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Elijah: Prophet Of Courage and Confrontation
1 Kings 18:16b-40
Intro: We have had the privilege of observing God as
He trained a man named Elijah. We saw bring him
from nowhere, set him before a king and use him to
strike fear into a nation. We have seen God send him
through one trial after another to teach him total
dependence upon the power and provision of God. We
have seen the contrast between this man Elijah and
others who claimed that they knew the Lord. We have
learned much about this man. Yet, all we have seen
Elijah go through was in preparation for the events we
have read about this morning.
All the training, all the trials, and all the trusting have
been to bring Elijah to the place where he could stand
in the pure power of God and show a lost nation that
Jehovah, not Baal, was Lord of all. You see, the entire
nation of Israel, with the exception of some 7,000
faithful people, 1 Kings 19:18, had given themselves
over to the worship of the false god Baal. Things were
so bad that even the king and the queen of Israel were
leaders in promoting the worship of these idol gods.
However, God had not forgotten His investment in His
people! He had not forgotten how He had chosen them
out of all the other people's on the face of the earth.
How He had brought them out of Egypt and led them
through the wilderness. He remembered giving them
the land, the Law and the covenants of promise. He
never forgot for and instant that they were His people
and that he had plans for them.
Therefore, God had called, trained, and groomed a
an named Elijah. All the preparation had been for just
this moment. A moment when God would call the
nation back to Himself. A moment when God would
prove beyond all question that He was Lord and God.
For Elijah, this was a event that required great faith
and courage, but he had been adequately prepared by
the Lord for a task such as this. In fact, it was time for
Elijah to prove that he was who he was rumored to be.
It was time to put up or shut up. In other words, It's
This passage has much to say to the church this
morning as well. We live in a day of half-hearted
service, when people serve the gods of self,
materialism, recreation and pleasure more than the
serve the God of Heaven. And, I am not just talking
about the world. The same mentality that drive the
world today has invaded the church! God wants us to
know today that He is still the Lord! He hasn't forgotten
the investment He made in us, and like He called Israel
back to Himself on Mount Carmel, He wants to call His
people back to Him today.
I believe there are truths in this passage that speak
to our hearts today. Let's dig into these verses this
morning and see what they have to say to us about our
relationship with and service to the God of our salvation.
It's show time for Elijah, it's also show time for you and
me. Let's notice the truths contained in this passage
I. V. 17-24 THE CHALLENGE EXTENDED
A. V. 17-20 Elijah Challenges The Potentate -
This meeting between Elijah and Ahab is an
interesting one. Ahab is the king of Israel. He
has chosen to lead the people of God away from
the worship of God into the worship of a false
God Baal. Elijah, on the other hand, knows
nothing of compromise! He is totally sold out to
the will of God for himself and for his nation. It is
safe to say that these two men are not best of
friends! In fact, some may wonder why Ahab
would even allow Elijah to live at this point. After
all, Elijah is the one who pronounced the drought
that has nearly destroyed Israel and that has
taken the lives of thousands of people. Why not
just kill him and be finished with it? I believe that
Ahab has come to believe that the drought will
not end unless Elijah prays for it to. Therefore,
he must indulge this man that he despises so
deeply. Let's listen in on their conversation and
glean from it.
1. V. 17 A Confrontation - When Ahab sees
Elijah, he accuses him of "troubling" Israel.
This word refers to one "who stirs
something up, or causes a disturbance."
However, it also carries the meaning of "a
snake or serpent." This is equivalent to
Ahab calling Elijah "a snake in the grass."
there is no love lost between these two men!
What Ahab failed to realize was that Elijah
was the best friend that Israel had!
(Ill. So it is with the man of God! People will
get angry when truth is preached from the
pulpit. They fail to understand that when
God's man tells them the truth, he does so
because he loves them and God loves them.
You see, the truth has the power to set you
free, John 8:32. Therefore, people would do
well to receive the message of God and deal
with it personally. The man who tells you the
truth is not your enemy. The man who tells
you all is well when you are wrong is not your
2. V. 18 A Condemnation - Elijah's response to
the accusations of Ahab is to look him
squarely in the eye and tell him the truth.
Elijah tells Ahab that the drought is really
Ahab's fault! Because he, and his fathers,
led the people away from the worship of God
and into the worship of Baal, God sent the
drought to get their attention and to call their
hearts back to Himself, 18:37. In reality,
Ahab was the trouble maker, Elijah was
just the trouble shooter!
(Ill. Why is it that God's people forget that
there is a price on sin? When we make
wrong choices in our lives and wander away
from God, why are we surprised when He
chastens us? After all, isn't that what He
promised to do? (Heb. 12:5-11; Rev. 3:19;
Pro. 3:11-12) There always has been, and
there always will be a price to pay for sin,
Gal. 6:9. You never get away with it!)
3. V. 19-20 A Challenge - Elijah commands
Ahab to sent for the people of Israel, the 450
prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of
Asherah (The female consort of Baal). Elijah
even points out the fact that king of Israel is
using his own resources to feed these false
prophets, v. 19. Basically, Elijah is
challenging these false prophets to a duel.
They will decide once and for all which God
will be worshiped in Israel. In verse 20,
Ahab accepts the challenge and goes to
round up the participants. It appears that the
prophets of Asherah did not make the trip to
(Ill. I just want to point out the fact that Elijah
the prophet spoke 8 times during this event
and each time he spoke, he issued a
command. Why didn't someone kill him and
shut him up? Because as long as you are in
the will of God, you are invincible until the
Lord gets through with you, Isa. 54:17.)
B. V. 21 Elijah Challenges The People - Now the
people and the prophets have heeded the call of
Elijah and they have gathered themselves on top
of Mount Carmel. This large mountain, near the
Mediterranean Sea has a large flat top that
would allow such a great crowd to assemble.
Once they are there, Elijah ignores the prophets
of Baal and turns his attention to the people of
Israel, God's chosen. Note three aspects about
his challenge to the people.
1. A Question - Simply put, Elijah's questions is
this: "How long are you going to waiver or
vacillate between two ways of life?" These
people were guilty of trying to hold hands
with God and Baal. They were guilty of what
many people are guilty of this morning. They
wanted the best God could give them and
they wanted what they could get from Baal
worship. They wanted the best of both
worlds! The words "How long" indicate that
this had been going on for quiet some time.
So it is in the church. People want to
assurance that they are saved and a member
of the church, but they want to hold on to
their sins too. They want heaven, but they
also want a beer now and then. They want
the Bible, but they want to curse when things
go wrong. They want to be able to pray
when they have a need, but they want to live
life by their own rules and do as they please!
My friends, that will never work!
(Ill. We might as well come to understand
right now that divided allegiance is a wicked
as open idolatry! This is proven by Christ's
condemnation of the church at Laodicea,
Rev. 3:14-22. A person is either for Christ as
he is against Him! You cannot be neutral!
You cannot occupy the middle of the road!
Jesus said it this way, "He that is not with
me is against me; and he that gathereth
not with me scattereth abroad.", Matt.
12:30. Where do you stand in regard to the
Lord Jesus Christ?)
2. A Quandary - Elijah present the people with
a problem. He tells them that they are being
contradictory. If God is Lord, then Baal
cannot be. If Baal is Lord then God cannot
be. What Elijah is saying is that both God
and Baal cannot both exist. There is room in
the universe for only one Lord and one God!
They are challenged to choose who they will
(Ill. This is the same challenge we face this
morning! Many who claim to love the Lord
are also holding hands with the world, the
flesh, material possessions or whatever.
This is a contradiction! Either God is the
Lord or He isn't. If He isn't, then those other
things you hold to must be. The bottom line
is this: you have to make a choice! Who will
you serve? Who is really the Lord of your
life? You really can't have it both ways! If
you say you love the Lord and deny Him by
your life, you actions and your activities, then
you really don't love Him at all! So, what's it
going to be for you?)
3. A Quietness - When Elijah extends this
challenge to the people, they just say
nothing! This is just what you would expect
from people like these. They are cowards
and they prove it by trying to stay in the
middle of the road. Friends, there are times
when you can walk in the middle and be all
right. But, there are times when you have to
have the backbone to stand for that which is
right against that which is evil. Anything less
is cowardice! Many people think by being
quiet and maintaining a low profile that
trouble and sin will just go away. My friend,
if that is your philosophy, then you are
deceiving yourself! Sometimes life will
present you with opportunities to shut up,
more often, faith will present you with
opportunities to stand up!)
C. V. 22-24 Elijah Challenges The Prophet -
Before Elijah finishes, he presents a challenge to
the prophets of Baal. He calls upon them to put
their faith in their god on the line. He tells them
"It's show time!)
1. V. 22 The Teams - Elijah is just one man
against 450 men. Yet, he is willing to stand
for God. Talk about courage! Talk about
guts! Talk about faith! Where are the Elijahs
who will stand against everyone if need be,
so they can stand with God? This is what I
mean when I say we have to choose sides!
Let us not fear the fact that we are
outnumbered. Let us not waiver because it
may appear that we stand alone! If we stand
with God, we are never alone, Matt. 28:20;
Heb. 13:5! He is ever there and He will see
us through all the battles. (Ill. David - 1 Sam.
17. He stood when everyone else cowered
in fear. Because he stood, God wrought a
2. V. 23-24a The Terms - Elijah lays out the
challenge to the people and the prophets.
They will offer a bull and pray. The God who
answers by sending fire from Heaven will be
worshiped as God. Of course, Elijah tells
them that they are to put not "fire under", v.
23. History records that often pagan altars
had a dug out underneath where a priest
could hide and light a fire, making it look as
though a pagan god was responding. This
was just fine with the Baal prophets. After all,
Baal was the god of life! He was a fertility
god who was seen in the rain and in the sun.
They felt that he was responsible for life. Of
course, Baal hadn't been able to send rain
for three and a half years, but surely he could
send fire. You see, the worshipers of Baal
believed that he could be seen in the great
thunder heads that brought rain to the land,
but they also thought he could be seen in the
sun itself. When they looked into the sky
and saw the bright, burning sun overhead,
they felt that they were looking directly at
Baal. This was a contest that they felt
confident of winning! Did you know that our
English word "bonfire" came from the old
Saxon word "Bael-fyr"? Interesting, huh? Of
course, Satan would have given them fire if
he had been permitted to, Job 1:9-12!
Of course, there were some in the crowd
who would remember that Jehovah had also
spoken by fire in the past. They might have
remembered the burning bush, the fire on the
altar of the Temple, the pillar of fire in the
wilderness, the fact that God had consumed
a murmuring crowd with fire, or the fact that
God's fire had lit the top of Mt. Sinai. Either
way, it seemed a fair challenge to the people
and to the prophets of Baal.
3. V. 24b The Tragedy - The whole tragedy lies
in the fact that the people are even willing to
consider that Baal might be real. After all the
things that God had done for them, how
could they stoop to the place where they
would even consider a contest of this nature?
Imagine them expecting God to prove
Himself to them after all He had already done
for them and their nation!
(Ill. Before we come down too harshly on
these people, maybe we should admit that
we are often guilty of the same things. When
we allow life and all of its distractions crowd
God out, we are as guilty as they are. When
we come to the place where we wonder what
God has to offer, then we are in bad shape.
When we forget His blessings, His power, His
grace and His goodness, we are in terrible
shape spiritually. When we live lives that are
substandard spiritually, we are guilty of
asking God to prove Himself to us! When
God has to compete with everything else in
your life just to get a minute of your attention,
let alone your faithful service, you are in sad
shape spiritually! Do you see how it is
possible to get in this position?)
I. The Challenge Extended
II. V. 25-38 THE CONTEST EXECUTED
(Ill. The challenge extended and accepted. Now the
contest gets underway. As this story unfolds, let's
notice how things work out for those involved.)
A. V. 25-29 The Problems Of The False Prophets
- The prophets of Baal get to go first.
1. V. 25-26 Their Ministry - From early morning
to noon these false priests prayed, screamed
and called on Baal, but no fire came down
and no answer was given to them at all.
They appeared to be wasting their time.
2. V. 27 Their Mockery - When Elijah saw the
ir foolishness and the futility of what they
were doing, he stepped forward and mocked
them and their god. He said, "Surely he is a
god! You better cry louder! Maybe he is
doing something else and is too busy to
help you! Maybe he left town or is out
hunting. Maybe he is asleep and you
need to wake him up!" Elijah is pretty rough
on these old boys, but they deserved pity!
So it is with this world around us. They are
so foolish that they waste their entire lives
living for things that will die with them. They
spend their entire lives building a dream only
to see everything vanish and be replaced by
Hell when they die. God help us who know
the Lord to love them, to reach out tot hem
and to try to make a difference in their lives
for the glory of God!
3. V. 28-29 Their Misery - Elijah's mockery sent
these men into a fit! They screamed,
jumped, even cut their bodies in an attempt
to get a response from Baal. However, the
Bible tells us that there was no voice, neither
any to answer, nor any that regarded! That
last phrase means that by this time, even the
people watching this spectacle had lost
interest in what these false prophets were
doing. (Ill. Just try to imagine this scene!
450 crazed prophets of Baal, prophesying,
yelling, dancing, jumping, cutting themselves
all in an effort to get the attention of a god
that didn't even exist.
(Ill. A parallel to that are those people who
live their lives in a frenzy to acquire and do
more than their neighbor, only to die with
nothing. They do it for their god: self. But,
too late, they realize that their god cannot
save nor can he give them happiness or
peace. What a terrible way to live and die!)
B. V. 30-38 The Power Of The Faithful Prophet -
After this pitiful spectacle, the faithful prophet
Elijah steps forward. What he does teaches us
about the ministry of faith in God and faithfulness
to God in service.
1. V. 30-35 The Preparations - Notice what
Elijah did to prepare for this event. Several
things stand out to us this morning.
A. V. 30 He called the people to come
near - true faith, unlike false worship, has
absolutely nothing to hide! You had
better watch the group that talks of secret
things and hidden truth! My friend, do not
be afraid to put Christianity under the
microscope, it can stand the test!
B. V. 30-32 Elijah rebuilt an old altar that
had fallen down. He used 12 stones to
speak of the 12 tribes and he did his work
in the name of the Lord. The people of
Israel had constructed altars to Baal,
while the altars to Jehovah had come into
disrepair. There are people here today
who need to rebuild their altars! Are you
spending the time in prayer that you need
to? Not prayer behind the wheel of the
car, but real prayer, where all distractions
are put away and God has your undivided
attention. How many would have to be
honest and say their prayer lives need
C. V. 33 He slaughtered and presented a
sin offering. A bull was used for the sin
offering. The people had sinned and
Elijah is offering a sin offering for the
people. Elijah knew where the real
problem was! Ill. Friend, if you are saved,
the sin offering has already been
presented and you have been cleansed
by the blood of Jesus. However, what
God wants from you is a sacrifice of
repentance and confession, 1 John 1:9.
D. V. 33-35 He watered the entire
business down. Elijah wanted there to
be no doubt that it was the work of the
Lord. He was so certain that God would
do this thing that he placed obstacles in
the Lord's way. Ill. There were 12 stones
for 12 tribes divided through idolatry. He
used 12 barrels of water to signify that
these 12 tribes were 12 hindrances to the
glory of God being revealed in them!
Elijah's primary goal was that God get
every ounce of the glory! When that
becomes your goal and mine, we will see
the Lord work wonders in our midst as
2. V. 36-37 The Prayer - The Baal prophets had
prayed at least 6 hours and nothing had
happened. Elijah stepped up to his altar and
prayed a 63 word prayer. His prayer was
constructed to accomplish three things.
A. That God be glorified.
B. That the prophet be vindicated.
C. That the people be revived.
Elijah could have prayed for rain, but he did
not. Why? He knew that as badly as rain
was needed, the people needed revival
more! We may think we know what we need
in our lives, but, in truth, the greatest need
we have is to get exactly where God wants
us and serve Him. That was the heart of
Elijah and it should be our heart as well!
3. V. 38 The Proof - When Elijah finished
praying, God answered in a spectacular
fashion. Note the order in which the
elements were consumed. If the items had
burned from the bottom up, it might have
looked like man did it. However, everything
burned from the top down, proving it was the
work of God alone!
(Ill. Just let me remind us right here that God
will honor that person who is sold out to His
will! If you live by faith you need never fear
the Lord letting you down! He will always
come through for you! Please let me say to
you that we must never underestimate the
power of a totally dedicated life! If you are
sold out, the Lord will use you greatly!)
(Ill. Did you notice that when the fire fell, it fell
on the sacrifice and not on the sinners?
What a picture of Jesus! He took our place
on the cross and absorbed the wrath of God
so that we might be free from wrath, death
and Hell! What a Savior!)
I. The Challenge Extended
II. The Contest Executed
III. V. 39-40 THE CRISIS ENDED
A. V. 39 The Repentance Of The Wayward
People - The people have their proof. They
should have never questioned the Lord, but they
did and He answered in a brilliant display of
power and glory!
1. Their Conviction - They fell on their faces.
Finally the people of the Lord are bowing
before the Lord in humility! If you know that
the Lord is God today, you should find
yourself in the same place that these wicked
men found themselves. We ought to be
humble and prostrate before the Lord our
God! He is worthy of our love, our devotion
and our praise!
2. Their Confession - They voice the truth that
they have known in their hearts all the while.
"The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is
God!" By their actions and their
acknowledgment, they declare His glory, His
place and their reverence for Him. Their
hearts now burned with a new zeal for the
(Ill. Friend, you and I should find ourselves
often in the place where we are laid out
before him in praise, honor and worship!
How long has it been since you found
yourself in the presence of God for no other
purpose than just to love Him and to worship
Him? If it has been a while, let no more time
pass! Honor Him as He deserves to be
B. V. 40 The Removal Of The Wicked Prophets -
After all was done and settled, Elijah took the
prophets of Baal down to the brook Kishon and
killed them all. Some people read this and they
are offended that all of these men were killed.
However, Elijah simply did what had to be done!
Why? Well, like a cancer that will destroy its
host unless it is dealt with, these Baal prophets
were destroying Israel and they had to go.
Another reason was that Elijah was simply doing
what the Lord had commanded in the Law, "And
that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall
be put to death; because he hath spoken to
turn you away from the LORD your God,
which brought you out of the land of Egypt,
and redeemed you out of the house of
bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which
the LORD thy God commanded thee to walk
in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the
midst of thee.", Deut. 13:5. There is no greater
crime against humanity than to lead men to a
(Ill. As you and I examine our lives this morning,
are there areas that we have allowed to become
soft spiritually? Maybe it is your devotional life,
or your witnessing life, or you church life, or your
praise life, or any number of things. Maybe you
have allowed some sin to creep into your life and
you are hindered in your walk with God. You
know where you stand today and what you need
to do is to come before the Lord this morning
and put those things to death! But, if you are
thinking of doing that, be forewarned that it
requires great courage and stamina!)
Conc: Do we really need to challenge the Lord to prove
that He is God today? Do we need to set up a trial and
ask God to jump through hoops for us? Maybe if He
did, then we would serve Him! However, I think it would
be far better for God's people, who claim to love Him
anyway, to just come before Him and confess our sins,
render our thanks, offer our praise and love Him. Don't
You may be like the prophets of Baal. You might
not even be saved today. One day there will come a
time when you will be lead away and sent to the second
death in Hell. Is that what you want? If the Lord is
drawing you to come to Him, please come and receive
Him into your life.
Whatever the need, the altar is open and God is
waiting to do business with all those who will come on
His terms. Will you?