Summary: Things look bad for Israel; then, God's man comes from the East (can you hear the spurs jingle?)
Following the reign of King David, his son, Solomon reigned in wisdom and the strength of God for approximately 30-35 years before his own apostasy and decline.
After Solomon, the Kings of Israel all did evil in the sight of the Lord. They forsook His ways to serve idols, and led the people themselves into idolatry.
Conspiracy and assassination were the methods used in ascension to the throne; a sharp contrast to the anointing that God gave His chosen Kings; David, and Solomon.
Finally, fifty-five years and six kings later, Ahab comes on the scene. The Bible tells us that Ahab did more evil in the sight of the Lord than all who were before him.
What a legacy; to be known as one who has excelled in evil!
I Kings 16:31 tells us that Ahab considered it ‘no big deal’ to walk in the sins of Jeroboam, who had raised up idols in the land after the death of Solomon; and so little did sin and the doing of evil matter to Ahab, that he even married Jezebel, a devout worshipper of Baal and the daughter of a king who worshipped Baal.
So of course, Ahab raised up altars to Baal and made the Asherah; a fertility altar. According to I Kings 18, there were 450 prophets of Baal, and 400 prophets of the Asherah, who ate at Jezebel’s table. Buddies. Partners in crime. Corrupt government, corrupt religion.
Israel is in crisis. Her kings have forsaken God and His promises. Idol worship is rampant in the land. Evil reigns.
(Can you hear the ‘chink, chink, chink’ of spurs?) Over the rise from Gilead in the East, silhouetted by the rising sun, comes one, lone man; enter, Elijah the Tishbite.
Let me quickly take you up to the verses of our study. Baal was worshipped as a weather-god. Later, the weather-god should have been able to strike his priest’s sacrifice with lightning, there on Mt. Carmel. But God would mock this false god by consuming Elijah’s sacrifice with fire from heaven.
In like manner Elijah, first coming on the scene in chapter 17, mocks Baal’s power by announcing that there will be no rain...not even morning dew...until he, Elijah, says so.
Now as a legitimate prophet of God, we know that Elijah didn’t just decide on his own initiative to make this declaration. It must have followed very earnest and fervent prayer, that God told him to go to Ahab and make the announcement. Ahab would understand that it was Elijah’s God who would hold back the rain; but I don’t want you to miss the way God honors the man who is truly close to His own heart. He has promised Elijah that when the rain finally comes, it would be at Elijah’s bidding. (“...there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.”)
God then sends Elijah out into the wilderness where he will be safe from the angry Ahab, and continues to train and care for Elijah, first at the brook Cherith, then in Zarephath; and there is much to learn from those stories also, but we have to skip over them and move on to our study.
Three and a half years have passed with no rain on the land. The nation has proved itself unwilling to receive the rain of spiritual blessing from God, so God matches their deliberate spiritual drought with a physical one.