Explore the Bible Study: Proven

10:26 AM


Saturday, August 27 is called “Week Zero” in college football. That’s when the first college football games are played for the 2022 college football season. Everyone loves a great showdown between two college football rivals. Some of the greatest and most memorable games are between two rival teams. While many fans take their football rival showdowns seriously, this is nothing compared to the showdown that is about to take place in 1 Kings 18. The Explore the Bible Study: Proven, is going to focus on that famous showdown.

Up until now, the focus of 1 Kings has been on the Southern Kingdom of Judah. But now, attention is turned to what was taking place in the Northern Kingdom of Israel. 1 Kings 16 tells us that Ahab became king of Israel when his father Omri died. He was an evil king and married Jezebel, a devout Baal worshiper. He even built an altar for Baal in Samaria for his wife. 

1 Kings 17 describes Elijah appearing on the scene and pronouncing God’s judgment.  He informed King Ahab that no dew or rain would fall in Israel without the prophet’s authorization. This set up the circumstances that would eventually lead to one of the greatest showdowns captured in the Old Testament.

Mount Carmel is the scene of this spectacular head-to-head showdown between the false prophets of Baal and Asherah and the One True God of Israel. 1 Kings 18:19 states that this one lone prophet, Elijah, told Ahab to summon all of Israel and the 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah to come to this showdown on Mount Carmel. It appears that God’s prophet was greatly outnumbered for this showdown.

1 Kings 18:25 begins with Elijah giving instructions to the prophets of Baal: Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Since you are so numerous, choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first. Then call on the name of your god but don’t light the fire.” Notice Elijah specifically said, “don’t light the fire.” Baal would have to reveal his power by igniting his own sacrifice.

What you will observe in this showdown is man’s futile attempt once again to blatantly and callously turn away from the One True God and place his faith in other things for his security and to justify his sin. Let’s see how this showdown turns out for the people of Israel and what we can learn from their actions, Elijah’s faith, and God’s response.

First, observe the futility in man’s attempts to replace God – 1 Kings 18:26-29

Notice the actions of the prophets of Baal:

  • They took the bull that he gave them, prepared it, and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon. 
  • They called, "Baal, answer us!" Perhaps they thought their numbers and zeal would provoke Baal’s response.
  • But they only heard “crickets”! – there was no sound; no one answered. 
  • Then they danced around the altar in a heightened effort to get Baal’s attention. 

These prophets of Baal were doing all they could to implore Baal’s response, but nothing was working.

What are some of the futile attempts people make today that reveal they are trusting in anyone and everything other than the One True God? Who do they call upon to fix things?

After several hours, Elijah stepped up and began to mock them.

  • Elijah encouraged the prophets, "shout loudly, for he’s a god!" Perhaps such a great god as Baal had poor hearing!
  • Elijah suggested "maybe he’s thinking it over." Elijah was raising the idea that perhaps Baal could not make up his mind as to what to do.
  • He suggested "maybe he has wandered away." The Hebrew word means step away and many interpreters believe the expression is a euphemism that suggests Baal might have needed to use the restroom!
  • Elijah suggested "maybe he’s on the road." Maybe he had left the region, and they needed to wait for his return!
  • Finally, Elijah suggested "perhaps he’s sleeping and will wake up!" Such a great god might sleep soundly, so if the Baal prophets called louder, perhaps they could awaken him and spur him to action.

When we think about mocking, we sometimes consider this to be rude behavior. Why did Elijah use such questions with them? How can believers use Elijah’s actions to create questions today for those who continually turn to false philosophies, false beliefs, or false gods to fix things?

While mocking sounds cold and callous, it had its purpose. Elijah probably intended his mocking to help the people who were watching to appreciate the futility of the Baal prophets’ actions. 

Notice the prophets of Baal's response:  They shouted loudly, and cut themselves with knives and spears in a futile effort to get their god to respond. This went on all afternoon until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, which would have been at twilight (Exodus 29:39,41). 

All false gods will lead to disappointment and emptiness. The Baal prophets worshiped a god that did not exist. Today, many peoples of the world worship false gods; one day, they will discover these gods are powerless. There are also many people who don’t worship a god but worship a philosophy, a set of ungodly beliefs, or a set of assumptions that are designed to replace God as the center of the universe. Still others worship other “gods” such as money, fame, and power. These also ultimately will not provide lasting satisfaction. Only a relationship with God that involves worship of Him will provide lasting fulfillment.

When you observe the futility of what the lost are depending upon to fix things, how do you respond? Should it come as a surprise that, when we proclaim Christ, the lost become more entrenched in their systems of beliefs?

Elijah faithfully waited until all the Baal prophets' efforts had been exposed as futile. Then he stepped up to demonstrate the power of God.

We learn from Elijah that the messenger must point people to God – 1 Kings 18:30-37

Notice the steps Elijah took to help the people understand who God is:

  • He repaired the Lord’s altar that had been torn down.“This altar likely came from an earlier time, before King Solomon completed the temple in Jerusalem. God was using His prophet to establish His presence in the Northern Kingdom—a kingdom that had turned away from Him.” – ETB Leader Commentary
  • Elijah took twelve stones—according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob. Why not ten stones since these were the Northern tribes?  “Elijah was anchoring his altar to Israel’s history. Perhaps Elijah’s using twelve stones anticipated a day when God would unite the kingdoms of Israel and Judah again into one country under God alone.” –ETB Leader Commentary
  • He declared: Israel will be your name. The people needed to be reminded of God’s covenant.
  • He built an altar with the stones in the name of the Lord. This altar was not built for a false god or to bring attention to Elijah. It was built in the name of the Lord.
  • After drenching the entire altar area with water, he approached the altar he had re-built and prayed.
  • Elijah began his prayer with, "Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel." By using the name Israel here, Elijah was again stressing the Northern Kingdom’s historic connection and God’s thousand plus years relationship with His people. 
  • The prophet had performed a public act of faith but did not claim any power himself. Elijah wanted God to show the people that "at your word I have done all these things." God had commanded, Elijah had obeyed, and now God would do the work.
  • Elijah called on God to act. Elijah knew that if God did, then, this people would know that the Lord was God and that He could turn their hearts back. The prophet wanted the people to see God’s power as the one true God, but he also wanted them to see in this act God’s care for them and His desire to see their repentance.

Do we expect God to demonstrate His power today, or do we feel that God doesn’t work to reveal Himself today? How does the transforming power of the gospel demonstrate that there is one true God?How do we prepare so that God can be revealed in a mighty way through our lives? In our church?

 Finally, notice that God leaves no doubt! – 1 Kings 18:38-39

God responded quickly and decisively to Elijah’s request. God’s power vastly exceeded the power of Baal, leaving no doubt as to who God was. Notice how the people responded: When all the people saw it, they fell facedown. They had witnessed an amazing, powerful demonstration from God Almighty, and they knew to humble themselves at once.

What do you think it will take for people today to respond to God in this manner? How should you be involved?

What About Today?

God had called Elijah to a prophetic ministry, and God had provided for him every step of the journey. God gave him the words to say and the actions to take, and Elijah faithfully obeyed. God had protected him from King Ahab, and God soon would protect him from Jezebel, Ahab’s evil wife (1 Kings 19:1-18). Elijah’s goal was not to exalt himself, but to exalt God, and that all Israel might know Him. Elijah wasn’t doing what he did to get attention and fame. Rather, he wanted the glory to go to God.

People need to see the power of God demonstrated through those who claim to be followers of Christ. That power today can be demonstrated in so many ways—by the way we live, the way we treat others, the trust we demonstrate in Christ, and the message of the gospel we share with others.

How does your expectation for God to work powerfully amid a sin-broken world measure up when compared to Elijah’s faith? What can you learn about your role in God’s work from how God used Elijah? What hope does God’s demonstration of power give you regarding the current state of our world?

The downloadable teaching helps provide more details for this study, along with some tools you can use in guiding a group Bible study. Be sure to use this as a supplement to your study of the Explore the Bible Study resources provided by LifeWay.

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