Ahab and Elijah
I Kings 16:30-33; 18:17-21, 36-40
INTRODUCTION In the last lesson we noted the division of the Old Testament kingdom of Israel into two kingdoms, ten of the twelve tribes following Jeroboam in the northern kingdom, still referred to as Israel, while the southern part under Rehoboam became known as the kingdom of Judah. Now we come to a later king, Ahab, in the northern kingdom of Israel, whose character marked a new low in the nation's backsliding from Jehovah. Elijah the prophet appeared as a messenger from God pronouncing a judgment of prolonged drought upon the land. This temporal judgment followed by the miraculous demonstration of divine power on Mount Carmel served to remind the Israelites of the God of their fathers. Outline of lesson: 1. Degeneration, I Kings 16:30-33. a. Ahab and antecedents, 30. b. Ahab and alliance, 31. c. Ahab and altar, 32. d. Ahab and anger, 33. 2. Denunciation, I Kings 18:17-21. a. Prophet's persecution, 17. b. Prophet's proposal, 18-20. c. Prophet's purpose, 21. 3. Demonstration, I Kings 18:36-40. a. Offering of obedience, 36-37. b. Offering of ostentation, 38. c. Offering of ovation, 39. d. Offering of opponents, 40. NOTES ON THE TEXT: DEGENERATION, I Kings 16:30-33. History shows clearly enough the natural tendency of fallen man to grow worse and worse. Apart from the frequent interventions of God, human society and institutions always degenerate to their own ruin. Ancient Israel is an outstanding example of a great nation destroying itself by forgetting God; modern America seems determined to duplicate the disaster. Ahab and Antecedents, 30. Men seek to excel in various ways, but no decent man would seek the distinction achieved by Ahab. A weak and despicable character, he sought the favor and praise of his own kind, all which was "evil in the sight of the Lord." His antecedents on the throne of Israel were wicked, but he was worse. Ahab and Alliance, 31. In order to surpass in evildoing his father Omri, who in his day "did worse than all that were before him" [I Kings 16:25], Ahab needed the help of a woman more wicked than himself, and so he allied himself in marriage to the infamous Jezebel. Ahab and Altar, 32. Rejecting the legal altar of the true and living God, Ahab erected an altar for Baal. So it is always. As someone has said, man is incurably religious: when he turns from the worship of the true God, he must have his counterfeit gods and religions. Ahab and Anger, 33. False religions, however, are more provocative of divine anger than simple disobedience. In fact, from one point of view, the better they are the worse they are, just as cleverly counterfeited money, difficult to detect, is more dangerous than a clumsy counterfeit easily recognized as such.
DENUNCIATION, 1 Kings 18:17-21. Elijah the prophet of God dared to denounce the king to his face, having gained victory over the fear of men, though the woman Jezebel proved later to be a little to much even for Elijah [1 Kings 19:1-4]. Prophet's Persecution, 17. Sinners generally, at least the worst of them, hate the prophets who point out their sins. It is common practice for the wicked to persecute the righteous [II Timothy 3:12; I John 3:12]. So the king tried to blame the prophet for the drought that "troubled" Israel. Prophet’s Proposal, 18-20. But the prophet was only an instrument of God [James 5:17]. Sinners have no one but themselves to blame for the punishment that comes upon them. Elijah now proposed a showdown between himself, the lone prophet of Jehovah, and the prophets of the false gods supported by Jezebel. It was a proposal which Ahab could hardly refuse. No doubt under the binding power of Satan he was confident that 850 to 1 were pretty good odds. He forgot the infinite power of the true God. Prophet's Purpose, 21. Yet Elijah, confident of victory, had as his purpose not his own glory but the glory of God, and the calling of God's people back to Him. The people were confused by the conflicting claims of their supposed leaders. Elijah's purpose was the purpose of God to move them from their halting "between two opinions."
DEMONSTRATION, I Kings 18:36-40. We are not to expect miraculous demonstrations of divine power every other day; by definition, miracles would not be miracles if they were commonplace. The exhibition at Mount Carmel is unique in inspired history. Can we not believe that our prayers too can rise above our heads when our offering is an offering of obedience, and when our motive is not only to let people know that God is God, but to let them know particularly that it was God that "turned their heart back again"? Offering of Ostensibility, 38. Circumstances required an ostensible answer to Elijah's prayer. No one could complain that the power of God was insufficiently manifested. The evidence was overwhelming. Offering of Ovation, 39. "They fell on their faces." The ovation was not for the prophet, but for the prophet's God, the nation's God, "Jehovah God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel" [verse 36]: "Jehovah, he is the God; Jehovah, he is God." Offering of Opponents, 40. Unbelieving sentimentalists dislike "this phase of truth, but judgment and salvation are completely realities. Promises of eternal grace and glory to believers are no more true than warnings of everlasting destruction and punishment to unbelievers. God's temporal blessings and judgments are only a foretaste of eternal blessing and judgment to come.
CONCLUSION [James 1:8] Quite different is the description of the man whose mind is clear with God: "He that doeth these things shall never be moved" [Psalms 15:1-5]. ===============
[From AAB, July 6, 1979, pp. 2-3. -- jrd]
The following note accompanied this lesson: This lesson ends my writing of comments for Sunday School lessons in the Ash1and Avenue Baptist. During these past years of writing I have in turn received some comments from readers, including both brickbats and bouquets, both of which I appreciate. The brickbats have been stimulating, the bouquets rewarding. Though I would always rather please than displease my readers, I have considered that my first duty is to please God, and then within that purpose to be helpful to others. Maybe I have succeeded in some small measure. -- RB
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