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church with steeple June 15 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading: 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 God of heaven and Baal.

Today, in our chronological Bible study, we enter the period of the Major Prophets. Elijah and Elisha were primarily prophets to the northern kingdom of Israel. Israel was 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 sent prophets to try to stop Israel’s wicked behavior. But in stopping them, he first had to get their attention by taking severe actions. Elijah’s first recorded mission was to announce to King Ahab that, because of his wickedness, God would not send rain to Israel for a few years (later identified as sometime in the third year, IKings18:1). This drought would continue until Elijah proclaimed that it would rain again. Earlier, God had promised that he would withhold rain from the land of Israel if they worshipped other gods, and now God was going to keep that promise (Leviticus 26:18-20; Deuteronomy 11:16-17; 28:23-24). That probably didn’t make Elijah very popular. A long period of drought, however, would show how their rain god, Baal, was weak and inept in comparison to the Almighty God of Israel. The LORD was the true God. As 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 wickedness affected all the ten tribes he ruled. Did Ahab repent after experiencing God’s judgment? No. Even after three years of drought, Ahab still blamed Elijah. He sent word to everyone in the kingdom to search for Elijah so that he might kill him. However, God often protects godly men and women who rely upon him. God sent Elijah to hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan River. There he had water to drink, and ravens brought him food to eat. After the brook dried up, he was sent to Sidon, north of Israel, where a poor starving widow and her son from Zarephath fed him and were miraculously provided for during the drought. When God finally sent Elijah back to King Ahab, the king was 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 set up a contest so that the people would see who was 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 could not even provide rain. The place of the contest was 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 were constructed - one to Baal and one to Israel’s God. A bull sacrifice was placed upon each with wood underneath, but no fire was to be lit. The god who would answer by fire to consume it would be the true God. All the people agreed to the contest.

The prophets of Baal constructed their altar first and placed their bull on top of it. All day long the prophets of Baal cried out to their gods to send lightning to burn up the sacrifice and dry wood on their fire. Nothing happened. In their zeal to be faithful to their religion they even cut themselves. Nothing happened. Elijah mocked their efforts. Finally, six hours later, at the time of the evening sacrifice, Elijah called 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 had a trench dug around it. He put wood and the bull sacrifice upon the altar and then thoroughly soaked it with water so that the trench was filled with water. Now it seemed impossible for Israel’s God or any god to burn up the sacrifice. Elijah showed them this was no trick; it would 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 was over. The people learned who the true God was. After the people recognized that God was the true God, Elijah prayed to God seven times to send rain, and he did. Elijah was 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 got very discouraged and depressed. Elijah was tired - physically, emotionally and spiritually. He was hungry. He felt all alone in the battle, and to top it all off, he received a threat to his life from Ahab’s evil wife, Jezebel. It was the last straw, so Elijah ran away (1Kings 19:1-18). Many parents who have battled with their disobedient children have felt the same way. God is, however, gracious to his servants. God sent an angel to feed Elijah and then twice let him sleep. Afterwards, He told Elijah he was not alone - God still had 7,000 still faithful to him. Sometimes we need to hear that we are not alone, and we need time and rest to refocus ourselves for upcoming battles. He then chose an attendant for Elijah, someone who could share his burden of ministry. This person was Elisha. God knows our needs and helps us.

What kind of man was Elisha, Elijah's replacement? According to 1Kings 19:19-21 Elisha was committed, compassionate, energetic, and just the kind of man Elijah needed to mentor. How wonderful it is to know that God often times raises up men and women of God when it is time to turn over our ministry 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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