God is a spirit and those who worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. God is omnipotent – He is all powerful. He is greater than every problem we have. In most difficult times, God always proves Himself. He is the highest, the greatest, the ultimate. He is above all other gods. Even in the most difficult of times and trials God always provides us with solutions to our problems. The stories that follow go to illustrate the supremacy of God.
Religious Tension in Israel – 1 Kings 16:29-34; 17:1-7; 18:1-19; 19:1-18
Ahab is being described as the king who “did evil in the, sight of God more than all before him.” This is essentially owing to his marriage to the Sidonian princess – Jezebel, who infested Israel with the worship of baal, so much so that the worship of the real God was almost scrapped. According to 1 Kings 16:30-32, Ahab even erected an altar for baal.
Consequently, there arose a religious tension in Israel, as baalism almost supplanted or overthrew the worship of God. The country was almost sitting on a keg of gun-powder, which might explode any time. Jezebel waxed stronger by the day, with no regard for God of Israel, killing prophets of God with reckless abandon and chasing the rest into hiding. This is to enforce the worshipping of Baal.
This was the picture of things in Israel when God sent Elijah to Israel, to Ahab to proclaim a 3 year drought in Israel, apparently, as punishment for Israel for abandoning their God (1 Kings 17:1)
God divinely directed Elijah to stay where God had provided for him away from the reach of Ahab and Jezebel. God fed him regularly in several places. First is the Brook Cherith. He drank from the brook while the ravens fed him with bread and meat. Elijah was also sent to the widow of Zarephath when the brook dried up.
For the king and his people however, they were thrown into chaos and tension as the drought took its toll on the nation; both on baal worshippers and worshippers of God. However, throughout the period, Obadiah, the head of Ahab’s household, a man who feared God greatly, hid and fed a hundred prophets in a cave. He saved them from Jezebel’s sword throughout the drought, just as Ahab was busy looking for Elijah to kill him.
The famine affected the land. The difference in religious beliefs brought hostility and this resulted in deaths among the people. When Ahab finally met Elijah, through Obadiah, Elijah challenged him to gather all the prophets of baal at Mount Carmel.
Why Elijah Pronounced Drought; Ahab’s Response and Supremacy of God
God sent Elijah to proclaim the three year drought as punishment for both Ahab and the entire people of Israel, for forsaking Him, the Almighty and worshipping baal. Ahab responded by killing all the prophets in retaliation. All the time God hid Elijah, Ahab was searching everywhere for him, while Obadiah hid the remaining prophets. The drought so much hit Ahab that he himself and Obadiah went out, searching for pasture for the animals until he met Elijah. The following episodes show the supremacy of God:
- As the supreme Being, He withheld rain for three consecutive years to teach the Israelites a bitter lesson as a result of their unfaithfulness to God.
- While the drought lasted, God made provisions for Elijah.
- God used Obadiah to protect all his prophets throughout the duration of the drought.
- King Ahab ruled Israel from Samaria for twenty-two years but sinned above all who ruled before him.
- He married Jezebel, a princess, the daughter of the king of the Sidonians and served her god, baal. He worshipped it having erected an altar for it.
- It was due to the terrible sins of Ahab that God asked Elijah to pronounce drought for three years.
- Jezebel his wife killed so many prophets of God. But Obadiah was able to hide a hundred of them.
- During the three years of drought, Elijah was sent to Brook Cherith where a raven fed him; later, as the brook dried up, he went to Zarephath where a widow fed him. Ahab was busy looking for him.
- And through Obadiah, Ahab was able to meet with Elijah during which time the contest at Mount Carmel was proposed by Elijah.
Elijah at Mount Carmel – 1 Kings 18:17-46
God, being merciful decided to end their sufferings. He manifested this through the contest on Mount Carmel where he established his supremacy through prophet Elijah.
The episode at Mount Carmel is significant in two ways: It was an opportunity for national repentance, as well as an opportunity to demonstrate God’s supremacy over baal, as exemplified in the following verse, where Elijah speaks:
“How long will you go limping with two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him, but if baal, then follow him”. (1 Kings 18:21)
Thus, the stage was set to know the true God. All the prophets of baal were present, numbering four hundred and fifty. Elijah ordered that two bulls be provided, one for prophets of baal and one for him a prophet of God:
“… let them choose one bull for themselves, and cut it in pieces and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it; and I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood and put no fire to it. And 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.” (1 Kings 18:23-24)
The Prophets of baal prayed from morning till evening calling on their god, but no fire came. Elijah, having made the prophets of baal confirm that they were tired, re-prepared the altar with twelve pieces of stone; placed the bull on it, and called on God to send down fire to consume everything as a proof of his supremacy. At once, fire came from heaven and consumed everything. The prophets of baal were filled with awe as they fell on their faces covered with shame They confessed – “The Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is God. ” (1 Kings 18:39)
Elijah did not spare the prophets of baal. He killed all of them and then announced the coming of rain: invariably, to end the drought.
He told King Ahab to break his fast, return to the palace of and expect rain. Elijah went to the top of Mount Carmel to pray and God answered with a heavy rainfall. This was how Elijah demonstrated the supremacy of God over all false gods.
How Mount Carmel Contest Proved the Supremacy of God
- The contest at Mount Carmel proved the supremacy of God over baal.
- The killing of the four hundred and fifty prophets of baal brought to tight God’s supremacy as it brought to an end the worship of baal in Israel
- By sending rain after the contest, God proved his supremacy as being able to withhold rain and release it.
- God has power creation and can exercise that power for his own glory.
Lessons to Learn And Significance of the Religious Tension and the Mount Carmel Contest
- Unfaithfulness to God brings about suffering. God sent the drought as a punishment to Ahab and all Israel for forsaking him.
- When punishment for sin comes, in most cases, both the culprits and the innocent ones suffer as in the drought.
- God has power over all creation, including the power to withhold and release rain.
- In time of crisis, God always protects his own people as in Elijah and the one hundred prophets hidden by Obadiah,
- The Mount Carmel episode stamped out baalism totally as all her prophets were killed thereafter. It was an act of God to flush out baalism.
- It brought the drought to an end and signified a turning point for the people to reconcile to God.
- It shows God as a consuming fire. He is slow to anger. He always gives sinners long time to repent.
- The religious tension in Israel as well as the contest at Mount Carmel have the significance of proving the supremacy of God over baal.
- The three-year drought imposed on Israel by God was a punishment for the abandonment of the worship of God, for the worship of baal.
- The drought culminated on the contest at Mount Carmel which proved beyond reasonable doubts that God is superior to baal. It also marked the end of baal worship in Israel as well as the end to the devastating drought
- Beyond anything else, it proved the supremacy of God.