King Ahab and Queen Jezebel ruled the Northern Kingdom of Israel from Samaria. God was sending no rain on the land because they disobeyed God’s commands and tried to get others in Israel to do the same.
They even tried to get rid of all the prophets who were speaking the truth about God. Obadiah was in charge of their palace, but he was loyal to God and hid the prophets from the wicked king and queen.
As Obadiah was walking from the palace one day, he met Elijah. Shocked, Obadiah asked, “Is that really you, Elijah?”
“Yes, Elijah replied. “Go tell King Ahab I am back in town.”
“Are you crazy?” Obadiah asked in shock. “Ahab has been looking everywhere for you. You’ll be in big trouble if he catches you here.”
“Don’t worry about that,” Elijah insisted. “Tell him I’m back and I want to meet.”
When Ahab heard from Obadiah where to find Elijah, he immediately went to see him, muttering angrily under his breath the whole way there.
“There you are!” Ahab shouted as he saw Elijah approaching. “The biggest troublemaker in all of Israel! You’re the reason we have no rain.”
“I’m not the troublemaker,” Elijah retorted. “You are. The land has no rain because of what you have done, I am just God’s messenger.”
Ahab turned red with anger.
“But let’s settle this once and for all,” Elijah insisted. “Call all the prophets of your gods. We’ll have a little contest.”
So Ahab brought the 400 prophets who were telling the Israelites to worship the statues of Baal and Asherah. They gathered on Mount Carmel as Elijah requested.
“You can’t have it both ways,” Elijah told the large crowd that had gathered to watch the competition. “You can either worship Baal or worship the Lord! But you can’t do both.”
Elijah built an altar and so did the prophets of Baal. Elijah said that they should each take turns praying for fire to come down from heaven, and whoever’s prayer was answered, that would be a sign that they were preaching about the true God.
Elijah sat down. “You go first,” he offered.
So the prophets of Baal prayed. Nothing happened. They danced around. Nothing happened. They shouted. Nothing happened.
After several hours, Elijah began to make fun of them. “Pray louder!” he called out. “Baal must not be able to hear you. Maybe he’s taking a nap. Or maybe he went for a walk somewhere. Oh, I know!” he giggled out. “Maybe he had to go to the bathroom!”
The prophets prayed louder. They jumped up and down and cried out and made themselves look ridiculous. But still nothing happened.
When it was Elijah’s turn, he wanted to make sure everyone could see God was truly performing a miracle. Lightning from heaven on a clear day would already be impressive. But Elijah had the wood of the alter soaked in water, so that it would be impossible for it to catch fire, even if a torch were thrown onto it.
Elijah prayed and then immediately God sent fire down from heaven. It miraculously lit the wet wood, and burned up the sacrifice.
Everyone gasped at the double-miracle. The people all bowed down and worshiped God. “God is truly all-powerful!” they cried out.
As the false prophets all began to run away and Ahab shook with rage at how he had been humiliated, Elijah simply walked up to him and whispered, “You’d better get home now…God is ready to send rain. And it will be quite a storm!”