And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word. 1 Kings 18:21
Over three years of drought has led to severe famine. God tells Elijah it’s time to bring back the rain. But as is generally the case in the life of a prophet, it won’t happen in an ordinary way. It’s going to be a showdown between Elijah – the prophet of God – and the 850 prophets of Baal and Asherah (the false god of the king and people). The people worship God, but also the other false gods; they try to cover all the bases, hoping for the best. Elijah says they are “limping between two different opinions” and it’s not ok. It’s time to choose.
Each side will select a bull for sacrifice, cut it, and place it on the wood. The prophets of Baal will call upon their god to light their fire, and Elijah will call upon God to light his fire.
The Baal prophets go first. From morning to noon, they cry out to Baal. Crickets. Elijah starts to taunt them. “Cry louder”, he says. Maybe your god is relieving himself or taking a little nap, he mocks more. Ramped up cries to Baal with raving and cutting…and more silence. A false god never saves or keeps their promises.
Elijah’s turn. Not only does he put the bull on the wood, he has the people pour water over it three times, making it even harder to burn. Nothing is impossible for his God. Elijah prays to the Lord and immediately the sacrifice is consumed by fire from God. The One true God provides.
The people believe that God is the one true God and they destroy the prophets of Baal. Not long after, the rains come. God always provides. God always keeps His promises. If only we could cling to this belief and trust Him always, but we will soon see the roller coaster continues.
Questions: Do you find yourself “limping between two opinions” as Elijah said to the people…trusting God a little, but also seeking other “idols”? Do you find yourself not necessarily anti-God, but worshiping a few other added things just for good measure?
Then the word of the Lord came to him, “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” 1 Kings 17:8-9
Elijah remains in hiding as the rain remains at bay. The brook God initially directed Elijah to for water has run dry on account of the drought. But God’s provision doesn’t run dry.
God tells Elijah to go to a widow and ask for water and a small morsel of bread. With the desperate drought conditions and extreme scarcity of food, the widow responds that she only has enough left for one last meal for her and her son. She says they are prepared to die after this final meal. It’s a dramatic statement, but who can blame her…everyone around her is starving and she is on her last bit of food. She has been stretching the last of her provisions as far as she possibly could.
Elijah tells her that if she shares with him now, her jars of flour and oil will be enough for each day…that she will not run out until the rains return. Incredibly, she does as he says. In faith, she shares her small portion of food and is not without a meal from that point on.
The widow trusts these words of God. She sacrifices what she could have hoarded for her and her son, and as a result of her faithfulness, she ends up with exactly what she needs each day thereafter.
As God’s plan unfolds, He demonstrates His provision and power. But it is up to us to trust and obey. God never promises things will be easy, but He does promise that if we look to Him and put our trust in Him, He will provide for our needs.
Questions: Would you have a hard time giving up what little you had for the hope of gaining more? How does this apply to other areas of our life? Are you clinging to something God is asking you to share?
Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.” And the word of the Lord came to him: “Depart from here and turn eastward and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. You shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.” So he went and did according to the word of the Lord. He went and lived by the brook Cherith that is east of the Jordan. 1 Kings 17:1-5
The Israelites in the Northern Kingdom find themselves under the rule of a series of very evil and corrupt kings. King Ahab was the seventh such king and he was married to an even more wicked woman, Jezebel, who insists on worship of false gods and corrupt practices. The state of the Northern Kingdom of Israel is a mess! The primary god they worship is Baal, and in a time where agricultural success meant survival, the people believed Baal controlled the rain.
Enter Elijah. The life of a prophet isn’t an easy one. God uses prophets to not only speak His words, but also often to display them through their lives and actions.
At God’s direction, Elijah goes to the evil king and declares there will be no rain until he says so…fighting and threatening words for a society that lives and dies by the rain. And so it begins…a long and disastrous drought. But God is with Elijah, providing for his needs in the desolate place he withdraws to. God is working to show Israel that He is the only one who can be trusted to provide for them, even when it comes to the rain.
How often do we look to other things to put our hope in for what we want and need…current day cultural idols like Baal to provide for us? God wants us to always put our hope in Him alone. He is above all things and He won’t share His throne.
Question: What things do you turn to or put your hope in for security or meaning besides God? Pray for God to reveal idols in your life.
So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day. 1 Kings 12:19
Israel is knee deep in the consequences of their disobedience and that of their leaders. Solomon – only the third king of Israel – was the last of a strong and united kingdom. Earthly power nearly always corrupts…just as God warned them.
Upon Solomon’s death, there is strife and disagreement about who should rule, ultimately splitting the kingdom into two.
Steeped in idolatry and tribal discord, division prevails. Sin always causes division and separation...with God and with one another.
Israel is no longer a strong, powerful, united and unified people. Time passes, new characters come on the scene, but things don’t change much.
We need NOT another flawed human king, but a righteous holy Savior.
Kings come and go…most of them evil and hostile to God, in favor of the many false gods and harmful practices of their surroundings (see timeline below). God raises up prophets to communicate His words to warn the people and encourage them to return to God. But like their stubborn ancestors, the people rarely listened or changed their behavior.
Hebrews 1:1-2a begins, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.” Soon God’s Son – God in the flesh – will come speak to the people, but for now, among these divided tribes, God speaks through His chosen prophets.
Questions: Why do you think the people couldn’t rally and stay together? In what ways have you seen idolatry and tribal discord lead to division?
Divided Kingdom Timeline
Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the people of Israel, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love. He had 700 wives, who were princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart. 1 Kings 11:1-3
Like his father, King David, Solomon starts off strong. He loves the Lord and people come from all over to take in his God-given extraordinary wisdom. Using David’s plans as given by God, Solomon is the one who oversees the construction of the magnificent temple, a beautiful and permanent structure where the Israelites could offer sacrifices and worship God. He is a strong, wise, and powerful king.
Over time, Solomon grows increasingly wealthy and builds an extravagant palace for himself. He collects many things, including wives. His downfall. As God warned, along with the non-Israelite wives came the false idols and gods they worshiped. Solomon looks the other way at his wives’ idol worship, and slowly they creep into his worship as well. Solomon turns his back on God in his old age, losing his fear of the Lord. What started off so well, doesn’t end so well.
Isn’t that how it sometimes is with us? We start off strong but slowly slip into the ways of the world and people around us, allowing them to influence us even if they go against the way God wants us to live. Often it happens slowly over a period of time, so we don’t really notice it happening. Stories like these remind us to always be aware of our actions and influencers, and most of all, to stay near to God. To finish strong.
Challenge: Ask God to show you where you might be getting off track and not even noticing it. Dedicate quiet time to really listen to what God may be telling you and then pray that He help you get back on track, walking in His ways.
It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. And God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you. I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days. And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.” 1 Kings 3:10-14
While David earnestly repents and enjoys a restored relationship with the Lord, his sin is not without consequences. The son from his affair with Bathsheba dies.
But that isn’t the end of the story. Bathsheba and David have another son, Solomon. God is about restoration and new life for His people.
As David’s life comes to an end, he tells his beloved son to always walk in the ways of the Lord; to always keep His statutes, commands, and rules as given to Moses. David knows this is the definition of success and wants his son to as well.
Upon David’s death, Solomon becomes the next king. In a dream, God tells Solomon He will grant him anything he asks. Solomon asks for wisdom to discern good from evil and govern the people well. God was pleased with his request. As a result, God not only made Solomon the wisest person on earth, He also made him the richest and most honored.
Solomon was surrounded by people who could give him knowledge, but true wisdom comes from God and will always produce good fruit.
Questions: If God came to you in a dream and asked what you wanted from Him, what would you ask for? Where in your life can you pray for wisdom and discernment to lead well?
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