Jon: Imagine if you are in a challenge to the death.
Bradon: Oh, like an old western movie where the two guys have a gun duel.
Jon: No, more like a prayer duel to the death!
Bradon: That sounds crazy.
Jon: That is exactly what happened in the upcoming story! Stay tuned!
About the Story
Jon: For the past several weeks we have been in the book of Nehemiah. This week we are going to take a break from this long story and step into the book of 1 Kings. Today we will tell the story found in Chapter 18.
Bradon: So, a little background for us all about this story. The nation of Israel has split and there is Judah to the south and Israel to the North.
Jon: Both nations have had their struggles following God faithfully. From what we read in scripture, Judah worked harder at being faithful to God than Israel. Still, neither nation gets a gold star for its efforts.
Bradon: Since the very beginning of Israel, the nation had a difficult time following God and yet God would consistently be faithful to them.
Jon: Even when it appeared that God abandoned them he withdrew his helping hand simply to get their attention and allow them to learn the difficult lesson of obedience.
Bradon: A pattern quickly appeared of being good with God, rebelling against God, life becoming awful, repentance, and then eventually the pattern would repeat. Good, rebellion, life being awful, repentance, rinse and repeat.
Jon: God warned the nation of Israel through Samuel the prophet not to ask for a king, but they didn’t listen and demanded a king. God gave them a king, and at first, it kind of went well, then poorly, then very good, for a while, then eventually the people stopped worshipping God, the nation divided, and after several kings in both Judah and Israel, we get to today’s story.
Bradon: This story has a few Characters; King Ahab was the seventh king in the history of Israel. His wife’s name was Jezebel.
Jon: She was not a good person and led Ahab and all of Israel down a pretty dark and immoral path of worshipping Baal, a false god.
Bradon: Not that Ahab needed much encouragement. He was clearly on that path of his own choosing.
Jon: Elijah is another character in this story and he was a prophet. God gave Elijah special messages that he was to pass on to certain people or groups as directed by God.
Bradon: One more thing. There was a famine due to a severe drought in Israel. Listen to what Elijah said to Ahab in 1 Kings 17:1 ‘Now Elijah, who was from Tishbe in Gilead, told King Ahab, “As surely as the Lord, the God of Israel, lives—the God I serve—there will be no dew or rain during the next few years until I give the word!”’
Jon: As you can imagine, Ahab didn’t like Elijah. In Ahab’s mind, Elijah always brought trouble and difficulty. No rain would create so much hardship for a nation, and everyone expected the king to fix it all!
Bradon: This is such an intense story and moment for all of Israel. It’s hard to grasp both the intensity of it and the scale of it all. All of Israel, the entire nation was gathered at Mount Carmel watching Elijah and the prophets of Baal go toe to toe. Despite the enormity of this story, we, here today, are relatively calm as we gather. I think the lesson the Israelites learned is something each of us will have to wrestle with at some point in our lives.
Jon: Elijah puts it as a challenge to everyone. “How much longer will you waver, hobbling between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him! But if Baal is God, then follow him!”
Bradon: In fairness, I don’t know of anyone today that is worshipping Baal and Asherah. I mean the types of things people would do in the worship of those idols were revolting and to add to it they were even celebrating these actions!
Jon: People in those days of Israel acted with no shame in regard to their worship and behaviour. People today don’t have an Asherah pole in their backyard or an idol of Baal in their living room but they have something else. They have access to images and video’s on their devices that symbolize the same things those idols symbolized, and they lead to many of the same behaviours. I think the question Elijah asked the people is a really important question we need to answer.
Bradon: “How much longer will you waver, hobbling between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him! But if Baal is God, then follow him!”
Jon: Choose today who the true God is and follow him!