First, I ask you to take a Bible, find and mark 1 Kings 17 and 18, and then give me your attention.

I want to begin our study with a series of questions I ask you to consider very carefully.

Question one: if you could change anything [no restrictions] in the church all over the world, what would you change?

Question two: if you could change anything in the church in America, what would you change?

Question three: if you could change anything [whatever your said to do was done just exactly like you wanted it done] in this congregation, what would you change?

Question four: why would you make those changes? Let's assume that our motivation is greater than personal preference. Let's assume that our motivation is "doing things God's way." Are you sure that what you want done is what God wants done? Are you sure that your priorities are God's priorities? If your first response is, "Certainly, I'm sure! My priorities come from God's word!" Do they come from the whole word, or just the part of the word you consider essential? Is your emphasis the same emphasis God has?

Question five: do you really think your changes would "fix" things?

Now turn to I Kings 17, 18.

  1. Let's begin by understanding what happened before the events of these two chapters.
    1. When King Solomon [King David's son] died, the nation of Israel divided.
      1. When the nation divided, the majority left God and His leadership and turned to idols.
      2. The part of the nation that turned away from God was often called Israel.
        1. They were ten of the twelve tribes in that nation.
        2. Their king, King Jereboam, established worship centers in Dan and Bethel so the people did not have to leave their territory to worship.
        3. From the time of the split until the time Assyria destroyed them as a nation, they never returned to Jerusalem to worship Jehovah God in the temple.
    2. The events in I Kings 17, 18 occurred after the split in the territory that left God, but before Assyria destroyed that nation.
      1. Elijah, one of God's greatest prophets, was living in that breakaway nation.
      2. His personal mission was to turn the people there back to God.
        1. His mission for God was to be God's spokesman.
        2. His personal goal was to heal the breech between these people and God.
      3. Elijah thought he was the only person in the whole nation who was loyal to God (1 Kings 19:10; see also 19:18).
      4. Elijah not only thought he was the only person in these ten tribes who was loyal to God, but he also had a plan--not a rebellious plan--but a plan of how he would achieve his personal goal while serving as God's spokesman.

  2. Now consider the events of I Kings 17 and 18.
    1. At this time the ten tribes were ruled by an evil king named Ahab and a very wicked queen named Jezebel.
      1. Ahab was a selfish, self-centered Jewish man who did more evil than all the kings who preceded him (1 Kings 16:30).
      2. Jezebel was a Sidionian woman who encouraged and supported the worship of Baal in that nation (1 Kings 16:31).
      3. Under the influence and leadership of these two, these ten tribes became an extremely wicked people.
    2. In 1 Kings 17 Elijah sent Ahab a message that said that the only thing they would receive from God would be God's words through him, that there would be no rain nor dew. That began a serious drought.
      1. Because of his prophetic declaration against this nation, Elijah had to go into hiding.
      2. For a while he hid by the brook Cherith, but the brook dried up.
      3. Then he hid in Jezebel's homeland (the land of Sidon) in a village called Zarephath where a widow cared for him.
    3. In 1 Kings 18 we learn that it has not rained in the whole region for over two years.
      1. Can you imagine what it would do to an area that depended on agriculture to survive if it did not rain one time in over two years?
      2. By this time Ahab was extremely angry because he knew that Elijah was the cause of his problems.
      3. God told Elijah to talk to Ahab face to face and following that encounter God would send rain.
        1. Elijah sent word to Ahab through Obadiah (Obadiah was an important servant to Ahab).
        2. Obadiah did not want to take the message to Ahab: "I know you. Ahab will come to meet you and you will be gone because God's Spirit will take you somewhere else. Then I will be killed."
        3. Elijah assured Obadiah he would be there when Ahab came.
    4. The meeting:
      1. When Ahab came, he greeted Elijah as the "troubler of Israel."
      2. Elijah said he did not trouble Israel, but Ahab's desertion of God troubled Israel.
        1. (My paraphrase): Elijah said this ridiculous situation had continued long enough.
        2. Tell the 450 prophets of Baal who Jezebel supported to meet him at Mount Carmel.
        3. Elijah also sent word throughout the ten tribes for the men to come to Mount Carmel.
      3. When everyone was gathered, Elijah proposed a contest.
        1. He asked them, "How long are you going to continue to be undecided about who is God--Baal or Jehovah? Decide, and follow the one who demonstrates He is truly God.
        2. He called the attention to the fact that the odds were 450 to 1.
        3. He proposed they prepare two sacrifices.
          1. The contest: they would not ignite either sacrifice.
          2. The prophets of Baal would call on Baal to ignite his sacrifice.
          3. He would call upon Jehovah to ignite his sacrifice.
          4. The One who ignited a sacrifice would be the true God and the decision would be made.
          5. The contest was accepted.
        4. The prophets of Baal spent most of the day asking Baal to ignite their sacrifice.
          1. They even cut themselves hoping their blood and mutilation would get Baal's attention.
          2. Elijah chided them: maybe Baal was occupied with something else; maybe he was gone on a journey; maybe he was asleep--cry louder!
          3. No matter what they did, their sacrifice was not ignited.
        5. Elijah's request was a brief prayer.
          1. First, he asked everyone to come close.
          2. Then he built a trench around the altar.
          3. Then he had them douse the sacrifice with water three times.
          4. Then he had them fill the trench with water.
          5. With one prayer God sent fire that consumed the sacrifice, the stones, the water, and even the ground of the altar.
      4. The response of the people: the men who gathered from the ten tribes declared "Jehovah Lord is God!"
        1. Elijah then ordered the men to take all the prophets of Baal down to the brook Kishon and kill them.
        2. Then he told Ahab to go eat and drink, rain was coming.

  3. Elijah was certain that his personal goal was achieved.
    1. He changed the situation!
      1. The men of the ten tribes had declared that Jehovah Lord was God, not Baal.
      2. The 450 priests that Jezebel supported in serving Baal were dead.
      3. Surely now these people would turn back to the Lord God and turn away from Baal!
    2. I Kings 19 tells us it did not happen.
      1. In fact, it tells us that Elijah became so convinced that he had failed that he wanted God to let him die right then.
      2. Elijah was convinced that he fixed everything, when in fact he had fixed nothing.
    3. What was wrong?
      1. Was Elijah really a man of God? Yes.
      2. Was the message he spoke from God? Yes.
      3. Were the ten tribes very wicked? Yes.
      4. Did the men from the ten tribes witness the miracle? Yes.
      5. Were the prophets of Baal killed? Yes.
    4. Then what was wrong.
      1. The problem was not just changing to whom you offered sacrifices.
      2. The problem was not just changing gods.
      3. The problem was believing.
      4. The problem was loving the true God.
      5. The problem was that Elijah thought he could solve the problem with a sacrifice and miracles when God wanted love and faith that came from hearts.

Deuteronomy 6:1-9 "Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the judgments which the Lord your God has commanded me to teach you, that you might do them in the land where you are going over to possess it, so that you and your son and your grandson might fear the Lord your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged. O Israel, you should listen and be careful to do it, that it may be well with you and that you may multiply greatly, just as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey. Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."

If we understand those words, we understand the problem.

We cannot bypass faith in seeking devotion to God. Without a life altering faith in God, nothing is "fixed." God's first concern: "Do they trust Me?" God's second concern: "Do they love Me because they trust Me?"

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 22 December 2002

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