1Now it happened [after] many days that the word of the LORD came to Elijah in the third year, saying, “Go, show yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the face of the earth.”
1Now it happened [after] many days that the word of the LORD came to Elijah in the third year, saying, “Go, show yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the face of the earth.”
After more than three years the LORD orders Elijah to show himself to Ahab again, because He is going to give rain. What a merciful God! The promise of the LORD that He is going to give rain does not take away that Elijah prays for it, as it appears further on. The promise is precisely an exhortation to pray.
Elijah will come and restore everything, the Lord Jesus said to His disciples (Mt 17:1111And He answered and said, “Elijah is coming and will restore all things;). Elijah’s character is that of restoration. Moses is the law giver. Elijah brings the people back to the law after they have deviated from it. Moses was prepared in the wilderness for forty years. Elijah has also been prepared by the LORD. Moses has performed with Pharaoh and Elijah with Ahab. Then they are both prepared by God in silence for their service. In John the baptist the service of Elijah is fulfilled. John is also prepared and then comes into the public domain.
Now comes the appearance in public for Elijah. He has to show himself to Ahab. The restoration of the people is preceded by the apparition of Elijah. He brings hearts back to God. Ahab is the spiritual leader of God’s people. The restoration is not without him, because he is the representative of the people.
2So Elijah went to show himself to Ahab. Now the famine [was] severe in Samaria. 3Ahab called Obadiah who [was] over the household. (Now Obadiah feared the LORD greatly; 4for when Jezebel destroyed the prophets of the LORD, Obadiah took a hundred prophets and hid them by fifties in a cave, and provided them with bread and water.) 5Then Ahab said to Obadiah, “Go through the land to all the springs of water and to all the valleys; perhaps we will find grass and keep the horses and mules alive, and not have to kill some of the cattle.” 6So they divided the land between them to survey it; Ahab went one way by himself and Obadiah went another way by himself.
Obeying the command of the LORD, Elijah sets off to Ahab to show himself to him. Before that meeting takes place, we hear of a man, Obadiah, who is at the court of Ahab and of whom we read that he feared the LORD greatly. The palace of Ahab and the fear of the LORD are two opposing worlds. Obadiah cannot openly confess that he fears the LORD greatly, for he also fears Ahab. The fear of the LORD must go hand in hand with turn away from evil (Pro 3:77Do not be wise in your own eyes;
Fear the LORD and turn away from evil.
Yet the LORD has used Obadiah. In his fear of the LORD he has taken care that a hundred prophets did not fall into the hands of the murderous Jezebel. He even kept them alive by providing them with bread and water. This is indeed no small matter at a time when water is scarce and harvests fail due to drought. Possibly he was helped in this by the seven thousand who did not bow their knees before Baal (1Kgs 19:1818Yet I will leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him.”). In any case, it is no small achievement for which the LORD will surely reward him.
But he cannot be a real witness to the LORD, as Elijah is. He walks on the lead of Ahab and gets his commands from him and not from the LORD like Elijah. Obadiah cannot possibly be an open witness to the LORD, because he remains connected with evil.
Whoever wants to be a real witness cannot be connected with evil. A believer who lives in fellowship with the world will act as the world. He will strive to keep the world livable and even improve it. Whoever wants to be a man of God must cleanse himself from the vessels for dishonor (2Tim 2:20-2120Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor.21Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these [things], he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.). Obadiah does not do that. On the contrary, he is working, together with Ahab, to undo the consequences of God’s judgment.
Ahab cares more about his cattle than about his people, his subjects. For his cattle he goes looking for water. He orders Obadiah to search part of the land as well. Ahab apparently trusts Obadiah fully. This is how he got to know Obadiah. Although Obadiah is in the wrong position and is forced to participate in a foolish expedition, it shows that he is generally good at his work. A person who fears the LORD will be a useful force for his employer who does his job well, even though sometimes it must be said of a job that it is not a job of faith.
7Now as Obadiah was on the way, behold, Elijah met him, and he recognized him and fell on his face and said, “Is this you, Elijah my master?” 8He said to him, “It is I. Go, say to your master, ‘Behold, Elijah [is here].’” 9He said, “What sin have I committed, that you are giving your servant into the hand of Ahab to put me to death? 10As the LORD your God lives, there is no nation or kingdom where my master has not sent to search for you; and when they said, ‘He is not [here],’ he made the kingdom or nation swear that they could not find you. 11And now you are saying, ‘Go, say to your master, “Behold, Elijah [is here].”‘ 12It will come about when I leave you that the Spirit of the LORD will carry you where I do not know; so when I come and tell Ahab and he cannot find you, he will kill me, although [I] your servant have feared the LORD from my youth. 13Has it not been told to my master what I did when Jezebel killed the prophets of the LORD, that I hid a hundred prophets of the LORD by fifties in a cave, and provided them with bread and water? 14And now you are saying, ‘Go, say to your master, “Behold, Elijah [is here]”‘; he will then kill me.” 15Elijah said, “As the LORD of hosts lives, before whom I stand, I will surely show myself to him today.”
On the way to Ahab, Elijah bumps into Obadiah. Two men who fear the LORD meet. However, there is a world of difference between them. One is a declared opponent of Ahab, the other is doing his best, hand in hand with Ahab, to ensure that in this time of scarcity the horses of Ahab at least have something to eat. Obadiah is shocked when he sees Elijah and calls him “my master”. Elijah corrects him and says that Ahab is his master. That is what Obadiah also himself says in verse 1010As the LORD your God lives, there is no nation or kingdom where my master has not sent to search for you; and when they said, ‘He is not [here],’ he made the kingdom or nation swear that they could not find you.. This reminds us of the word of the Lord Jesus: “No one can serve two masters” (Mt 6:24a24“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.).
Elijah is used to obeying immediately. If the LORD says “go”, then he goes (verses 1-21Now it happened [after] many days that the word of the LORD came to Elijah in the third year, saying, “Go, show yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the face of the earth.”2So Elijah went to show himself to Ahab. Now the famine [was] severe in Samaria.). If Obadiah receives the same assignment from Elijah, he objects to it with all kinds of objections. He easily complies with Ahab’s plans, but can hardly bow to God’s plan. This is often the case in the lives of Christians who join the world. When the Word of God asks for simple obedience, they have all kinds of excuses to get out of it.
Fear dominates the life of Obadiah. He is afraid of Elijah and he is afraid of Ahab. He fears more for his own life than for that of Elijah. He tells how Ahab had Elijah restlessly searched to kill him, in the superstitious opinion that the disaster then would stop and rain would come again. There is also no peace with regard to Elijah with Obadiah. For him, Elijah is also a danger. He sees Elijah as the object of his master’s hatred and not as the representative of the living God.
Many believers live in the cleavage that characterizes Obadiah’s life. They are in systems where all kinds of evil teachings are. They condemn these teachings, but they stay where they are. They tell themselves that they might still be useful. They are, however, in ever-increasing disturbance of conscience. On the one hand they feel that the Lord Jesus is dishonored and they sometimes want to protest against it; on the other hand they are afraid of the religious leaders. This situation will ultimately lead to them either silencing their conscience or leaving that place.
Nor does Obadiah understand anything of the work of the Spirit. He believes that the Spirit will do something special with Elijah, causing him to run into the greatest difficulties and even to fear for his life. He does not know God’s thoughts and therefore he suggests thoughts about the Spirit that are totally outside the spiritual reality. Never will the Spirit do anything that would put out of action the Word of God or go against the Word of God. Elijah said in the power of the Spirit that Obadiah must announce him to Ahab. It is an insult to the Spirit to assume that He will suddenly work something else.
Obadiah feels compelled to justify himself. The reason he is so afraid of his life is because he is so full of himself. He who has lost himself does not fear for his life, for he has already lost it. Obadiah mentions everything he has done for the LORD. But the Lord does not want us to speak about ourselves like this (Pro 27:22Let another praise you, and not your own mouth;
A stranger, and not your own lips.). Paul calls himself “insane” (2Cor 11:2323Are they servants of Christ?—I speak as if insane—I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death.) when he is forced to speak about himself. People who give up high about themselves do not find appreciation among spiritually-minded people. Nor is Elijah impressed by the achievements of Obadiah’s achievements. Without saying a word about it he turns around and goes to show himself to Ahab.
16So Obadiah went to meet Ahab and told him; and Ahab went to meet Elijah. 17When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is this you, you troubler of Israel?” 18He said, “I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father’s house [have], because you have forsaken the commandments of the LORD and you have followed the Baals.
Finally, Obadiah obeys. He goes to Ahab and tells him that Elijah is there. Then Ahab goes to Elijah. Israel’s most powerful man and outlawed Elijah meet. But Elijah is far above this man, who accuses him of plunging Israel into misfortune. Those who bring God’s Word and point out sin are often identified as the cause of troubles (cf. Acts 16:16-2416It happened that as we were going to the place of prayer, a slave-girl having a spirit of divination met us, who was bringing her masters much profit by fortune-telling.17Following after Paul and us, she kept crying out, saying, “These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation.”18She continued doing this for many days. But Paul was greatly annoyed, and turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!” And it came out at that very moment.19But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market place before the authorities,20and when they had brought them to the chief magistrates, they said, “These men are throwing our city into confusion, being Jews,21and are proclaiming customs which it is not lawful for us to accept or to observe, being Romans.”22The crowd rose up together against them, and the chief magistrates tore their robes off them and proceeded to order [them] to be beaten with rods.23When they had struck them with many blows, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to guard them securely;24and he, having received such a command, threw them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.).
Elijah points his finger at Ahab himself and explains why he is the cause of Israel’s misery. On the one hand Ahab forsakes the commandments of the LORD and on the other hand he has followed the Baals. These two sides always constitute the misfortune of man in general and of the Christian in particular who deviates from God.
19Now then send [and] gather to me all Israel at Mount Carmel, [together] with 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of the Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.” 20So Ahab sent [a message] among all the sons of Israel and brought the prophets together at Mount Carmel. 21Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long [will] you hesitate between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people did not answer him a word.
That Elijah is the superior is evident from the orders he gives Ahab. And Ahab obeys. Elijah commands that all Israel be gathered, as well as the false prophets of Baal, the people who proclaim the false doctrine of Baal. Also the four hundred prophets, who receive their food from Jezebel, must come. The place of action is also determined by Elijah: Mount Carmel. This is the most suitable place for the meeting between the God of Israel and the idols of the Sidonians. Mount Carmel is located between Israel and Phoenicia where Tyre and Sidon are.
Then all the Israelites and the prophets gather at Mount Carmel. Opposite this crowd is the loner Elijah. Of the seven thousand who did not bend their knees before Baal, there is nothing to be seen. Obadiah will not stand beside him either. Although Elijah is alone and faces the masses, he sees the whole people and loves them. He carries them on his heart.
When all Israel and the prophets have gathered with Elijah, he first has a word for the people. Impressively he asks them when they will make a choice. But the people are silent. They are waiting. This apathy is terrible. It's reminiscent of the lukewarmness that reigns in the church in Laodicea (Rev 3:1616So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.).
22Then Elijah said to the people, “I alone am left a prophet of the LORD, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men. 23Now let them give us two oxen; and let them choose one ox for themselves and cut it up, and place it on the wood, but put no fire [under it]; and I will prepare the other ox and lay it on the wood, and I will not put a fire [under it]. 24Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD, and the God who answers by fire, He is God.” And all the people said, “That is a good idea.” 25So Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one ox for yourselves and prepare it first for you are many, and call on the name of your god, but put no fire [under it].”
Then Elijah acts. He takes the initiative and explains ‘the rules of the game’ for the confrontation between God and Baal. The prophets of Baal may first choose from the two bulls and bring their sacrifice first. They also get the most time to call to their god. Elijah gives them every advantage. He can only do that because he trusts God completely. He does not know the outcome, yet still he does, because he knows God’s will. That brings him to faith to give this testimony.
Baal is the god of the weather and therefore also of rain. He must be persuaded to give rain again. Fire from heaven on the sacrifice must make clear Who God is. Elijah knows the history of the fire on the sacrifice. He knows the history of Abraham where the fire comes from heaven (Gen 19:2424Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven,). He also knows of the fire on the altar and the fire in judgment on Nadab and Abihu (Lev 9:2424Then fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the portions of fat on the altar; and when all the people saw [it], they shouted and fell on their faces.; 10:1-21Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them.2And fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD.). He knows the fire of blessing when the fire hits the innocent sacrifice and the people can go free. Elijah has let fire come from heaven on enemies (2Kgs 1:10-1410Elijah replied to the captain of fifty, “If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty.” Then fire came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty.11So he again sent to him another captain of fifty with his fifty. And he said to him, “O man of God, thus says the king, ‘Come down quickly.’”12Elijah replied to them, “If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty.” Then the fire of God came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty.13So he again sent the captain of a third fifty with his fifty. When the third captain of fifty went up, he came and bowed down on his knees before Elijah, and begged him and said to him, “O man of God, please let my life and the lives of these fifty servants of yours be precious in your sight.14Behold fire came down from heaven and consumed the first two captains of fifty with their fifties; but now let my life be precious in your sight.”), but does not do that on the people. He loves the people. Therefore the fire does not come on the people, but hits the sacrifice, as it turns out shortly.
26Then they took the ox which was given them and they prepared it and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon saying, “O Baal, answer us.” But there was no voice and no one answered. And they leaped about the altar which they made. 27It came about at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, “Call out with a loud voice, for he is a god; either he is occupied or gone aside, or is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and needs to be awakened.” 28So they cried with a loud voice and cut themselves according to their custom with swords and lances until the blood gushed out on them. 29When midday was past, they raved until the time of the offering of the [evening] sacrifice; but there was no voice, no one answered, and no one paid attention.
Baal’s prophets prepare everything in the way Elijah has indicated. Then the spectacle breaks loose. That must have been impressive. Eight hundred and fifty prophets is a lot. At a distance stands the lonely Elijah. A little further on stands the mass of the people, still silent. It does not matter to them from whom the rain comes, from Baal or from God.
Elijah is not silent. When the prophets have been working for a long time without any result to persuade their god to take any action, Elijah starts to ridicule their foolish attempts with biting mockery. The prophets of God have always mocked the idols (Isa 44:12-2012The man shapes iron into a cutting tool and does his work over the coals, fashioning it with hammers and working it with his strong arm. He also gets hungry and his strength fails; he drinks no water and becomes weary.13[Another] shapes wood, he extends a measuring line; he outlines it with red chalk. He works it with planes and outlines it with a compass, and makes it like the form of a man, like the beauty of man, so that it may sit in a house.14Surely he cuts cedars for himself, and takes a cypress or an oak and raises [it] for himself among the trees of the forest. He plants a fir, and the rain makes it grow.15Then it becomes [something] for a man to burn, so he takes one of them and warms himself; he also makes a fire to bake bread. He also makes a god and worships it; he makes it a graven image and falls down before it.16Half of it he burns in the fire; over [this] half he eats meat as he roasts a roast and is satisfied. He also warms himself and says, “Aha! I am warm, I have seen the fire.”17But the rest of it he makes into a god, his graven image. He falls down before it and worships; he also prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god.”18They do not know, nor do they understand, for He has smeared over their eyes so that they cannot see and their hearts so that they cannot comprehend.19No one recalls, nor is there knowledge or understanding to say, “I have burned half of it in the fire and also have baked bread over its coals. I roast meat and eat [it]. Then I make the rest of it into an abomination, I fall down before a block of wood!”20He feeds on ashes; a deceived heart has turned him aside. And he cannot deliver himself, nor say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?”). Elijah ridicules their god by assuming he is occupied and has no time to answer. He is a god who cannot do two things at the same time. It may also be that he has gone aside, that is to say that he is on the toilet to do his needs and then of course he can’t hear them. He cannot do that either when he is travelling, because he is a very limited god with only a small area as his terrain.
On the other hand is the God of Elijah, our God, the all-powerful God, the God of the universe, Who created heaven and earth and maintains everything. He is also the all-present God, who is present everywhere, and the all-knowing God, who is involved in all things, and to Whose attention nothing escapes.
According to their pagan customs, the prophets cut themselves to arouse the compassion of their god. What a god who should be brought to action with such actions! But all the toil and self-chastisement of the prophets is answered with total silence on the part of Baal. Of course Baal remains dead, for there is only one living God. What a defeat for the prophets of Baal.
In this manner they continue until the time of the offering of the [evening] sacrifice or the evening grain offering. The whole chapter lights up against the background of the cross. It is the ninth hour. At that hour Christ died as the real grain offering and burnt offering on the cross. It is the moment that Daniel receives an answer to his prayer, as well as Ezra, and as Cornelius, the first convert from the Gentiles (Dan 9:2121while I was still speaking in prayer, then the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision previously, came to me in [my] extreme weariness about the time of the evening offering.; Ezra 9:4-54Then everyone who trembled at the words of the God of Israel on account of the unfaithfulness of the exiles gathered to me, and I sat appalled until the evening offering.5But at the evening offering I arose from my humiliation, even with my garment and my robe torn, and I fell on my knees and stretched out my hands to the LORD my God;; Acts 10:33About the ninth hour of the day he clearly saw in a vision an angel of God who had [just] come in and said to him, “Cornelius!”). When the gods are silent and the people are silent, the God of Elijah answers.
30Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” So all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the LORD which had been torn down. 31Elijah 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 shall be your name.” 32So with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD, and he made a trench around the altar, large enough to hold two measures of seed. 33Then he arranged the wood and cut the ox in pieces and laid [it] on the wood. 34And he said, “Fill four pitchers with water and pour [it] on the burnt offering and on the wood.” And he said, “Do it a second time,” and they did it a second time. And he said, “Do it a third time,” and they did it a third time. 35The water flowed around the altar and he also filled the trench with water.
Then it’s Elijah’s turn. He commands the people to come forward, to him. He distracts the attention of Baal to focus it on himself and then on the LORD. They come. They must see clearly that he restores the altar of the LORD, which has been overthrown. He does not build a new, different altar. Nor does he renew the old altar. He rebuilds the altar from twelve stones to “the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob”, who is made “Israel” by God’s grace. “Jacob” is the name of weakness and failure. On that basis, judgment should be executed. But the LORD has given him the name “Israel”. That is what God has made of him, and then there is blessing.
With the restoration of the altar, Elijah expresses the unity of the people of God. He does this as a loner, the man of God, but he does so “in the name of the LORD”. He thereby confesses His authority. The authority of that Name is still the basis for making the unity of the church visible, even if only with a few (Mt 18:2020For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”). It comes down to personal faithfulness in the acknowledgment of the authority of the Name of the Lord Jesus.
He continues to set up the altar for the purpose for which he is building it: that God may glorify Himself through it. He places wood on the altar. Then he cuts the ox of the second choice in pieces. He then orders the pouring of water on the altar. This is done by means of a total of twelve pitchers with water, which also reminds us of the twelve tribes. He does so three times, just as he has stretched himself out over the boy three times (1Kgs 17:2121Then he stretched himself upon the child three times, and called to the LORD and said, “O LORD my God, I pray You, let this child’s life return to him.”). Only God can give life out of death, of which the number three speaks.
In this way, Elijah avoids any suspicion that he would have used some sort of trick to bring the fire over the sacrifice. Every human intervention is eliminated. In practical terms, he will have had the water taken from a nearby spring. Spiritually we see that a man of God has always hidden sources.
36At the time of the offering of the [evening] sacrifice, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant and I have done all these things at Your word. 37Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that You, O LORD, are God, and [that] You have turned their heart back again.” 38Then the fire of the LORD 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. 39When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, “The LORD, He is God; the LORD, He is God.” 40Then Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; do not let one of them escape.” So they seized them; and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there.
Then he who is expressly called “Elijah the prophet” turns to God. He does so without a show like the prophets of Baal, but short, simple, penetrating, especially trusting and with a view to the return of the people to God. The whole power of God is concentrated in this one man. He addresses himself to the “LORD, the God of” – the promises to – “Abraham, Isaac and Israel”. When everything is lost, there can only be an appeal to the God of the promises. We also see that Elijah speaks of God as the “God of … Israel”, that is again what God made of Jacob and not what Jacob is in himself.
Elijah does not speak of the LORD ‘my’ God. He does so in his personal prayer. Here it is a public prayer and he prays that God will make Himself known as the God of His people Israel. He also prays for himself that it will become clear that he is connected with Him and acts in His command and carries out that command as He has told him. He prays at the time of the evening sacrifice. That is a wonderful moment. It is the time when later the Lord Jesus will die on the cross as the foundation for the unity of God’s people. On the basis of that sacrifice God answers prayers. It is the hour that the Lord Jesus also called, but did not receive an answer. God accepts the sacrifice of Elijah and the people acknowledge that the LORD is God.
Elijah prays that it will become clear that God has brought repentance to their hearts. Restoration begins with those who have faith and prayed in silence and in public. Then the fire falls on the burnt offering. A burnt offering is made so that the man who brings it may be acceptable to God (Lev 1:9,13,179Its entrails, however, and its legs he shall wash with water. And the priest shall offer up in smoke all of it on the altar for a burnt offering, an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to the LORD.13The entrails, however, and the legs he shall wash with water. And the priest shall offer all of it, and offer it up in smoke on the altar; it is a burnt offering, an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to the LORD.17Then he shall tear it by its wings, [but] shall not sever [it]. And the priest shall offer it up in smoke on the altar on the wood which is on the fire; it is a burnt offering, an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to the LORD.), not by reason of what man is in himself, but by reason of the pleasure God has in the offering. We may know that we are pleasing to God because He sees us in the Beloved (Eph 1:66to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.).
The result is not only that the people are spared, that judgment passes them by, but that the hearts of the people return to God and trust God again. The result is also that the heart of God is turned back to this people and goes out to them. We see this when we look at the burnt offering that the Lord Jesus was on the cross for God. That burnt offering brings Elijah.
The fire consumes everything. When the people see it, it falls down and confesses loudly that the LORD is God. It is important that this is also the case with us. This will be evident from a radical removal of all elements that have taken the place of God. Everything that stands in the way of or does not conform to this confession must be removed from our lives. Elijah is radical. It seems hard, but it’s about the holiness of God.
The first assignment for this returned people is to seize the prophets of Baal. No one should escape. That is how we must act. In the same way, there must also be merciless dealing with people who bring a false doctrine. This does not happen in our time by killing them, but by breaking and refusing every fellowship with them. Their word goes on like cancer and you cannot have patience with cancer (cf. Deu 13:5,9-115But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has counseled rebellion against the LORD your God who brought you from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, to seduce you from the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from among you.9But you shall surely kill him; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people.10So you shall stone him to death because he has sought to seduce you from the LORD your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.11Then all Israel will hear and be afraid, and will never again do such a wicked thing among you.; 18:2020But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’). The slaughter takes place at the brook Kishon, where once the Canaanites were killed (Jdg 4:7,137I will draw out to you Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his many [troops] to the river Kishon, and I will give him into your hand.’”13Sisera called together all his chariots, nine hundred iron chariots, and all the people who [were] with him, from Harosheth-hagoyim to the river Kishon.; 5:2121“The torrent of Kishon swept them away,
The ancient torrent, the torrent Kishon.
O my soul, march on with strength.
; Psa 83:99Deal with them as with Midian,
As with Sisera [and] Jabin at the torrent of Kishon,
41Now Elijah said to Ahab, “Go up, eat and drink; for there is the sound of the roar of a [heavy] shower.” 42So Ahab went up to eat and drink. But Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he crouched down on the earth and put his face between his knees. 43He said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” So he went up and looked and said, “There is nothing.” And he said, “Go back” seven times. 44It came about at the seventh [time], that he said, “Behold, a cloud as small as a man’s hand is coming up from the sea.” And he said, “Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare [your chariot] and go down, so that the [heavy] shower does not stop you.’” 45In a little while the sky grew black with clouds and wind, and there was a heavy shower. And Ahab rode and went to Jezreel. 46Then the hand of the LORD was on Elijah, and he girded up his loins and outran Ahab to Jezreel.
After the fire comes the rain. Ahab is the first to be told that rain is approaching. About him was not spoken about during the whole event on the Carmel. He has followed the whole spectacle. He has been silent all the time. Elijah did not speak to him, but now speaks to him. He instructs Ahab to go home to eat and drink; after all, that is the only thing he is interested in. He also does not need to be present at the effect of Elijah’s prayer for rain.
When Ahab, the leader of God’s people, is on his way to his coveted meal, the man of God, the lover of God’s people, goes up the mountain to pray. Elijah has prayed that it will not rain unless at his word (1Kgs 17:11Now Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the settlers of Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the LORD, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.”). That time is now come. God has said that He will give rain again (1Kgs 18:11Now it happened [after] many days that the word of the LORD came to Elijah in the third year, saying, “Go, show yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the face of the earth.”). That is what Elijah believes, and he already hears the noise of it (verse 4141Now Elijah said to Ahab, “Go up, eat and drink; for there is the sound of the roar of a [heavy] shower.”). We could say that Elijah did not have to pray. But this is not how the man of God talks. He knows that God wants to be prayed to and that God wants to use the prayer of His servant to give rain and blessing. Although He has announced it, He gives it on the basis of prayer and in connection with the sacrifice.
It even is so, that Elijah has to pray seven times. A short prayer in public has fulfilled to let fire descend from heaven. In secret a sevenfold prayer is needed to let the rain come. It is not only about prayer, but about persistent and faithful prayer. There is spiritual exercise connected to this. Elijah also uses his servant. He gives him a nice task. The servant may look forward to the answering of the prayer. He may go and look to the west, over the sea, to see if there are any clouds coming. Every time he obeys and is exercise in the same way. God gladly fulfills His promises in answer to the prayers of His own. So rain and blessing comes again upon the people of God.
We may pray for rain. Rain is the rain of heaven and represents the activity of the Spirit in the teaching of God’s Word (Deu 32:22“Let my teaching drop as the rain,
My speech distill as the dew,
As the droplets on the fresh grass
And as the showers on the herb.). In Egypt there is also water, but that is brought over the land by human effort (Deu 11:1010For the land, into which you are entering to possess it, is not like the land of Egypt from which you came, where you used to sow your seed and water it with your foot like a vegetable garden.). We long for the rain of heaven, the doctrine from the heavenly source. We may have a place around the altar of twelve stones, but we may also receive the doctrine that drips like rain. We must also pray for this and look forward to the hearing. Many want to eat and drink with Ahab, but only so few want to pray with Elijah. It starts with a cloud like the hand of a man, but what grows into a sky full of clouds with rain.
Elijah lets command Ahab to be fast, because otherwise the ground will be so marshy that it will not advance. While Ahab rushes away, Elijah is even faster and outruns Ahab. We can assume that he is enabled to do this by the power of the Spirit. It is a spiritual enthusiasm because of God’s work that he was allowed to do.
This action by Elijah more or less ends his public service. He still acts as a prophet, but the actual goal of his mission has been achieved. Through his service, the people have returned to God, at least in his confession.