Show-Down at Mt. Carmel (1 Kings 18)

God vs. the False Prophets at Mt. Carmel.

This is a familiar story, you probably heard it first in elementary school if you grew up in church.

450 prophets of Baal + 400 prophets of Ashera = 850 to 1
Those are remarkable odds in a face to face confrontation — unless you’re Elijah and you serve the most high God.

1 Kings 18.1 “The word of the LORD came to Elijah” … Go show yourself to Ahab, and tell him rain’s coming.  Soon.

Note: This is pre-repentance. God knows when enough is enough and it’s time.  If you’re a parent you’re probably able to relate to that.  The discipline needs to be effective but not break your child’s spirit.

We talked about Israels’s cyclical history of falling away, realization, repentance, return and noted that it began right away with the first couple on earth – Adam and Eve.  God did something about it – and it was based on His love.  He did it again in Noah’s day.  Abraham (Sodom & Gomorrah). Moses & Joshua. Repeated cycles through the judges –  “Aren’t you dizzy?? why not just obey?!”  So He gave them the king they asked for – but the cycle continued.  Today’s even occurs in the Northern portion of the nation, Israel, but the point we made this week is this.

If you’re His, God will always do what it takes to bring you back.

Jesus told three stories in Luke 15 (the prodigal, the lost coin, the lost sheep sheep) to illustrate the same truth:  God will do whatever it takes to bring you back.

We noted that deterioration with Israel didn’t occur the weekend Ahab and Jezebel got married. People wouldn’t have stood for it. It took time. Decline usually takes time. Israel didn’t abandon worship of Yahweh, they simply added Baal to their menu. Baal worship was excused, then tolerated then embraced and after a while, preferred.

Does that sound at all familiar?

18.17 – So it’s you, is it? Israel’s troublemaker?
Elijah’s reply (I think SPIRITED) in 18. No, YOU are Israel’s troubler.  We need to be boldly forthright in our time; Christians are tagged with a lot of this world’s problems when in fact the trouble looks back at them in the mirror.  Don’t own trouble that isn’t yours – be confident in Christ.

Elijah didn’t disclose all the details of the show-down to Ahab, just enough to get the people there. Sometimes less is more. So Ahab sent word to gather at Mt. Carmel. This didn’t happen the next day. No faxes, no e-mail, no loudspeakers on top of military vehicles driving through the country. It took a few days for everybody to arrive.  Elijah was probably already on Mt. Carmel, at least for a time, preparing. Praying.   Do you ever stand in your child’s room while he or she is at school and pray for them?  Walk through the halls at church and pray for ministry events that will took take place there?  How about walking the empty aisles of your worship center, praying for those who will soon be there, and pray for God to work in people’s lives?   I’m pretty sure Elijah was on Mt. Carmel for at least a couple days, praying and preparing.

Note, the propets of Astarte (Asherah) are absent the day of the confrontation? Jezebel didn’t show either. Ahab’s directive was usurped and ignored.

Elijah’s rebuke (to 450 prophets plus on-lookers, without a PA system or bullhorn, mind you. I think God provided the adrenaline and the vocal power for him to be heard clear to the back)
Then the challenge.   (you can read the narrative for youself again, it’s in 1 Kings 18)
Sarcasm, egging them on, feeding their frenzy.

Then  finally – “Come Closer”


His order: Rebuild the altar.  It probably first deteriorated from neglect, then finished off by disdain and arrogant false prophets.  “Rebuild it.”  (I picture Elijah more soft-spoken now, but very much in control of the situation.)
The bullock – probably skinny, it’s been 3 1/2 years since it’s rained and this whole thing started when Ahab and Obadiah were scouting the land for grass so they wouldn’t have to kill starving livestock.
12 barrels of salt water from the Mediterranean Sea.  Salt always accompanied burnt sacrifices – the salt turned the offensive smell of burning flesh into a sweet aroma.

Elijah prayed: …that the people may know that YOU O LORD are God and that You have turned their hearts back” NLT = brought them back to Yourself – again.



It consumed the animal on the altar. And the wood. Evaporated the water. Consumed the stones – AND the trench!  There was nothing but a crater where everything used to be. God took it all!

The people whisper. The LORD He is the God.

There’s no god Like Jehovah.

The LORD He is the God.


Revival sparks  –  There’s no god like Jehovah, There’s no god like Jehovah!  The Lord, He is God. The Lord, HE is God!


Elijah orders execution of the false prophets.  “Don’t let even one of them escape!”  All 450 lost their lives that evening.  It was time to clean house in the nation of Israel.


Conclusion –

  • When we are sure that we are in the will of God, we are invincible. 850 : 1 ?   It’s OK. I’m with God.

  • Divided allegiance is as wrong as open idolatry.

“How long are you going to halt between two opinions?!” (18.21)

“…choose today who you’ll serve” (Joshua 24.15)

“double-minded is unstable” (James 1.8)

Get off the fence!

  • Our most effective tool is the prayer of faith Js. 5.17-18

Elijah prayed that it wouldn’t rain

Now he prays for rain. Just as fervently.

Prayer is our FIRST resource! Too often we treat it like our last resort.

  • Never under-estimate the power of one totally dedicated life!

(From Elijah – C. Swindoll,  Word Publishing, Nashville, © 2000 – pp 84 – 85)


At the end of class we panned back from Mt. Carmel, centuries ago, far enough to include our lives, November, 2008.  Where has there been deterioration?  Where do we need to rebuild things spiritually in our own lives?  If God turns your heart this morning – let Him.   He loves you.  He will do whatever is necessary to bring you back.  He’s not an ogre, he’s the father Jesus told about in Luke 15, just WAITing for you to turn toward home again.  Do it – now.     While we thought and prayed, we let the words of this song guide our thinking.



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