Show and Tell
(1 Kings 18)
I was surprised to learn from my 6- year-old niece that her class still does something called “Show and Tell” that I remember from my school days. Each child brings in a special item (like the ballerina doll I gave Angelina) and they tell the rest of the class about the item and why they like it (such as Angelina connecting her doll to her love of ballet classes, and hopefully love of her uncle who gave her the doll).
We have a kind of Show and Tell going on in our Scripture today. The LORD tells Elijah to come out of hiding from those who want to kill him, show himself to King Ahab and tell him the drought of the past three years is over. GOD had been punishing His people for abandoning Him and worshiping false gods and idols. Ahab and his sinister wife, Jezebel, encouraged this great sin. GOD had used Elijah to cause a drought as punishment then hid him from Ahab and Jezebel. But now GOD is telling His prophet Elijah to confront them again. GOD was about to show His power again to give another opportunity for the idol worshippers to return to Him.
While Queen Jezebel is ordering the murder of all the prophets of GOD, a servant of hers who is faithful to GOD, Obadiah, is hiding them from her. While searching for grass to keep the king’s livestock alive in the drought Obadiah sees Elijah who tells him to announce his return to Ahab. This is one of several examples of humor in this chapter and throughout the Bible. Doing what Elijah asks is ridiculous. It’s a sure death sentence for Obadiah. So we can find humor in the way he responds.
Obadiah basically says “What are you trying to do, get me killed?! Sure! Ahab has been looking all over for you for three years ready to kill whoever’s hiding you and you want me to say ‘Hey King! SURPRISE! Here he is!’ Meanwhile GOD will carry you off somewhere and when Ahab doesn’t find you he’ll think I was joking or nuts and kill me! And why me?! You know I’m the good guy trying to keep prophets alive, right?”
Obadiah may not realize how likely GOD carrying off Elijah could be. GOD does have a habit of “show and tell” with prophets. Elijah will be carried off later in a chariot of fire to heaven at the end of his life. Enoch had been carried off, the first to be raptured, back in Genesis. And the New Testament seems to hint that Phillip was literally picked up and dropped down in another spot after baptizing the Ethiopian eunuch. So although Obadiah’s being ironic, it could have happened.
But Elijah is firm, and invokes the same GOD Obadiah serves so Obadiah shows himself to Ahab and tells him Elijah’s back in town.
When they meet it’s like a showdown in a movie between the bad guy, Ahab, and the good guy, Elijah. Ahab calls Elijah a troublemaker but Elijah responds no, that would be you, Ahab. Elijah challenges him to bring all the false prophets together against him, the original version of The Showdown at the OK Corral. But Elijah says to also bring all of the people of Israel so they can see GOD’s Power.
And here’s where the Show and Tell gets intense. There they are, hundreds of heathan idol worshippers on one side who are accustomed to human sacrifice and wouldn’t mind killing Elijah. And Elijah on the other. Elijah calls them out and says “Put up or shut up. We’ll each prepare bulls for a burnt sacrifice but won’t burn it. Whichever god ignites the sacrifice on his own with no fire from us is the true god.”
And here’s more humor. The idol worshippers of Baal jumped, they shimmied, they mumbled and shouted all morning long into the afternoon. No response from their god. Elijah laughs at them and says “Keep it up, boys! He must just be busy. Maybe he’s busy on the toilet!” They are in a frenzy now. They’re slicing themselves open to offer blood, jumping around like monkeys on the altar and jabbering fake prophecies to try to hide that nothing is heppening. This goes on into the evening.
Finally, Elijah shows himself and rebuilds an altar Jewish scholars say had originally been built by Saul, first king of Israel. The altar had been torn down by the idol worshipers long ago. He has the sacrifice placed on the altar and then he does something that seems insane. He has a pit dug around the altar and drenches the sacrifice & altar three times with so much water the trench is filled. How is the sacrifice supposed to burn soaking wet even if GOD did ignite it?
But in the evening, at the appropriate time for sacrifice, Elijah prays that the LORD would demonstrate Himself to be the True GOD so these people will turn to Him by igniting the sacrifice Himself. Fire comes down from Heaven and not only burns up the sacrifice but all of the water in the furrow around the altar as well.
The people of Israel shout that the GOD of Israel is the true GOD, and Elijah has the hundreds of false prophets killed before they can escape.
As a sign of the new opportunity GOD is showing His people to choose life in obedience to Him rather than death without Him, Elisha tells Ahab to relax, go eat and rest. Rain is coming. Elisha then prays on his face asking GOD for rain and sending his servant to look for the results. Seven times!
Finally, the servant sees just the tiniest cloud on the horizon but it’s enough. Elijah tells him to run warn Ahab to hurry home before the rain that’s on the way and the LORD empowers Elijah to have the supernatural power to outrun Ahab’s chariot.
Show and Tell. GOD showed His mercy and told Elijah, and through Elijah told His people, He was still ready for them to return.
There’s the tiniest cloud on the horizon. If you have not taken advantage of the mercy GOD is showing you it’s the cloud of judgment. GOD is showing you one last opportunity to seek him so the blessing will be refreshing rain and not deadly torrents. If you’re already a Christian that tiny cloud is a sign of the times. JESUS Christ is returning soon in judgment. There may be only the smallest signs now as GOD shows His patience while we tell others the Gospel message. But soon the storm will come.
Are we ready for GOD to show Himself and tell us our eternal destiny?