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1 Kings 18:1-40

This is the first study in a series where we are going to revisit famous Old Testament stories. These stories have appeared in lots of kids bibles and Sunday School curriculums over the years. They are stories that are famous for good reason: full of drama and significance, teaching us important things about God. And you might think you know these stories, but there might be some surprises in store for all of us as we revisit them...

Read 1 Kings 18:1-40

and/or watch this 5 minute video which does a pretty good job of sticking quite closely to the biblical text:

  • What are your first impressions of this story? What stood out to you or most got your attention?

  • The story mentions 'the Lord' a number of times, but on first reading He doesn't seem to be the main character of the story. What would the story be like if we retold it from His point of view? (See if you can spot his actions throughout the narrative - what is God doing in each scene, and what does He want to achieve?)

  • How does Elijah act and pray in faith, in line with what God is doing and how God is leading him?

They didn't tell us that at Sunday school...

Central to the plot here is a contest between Baal and 'the LORD', between Baal worshipping Israelites and Elijah (who only worshipped the LORD). It is important to note that the Baal worshipping Israelites are not mono-theists like Elijah (people who believe there is only one god); they would have acknowledged YHWH as a god alongside Baal as well as some other lesser gods. Baal was the god of weather - of lightning, wind, rain and fertility. And clearly he was their favourite god...
  • How does knowing that Baal was the god of weather help us to further unpack what is going on in this story?

  • Does YHWH prove his unique status as the only true God here? Why/why not?

  • Elijah knew the importance of God's people worshipping him alone. Why does that matter so much to God? (see Exodus 20:1-6)

What did you learn?

  • In what ways might we be tempted to add other 'gods' alongside our worship of the true God? [1]

  • In what ways might we need to stand firm in our allegiance to God alone? Are there any things you think or believe or practice which might need re-examining in light of this?

  • What would it look like for you to exhibit the kind of faith (and pray the kind of prayer) that Elijah shows us in this story?

[1] John Olley explains this concept well in his commentary on 1-2 Kings:

In many places today Christian worship is practised alongside traditional rituals or contact with shamans or other spirit mediums, especially in times of sickness or trouble. In the secularised West the combination may be more subtle: the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is seen as important in church and family life, but somehow in the worlds of business, politics, international conflict or religious diversity different rules apply: one must follow ‘the way of business’ or ‘market forces’; ‘love of enemies’ is ‘unrealistic’; God ‘does not belong’ in business or politics; faith ‘belongs to your private life’. Elijah challenges every generation: if Yahweh is the only God, he is God of every sphere of life in every place in every age—but that has not been practised in daily life.

John W. Olley, 1–2 Kings, Bible Speaks Today, p. 173


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