1 Kings 18

The Contest on Mount Carmel
1 Kings 18
1 Kings 18. This chapter gives us the centerpiece of Elijah’s ministry. In 1 Kings 18 the prophet brought the people, so far as he could, back to the acknowledgement of the one true God. Practically, there is much instruction for us in this chapter. The comparison between Elijah and Obadiah, the contest of the gods, the rain coming, etc. are all rich fields for our mediation and edification. 

Elijah and Obadiah (18:1-16)

And it came to pass after many days, that the word of Jehovah came to Elijah in the third year, saying, Go, shew thyself to Ahab; and I will send rain upon the face of the earth. 2 And Elijah went to shew himself to Ahab. And the famine was severe in Samaria. vv.1-2 Time for Rain. Three and a half years had passed, but there had been no movement with the people. How many widows were there in Israel that had eaten their last meal and died, yet the people refused to turn away from Baal to the one true God? God will show mercy to His people, but the issue of sin must be addressed, and therefore the word of Jehovah came to Elijah in the third year, saying, Go, shew thyself to Ahab; and I will send rain upon the face of the earth”. Before the Lord had told the prophet to “hide” himself, now he was to “show” himself. There is a time for private devotion and a time for public service; “To every thing there is a season” (Ecc. 3:1). We will find at the end of the chapter the the rain did not actually begin until Elijah prayed. There was a matter that had to be addressed first. Meanwhile, “the famine was severe in Samaria”, the capital of Israel.
3 And Ahab called Obadiah, who was the steward of his house (now Obadiah feared Jehovah greatly; 4 and it was so, when Jezebel cut off the prophets of Jehovah, that Obadiah took a hundred prophets, and hid them by fifty in a cave, and maintained them with bread and water); 5 and Ahab said to Obadiah, Go through the land, to all the fountains of water and to all the torrents, perhaps we may find grass to save the horses and the mules alive, so that we may not have to destroy some of our beasts. 6 And they divided the land between them to pass through it: Ahab went one way by himself, and Obadiah went another way by himself. vv.3-6 Obadiah and Ahab. We are introduced to the steward of Ahab’s house, a man named Obadiah. He was a man split between two worlds. On one hand “Obadiah feared Jehovah greatly”, and his faith is seen in that he his one hundred prophets of the Lord in a cave, and gave them food and water. On the other hand, Obadiah was an associate of Ahab’s – calls him “lord” – and never seems to take a public stand against the evil of Ahab’s house. He lacked the boldness that Elijah had, and perhaps the reason for this is that he was not separate from the evil. However, his piety, though of a weaker character, is commended by the Spirit of God. Ahab, rather than repent of his sin, goes to great lengths to avoid the consequences of the famine, and save some of the animals. Ahab would divide the task with his servant Obadiah. It is interesting that the Lord would choose for Elijah to meet Obadiah rather than Ahab. Perhaps one reason for this is to illustrate the difference between the faith of Elijah and the fear of Obadiah.
7 And as Obadiah was on the way, behold, Elijah met him; and he knew him, and fell on his face, and said, Is it indeed thou, my lord Elijah? 8 And he said to him, I am he: go, say to thy lord, Behold Elijah! 9 And he said, What have I sinned, that thou givest thy servant into the hand of Ahab, to put me to death? 10 As Jehovah thy God liveth, there is no nation or kingdom whither my lord has not sent to seek thee; and when they said, He is not here, he took an oath of the kingdom or nation that they found thee not. 11 And now thou sayest, Go, say to thy lord, Behold Elijah! 12 And it shall come to pass when I am gone from thee, that the Spirit of Jehovah shall carry thee whither I know not; and when I come and tell Ahab, and he cannot find thee, he will kill me; and I thy servant fear Jehovah from my youth. 13 Was it not told my lord what I did when Jezebel slew the prophets of Jehovah, how I hid a hundred men of Jehovah’s prophets by fifty in a cave, and maintained them with bread and water? 14 And now thou sayest, Go, say to thy lord, Behold Elijah! and he will kill me. vv.7-14 Obadiah’s Fear. When Elijah met Obadiah, he fell on his face and paid the prophet respect. However, when Elijah tells him to go tell Ahab that the prophet had appeared, it exposed a deep fear in the king’s steward. Obadiah feared the Lord greatly, but he was terrified of Ahab. We learn details here that Ahab had been hunting for Elijah though many nations all during the three and a half years. 
15 And Elijah said, As Jehovah of hosts liveth, before whom I stand, I will certainly shew myself to him to-day. 16 Then Obadiah went to meet Ahab, and told him. And Ahab went to meet Elijah. 

Elijah and the Prophets of Baal (18:17-46)

17 And it came to pass when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said to him, Is it thou, the troubler of Israel? 18 And he said, I have not troubled Israel, but thou and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of Jehovah, and thou hast followed the Baals. 19 And now send, gather to me all Israel to mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the Asherah four hundred, who eat at Jezebel’s table. 20 So Ahab sent to all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together unto mount Carmel. 21 Then Elijah drew near to all the people, and said, How long do ye halt between two opinions? if Jehovah be God, follow him; and if Baal, follow him. And the people answered him not a word. 22 And Elijah said to the people, I, only I, remain a prophet of Jehovah; and Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men. 23 Let them therefore give us two bullocks: and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and put it on the wood, and put no fire; and I will sacrifice the other bullock, and put it on the wood, and put no fire. 24 And call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of Jehovah; and the god that answers by fire, let him be God. And all the people answered and said, The word is good. 25 And Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, Choose one bullock for yourselves, and sacrifice it first; for ye are the many; and call on the name of your god, but put no fire. 26 And they took the bullock which had been given them, and sacrificed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, O Baal, answer us! But there was no voice, and none answered. And they leaped about the altar that had been made. 27 And it came to pass at noon that Elijah mocked them and said, Cry aloud; for he is a god; for he is meditating, or gone aside, or he is on a journey; perhaps he sleeps, and will awake. 28 And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with swords and spears, till the blood gushed out upon them. 29 And it came to pass when midday was past, that they prophesied until the time of the offering up of the oblation; but there was neither voice, nor any that answered, nor any attention. 30 Then Elijah said to all the people, Draw near to me. And all the people drew near to him. And he repaired the altar of Jehovah which was broken down. 31 And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of Jehovah came saying, Israel shall be thy name; 32 and with the stones he built an altar in the name of Jehovah, and made a trench round about the altar, of the capacity of two measures of seed; 33 and he put the wood in order, and cut the bullock 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 the second time. And they did it the second time. And he said, Do it the third time. And they did it the third time. 35 And the water ran round about the altar; and he filled the trench also with water. 36 And it came to pass at the time of the offering up of the oblation, that Elijah the prophet drew near, and said, Jehovah, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things by thy word. 37 Answer me, Jehovah, answer me, that this people may know that thou Jehovah art God, and that “thou” hast turned their heart back again. 38 And the fire of Jehovah 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. v.38 Notice that the altar was consumed. God would not leave the alter there an an alternative center for the ten tribes. If they had indeed turned to the Lord, they would have gone back to Jerusalem. God is every institution He sets up.
39 And all the people saw it, and they fell on their faces and said, Jehovah, he is God! Jehovah, he is God! v.39 The words they said were essentially Elijah’s name, Jehovah, He is God.

 And Elijah said to them, Seize the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape! And they seized them; and Elijah brought them down to the torrent of Kishon, and slaughtered them there. 41 And Elijah said to Ahab, Go up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of abundance of rain. 42 And Ahab went up to eat and to drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he bowed 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. And he went up and looked, and said, There is nothing. And he said, Go again seven times. 44 And it came to pass at the seventh time that he said, Behold there is a cloud, small as a man’s hand, arising out of the sea. And he said, Go up, say to Ahab, Harness and go down, that the pour of rain stop thee not. 45 And it came to pass in the mean while, that the heavens became black with clouds and wind, and there was a great pour of rain. And Ahab got on the chariot, and went to Jizreel. 46 And the hand of Jehovah was upon Elijah; and he girded up his loins, and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jizreel.