By the 9th-century BC, God’s people – once united under Kings Saul, David & Solomon – was dividded into the Northern Kingdom (Israel) and the Southern Kingdom (Judah).
Omri, king of Israel, continued policies that dated back to the reign of Jeroboam… and were contrary to God’s will and ways. He continued to lead the people away from God… encouraging the building of local temples and altars for sacrifices, appointing priests from outside the Levite tribe, and allowing worship centers dedicated to the false god, Baal. But, Omri reigned over a fairly peaceful time… brought in large part to the arranged marriage between his son, Ahab, and Jezebel, a priestess of Baal and the daughter of of the king of Sidon.
When Ahab became king, he stretched the sin and idolatry of God’s people farther than they had ever gone. He allowed the worship of Baal in the palace, he built a temple for Baal, and he allowed Jezebel to bring a large entourage of Baal priests & prophets into the country. It is into this context that Elijah is introduced in 1Kings 17:1… as Elijah the Tishbite.
Elijah would warn Ahab that there would be years catastrophic drought – so severe that not even dew would fall; because Ahab & Jezebel stood at the end of a long line of kings of Israel who are said to have “done evil in the sight of the Lord“.
No background is given for Elijah. His name in Hebrew means “My God is Yahweh”… and, from Elijah’s perspective, that was all the introduction that was needed!
I. Intro to Elijah the Prophet (1Ki. 17:1-24)
– The Warning to King Ahab… 1Ki. 17:1
Elijah’s challenge, characteristic of his behavior in other events of his story as told in the Bible, is bold and direct. Baal was the Canaanite god thought to be responsible for rain, thunder, lightning, and dew. Elijah not only challenged Baal on behalf of his own God, Yahweh, he challenged Jezebel, her priests, Ahab, and the people of Israel. And he challenged them right smack in the supposed strength of their god!
– The Waiting at Kerith Brook… 1Ki. 17:2-7
After Elijah’s confrontation with Ahab, God told him to escape out of Israel, to a hiding place by the brook Kerith, east of the Jordan, where he would be fed by ravens.
– The Widow at Zarephath… 1Ki. 17:8-24
When that brook dried up (along with everything else in the area), God sent Elijah to a widow living in the town of Zarephath in Phoenicia.
This is the first instance of someone being raised from the dead in Scripture. This non-Israelite widow was granted the best covenant blessing in the person of her son, the only hope for a widow in that society. She cried, “...the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth.” She made a confession that many Israelites were not making!
II. The Challenge to Baal (1Kings 18:1-46)
After more than 3years of drought and famine, God told Elijah to return to King Ahab and announce the end of the drought: not occasioned by repentance in Israel, but by the command of God… Who had determined to reveal Himself again to His people. While on his way, Elijah met Obadiah, the head of Ahab’s household, who had hidden a hundred prophets of God when Ahab & Jezebel were trying to kill them. Elijah sent Obadiah back to Ahab to announce his return to Israel.
You’ll want to read this story; it’s one of the most awesome stories in the Bible!:
– Elijah & Ahab… 1Ki. 18:17-19
– Elijah & the People… 1Ki. 18:20-24
– Elijah & the Prophets… 1Ki. 18:25-29
– Elijah & God… 1Ki. 18:30-46
III. Elijah’s Discussion with God (1KI. 19:1-21)
– Elijah under a Tree… 1Ki. 19:1-7
Queen Jezebel, enraged that Elijah & his God had beaten her priests and prophets & her god, threatened to kill Elijah. This was Elijah’s first encounter with Jezebel, but would not be his last (later he would prophesy her own death to her). She must have been scary… because Elijah ran as far away as he could get!
– Elijah in a Cave… 1Ki. 19:8-18
Elijah traveled, for 40days & 40nights, to Mt. Horeb, where Moses had received the 10 Commandments. He sought shelter from a cave.
Unlike Moses, who tried to defend Israel when they sinned with the golden calf, Elijah bitterly complained about the Israelites’ unfaithfulness, and said he was the “only one left” who was still faithful to God.
– Elijah by a Field… 1Ki. 19:19-21
God sent Elijah out again, this time to Damascus… to anoint Hazael as king of Syria, Jehu as king of Israel, and Elisha as his own eventual replacement.
IV. Elijah & Naboth’s Vineyard… 1Kings 21:1-29
By the end of this event, King Ahab would repent to such a degree that God relented in punishing Ahab… but He would punish Jezebel and their son, Ahaziah.
V. Elijah & Ahaziah… 2Kings 1:1-18
VI. Elijah’s Departure… 2Kings 2:1-11
As Elijah was lifted up into Heaven in a fiery chariot, his mantle fell to the ground… and Elisha picked it up, to carry on God’s work.
There are SO many life-lessons we could learn from Elijah! But here are just a few of the big ones:
– Everyone – anyone – is susceptible to bouts of fear and depression.
– You are never alone in God’s work!
– Be bold for God… even if/when others are not!
You can read Elijah’s incredible story in 1Kings 17:1–19:21; 21:1-29; 2Kings 1:1-18; 2:1-11.