Wednesday, June 29, 2022

2022.06.29 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Kings 18:19–39

Read 1 Kings 18:19–39

Questions from the Scripture text: Whom does Eljiah command Ahab to gather in 1 Kings 18:19? And which 450 and 400 more specifically? How does Ahab respond (1 Kings 18:20)? With what question does Elijah begin to address them (1 Kings 18:21)? What does he demand they do? What does Elijah think about himself (1 Kings 18:22)? How many are the prophets of Baal? Whom does he suggest will choose which bull to take (1 Kings 18:23)? What would they do with it? What will they not put under it? What will Elijah do with the other bull? Then how would the challenge proceed (1 Kings 18:24)? How do the people respond to this plan? Who goes first (1 Kings 18:25)? And how long do they call our what (1 Kings 18:26)? What do they begin doing at noon? But what does Elijah begin doing at noon (1 Kings 18:27)? What four suggestions does he make? Now what do the prophets of Baal do (1 Kings 18:28)? And then what (1 Kings 18:29) until when? What does Elijah invite the people to do in 1 Kings 18:30? What do they observe, thus up close? What does he now take up (1 Kings 18:31)? According to what number? In what Name does Elijah build the altar (1 Kings 18:32)? What does he make around it? Once he makes his own preparations in 1 Kings 18:33, what does he tell them to do? How many times (1 Kings 18:34)? With what results (1 Kings 18:35)? What does Elijah do at what time in 1 Kings 18:36? What three things, specifically, does Elijah ask God to show in verse 36? What does he add at the end of 1 Kings 18:37? What falls in 1 Kings 18:38? What five things does the fire do? How do the people respond in 1 Kings 18:39? 

How might God show mercy to a people who have fallen for appearances of worldly power?  1 Kings 18:19–39 looks forward to the first serial reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these twenty-one verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the Lord reigns supreme, despite any appearances to the contrary, and He is profoundly patient to keep reminding His people to turn their hearts back to Him.

“Odds” are not as they appear. Now, biblical believers will object to the word “odds,” and well they should. Because it doesn’t matter if on one side there is the power and wealth of the throne together with 850 government-subsidized prophets (1 Kings 18:19), and on the other side there is just the one prophet. Later, the prophet will emphasize this point by having them triple-stack the “odds” against him. If God is almighty, then He is sovereign. 

In fact, earthly power and influence are mockable. This passage contains one of the most sarcastic, humorous portions of all Scripture. The word translated “busy” in 1 Kings 18:27 means to go aside in order to relive oneself. Of course, Baal is even more mockable, because he doesn’t exist. He’s not actually able to be preoccupied or journeying or napping. But the kings of the world and “prophets” of the world are subject to all those things. It is utter folly for the wicked to trust in them, and it would be utter fully for the godly to fear them. And as the frenzy and self-mutilation ensue, the self-mocking of the idolaters’ actions is even more scathing than Elijah’s words had been.

A lowly one, with God, is always in the majority. This was a big part of what the Lord was showing, as heard in Elijah’s prayer in 1 Kings 18:36. Elijah wasn’t trying to be known as greater than the prophets of Baal or Asherah. He was trying to be known as a servant. Yahweh alone is God, and one lowly one with Him is more powerful than all other creatures taken together. 

God is profoundly patient to keep reminding His people to turn their hearts back to Him. Elijah has reminded them about God, and about himself as God’s servant, but he also reminds them about themselves in the building of the altar in 1 Kings 18:31. The twelve stones hearken back to before the divided kingdom, to their origins as a people whom God had taken for Himself. Their hearts have been turned away from Him Who chose them, but Elijah prays that Yahweh’s display of Himself would be the trigger for turning their hearts back to Him again (1 Kings 18:37). 

The fire falls—something that happened at Sinai, upon the consecration of the tabernacle, and the consecration of the temple. It is as if the Lord is giving them an opportunity to start over with Him. And, for the moment, it appears as if they have done so. Yahweh, He is God! Yahweh, He is God! Every time we hear the gospel preached, every time the Lord’s death is shown forth at the table, God reminds us of the fire that consumed the sacrifice at the cross. Let us respond in the same way: the Lord, He is God!

What situations seem hopeless for God’s people? Who in the world are fools to think that they have the upper hand? Whom have you been tempted to the folly of fearing? Where, especially, does the Lord remind you that He is God?

Sample prayer:  Lord, how often it seems like the powers and authorities of the world have all combined against You and Your people! The wicked are laughably foolish to think they have the upper hand. Forgive us for when we enter into the same folly by fearing them. Bring our hearts and minds back to when You took us for Yourself, and renew our commitment to You. For we ask it through Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH434 “A Debtor to Mercy Alone”

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