“Now Elijah the Tishbite, from the Gilead settlers, said to Ahab, ‘As the Lord God of Israel lives, in whose presence I stand, there will be no dew or rain during these years except by my command!’ ” (1 Kings 17:1 (CSB)
The first verse of the seventeenth chapter of First Kings leads us to consider four characters: Elijah, Ahab, the Living God, and a dead god named Baal. Let’s start with Baal.
We first read about Baal after Joshua died. “That whole generation was also gathered to their ancestors. After them another generation rose up who did not know the Lord or the works he had done for Israel. The Israelites did what was evil in the Lord’s sight. They worshiped the Baals and abandoned the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed other gods from the surrounding peoples and bowed down to them. They angered the Lord, for they abandoned him and worshiped Baal” (Judges 2:10–13).
The Canaanite god, Baal, was the god of fertility. His pagan followers believed that he was responsible for bringing the rains that made the springtime bloom, so for Elijah to predict a draught and famine was a slap in Baal’s face. Like a boy on the playground, Elijah announced, “My God is bigger and more powerful than your god!” Of course, Elijah was right!
Ahab, the king in Israel’s Northern Kingdom “did what was evil in the Lord’s sight more than all who were before him.”He served “Baal and bowed in worship to him. He set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he had built in Samaria” (1 Kings 16:30–32).
Elijah the prophet, a nobody from nowhere, bravely and boldly bounded into Ahab’s presence with that stinging announcement. He said in effect, “Ahab, your god is dead, and Jehovah, the living God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is fixin’ to prove it!”
It is possible that God had revealed Himself to Elijah and directed him to pronounce judgment upon Ahab and his kingdom. It’s also possible that Elijah simply knew and believed God’s written Word. “If you carefully obey my commands I am giving you today, to love the Lord your God and worship him with all your heart and all your soul, I will provide rain for your land in the proper time, the autumn and spring rains, and you will harvest your grain, new wine, and fresh oil. I will provide grass in your fields for your livestock. You will eat and be satisfied. Be careful that you are not enticed to turn aside, serve, and bow in worship to other gods. Then the Lord’s anger will burn against you. He will shut the sky, and there will be no rain; the land will not yield its produce, and you will perish quickly from the good land the Lord is giving you” (Deuteronomy 11:13–17). God promised that judgment was coming!
As the courageous prophet stood in Ahab’s royal chambers, he said, “As the Lord God of Israel lives, in whose presence I stand...” (1 Kings 17:1). He was physically in Ahab’s presence, but he acknowledged that he was, as always, in the presence of the Living God.
Elijah trusted his God!