Rather than reading the Bible through the eyes of modern secularism, this provocative six-part course teaches you to read the Bible through its own eyes—as a record of God’s dealing with the human race. When you read it at this level, you will discover reasons to worship God in areas of life you probably never before associated with “religion.”
© Charles A. Clough 1998
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 4: Disciplinary Truths of God’s Kingdom
Chapter 2: The Kingdom Divided: The Discipline of Lost Blessing
Lesson 79 – Carmel, 1 Kings 21: Naboth’s Vineyard and Eminent Domain
12 Feb 1998
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
I want to spend a few minutes to give the background for a scene we are going to study in 1 Kings 18. This is the famous Elijah at Mount Carmel, very much of a historical event, a crisis event in the history of Israel; a lot of issues were resolved at Mount Carmel. These are pictures I took 20 years ago when I was in Israel. It’s refreshing when you read the text of Scripture to realize that it happened in a place, and that little things you read about actually are there. This might just help strengthen our faith. This is a map of Israel and I show this to remind us of an exaggerated elevation, just to see the general terrain of Israel and why, if you read further, like 1 Kings 20 the remark of the Syrians that Jehovah God is a God of the hills.
Israel is characterized geographically by a great rift; this map shows the rift running down from Lebanon through Lake Chinnereth or in biblical times the Sea of Galilee, down to the Dead Sea. Everything east of that is just kind of high plain and desert. This is Moab, today the nation of Jordan. Here are the hills, and then the hills descend to a flat plain. It was this reason why in 1948 when Israel declared its independence that the Jewish armies fought and lost a lot of people going uphill to take Jerusalem and to take those high lands, and this is still why the Israeli’s are very reluctant to pull back from terrain because the so-called West Bank area is very high so you have the military advantage there. But for our purposes tonight we are concerned with this little bit of land that sticks out here just north of Caesarea; here is the modern city of Haifa. This little just of land is the Carmel range, and north of that is Megiddo and the so-called Valley of Megiddo. This is just another view to get a feel for the height, and why Jerusalem is high and the Canaanite areas were in the lowlands.
This is Mount Carmel were this thing took place and it gives you the idea it is a mountain, and it’s high. In the text you’ll see that Elijah goes up to the mountain and he makes a comment, I can see the clouds coming that are going to bring the rains from the Mediterranean. The range extends all the way out to the sea, so even though on this part of the range we’re not actually that close to the ocean you can see the Mediterranean Sea off in the distance, so when Elijah makes this comment in the text, that’s probably near where he was standing when he said that. This looks west to the city of Haifa and clearly you can see the water there. Again, notice the height, it’s a pretty high place for that area of the world. This is the river Kishon, it looks more like a brook to me but they call it a river, and that figures in the story because the blood of the prophets is going to go down through the Kishon River. It’s a drain off from that range, but it’s very small by our standards.
This looks further east, that’s the valley of Megiddo. That is a great valley, there’s plenty of room to maneuver there, and it’s completely flat. This is another shot pretty close to where Elijah did his thing; it just gives you a sense of where 1 Kings 18 took place. This is looking back at the range, this is the height of the Carmel range, it’s not one mountain, it’s the mountains of Carmel. In the test you read where Elijah ran before the chariot of Ahab, that’s about 23 miles, so when it says he ran before the chariot in 1 Kings 18 and then in 1 Kings 19 he’s tired and depressed, you can kind of get a reason, he basically ran the Boston Marathon here. That’s all for the slide show.
Let’s look at how we get into this 18th chapter. Our whole approach has been to go from key event to key event. We’ve gone through the key event in the Exodus, the conquest and settlement which was a cluster of events, and that’s what we’re really working with here in Kings, another one of these clusters. We looked at the golden era of Solomon; that was the high point of the kingdom. Then we looked at the decline of the kingdom, particularly looking at the division of the kingdom. In the division of the kingdom you had the rejection of the Davidic dynasty. That happened in Solomon and Rehoboam’s day, with Jeroboam. Jeroboam no sooner got to the throne in the north than he rejected the entire temple, rejected the priesthood, rejected the calendar and basically set up a man-made religion with a biblical vocabulary. I mention “with a biblical vocabulary” because when Ahab comes to the throne there’s no pretense of a biblical vocabulary, by this time God Himself has been officially removed as the Great King of the nation; that’s what’s happened.
He married the daughter of a king in Tyre and Sidon who was one of the great proponents in the ancient world for Canaanite religion. He had survived the conquest and settlement and most of this tradition of Canaanite religion had gone north into what is now Lebanon. This is where Jezebel comes from, her father is king and he is priest and she was raised as the daughter of a king and a priest, and she behaved as the daughter of a king and a priest, because she carried on her father’s agenda. We’ll see a little bit about that tonight.
Before we get to 1 Kings 18, turn to page 25 in the notes, I mention that the stories we are looking at have to be seen in light of the Mosaic Law. The prophets are not social reformers. That’s the kind of stuff that you get in a liberal classroom somewhere but that’s not biblical. The prophets are men who acted as, you might say, prosecuting attorneys for God. They were men who brought a fresh Word of God, because keep in mind the Bible was being written in that day. Who was putting all this history together? It was the prophets. The prophets are adding to what the Levites do. The Levites taught the Torah, the first five books. The prophets added to those books. They dare not add to the books promiscuously, they went to the books as the Word of the Lord came to them. We went over the two tests of a prophet, let’s review.
How could you tell a false prophet? Number one test: is the teaching of the false prophet conflicting with the Torah; there was a theological conflict going on between the so-called prophet and Moses. The important fact in test number one is that it didn’t matter whether the guy impressed you with his miracles; fulfilled, actual, real, miracles are not authenticators by themselves. There has to be a theological continuity between the living prophet and the dead prophet, and if there isn’t the theological continuity he’s killed, because being a false prophet was a capital offense. Why do you suppose that was a capital offense? Because it was the life-blood of the nation. The kingdom lived on the basis of the Word of God, so if you messed with the Word of God you were tampering with the very umbilical cord spiritually of the whole nation, so it was a capital offense.
Civil government is invested in Scripture, as we said when we did the Noahic Covenant; the essential feature of civil government is capital punishment. The Word of God says that there’s such a thing as capital punishment. You can debate the application of the capital punishment to particular cases, that’s for the lawyers and the experts in judicial procedures. But to argue that there is no such thing in the New Testament, or post-Jesus, as capital punishment is to say that Romans 13 doesn’t exist. The sword is always there and the sword is the emblem of civil authority. In fact, the New Testament goes so far as to say that the Roman soldiers carrying the sword who were not the righteous most skillful police force that ever lived, these guys are called ministers of God. That same term is used of pastor-teachers of the Word of God. So what is Paul saying? He wasn’t saying that all the soldiers were saved. He’s not arguing that this is a spiritual ministry of God. He’s arguing that this is a ministry of God because it’s a divine institution, just like marriage, just like family, so is the state and the state has a function. The state’s function is to preserve order. You can’t have welfare, growth and prosperity if you don’t have order. You’ve got to have that in order to have the rest of the things.
When I taught this before I made the comment that at one point as part of my military training I had to work with civil defense people and we were in a major metropolitan area and part of my assignment was to work with the emergency operations plans and you get with the police, the fire department, and work these things out. I guess I had never thought it through before but you have to cover all the cases and one case is where you have a bad storm or something that totally disrupts the community and you have looting. Looting just emerges because people are sinners. The first function, if it’s a fire you may have all kinds of injuries and everything else. Ambulances and fire people can’t work if there’s not order, so the first people that have to be in there are the police. First the police and then we worry about ambulances and we worry about fire suppression. It’s the principle that you have to have order. That’s what gives us order and if you don’t have that, you have chaos. So that’s the argument. Sorry but Scripture says that, whether someone has trusted the Lord or not, still the function of government is to enforce that. False prophecy in this day was enforced as a capital offense. So we have this number one proof, theological inconsistency.
The second test of a false prophet, Deuteronomy 18, was that his prophecy did not come to pass. We want to go back and ask ourselves if that really is the case, then in the 1 Kings 18 story, we ought to see these things working. So we want to go to the 1 Kings story and review. Let’s put down these two tests: test number one is a doctrine test, does the doctrine match the Scripture that’s already been given? This doctrine has to fit with the Word of God previously given. Test number two is whether the miraculous work, we’ll just call it the miracle, whether the miracle comes to pass. What you see in 1 Kings 18 is these two tests applied. So let’s turn there.
At this point in the history of the nation the apostasy has gotten so bad that the state is now officially persecuting the loyal prophets, not just ignoring them, now it’s actively persecuting them. We see signs of this here. 1 King 81:1, “Now it came about after many days, that the word of the LORD came to Elijah in the third year, saying, ‘Go, show yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the face of the earth.’” For three years God has withheld rain; the economy of this nation is wrecked. God is a God of grace and God is going to not let the nation be totally destroyed, but the point we want to make is because they’re God’s people, they’re God’s nation, He is a holy righteous Father and He runs His kingdom as a good father runs his family. There are certain authority issues that are going to be resolved, and God will not permit His people to act in certain ways very long without taking corrective action. That’s the story of this whole process.
So for three years the Lord is disciplining and chastening the nation. He isn’t chastening it to the point of extinction, although He will later under certain conditions. The point that He’s saying here is I’ve chastened you three years, now let’s see if I’ve provoked to faith and repentance anybody in this kingdom. On page 25 in the notes, this is somewhat of an artificial form, but I quote it only because it’s interesting from the standpoint of Jewish tradition. “… the rabbinical Haggadah” says, this is a story of what went on in Elijah’s day. It’s really patterned after Deuteronomy, so you can understand that some of this may be exaggerated, but nevertheless it was a report in Jewish tradition of what happened.
“In the first year everything stored in the houses was eaten up. In the second, the people supported themselves with what they could scrape together in the fields. The flesh of the clean animals sufficed for the third year; in the fourth the sufferers resorted to the unclean animals; in the fifth, to the reptiles and insects; and in the sixth the monstrous thing happened that women, crazed by hunger, consumed their own children as food…. In the seventh year, men sought to gnaw the flesh from their own bones.”
If you compare that with Deuteronomy 26 and 28 you have the outplaying of this awful drought, and God is going to bless now, the chastening has gone on long enough and He’s going to bless, but in doing this several factors come to light. So watch what happens. 1 Kings 18:2, “So Elijah went to show himself to Ahab. Now the famine was severe in Samaria.  And Ahab called Obadiah who was over the household.” Notice this, this is interesting, think about verse 3, here’s the king of the northern kingdom, he has ignored the prophets. We said last time there’s evidence in previous chapters of the prophetic class in the north being basically silent; they were not actively speaking out. The only people actively speaking out against Ahab came from the south into the north to carry the message of the Word of God. But that is not to say there wasn’t a set of believing prophets operating in the north. Interestingly, one of the great believers in that day of suffering was none other than one of the managers in the bureaucracy of Ahab.
So it shows you in spite of the fact that Ahab came to office with a queen who was importing her foreign agenda, her pagan agenda, and trying to impose it upon the nation, he was meeting with resistance inside his own bureaucracy. Here one of his top officers, and he’s a believer, it says “(Now Obadiah feared the LORD greatly;  for it came about, when Jezebel destroyed the prophets of the LORD, that Obadiah took a hundred prophets and hid them by fifties in a cave, and provided them with bread and water).  Then Ahab said to Obadiah, ‘Go through the land to all the springs of water and to all the valleys; perhaps we will find grass and keep the horses and mules alive, and not have to kill some of the cattle.” So they go out to survey it, and notice in verse 6 that evidently he’s so high up in the bureaucracy that Ahab almost considers him a co-king, which is sort of interesting that this goes on, all the while Jezebel is out to kill these guys.
The story goes on in verses 7-16 to show how he meets Elijah, how he’s afraid that if he goes back and tells Ahab that he met Elijah, then Ahab will get mad at him because he was supposed to have cleaned all these people out and he didn’t. Elijah says, verse 17, one of the great meetings, this would be a great one for a film, “And it came about, when Ahab saw Elijah that Ahab said to him, ‘Is this you, you troubler of Israel?’ ” Things weren’t too friendly at this point because the prophets were considered as a threat to the unity of the country. Why is that? Why were the prophets and the believers in the northern kingdom considered a threat by Ahab? What had Ahab inherited from Jeroboam? A foreign religion, a man-made religion. Why was that religion there? Because they held to a two-kingdom, two-religion doctrine. In other words God said let the nation be divided into north and south but it will be unified by common adherence to the Word of God. These men were afraid of their political insecurity and so what they decided to do is that if there were going to be two kingdoms there would be two faiths. And by Ahab’s time there had come to be two gods.
So this is time for a confrontation and we’re going to see these two tests applied on Mount Carmel. In verse 19 he had told him, “Now then send and gather to me all Israel at Mount Carmel, together with 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of the Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.” He wants a gathering of the people, so whatever this refutation is going to be, he’s calling men and women to come from all over the northern kingdom to witness this. This is going to be quite the gathering. This is not a small group of people; these are thousands of people in the northern kingdom, they are to come because an issue has to be decided: are we or are we not people of the kingdom of God? Are we or are we not going to worship the God of this kingdom? Elijah is going to take everybody on.
Verse 20, “So Ahab sent a message among all the sons of Israel and brought the prophets together at Mount Carmel.  And Elijah came near to all the people, and said, ‘How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the LORD be God, follow Him; but if Baal, then follow him.’ But the people did not answer a word.  Then Elijah said to the people, ‘I alone am left the prophet of the LORD, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men.” And he goes through this ritual. Let’s watch what he does.  “Now let them give us two oxen; and let them choose one ox for themselves and cut it up, and place it on the wood, but put no fire under it; and I will prepare the other ox, and lay it on the wood, and I will not put a fire under it.  Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD, and the God who answers by fire, He is God.’ And all the people answered and said ‘That is a good idea.’
Can you see one of these tests coming up? Which of those two tests is he pulling on? Number two, because he’s saying if I’m a prophet my word shall come to pass. So he’s using the structure that’s already been there for centuries embedded in the Word of God, this is guy is not inventing anything new. The more you know the Bible the more you see that the New Testament isn’t really new, there’s a lot in the New Testament that’s the same thing as the Old Testament, it just seems to be new because we never read the Old Testament. It’s new to us.  So Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, ‘Choose one ox for yourselves and prepare it first for you are many, and call on the name of your god, but put no fire under it.” He lets them have complete control of this experiment, notice the length that he goes to, he says you pick your own thing.
Verse 26, “Then they took the ox which was given them and they prepared it and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying ‘O Baal, answer us.’ But there was no voice and no one answered. And they leaped about the altar which they made.  And it came about at noon, that Elijah mocked them,” now here’s one of the great passages of Scripture because Elijah is looked upon in the Bible as sort of like John the Baptist. Certain of these prophets were not kind of nice in their approach; this is not the Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People approach that he’s using here. But he’s using it for a purpose. He’s up against this very serious issue; at stake here is the entire presupposition behind the allegiance of the people of the northern kingdom. He’s not even witnessing to one person, he is witnessing publicly to the entire nation, and when he’s in that sort of situation he’s going to go after his target. It’s going to be a complete dismantling of a false system of religion.
Now he begins to couch it in the silliness in which it should be couched. He said, “‘Call out with a loud voice, for he is a god; either his is occupied or gone aside, or is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and needs to be awakened.” The interesting thing about all of those activities is that they’re all very human; they’re all typical of mortal fallen people. Do you notice after he says “call out with a loud voice” he puts a little clause in there, he tells you this is why you ought to, “for he is a god,” it’s sarcasm, really we would translate that, “really, he’s a god isn’t he?” Well, maybe he’s out for lunch, why don’t you call a little louder, it’s noon time, maybe he’s taking a lunch break? So he does this and obviously he’s able to project his voice over so thousands of people are hearing him.
Then he decides that he’s going to do his thing. In verses 32, 33, 34, 35, notice the elaborate precautions he takes to avoid any hint that this is a trick. He’s not arguing that there’s some sleight of hand magic trick that he’s pulling off here in front of everybody. He’s not trying to say I’m a better magician than the other guys. This is going to be genuine. So he creates this experiment that can be explained only in terms of a divine work. This is why in verses 33 and 34 he talks about soaking it in water, lest anybody say that this whole thing is just a joke. We’ve heard skeptics say what he did was he put oil and petroleum in the water and then he dropped a hot brand into it. No matter what you do somebody always has some cute way of getting around the Word of God.
Verse 36, “Then it came about at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice,” so he’s had hours, this whole process of pouring water started midafternoon at the very latest. We’re talking three or four hours of soaking in this water before this whole thing starts. And dramatically he’s waiting for the sun to start setting to lower the skylight down so when God answers with fire it’s going to be very clear what He’s doing. We said there’s two tests for a false prophet, not one, two. Test number two was that the prophecy would come to pass. Test number one is doctrinal consistency. What do you notice him doing in verse 36? Notice the basis of his prayer and things he omits from the prayer.
This is one of the great prayers of Scripture. “It came about at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near and said, ‘O Jehovah,’” let’s break this prayer up and see what he’s doing. “’O Jehovah, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel” or Jacob, stop there, with that title, what does he have in his head? One of the great covenants, the Abrahamic Covenant. The Abrahamic Covenant set up all the mechanics for the life of the nation, it was the call of God on the nation, the Abrahamic Covenant was the election covenant, it teaches us justification by faith, it teaches us the whole issue of election and it teaches us what faith looks like. It’s these elements that are the foundation of Israel.
Notice what he doesn’t refer to here? In this prayer of verse 36 he’s not mentioning Mount Sinai; he’s not mentioning the Law Code. He could have, the drought and the whole issue was the discipline effect of the law. Why do you suppose he dwells, in an hour of crisis, not on the Mosaic Law Code but on the prior Abrahamic Covenant? What did that covenant do that the Mosaic Law never could do? It was the covenant that guaranteed the survival of the nation; remember land, seed and blessing? Which is the covenant that expresses God’s sovereign will in history? The Abrahamic Covenant. So that’s the election covenant. Here he is, he’s praying that the nation move on in history on God’s plan and His timetable, but he’s building the foundation for this progress of the nation in history not upon the Law but upon Abraham. That’s why Paul in the New Testament, when he starts talking about Abraham in Romans, talking about justification and the law of salvation doesn’t come through the law. People act like Paul made this up, or that nobody understood this before the Damascus road. That’s false. If you read the Old Testament it’s clear that these prophets themselves knew. It wasn’t the law itself that gave you the power. You had to have a personal relationship with the God of the law. And the code word when you see that is “circumcised heart.” That’s an Old Testament term that corresponds in the New Testament to our term regeneration. They had something parallel to what we call regeneration; they called it circumcision of the heart, spiritual surgery that the Holy Spirit did to believers under the Old Testament. These people trusted just like you and I trust in the Lord. Their confidence wasn’t in the law. They respected the law because the law spelled out what God wanted them to do, but their trust wasn’t in their great performance of what God wanted them to do; their trust was that God was going to have the victory ultimately in spite of what they did.
In this prayer he comes back to the theology of the first five books of the Bible and particularly the theology of Genesis. “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, today let it be known,” now he moves to identifying the Mosaic Covenant a little bit, “let it be known that Thou art God in Israel,” and here the word “Israel” means the nation, in the previous clause “Israel” was the name for Jacob, the individual man, here it refers to the nation at large, “let it be known that Thou art God in Israel,” in other words, God has called this nation into existence, and there’s a Great King above all the little human kings, so he’s arguing that God, you are the King here, show yourself. “…and that I am Thy servant, and that I have done all these things at Thy word.”
Verse 37, “Answer me, O LORD, answer me,” and notice again verse 37 the motive for the answer, it isn’t that you may glorify me and I can be a great prophet and I get lots of media attention. That’s not the motive here. He says “answer me, O LORD, that this people may know that Thou, O LORD, art God, and that Thou hast turned their heart back again.” Isn’t that interesting? Look at that last phrase, he’s basically telling about a revival in the nation. But notice how the revival has to take place? The revival has to take place going back to the basics of who God is. Revival doesn’t come just because people decide to be good, or in some human approach. All the revivals in Scripture happen because of who and what God is, and it behooves us to remember this. When we go back to who and what God is, let’s look at what He is. God is sovereign, Baal is not sovereign, Baal is nature forces. How do we know Baal isn’t sovereign? They’ve been talking to him for three hours and nothing happens. So either he’s deaf, he’s not there, in which case he’s not omnipresent, or he can’t pull it off.
Notice what Elijah is really doing is he’s going over and reminding the people of these attributes that God has. He has love, He is omniscient, He is omnipotent, He is omnipresent, immutable, eternal, and all the other attributes. That’s who God is. And what he’s arguing for is in revival what is prominent is who God is, not what people are doing, whether people are doing this or that, rolling down the aisle, raising their hand, all this is just human response and it can take a variety of forms based on individual personalities. But what unites them is the fact that there’s a clear perception of who our God is. And if that perception is clear then the whole issue of sin is clear, because they can’t perceive God like this and just stand casually in His presence. If that is clear that takes care of the sin issue, you can’t get spiritual conviction of sin by looking at it horizontally as a social problem, and looking at this, oh, this sin is so bad, etc. etc. etc.
Remember what we said in Psalm 51? What did David say when he sinned? Adultery and murder, and he said “Against thee, and thee only, have I sinned.” I’ve done wrong against people but I sin against God. In that Psalm, the Psalm of confession, that was the key issue, not what he’d done to Bathsheba, not what he’d done to Uriah. Even though he had done those things, it’s not making light of that, it’s simply saying you can never get back to God looking horizontally. You have to get back to God looking vertically. When we’re fleeing from God in our sin and we’re out of fellowship, we don’t want to come back to fellowship. We’ve all gone through that. The last thing on your heart, you kind of know you ought to, but right now you’re going to enjoy it while it lasts. What has to happen? God has to speak through circumstances, other people, and say yoo-hoo, wake up some how.
What is Elijah doing on Mount Carmel to the nation at large right now? This is a wakeup call. That’s what it is. What he’s arguing for is that a national revival in this point in Israel’s history can occur, O Lord, if you will show Yourself. It may not last more than 50 years, or 15 years, but there could be a great revival here if You would just show Yourself. I’m taking my reputation in hand, I’m standing up here alone, I’ve got 450 to 1 odds, and I’m trusting You to come through. Verse 38, a good story always has a great ending, God comes through. Notice He comes through not only the fire, the wood, the stones and the dust, but the water that was in the trench was so hot it took the water off. “Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.” Verse 39, obviously the response, and people say Oh, he is God, He is God. “And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, ‘The LORD, He is God; the LORD, He is God.’”
In verse 40, let’s go back to our first point, these tests. What were these tests for? To convict the false prophet. What was the punishment for a false prophet? Capital punishment. What do you see being administered here? “Then Elijah said to them, ‘Seize the prophets of Baal; do not let one of them escape.’ So they seized them; and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there.  Now Elijah said to Ahab, ‘God up, eat and drink; for there is the sound of the roar of a heavy shower.’  So Ahab went up to eat and drink. But Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he crouched down on the earth, and put his face between his knees.  And he said to his servant, ‘Go up now, look toward the sea.’ So he went up and looked and said, ‘There is nothing.’ And he said, ‘Go back’ seven times.” He’s going up on the height of that mountain, looking over what is now the city of Haifa, looking out to the Mediterranean.
In verse 44 the report comes back, here come the clouds, “And it came about the seventh time, that he said, “Behold, a cloud as small as a man’s hand is coming up from the sea.’ And he said, ‘Go up, say to Ahab, Prepare your chariot and go down, so that the heavy shower does not stop you.’  So it came about in a little while, that the sky grew black with clouds and wind, and there was a heavy shower. And Ahab rode and went to Jezreel.” Then this amazing thing in verse 46, “Then the hand of the LORD was on Elijah, and he girded up his loins and outran Ahab to Jezreel.” Twenty three plus miles! That’s one of the two incidents we want to see, the incident of Carmel.
Review: what did the incident of Carmel do? It blasted the apostasy right at its very core by assaulting the nature of the idol. He took it on, he didn’t waste time on peripherals, gee, we don’t believe the false prophets because they wear their cloaks differently than we do, or they part their hair different, or some other thing. That wasn’t the issue. The issue was which God do they worship, what is their central presupposition, is it grounded on the Word of God or is it the word of men. That’s the issue, and that’s the issue he called the people back to.
There are so many incidents in this book and I’m only going to show one more in this cycle of Elijah, 1 Kings 21, because there’s another consequence of false religion and false prophecy. Whenever you have the word of man and you have the Word of God demeaned, put aside, and not taken seriously, it creates a vacuum, and into that vacuum will come the word of man and the authority of men. Inevitably in history when the Word of God gets weak the state becomes strong, in the bad sense. The state becomes a super power, because God isn’t there, the Word of God isn’t there, now the state becomes the arbiter absolutely of what’s right and what’s wrong, knowledge of good and evil; the state becomes God walking on earth.
In 1 Kings 21:2 we have an incident that shows that, “And Ahab spoke to Naboth, saying, ‘Give me your vineyard, that I may have it for a vegetable garden because it is close beside my house, and I will give you a better vineyard than it in its place; if you like, I will give you the price of it in money.” That’s very analogous to something the state does today. If the state wants to run Route 24 through your backyard, they have a doctrine which they can do that. You realize that when you own property you do not, in pagan lands, including our land, you do not have absolute title to the property under your feet. There’s a legal term that lawyers have called eminent domain; that’s a doctrine that says the state can take what it wants to, whether you own it or not. Usually it’s not phrased quite so bluntly as that. [blank spot]
… and he’s going to pull this stunt now with Naboth, that’s the issue. In verse 3 they’ve got a problem because in God’s kingdom, unlike a pagan kingdom, property is not controlled ultimately by the state, property in the eminent domain clause attaches to whom? Who gave Israel the land? God did. So who ultimately owns the land? God does. In the early chapters of Joshua and Judges, remember in Joshua we had those boring things about the tribe of Gad lived from here to there, and they went from this city to that city… why do we have to go through all this stuff, can’t we get into some good stuff? We said there was a reason for that. That was the real estate deeds of the families of those tribes, that God gave the land, He gave the deed as the owner of that land, to the people. A powerful spiritual truth comes out of all this, so follow my reasoning.
The land was ultimately given by God to tribes, not to the king. What did He say in 1 Samuel 8? If you get a king, he’s going to take your land. There was no such thing as eminent domain inside the boundaries of the kingdom of God, because God has eminent domain. That’s why in the Psalms, when you read “O Lord, You own the cattle on a thousand hills,” that’s not just poetry. God owns them because by virtue of His creation, and secondly, by virtue of His redemption. The land is completely God’s. Verse 3, “But Naboth said to Ahab, ‘The LORD forbid me that I should give you,” and he uses a very precise word, God forbid “that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers.” What’s he arguing for is that the title to the land was given to his family by God. This gives you a tremendous view, if you think about it, of the tremendous freedom that the kingdom of God gave people. God gave freedom like man has never seen. We have never, ever, including our own country, ever had absolute ownership of property like this. Never! We don’t now and we never will. But here families possessed an eternal title to that land, because God gave it to them. Naboth isn’t going to do it because he’s hot man on the block now.
This is an interesting character study, he comes back and he pouts. Verse 4, “So Ahab came into his house sullen and vexed because of the word which Naboth the Jezreelite had spoken to him; for he said ‘I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers.’ And he lay down on his bed and turned away his face and ate no food.” Poor boy, he’s having a pity party here. And along came Jezebel, verse 5, “But Jezebel his wife came to him and said to him, ‘How is it that your spirit is so sullen that you are not eating food?’  So he said to her, ‘Because I spoke to Naboth the Jezreelite,” and he didn’t give me my toy…[“But he said’ I will not give you my vineyard.’”] Verse 7, “And Jezebel his wife said to him, ‘Do you now reign over Israel? Arise, eat bread, and let your heart be joyful; I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.’” See the strength in this marriage came from the woman. Jezebel called the shots here, and she was the one who had her agenda, and here comes her dad’s agenda. He probably took one look at Ahab when he asked for the hand of his daughter and said man, this guy’s a sucker, sure you can have my daughter and he’s working out the deals where he can take another country down south of him.
So here she is and in verses 8, 9, 10, she works with her attorneys. We’re going to pull a deal in the court system here, get this all cleaned out. “So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name and sealed them with his seal, and sent letters to the elders and to the nobles who were living with Naboth in his city.  Now she wrote in the letters, saying, ‘Proclaim a fast, and seat Naboth at the head of the people;’  and seat two worthless men before him, and let them testify against him, saying, ‘You cursed God and the king.’ Then take him out and stone him to death.” Very simple, you’ve got two witnesses, invoke such and such clause of the law and you’ve got it made. Legal shenanigans—here they are. It’s been going on for centuries. So she kills him.
God has something to say about this, verse 16, “And it came about when Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, that Ahab arose to go down” and get his little toy, “to the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, to take possession of it.  Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying,  Arise, go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, who is in Samaria; behold, he is in the vineyard of Naboth where he has gone down to take possession of it.  And you shall speak to him, saying, ‘Have you murdered, and also taken possession?’” Here’s the sentence of God on him. “And you shall speak to him, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD, ‘In the place where the dogs licked up the blood of Naboth the dogs shall lick up your blood, even yours.’” Elijah really had some great messages; these were fantastic sermons that were so extremely popular to the people.
Verse 21, “Behold, I will bring evil upon you, and will utterly sweep you away, and will cut off from Ahab every male, both bond and free in Israel;  and I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, because of the provocation with which you have provoked Me to anger, and because you have made Israel sin.” What is he saying? What does a king always want besides a kingdom? He wants a dynasty. So what does he mean when he says your house will be like the house of Jeroboam, like the house of Baasha? He’s saying you won’t have any dynasty, I’m going to take your dynasty away from you, I offered you a dynasty, I offered you the kingdom just like I’ve offered all these guys. This is about dynasty number four in the northern kingdom. How many dynasties have they had in the southern kingdom? One. Why? What’s the covenant, the election, the sovereign covenant that controls the southern kingdom? The Davidic Covenant. There will always be a Davidic dynasty. But in the north where there is no protective sovereign word from God, what’s happening to the dynasties. One after another, after another, after another, no stability, nothing. Why? Because it’s the Word of God in it’s sovereign power that ultimately gives stability.
This goes on, then we have a fulfillment of this prophecy. Notice also in the same text, verse 23, “And of Jezebel also has the LORD spoken, saying, ‘The dogs shall eat Jezebel in the district of Jezreel.’ ” Let’s see how this played out. Verse 19 is the death of Ahab, turn to 1 Kings 22:34, right in the middle of a battle, Ahab’s got a disguise on trying to avoid getting shot, and lo and behold, “Now a certain man drew his bow at random,” notice the text, this is all accidental, (quote unquote), “and struck the king of Israel in a joint of the armor. So he said to the driver of his chariot, ‘Turn around, and take me out of the battle; for I am severely wounded.’  And the battle raged that day, and the king was propped up in his chariot in front of the Syrians, and died at evening, and the blood from the wound ran into the bottom of the chariot.  Then a cry passed throughout the army close to sunset, saying, ‘Every man to his city and every man to his country.’  So the king died and was brought to Samaria, and they buried the king in Samaria.”
Verse 38, here’s the fulfillment of the prophecy, “And they washed the chariot by the pool of Samaria, and the dogs licked up his blood, and by the way, the whores bathed themselves there, “(now the harlots bathed themselves there), according to the word of the LORD which He spoke.” So here’s the prophecy of Elijah and it came to pass because he’s a genuine prophet.
He also made a prophecy about Jezebel; in 2 Kings 9:30 we see what happened to that prophecy. After Ahab another man ascends the throne who is God’s clean-up man in the north for a while, his name is Jehu. “When Jehu came to Jezreel, Jezebel heard of it, and she painted her eyes and adorned her head, and looked out the window.  And as Jehu entered the gate, she said, ‘Is it well, Zimri, your master’s murderer?’  Then he lifted up his face to the window and said, ‘Who is on my side? Who?’ And two or three officials looked down at him.  And he said, ‘Throw her down.’ So they threw her down, and some of her blood was sprinkled on the wall and on the horses, and he trampled her under foot.  When he came in, he ate and drank; and he said, ‘See now to this cursed woman and bury her, for she is a king’s daughter.’  And they went to bury her, but they found no more of her than the skull and the feet and the palms of her hands.  Therefore they returned and told him. And he said, ‘This is the word of the LORD, which He spoke by His servant, Elijah the Tishbite, saying, ‘In the property of Jezreel the dogs shall eat the flesh of Jezebel.” That’s how God took care of that little problem in His kingdom.
When you sing “Our God reigns,” think about it, that’s our God and that’s how He reigns; that’s how serious He is about His kingdom will exclude evil. We’ll conclude with the notes on page 28. I tried to summarize this section because we’re going to get into some of the teaching of sanctification in the Christian life that we draw out of this history. This is a long quote from a great book, unfortunately it’s out of print, it’s called Greatness of the Kingdom, by Alva McClain. It’s one of the finest books ever written on the kingdom of God by a man who taught many years at Winona Lake, Grace Theological Seminary. Many people have said that this book is the finest book ever written in all of church history on the kingdom of God.
“This principle [of man’s well-being conditioned by obedience or disobedience to God] holds good generally,” what he’s talking about here is this; people argue there is no God that’s holy and good in history because the evil people get away with evil and the good people don’t get blessed. That’s the background for his comment. Watch how he approaches this, talking about Israel in particular, not the United States, not England, Rome, Babylon, just Israel and the Mosaic Law Code, Deuteronomy 28 blessing and cursing plus Leviticus 26, blessing and cursing. “This principle of man’s well-being conditioned by obedience or disobedience to God] holds good generally, in all nations in every age. But its operation has often been obscured to human eyes by the time ‘lag’ between the moral breach and the infliction of the sanction. While it is always true that the nation which has ‘sown the wind’ shall also certainly ‘reap the whirlwind’ (Hosea 8:7), the harvest is generally and mercifully long delayed (2 Peter 3:9); and for this very reason men often fail to see the causal connection. Furthermore, in the general history of nations, the divine penalties are inflicted through secondary causes behind the veil of providential control (Jeremiah 51:28-30).” It’s masked. “For these reasons the skeptical have been able to question the existence of any divinely ordained moral government in human history; the Lord’s own people at times have been greatly troubled and perplexed by the problem (Habakkuk 1:1-4).”
“But in the case of the nation Israel in her Mediatorial Kingdom of history,” which is his term for Moses in 1400 BC to the fall in 586 BC, those two dates mark that Mediatorial Kingdom, “But in the case of the nation Israel in her Mediatorial Kingdom of history, the moral government of Jehovah was not only declared at Sinai but also was confirmed spectacularly in the recorded history of that kingdom by means of divine sanctions immediately imposed.” Underline that, immediately imposed. No time lags; that’s the difference between the dispensation of Israel and the dispensation of the church today. God doesn’t work that way today, but He did here. “…divine sanctions immediately imposed. And these sanctions were generally supernatural; either by the withdrawal of the promised supernatural protection from the ordinary hazards of human life in a fallen world, or by the positive infliction of supernatural punishment…. This close and immediate connection between the well-being of the chosen nation and their moral and spiritual attitude is most clearly summarized in Deuteronomy (cf. chapters 28-30.)”
So that’s the parting big picture of this phase of history that we’re looking at. We’re looking at God’s chastening, God’s disciplining, within the household of faith; within His nation. Why? Because He’s chosen that nation to be a nation that will ultimately be separated from evil and the process of separating that nation from evil is a painful, painful process.
Question asked: Clough replies: “High places” is almost a code word in the Old Testament for apostasy. It’s because people had a memory, I believe either of Ararat and Eden or both. You see the tendency in pagan architecture to the pyramid and the tower, everybody wants to get up, everybody wants to elevate, the idea is the scale of being, and the idea that they can become like God Most High. So when God speaks it’s on a mountain, usually. Here you saw Carmel and one of the reasons I showed you the pictures is clearly that Carmel range dominates the landscape. There’s no higher land than that. Jerusalem is high. Mt. Sinai is high. Even in the New Testament where does Jesus give His key sermon, the Sermon on the Mount? So it’s true that God speaks from mountains. It’s rather, the “high places” apparently were small pinnacles of land and they would build their altars on these to be seen. It’s the same principle, every time I drive down the beltway when you head west, there’s the angel Moroni sitting there; the Mormons do the same thing, put it in a high place so you can see it. They do that, I guess, because intuitively it’s a way of advertising, a way of showing your faith in public, and that’s why Solomon was compromised because… you’ll see the little phrase sometimes in the Old Testament, he “sacrificed in high places,” that’s illegitimate because God told them where to sacrifice, He wanted sacrifice at the temple or the tabernacle. When you see that phrase, what it’s saying is that I’ll sacrifice, I’ll do my worship however I want, I’m not bound by the Word, I’ll decide where I’m going to worship and how. So it comes across in a very physical way there, but the spirit behind it is very apostate.
Question asked: Clough replies: I’m not aware of any, the question is about the degeneration of Tyre because earlier Hiram of Tyre was a friend of David and Solomon’s and then you have this idiot, Ethbaal there, the problem in all this history is to synchronize what you’re picking up in archeology and documents with the chronology of Israel. You’re always perennially fighting this problem of trying to sync it, so I am not aware, even that problem aside, probably there are documents that show the history of Tyre, I’m just not aware of them. It’s just at this time it’s very clear that Baalism had been dominated, and later become so encrusted that Ezekiel made that prophecy depicting the very king of Tyre in Ezekiel 28 as Satan himself. The thing that gives you kind of a flavor for what might have gone wrong is that Tyre and Sidon were seaports and they were part of a civilization which came down through history to the time of the New Testament as the Phoenicians. The Phoenicians were people who were explorers, they were businessmen, they were cartographers, they mapped the world, they went all over the world and they were very wealthy people. They had commerce with all the peoples of the world, and the interesting idea of him being a Satan figure in Ezekiel 28 is that he’s doing what Babylon does in the book of Revelation; Babylon had business relations with all the kingdoms of the world, so it’s a world commerce type thing.
Question asked: Clough replies: The widow Zarephath, that story has deep significance to it. It’s the same problem, when you read these stories, we have to when we read this portion of the Bible the benefit of the doubt, that there’s some sort of a rational. The book of Kings is actually an argument. We’re used to books like Paul wrote in Romans, where it’s a very didactic kind of an argument. But Kings and Samuel are no less books that argue a case. They’re sort of like in the style of the Gospels. There’s a case made by the way they put history together, and stories are sequenced in certain ways. Sometimes they’ll be out of chronological relationship but they’re sequenced in a curious way and that’s because the author, under the Holy Spirit, is arguing a case. The case that’s being argued here, I like Dr. Bronner’s example, the case that’s being argued here is a refutation of Baalism once and for all. Baal was the god would provide rain, Baal was a god who would provide life, Baal was the god who was said to provide the fruit of the vine, all these things. And here you have a widow, she’s lost life, she is penniless, she’s helpless, you’ve got the grain problem and you’ve got all these problems and Baal isn’t solving them. How does her problem get fixed? By identification with the prophet of Jehovah. So these stories are saying that Jehovah is the God who provides, over against… and he provides exactly the things that Baal is supposed to be a specialist in. So all these stories, I believe, are part of the argument of the book.
Probably Kings was written when the nation fell, so Kings is a backward look at their history after they went down, and basically God is saying okay, you guys, I put up with you for four or five hundred years, I’ve had to discipline you, I’ve had to put you into exile, you’ve seen your families destroyed, you’ve seen your property gone, you’re suffering all kinds of horrors in captivity, now let me tell you the story of what went wrong. And Kings is an analysis of what went wrong, because like we talked last week, probably if we lived in the midst of it we wouldn’t see it because it was so slowly developing. It was masked. If we had the Holy Spirit teaching us, warning bells should have gone off, but still, by and large, everybody was sleeping through this. Then the prophets had to speak and say there’s a reason, don’t blame God because you’re suffering, here’s what happened. That’s the big argument in all those stories.
Question asked: Clough replies: I am not equipped to answer that question because I haven’t studied that to my satisfaction, but obviously there are reasons for it. Dan wasn’t the slickest tribe that ever walked the face of the earth, I know that from Old Testament history, because they were the ones that started this, half of the cult was right on their home territory. But I’m not sure because I’m not that much of a student in that area, so I can’t answer that.
Question asked: Clough replies: Jesus refers to it in almost every book of the Bible at some point in His ministry, and this particular area, Jesus talks about Elijah several places. He doesn’t, to my knowledge He doesn’t speak with specifics about the Mount Carmel incident that we talked about tonight, but certainly Elijah is well-known to Jesus. In fact, He makes the problematic statement that really has you wondering, He says, O Israel, if you had accepted Me, then John the Baptist was Elijah. Run that one through the computer and see what you get. That’s one of those “what ifs? If you had accepted Me, and we could start the kingdom now, then the prophet who brought Me in would have been Elijah. That would have been necessary because Elijah has to come before the Messiah. So how could John the Baptist be Elijah? It gets into all kinds of neat things. Somehow those two guys came out of the same exact real estate, both of them had the same kind of ministry, both of them were very similar in their personalities, and it is said in the New Testament that John had the spirit of Elijah. Remember, we saw how nasty he was to Ahab here. Do you remember in the New Testament when the Pharisees come out, they say gee John, what’s going on? He says who told you snakes to come out here. So it’s the same kind of response.
Next week we’ll get into the doctrine more.