And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word. 1 Kings 18:21
Over three years of drought have led to severe famine. God tells Elijah it’s time to bring back the rain. But as is generally the case in the life of a prophet, it won’t happen in an ordinary way. It’s going to be a showdown between Elijah – the prophet of God – and the 850 prophets of Baal and Asherah (the false god of the king and people). The people worship God, but also the other false gods; they try to cover all the bases, hoping for the best. Elijah says they are “limping between two different opinions” and it’s not ok. It’s time to choose.
Each side will select a bull for sacrifice, cut it, and place it on the wood. The prophets of Baal will call upon their god to light their fire, and Elijah will call upon God to light his fire.
The Baal prophets go first. From morning to noon, they cry out to Baal. Crickets. Elijah starts to taunt them. “Cry louder”, he says. Maybe your god is relieving himself or taking a little nap, he mocks more. Ramped up cries to Baal with raving and cutting…and more silence. A false god never saves or keeps its promises.
Elijah’s turn. Not only does he put the bull on the wood, he has the people pour water over it three times, making it even harder to burn. Nothing is impossible for his God. Elijah prays to the Lord and immediately the sacrifice is consumed by fire from God. The One true God provides.
The people believe that God is the one true God and they destroy the prophets of Baal. Not long after, the rains come. God always provides. God always keeps His promises. If only we could cling to this belief and trust Him always, but we will soon see the roller coaster continues.
Questions: Do you find yourself “limping between two opinions” as Elijah said to the people…trusting God a little, but also seeking other “idols”? Do you find yourself not necessarily anti-God, but worshiping a few other added things just for good measure?
Then the word of the Lord came to him, “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” 1 Kings 17:8-9
Elijah remains in hiding as the rain remains at bay. The brook God initially directed Elijah to for water has run dry on account of the drought. But God’s provision doesn’t run dry.
God tells Elijah to go to a widow and ask for water and a small morsel of bread. With the desperate drought conditions and extreme scarcity of food, the widow responds that she only has enough left for one last meal for her and her son. She says they are prepared to die after this final meal. It’s a dramatic statement, but who can blame her…everyone around her is starving and she is on her last bit of food. She has been stretching the last of her provisions as far as she possibly could.
Elijah tells her that if she shares with him now, her jars of flour and oil will be enough for each day…that she will not run out until the rains return. Incredibly, she does as he says. In faith, she shares her small portion of food and is not without a meal from that point on.
The widow trusts these words of God. She sacrifices what she could have hoarded for her and her son, and as a result of her faithfulness, she ends up with exactly what she needs each day thereafter.
As God’s plan unfolds, He demonstrates His provision and power. But it is up to us to trust and obey. God never promises things will be easy, but He does promise that if we look to Him and put our trust in Him, He will provide for our needs.
Questions: Would you have a hard time giving up what little you had for the hope of gaining more? How does this apply to other areas of our life? Are you clinging to something God is asking you to share?
Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.” And the word of the Lord came to him: “Depart from here and turn eastward and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. You shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.” So he went and did according to the word of the Lord. He went and lived by the brook Cherith that is east of the Jordan. 1 Kings 17:1-5
The Israelites in the Northern Kingdom find themselves under the rule of a series of very evil and corrupt kings. King Ahab was the seventh such king and he was married to an even more wicked woman, Jezebel, who insists on the worship of false gods and corrupt practices. The state of the Northern Kingdom of Israel is a mess! The primary god they worship is Baal, and in a time where agricultural success meant survival, the people believed Baal controlled the rain.
Enter Elijah. The life of a prophet isn’t an easy one. God uses prophets to not only speak His words but also often to display them through their lives and actions.
At God’s direction, Elijah goes to the evil king and declares there will be no rain until he says so…fighting and threatening words for a society that lives and dies by the rain. And so it begins…a long and disastrous drought. But God is with Elijah, providing for his needs in the desolate place he withdraws to. God is working to show Israel that He is the only one who can be trusted to provide for them, even when it comes to the rain.
How often do we look to other things to put our hope in for what we want and need…current day cultural idols like Baal to provide for us? God wants us to always put our hope in Him alone. He is above all things and He won’t share His throne.
Question: What things do you turn to or put your hope in for security or meaning besides God? Pray for God to reveal idols in your life.
So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day. 1 Kings 12:19
Israel is knee-deep in the consequences of their disobedience and that of their leaders. Solomon – only the third king of Israel – was the last of a strong and united kingdom. Earthly power nearly always corrupts…just as God warned them.
Upon Solomon’s death, there is strife and disagreement about who should rule, ultimately splitting the kingdom into two.
Steeped in idolatry and tribal discord, division prevails. Sin always causes division and separation...with God and with one another.
Israel is no longer a strong, powerful, united and unified people. Time passes, new characters come on the scene, but things don’t change much.
We need NOT another flawed human king, but a righteous Holy Savior.
Kings come and go…most of them evil and hostile to God, in favor of the many false gods and harmful practices of their surroundings. God raises up prophets to communicate His words to warn the people and encourage them to return to God. But like their stubborn ancestors, the people rarely listened or changed their behavior.
Hebrews 1:1-2a begins, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.” Soon God’s Son – God in the flesh – will come speak to the people, but for now, among these divided tribes, God speaks through His chosen prophets.
Questions: Why do you think the people couldn’t rally and stay together? In what ways have you seen idolatry and tribal discord lead to division?
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
God is a God of seasons. God’s story is one of seasons…slowly, orderly, methodically revealing His plan for salvation. A season of the first humans walking with God, a season of rebellion, a season of establishing a covenant, a season of receiving God’s law for right living, a season of slavery, a season of wandering, a season of war, a season of victory, a season of judges, a season of prophets, a season of waiting, a season of God in the flesh on earth, a season of declaring the good news, a season of anticipating Jesus’s return and the final victory over death. Through all of the seasons, the story is the same…we cannot save ourselves from ourselves, but in God’s justice, mercy, and grace, His plan all along is in His Son who redeems and restores us. Every season reveals layers of this truth.
Years cycle through seasons, and in our individual lives, we also go through seasons…some filled with laughter and some with tears. We have seasons of growing, maturing, listening, hurting, learning, leading, sowing, reaping, teaching, nurturing, healing, waiting...
This short time on earth is fluid. It isn’t about finally “getting there;” finally getting through the hard stuff and coasting in the easy. It is about growing more and more like Jesus. And the various seasons in our lives are part of the process. If you are in a difficult season, know that it isn’t the end. A new and better season is coming.
Questions: How would you describe your current season? How might it be part of God’s bigger plan for you? Spend time in prayer embracing your season and all God has for it. Google Seasons by Hillsong to listen to in your quiet time.