Few scenes in the Bible are more dramatic than the contest between Elijah and the 450 prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. The forces of good and the forces of evil collided head-on. Let see who wins.
BACKGROUND: Israel was at a crossroads. Other kings had introduced idolatry into the Jewish religion, but King Ahab and the notorious Queen Jezebel were going much further. They wanted to wipe out all worship of the true God. Elijah had made a grand entrance three years before. He had a simple, unpopular message of doom: “There will be neither dew nor rain in the next three years except at my word” (1 Kings 17:1). It was a direct affront to followers of Baal, who believed their god could control the weather. Having delivered his message, Elijah disappeared. For three years he was the most wanted fugitive in Israel, for he alone had the power to bring rain. And then, in the scene reported in the passage we are going to study today, the prophet Elijah returned to Samaria.
(These notes are taken from the NIV Devotional Study Bible)
II. BIBLE READING
1 Kings 18:16 So Obadiah went to meet Ahab and told him, and Ahab went to meet Elijah.17 When he saw Elijah, he said to him, “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?” 18 “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. 19 Now summon the people from all over Israel to meet me on Mount Carmel. And bring the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.” 20 So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel. 21 Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” But the people said nothing. 22 Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only one of the LORD’s prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets. 23 Get two bulls for us. Let them choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. 24 Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD. The god who answers by fire– he is God.” Then all the people said, “What you say is good.” 25 Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first, since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire.” 26 So they took the bull given them and prepared it. Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. “O Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made. 27 At noon Elijah began to taunt them. “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.” 28 So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. 29 Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention. 30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come here to me.” They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the LORD, which was in ruins. 31 Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD had come, saying, “Your name shall be Israel.” 32 With the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two seahs of seed. 33 He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, “Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood.” 34 “Do it again,” he said, and they did it again. “Do it a third time,” he ordered, and they did it the third time. 35 The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench. 36 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. 37 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.” 38 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. 39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The LORD– he is God! The LORD– he is God!” 40 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. (NIV)
A. The Challenge (vv. 16-24)
- Summarize the events in this section. people?
- Describe the scene on Mount Carmel. To whom did Elijah address himself? Who else is there?
- What was Elijah’s challenge to the people? (v. 21) What does the challenge mean? Today, what choices are some of us wavering between? What kind of decision we made?
- What test did Elijah propose? (vv. 23, 24) Who was being tested? Explain your answer.
- Elijah knew that if he loses in the contest, his life would be in danger. Why then Elijah dare to give this challenge?Have there been instances in your life when you had to stand up alone for God? What happened then?
B. The Showdown (vv. 25-40)
- Relate how the dramatic events took place.
- At what point did Elijah take the initiative? (v.29, 30a) What was the very first thing Elijah did? (v. 30) What is the significance of this? Are we experiencing God’s power in our life? If not, what do we need to do before it can happen? Cite specific things that should be done.
- How was God’s power manifested? (vv. 32-39)
- What happened to the false prophets? (v. 40) Why was there a need to for the false prophet to be seized and slaughtered? Reflection: Have I realized the gravity of sin in my life? How have I dealt with it?
- What happened to the false prophets? (v. 40)Previous to this incident, the vast majority of Israelites under King Ahab had turned from worshipping the Lord to worshipping Baal: Surely Baal had some powers and had manifested them before, which convinced so many people to follow him. But now in a direct confrontation between the Lord and Baal, the Lord prevailed and Baal was rendered powerless. Cite other instances from the Bible and from our own lives to show that this principle always holds true.
REFLECTION: Now that I know the Lord is God, what do I do about it?
There is only one true God. There are other powers in the world, but in a direct confrontation, God always prevails. Every one of us should determine in our heart whom we will serve, eradicate sin from our heart, and live accordingly.