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Throw Down at Mt. Carmel

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Summary Statement

1 & 2 Kings tell the history following King David’s reign — including the Israelite kings rejection of God’ s commandments and subsequent pattern of idolatry. As a result, the Israelite Kingdom is spit in two (Judah and Israel). God promises blessing for those who are obedient and consequences for those who are disobedient. God displays his sovereignty over nations as they rise and fall In the end, both Judah and Israel are conquered by foreign nations which brings about the exile of the Jews.
Introduction - Context from David to Ahab & Elijah.
After David showed kindness to Mephibosheth () he sleeps with Bathsheba and commits several other sins as he attempts to cover up his unfaithfulness.
David’s sins have severe implications, which ultimately cause the demise of his kingship at the hands of his dysfunctional children.
David’s son Solomon becomes King and begins his reign serving the Lord faithfully. He builds God a temple and dedicates it to the Lord.
However, later in his life Solomon marries foreign women who worship foreign gods. He build their gods places of worship and subsequently allows his heart to turn away from the Lord God.
As a result God raises up opposition against Solomon and tears the kingdom away from him by splitting the kingdom into Judah and Israel. Solomon died and his son Rehoboam became the king of Judah (Southern Kingdom) and Jereboam became king of Israel (Northern Kingdom).
From the time of the separation, the Israelite kingdom was in decline. The kings of Judah (Southern Kingdom) were faithful for the most part, however, the kings of Israel (Northern Kingdom) were continually disobedient.
Jeroboam (First northern kingdom king after the split) facilitated idol worship and pretended it was faithfulness to Yahweh. His son Nadab did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, just like his father. Baasha takes the throne after Nadab and “walked in the way of Jeroboam” and “made Israel to sin.”
After Baasha comes Elah, then Zimri, then Omri. tells us that Omri did “more evil than all who were before him.” And then Omri’s son Ahab takes the throne.
“And as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, he took for his wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal King of the Sidonians, and wen and served Baal and worshiped him. He erected an alter for Baal in the house of Baal, which he built in Samaria...Ahab did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him.”
Then we get to this guy named Elijah. There is a pattern in 1 Kings where God raises up a prophet who confronts the disobedience of the unrighteous kings. Elijah is next in line…but the timing is concerning.
Paint the picture of Ahab’s rebellion
God’s grace
Elijah is the prophet to the most unrighteous king in Israel’s history - Ahab has provoked God to anger more than any of the other pagan kings in his lineage.
Elijah’s initial obedience
— Now Elijah the Tishbite, from the Gilead settlers, said to Ahab, “As the Lord God of Israel lives, in whose presence I stand, there will be no dew or rain during these years except by my command! ”
Now Elijah† the Tishbite, from the Gilead settlers,†† said to Ahab, “As the Lord God of Israel lives,† in whose presence I stand, there will be no dew or rain during these years except by my command! ”
Elijah confronts Ahab with confidence and promises a drought for many years. He claims that the rain would resume at his word.
How do you think Ahab responded to this?
God send Elijah into hiding and it did not rain for 3 and a half years (). There was a great famine.
God brings Elijah out of hiding and leads him to meet with Ahab.
—17 When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is that you, the one ruining Israel? ” 18 He replied, “I have not ruined Israel, but you and your father’s family have, because you have abandoned the Lord’s commands and followed the Baals.
18 He replied, “I have not ruined Israel, but you and your father’s family have, because you have abandoned the Lord’s commands† and followed the Baals.
Ahab accuses Elijah of “ruining Israel.” He thinks that Israel’s greatest problem was the drought and famine when the reality was that Israel’s greatest problem was idolatry.
Ahab’s idolatry blinded him from God’s plan.
The abandonment of God’s commandments resulted in blindness to God’s plan.
Sin blinds us from the way of obedience
Some of us can attest to this…when we were walking in sin, we disregarded God’s plan as troublesome and inconvenient. In reality, we were blind to God’s best for our lives.
Ahab was blind to the real issue — idolatry.
If you are in habitual sin — you are
—19 Now summon all Israel to meet me at Mount Carmel, along with the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah who eat at Jezebel’s table.”
This is where we get the sermon tittle - Throw down at Mt. Carmel.
There was a guy in 1991 named ICE T who thought he was the original gangster, but he must have never read this story!
Elijah tells Ahab to gather all of Israel, the 450 prophets of Baal, the 400 prophets of Asherah (Oh who, are your wife’s friends) and meet me at Mt. Carmel.
—20 So Ahab summoned all the Israelites and gathered the prophets at Mount Carmel. 21 Then Elijah approached all the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him. But if Baal, follow him.” ---- But the people didn’t answer him a word.
Mt. Carmel overlooks the vast Jezreel Valley
Elijah “approached all the people/came near to all the people” and asked a key question — How long will you waver between two options?
The word used for “waver” literally means limp — How long will you limp between two options.
This carries the concept of hesitation or lack of action. Similar to our understanding of “riding the fence”
He accuses the people of Israel of “riding the fence” between Yahweh and Baal.
Elijah then makes a proposition — If the Lord is God, follow him. And if Baal is, then follow him.
The people were silent — further illustrating their wavering attitude.
— 22 Then Elijah said to the people, “I am the only remaining prophet of the Lord, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men. 23 Let two bulls be given to us. They are to choose one bull for themselves, cut it in pieces, and place it on the wood but not light the fire. I will prepare the other bull and place it on the wood but not light the fire. 24 Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The God who answers with fire, he is God.”
All the people answered, “That’s fine.”
Elijah proposed a challenge to discern who is really God. The one true God can surely send fire, so lets see whose God is real.
Baal was thought to have represented the sun-god, ride on the thunderclouds, and allegedly able to send down lightening.
Elijah is by himself, and he is facing the 450 prophets of Baal.
All the people agree to the terms.
— 25 Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Since you are so numerous, choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first. Then call on the name of your god but don’t light the fire.”
26 So they took the bull that he gave them, prepared it, and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “Baal, answer us! ” But there was no sound; no one answered. Then they danced around the altar they had made.
The 450 prophets of Baal danced around the altar and called out to Baal for hours…but no sound.
— 27 At noon Elijah mocked them. He said, “Shout loudly, for he’s a god! Maybe he’s thinking it over; maybe he has wandered away; or maybe he’s on the road. Perhaps he’s sleeping and will wake up! ”
Application
Elijah (the OG) mocks the prophets of Baal… maybe you should shout louder? Maybe he is thinking about sending fire? Maybe he has stepped away for the day? He might be on the road? (ESV translates this as “relieving himself”), or maybe he is sleeping??
Elijah intentionally characterizes Baal with human characteristics.
Indecision
Absence
Need for sleep
— 28 They shouted loudly, and cut themselves with knives and spears, according to their custom, until blood gushed over them. 29 All afternoon they kept on raving until the offering of the evening sacrifice, but there was no sound; no one answered, no one paid attention.
The prophets of Baal shed their blood hoping that Baal would see their sacrifice. All 450 of them kept cutting themselves, and pleading for Baal to answer for hours until the evening.
They have now pleaded with Baal from morning to evening.
There was no sound…no one answered…no one paid attention.
— 30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near me.” So all the people approached him. Then he repaired the Lord’s altar that had been torn 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 had come, saying, “Israel will be your name” — 32 and he built an altar† with the stones in the name of the Lord. Then he made a trench around the altar large enough to hold about four gallons. 33 Next, he arranged the wood, cut up the bull, and placed it on the wood. He said, “Fill four water pots with water and pour it on the offering to be burned and on the wood.” 34 Then he said, “A second time! ” and they did it a second time. And then he said, “A third time! ” and they did it a third time. 35 So the water ran all around the altar; he even filled the trench with water.
36 At the time for offering the evening sacrifice, the prophet Elijah approached the altar and said, “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, today let it be known that you are God in Israel and I am your servant, and that at your word I have done all these things. 37 Answer me, Lord! Answer me so that this people will know that you, the Lord, are God and that you have turned their hearts back.”
38 Then the Lord’s fire fell and consumed the burnt offering, the wood, the stones, and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench. 39 When all the people saw it, they fell facedown and said, “The Lord, he is God! The Lord, he is God! ”
Elijah called the people close and prepared the altar and sacrifice by himself.
He ensured that those who were skeptical would not have any reason to doubt the results of this test.
He dug a trench for extra water and dumped water on the wood and the offering three times. It was soaked! The ditches were full!
If this offering was going to be burned up, Elijah made sure it would have to be an act of the one true God.
He called on the Lord to act so that all would know that He is God — that they would repent and turn from their idolatry.
The one true God heard his servant Elijah and sent fire. The fire consumed the burnt offering, the wood, the stones, the dust, and all the water! This was a divine act.
The people responded by falling face down and declaring the Lord is God!

What does this teach us about God?

He alone is God — there is no one like him in heaven above or earth beneath ()
He hears our cries!
He is not bound by human characteristics. He is never absent or asleep. in fact, he is omnipresent and has no need for sleep.
He draws near to you and gives you an opportunity to declare him as Lord. (There are three times in this passage where Elijah is described as “approaching/drawing near” to the people of Israel).
He alone is God — there is no one like him in heaven above or earth beneath ()
Application
He hears our cries!
Do you believe that?? I would often say that I would, but I would not put my self in the position Elijah did — depending on God to act. Do you really believe our God is God?!?
Guess what! He heard Elijah and he hears us!!

Application

Are you riding the fence with God? — How are you riding the fence with God?
How can you commit more of your life to the Lord?
Is your sin keeping you blind to God’s plan for your life?
Our God is not bound by human characteristics. He is never absent and he has no need for sleep ().
Recognize that our God does not ask that we shed our blood to earn his favor. Instead, he sent his divine Son to shed his blood to atone for our sin!
This is proof that our God is God — he sent his son Jesus who took on the sin of humanity, died the death we deserve, and resurrected on the third day! Jesus is God — he is worthy of our praise.
Be aware that there are millions of people in the world appealing to fake god(s) trying to earn favor. They need to hear that the Lord is God. Who in your life needs to hear this message?
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