What Happened at Carmel?

December 10, 2007
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Ahab was the king of Israel, one of the great builders of ancient times. He had great ambitions, impeccable taste, and outrageous habits, such as collecting fine horses. Ahab loved horses, and he searched the world for the very best. He treated them like royalty, building palaces for them inside his best fortified cities.

Ahab married a woman from Lebanon named Jezebel. She must have been a looker from the reports that survive. She was a devout worshiper of the gods and goddesses of fertility. She despised any who would dare to challenge her selection of deities, which brings us to Elijah.

Elijah did his very best to do whatever God asked him to do and was even more devout than Jezebel. Now, that is a sure way to end up with a conflict, but Elijah was prepared to enter into that conflict without hesitation. He studied the false gods, the chief god being Ba’al, who made crops in the field both fertile and abundant and provided rain. However, if you didn’t sacrifice enough or worship well enough, Ba’al could destroy your crops with fire.

Elijah went to Ahab and made a simple pronouncement, “No more rain!” With that, Elijah walked into the wilderness. Here I’d like to draw your attention to an amazing thing. Elijah’s food arrived at his hiding place carried by ravens, but ravens are not kosher! Nothing a raven eats is kosher. If a raven touches it, it’s not kosher! What was God doing to His faithful prophet? And Elijah ate the food! What was he thinking about? I think that Elijah displayed an amazing kind of faith. He would never eat anything that was not kosher. He would rather die! So, why did he eat? He trusted God. Either God made a special raven that was kosher, or maybe God made the food kosher in spite of the raven. Or maybe Elijah trusted God to make him kosher in spite of either the food or the raven. Whatever Elijah was thinking, he trusted God with his very life. Then the brook dried up.

God told him to go to a widow in Zarephath (in Jezebel’s homeland of Lebanon!), where He would supply. A widow? If Elijah brought harm to a widow, he would be guilty before God, and the penalty would be death! What was God doing to His faithful prophet? Elijah went to the widow and asked for her last morsel of food. Either God would supply, or Elijah was a dead man. Elijah repeated that step of faith, day after day for around three years.

Then God told him to find Ahab. What was Ahab doing when Elijah found him? He was looking for water for his horses. But kings didn’t get their own cup of water, much less go out to get water for an animal! Ahab was a desperate man!

When Elijah showed himself, and the king accused him of being a troublemaker, Elijah did the unthinkable. He accused the king in return! People died for a crime like that. Then Elijah set up the challenge between the God of Israel and Ba’al. Ahab certainly understood the challenge. There had been no rain for over three years. The god of rain had failed, but Ba’al was also the god of fire. So, Elijah challenged the god of fire to a fire-falling contest.

The prophets of the fertility gods put on an incredible show. At the end of the day, they were confident that they had won. After all, how was one man going to put on a better show with only a few minutes of sunlight remaining? Elijah demanded that his sacrifice be doused with water, three times, but where did they get the water? Elijah prayed a simple prayer. “LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word. Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that You are the LORD God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again” (1 Kings 18:36b–37).

That’s it! That’s the whole prayer! So, here is the secret of Elijah’s fire. If you live every day trusting God with your very life, a 20-second prayer will do just fine.

by Tom Brimmer, Israel Tour Guide, www.tombrimmer.com

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