Elijah

Discovery for Teachers

Elijah

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK

SOURCE FOR QUESTIONS
1 Kings 17:1 through 22:53

KEY VERSE FOR MEMORIZATION
“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.” (1 Kings 18:36)

BACKGROUND

Nothing is recorded about Elijah before he suddenly appeared before King Ahab, as recorded in 1 Kings 17:1. As one of the first in a long line of important prophets God sent to Israel and Judah, Elijah was a Tishbite of the land of Gilead, a mountainous area located on the eastern side of the Jordan River.

King Ahab was Israel’s seventh king, reigning from 919 B.C. to 897 B.C. He was influenced by his wife, Jezebel, daughter of Ethbaal, king of Zidon, and introduced Baal worship to Israel (1 Kings 16:31-32).

Baal was worshiped for two reasons: generosity and anger. In generosity he supposedly gave light, warmth, and rain, but his anger was manifested in the fierce summer heat that destroyed the vegetation he had brought. Human victims, usually the firstborn of the sacrificer, were burnt alive to appease his anger in time of plague or other troubles. Such sacrifice is figuratively termed “passing” the victim “through the fire” (Deuteronomy 18:10; 2 Kings 16:3). Ordinary offerings to Baal consisted of incense and burnt sacrifices.

God directly confronted Ahab’s false religion with the appearance and message of Elijah. Since the name Elijah means, “Jehovah is my God,” the prophet’s very name pointed to the true and only God. Elijah announced, “As the Lord God of Israel liveth . . . ,” drawing attention to the ever-present, all-knowing, and all-powerful God. He then exposed Baal as a lifeless and powerless idol by declaring there would be no “dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.”

During the three-and-a-half year drought, God sustained Elijah. Provisions were first supplied at the brook Cherith, a torrent-bed or wady, possibly located on the east side of the Jordan River. Elijah was then sent to a widow woman in Zarephath, the same area that Jezebel came from. During this time there was severe famine in Samaria where King Ahab dwelt.

Before Elijah prayed to end the drought, he called on the people to choose between God and Baal. Ahab gathered the Children of Israel, 450 prophets of Baal, and 400 prophets of the groves. The Hebrew translation for groves is asherah (or Astarte), which was a Phoenician goddess (see “Pagan Gods” supplement). It was this idolatrous crowd that Elijah challenged to see whether Baal or God would consume a sacrifice using fire not created by man.

Following Elijah’s tremendous victory and the execution of the prophets of Baal, Elijah fled for his life from Jezebel’s wrath. He traveled over 300 miles in 40 days to Mount Horeb (Mount Sinai), where the Lord instructed him to anoint Hazael to be the King of Syria, Jehu to be the King of Israel, and Elisha to be his successor — instructions which Elijah followed. God later used these two kings to execute judgment on Ahab’s family and the idolatrous people of Israel.

The prophet Elijah confronted Ahab one last time to pronounce final judgment against him after the death of Naboth. Naboth the Jezreelite had refused to sell his property to Ahab because it had belonged to his family for some time. Therefore, Jezebel found two men (“sons of Belial” meaning evil, lawless, and wicked men) to falsely accuse him of blasphemy and he was stoned to death. Elijah told Ahab that, “In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick thy blood.” Ahab was later killed in a battle, and as they washed his chariot in the pool of Samaria the dogs licked his blood, fulfilling Elijah’s prophecy.

SUGGESTED RESPONSES TO QUESTIONS

  1. Referring back to 1 Kings 16:33, why do you think God sent Elijah to King Ahab?

    Ahab had done more to provoke God’s anger than all the previous kings of Israel. God, in His faithfulness to Israel, sent Elijah the prophet to confront this wicked king and to turn the hearts of His people back to Him. Ask your class to list ways that God calls sinners today. Some suggested responses might be: conviction of Holy Spirit, personal testimonies, traumatic events, church services, and Gospel music. Possibly allow time for the students to share personal examples.
  2. How did Elijah respond to God’s instructions? (1 Kings 17:1-5, 8-10; 18:1-2) What can we learn from this example?

    Elijah was obedient to perform the instruction of God when it came to him. Most of the commands from God to Elijah placed him in extremely difficult and potentially life-threatening situations. You may want to follow up the responses to this question by asking, “How did Elijah have courage to confront these wicked people and deliver messages that were offensive to them?” Guide the class to realize that Elijah, no doubt, had cultivated a relationship with the Lord over a long period of time. These big “faith tests” were preceded by many smaller ones. We, too, must first be faithful in the little things before God can entrust us to handle greater challenges.
  3. What was God’s plan in caring for Elijah during the drought? (1 Kings 17:2-16) How should this example encourage us today?

    While Samaria suffered from severe famine, God fed Elijah at the brook Cherith and then at the widow of Zarephath’s house. God will take care of us and sustain us even in the most difficult of times. Ask the class for examples or personal testimonies of how God sustained them in difficult circumstances.
  4. How many prophets did Obadiah hide? (1 Kings 18:3-4) Why?

    Obadiah, the governor of Ahab’s household, hid 100 prophets because Jezebel had “cut off” the prophets of the Lord. Bring out that the parenthetical note in verse 3 describes the character of Obadiah. He feared and honored God so much that he had risked his own life to protect the men of God from the evil devices of Jezebel.
  5. How did the people respond at Mount Carmel when asked which God they would serve (1 Kings 18:21)? Why would they have responded in this manner?

    They responded by silence: we read, “the people answered him not a word.” They probably responded this way because of peer pressure. There were 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of the groves, but only one prophet of the Lord. It is very likely that few in the crowd of people openly served God for fear of Jezebel who had “cut off the prophets of the Lord.” Discuss what types of peer pressure we face today and ask for ways that we can avoid compromising. Thoughts might include avoiding situations and people who would potentially ask you to violate what you know to be right.
  6. Why did Elijah have water poured over the sacrifice? 1 Kings 18:33-35

    He may have poured water on the sacrifice to prevent the suspicion of fire under the altar. If there had been any fire present, this would have put it out. Also, it may have been to make the expected miracle more notable, in order to open the eyes of the people to the true God. Elijah took great care to make the victory untainted and certain. The point should be made that we, too, want to conduct ourselves in a manner that is above reproach and brings glory to God. It could also be brought out that sacrifices to God must cost something. After more than three years of drought, water was very precious.
  7. After praying a short and simple prayer that caused fire to come down from Heaven and consume the sacrifice, why did Elijah need to pray seven times to cause the rain to come? 1 Kings 18:42-45

    While we do not know the exact answer, we do know that Elijah did not give up after the first prayer was unanswered. In the presence of the people, God chose to answer Elijah’s prayer quickly and in a manner that caused the people to acknowledge His divine authority. With the people gone, and only his servant present, Elijah sought the Lord in a different manner. The posture of falling on the ground and placing his head between his knees showed his humility, reverence, importunity, and earnest desire to have God answer his prayer. Like Jacob, who wrestled with the angel and did not give up until he received the blessing, Elijah continued in prayer. James 5:16 states, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” Elijah prayed until he received the answer.

    Explain to your class the difference in praying about something versus praying through the matter. You may also bring out that Elijah did not predetermine how God would answer his prayer. After seeing the fire fall from Heaven and consume the sacrifice, he did not look for a supernatural answer for rain. He took the “cloud the size of a man’s hand” as sufficient evidence that God had heard his prayer.
  8. When Elijah fled to Mount Horeb, in what manner did the Lord speak to him? (1 Kings 19:12) How does God speak to us today?

    God did not speak to Elijah through the strong wind, the earthquake, or the fire. He spoke to Elijah through a “still small voice.” In the midst of these great earthly manifestations, Elijah instantly recognized the calm, gentle, and peaceful voice of God. Elijah’s personal relationship with God helped him discern His voice as God spoke to him.

    In response to the second question, your students should conclude that God may speak to us in a number of ways. He can speak in an inaudible, yet unmistakable, way to our hearts, impressing us regarding His will. God can speak to us through His Holy Word, the Bible. Or, He may speak to us through the words of a minister, a song, a testimony, encouragement of a friend, in prayer, or in any manner He chooses.

    Class discussion should bring out that to hear God’s voice we must have a personal relationship with Him. How well we hear is dependent on how close we stay. A fun class exercise would be to have a student go to the most distant point in your class, have another student stand about half way, and finally one student stand right next to you. In a quiet, gentle voice quote or paraphrase John 10:4 then ask the most distant student what was said, then the person that is half way, and finally next to you. The point is that the closer we are to God, the better we can hear Him.
  9. Elijah cast his mantle onto Elisha signifying God’s call on his life to be a prophet. List five areas in which God calls people to service, and indicate how He makes this known.

    There are many areas of service in the work of the Lord. Altar workers, clerical staff, van drivers, choir and orchestra members, cleaning crew, landscaping, maintenance, ministerial, nursery, Sunday school teachers, ushers, and many others.

    Our first qualification is to be saved. As we faithfully serve the Lord, He calls us to serve in various needs within the church by placing our name on the hearts of those that are already serving and bringing needs to our attention as we endeavor to perform His Will. You can illustrate this by asking students in your class how they came to serve in different capacities in the church. Share your experience of how you were asked to be a Sunday school teacher.

CONCLUSION

Elijah’s example of faithfulness and obedience to God in difficult and wicked times should encourage all Christians to cultivate and maintain a close and personal relationship with the Lord.