Lesson 7

Prayers for Reformation: Elijah

(1 Kings 16-18)
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Introduction: At work do you sometimes feel you are the only one, or just one of a few, who serve God? Do you feel that God has placed a burden on you to reveal His greatness? Our study this week is about how God partnered with Elijah to reveal God's power and greatness. This partnership involved prayer. Let's jump in!

  1. The Problem

    1. Read 1 Kings 16:29-33. What kind of guy was Ahab?

      1. How bad was he? (Verse 33 tells us he did more to provoke God then all the Kings of Israel put together!

      2. What are some of the bad things that he did? (1. The sins of his predecessor kings were "nothing" (trivial) to him. To better understand the comparison to Jeroboam and his introduction of idol worship, read 1 Kings 12:26-30. 2. Ahab not only worshiped Baal, but he built an alter and temple to Baal - thus making Baal an institution! 3. He married Jezebel.)

        1. What was wrong with marrying Jezebel? Notice the name of her father, Ethbaal. Notice he has "Baal" incorporated in his name? Anyone know what this means? (Jezebel's father is "Ethbaal." His name means "With Baal." Fausset tells us that Ethbaal was not only the King of Sidon, he was a priest of Baal! Keil and Delitzsch ("Keil") tell us that Ethbaal killed his brother to become king of Sidon. Ahab marries the murdering Baal priest's daugher! Baal was a Phoenician god and Baal worship had been a problem in Israel. Ahab now takes the problem to a new level.)

  2. The Challenge

    1. Read 1 Kings 17:1-3. What does God do to punish Ahab for his rebellion?

      1. Why not just kill Ahab? Or Jezebel?

      2. Keil reports that Baal was the "sun-god" and worshiped as "the generative and reproductive power of nature." Why do you think God ordered a drought? (God is attacking Baal where he lives. He is attacking the very thing for which Baal is worshiped -- the reproduction of nature.)

      3. Why did God tell Elijah to hide after he gave Ahab the message about the coming drought? (Ahab or Jezebel would have killed him. 1 Kings 18:4 tells us that after the drought began Jezebel tried to kill all of God's prophets.)

    2. If you were to summarize God's "Battle-plan," how would you do it? (God is throwing down the gauntlet, issuing a challenge, to this false god.)

    3. Read 1 Kings 18:1-3, 5. How is the challenge going? How is Baal doing in keeping nature reproducing? (It is the third year of the drought, the famine is severe, and even King Ahab is having trouble finding water (grass) to keep his animals alive.)

      1. We see polls from time to time about the "confidence level" and "approval level" of the U.S. President. How are Baal's confidence and approval ratings doing now?

      2. What does God tell Elijah to do?

        1. How would you like that assignment?

    4. Read 1 Kings 18:7-9. How does God arrange for Elijah to go see Ahab (who wants to kill him)? (Elijah runs into Obadiah, who is the man in charge of Ahab's palace. Obadiah, we learned in verse 3, is a devout follower of God.)

      1. Do you think Obadiah is telling others, especially his bosses (the King and Queen) about his religious beliefs? (Verse 9 makes it pretty clear that Obadiah is concerned that the wrong words might get him killed.)

      2. Is Obadiah a coward? Let's read a verse we skipped before: 1 Kings 18:4. (This tells us that he had hidden 100 of God's prophets from Jezebel and fed and watered them.)

        1. If you were Obadiah and were keeping 100 prophets in water and food during a drought, would you worry about why the King (v.5) asked you to go out to help him find water?)

    5. Obadiah obeys and tells King Ahab where to find Elijah. Read 1 Kings 18:16-18. Is King Ahab repentant? Is Elijah diplomatic?

    6. Read 1 Kings 18:19-21. Does Ahab accept the showdown challenge on Mt. Carmel?

      1. Tell me how you think the prophets of Baal are feeling about now? What do you think Ahab and Jezebel have been saying to them the last three years? What do you think they have been saying back?

      2. After three years of drought, do the people enthusiastically turn to God? (Not one person said they would choose God! At best the people have a "wait and see attitude." It seems that only Elijah has some confidence about this challenge. (Perhaps he is the only one with the courage to say so.))

    7. Read 1 Kings 18:23-25. Now we hear from the people! Do they think the challenge is fair?

      1. Why do they not answer in v.21, but answer now? (The do not have faith. They want to be shown. How much better to have answered in verse 21. Once again, we see how longsuffering God is towards us.)

      2. Why does Elijah (v.25)let the prophets of Baal choose which bull they prefer? (He doesn't want to hear any complaints later about him taking the inflammable bull.)

      3. Do you think the prophets of Baal were equally enthusiastic about the fairness of this challenge?

  3. The Victory and the Prayers

    1. Look at 1Kings 18:25 again. Elijah says the prophets of Baal can go first because there are so many of them. Does this make any sense to you? (Yes, for a couple of reasons. He can better keep an eye on them. If he goes first, they might be sneaking in fire while he is working. Second, if he goes first and God sends the fire, their failure will not be so dramatic. Elijah is certain of his God!)

    2. Read 1 Kings 18:26-29. How did the prophets of Baal pray to their god? (They shouted. They prayed continually. They danced to get his attention. They slashed themselves as some sort of "works-thing" to show they were worthy. Their blood flowed. They were frantic.)

      1. Do you some times pray to the God of heaven in this way?

      2. What do you think about Elijah's suggestions in verse 27? Is our God sometimes traveling, distracted or sleeping? (The point is that our God is not like any human - who could be "off the clock" for some period of time. If He does not answer us in the way we want, it is not because of some fault of His.)

    3. Read 1 Kings 18:30-32. The prophets of Baal have all day to get their god to answer. He does not. So, Elijah begins first by repairing the altar of the Lord. What do we learn about the people in this? What do we learn about our prayers in this? (We learn they had not been sacrificing to the Lord. We learn that prayer involves approaching God in the way He has commanded. God had special instructions about how His altar was to be built. See Joshua 8:30-31.)

    4. Read 1 Kings 18:33-35. Why do you think Elijah ordered this? (He didn't want any later accusations of fraud. He wanted people to be talking in their homes and the gates of their cities about what a wonder God had performed.)

    5. Read 1 Kings 18:36-37. Let's look at Elijah's prayer.

      1. Why do you think he starts "God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?" (He was showing God's history with His people. He was their true, historic God - not some Phoenician interloper.)

      2. Why do you think he prayed, "Let it be known today that you are God" as opposed to "Prove today that you are God?" (Getting the question right is critical to every discussion. The question was not whether Jehovah was God in Israel, the question was whether He would reveal that fact to these people.)

      3. Why does Elijah also say reveal "I am your servant and have done these things at your command?" (He wants his "agency" to be clear. After all, Elijah's life is on the line here. He wants the King, Queen and people to understand who he represents. I think he is also promoting obedience.)

      4. We have seen that this contest is a challenge to reveal who is the true God. What does verse 37 tell us is another reason for this challenge? (To turn the hearts of the people back to the true God. The goal of our God is to have our hearts!)

      5. How would you compare the prayers of the prophets of Baal (vv.26-29) with Elijah's prayer to God?

    6. Read 1 Kings 18:38. How does God answer? Elijah does not have a lot of "fanfare" in his prayer. Does God modestly answer? (No! He not only burns up the bull and the water, He burns up the stones and the ground!)

      1. Is that our God? The One who does "immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine?" Ephesians 3:20

        1. Are you saying right now, "That doesn't happen to me?" Let's read Ephesians 3:20. What determines the magnitude of God's answer to our prayers? ("His power that is at work within us.")

        2. What do we need to pray for? (That God will put His full power at work within us!)

    7. Friend, do you sometimes feel that God is losing the battle for the hearts and minds of your co-workers and your family? Do you want His great power to be revealed through your partnership with Him? Why not pray for His full power to be at work within your life?

  4. Next week: Prayers of Desperation: Hezekiah

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