On the Road to Carmel

On the Road with Elijah
On The Road With Elijah To Carmel
(part 1)
1 Kings 18:1-18

As we have traveled with Elijah, we have been to the brook Cherith and Zarephath. In this study we find ourselves on the road again with Elijah. Our destination is Mount Carmel. We learn from Joshua 15 that the village of Carmel is located in the tribal territory assigned to Judah.  We also know that King Saul set up a monument in Carmel after a defeat of the Amalekites in the area (1 Sam. 15:12). It was also there that Nabal disrespected David and his men (1 Sam. 25:2-40).

The name "Carmel" means "garden, fruitful." Mount Carmel was known as a place of great beauty and fertility. The Easton's Bible Dictionary says, "No mountain in or around Palestine retains its ancient beauty so much as Carmel. Two or three villages and some scattered cottages are found on it; its groves are few but luxuriant; it is no place for crags and precipices or rocks of wild goats; but its surface is covered with a rich and constant verdure. The whole mountain-side is dressed with blossom, and flowering shrubs, and fragrant herbs."(1)

Located about seven miles from Hebron, the towering mountain reaches a maximum elevation of 1,750 feet. Its wooded glens and caves served as a place that offered asylum to the fugitive and hunted. Its remote heights and groves with their spacious outlook over land and sea have served as scenes of worship throughout history.

On its heights an altar had been erected for the worship of Yahweh (cp. 1 Kings 18:30). The place is traditionally known as "the place of burnt sacrifice." It was here that one of the most thrilling stories of the Bible occurred. Here Elijah would confront the worshippers of Baal.

Now for three years God had kept Elijah in seclusion, but then the hour came when He brought him into the public eye. Once again God moves His servant.

As we begin our journey with Elijah to Mount Carmel we see:

1. The Call That Elijah Heard

1 Kings 18:1

Our introduction to Elijah in the Scripture came with a call, "Get thee hence, and turn eastward, and hide thyself" (1 Kings 17:3). Now, Elijah hears God's call. It was a call to, "Go present yourself."

As before, the response of Elijah was one of obedience.

Verse 2

God called, Elijah went.  There is nothing to suggest that Elijah argued with God or questioned His call. For three years he had dwelt in a place of supply and safety. Now God was asking him to leave a private place for a public place; a place that would thrust him into the public spotlight and a confrontation with one who wanted him dead.

Apparently not. 
God spoke and Elijah obeyed. He obeyed God completely.

Listen:  you will never get very far down the road of successful Christian living until you realize the evidence of knowing God is obeying God.

Jesus said, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me" (John 10:27). Obedience is a mark of a personal relationship to God. I know by experience, as well as all who are really saved, that when a person gets saved there is a desire to live for God and follow Him. His sheep follow Him!

John Blanchard said, "Obedience is not the essence of a right relationship with God, but it is the evidence of it." I wholeheartedly agree with A.W. Tozer who said, "It is altogether doubtful whether any man can be saved who comes to Christ for His help but with no intention to obey Him."

As God's child, it is only reasonable that He be obeyed. I would not only question one's salvation if they did not want to follow God, but also their love for Him. To know Him is to love Him. To love Him is to obey Him. Jesus said, "Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you" (John 15:14).

Elijah obeyed God completely. By completely, I mean that he did exactly as God instructed him. He went when God spoke and He went where God told him to go. There is no such thing as partial obedience. In truth, partial obedience is disobedience. We are only obedient when we obey God completely.

 

In fact, so far we’ve discovered that every time God spoke to Elijah, he obeyed. 

We read in 1 Kings 17:2, "And the word of the LORD came unto him." We also read in 1 Kings 17:8, "And the word of the LORD came unto him." Here it is in verse 2 for the third time.  .

And every time Elijah obeyed God's call and command. There was not a single act of obedience, but a repeated and continual act of obedience on his part. To obey God is to continually obey Him. The Christian life is one of continual obedience to God's word and will. Following God is a life-long pursuit. Each day calls on us to obey God. Each day we are faced with decisions. In each we make the choice to obey or disobey God.

Dr. Robert Wilder who was the founder of the Student Volunteer Movement, a great missionary movement for the recruiting of missionaries in our colleges and universities, some years ago was in India. He walked into the hotel dining room and the only vacant seat was at a table where there was an army major, a naval officer, together with some other subordinate officers, and their wives.

In the course of the conversation the army major spoke up and said: "Well, I don't see why that these missionaries don't stay at home and mind their own business." Dr. Wilder said: "Major, I want to ask you a question. Suppose that you received, while you are sitting here at this table, orders from your superior officer to proceed to such-and-such a place with the men under your command and to engage such-and-such an enemy in combat.

What would you do? Will you sit here at this table? Would you wait? Why are you in India anyhow?"

The Major's eyes flashed fire as he said: "I will have you to know sir, that as a soldier I am subject to the command of my government. And if my government ordered me to take the men under my command to go to a certain place and to engage the enemy, I would do it though it would cost my life and the life of every man under my command.

Dr. Wilder said: "Major, I am a Christian. Jesus Christ is my King. I serve as a citizen of the kingdom of God. My King arose from the dead, and He gave me a Divine commission. That commission was: 'Go therefore and teach all nations.' And Major, that is why I and the missionaries in India are here, minding the business of our King, and serving under the authority of His government."

Elijah was serving under the authority of a divine kingdom. As believer's, we serve under the same authority. Obedience, complete and continual, should never be in question.

And that means we will never have any problems or difficulties right?  I mean, after all if God is calling and guiding, then it should be smooth sailing with no interruptions. 

So what happened here?  Elijah heard the call and obeyed, but notice

2. The Confrontation That Elijah Had

Notice verse 2

There is a sever famine going on.  The idea is that things were hard and desperate in the land as result of the famine.

Someone described it like this:  "Desolation would thus be on every hand. Rich pasture land would be turned into brown, burned out grass which was good for nothing. Plowed fields would be baked, stone-hard, and without crops. Brooks and rivers would be mostly dried up, and the vegetation which thrives by them would be dead or dying. Skeletons of animals would be everywhere, and what animals were alive would be nothing but skin and bones. But the great tragedy would be the terrible condition of the people. Famine kills; so death would abound among mankind. What survived, with few exceptions, would be emaciated bodies, struggling from one day to the next to stay ahead of the grim reaper."(2)

The conditions were so desperate, Ahab the king personally got involved in searching for water and grazing for the livestock.

18:3-6

So here comes Elijah into this setting, and he comes in contact with two personalities, one by chance and one by command.

Watch what happens: 

As Elijah was making his way to Carmel he meets a man named Obadiah.


Alexander Maclaren writes: "This Obadiah is one of the obscurer figures in the Old Testament. We never hear of him again, for there is no reason to accept the Jewish tradition which alleges he was Obadiah the prophet. And yet how distinctly he stands out from the canvas, though he is only sketched with a few bold outlines! He is 'governor over Ahab's house,' a kind of mayor in the palace, and probably the second man in the kingdom. But though thus high in that idolatrous and self-willed court, he had bravely kept true to the ancient faith. Neither Jezebel's flatteries nor her frowns have moved him. But there, amid apostasy and idolatry he stands, probably all alone in the court, a worshipper of Jehovah."(3)

His name means "servant of the Lord" and his name seems fitting. The Bible says of him, "Now Obadiah feared the LORD greatly" (18:3).

When most everyone around him worshipped Baal, he had not bowed the knee to Baal and instead worshiped the true and living God. It certainly was not easy to be a worshipper of the true and living God in such in environment. It was outright dangerous considering the rage of Jezebel and the hatred of Ahab for all who did not worship Baal. I am sure Obadiah did not wear a fish on his lapel or a "Honk if you love Jesus" bumper sticker on his chariot.

But he loved and served God.  An example of his fear of God is seen in how he protected a large number of prophets from being executed by Jezebel.

18:4

Evil Jezebel hated God and all who bore His name, therefore she sought to kill any who proclaimed His word. How many she "cut off" (murdered) is not stated, but Obadiah stepped in and saved a hundred of the prophets, dividing them into groups of fifty, hiding them a cave and saw to it that they had food to eat and water to drink. There were a hundred prophets that owed their life to the fear Obadiah had for his God.

4. Obadiah "feared the LORD greatly," however there was a chink in his armor.  He also feared man. You could say that he feared Ahab greatly. After Ahab suggested they divide up and search for water and grass,

Obadiah went in one direction and Ahab in the other. 18:7

When Obadiah saw Elijah he bowed before him showing respect to him as a prophet asking, "Is that you my lord Elijah?"

Whether they had met before or not, Obadiah knew who he was and Elijah knew who Obadiah was, and Elijah's response no doubt caught Obadiah by surprise.

18:8

Elijah was following a divine call and on a divine mission. He was on his way to Carmel for one purpose and one purpose alone, to confront Ahab.

Elijah's request struck fear in the heart of Obadiah.

18:9-14
Obadiah had certainly heard Ahab's rants against Elijah and knew the hated he possesses in his heart for him. He was well aware of how Ahab had searched for Elijah to slay him. Now, he is asking him to go and tell Ahab where he was. His fear was that he would go and tell Ahab where Elijah was and when they returned the Spirit of the Lord would have carried him away to a place of safety. He knew that Ahab would be so angry he would slay him. He "feared the LORD greatly" but he also feared Ahab greatly.

He asks Elijah if he had not heard of how he had protected the prophets, but yet expresses hesitation to do as he asked. This was a moment that called for putting his trust in God who would keep him safe, but instead his fear of man was a snare.

Let me remind you of something:  If we fear God, we need not fear man. Some preachers are cautious about what they preach for fear the reaction of people. Some pastors are hesitate to be God's man and provide the leadership a Church needs for fear of a deacon board or some prominent member or members in the Church.

I want you to know, I’m not afraid of you!  I’m not afraid to boldly preach the full counsel of the word of God.  I’m not running for anything or fron amybody.

The Psalmist said, "In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me" (Psa. 56:4) and "The LORD is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?" (Psa. 118:6).


If one is on God's side, you can be sure the Lord is on your side. Therefore, trust Him with the outcome and be obedient to Him in all things.

So Elijah has this chance confrontation, bet remember He is marching to the orders of God.  The reason Elijah was on his way to Carmel was to confront Ahab, and there is a commanded confrontation that is about to take place. 

18:15-16

Now Ahab had searched for Elijah for three years. And all of a sudden one day, up walks Elijah.  I wonder what is going through the mind of Ahab? 

18:17

His first words to him reveal how he felt about Elijah and that he blamed him for everything that had happened. One can almost feel the anger and hate in his words. The word "troubler" was used to speak of a viper or snake. Ahab was saying, "So you are the snake in the grass that has caused all the trouble in the land."

Elijah never blinked or blushed, stuttered or stammered, but boldly answered.

18:18

Elijah was saying, "I am not the cause of the trouble. You are! You're the reason it hasn't rained in the past three and half years." Ahab and his father's house had led the people into idolatry. They had turned the people from God.

The reason for the physical conditions was because of their spiritual conditions. He had brought God's chastening upon the land.

Elijah doesn't give Ahab an inch, but when it comes to sin, there can be no compromise or concessions. Sin must be confronted! You can be sure that God will eventually confront us for our sins. Three and half years may go by, but at some time, if we do not confront our sin, God will.

Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:31, "For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged." We are to take the first step in confronting sin in our life. If we do not take that step, God will! Ahab had not taken that step, now God is!

Why is that so important?  Because sin that is not confronted will always be chastened. The three and half years of drought and famine were God chastening upon Ahab and the people for their sins.

Suffering is not always the result of sin, but there are times when the spiritual famine in a life is due to unconfessed sin.

J.C. Ryle gave us a vivid description of what it is like being away from God: "It is a miserable thing to be a backslider. Of all unhappy things that can befall a man, I suppose "backsliding" is the worst. A stranded ship, a broken-winged eagle, a garden overrun with weeds, a harp without strings, a church in ruins; all these are sad sights. But a backslider is a sadder sight still. That true grace shall never be extinguished, and true union with Christ never be broken off, I feel no doubt.

But I do believe that a man may fall away so far that he shall lose sight of his own grace, and despair of his own salvation. And if this is not hell, it is certainly the next thing to it! A wounded conscience, a mind sick of itself, a memory full of self-reproach, a heart pierced through with the Lord's arrows, a spirit broken with a load of inward accusation; all this is a taste of hell. It is a hell on earth."

And the last three and half years had been "a hell on earth" for Ahab and the people. The consequences of sin are never easy. When God confronts sin there is always a heavy price to pay.

Lastly, we see:

3. The Confidence That Elijah Held

In all that Elijah did and said, he exemplified a sure and settled confidence. He was not afraid to show himself to Ahab, nor rebuke him for his sin. He acted boldly and confidently. His confidence was anchored in two blessed truths about the God He served.

Elijah had been learning that God controls all things. He had controlled the ravens to feed him. He had appointed a widow to provide his needs once He instructed Elijah to leave Cherith.

In all things God had overruled to carry out His purposes. When God's call came to leave Zarephath to show himself to Ahab, God said, "I will send rain upon the earth" (18:1). It was God who had shut up the heavens in the first place and now He promises that He would cause it to rain.


God created all things and He is in control of all things. Just as He controlled every event in Elijah's life, He is in control of every event in our life. It has been well said that there are no accidents, but only appointments. He overrules everything that His will be done.

John Calvin said, "There is nothing of which it is more difficult to convince men than that the providence of God governs this world." God's hand is on the wheel. Men may not see His hand guiding the affairs of this world, but He is in charge!

When Elijah left for Carmel, he went with a promise from God that it was going to rain. If He stopped it, He could start it. There was no doubt in Elijah's mind that it would rain.

Now remember, we left Obadiah scared to take Elijah’s message to Ahab.  Notice what happens:

18:15

Elijah knew his God to be "the LORD of hosts." The word "host" was often used to speak of military service and servants. It was also used to speak of angels. Elijah knew that even though Ahab had his army, his God had His own army. There was no doubt in his mind whose army was greater. He did not have to fear appearing before Ahab for he knew who was watching over him.

It was before this God that Elijah stood. The word "stand" at times carried the idea of serving someone. It also included the idea of living somewhere. As well it was used of being preserved.

The God Elijah served and lived for, was also the God that was overseeing his life. Elijah knew that he was safe as God's servant. The God who had provided for him was also the one who protected him.

When Martin Luther was in the throes of the Reformation and the Pope was trying to bring him back to the Catholic Church, he sent a cardinal to deal with Luther and buy him with gold. The cardinal wrote to the Pope, "The fool does not love gold." The cardinal, when he could not convince Luther, said to him, "What do you think the Pope cares for the opinion of a German boor? The Pope's little finger is stronger than all Germany. Do you expect your princes to take up arms to defend you?  You, a wretched worm like you. I tell you No. And where will you be then?" Luther's reply was simple: "Where I am now. In the hands of Almighty God."

What was the source of Elijah's confidence? He was in the hands of LORD God that lives! The same place as all His children; blessed be His name.

 

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