9 June 2016

1 Kings 17:1-7

“So he went and did according to the word of the Lord.” (v. 5)

Psalm: Psalm 100


Solomon's death has resulted in a divided kingdom and the author of Kings tries to provide stories from both Judah (South) and Israel (North), rather than an accurate chronological narrative. One important strand emerges. In the absence of wise leadership, 'men of God' or prophets become more influential in appealing to the people to follow the ways of God. Such prophets were characterised by their loyalty to God rather than to the King or the land.

By the time we come to 1 Kings 17, there have been seven kings of Israel since Jeroboam, the last being Ahab. King Ahab had been disobedient to God in two major ways (1 Kings 16:31): it had been "a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam"; and he had taken Jezebel from Sidon as his wife, who was an enthusiastic worshipper of Baal. The moral and spiritual foundations of Israel were being undermined. Enter Elijah the Tishbite, the "troubler of Israel"(1 Kings 18:17), to remind Israel in general, and Ahab in particular, of God's promises and commandments.

People such as Elijah are uncomfortable to be around, but they are essential in helping to shake off human traits of complacency and self-satisfaction. Before getting into his important prophetic ministry, we read stories in 1 Kings 17 that illustrate the depth of belief and confidence that Elijah has in 'the Lord the God of Israel" (v. 1). The rock of his faith is the certainty he has in a God of justice.

In today's passage Elijah sets out his stall by challenging the Baal worship of Ahab and Jezebel (1 Kings 16:31-32). Baal worshippers believed their god controlled the rain. Elijah wanted to prove to them that it was the God of Israel who was in charge and, in God's name, declares a drought. Going east, probably beyond Ahab's jurisdiction "east of the Jordan" (v.3), Elijah is sustained by the Lord, who miraculously finds water from a rapidly drying wadi and ravens bring him food. His faith in the God of Israel stays resolute.

To Ponder

  • When things 'go wrong' in your life, are you still able to bear witness to God's enduring goodness? How?
  • Can you think of someone who was critical of your behaviour, yet deep down you knew they were right? It wasn't easy for them. Today, give thanks to God for their honesty, however difficult it was at the time.

Bible notes author

Michael King

Michael King is a Methodist local preacher. From 2000-2011, he was leader of the Methodist Church's World Church Relationships team, and was the vice-president of the Methodist Conference in 2012/2013.