I Kings 17:1 “Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, ‘As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.’ “ (NIV)
We’ve had our introduction to Elijah, now let’s learn about Ahab. In the books of I and II Kings we hear about every king of Israel and Judah from the reign of King Solomon, David’s son, through the split of the nation into two nations, Israel and Judah, and up to the time of the Babylonian exile of both nations. As each king is introduced to us, they are characterized in one of two ways: either they did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, or they did what was righteous in the Lord’s sight. Some were more evil and some were more righteous, but all fell on one side or the other. Here is how Ahab is introduced:
I Kings 16:29-33 “In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab son of Omri became king of Israel, and he reigned in Samaria over Israel twenty-two years. Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him. He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, but he also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him. He set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he built in Samaria. Ahab also made an Asherah pole and did more to arouse the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, than did all the kings of Israel before him.”
Wow! Now there’s an introduction! Verse 31 mentions that he married Jezebel. She was like Cruella Deville, Maleficent, and Ursula all rolled into one. She vehemently worshipped the false god, Baal, and even more vehemently persecuted the prophets of the Lord.
These two were a power couple for evil, and God was not happy with them.
Enter Elijah, as we said, somewhat mysteriously, to let them know that it would not rain nor would dew be on the ground until he gave the word. As it turns out, this would last for three and a half years. He would later explain to Ahab why this was happening.
“ ‘I have not made trouble for Israel,’ Elijah replied. ‘But you and your father’s family have. You have abandoned the Lord’s commands and have followed the Baals.’ “ I Kings 18:18 (NIV)
Encyclopedia Britannica has this to say about Baal:
“As such, Baal designated the universal god of fertility, and in that capacity his title was Prince, Lord of the Earth. He was also called the Lord of Rain and Dew, the two forms of moisture that were indispensable for fertile soil in Canaan. In Ugaritic and Hebrew, Baal’s epithet as the storm god was He Who Rides on the Clouds. In Phoenician he was called Baal Shamen, Lord of the Heavens.” *
By declaring that there would be no rain until Elijah received word from the Lord that it was time, Elijah was basically telling Ahab and Jezebel that their god, supposedly the god of the rain and dew and the heavens, was a fraud and could not stand against the One True God.
I think it’s hard for us to imagine a time when people would set up altars and make sacrifices to a god or gods. We certainly wouldn’t consider doing such things ourselves. And yet, whether we realize it or not, we do build for ourselves idols that we worship. In fact, I submit to you that the Baal of 2018 is “self.” I heard recently that studies show this is the most narcissistic generation in history. We rely on ourselves to meet our own needs; we post intimate details about our lives on social media and expect people to be interested; we are concerned more about what is best for us than what is best for those around us; we believe we can be anything we want, do anything we want, have anything we want - if we can only dream it, we can make it happen! And we won’t let anything - or anyone - stop us!
So what happens when God reveals that we are frauds who worship at the altar of selfishness and self reliance? What happens when the Elijah of this generation calls us to repent - calls us to admit the fact that we are not the be-all-end-all, and that we are nothing without the God who created us and His Son who died to save us?
Next week we will take a look at what Elijah did next after his confrontation with King Ahab. In the meantime, spend some time seeking the Lord regarding the object of your worship.
* “Baal:Ancient Deity.” Encyclopedia Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Baal-ancient-deity.