1 Kings 18
What a lot of prophets! Jezebel is killing them, Obadiah is hiding them, and Elijah is confronting them.
We’re in Israel, the northern kingdom, approximately 60 years after the nation divided following Solomon’s death in 930 BC. Ahab is on the throne, and things aren’t good. He ‘did more to arouse the anger of the Lord than did all the kings of Israel before him’ (1 Ki. 16:33). Influenced by his non-Israelite wife, Jezebel, he has turned away from the Lord to worship Baal, the Canaanite fertility god.
Jezebel is busy ‘killing off the Lord’s prophets’, while Obadiah (Ahab’s palace administrator, but also ‘a devout believer in the Lord’), has hidden 100 of them in 2 caves (v4). He is searching for areas of grass for the king’s animals during the drought, and just happens (!) to bump into Elijah the prophet (v7), who asks him to set up a meeting with King Ahab.
With remarkable boldness, Elijah instructs Ahab to summon the people of Israel, along with Jezebel’s 850 prophets (v19). Ahab complies, and Elijah challenges the people to decide between following Baal or the Lord, according to which of them is truly God (v21).
He then challenges the prophets of Baal to persuade their ‘god’ to act. They prepare the altar and the sacrifice, and spend several hours calling on the name of Baal, but (v24) ‘there was no response; no one answered.’ Elijah taunts them: ‘Perhaps he’s taking a nap!’, so they shout louder, and slash themselves with swords and spears, but again ‘there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention’ (v29). So much for Baal – no fire (v24)!
Elijah repairs the disused altar of the Lord, lays the sacrifice upon it, and then drenches everything with water. He prays that the people will know that the Lord is God, and then the fire of the Lord falls. The Lord – he is God!
Elijah stood boldly against 850! But he spoke and acted for the Lord, the true and living God. The 850 represented ‘gods’ that were false, dead. Baal is not God. There is only one God, and his name is Yahweh, the God who answers by fire, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Knowing that the Lord is God is not merely knowing a fact, like answering an exam question, but rather knowing him in relationship through Christ, and being able to say, ‘The Lord is our God, and we are his people’. We know his name, or character, his grace and goodness, in our daily experience, through times of comfort and of discomfort, in times of joy and of sorrow, in the midst of both suffering and blessing. The Lord – he is God, and he is good.