The great rivalry: Ahab and Elijah

From our daily Bible reading: 1 Kings 15-17
April 18, 2019

 

The first part of today’s reading gives us the early outline of the succession of kings in both Israel and Judah, and the pattern begins to be pretty apparent.

In Judah, we see a nation that is kept alive because of the promise of God to David – and the text makes this point on a number of occasions, that because David was faithful to God in almost all things, God continued to honor his legacy in Judah, even while the kings after him continued to transgress. We do read about Asa, who succeeds Abijah in a story that we’ll look at more closely in the book of Chronicles, and Asa brings back godly leadership to Judah during his time of kingship. And we’ll see this pattern continue throughout Judah’s history – with good kings and bad kings alternating as Judah vacillates between God and idolatry.

Jeroboam’s legacy of false worship

Israel, however, never recovers from the initial sins of Jeroboam, as the people continue in those initial sins. Once we introduce false worship and false understandings into our service to God, it’s almost impossible to root them out and return to Biblical commands, and we see that here, as Israel continues to worship in places other than where God had specified, and in ways other than what God had commanded.

But when we come to Ahab at the end of chapter 16, we see a king that takes Israel to new levels of evil, along with his wife Jezebel. They introduce – or rather mainstream – the worship of Baal, and continually revolt against God’s will. In verse 33, we read that Ahab did more to anger the Lord than all the kings who had come before me.

Elijah prays for drought

In chapter 17, we’re introduced to the great prophet, Elijah. Like so many other prophets, his background is mostly unknown. His story begins when the word of the Lord begins working through him. But Elijah doesn’t start with a warning, but rather he goes right to punishment,

“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.” 1 Kings 17:1

And immediately, God directs him to remove himself to the wilderness until the drought in Israel becomes unbearable, at which point he is told to leave Israel, and move to Sidon. Every step of the way, God tells him that He will care for him. So Elijah spends time living with a widow there, and thanks to his presence, the woman and her son are sustained on a single jar of flour and a jug of oil.

Israel’s drought from God’s presence

It’s worth noting here that while Israel is suffering this drought, they’re also suffering through a spiritual drought, as God removes from them his source of revelation. When we refuse to listen to God, our opportunities to hear God may disappear from our lives! And it’s not until three years later that Elijah finally comes back to Israel, at which point the rains eventually can be brought back.

We’ll look tomorrow at how that happens, as Elijah returns to confront Ahab, in what is undoubtedly one of the most spectacular stories in all the Bible. Until then, take care and God bless!

Next reading: 1 Kings 18-20

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