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church with steeple June 15 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): 1Kings 17, 18, 19

The True God and His Faithful Servants

There are many religions in our world today and many “gods.” How can we tell who the true God is? In Israel’s history a prominent god of her neighboring nations was Baal. Baal was the agricultural god of rain, fertility, and sexuality (Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, vol.1, Walter A. Elwell, editor, © 1988, p.239). One day there was a contest between the LORD, the true God, and Baal.

Today, in our chronological Bible study, we enter the period of the Major Prophets. Elijah and Elisha are primarily prophets to the northern kingdom of Israel. Israel is like a wayward child. God does not give up on His wayward children and neither should we, if we have any. Time after time God sends prophets to try to stop Israel’s wicked behavior. But in stopping them, He first has to get their attention by taking severe actions. Elijah’s first recorded mission is to announce to King Ahab that, because of his wickedness, God will not send rain to Israel for a few years (later identified as sometime in the third year, IKings18:1). This drought will continue until Elijah proclaimes it will rain again.

Earlier, God had promised He would withhold rain from the land if the Israelites worshipped other gods, and now He is going to keep that promise (Leviticus 26:18-20; Deuteronomy 11:16-17; 28:23-24). This message does not make Elijah popular. A long period of drought, however, does show how weak their rain god (Baal) is in comparison to the Almighty God of Israel. The LORD is the true God. Like Elijah, parents should not try to win popularity contests with their children. Being nice to disobedient and rebellious children only enables them to do more wicked things. We need, as God did, to exercise tough love on disobedient children.

Our wickedness often affects others and brings God’s judgment. In Ahab’s case his wickedness affects all the ten tribes of Israel. Does Ahab repent after experiencing God’s judgment? No. Even after three years of drought, Ahab still blames Elijah. He sends word to everyone in the kingdom to search for Elijah so he might be killed. However, God often protects those who rely upon Him. God sends Elijah to hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan River. There he has water to drink, and ravens bring him food to eat. After the brook dries up, God sends him to Sidon, north of Israel, to be fed by a poor starving widow from Zarephath. Miraculously, God provides food for her, her son, and Elijah during the drought. When God finally sends Elijah back to King Ahab, the king is still unrepentant.

When he saw Elijah, he said to him, “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?”
“I have not made trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “But you and your father's family have. You have abandoned the LORD's commands and have followed the Baals,” (1Kings 18:17-18, NIV).

Then Elijah arranges a contest so the people will see who is truly God - the God of Israel, who brought them forth as a people and provided for them for centuries, or the false god Baal and his female counterpart, Ashteroth, who cannot even provide rain. The place of the contest is Mt. Carmel, a sacred site for their god, Baal, and a decided advantage to his prophets (The Bible Knowledge Commentary of the O.T., by Walvoord and Zuck, ©1985, p. 526). Two altars are constructed - one to Baal and one to Israel’s God. A bull sacrifice is placed upon each with wood underneath, but no fire is to be lit. The god who answers by fire and consumes the sacrifice is the true God. All the people agree to the contest.

The prophets of Baal construct their altar first and place their bull on top of it. All day long the prophets of Baal cry out to their gods to send lightning to burn up the sacrifice and dry wood on their fire. Nothing happens. In their zeal to be faithful to their religion they even cut themselves. Still nothing happens. Elijah mocks their efforts. Finally, six hours later, at the time of the evening sacrifice, Elijah calls the people to the sacrifice of the true God. After rebuilding the broken earthen altar with twelve stones, symbolizing the twelve sons of Jacob (yes, God still claimed all His sons, even the disobedient ones), he has a trench dug around it. He puts wood and the bull sacrifice upon the altar and then thoroughly soaks it with water so the trench is filled with water. Now it seems impossible for Israel’s God or any god to burn up the sacrifice. Elijah shows them this is no trick; it will take a miracle to consume the sacrifice.

At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”
Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.
When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The LORD-- he is God! The LORD-- he is God!”
Then Elijah commanded them, “Seize the prophets of Baal. Don't let anyone get away!” They seized them, and Elijah had them brought down to the Kishon Valley and slaughtered there. (1Kings 18:36-40, NIV)

The lesson is over; the people learn who the true God is. After the people recognize that God is the true God, Elijah prays to Him seven times to send rain, and He does. Elijah is then given divine energy and sent to run from Mt. Carmel to Jezreel (about 25 miles).

God is the true God. Sometimes He gives us lessons to teach us the futility of relying on anything or anyone else other than Him. He is Almighty. He controls the whole universe, the weather and even the events in our lives. He desires to draw us into a personal relationship with Him or bring us back into fellowship with Him. He blesses His obedient children but punishes those who are disobedient and rebellious. If we have sin in our lives, let us give up our sins, repent, and turn to our true God to save and help us (more...).

After this great victory, Elijah is very discouraged and depressed. He is tired - physically, emotionally and spiritually. He is hungry. He felt all alone in the battle, and to top it all off, now he receives a threat to his life from Ahab’s evil wife, Jezebel. It is the last straw. Elijah runs away (1Kings 19:1-18). Many parents who have battled with their disobedient children feel the same way. God is, however, gracious to His servants. He knows when we are tired, discouraged, or even hungry. God sends an angel to feed Elijah and then twice lets him sleep. Afterwards, He tells Elijah he is not alone - God still has 7,000 still faithful to Him. Sometimes we need to hear we are not alone, and we need time and rest to refocus ourselves for upcoming battles. God then chooses an attendant for Elijah, someone who can share his burden of ministry. This person is Elisha. God knows our needs and helps us.

What kind of man is Elisha, Elijah's replacement? Elisha is committed, compassionate, energetic (1Kings 19:19-21), and just the kind of man Elijah needs to mentor. How wonderful it is to know God often times raises up godly men and women when it is time to turn our ministry over to them. While we live, let us be faithful men and women of God, doing the will of God from the heart.

Lessons to Live By

  • God does not give up on His wayward children, and neither should we, if we have any.
  • Parents should not try to win popularity contests with their children. Being nice only enables them to do more wicked things. We need, as God did, to exercise tough love on disobedient children.
  • Our wickedness often affects others and brings God’s judgment.
  • God often protects godly men and women who rely upon Him.
  • Tough battles, whether physical, emotional, or spiritual can leave us depleted, discouraged and even depressed. It is then that we need to re-energize ourselves with food and rest. God may be pleased to give someone to you to help bear your burdens. Do not refuse God’s help.
  • God is the true God. Sometimes He gives us lessons to teach us the futility of relying on anything or anyone else other than Him.
  • If we have sin in our lives, let us give up our sins, repent, and turn to our true God to save us and help us (more…).

Today’s Bible Memory Verse

1Kings 18:39b “The LORD-- he is God! The LORD-- he is God!” (NIV)

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