I Kin. 16:29-18:46
About three years before the death of Asa in Judah, Ahab followed his father Omri to the throne of Israel. Each succeeding king from Jeroboam became move evil than his predecessor. Ahab married Jezebel, the daughter of the Sidonian king. She was a wicked woman. He set up an altar for the god, Baal in the temple of Baal and also made a wooden image of the god. That was a blatant disregard of the commandment to refrain from setting up a god before the true God. The Canaanites put great faith in the god, Baal because they thought that he blessed them with rain. Ahab also allowed the city of Jericho to be rebuilt in direct disregard to the warning of dire consequences by Joshua.
In response to Ahab’s grievous sins, God sent the prophet Elijah, who was also a resident of Gilead in Israel to deliver an important message from Him. “As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word.” That was a direct challenge to the power (or lack thereof) of their rain god, Baal.
A devastating drought would come upon the land, but God would care for Elijah. He commanded him to retreat to the Brook Cherith where he would have water and would be fed by the ravens. That arrangement continued until the brook dried up because of the lack of rain.
Even Elijah, the prophet of God was adversely affected by the famine as his water supply at the Brook Cherith dried up. God, however, continued to care for him as He sent him to dwell in the home of a widow in Zarephath.
Women were deemed to be inferior to men and a widow who had no one to provide for her was at the bottom of the economic scale. To make matters worse, this widow had a dependent son in her care. It would seem heartless for a strange man to demand a portion of a widow’s last meal, but Elijah, by the hand of God had a plan that required great faith of the widow. Upon feeding the prophet, her supply of flour and oil was continually replenished until the end of the famine.
Faith and trust in God bring many blessings—some seen and others unseen. When the widow’s son got sick and died, Elijah performed the first recorded miracle of restoring life to a dead person.
After a period of more than three years, Ahab and Jezebel had committed great atrocities against God and His prophets. Obadiah, who was in charge of Ahab’s house, was secretly a God fearing man. He had hidden and cared for one hundred of God’s prophets in two caves during that time of persecution. He feared for his life as his faith was further tested when Elijah told him to report to Ahab that, “Elijah is here.”
Ahab’s greeting to Elijah: “Is that you, O troubler of Israel?” Many of us today are like the king. As we suffer the consequences for our sins, we blame others for our pain. Elijah had the proper response stating that Ahab and his father’s house had brought on their troubles because of their forsaking the commandments of the Lord and following the Baals.
In order to show who the true God is, Elijah instructed Ahab to bring the children of Israel, the four hundred fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah to Mount Carmel. It is said that followers of Baal believed that Mount Carmel was sacred to him. The challenge from Elijah would allow favorable conditions to his opponents thus giving more credence to the Lord.
After the false prophets had prepared their choice of the two bulls and had placed it on the unlit wood, they called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, but no fire came to consume their offering. They became more intense in their calls and until time for the evening sacrifice, “there was no voice; no one answered, no one paid attention.”
Elijah’s turn: He repaired the broken down altar of the Lord and took twelve stones, representing the twelve tribes. After digging a trench around the altar, he placed his prepared bull upon the unlit wood as the other prophets had done. BUT, to make the demonstration more interesting, he ordered four pots of water to be poured out upon the sacrifice and the wood, also filling the trench. That was done three times in order to assure that everything was thoroughly soaked and fireproof. Instead of the incessant calling, leaping and self-cutting, Elijah simply prayed to God. Fire of the Lord immediately, “fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and the stones and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench.”
The people were convinced that, “The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God!” At Elijah’s command, the false prophets were seized and taken to the Brook Kishon were he executed them.
Elijah prayed seven times for rain and after the seventh time, a small cloud appeared, followed by black clouds and wind, producing a heavy rain. After more than three years the drought had been broken.