1 Kings 18: Lessons from Elijah Regarding the Dangers of Dual Allegiances Between God and the World

Introduction: Compromise is normally a virtue. People should generally learn to live together, and leaders should generally learn to work with people with opposing views to solve problems. But there are times when compromise is not a virtue. If compromise includes giving worldly views equal or greater weight than God’s Word, it leads to many types of evil. Elijah was one of the last people in Northern Israel who would not compromise regarding God’s Word. King Ahab and the people decided to embrace all faiths. The worship of Baal was celebrated on equal terms with Yahweh. Those who insisted that the people only follow Yahweh and His Word were branded as intolerant bigots and killed off. To bring the wayward nation of Israel and King Ahab to repentance, Elijah prayed, and God withheld the rains for three and a half years. In a test of faith, he demonstrated that Yahweh was more powerful than any pagan idol. Yet, because the people had dual allegiances between Yahweh and pagan idols, they would never fully embrace just Yahweh. They celebrated Yahweh’s power. But they did not repent and change their ways.

From the Jews’ mistakes, God provides seven warnings regarding dual allegiances between Him and the world. These include: (1) mixed loyalties, (2) fear, (3) spiritual blindness, (4) fickle beliefs, (5) unanswered prayers, (6) hardened hearts, and (7) ungratefulness to God.

First, Obadiah was a hero to God’s people. He protected 100 of God’s last prophets in Northern Israel. Yet, he served God in secret, and he tried to please both God and the wicked King Ahab. His dual allegiance led to dual loyalties. His dual loyalties would later make it difficult for him to serve God. From his mistake, God warns that dual allegiances can lead to divided loyalties between Him and the world. Second, when Elijah told Obadiah to present him to Ahab, Obadiah became filled with fear that his secret service to God would be revealed. From Obadiah’s mistake, God warns that dual allegiances can give Satan a stronghold of fear in your life. Third, after living through three and a half years of God’s punishing drought, Ahab blamed Elijah for creating trouble. Ahab tried to serve both Baal and Yahweh. His dual allegiances made him spiritually blind to his sins. From Ahab’s mistake, God warns that dual allegiances can make evil hard to see in yourself and in society. Fourth, Elijah proposed a test for the people to decide whether to follow Yahweh and Baal. The one true God would create a visible sign in the form of fire from the sky. The people who were present were ambivalent about their faith. They were willing to let a visible sign decide who they would follow. They would initially call Yahweh the one true God after He passed the test. Yet, because their faith was fickle, their faith would soon fade. From their mistake, God warns that dual allegiances can lead to an unstable faith. Fifth, the prophets of Baal were unable to have Baal produce fire to consume a sacrifice. Their prayers went unanswered. Like the Jews who followed after idols, God warns that dual allegiances can lead to hindered or unanswered prayers. Sixth, the people cried out and acknowledged God’s power after He performed a miracle. Yet, the moment would soon pass, and no revival would happen in Northern Israel. From their mistakes, God warns that dual allegiances can lead to professions of faith without change. Finally, even without repentance, Elijah prayed, and God lifted the drought. Elijah then showed concern for the wicked Ahab by warning him of a coming rain storm. He then gave Ahab the undeserved honor by running ahead of his chariots for Ahab’s return home. Yet, Ahab did not repent or even acknowledge God’s mercy and grace. He would quickly return to his evil ways. From Ahab’s mistake, God warns that dual allegiances can lead a believer to be ungrateful for His mercy and His grace.

1. Mixed Loyalties: Dual Allegiances Can Lead to Divided Loyalties to God. 1 Kgs. 18:1-6.

  • Obadiah protects God’s prophets while serving their persecutor. In a time when King Ahab and Queen Jezebel were killing God’s prophets, a man of faith and governor named Obadiah protected 100 of God’s last prophets in Northern Israel. Yet, Obadiah did not leave his post. He continued to serve both God and Ahab: “1 Now it happened after many days that the word of the Lord came to Elijah in the third year, saying, ‘Go, show yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the face of the earth.’ So Elijah went to show himself to Ahab. Now the famine was severe in Samaria. Ahab called Obadiah who was over the household. (Now Obadiah feared the Lord greatly; for when Jezebel destroyed the prophets of the Lord, Obadiah took a hundred prophets and hid them by fifties in a cave, and provided them with bread and water.) Then Ahab said to Obadiah, ‘Go through the land to all the springs of water and to all the valleys; perhaps we will find grass and keep the horses and mules alive, and not have to kill some of the cattle.’ So they divided the land between them to survey it; Ahab went one way by himself and Obadiah went another way by himself.” (1 Kgs. 18:1-6). Ahab ruled Northern Israel from 873-853 B.C. He was the seventh king of Israel. He represented the fulfillment of Israel’s descent into evil. This evil began with small compromises. Israel first compromised by creating a counterfeit religion with the worship of golden calves as representing Yahweh. The Jews then worshiped the golden calves as gods. Jezebel then encouraged Ahab to give the Canaanite god Baal equal worship with Yahweh. Under her influence, Ahab built a temple to Baal with a wooden pole for worship of the Canaanite goddess of sex, Asherah (1 Kgs. 16:33). After God’s remaining prophets refused to tolerate a false religion, Jezebel convinced Ahab to persecute and kill God’s prophets. He even conducted human sacrifices (1 Kgs. 16:29; 15:29-22:40). To bring Northern Israel to repentance, God allowed the Jews to experience a three and a half-year drought. Because Northern Israel depended upon its crops for food, the drought was devastating to the entire nation. Hidden within Ahab’s apostate kingdom was a governor named Obadiah. His name means “servant of the Lord.” He risked his own life to save 100 of God’s prophets by hiding them in caves and then feeding them bread and water. Ahab knew that this was his one honest governor, even if he did not understand why he was honest. Ahab turned to Obadiah to save his animals while his people suffered: “Ahab’s care was not to lose all the beasts; but he took no care about his soul, not to lose that. He took pains to seek grass, but none to seek the favor of God; fencing against the effect, but not inquiring how to remove the cause.” (Matthew Henry on 1 Kgs. 18).1 When compared to a typical believer, Obadiah was nothing short of a hero. Who could honestly claim to have done anything as important for God’s Kingdom? But Elijah would soon expose the weakness of his faith. Like the disciples who possessed their unwavering faith in Jesus in good times, his faith would melt in the face of potential adversity.

  • While divided service is acceptable, divided loyalty is not. Obadiah did not sin by serving the wicked King Ahab. As part of God’s plan, Joseph served a pagan Pharaoh. Also as part of God’s plan, Esther and Daniel served pagan kings. God used Obadiah to save the 100 prophets. Yet, unlike Joseph, Esther, and Daniel, Obadiah served Ahab openly and Yahweh secretly. Unlike Joseph, Esther, and Daniel, Obadiah’s divided service would turn to divided loyalty. He would soon fear serving Yahweh openly.

  • You cannot have divided loyalties between God and the things of the world. Unlike Obadiah, Jesus warns that you cannot divide your loyalties between Him and the people or things of the world: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Matt. 6:24; Lk. 16:13). Are your loyalties with God divided in any area?

  • Don’t seek the favor of mankind if it causes you to compromise in your walk. The Apostle Paul warned: “For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.” (Gal. 1:10). “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (Jam. 4:4). “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 Jo. 2:15). “but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts.” (1 Thess. 2:4). If you love the praise of people and the honors of the world, your loyalties may also become divided.

2. Fear: Dual Allegiances Can Give the Devil a Stronghold of Fear. 1 Kgs. 18:7-16.

  • Obadiah recognizes Elijah as God’s prophet, but fears following his directions. Although Obadiah had done heroic work by protecting 100 prophets, he feared for his life when Elijah told him to send a message to Ahab: “Now as Obadiah was on the way, behold, Elijah met him, and he recognized him and fell on his face and said, ‘Is this you, Elijah my master?’ He said to him, ‘It is I. Go, say to your master, ‘Behold, Elijah is here.’’ He said, ‘What sin have I committed, that you are giving your servant into the hand of Ahab to put me to death? 10 As the Lord your God lives, there is no nation or kingdom where my master has not sent to search for you; and when they said, ‘He is not here,’ he made the kingdom or nation swear that they could not find you. 11 And now you are saying, ‘Go, say to your master, ‘Behold, Elijah is here.’’ 12 It will come about when I leave you that the Spirit of the Lord will carry you where I do not know; so when I come and tell Ahab and he cannot find you, he will kill me, although I your servant have feared the Lord from my youth. 13 Has it not been told to my master what I did when Jezebel killed the prophets of the Lord, that I hid a hundred prophets of the Lord by fifties in a cave, and provided them with bread and water? 14 And now you are saying, ‘Go, say to your master, ‘Behold, Elijah is here’’; he will then kill me.’ 15 Elijah said, ‘As the Lord of hosts lives, before whom I stand, I will surely show myself to him today.’ 16 So Obadiah went to meet Ahab and told him; and Ahab went to meet Elijah.” (1 Kgs. 18:7-16). Obadiah knew his true master. Thus, he immediately fell in submission to God’s prophet Elijah when he saw him (1 Kgs. 18:7). But while Obadiah desired to hide his loyalty to Yahweh, Elijah did not (1 Kgs. 18:8). Thus, Obadiah feared for his life when Elijah asked Obadiah to bring him to Ahab. At that time, Ahab had sent spies everywhere looking for Elijah (1 Kgs. 18:9-10). Obadiah believed that the Holy Spirit would carry Elijah away from harm as He had done previously (1 Kgs. 17:5; 2 Kgs. 2:16). Yet, Obadiah believed that God would leave him behind to suffer the king’s wrath (1 Kgs. 18:12). If the king found Obadiah helping Elijah, he might also discover that Obadiah was helping the 100 prophets (1 Kgs. 18:13). Elijah then rebuked him and stated that God’s will would be done, despite Obadiah’s protests: ‘As the Lord of hosts lives, before whom I stand, I will surely show myself to him today.’ (1 Kgs. 18:15). Obadiah then did what he was told and presented Elijah to king Ahab (1 Kgs. 18:16).

Obadiah submits before God’s true prophet but refuses to follow him out of fear2

  • Don’t expect the world to love you when you serve God. One of Obadiah’s mistakes was that he wanted to be praised by both God and Ahab as he tried to serve them both. Yet, Jesus warns that the world will frequently hate you when you try to openly serve Him: “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.” (Jo. 15:18-19). “You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.” (Matt. 10:22). “Men of bloodshed hate the blameless, . . . An unjust man is abominable to the righteous, and he who is upright in the way is abominable to the wicked.” (Prov. 29:10, 27). “They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them.” (1 Jo. 4:5). Is your faith dependent upon being praised for your actions? If so, like Obadiah, you will fear openly serving Jesus.

  • True faith does not cower in the face of potential or real adversity. The weak spots in Obadiah’s faith become more obvious when compared to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. When they were given the stark choice between death and agreeing to worship Nebuchadnezzar’s idols, they proclaimed: “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (Dan. 3:17-18). Although few can claim to do so, true faith does not fear the threats of mankind: “I, even I, am He who comforts you. Who are you that you are afraid of man who dies and of the son of man who is made like grass,” (Is. 51:12). David was a hero of the faith in part because he did not fear his enemies: “The LORD is for me; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (Ps. 118:6; 56:4; Heb. 13:6). Paul urges believers to show a similar faith doing God’s will: “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” (Ro. 8:31). If you are serving God, you have no reason to fear anything. If you have given over to fear when serving God, Satan is trying to stop you from serving.

  • A mind set on your earthly concerns is hostile to the Spirit. Because Obadiah was more concerned about his own safety than in serving God, he acted in a manner that was hostile toward God: “because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so,” (Ro. 8:7). If you are focused on earthly needs, you are also hostile toward the directions of the Spirit.

3. Spiritual Blindness: Dual Allegiances Can Make Evil Hard to See. 1 Kgs. 18:17-19.

  • Ahab blames Elijah for Northern Israel’s prolonged drought and Elijah rebukes him. Because Ahab had defied God for so long, he could not see God’s hand of judgment in the three and a half year-drought. Thus, he blamed Elijah for the drought. Elijah then rebuked him and challenged the power of his false prophets: “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.’” (1 Kgs. 18:17-19). Ahab recognized that Elijah had the power to cause the drought. But he failed to comprehend the source of Elijah’s power. Perhaps he had become so polluted from his pagan worship that he viewed Elijah as a sorcerer with magical powers. “Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD more than all who were before him. . . . Ahab also made the Asherah. Ahab did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel than all the kings of Israel who were before him.” (1 Kgs. 16:30, 33). He therefore did not know his true king Yahweh. Thus, he was spiritually blind to God’s hand of judgment. To show the real power behind the drought, Elijah challenged Ahab to bring his 850 false prophets of Baal and Asherah to Mount Carmel, a mountain range next to the Mediterranean that reaches 1,800 feet at its high point. Elijah picked this place because it was a high point where the Canaanites built temples to Baal to give them rain. This would allow Ahab, his false prophets, the Jews and the gentiles to know that Yahweh was supreme.

Elijah rebukes Ahab and challenges his prophets of Baal3

  • Failing to follow God and rejecting His Word can lead to spiritual blindness. Believers are also warned that if they embrace evil and rebellion, they may also become spiritually blind to their sins. ‘“Now hear this, O foolish and senseless people, who have eyes but do not see; who have ears but do not hear.”’ (Jer. 5:21; 4:21). “Render the hearts of this people insensitive, their ears dull, and their eyes dim, otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and return and be healed.” (Is. 6:10; Ro. 11:8). Many become spiritually blind because they love darkness more than God’s light (Jo. 1:10; 3:20). Have you accepted any sin in your life as normal?

4. Fickle Beliefs: Dual Allegiances Can Lead to an Unstable Faith. 1 Kgs. 18:20-24.

  • Elijah challenges the people to either follow God or Baal, not both. After Ahab summoned his 450 false prophets of Baal and the people to a confrontation with Elijah on Mount Carmel, Elijah challenged the fickle Jews to pick whether they would serve God or Baal. Because the people had no deep convictions, they agreed to let their faith be determined based upon which prophet could produce a sign or wonder: “20 So Ahab sent a message among all the sons of Israel and brought the prophets together at Mount Carmel. 21 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. 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.’” (1 Kgs. 18:20-24). To eliminate any excuses that they might later create, Elijah let the prophets of Baal pick which bull that they would sacrifice and the bull that Elijah would later sacrifice. If Baal really controlled the weather, he could create lightning from the mountain used to worship him. Ahab could have tried to kill Elijah without submitting his prophets to this test. But Ahab apparently recognized that Elijah started the drought. Thus, he apparently recognized that he needed Elijah’s assistance to stop it. It does not, however, seem that the pagan Queen Jezebel shared this fear of Elijah or Yahweh. Thus, she refused to send her 400 prophets of Asherah (1 Kgs. 18:19, 22). The Jews who came had not totally rejected God. They were undecided regarding who they should follow. They thought that a sign or wonder would be a good way to resolve their indecision. They were like the people who call themselves “agnostic” today. They would likely be praised today for being open minded and tolerating all religious views. But a faith rooted in something you can see is not a faith at all. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1). Although these people would seem to become Yahweh converts at the end of this account, their faith would fade. Northern Israel would remain under the dark influences of idolatry.

Elijah challenges the people to choose between God and Baal4

  • God does not view the open embrace of all religions as a virtue. The people who heard Elijah did not repent or try to defend one view over another. Today, Ahab might have been celebrated for giving a minority religion equal prominence with Judaism. Someone today, like Elijah, who demands that that people only worship Yahweh, would be branded as an intolerant bigot. Yet, what is celebrated in civil society is often offensive to God. He demands that you either pick Him or some other faith: “If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Josh. 24:15). God calls upon believers to renounce any type of double-minded belief system and follow only what He writes in His Word: “I hate those who are double-minded, but I love Your law.” (Ps. 119:113). “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (Jam. 4:8). “So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, ‘Put away the foreign gods which are among you, and purify yourselves and change your garments;”’ (Gen. 35:2). This type of prohibited dual allegiance is not limited to the formal worship of other faiths. If you pursue after drugs, alcohol, or the things of the flesh, that is also your idol. God wants you to renounce these things and only put your trust in Him.

  • Tolerating evil will corrupt your worship of God. Because the Jews (like most believers) were weak in their faith, God called upon them to “destroy” all of the pagan idols and influences in the Promised Land that might corrupt their worship. “You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations whom you shall dispossess serve their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. You shall tear down their altars and smash their sacred pillars and burn their Asherim with fire, and you shall cut down the engraved images of their gods and obliterate their name from that place.” (Dt. 12:1-3). “But thus you shall do to them: you shall tear down their altars, and smash their sacred pillars, and hew down their Asherim, and burn their graven images with fire.” (Dt. 7:5). “But rather, you are to tear down their altars and smash their sacred pillars and cut down their Asherim.” (Ex. 34:13). The merger of contradictory religious practices is called “syncretism.” Like the Jews, Christians must also avoid accommodating these idols of the flesh in their lives. If you have accommodated worldly idols, repent and let the Holy Spirit renew your mind. “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Ro. 12:2).

5. Unanswered Prayers: Dual Allegiances Can Lead to Hindered Prayers. 1 Kgs. 18:25-29.

  • The prophets of Baal find their god is powerless and cannot answer prayers. Even though Baal was the alleged god of the weather, Elijah exposed him as a powerless idol who could not create a fire: “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.’ 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 Kgs. 18:25-29). Some might wonder why the priests of Baal agreed to this test in the first place. Baal had never done anything like this before. There are three reasons. First, Ahab had sent all of his 400 prophets to confront Elijah and demonstrate their god to be superior. They would look weak and powerless if all 400 of them rejected his test. Second, the people had agreed to Elijah’s test before the prophets of Baal could come up with excuses. Third, Elijah was going to offer a sacrifice to Yahweh outside of God’s appointed Temple. Thus, some might have assumed that Yahweh would not respond to Elijah’s prayers. Yet, despite praying from morning until noon, the Baal prophets received no answers to their prayers (1 Kgs. 18:26). When Elijah mocked Baal for possibly being “occupied,” he suggested that Baal might be going to the bathroom (1 Kgs. 18:27). The Baal prophets then mutilated themselves in despair (1 Kgs. 18:28), something God expressly prohibited (Lev. 19:28; Dt. 14:1). By evening, people stopped paying attention to the antics of the Baal prophets (1 Kgs. 18:29). Because they had fickle beliefs, they were ready to give Yahweh a try. But when the next test of faith came, they would quickly turn to something else if Yahweh did not immediately answer.

  • An idol will not answer your prayers in times of distress. For the moment, the people realized that Baal was nothing more than a powerless idol. Idols like drugs, alcohol, pornography, or other idols are equally powerless to answer your pleas for relief: “They [idols] have ears, but they do not hear, nor is there any breath at all in their mouths.” (Ps. 135:17). “But where are your gods which you made for yourself? Let them arise, if they can save you In the time of your trouble; for according to the number of your cities are your gods, O Judah” . . . “Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field are they, and they cannot speak; they must be carried, because they cannot walk! Do not fear them, for they can do no harm, nor can they do any good.” (Jer. 2:28; 10:5). “Woe to him who says to a piece of wood, ‘Awake!’ To a mute stone, ‘Arise!’ and that is your teacher? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all inside it.” (Hab. 2:19). “. . . They have no knowledge, who carry about their wooden idol and pray to a god who cannot save.” (Is. 4:20). “You know that when you were pagans, you were led astray to the mute idols, however you were led.” (1 Cor. 12:2). Today’s idols are not only silent in your times of distress, they compound your misery through addictions.

  • A double-minded believer also should not expect God to answer prayers. If you vacillate between depending upon Jesus and the world, Jesus considers your faith unstable. Believers who are double-minded should not expect Him to answer prayers: “For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double- minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (Jam. 1:7-8). God is equally unimpressed with people, like the prophets of Baal, who uttered meaningless words to have their prayers answered: “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words.” (Matt. 6:7). There are many reasons why God may not answer a prayer. Your request may not be right for you. Or, it may be contrary to God’s will. Or, it may not be the right time. But if your prayers are not selfish and remain unanswered, repent of any double-minded beliefs.

6. Hardened Hearts: Dual Allegiances Lead to Repentance without Change. 1 Kgs. 18:30-40.

  • Elijah demonstrates God’s power over Baal and the people temporarily praise God. Even after drenching a sacrifice in water, God showed His power by sending down fire to consume both the sacrifice and the water. Elijah then judged the false prophets who had led the people astray: “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. 33 Then he arranged the wood and cut the ox in pieces and laid it on the wood. 34 And he said, ‘Fill four pitchers with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.’ 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. 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.’ 38 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. 39 When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, ‘The Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is God.’ 40 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 Kgs. 18:30-40). Elijah repaired a broken altar that previously existed to Yahweh (1 Kgs. 18:30). This symbolized God’s desire to have the people restore true worship in Israel. Elijah then took 12 stones to rebuild the altar (1 Kgs. 18:31). Even though Northern Israel was composed of only 10 tribes, Elijah was symbolically showing the Jews that they were one people in His eyes. Jacob, the father of the 12 tribes also struggled with dual allegiances between God and the world but ultimately decided to follow God: “He said, ‘Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.”’ (Gen. 32:28). Elijah also identified God as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel (1 Kgs. 18:36). This signified that He was the personal God of the people who made a covenant with them (Ex. 3:6; Dt. 5:7; 6:4; 29:12-13; 30:19-20). He was not some remote and distant God who did not care about His people. ‘“I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’”. He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” (Matt. 22:32; Acts 3:13). Elijah then dug a trench that could hold “two measures of seed” (1 Kgs. 18:32). Many believe that this would hold approximately four gallons of water. Elijah then directed the people to douse water on the sacrifice three times (1 Kgs. 18:33-35). Elijah previously cried out three times for God to resurrect a deceased boy (1 Kgs. 17:21). Although Elijah would not have fully understood the triune God at that time, he unknowingly demonstrated on each occasion the true power of the triune God. By pouring four barrels of water three times (1 Kgs. 18:33-35), the people poured a total of 12 barrels of water. God’s fire then consumed the sacrifice and the water. He also burned the 12 stones (1 Kgs. 18:38). It would normally be impossible for fire to burn wood that was this wet. This symbolized that God would supernaturally provide the means to purify all of His people when they seemed beyond redemption. Yet, the people would need to repent and turn back to Him. Through Elijah, God then judged the false prophets who had led them astray with death. (Dt.18:20). It would seem that the story had a happy ending. Yet, the people’s joy was temporary.

God shows that He is sovereign by sending fire from heaven5

Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn (1606-1669) “God’s Judgment on Mount Carmel” (drawing 1645-50)6

  • The people’s proclamations to Yahweh would soon pass. Elijah had the false prophets killed at a place called “Kishon”, which means “hardness.” (1 Kgs. 18:40). This place had a double meaning. The false prophets died because they refused to repent out of the hardness of their hearts and recognize Yahweh as God. Yet, also out of the hardness of their hearts, the people would also soon return to pagan worship. One commentator observes: “Tragically, this was only a momentary persuasion. This was no lasting revival in Israel. The people were decidedly persuaded, but not lastingly changed.” (David Guzik on 1 Kgs. 18).7 In the very next chapter, Elijah complained that the people who praised God before him now sought to kill him: “He said, ‘I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.”’ (1 Kgs. 19:10). The Bible also records that the people later continued on with their dual allegiances between Yahweh and the pagan gods. “To this day they do according to the earlier customs: they do not fear the LORD, nor do they follow their statutes or their ordinances or the law, or the commandments which the LORD commanded the sons of Jacob, whom He named Israel; . . . So while these nations feared the LORD, they also served their idols; their children likewise and their grandchildren, as their fathers did, so they do to this day.” (2 Kgs. 17:34, 41).

  • The people’s dependence upon signs will cause them to fall for the antiChrist. Fire normally burns up, not down. Fire also came from the sky when Solomon dedicated the Temple. “Now when Solomon had finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the house.” (2 Chron. 7:1). Thus, it would seem that fire from heaven is a sure fire way to know that God is speaking. Yet, Jesus warned believers that they should not expect further signs from God (Matt. 16:4). Because the people during the end times will demand a sign, they will be deceived by the antiChrist when he uses demonic power to make fire fall from the sky: “He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men.” (Rev. 13:13).

  • God’s punishment of a three and a half-year drought foreshadowed the Great Tribulation. Jesus later referred to the devastating three and a half years drought (Lk. 4:25). The drought likely foreshadowed the destruction and misery that will happen during the three and a half-year (42-month) Great Tribulation (Rev. 13:5). Because every event in the Old Testament foreshadows an event in the New Testament, we can assume that the antiChrist will use false signs of fire at some point before or during the Great Tribulation.

  • God also meant for you to be salt and light in this world. Like Elijah, you were also meant to be God’s salt and His instrument against sin in the world around you: “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.” (Matt. 5:13). There are two meanings to Jesus’ words. First, salt was a preservative in that time to keep meat from rotting. Without our prayers and our actions to keep society pure, it will rot in its sins. Second, salt is a symbol of judgment. Lot’s wife was turned into salt (Gen. 19:26). Salt was also scattered on destroyed cities to destroy crops (Dt. 29:23; Jdgs. 9:45; Ps. 137:34; Jer. 17:5-6; 48:9; Zeph. 2:9). Unless the Church acts through prayer and politics to root out sin in our society, our society will face God’s judgment. If God repeatedly judged Israel, the West should not feel immune. You must always be kind and love those who are enemies of the Gospel (Matt. 5:44; Ro. 12:20). Yet, through prayer and politics, the Church can and should be an agent for change. “For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing;” (Ro. 13:4). Are you actively praying for the world around you? Have you made your voice heard on the questions of morality in public discourse?

7. Ungratefulness: Dual Allegiances Can Lead to Ungratefulness to God. 1 Kgs. 18:41-46.

  • Although God ends the drought and gives Ahab mercy and grace, Ahab does not change. After demonstrating that God was omnipotent over the false gods of the world, Elijah demonstrated God’s power to restore and heal the land with rainfall. Elijah then showed Ahab God’s mercy and grace, which Ahab then squandered out of an ungrateful heart: “41 Now Elijah said to Ahab, ‘Go up, eat and drink; for there is the sound of the roar of a heavy shower.’ 42 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. 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.’’ 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 Kgs. 18:41-46). Elijah demonstrated God’s power over the weather by telling the people that God would end the drought before He did so (1 Kgs. 18:41). Ahab initially did what he was told to do when he went up and ate (1 Kgs. 18:42). Elijah then prayed in humility as he cast himself down and prayed for God to restore the rains in the land (1 Kgs. 18:42). He did this to demonstrate that God was responsible. To demonstrate the completed drought and the need to wait on God’s timing, Elijah then sent his servant “seven times” to look for signs of the completed drought (1 Kgs. 18:43-44). To demonstrate that he was God’s prophet, he then sent his servant to Ahab upon seeing just a small cloud to tell him to hurry home before the roads became impassable from the coming deluge of rain (1 Kgs. 18:44) Elijah showed his concern for Ahab through his warning. He also gave him an undeserved honor by running ahead of Ahab on his return to the city of Jezreel. God further gave Elijah supernatural abilities to run ahead of Ahab’s horses the estimated 15 to 25 miles from Mount Carmel to Jezreel (1 Kgs. 18:46).

Elijah prayed, and God ended Northern Israel’s draught8

  • Ahab’s failure to repent after directly witnessing God’s power. Ahab deserved to be killed with the false prophets. He was directly responsible for allowing the worship of Baal to become an official religion in Northern Israel. “He who sacrifices to any god, other than to the LORD alone, shall be utterly destroyed.” (Ex. 22:20). He was also directly responsible for the execution of God’s prophets. He also did not repent for his actions. Despite receiving God’s mercy and grace, he quickly returned to being God’s enemy: “Ahab said to Elijah, ‘Have you found me, O my enemy?’ And he answered, ‘I have found you, because you have sold yourself to do evil in the sight of the LORD.’ . . . Surely there was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do evil in the sight of the LORD, because Jezebel his wife incited him. He acted very abominably in following idols, according to all that the Amorites had done, whom the LORD cast out before the sons of Israel.” (1 Kg. 21:20, 25-26). It may seem easy to dismiss Ahab for his evil acts. But many people experience God’s mercy and grace and then openly return to their sins.

  • Be thankful for God’s mercy and grace in your life. Unlike Ahab, God calls upon every believer to be thankful for all that He has done in your life: “in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thess. 5:18). “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” (Col. 3:17) “always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;” (Eph. 5:20; Ps. 34:1). Do you give thanks on a regular basis for God’s many blessings and His forgiveness of your sins?

  • Pray for God’s restoration for your sinful country. In the New Testament, Elijah is cited as an example of how the fervent prayers of a righteous man can accomplish much (Jam. 5:16-18). In Solomon’s prayer of dedication to the Temple, he also prayed for God to heal the lands: “then hear in heaven and forgive the sin of Your servants and of Your people Israel, indeed, teach them the good way in which they should walk. And send rain on Your land, which You have given Your people for an inheritance.” (1 Kg. 8:36). Moses also revealed that faith-led obedience could bring the blessings of rain to a country: “The LORD will open for you His good storehouse, the heavens, to give rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hand; and you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow.” (Dt. 28:12). “I will make them and the places around My hill a blessing. And I will cause showers to come down in their season; they will be showers of blessing.” (Ezek. 34:26; Ps. 68:9; Is. 44:3). God may have also judged your country. Are you praying for your country to repent and for God’s restoration?