The Fire of Elijah

1 Kings

The Fire of Elijah

April 5th, 1971 @ 12:00 PM

1 Kings 17-18

And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the LORD God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word. And the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan. And it shall be, that thou shalt drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there. So he went and did according unto the word of the LORD: for he went and dwelt by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan. And the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening; and he drank of the brook. And it came to pass after a while, that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land. And the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee. So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, the widow woman was there gathering of sticks: and he called to her, and said, Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink. And as she was going to fetch it, he called to her, and said, Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand. And she said, As the LORD thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die. And Elijah said unto her, Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son. For thus saith the LORD God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the LORD sendeth rain upon the earth. And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah: and she, and he, and her house, did eat many days. And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by Elijah. And it came to pass after these things, that the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, fell sick; and his sickness was so sore, that there was no breath left in him. And she said unto Elijah, What have I to do with thee, O thou man of God? art thou come unto me to call my sin to remembrance, and to slay my son? And he said unto her, Give me thy son. And he took him out of her bosom, and carried him up into a loft, where he abode, and laid him upon his own bed. And he cried unto the LORD, and said, O LORD my God, hast thou also brought evil upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by slaying her son? And he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried unto the LORD, and said, O LORD my God, I pray thee, let this child's soul come into him again. And the LORD heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived. And Elijah took the child, and brought him down out of the chamber into the house, and delivered him unto his mother: and Elijah said, See, thy son liveth. And the woman said to Elijah, Now by this I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in thy mouth is truth. And it came to pass after many days, that the word of the LORD came to Elijah in the third year, saying, Go, shew thyself unto Ahab; and I will send rain upon the earth. And Elijah went to shew himself unto Ahab. And there was a sore famine in Samaria. And Ahab called Obadiah, which was the governor of his house. (Now Obadiah feared the LORD greatly: For it was so, when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the LORD, that Obadiah took an hundred prophets, and hid them by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water.) And Ahab said unto Obadiah, Go into the land, unto all fountains of water, and unto all brooks: peradventure we may find grass to save the horses and mules alive, that we lose not all the beasts. So they divided the land between them to pass throughout it: Ahab went one way by himself, and Obadiah went another way by himself. And as Obadiah was in the way, behold, Elijah met him: and he knew him, and fell on his face, and said, Art thou that my lord Elijah? And he answered him, I am: go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here. And he said, What have I sinned, that thou wouldest deliver thy servant into the hand of Ahab, to slay me? As the LORD thy God liveth, there is no nation or kingdom, whither my lord hath not sent to seek thee: and when they said, He is not there; he took an oath of the kingdom and nation, that they found thee not. And now thou sayest, Go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here. And it shall come to pass, as soon as I am gone from thee, that the Spirit of the LORD shall carry thee whither I know not; and so when I come and tell Ahab, and he cannot find thee, he shall slay me: but I thy servant fear the LORD from my youth. Was it not told my lord what I did when Jezebel slew the prophets of the LORD, how I hid an hundred men of the LORD'S prophets by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water? And now thou sayest, Go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here: and he shall slay me. And Elijah said, As the LORD of hosts liveth, before whom I stand, I will surely shew myself unto him to day. So Obadiah went to meet Ahab, and told him: and Ahab went to meet Elijah. And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel? And he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father's house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and thou hast followed Baalim. Now therefore send, and gather to me all Israel unto mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the groves four hundred, which eat at Jezebel's table. So Ahab sent unto all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together unto mount Carmel. And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word. Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the LORD; but Baal's prophets are four hundred and fifty men. Let them therefore give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: and I will dress the other bullock, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: And call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the LORD: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God. And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken. And Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal, Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first; for ye are many; and call on the name of your gods, but put no fire under. And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made. And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked. And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them. And it came to pass, when midday was past, and they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded. And Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me. And all the people came near unto him. And he repaired the altar of the LORD that was broken down. And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of the LORD came, saying, Israel shall be thy name: And with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD: and he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two measures of seed. And he put the wood in order, and cut the bullock in pieces, and laid him on the wood, and said, Fill four barrels with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice, and on the wood. And he said, Do it the second time. And they did it the second time. And he said, Do it the third time. And they did it the third time. And the water ran round about the altar; and he filled the trench also with water. And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again. Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The LORD, he is the God; the LORD, he is the God. And Elijah said unto them, Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape. And they took them: and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there. And Elijah said unto Ahab, Get thee up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of abundance of rain. So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he cast himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees, And said to his servant, Go up now, look toward the sea. And he went up, and looked, and said, There is nothing. And he said, Go again seven times. And it came to pass at the seventh time, that he said, Behold, there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea, like a man's hand. And he said, Go up, say unto Ahab, Prepare thy chariot, and get thee down, that the rain stop thee not. And it came to pass in the mean while, that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode, and went to Jezreel. And the hand of the LORD was on Elijah; and he girded up his loins, and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.
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Dr. W. A. Criswell

1 Kings 17 and 18

4-05-71     12:00 p.m.


Now the theme for this year is “God’s Witnesses to the World”: tomorrow, The Baptism of John; the next day, The Preaching of Simon Peter; the following day, The Tears of Paul; and the next day, Friday’s day, The Blood of Christ.  Today it is The Fire of Elijah.

In the seventeenth and eighteenth chapters of the Book of 1 Kings is written a story of the appearance of this strange and stern prophet.  He bursts into history with the force of a hammer.  There is no introduction, he is just announced, and Elijah the Tishbite, he was as rugged, as wild as the country from whence he came:  the mountains of Gilead on the eastern side of the Jordan River.  And he stands before the people suddenly, like an embodied conscience.  As he appears before King Ahab, he says, “As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word” [1 Kings 17:1].  Then suddenly, and as suddenly as he appeared, he as suddenly disappears. “And the word of the Lord came unto him saying, Hide thyself” [1 Kings 17:2-3].  And for three and a half years there was no rain that fell from the clouds of heaven, nor was there any dew that distilled in the cool of the night [1 Kings 17:1; James 5:17-18].

Now in chapter 18 the Lord God came to Elijah saying, “Show thyself” [1 Kings 18:1].  And Elijah, after the passing of three and a half years, once again walks through the land if Israel [1 Kings 18:2].  Everywhere are tragic, pathetic scenes of desolation.  The long and torrid drought has taken its toll.  The pastures on the hillsides and the meadows in the valleys are burned.  The groves and the vineyards are dead, and the roads are strewn with the corpses of the flocks and the herds that have perished for lack of water.  Here, and there, and yonder, “x” marks the spots where the prophets of God were slain by Ahab and his cruel wife Jezebel and by their prophets of Baal [1 Kings 18:4, 13].

As Elijah looks over the parched and fiercely burned land, he sees also the destroyed altars of Jehovah God, and he sees the raised altars of the false sun god, Baal [1 Kings 16:31-32].  And as he accosts and confronts Ahab, he calls upon Ahab to invite the whole nation to the top of Mt. Carmel [1 Kings 18:19].  And Ahab—baited by the promise of rain—assembles the prophets of the false gods, his lords, his people, and there they stand with the king on the top of that mountain that shoulders out into the Mediterranean Sea [1 Kings 18:20].  No tiger more fiercely ever watched his prey than did Ahab look upon Elijah, one man against the nation.  And as Elijah speaks, he calls the people close by [1 Kings 18:21-23].  Then he turns to the prophets of Baal and says:

Let it be a trial by fire.

You call on the name of your gods, I will call on the name of the Lord God;

and it shall be that the God that answers by fire, let Him be God!

[1 Kings 18:24]

And all of the throng of the people answered and said, “It is well spoken” [1 Kings 18:24].  Isn’t that an astonishing thing?  Would you not have thought that the Lord God would have looked upon that and said, “It is presumption!  It is tempting the Almighty!”  We have a mistaken idea of God:  He invites trial and experimentation, “Prove Me,” He says in the Word, “Try Me and see” [Malachi 3:10].  The Lord is delighted with any kind of a godly experimentation.

Just as the Master said to Simon Peter when the wind and the waves were raging and the Lord came walking to the disciples on the water, the apostle said, “Lord, if it be Thou—really You—bid me come to Thee on the water” [Matthew 24:25-27].  And the Lord was delighted, such faith, such trial, “Come, He said, Come” [Matthew 14:28-29].  And Simon Peter went overboard, down to the sea, and walked to Jesus on the water; and as long as he looked to the Lord, he walked.  It’s only when he took his head away, lowered his eyes to look at the sea raging around him, he began to sink [Matthew 14:29-30].  I’m saying that that’s the Lord God; He is delighted with a trial, with an experiment, with a “see for yourself.”  Why don’t we do it?

Around us are the gods of expediency, and appetite, and carnal pleasure, and selfish ambition: all kinds of gods around us.  And above the circle of the earth the great Lord God [Isaiah 40:22], and the Lord says, “Try Me and see, see for yourself” [Malachi 3:10].  Why don’t we do it?  In youth, God says, “See if I am not the real God that can see you through,” in youth.

I had a father last week come to me, and he said, “Pastor, I just wanted you to pray and say to God words of thanksgiving for our son.  He’s in college, he has found the Lord, and we don’t recognize him; he’s another boy, he’s a new boy, he’s a new son!  He’s been saved, he’s changed; pastor, just wanted you to say words of thanksgiving to God.”  In youth, in age, how He sees us through.

I had a dear old saint ready to cross on the other side say, “Pastor, would you sit down here by my side, and would you quote the twenty-third Psalm for me?”

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me; thy rod and Thy staff, to lean on, they comfort me.

[Psalm 23:4]


 In marriage and in home:  last night a young couple came to the study at the church and said, “We’re to be married, just wanted you to ask God’s blessings upon our holy covenant and union.”  Won’t you try it?  God invites it.  There is no God but God!  In the world of religion; in how many pulpits and in how many churches is there nothing but sheer, unadulterated humanism, the exaltation and the deifying of man, what man can do?  But, oh! what God can do:  the miraculous working of God, where the fire falls!

You know, I am so convinced that the real thing is in God and in the faith until I cannot but confess it.  When I am invited to do other things, I feel as though I’m in the sideshow, when the big three ring circus is there underneath the big tent; so central to me is the faith of the Lord God and the ministry of the church in His name.  He invites trial experimentation in politics.  If there is integrity and honesty in government, we have it when the man has given his heart to God.  And all the laws of the legislature, and all the fences, and all of the hedges that can be built around politicians never make them straight, and honest, and responsible; it comes from the heart, it comes from God! and no less so in finance and in business, to make God your partner.

 I remember one time, a young fellow who was a successful young businessman, a bachelor; he lived with his old mother.  Upon a day he came to his mother, and he said, “Mother, I don’t quite know what to do, and my conscience troubles me in the decision.”  He said, “Mother, I have opportunity to make lots of money, lots of money.  But, Mother, it’s under the table, it’s not quite right.  It’s off-color.  And, Mother, I’m a Christian, and you’ve taught me to love God, and I don’t know whether to do it or not.”  And the mother said, “Son, you know in the morning when I get up and prepare your breakfast, I go to the head of the step, and I call upstairs, ‘John, John, your breakfast is ready! John?’ and there’s no answer.”  She says, “I go up to the head of the step, and I call again, ‘John? John?’ and there’s no answer.”  She says, “I open the door of your room, and I say, ‘John, wake up!  Your breakfast is ready!’”  She paused, and then she said, “Son, son, I’d hate to get up in the morning and prepare your breakfast and stand at the bottom of the step and say, ‘John?’ and find you wide awake.”  Try it and see!  The Lord God is God, and all other gods—avarice, greed, appetite, expediency—they are false gods!  And the Lord invites us to try.

“Call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the Lord: and the God who answers by fire, let Him be God” [1 Kings 18:24]; and if we had other hours, we’d watch that fire fall from heaven as God answers the prayer of this prophet Elijah [1 Kings 18:36-39], and He will answer your prayers just the same.

When you’re discouraged, distraught, and dismayed,

sinking almost in despair,

Remember there’s One who will come to your aid,

if you’ll make it a matter of prayer.

And when you’re lost in the world’s tangled maze,

and life seems a hopeless affair,

Direction will come for all of your ways,

if you’ll make it a matter of prayer.

[source unknown]

He is the God of fire, He is the God of water, He is the God of the land, He is the God of the sea, He is the God of the blazing desert, He is the God of the clouds and the rain, and after the fire, the sound of an abundance of rain [1 Kings 18:41].  He is God.  Try Him and see.

Our Master, as Elijah bowed in Thy presence and called on Thy name, Lord, to humble ourselves before Thee, and to ask God’s help and presence in all of the fortunes of life, O Lord, what an encouragement and a precious blessing to us who have tried Thee and know that God is able to see us through.  In Thy dear name, amen.


Dr. W. A. Criswell

1 Kings 18:1-46


Hide thyself/Show thyself

1.    Elijah enters
Israel after 3 ½ years of hiding

2.    Elijah entered
Samaria during terrible famine

3.    Elijah appears
before Ahab boldly

Elijah speaks seven times

1.    Rebukes Baal worship

2.    Challenges- God
or Baal?

3.    Mocked and
ridiculed Baal and prophets of Baal

4.    Invitation to
come to God’s altar

5.    Command to douse
the altar with water

6.    Prayer

7.    Order for
execution of prophets of Baal

Prayer of Elijah

1.    Based on God’s
promise; show thyself to Ahab, rain will be sent

2.    Earnest

3.    Humble

4.    Full of
expectant faith

5.    Abundant answer