Elijah and the Challenge on Mount Carmel (Elijah Part 2)

Last week we started talking about Elijah. We talked about how he was a prophet in Israel—the Northern Kingdom after Israel and Judah split into two. The king at that time was named Ahab and he was a really bad king, who worshipped other gods—which is like the biggest no-no in the book. Because of this, God sent Elijah to deal with Ahab.

God, through Elijah, said there would be a drought until the king straightened up. Because of this, Elijah became like the kingdom’s most wanted and he went into hiding. During this time he lived with a widow who was so poor that she thought she and her son were going to starve to death. But because she trusted God, God provided her, giving her the food she wanted. God even brought her son back to life when her son died.

We also talked about last week how Elijah was one of the greatest prophets recorded in the Bible but how Jesus was even greater than him. Because Elijah was just a prophet of God, but Jesus is God.

This week we’re going to continue the story of Elijah and see what happens to him!

Someone please read 1 Kings 18:1-2.

After many days the word of the Lord came to Elijah, in the third year of the drought, saying, “Go, present yourself to Ahab; I will send rain on the earth.” So Elijah went to present himself to Ahab. The famine was severe in Samaria.

Three years there is drought in the land, and Elijah is hiding from Ahab—because Ahab wants to kill him. And finally God is like “Hey Elijah, go before Ahab—the dude who wants to kill you—so we can figure it out how we’re going to end this drought in Israel.” Elijah might have been scared, you might think he would argue with God about going before the dude who wants to kill him, but instead Elijah just obeys, no record of him fighting it. He travels to go see Ahab.

Someone please read 1 Kings 18:3-6.

Ahab summoned Obadiah, who was in charge of the palace. (Now Obadiah revered the Lord greatly; when Jezebel was killing off the prophets of the Lord, Obadiah took a hundred prophets, hid them fifty to a cave, and provided them with bread and water.) Then Ahab said to Obadiah, “Go through the land to all the springs of water and to all the wadis; perhaps we may find grass to keep the horses and mules alive, and not lose some of the animals.” So they divided the land between them to pass through it; Ahab went in one direction by himself, and Obadiah went in another direction by himself.

So now we meet this guy named Obadiah, who is so trusted by Ahab that he is in charge of the palace. You would think that a guy trusted by Ahab—who is a terrible person—would also be a terrible person, but that’s not the case. We learn here that he is a follower of God.

We also learn a vital piece of information about Jezebel—Ahab’s wife. Apparently she ordered that anyone claiming to be a prophet of God be killed, which would include Elijah. Obadiah, however, hid a hundred prophets, keeping them safe right under the king and queen’s nose! That is incredibly brave, because undeniably if Obadiah gets discovered not only would the prophets be killed but so would he.

But Ahab doesn’t know about Obadiah’s goodness, he trusts Obadiah. And the drought is so bad, that Ahab basically wants him and Obadiah to go through the land looking for any water or grass, because at this point they’re probably going to lose all the animals. So Obadiah and Ahab split up, going different ways and searching the land for water and grass.

Alright someone please read 1 Kings 18:7-16.

As Obadiah was on the way, Elijah met him; Obadiah recognized him, fell on his face, and said, “Is it you, my lord Elijah?” He answered him, “It is I. Go, tell your lord that Elijah is here.” And he said, “How have I sinned, that you would hand your servant over to Ahab, to kill me? 10 As the Lord your God lives, there is no nation or kingdom to which my lord has not sent to seek you; and when they would say, ‘He is not here,’ he would require an oath of the kingdom or nation, that they had not found you. 11 But now you say, ‘Go, tell your lord that Elijah is here.’ 12 As soon as I have gone from you, the spirit of the Lord will carry you I know not where; so, when I come and tell Ahab and he cannot find you, he will kill me, although I your servant have revered the Lord from my youth. 13 Has it not been told my lord what I did when Jezebel killed the prophets of the Lord, how I hid a hundred of the Lord’s prophets fifty to a cave, and provided them with bread and water? 14 Yet now you say, ‘Go, tell your lord that Elijah is here’; he will surely kill me.” 15 Elijah said, “As the Lord of hosts lives, before whom I stand, I will surely show myself to him today.” 16 So Obadiah went to meet Ahab, and told him; and Ahab went to meet Elijah.

So Obadiah is out minding his own business, looking for grass and water, when he runs into Elijah. Obadiah recognizes him on sight and basically fangirls at him. And then Elijah is like, “Hey Obadiah, go tell Ahab that I’m here.”

Obadiah then freaks out. He’s like “No, no, no, I can’t tell Ahab! He’ll kill me. Because if I go to him and say you’re here, you’re just going to disappear before Ahab gets here and then he’s going to be so mad he’s just going to kill me. Have I not done enough for you and God by hiding prophets? Now you want me to die too!”

Elijah responds to Obadiah’s meltdown by just saying, “I promise I’m not going to disappear on you. If you tell Ahab I’m here I will appear before him. Don’t worry.”

And Obadiah listens to Elijah and does as he says. When he meets back up with Ahab, he tells him Elijah is waiting for him, and then Ahab goes to meet with Elijah.

Someone please read 1 Kings 18:17-19.

17 When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?” 18 He answered, “I have not troubled Israel; but you have, and your father’s house, because you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord and followed the Baals. 19 Now therefore have all Israel assemble for me at Mount Carmel, with the four hundred fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.”

When Ahab sees Elijah, he basically accuses Elijah of being the reason why all of Israel is in distress. But Elijah is like, “Dude, this isn’t my fault. You’re the one who has left God and decided to follow another god—Baal.” And then Elijah is like, “I want to have a showdown. Assemble everyone at Mount Carmel, all the prophets of Baal and Asherah,” which if you’ll remember Baal and Asherah are the two gods that Jezebel worships. And she has like over eight hundred prophets for these two gods and Elijah wants to meet them all.

Alright now someone please read 1 Kings 18:20-24.

20 So Ahab sent to all the Israelites, and assembled the prophets at Mount Carmel. 21 Elijah then came near to all the people, and said, “How long will you go limping with two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” The people did not answer him a word. 22 Then Elijah said to the people, “I, even I only, am left a prophet of the Lord; but Baal’s prophets number four hundred fifty. 23 Let two bulls be given to us; let them choose one bull for themselves, cut it in pieces, and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it; I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it. 24 Then you call on the name of your god and I will call on the name of the Lord; the god who answers by fire is indeed God.” All the people answered, “Well spoken!”

Ahab gathers everyone, all the Israelites and all the prophets of Baal and Asherah, and then Elijah speaks to all of them. He’s like, “Israel is split over two different opinions: whether we should worship God or Baal.” And then he’s like “You guys need to make a choice. Either follow God or follow Baal.” But the people had no answer for him.

Elijah is the only prophet left—the only prophet of God out in the open and not in hiding, while Baal has 450 prophets. And basically, Elijah lays down a challenge. He’s like let us each choose a bull to sacrifice. We’ll prepare it to burn it but we won’t. We’ll each ask for our god to burn it and the god who answers their prophet by burning the sacrifice with fire from heaven, then we’ll know that god is real and powerful and the that god will be the God of Israel.”

And the people were like, “That seems like a good plan.”

Alright let’s see what happens. Someone please read 1 Kings 18:25-29.

25 Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first, for you are many; then call on the name of your god, but put no fire to it.” 26 So they took the bull that was given them, prepared it, and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon, crying, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice, and no answer. They limped about the altar that they had made. 27 At noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud! Surely he is a god; either he is meditating, or he has wandered away, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” 28 Then they cried aloud and, as was their custom, they cut themselves with swords and lances until the blood gushed out over them. 29 As midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice, no answer, and no response.

Because Elijah is a nice guy he let’s the prophets of Baal go first. So the prophets of Baal pick an animal and prepare it and put it on an altar as a sacrifice and then they cry out to Baal for an entire morning, begging him to answer them.

But does Baal answer them?


After the hours of them begging, Elijah is like, “You guys better shout louder, because if Baal is a god then he must be lost or sleeping or something.” Basically Elijah is just being super sarcastic here. 

The prophets are desperate so they cry out harder and they even cut themselves so they bleed, hoping to invoke Baal. But nothing works. It goes past midday and they’re still begging Baal, but Baal still does not response. No answer.

Now it’s Elijah’s turn. Let’s see what he and God do. Someone read 1 Kings 18:30-35.

30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come closer to me”; and all the people came closer to him. First he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been thrown down; 31 Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord came, saying, “Israel shall be your name”; 32 with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord. Then he made a trench around the altar, large enough to contain two measures of seed. 33 Next he put the wood in order, cut the bull in pieces, and laid it on the wood. He said, “Fill four jars with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.” 34 Then he said, “Do it a second time”; and they did it a second time. Again he said, “Do it a third time”; and they did it a third time, 35 so that the water ran all around the altar, and filled the trench also with water.

Elijah asks the people to come closer to him so they can see what he is doing. First he fixes the alter, because it had been torn down before since Ahab and Jezebel didn’t worship God. So he sets up twelve stones to represent the twelve tribes of Israel.

Then Elijah does something crazy. He digs a trench around his altar and then asks people to fill four jars of water. These wouldn’t be like peanut butter jars but rather the huge jars people would use to get water for the day from the well. So they get the four jars, they fill it with water, and then Elijah has them poor it all over the altar. Then he asks them to do it two more times. The wood is soaked, so much water that it fills the trench he dug around the water.

Does wet wood burn very well? No. It does not. And this is a challenge about God being able to light the wood on fire. So what is Elijah doing?

Well Baal completely failed, didn’t even light a spark, and Elijah is drenching his alter in water so that when God lights it on fire, there will be no doubt that God did it and it’s miraculous and he is more powerful than any other God.

Alright someone read 1 Kings 18:36-40.

36 At the time of the offering of the oblation, the prophet Elijah came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your bidding. 37 Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” 38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering, the wood, the stones, and the dust, and even licked up the water that was in the trench. 39 When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord indeed is God; the Lord indeed is God.” 40 Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; do not let one of them escape.” Then they seized them; and Elijah brought them down to the Wadi Kishon, and killed them there.

So Elijah prays. He prays to God and asks him to light the altar on fire, not as some magic trick, but so that the people will know God is the true God, the God of Israel, and they will turn back to him and away from Baal and other false gods. God answers Elijah’s prayer. He sends fire from heaven and it doesn’t just light wet wood on fire, it consumes everything—it even just instantly evaporates all the water in the trench. This isn’t just fire, it’s like a fireball that is so hot everything is just instantly incinerated.

All the people are just instantly amazed and in awe and they fall on their faces before God and are like, “God is God.” It’s clear that God completely and utterly won this challenge while Baal did nothing.

And then Elijah takes this opportunity to grab the prophets of Baal and they take them and kill them—so that they can no longer influence the people away from God.

Someone read 1 Kings 18:41-46.

41 Elijah said to Ahab, “Go up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of rushing rain.” 42 So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; there he bowed himself down upon the earth and put his face between his knees. 43 He said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” He went up and looked, and said, “There is nothing.” Then he said, “Go again seven times.” 44 At the seventh time he said, “Look, a little cloud no bigger than a person’s hand is rising out of the sea.” Then he said, “Go say to Ahab, ‘Harness your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.’” 45 In a little while the heavens grew black with clouds and wind; there was a heavy rain. Ahab rode off and went to Jezreel. 46 But the hand of the Lord was on Elijah; he girded up his loins and ran in front of Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.

The people have turned back to God, which means it’s time for the drought to end. Elijah tells Ahab to go eat and drink and basically that by the time he is done there will be rain. So Ahab goes to eat and drink.

Elijah goes up to the top of Mount Carmel and seems to take a servant with him. He goes up and prays. And he asks his servant to look to the sea and see if he can see anything. And his servant is like, “Newp. No clouds. Nothing.” Elijah tells him to do it seven times, and then on the seventh time the servant is like, “Hey there is totally a tiny little cloud out there.”

Elijah then sends the servant to go tell Ahab to get in his chariot and drive so basically he can beat the rain home—because chariots are open and driving one in the rain would suck. So Ahab gets in his chariot and rides to the town of Jezreel, and Elijah runs with him. Runs! Which is crazy, but God strengthens him so he can run faster than the chariot.

 And that’s where we’re going stop for today.