ONLY THE REAL GOD IS A CONSUMING FIRE – FEAR AND SERVE HIM!
God’s discipline is intended to drive His people to repentance and full dependence on His provision. King Ahab and Queen Jezebel had established a thriving counterculture of Baal worship, but the pressure of the long drought set up this showdown between God and Baal. Elijah challenged the people to declare their loyalty to the one true God. He spelled out the terms of the contest in such a way that it was clear he did not mind giving every advantage to the camp of Baal worshipers. But the futility of idol worship is captured in this dramatic scene on Mount Carmel and the false prophets are summarily executed. There can be no denying the impotence of Baal and the sovereign power of the Lord. When God relents from His discipline and sends the much-needed rain, there is cause for celebration.
August Konkel: There are three episodes in the account of the confrontation at Mount Carmel. Elijah meets Obadiah the prophet and asks him to inform Ahab he is present (18:1–15); Elijah confronts the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel (18:16–40); and rain comes on the drought-stricken land (18:41–46).
Donald Wiseman: Elijah challenges Ahab prophetically through Obadiah (vv. 1–19), and Baalism through the demonstration that ‘the Lord Yahweh is the (true) God’ (vv. 20–40). Prophecy and prayer are fulfilled in the acceptance of the burnt offering and the end of drought (vv. 41–46). This most dramatic story marks the turning point when the worship of the Lord is almost wiped out by the opposition. A single prophet challenges the whole state to return to God.
Iain Provan: Chapter 17 launched Elijah suddenly into the public arena of Israel’s politics (v. 1) only to whisk him away again into the privacy of the Transjordanian wilderness and a Sidonian home. There he has contributed in a small way to the war that the Lord is now waging upon the worship of Baal, while leaving the drought to do most of the damage. The time has now come for his reappearance on the main stage—for the great battle of the war, indeed. The drought is to end, but before it does it must be indisputable, not only to the widow of Zarephath but also to “all Israel,” who is God. There must be a public test of strength—a face-to-face confrontation between the prophet of the Lord and the prophets of Baal.
J. Hampton Keathley, III: The Bible is not only confrontational but comforting. It not only confronts us with our self-centeredness, sin, rebellion, and independent ways, but it offers us grace, reconciliation, power, and many other blessings of the gospel given to bring forgiveness, designed to change us, and designed to lead us into God’s blessing and protection.
Whitcomb: The contest on Mt. Carmel was a spectacular vindication of the uniqueness and sovereignty of Jehovah in a day of satanic darkness. Never in all history was the point more clearly made that “no idol is anything in the world and there is no God but one” (1 Cor. 8:4). The three-and-one-half-year famine had doubtless shaken the confidence of many in the ability of Baal, the god of fertility, to answer their prayers. But if any yet hesitated, Elijah’s demonstration would remove every excuse for following this vile system of worship.
I. (:1-16) DEMANDING A SHOWDOWN – SETTING UP MEETING WITH AHAB VIA OBADIAH AS THE INTERMEDIARY
A. (:1-2) Confrontation Commanded by the Lord
1. (:1) Prerequisite to God Ending the Drought
“Now it came about after many days, that the word of the LORD came to Elijah in the third year, saying,
‘Go, show yourself to Ahab,
and I will send rain on the face of the earth.’”
2. (:2) Pressure on Ahab Has Been Building
“So Elijah went to show himself to Ahab.
Now the famine was severe in Samaria.”
John Gates: The famine was now most acute. So dire and devastating had been its effects upon the vegetation of Israel that the cattle could no longer find grazing spots.
B. (:3-6) Circumstances Providentially Ordered
1. (:3a) Two Key Players
“And Ahab called Obadiah who was over the household.”
Donald Wiseman: Obadiah (‘servant of Yah[weh]’) was a high royal official (Heb. ‘who was over [in charge of] the house/palace’, see on 4:6). He ‘revered the Lord greatly’ (nrsv), i.e. was a devout believer.
2. (:3b-4) Testimony to Obadiah’s Faith
“(Now Obadiah feared the LORD greatly; 4 for it came about, when Jezebel destroyed the prophets of the LORD, that Obadiah took a hundred prophets and hid them by fifties in a cave, and provided them with bread and water.)”
2 Views of the character of Obadiah:
Constable: When Obadiah met Elijah, he voiced his submission to the man of God and to Yahweh. He did so by calling Elijah his “master” (v. 7). However, Obadiah served two masters. Elijah pointed this out by referring to Ahab as Obadiah’s master (v. 8). To rise as high as he had in Ahab’s government, Obadiah had to have lived a double life of external support for Ahab while internally following Yahweh. . .
Obadiah was similar to many believers in Yahweh who were living in Israel then. They had divided allegiances, their faith in God was weak, they were fearful for their own safety, and they were slow to respond to God’s word.
Wiersbe: Was he a courageous servant of God (his name means “servant of Jehovah”) or a timid compromiser who was afraid to let his witness be known? The text informs us that Obadiah “feared the Lord greatly” and proved it during Jezebel’s “purge” by risking his life to rescue and support one hundred prophets of the Lord. That doesn’t sound like a man who was compromising his testimony!
3. (:5-6) Territory Searched Separately by Ahab and Obadiah
“Then Ahab said to Obadiah, ‘Go through the land to all the springs of water and to all the valleys; perhaps we will find grass and keep the horses and mules alive, and not have to kill some of the cattle.’
So they divided the land between them to survey it; Ahab went one way by himself and Obadiah went another way by himself.”
John Schultz: The fact that the king of Israel had to go around the country, looking for grass, is the most ridiculous scene imaginable. It emphasized what happens when the living God, the Creator of the universe is being replaced by idols. Idols cannot create anything, not even grass!
Dale Ralph Davis: Here (vv. 3–6) is an interesting contrast between Ahab and Obadiah. Obadiah saves prophets. Ahab wants to save mules and horses (v. 5). That is typical of kings and governments: the economy is everything.
C. (:7-14) Concern by Obadiah for His Life
1. (:7-8) Dangerous Ask by Elijah
“Now as Obadiah was on the way, behold, Elijah met him,
and he recognized him and fell on his face
and said, ‘Is this you, Elijah my master?’
And he said to him, ‘It is I. Go, say to your master,
‘Behold, Elijah is here.’”
2. (:9-14) Desperate Angst by Obadiah
a. (:9) Fear for His Life – Why are you putting me in such danger?
“And he said, ‘What sin have I committed, that you are giving your servant into the hand of Ahab, to put me to death?’”
William Barnes: This is ironically parallel to the conundrum the Phoenician widow faced in 17:18. When a prophet of God shows up, the situation often escalates to life- or-death levels. Note that Obadiah says in his speech three times that Ahab will kill him (18:9, 12, 14). [This becomes the refrain of vv. 7-14]
b. (:10-11) Finding Elijah is a Priority for Ahab
“As the LORD your God lives, there is no nation or kingdom where my master has not sent to search for you; and when they said, ‘He is not here,’ he made the kingdom or nation swear that they could not find you. And now you are saying, ‘Go, say to your master, Behold, Elijah is here.’”
c. (:12a) Fear for His Life – How can I be sure you will stay here?
“And it will come about when I leave you that the Spirit of the LORD will carry you where I do not know; so when I come and tell Ahab and he cannot find you, he will kill me,”
d. (:12b-13) Faithful Service Should Count for Something
“although I your servant have feared the LORD from my youth. 13 Has it not been told to my master what I did when Jezebel killed the prophets of the LORD, that I hid a hundred prophets of the LORD by fifties in a cave, and provided them with bread and water?”
e. (:14) Fear for His Life – What are you thinking?
“And now you are saying, ‘Go, say to your master, Behold, Elijah is here;’ he will then kill me.”
D. (:15-16) Commitment by Elijah to Meet with Ahab to Set Up the Showdown
“And Elijah said, ‘As the LORD of hosts lives, before whom I stand,
I will surely show myself to him today.’
So Obadiah went to meet Ahab, and told him;
and Ahab went to meet Elijah.”
Donald Wiseman: This first occurrence in Kings of ‘the Lord of Hosts’, which also occurs in other prophetic utterances (19:10; 2 Kgs 3:14; 19:31), denotes more than the heavenly hosts (Yahweh Sabaoth) or all subordinate gods or the armies of Israel (1 Sam. 17:45). It includes the idea of God as the God of order and hence refers to his irresistible royal majesty and power (niv, the Lord God Almighty).
II. (:17-21) DEFINING THE SHOWDOWN – WHO IS THE REAL GOD AND WHERE ARE YOUR LOYALTIES?
A. (:17-18) Assigning Blame – Based on Your Loyalties
1. (:17) Blame Shifting
“And it came about, when Ahab saw Elijah that Ahab said to him,
‘Is this you, you troubler of Israel?’”
Unrepentant sin will stir up trouble and disrupt the peace and prosperity of the people of God. The problem is often laid at the feet of the one who exposed the sin. But the real culprit is the one committing the sin.
August Konkel: This accusation of Ahab is itself a contradiction. If Baal is truly god, Elijah could have no power over Israel at all. If Elijah does have power to bring drought, then Baal is not really god.
J. Hampton Keathley, III: Ahab’s heart was filled with evil treasure–with resentment, hatred, the desire for revenge, and with his solutions for dealing with Elijah. So, immediately, when he saw Elijah, his volcano of corruption erupted in accusations, name calling, maligning, criticism, and blame.
2. (:18) Blame Sticking
“And he said, ‘I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father’s house have, because you have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and you have followed the Baals.’”
B. (:19-20) Assembling the Faithless People and the False Prophets
1. (:19) Elijah Commands the Assembling
“Now then send and gather to me all Israel at Mount Carmel,
together with 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of the Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.”
Constable: the Phoenicians regarded Carmel as a sacred dwelling place of Baal. Storms with lightning and thunder were common on Mount Carmel, and Baal worshippers viewed them as manifestations of their deity. The name “Carmel” means “the garden land,” and it was famous for its fertility. In the minds of many, Baal had the advantage in this contest.
2. (:20) Ahab Communicates the Command Throughout Israel
“So Ahab sent a message among all the sons of Israel,
and brought the prophets together at Mount Carmel.”
John Schultz: We are not told how much time elapsed between Elijah’s private meeting with King Ahab and the gathering on Mount Carmel. It must have taken several weeks to organize a large meeting like that, where not only the Baal priests, but most of the people of the kingdom gathered.
Peter Pett: In what follows we gather that there was at Mount Carmel, a long mountain ridge stretching out into the sea, divided by many ravines, a true sanctuary dedicated to YHWH which had been allowed to fall into disuse. There was also there a sanctuary and altar of Baal which were flourishing, no doubt encouraged by Jezebel. Mount Carmel with its periodic rains and storms, which regularly included lightning, together with its abundant fruitfulness, would be very suitable as a site for Baal worship. (The lightning dancing around the hills is a spectacular feature of life in Palestine). It may have been partly this contrast in the sanctuaries that made Elijah choose Mount Carmel, for it was his purpose to illustrate the revival of Yahwism, and this site on the borders of Israel and Phoenicia, revered by all, was a good place to do it. There is also a good possibility that it was because he knew that the true prophets of YHWH were hiding in the caves there.
C. (:21) Admonishing the People Regarding Their Loyalties
1. Challenge = Who is the Real God and Whom Will You Follow?
“And Elijah came near to all the people and said,
‘How long will you hesitate between two opinions?
If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.’”
MacArthur: Lit. “limp along on or between two twigs.” Israel had not totally rejected the Lord, but was seeking to combine worship of Him with the worship of Baal. The issue posed by Elijah was that Israel had to choose who was God, the Lord or Baal, and then serve God wholeheartedly.
B. S. Childs: The issue is not that Israel wanted to reject Yahweh and choose Baal, but rather to serve them both. Elijah called for an either/or decision.
2. Cowardice = People Unwilling to Commit Their Loyalties
“But the people did not answer him a word.”
III. (:22-40) DEFEATING BAAL DECISIVELY IN THE SHOWDOWN
A. (:22-24) Accepting the Rules of Engagement
1. (:22) Strength is Not Necessarily in Numbers
“Then Elijah said to the people, ‘I alone am left a prophet of the LORD, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men.’”
William Barnes: We already know that this is not literally the situation, although Elijah must surely have felt very much like it was an accurate summary of the case, both here and in 19:10, 14.
2. (:23) Securing a Fair Fight
“Now let them give us two oxen; and let them choose one ox for themselves and cut it up, and place it on the wood, but put no fire under it; and I will prepare the other ox, and lay it on the wood, and I will not put a fire under it.”
3. (:24a) Scoring the Showdown
“Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD, and the God who answers by fire, He is God.”
4. (:24b) Securing Agreement Regarding the Showdown
“And all the people answered and said, ‘That is a good idea.’”
Alan Carr: 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!
B. (:25-29) Appealing to Baal to Send Fire
1. (:25-26) Failed Attempt to Arouse Baal
“So Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, ‘Choose one ox for yourselves and prepare it first for you are many, and call on the name of your god, but put no fire under it.’ Then they took the ox which was given them and they prepared it and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon saying, ‘O Baal, answer us.’ But there was no voice and no one answered. And they leaped about the altar which they made.”
– You have first crack at choosing the ox you want to use
– You have the advantage of greater numbers
– You have the home-field advantage here on Mt. Carmel
– You have the advantage of going first in the contest
– You can use as much time as you need – no time pressure put on your efforts
– You can use whatever theatrics and gymnastics you want to try to arouse Baal
Peter Pett: Elijah then turned to the prophets of Baal and called on them to go first because they were many. He wanted them to have as much time as they wanted. He knew perfectly well that what he was asking of them was impossible, for there was no one who would hear their cries. Then they were to prepare their sacrifice, but without putting fire under it, and pray as much as they liked. The more they prayed, the more futile their prayers would appear.
Bob Deffinbaugh: We find no mention of these prophets having to construct or rebuild an altar. I suspect that there was already a functioning pagan altar there, which they utilized.
2. (:27-29) Futility of the Prophets of Baal Mocked by Elijah
“And it came about at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, ‘Call out with a loud voice, for he is a god; either he is occupied or gone aside, or is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and needs to be awakened.’
So they cried with a loud voice and cut themselves according to their custom with swords and lances until the blood gushed out on them.
And it came about when midday was past, that they raved until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice; but there was no voice, no one answered, and no one paid attention.”
– Maybe your god can’t hear you; Cry out louder
– Maybe your god is sitting on the toilet and can’t respond
– Maybe your god is away and not able to hear you at this time
– Maybe your god is asleep
– Maybe your god is impotent and can’t respond because he doesn’t exist!
Clarke: Rabbi S. Jarchi gives this the most degrading meaning; I will give it in Latin, because it is too coarse to be put in English; Fortassis ad locum secretum abiit, ut ventrem ibi exoneret; ‘Perhaps he has gone to the ————-.’ This certainly reduces Baal to the lowest degree of contempt, and with it the ridicule and sarcasm are complete.
August Konkel: The customary gashing with knives and blades may be part of a blood ritual seeking the first rainfall. Blood letting was a rite of imitative magic to prompt a release of vital rain. Ecstatic prophesying may be a frenzied activity indistinguishable from mad behavior (cf. 1 Sam. 19:24). These rituals would take place at a fall festival for the Baal cult in anticipation of the early rains.
MacArthur: “no . . . no . . . no.” This 3-fold declaration emphasized the complete lack of response on the part of Baal. The fact that there was no response indicated Baal’s impotence and non-existence (Jer 10:5).
David Guzik: This is the sad result of worshipping an imaginary god or the god of our own making. We may dedicate great sincerity, sacrifice, and devotion to such gods, but it means nothing. There is no one there to answer.
C. (:30-38) Appealing to YHWH to Send Fire
1. (:30a) Confidence of Elijah
“Then Elijah said to all the people, ‘Come near to me.’ So all the people came near to him.”
Whitcomb: The calm assurance and dignity of Elijah provides a startling contrast to the heated frenzy of the pagan prophets.
Alan Carr: 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!
2. (:30b-32a) Consecration of the Altar in the Context of God’s Revelation as
the Covenant God of the Twelve Tribes of Israel
“And he repaired the altar of the LORD which had been torn down. 31 And Elijah took twelve stones according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD had come, saying, ‘Israel shall be your name.’ 32 So with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD,”
Peter Pett: The initial ‘and he repaired the altar’ may have been a summary, which was then filled in with the detail. This would be a typically Hebraic way of presenting information, first in summary, then in detail (compare Judges 6:24-26). But it may be that we are to differentiate the building up of the altar with earth, from the placing within it of stones to take the heat of the fire.
Constable: Yahweh’s altar at that site (one of the high places?) had fallen into disrepair (v. 30). Elijah rebuilt it, as the Mosaic Covenant specified, with 12 uncut stones symbolic of Israel’s 12 tribes. There was still only one Lord, one covenant, and one nation with one destiny in the plans and purposes of God, even though the nation had split into two parts.
Iain Provan: Strictly speaking, this represents the restoration of a “high place”; and the authors of Kings are generally opposed to worship at such local shrines. They are even more opposed to idolatry, however, and it is unlikely that in a context where Israel has given itself over to idolatry, they intend us to think critically of Elijah for acting thus. Centralization of the worship of the Lord is the ideal (cf. Deut. 12), but any worship of the Lord is better than worship of Baal. And the Lord removes the altar, of course, after it has served its purpose (v. 38)!
3. (:32b-35) Creating the Highest Possible Degree of Difficulty
“and he made a trench around the altar, large enough to hold two measures of seed. 33 Then he arranged the wood and cut the ox in pieces and laid it on the wood. And he said, ‘Fill four pitchers with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.’ 34 And he said, ‘Do it a second time,’ and they did it a second time. And he said, ‘Do it a third time,’ and they did it a third time. 35 And the water flowed around the altar, and he also filled the trench with water.”
John Gates: Elijah insisted on making the test as difficult as possible for God to meet, that the answer might stand out in clearer, sharper contrast to the impotency of Baal and his prophets.
4. (:36-37) Calling on the Lord to Respond
“Then it came about at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near and said, ‘O LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, today let it be known that Thou art God in Israel, and that I am Thy servant, and that I have done all these things at Thy word. 37 Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that Thou, O LORD, art God, and that Thou hast turned their heart back again.’”
Note the brevity and directness of Elijah’s prayer.
John Schultz: Elijah opens his prayer with the words: “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel.” The Pulpit Commentary comments: “Two things are to be noticed here: first, that this formula had only once before been used, and that by God Himself, before the giving of law, at the burning bush. It was when God revealed Himself in flaming fire that He had proclaimed Himself the God of Abraham, etc. Secondly, that the variation ‘Israel’ is made designedly (cf. ver. 31), not only to proclaim the Lord as the ‘God of Israel’ (cf. … 1 Kings 17:1), but also to suggest that the name and privileges of Israel belonged to all the sons of Jacob.”
R. D. Patterson: At the precise moment when all hope of igniting the wood seemed totally lost, Elijah stepped forward and called on God (v. 36). He pled with the covenant God of Israel to validate that he alone was still God in Israel and this Elijah, who had prophesied the drought and was now calling for a miracle, was truly his servant. He asked God to answer him so that all would know that the Lord was ever anxious for their repentance and return to him (v. 37). Striking with lightning like power, God answered, and such an answer! Heavenly fire fell and consumed not only the wood and sacrifice, but the stones, the soil, and even the surrounding water (v. 38). What a contrast! The prophets of Baal had kept up their wailing and wild ritual for the better part of a day and met with dead silence. Elijah’s petition had lasted less than a minute but produced spectacular results. The difference lay in the One addressed.
Alan Carr: 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.
5. (:38) Consuming Fire Falls from the Lord = Showdown Over
“Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.”
August Konkel: The “fire from God” anticipates the advance of the rain. The fiery apparition indicates the divine presence (cf. Ex. 3:2; 19:18; 24:17). Fire also attests the divine acceptance and approval of the sacrifice (1 Chron. 21:26). Fire may indicate both approval of the sacrifice and the divine presence, as with Gideon (Judg. 6:20–22) and Moses (Lev. 9:22–24).
Clarke: The action of this fire was in every case downward, contrary to the nature of all earthly and material fire.
Donald Wiseman: The simple prayer (cf. v. 24) contrasts with the long Baalistic ravings. He asks not just for a miraculous demonstration that Yahweh is God but for the conversion of Israel. He reminds God of his previous interventions, using ‘Jacob’ for Israel possibly as a term of rebuke for the latter’s apostasy. On ‘fire from heaven’ (v. 38) as demonstrating God’s power and judgment, see 2 Kings 1:10, 12; Job 1:16. The people’s acknowledgment (v. 39) is itself an answer to prayer (cf. vv. 21, 24).
D. (:39-40) Aftermath of the Showdown
1. (:39) Reaction of the People = Fear of God
“And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, ‘The LORD, He is God; the LORD, He is God.’”
David Guzik: Tragically, this was only a momentary persuasion. This was no lasting revival in Israel. The people were decidedly persuaded, but not lastingly changed.
2. (:40) Execution of the False Prophets
a. Capturing Them
“Then Elijah said to them, ‘Seize the prophets of Baal; do not let one of them escape.’ So they seized them;”
b. Killing Them
“and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon,
and slew them there.”
Donald Wiseman: The slaughter of the Baal prophets was not an act of wanton cruelty but the necessary retribution, ordered by Elijah as the ‘new Moses’ on behalf of God, against false prophets as decreed in Deuteronomy (11:5, 13-18; 17:2-5) following the action of Moses and Phinehas (Num. 25:1-13).
IV. (:41-46) DELIVERING ON THE PROMISE TO LIFT THE DISCIPLINE AND SEND RAIN
A. (:41-44) Anticipation of Heavy Rainfall
1. (:41-42a) Command to Ahab to Celebrate the End of the Drought
“Now Elijah said to Ahab, ‘Go up, eat and drink; for there is the sound of the roar of a heavy shower.’ 42 So Ahab went up to eat and drink.”
Alan Carr: His confidence was based on:
– The Precious Word Of God – In 1 Kings 18:1, God told Elijah to confront Ahab and He would send the rain. Elijah did as he was commanded, and he knew the rain was coming. Elijah believed God when God said something.
– The Perfect Will Of God – In 1 Kings 17:1, Elijah had been God’s instrument to bring the drought upon the nation. Elijah knew that the drought had been sent because of the idolatry of the people. The rain had stopped because the people were worshiping Baal instead of Jehovah. Now, the Baal prophets were dead, the people had repented and had returned to the Lord God. Elijah knew it was time for the rains to return.
– The Prior Work Of God – Elijah knew that he could trust God to send the rain because of all that he had already seen the Lord do. Remember, he had already witnessed the faithfulness of God at the brook, in the barrel, with the boy, in the bull and over Baal. He has seen the Lord work many miracles before and there was no reason to think that God could not continue to move in power and glory.
2. (:42b-44) Certainty of Elijah in Watching for the Coming Rainfall
“But Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he crouched down on the earth, and put his face between his knees. 43 And he said to his servant, ‘Go up now, look toward the sea.’ So he went up and looked and said, ‘There is nothing.’ And he said, ‘Go back’ seven times. 44 And it came about at the seventh time, that he said, ‘Behold, a cloud as small as a man’s hand is coming up from the sea.’ And he said, ‘Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot and go down, so that the heavy shower does not stop you.’”
Wiersbe: Elijah’s unusual posture was almost a fetal position and indicated the prophet’s humility, his great concern for the people, and his burden for the glory of the Lord.
Constable: Rain normally came on Carmel from the west, from the Mediterranean Sea (v. 43).
Alan Carr: How he prayed can help us to be more effective prayer warriors for the glory of God.
– He Was Humble – v. 42b, He bowed himself before the presence of the Lord. The man of God had stood tall as an ambassador of the Lord, now he bows low as an intercessor before the Lord! It would do us good to remember that God does not exist merely to answer our prayers or fulfill our wishes. He is God and he will honor the person who comes into his presence humbly, 1 Pet. 5:5-6; James 4:6; 10
– He Was Specific – v. 43, James 5:17-18 tells us that Elijah was very specific in his prayer life. He did not waste time on mere generalities, but he prayed in faith specifically naming the things that needed to be done.
– He Was Earnest – Elijah was sincere about his prayer, James 5:16-18. He did not take a spiritless attitude toward his prayer life, but he prayed with fervency. His soul was moved with the need of the people. He felt the pressure of the thing he prayed for!
– He Was Persistent – v. 43, eight times the servant is told to go and look toward the sea. Seven times there is nothing there. Yet, Elijah kept praying and kept believing. He did not allow the outward circumstance affect his inward assurance that the answer was on the way. He was persistent!
– He Was Expectant – v. 41, 43 – Elijah kept praying and kept sending his servant to look to the sea. Why? Because he was operating in faith in the promise of God. He knew the rains were coming. He was expecting big things from God! (Note: the word for “rain” in verse 41 refers to a heavy downpour. Elijah was expecting big things from a big God!)
-He Was Answered – v. 44 – On the eighth trip, the servant saw a little cloud rising out of the sea. When this news is brought to Elijah, the prophet knew that God’s answer had come. His prayers had prevailed and God was sending the rains!
B. (:45) Verification of Heavy Rainfall – Ahab Heads to Jezreel
“So it came about in a little while, that the sky grew black with clouds and wind, and there was a heavy shower. And Ahab rode and went to Jezreel.”
MacArthur: A town located in the tribal allotment of Issachar at the eastern end of the Jezreel Valley, N of Mt. Gilboa, about 55 mi. N of Jerusalem. Jezreel was Ahab’s winter capital (see 21:1), situated between 15 to 25 mi. E of the Carmel Range.
Peter Pett: Ahab did what Elijah had said, but it was not soon enough for the heavens grew black with cloud and wind, and there was drenching rain. And once that rain began to fall it would turn the road into a sea of mud, in which Ahab’s chariot would find the going hard, as he made his way towards his chariot city of Jezreel.
Dale Ralph Davis: “Then a heavy rain came” (v. 45). Rain meant life, water for soil, people, and livestock, grain for food, grass for animals (cf. 18:5). Yahweh then is the God of dramatic intervention (vv. 31–39) and of daily provision. Israel’s apostasy and divided mind had forfeited these material benefits (Deut. 11:16–17; 28:23–24; Lev. 26:19–20). Now Yahweh graciously restores them. Wallace is right: ‘Israel is to learn again this day that the God who sends fire to convert their hearts will also send rain to refresh and feed their bodies.’ Yahweh is the God of the spectacular and of the routine, who sends both fire and food (see Ps. 65:9–13). Whenever we fail to acknowledge these latter down-to-earth provisions as Yahweh’s gifts, we apostatize to naturalism (a more contemporary, sophisticated form of Baal worship). Whenever we begin to assume that they are ours by some inalienable right, we have become blind to the Father’s hand. We forget that the common is special.
C. (:46) Vindication of Elijah – Elijah Heads to Jezreel
“Then the hand of the LORD was on Elijah,
and he girded up his loins and outran Ahab to Jezreel.”
William Barnes: The Hebrew literally says “the hand of Yahweh” was upon him (cf. 2 Kgs 3:15); the idiom connotes divine power invigorating the prophet, giving him strength to run the roughly 17 miles (27 km) to Ahab’s estate at Jezreel.
Wiersbe: This was quite a feat for an older man and itself was another sign to the people that God’s powerful hand was upon His servant.