.
· V. 46 – A long day for Elijah! Why does he run before Ahab to Jezreel? Some commentators think that this is a little snapshot of possibility, of idealism. In the plan of God, the prophet of God bearing the word of God leads the king. So, in the wake of the prophets of Baal being put to shame, and for that little while on their way to Jezreel and Jezebel, order is restored, things are as they should be. But Jezebel isn’t convinced…
Read 1 Kings 19: 1-8
· V. 3 – Not to get technical, but the majority of manuscripts read “saw,” rather than “afraid.” So, when Elijah saw that Jezebel was intractable in her Baal worship, that there was no revival of covenant fidelity on the horizon, he was a broken man, ready to die…but not at the hands of Jezebel. As one commentator has it:
[Elijah] wanted to die, for he was broken. He did not wish to die at Jezebel’s hand, for that would be judged her victory – hence his flight. But south of the proverbial southernmost city of the southern kingdom, in the wilderness of Judah, where none would give Jezebel credit for his death – there he begged Yahweh to take his life. – Ronald Allen
Witnessing in others and ourselves how deep the root of unbelief lodges is a dismaying sight, especially when there had recently been some momentum toward righteousness. Serve God and you open yourself up to extra psychological travail.
· VV. 5-8 – God meets Elijah’s despondency at the recalcitrance of Jezebel (and thus Ahab, and thus Israel) with….food. And with giving him time to sleep. A good lesson for us. We often want to parachute into others’ problems equipped with words: arguments, tenderness-es, explanations. Sometimes a Chipotle steak burrito and Fig Newtons go much farther.
· Elijah is sent to Horeb, which is another name for Sinai, the setting for God’s original covenant with Israel. Elijah despairs of Israel’s return to covenant faithfulness, and God brings him back to where it all started. God is deep and wise.
Read 1 Kings 19: 9-18
· V. 9 – God’s twice-repeated question (v. 13) is preferably understood not as an accusation but as an invitation for Elijah to pour out his heart (Psalm 62:8).
· V. 10 – What presses on Elijah is not so much his own well-being, but that he lives among and loves a people who have not just walked away from their God, but indeed are actively eliminating all traces of Jehovah from the land. As far as he knows, he’s the only (or at least one of the only) prophet (maybe even worshiper) left standing, and they’re targeting him too.
Here is a reminder that, at times in history, sincere believers have looked around them at the state of the church and despaired. And they should. Look over at Amos 6:4-6 – there is something reprehensible about living among a fallen community and being so busy enjoying life that it doesn’t register.
· VV. 11-14 – What’s this vision about? Best guess: if people will understand what God is doing in Israel, it will not because they’ve attended to splashy phenomena, but because they’ve attended to the word of God – the word that is so quiet and seemingly insignificant that it could be passed over. The word of judgment and of mercy through judgment. That’s a good reminder for us today. Lean into the Word…which you’re doing if you’re reading this now!
· VV. 15-17 – At Horeb, the place of the covenant, after that covenant has again been rejected by Israel (19:2), God tells Elijah his next steps in bringing judgment and grace to His covenant people.
· V. 18 – Every generation of the church needs to be reminded that Christ has promised to build His church, to keep for Himself a people who have not turned away from Him. Did you need to hear that this morning? Are, more basically, are you one of those people?
Read 1 Kings 19: 19-21
· V. 19 – Twelve yoke of oxen is an indicator that Elisha is a man of some wealth. A trivial point except that he’ll have more stuff to leave behind. How hard it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom.
· V. 19 - …passed by him and cast his cloak upon him – how strange Elijah is, and how abrupt Elisha’s call was. But no more abrupt than Moses and a host of others throughout the history of God calling his servants. When God is ready to move, He doesn’t require a big production or staging or much context at all to get things started. Keep your eyes open, Church.
· V. 20 – Elisha is up for whatever is developing. After Elijah throws his cloak on him and walks away, Elisha runs after him and, with directness, pledges to follow him. Elijah’s response is maddingly unclear: he seems to be shrugging off the import of what he’s just done. What are you talking about, following me - - I just tossed my cloak over your back. But Elisha is undeterred. And to make the point of commitment to everyone around him, his farewell dinner is also the means of his burning the bridges to his former life. We’ve only just met him, and already we admire this man.
Puts in mind the words of David Livingston:
Lord, send me anywhere, Only go with me;
Lay any burden on me, Only sustain me.
Sever any tie, Save the tie that binds me to Thy heart—
Lord Jesus, my King, I consecrate my life, Lord, to Thee.
Read 1 Kings 20: 1-22
· V. 6 – Sending tribute was one thing. But enduring the humiliation of the foreign power entering the city, rummaging around, taking what they wanted - - that crossed a line.
· V. 10 – Unleash the macho threats…these are fun! I’ll be [gosh-darned] if I don’t wipe you off the map so cleanly that all the bajillion soldiers in my army won’t each be able to pick up the dust that’s left over after I get through with you.
· V. 11 - It’s one thing to talk big before the battle; it’s another to still be able to talk big after the battle.
· V. 13 – As Ahab is deciding what to do, God takes the initiative by sending him a messenger of hope. God is still holding out His hands to Ahab and Israel, willing to save them, wanting them to know Him. Longsuffering. We could use some of that for ourselves, and – in light of God’s toward us – extend some to others.