1 Kings 18:16-46


One of the greatest gifts my parents ever gave to me was the teaching of the stories of the Bible.  From an early age, I was brought up on those historical narratives of the Bible.  David and Samson and Joseph and Daniel were my boyhood heros.  As a young boy, I was fascinated by the stories of those great men.  Their deeds were wonderful.  They seemed larger than life.


Especially intriguing were those men of God known as the prophets.  They were the men who stood before the people of God and declared the words of the Lord.  Their message was often unpopular.  But they spoke with a boldness that was borne of their faith in God.


Elijah was such a man.  He lived in a land that was on the skids.  Israel was a nation submerged in the cesspool of apostasy.  The king of Israel had married a Phoenician princess and made her his queen.  Ahab and Jezebel were the Bonnie & Clyde of the Old Testament.  Jezebel had been imported from Phoenicia to be the bride of Ahab and thereby seal a treaty between the two nations.  When she came to Israel, she brought with her all of her heathen priests and their idols of wood and stone.  Idols to Baal soon replaced the worship of the Lord.


In all of this, Elijah stood in the gap.  He stood before the king and queen and the hostile mob and he remained faithful.  It was not a comfortable place to stand.  It was not pleasant to make a stand for God in that generation.  It never is.





16                     So Obadiah went to meet Ahab and told him; and Ahab went to meet Elijah. 17 When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is this you, you troubler of Israel?”

18                     He said, “I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father's house have, because you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord and you have followed the Baals .19  Now then send and gather to me all Israel at Mount Carmel, together with 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of the Asherah, who eat at Jezebel's table.”

20                     So Ahab sent a message among all the sons of Israel and brought the prophets together at Mount Carmel. (1 Kings 18:16-20).


Ahab has been searching for Elijah these past three years.  He has sent envoys to every surrounding kingdom and has even gone so far as to solicit oaths from surrounding kings to the effect that they have no knowledge of his whereabouts.  Finally his enemy stands before him.  Notice the accusation.



“Is this you, you troubler of Israel?”


“I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father's house have


Ahab felt that Elijah was a troubler because his prayer had brought a drought.  But the real troubler of Israel were those who had brought about a spiritual drought over the land.  There is a contrast between these two men.




King of Israel

Prophet of God

A man of the world

A man of the Word

Walked independently of God in open rebellion

Walked dependently on the Lord in humble submission

Angry and frustrated.

Bold and effective.


How about you?  In what way would you fit into such a contrast?  Are you walking in the way of Ahab or Elijah?


Elijah gives certain instructions to Ahab.  He who has searched far and wide for the prophet now finds himself obeying the instructions of that prophet.  All of Israel is to be gathered together.  They are coming to witness a challenge — a battle of the Gods.


The place of this confrontation would be Mount Carmel.  This is a long ridge, rising up in a sharp promontory from the Mediterranean Sea and running 12 miles toward the southeast where it connects with the central mountain ridge that runs the length of Israel.  The Hebrew word “Carmel” means “garden.”  The Song of Solomon (7:5) uses the imagery of the lush trees atop Carmel to describe the beauty of the beloved’s head.


Imagine the scene.  A national holiday has been declared.  People from all over Israel begin to gather to Mount Carmel with its commanding view of the Mediterranean Sea.  They have come to see the battle of the Gods - 15 rounds, winner take all.


On one side the bleachers are packed.  A total of 450 prophets are gathered.  Around the neck of each of these prophets hangs a piece of metal designed to reflect the rays of the sun, for they are sun worshipers.  Sitting in the best seat is King Ahab himself amid all of his servants and royal retinue.  On the other side stands Elijah.  He is dressed in simple clothes, his hair blown in the wind.  He is alone.





            Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.”  But the people did not answer him a word. (1 Kings 18:21).


The people of Israel are pictured as being at a crossroads, hesitating and pondering which path to take.  Elijah calls the people to make a commitment.  It wasn’t that they were against God.  It is that they were trying to worship BOTH God and Baal.  People often try to do the same thing today.  They go to church on Sunday morning and live for the devil the rest of the week.  They are like a fan that oscillates back and forth.  They are the double-minded man of James 1:8.   But the Lord never accepts such half-hearted commitment.  He will settle for nothing less than ALL of you.


            “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matthew 6:24).


Is God the complete and total Lord of your life?  If not, then I ask you the same question that Elijah asked: “How long?”  What are you waiting for?





22                     Then Elijah said to the people, “I alone am left a prophet of the Lord, but Baal's prophets are 450 men. 23  Now let them give us two oxen; and let them choose one ox for themselves and cut it up, and place it on the wood, but put no fire under it; and I will prepare the other ox and lay it on the wood, and I will not put a fire under it. 24 Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, He is God.”  And all the people said, “That is a good idea.”

25                     So Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one ox for yourselves and prepare it first for you are many, and call on the name of your god, but put no fire under it.” (1 Kings 18:22-25).


Here is the way in which the battle will be fought.  Two altars will be erected.  Two animals will be killed and placed upon the altars.  Then each group will pray that fire might come down from heaven and consume the sacrifice.  Whichever altar begins to burn will be considered to be the winner.


1.         In the Old Testament fire was used as a sign of the presence and supply of the Lord.

·        The Burning Bush (Exodus 3:2)..

·        The Pillar of Fire (Exodus 13:21-22).


2.         Fire from heaven was a sign that God had accepted the priests, their sacrifices, and their service.

  When the first sacrifices were offered upon the Tabernacle altar in the wilderness, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering (Leviticus 9:23-24).

  When the first sacrifices were offered in Solomon’s Temple, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering (2 Chronicles 7:1).


In the same way, fire from heaven would now demonstrate the Lord’s acceptance of Elijah’s offering.


3.         Fire was a sign of divine judgment and wrath against sin and rejection of God’s plan.

·        The flaming sword at the entrance to the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:24).

·        The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by fire from heaven (Genesis 19:24).


The people are in favor of this test.  They think that it is a fair test.  If anything, it is possibly rigged in favor of the prophets of Baal.  You see, the Canaanites believed Baal to be the storm god.  He made the lightning and the thunder.  He is the fire god.  If there is anything that a fire god should be able to do, it is to make fire.





26                     Then they took the ox which was given them and they prepared it and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon saying, “O Baal, answer us.”  But there was no voice and no one answered. And they leaped about the altar which they made.

27                     It came about at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, “Call out with a loud voice, for he is a god; either he is occupied or gone aside, or is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and needs to be awakened.”

28                     So they cried with a loud voice and cut themselves according to their custom with swords and lances until the blood gushed out on them.

29                     When midday was past, they raved until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice; but there was no voice, no one answered, and no one paid attention. (1 Kings 18:26-29).


The people watch as the 450 prophets of Baal begin to cry out to their god.  An hour passes, then two and then three.  The sun climbs into the sky and the shrieks of the prophets of Baal echo over the mountain.  But nothing happens.  Finally, in the heat of the day, Elijah decided to have some fun.


   “Call out with a loud voice, for he is a god...”

Perhaps the batteries in his hearing aid need recharging and he can’t hear you.  Cry a little louder.


   “Either he is occupied or gone aside.”

He is indisposed and can’t take any incoming calls at the moment.


   “Or is on a journey.”

Maybe he has packed his bags and taken a vacation to the Bahamas.


   “Or perhaps he is asleep and needs to be awakened.”

Perhaps he took a couple of sleeping pills and you will have to pray really loud if you are going to wake him up.


Elijah’s words have the effect of driving these prophets into a wild religious frenzy.   They begin to cut themselves with swords and spears.


There is a principle here.  It is that sincerity is no substitute for truth.  These false prophets were completely sincere in their belief - but they were sincerely wrong.  I know a lot of people who do not believe the gospel of Jesus Christ.  They are very sincere in their beliefs.  Some are even willing to die for their beliefs.  But such sincerity is not a proof that they are right in their beliefs.  It is possible to be sincerely wrong.


You might be thinking, “This has no relevance to me.  I have never bowed down before an idol or prayed to Baal.”  But there are other forms of idolatry.

·        Pleasure and comfort.

·        Business and the making of money and the security which comes from such activity.

·        Social standing.

·        Covetousness (Colossians 3:5 equates covetousness with idolatry).





The day was far spent and now it was past time of the offering of the evening sacrifice - in the late afternoon with the sun heading for the horizon.  The prophets of Baal have exhausted themselves with their prayers and their sun god is heading for the sea.  It is now that Elijah prepares to pray.


1.         A Rebuilt Altar.


30                     Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.”  So all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord which had been torn down.

31                     Elijah took twelve stones according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, saying, “Israel shall be your name.”

32                     So with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord, and he made a trench around the altar, large enough to hold two measures of seed. (1 Kings 18:30-32).


Elijah calls the people to come near.  There is a reason for this.  It is so that they can learn from what is about to take place.  He is going to have them involved in the offering of this sacrifice.


Elijah takes great care in the building of this altar.  It is constructed with 12 stones.  These 12 stones represent the 12 tribes of Israel.  Even though the kingdom has been divided, the Lord sees all of Israel as HIS people.  God always desires UNITY for His people.  It is only when sin comes in that there is disunity.


2.         Anointing with Water.


33                     Then he arranged the wood and cut the ox in pieces and laid it on the wood.  And he said, “Fill four pitchers with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.”

34                     And he said, “Do it a second time,” and they did it a second time. And he said, “Do it a third time,” and they did it a third time.

35                     The water flowed around the altar and he also filled the trench with water. (1 Kings 18:32-35).


As Elijah gives his instructions for the soaking of the altar, I imagine the people looking at one another in amazement.  Has the sun finally gotten to this old prophet of God?  The contest is to be won by producing fire.  The last ingredient you need to produce fire is water.


In obedience to his command, they carry four pitchers of water down the mountain to the Mediterranean Sea and fill them with salt water.  These are brought back up the mountain and poured onto the altar.


Elijah looks at the result, shakes his head, and says, “No, it isn’t wet enough.  Do it again!”  A second time and then a third time the process is repeated until the altar is soaked in water.


Why the water?  Because Elijah wanted there to be no mistake in the people’s understanding that a miracle was about to take place.  He was making certain that any skeptics in the crowd would be silenced.  The miraculous nature of what was about to take place would be obvious to all.


3.         A Prayer for the Divine Response.


36                     At the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant and I have done all these things at Your word.

37                     “Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that You, O Lord, are God, and that You have turned their heart back again.” (1 Kings 18:36-37).


Now Elijah prays.  He is not praying for his own benefit.  He is praying that God might bring glory to Himself.  He is praying that God might show these people that He is the living God.


Notice also that this is a PUBLIC prayer.  He prays in this manner so that the PEOPLE would know that it is God who is supplying this miracle.  What is there in your life that can only be explained in terms of the supernatural?  If you can’t think of anything, then you go back to God and ask Him to do a work in your life, not merely for your own sake, but to His glory and so that others may see and know Him.


This prayer is BRIEF.  It is given in two verses.  Elijah did not put the people to sleep with his prayer.  Neither did he attempt to preach a sermon in the midst of his prayer.  It was specific and to the point.


4.         The Divine Response.


            Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. (1 Kings 18:38).


The fire that came from the Lord was special.  It not only consumed the offering, it also consumed the wood and the stones and the dust and the water.  It was an all-consuming fire.


            Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; 29 for our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:28-29).





You cannot come into the presence of God and fail to respond.  His presence ALWAYS solicits a response.


1.         A Verbal Response.


            When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, “The Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is God.” (1 Kings 18:39).


In verse 21, Elijah had set the proposal before the people that if Yahweh is God, then He is to be followed.  They now respond to the miracle with a statement of faith. “Yahweh, he is Elohim.”  This was in direct answer to the prayer of Elijah.  He had not only prayed that the Lord would send fire down from heaven, he had also prayed that the people would repent and return to the Lord.


I want you to notice something.  He did not pray for their free will.  He did not pray that they would hear the gospel and understand the issues and then make their own decision.  He specifically had prayed that the Lord would turn their hearts back to Himself.  And that is the prayer that was answered.


2.         A Response of Life and Death.


            Then Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; do not let one of them escape.”  So they seized them; and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there. (1 Kings 18:40).


The false shepherds of Baal were taken and put to death.  Why?  Because they bore the responsibility of deliberately leading the people of God in the worship of idols.


There is a principle here.  It is that leaders are more liable.  They bear a greater responsibility.  James 3:1 warns, “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment.”


The scene of this execution is the brook Kishon.  The brook Kishon flows down from the Central mountain range and then meanders along the foot of the Carmel Range as it makes its way northwest to the Mediterranean Sea.  It was here that Gideon had once slaughtered the Midianites.  It is here that Elijah has all of the prophets of Baal put to death.





1.         Prophecy of an Impending Rain.


            Now Elijah said to Ahab, “Go up, eat and drink; for there is the sound of the roar of a heavy shower.” (1 Kings 18:41).


Elijah tells Ahab that there is “the sound of the roar of a heavy shower.”  It is a cloudless day, but Elijah is hearing with the ears of FAITH.  It has not rained in the past 3½ years.  But that is going to change now.  It is going to rain and it is going to rain HARD.  For this reason, he is now to eat and drink.  Why?  There are several possibilities:


a.         He is to eat and drink because the curse of the drought has now been lifted from the land due to the repentance of the people and the execution of the false priests of Baal.


b.         He is to eat and drink because he has not had the opportunity to do so all day due to the battle which he has witnessed on Mount Carmel.


c.         He is to eat and drink now while it is dry so that his dinner will not be disturbed by the onset of the heavy rain.


2.         Prayer for Impending Rain.


            So Ahab went up to eat and drink. But Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he crouched down on the earth and put his face between his knees. (1 Kings 18:42).


Again we see these two men in contrast to one another.  Ahab goes to eat and drink.  Elijah goes to pray.  It is as though his prayer supplies that which he needs for nourishment.


We have already seen the PUBLIC prayer of Elijah when he asked that fire might come down from heaven.  Now we see the PRIVATE prayer of Elijah.  He is praying that the curse might be lifted.  He is praying that it might rain.


3.         On Watch for Impending Rain.


43                     He said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.”  So he went up and looked and said, “There is nothing.”  And he said, “Go back” seven times.

44                     It came about at the seventh time, that he said, “Behold, a cloud as small as a man’s hand is coming up from the sea.”  And he said, “Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot and go down, so that the heavy shower does not stop you.’” (1 Kings 18:43-44).


Elijah prayed in FAITH.  We know that he prayed in faith because he had his servant watching for the answer to that prayer.  Seven times he has his servant climb to the peak of the mountain to look for signs of impending rain.  It is only on the seventh trip that he spots a small cloud on the horizon.  This cloud is the answer to Elijah’s prayers.


4.         The Coming of the Rain.


45                     In a little while the sky grew black with clouds and wind, and there was a heavy shower. And Ahab rode and went to Jezreel.

46                     Then the hand of the Lord was on Elijah, and he girded up his loins and outran Ahab to Jezreel.  (1 Kings 18:45-46).


This translation makes it appear that Ahab and Elijah were in some sort of race to see who could get to Jezreel first.  But I do not believe that this was the case.  The Hebrew says that Elijah ran before Ahab.  Elijah was serving as the footman and escort to the king.  He was accompanying the king back to Jezreel.


Ahab had sinned.  He had sinned in marrying a Phoenician wife.  He had sinned in worshiping an idol.  And he had sinned in leading the nation away from God.  But repentance was possible.  And Elijah’s actions show that the forgiveness of God was available to Ahab should he repent of his sin and return to the Lord.


There is an interesting contrast between Elijah and John the Baptist.  Both served as the forerunner to a king.



John the Baptist

Condemned Ahab and Jezebel for their sin

Condemned Herod Antipas and Herodius for their adulterous relationship

Called the nation to repentance

Called the nation to repentance

Went before the king to Jezreel

Was the forerunner of Jesus

Ahab was a sinful king who was urged to repent

Jesus was a sinless King who called the world to repentance


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