Lesson 8 | Sabbath, 22 February 2020
“Now as in former ages, the presentation of a truth that reproves the sins and errors of the times will excite opposition. ‘Everyone that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.’ John 3:20. As men see that they cannot maintain their position by the Scriptures, many deter- mine to maintain it at all hazards, and with a malicious spirit they assail the char- acter and motives of those who stand in defense of unpopular truth. It is the same policy which has been pursued in all ages. Elijah was declared to be a troubler in Israel, Jeremiah a traitor, Paul a polluter of the temple. From that day to this, those who would be loyal to truth have been denounced as seditious, heretical, or schis- matic. Multitudes who are too unbelieving to accept the sure word of prophecy will receive with unquestioning credulity an accusation against those who dare to reprove fashionable sins. This spirit will increase more and more.” –The Great Controversy, pp. 458, 459.
King Ahab and the nation rebuked
- What do the Scriptures record about the actions of King Ahab and the nation of Israel? How far did the king’s spiritual blindness and apostasy go?
1 Kings 16:30-33 And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord above all that were before him. 31And it came to pass, as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took to wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Zidonians, and went and served Baal, and worshipped him. 32And he reared up an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he had built in Samaria. 33And Ahab made a grove; and Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him.
“Two years before the death of Asa, Ahab began to rule in the kingdom of Israel. From the beginning his reign was marked by a strange and terrible apostasy. His father, Omri, the founder of Samaria, had ‘wrought evil in the eyes of the Lord, and did worse than all that were before him.’ 1 Kings 16:25…. Not content with en- couraging the forms of religious service followed at Bethel and Dan, he boldly led the people into the grossest heathenism, by setting aside the worship of Jehovah for Baal worship.
“Taking to wife Jezebel, ‘the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Zidonians’ and high priest of Baal, Ahab ‘served Baal, and worshiped him. And he reared up an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he had built in Samaria.’ Verses 31, 32.
“… Under the leadership of Jezebel he erected heathen altars in many ‘high places,’ where in the shelter of surrounding groves the priests and others connect- ed with this seductive form of idolatry exerted their baleful influence, until well- nigh all Israel were following after Baal.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 114.
- As he went further and further from the right path, what message did the Lord send to Ahab by Elijah the prophet? How long did the Lord’s chasten- ing last?
1 Kings 17:1 And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.
James 5:17 Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed ear- nestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months.
“Among the mountains of Gilead, east of the Jordan, there dwelt in the days of Ahab a man of faith and prayer whose fearless ministry was destined to check the rapid spread of apostasy in Israel. Far removed from any city of renown, and occupying no high station in life, Elijah the Tishbite nevertheless entered upon his mission confident in God’s purpose to prepare the way before him and to give him abundant success. The word of faith and power was upon his lips, and his whole life was devoted to the work of reform…. And while he came to the people as a reprover of sin, his message offered the balm of Gilead to the sin-sick souls of all who desired to be healed….
“To Elijah was entrusted the mission of delivering to Ahab Heaven’s message of judgment. He did not seek to be the Lord’s messenger; the word of the Lord came to him. And jealous for the honor of God’s cause, he did not hesitate to obey the divine summons, though to obey seemed to invite swift destruction at the hand of the wicked king….” –Conflict and Courage, p. 205.
The prophet calls for a meeting
- What message did the Lord give to Elijah after the famine had caused devastation in the land? How did Elijah carry out the Lord’s command?
1 Kings 18:1, 2 And it came to pass after many days, that the word of the Lord came to Elijah in the third year, saying, Go, show 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.
“Thus it had come to pass that God was now visiting His people with the sever- est of His judgments. The prediction of Elijah was meeting with terrible fulfillment. For three years the messenger of woe was sought for in city after city and nation after nation. At the mandate of Ahab, many rulers had given their oath of honor that the strange prophet could not be found in their dominions. Yet the search was continued, for Jezebel and the prophets of Baal hated Elijah with a deadly hatred, and they spared no effort to bring him within reach of their power. And still there was no rain.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 137.
“Through the long years of drought and famine, Elijah prayed earnestly that the hearts of Israel might be turned from idolatry to allegiance to God. Patient- ly the prophet waited, while the hand of the Lord rested heavily on the stricken land….
“At last, ‘after many days,’ the word of the Lord came to Elijah, ‘Go, show thyself unto Ahab; and I will send rain upon the earth.’…” –Conflict and Courage, p. 208.
- With what words did Ahab meet Elijah? But what was the reality of the situation? Who was responsible for Israel’s suffering?
1 Kings 18:17, 18 And 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 Isra- el; but thou, and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and thou hast followed Baalim.
“The king and the prophet stand face to face. Though Ahab is filled with pas- sionate hatred, yet in the presence of Elijah he seems unmanned, powerless. In his first faltering words, ‘Art thou he that troubleth Israel?’ he unconsciously reveals the inmost feelings of his heart. Ahab knew that it was by the word of God that the heavens had become as brass, yet he sought to cast upon the prophet the blame for the heavy judgments resting on the land….” –Conflict and Courage, p. 208.
“Just as long as God has a church, He will have those who will cry aloud and spare not, who will be His instruments to reprove selfishness and sins, and will not shun to declare the whole counsel of God, whether men will hear or forbear.” –Spiritual Gifts, vol. 2, p. 284.
The decision on Mount Carmel
- What powerful message did Elijah direct to the people who gathered on Mount Carmel? What was their response to his earnest appeal?
1 Kings 18:19-21 Now 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 chil- dren of Israel, and gathered the prophets together unto mount Carmel. 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.
“It is as easy to make an idol of cherished ideas or objects as to fashion gods of wood or stone. Thousands have a false conception of God and His attributes. They are as verily serving a false god as were the servants of Baal. Are we worshiping the true God as He is revealed in His word, in Christ, in nature, or are we adoring some philosophical idol enshrined in His place? God is a God of truth. Justice and mercy are the attributes of His throne. He is a God of love, of pity and tender com- passion. Thus He is represented in His Son, our Saviour. He is a God of patience and long-suffering. If such is the Being whom we adore and to whose character we are seeking to assimilate, we are worshiping the true God.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, pp. 173, 174.
- What miracle occurred after Elijah prayed in faith to God? What did the people openly acknowledge at this point? Is there any record that the king recognized his sins and made a similar confession?
1 Kings 18:37-39 Hear 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. 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. 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.
“Prayer is the breath of the soul. It is the secret of spiritual power. No oth- er means of grace can be substituted, and the health of the soul be preserved. Prayer brings the heart into immediate contact with the Wellspring of life, and strengthens the sinew and muscle of the religious experience. Neglect the exercise of prayer, or engage in prayer spasmodically, now and then, as seems convenient, and you lose your hold on God. The spiritual faculties lose their vitality, the reli- gious experience lacks health and vigor.
“It is only at the altar of God that we can kindle our tapers with divine fire. It is only the divine light that will reveal the littleness, the incompetence, of human ability, and give clear views of the perfection and purity of Christ. It is only as we behold Jesus that we desire to be like Him, only as we view His righteousness that we hunger and thirst to possess it; and it is only as we ask in earnest prayer, that God will grant us our heart’s desire.” –Gospel Workers, pp. 254, 255.
- After the fire came down from heaven and consumed the sacrifice and everything around it, what did the Lord give to the people and the king? How did He empower Elijah to minister to the king?
James 5:18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.
1 Kings 18:44-46 And it came to pass at the seventh time, that he said, Behold, there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea, like a man’s hand. And he said, Go up, say unto Ahab, Prepare thy chariot, and get thee down, that the rain stop thee not.
45And it came to pass in the mean while, that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode, and went to Jezreel. 46And the hand of the Lord was on Elijah; and he girded up his loins, and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.
“Important lessons are presented to us in the experience of Elijah. When upon Mt. Carmel he offered the prayer for rain, his faith was tested, but he persevered in making known his request unto God. Six times he prayed earnestly, and yet there was no sign that his petition was granted, but with a strong faith he urged his plea to the throne of grace. Had he given up in discouragement at the sixth time, his prayer would not have been answered…. We have a God whose ear is not closed to our petitions; and if we prove His word, He will honor our faith. He wants us to have all our interests interwoven with His interests, and then He can safely bless us; for we shall not then take glory to self when the blessing is ours, but shall render all the praise to God. God does not always answer our prayers the first time we call upon Him; for should He do this, we might take it for granted that we had a right to all the blessings and favors He bestowed upon us.” –Sons and Daughters of God, p. 206.
For additional study
“However courageous and successful a man may be in the performance of a special work, unless he looks constantly to God when circumstances arise to test his faith he will lose his courage. Even after God has given him marked tokens of His power, after he has been strengthened to do God’s work, he will fail unless he trusts implicitly in Omnipotence.” –Sons and Daughters of God, p. 206.
“I asked the angel why there was no more faith and power in Israel. He said, Ye let go of the arm of the Lord too soon. Press your petitions to the throne, and hold on by strong faith. The promises are sure. Believe ye receive the things ye ask for, and ye shall have them.’ I was then pointed to Elijah. He was subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly. His faith endured the trial. Seven times he prayed before the Lord, and at last the cloud was seen. I saw that we had doubted the sure promises, and wounded the Saviour by our lack of faith. Said the angel, ‘Gird the armor about thee, and above all take the shield of faith; for that will guard the heart, the very life, from the fiery darts of the wicked.’ If the enemy can lead the desponding to take their eyes off from Jesus, and look to themselves, and dwell upon their own unworthiness, instead of dwelling upon the worthiness of Jesus, His love, His merits, and His great mercy, he will get away their shield of faith and gain his object; they will be exposed to his fiery temptations. The weak should therefore look to Jesus, and believe in Him; they then exercise faith.” –Early Writings, p. 73.