Grades 3-6 Sunday School Lesson
Elijah: Where God Guides, He Provides
Lesson 4: God Provides a Stunning Victory
Author’s Notes: This week’s lesson may be one of the most familiar accounts from the ministry of Elijah; the confrontation with the prophets of Baal, on Mount Carmel. In our first few lessons, we’ve seen the Lord provide in many ways for Elijah, demonstrating His awesome power to a few individuals. But in today’s lesson, we’re going to see the Lord show His mighty hand on a grand scale, so all of Israel will know, without a doubt, that He is the One, true and living God! And in doing so, we’ll also see how the Lord provides for His prophet Elijah, once again; giving him a great victory over 450 prophets of Baal.
Has anyone ever said something bad about you or someone you care about? If so, how did that make you feel? Did it hurt your feelings or make you angry? What do you do when that happens? Many times we feel like we want to fight a person who does that. We want to stand up for ourselves or our loved ones, and make the other person sorry for what they said.
Years ago, if something like that happened they would say that the other person had questioned your honor. (Today, you might you might say that they hurt your reputation.) And the way they took care of the hurt and anger was often through a duel. Has anyone here ever heard of a duel, or maybe seen one in an old movie?
Here’s how a duel worked: the person whose honor had been questioned would challenge the one who had said the bad things to a fight. But it wasn’t like the kind of fight you might normally think of. In a duel, there are specific rules each opponent had to follow. They had to agree on exactly where and when it would take place. They had to carefully select what sort of weapons could be used. And they would often have other people there to make sure both opponents followed the rules. The idea was that the winning person’s honor would be restored because of their willingness to risk their life to do it.
In today’s lesson, Elijah feels just that way. King Ahab and many of the Israelites had brought the Lord’s honor into question. They had begun to serve other gods; showing that they no longer respected God, or His commandments. So Elijah challenged Ahab and his prophets of Baal to a duel between their god and his. Can you guess who’s going to win?
We’ll find out as we get into today’s lesson. But before we do that, let’s learn today’s memory verse. It will remind us of what Elijah wanted all of Israel to know about God; and it’s exactly what they learned in the duel on the mountain.
Memory verse: (Have the children repeat this verse with you several times, until they are able to say it themselves. And encourage them to repeat it to others several times during the week, so that it’ll have a place in their hearts.)
“I AM the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me;” Isaiah 45:5a
Opening prayer: Lord, thank You for each student who’s here, today. And thank You for Your Word, The Bible, where we can learn new truths about You, the one true and living God. Help each one of us here, today, to be attentive to what You would have us learn. Give us open ears and hearts, ready to listen to Your words. Amen.
This Week’s Lesson: Elijah Challenges the Prophets of Baal, and God Provides the Victory (1 Kings 18:1-2, 17-41)
Think back, with me, to our first lesson on Elijah. Do you remember what we learned about King Ahab? Was he a good king? No! He was described as being more evil, in the sight of the Lord, than any king that had come before him. And what was it that made him so evil? He had married a princess from a country that served the god Baal. And he had built temples in Israel’s capital city where the Israelites could worship Baal, instead of following God’s commandments to worship only Him. He had built altars for Baal worship, and even had statues of Baal made for worshipping. While Ahab and his wicked queen Jezebel reigned, many Israelites turned to worship Baal.
That’s why God had made the rain stop in Israel; to remind Ahab who really was the true and living God. But even after three years of terrible drought and famine, the Israelites under Ahab’s rule had continued in their Baal worship. And God could no longer stand it. He wanted the Israelite people to remember that He was the One who had set them apart as His chosen people. He wanted them to know that He, the LORD Jehovah was the only true and living God. And that Baal was nothing more than an image built by the hands of men. So God once again went to Elijah with a message for King Ahab.
(1 Kings 18)
1And it came to pass after many days, that the word of the LORD came to Elijah in the third year, saying, Go, shew thyself unto Ahab; and I will send rain upon the earth.
2And Elijah went to shew himself unto Ahab. And there was a sore famine in Samaria.
How long had Israel been without rain? It had now been three years since it last rained. And what were the conditions in Israel? They were suffering a very bad famine because of the lack of rain.
So what was God’s new message for Ahab? It was actually good news…God was getting ready to send rain for Israel. But not before a showdown would take place between Ahab and God’s prophet, Elijah.
17And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel?
18And he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father's house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and thou hast followed Baalim.
Who did King Ahab blame for all of the trouble in Israel? He blamed Elijah. Apparently Ahab still did not have any respect for God, and what He was doing in Israel. He did not acknowledge that it was God who was withholding the rain, resulting in drought and famine.
Elijah realized this, and wanted to defend his Lord’s honor. He wanted the children of Israel to see God for who He really was, and desire to worship Him, once again. So guess what Elijah proposed… a duel! Let’s listen in as Elijah makes all the arrangements for a showdown between the LORD, God of Israel and Baal, god of the pagans. And fighting for each god would be their prophets: Elijah versus the prophets of Baal.
19Now therefore send, and gather to me all Israel unto mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the groves four hundred, which eat at Jezebel's table.
20So Ahab sent unto all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together unto mount Carmel.
Who did Elijah tell Ahab to invite to witness the challenge on the mountain? All Israel was invited to come out and see what would happen. But Elijah didn’t plan on having them just be silent bystanders. He challenged them to really take to heart what they were about to see.
And that’s the way God is with us, too. When He teaches us something new through our Sunday School teachers, or a pastor, even in our own study, God wants us to apply the things we learn to our own lives. In the New Testament story of the wise man and the foolish man, the wise man’s house withstood the storm; but the foolish man’s house was destroyed. Jesus explained that both represented people who had heard God’s Word. The difference came in what they did with it. The wise man listened and did what God said. The foolish man listened, but didn’t take it to heart. It’s not enough just to sit here and listen to the stories. We need to be putting what we learn into practice. That was the challenge Elijah put before the people of Israel.
21And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.
Elijah confronted the Israelites with a very important question: who did they believe was God? It sounds like they really didn’t know. Or at least they weren’t ready to give him an answer.
But once Elijah had the Israelites’ attention, he shared with them the details of the coming duel. There would be strict rules for each side to follow, to make sure that the challenge was fair because Elijah wanted the children of Israel to see God in His great power. He wanted there to be absolutely no doubt that the LORD is God, once they had seen what He could do.
22Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the LORD; but Baal's prophets are four hundred and fifty men.
23Let them therefore give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: and I will dress the other bullock, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under:
24And call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the LORD: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God. And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken.
How many prophets of Baal were there? 450! And how many prophets of the LORD? Just Elijah. That doesn’t really seem fair for Elijah. But notice who it is that will actually be responsible for the victory. It’s not the prophets… it’s their god. The challenge would only be won by the god who set fire to the sacrifice.
And the Israelites agreed that this was a good challenge. So Elijah went to work, instructing the prophets of Baal on how the challenge should proceed, and preparing what he needed for his part.
25And Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal, Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first; for ye are many; and call on the name of your gods, but put no fire under.
26And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made.
So, who got to go first in the challenge? The prophets of Baal went first. And what did they do to try to get Baal to send down fire? They called out to him, and even jumped right up on the altar, hoping to get his attention. But did they get any response? No. All morning long they tried, but did not hear or see anything from their god.
27And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked.
What reasons did Elijah give for Baal not answering his prophets? He said that maybe they should cry louder because he might be talking and just couldn’t hear them. Or that he was just busy doing other things. He suggested that Baal might be on a trip. Or maybe even that he was just sleeping, and they needed to wake him up.
Do you think Elijah really believed that any of these were the real reasons that Baal had not responded to the prophets? How do you know? It says Elijah was mocking them. He knew very well that Baal couldn’t answer them because Baal wasn’t even real. He was only a god someone had made up in their heads. Listen to what the book of Psalms says about gods like Baal:
“The idols of the heathen are silver and gold, the work of men's hands.
They have mouths, but they speak not; eyes have they, but they see not;
They have ears, but they hear not; neither is there any breath in their mouths.
They that make them are like unto them: so is every one that trusteth in them. (Psalm 135:15-18)
King Ahab and many of the Israelites had been worshipping gods just like the Psalmist described. They had made idols that looked like they could hear and speak. But in reality, they were all just clumps of silver or gold shaped by a man’s hands. But Baal’s worshippers didn’t see it that way. So the prophets continued on, through the day, trying to get Baal’s attention. And they went to some pretty extreme measures to do so.
28And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them.
29And it came to pass, when midday was past, and they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded.
How long had Elijah let the prophets of Baal go on, trying to get him to answer them? They tried from morning till evening to get fire from Baal. They even tried cutting their own bodies, hoping that their blood would do the trick. But when evening came, Elijah had seen enough. He knew it was time to show King Ahab, the prophets of Baal, and all the people of Israel what a true and living God could do.
30And Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me. And all the people came near unto him. And he repaired the altar of the LORD that was broken down.
31And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of the LORD came, saying, Israel shall be thy name:
Notice that Elijah didn’t just go quietly about his business. He used this opportunity to share the truth about God and His Word with those who had gathered for the challenge. Can’t you just imagine him calling them to gather around him as he carefully picked up the stones for the altar? You can almost hear his tender voice, as he put each stone in place, while he reminded them of the precious promises their God had made as He led them out of Egypt and into the Promised Land? Elijah wanted to be very sure that the Israelites remembered who this God was that was about to do the unimaginable, right before their eyes.
32And with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD: and he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two measures of seed.
33And he put the wood in order, and cut the bullock in pieces, and laid him on the wood, and said, Fill four barrels with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice, and on the wood.
What was Elijah doing? He was having the people pour water on the altar. This wasn’t part of what the prophets of Baal had done. Elijah was making the challenge even harder for God, because when wood is wet, it’s much harder to burn. And they didn’t just pour a little water on top of the altar. Listen to what Elijah had them do:
34And he said, Do it the second time. And they did it the second time. And he said, Do it the third time. And they did it the third time.
35And the water ran round about the altar; and he filled the trench also with water.
By the time they were done, there was so much water on the sacrifice that it had run down the altar and into the trench that Elijah had dug around it. Then, Elijah waited for one more thing… God’s timing. God had given the Israelites special instructions for how they were to bring their sacrifices to Him. And that included the time of day. One of those given times was the evening.
36And 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.
37Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again.
What did Elijah do to get the Lord to hear him? Did he jump up and down on the altar? Did he cut himself, or cry out like a crazy person? No. It simply says he prayed. He just talked to the Lord.
And what did Elijah want for the Israelites? He wanted them to know that the Lord is God. And he wanted God to turn their hearts back to Himself. And as Elijah spoke those words, what do you suppose happened?
38Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.
God didn’t just send a little fire to burn up the sacrifice. He wanted to leave a big impression on everyone! So the fire God sent burned up the sacrifice AND everything else beneath it, even though it was all soaking wet.
Have you ever built a campfire, or seen someone else build one. Oftentimes rocks will be placed around the edge of the fire to keep the fire from spreading. That’s because rocks don’t normally burn. But did you notice what happened to the stones that made up the altar? Even those burned, along with the dust. And it says that even the water in the trench was licked up by the fire. Wow! That must have been some fire! When God gets ready to show Himself to someone, He wants to leave no doubt that He really is the God He says He is. And that’s just what happened. The fire of the Lord left quite an impression on those who witnessed it.
39And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The LORD, he is the God; the LORD, he is the God.
Remember, the people had agreed at the outset that whichever god was able to send fire to burn up the sacrifice, that would be the real God. Perhaps they didn’t believe that either one could actually do such a thing. But now they had seen with their own eyes what happens when someone calls upon the name of the one, true and living God. Heaven was proof that God IS the Lord, and that there is no other god besides Him.
And Elijah would not let their newfound conviction be wasted. Remember how we said that God wants us to apply what we learn to our lives? Well, since the Israelites now knew that the Lord was truly God, and that Baal was just a manmade idol; and since they knew they were to have no other gods before the Lord, it was now their responsibility to make sure the worship of Baal had come to an end. So Elijah gave the Israelites a job to do.
40And Elijah said unto them, Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape. And they took them: and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there.
What did Elijah and the Israelites do to the prophets of Baal? They took them down the mountain, and put them all to death. They were making sure there would be no one left to lead Israel in worshipping Baal.
The Lord gave Elijah a great victory that day! God and Elijah won one of the biggest duels of all time. And as a result, God’s place was restored in the hearts of many Israelites.
But God wasn’t done, there. He had one more surprise waiting for Ahab.
41And Elijah said unto Ahab, Get thee up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of abundance of rain.
The pagan god of rain had been soundly defeated. The prophets who worshipped him were dead. And the true and living God was ready to show His hand one more time. Now that Israel recognized Him as God, He was ready to provide for them just what they needed, because that’s what He loves to do. He was ready to send them rain.
Hopefully none of us will ever need to see a cosmic showdown, like the Israelites did, to believe that our God is the only true God. We have something very special that they didn’t have. We have God’s written Word, the Bible, to teach us about Him and remind us of all the wondrous things He has done.
For the Israelites, faith came through seeing with their eyes what God could do. But there’s a verse in the New Testament that tells us that faith comes a little differently for us. It says that “…faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17) Have you ever trusted Jesus as your Savior, knowing that His Word says He can save us from our sins? His Word says that we must admit we are sinners, and accept His death on the cross as the payment for our sins, if we want to be saved.
And once we are saved, God promises to be there for us, to provide for all of our needs just like He did for Elijah. He will also be there to give us victories, day after day, as we fight our duels against Satan and sin. There’s no one better to have on your side than the God that Elijah had on his side. And He’s the same God now that He was then.
So if Elijah were here today, he might challenge you with the same question that he asked the Israelites: “How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him:” (1 Kings 17:21) What would your response be? Do you know God as the Lord of your life? Are you following Him, obeying His Word? If you don’t know the answer, then today would be a good day to settle these things with God.
Closing Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for the example of Elijah, and his challenge to the prophets of Baal. And thank You for reminding us that You are the only true God. If there’s anyone here who has not called upon You to be the Lord of their lives, let this be the day that they come to know You, just as Elijah did. For we pray in Jesus’ name, amen.
Activity: (Review Questions)
Fill in the Blanks
True or False
1. God’s new message for Ahab was that there would be three more years without rain. (false – God was ready to bring the rain again)
2. Elijah challenged all of the prophets of Baal to a showdown on Mount Carmel. (true)
3. There was never any answer from the pagan god, Baal. (true)
4. The fire sent from God consumed everything, even the water in the trench. (true)
5. After the Israelites saw the fire, they still insisted that Baal was their god. (false – they declared that the Lord is God)