There is war between Baasha, king of Israel, and Asa, king of Judah. Instead of trusting the Lord, Asa makes a treaty with the king of Syria and the Lord rebukes him saying that the Lord works on behalf of those who rely upon Him – “Because you have relied on the king of Syria, and have not relied on the Lord your God, therefore the army of the king of Syria has escaped from your hand. Were the Ethiopians and the Lubim not a huge army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet, because you relied on the Lord, He delivered them into your hand. For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. In this you have done foolishly; therefore from now on you shall have wars.”
The Lord says against Baasha, because he walks in the ways of Jeroboam, “I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat. The dogs shall eat whoever belongs to Baasha and dies in the city, and the birds of the air shall eat whoever dies in the fields.” And since the Lord always does what He says, when Zimri becomes the king of Northern Israel he kills the entire household of Baasha. However, Zimri only lasts seven days as king and Omri becomes the next king of Israel – “Omri did evil in the eyes of the Lord, and did worse than all who were before him. For he walked in all the ways of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and in his sin by which he had made Israel sin, provoking the Lord God of Israel to anger with their idols.”
After Omari’s death, his son Ahab becomes king of Israel and he “did evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him. And it came to pass, as though it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took as wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians; and he went and served Baal and worshiped him. Then he set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal, which he had built in Samaria. And Ahab made a wooden image. Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him.”
Jezebel brings her false prophets of Baal and Asherah to Northern Israel by the hundreds. Ahab’s wife, Jezebel, isn’t interested in a blended religion like what Jeroboam created, she is trying to completely kill off all of the Lord’s prophets. So the Lord sends the prophet Elijah to Ahab to declare His judgment upon him and Israel because of their wickedness. Elijah tells Ahab there will be a drought, no dew nor rain, which is a direct challenge to their false god Baal since Baal is their god of fertility, whom they believed made the earth produce crops. The judgement of no rain is also one of the consequences that the Lord told his people would happen when He was giving them the blessings for obedience and the curses for disobedience in the wilderness. The Lord said if they turned from Him – “The Lord will change the rain of your land to powder and dust; from the heaven it shall come down on you until you are destroyed” (Deuteronomy 28:24). We learn later in the Story that it is through Elijah’s prayer that the Lord stops and brings the rains – “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit” (James 5:17-18).
Then the Lord sends Elijah to go and live in isolation by the Brook Cherith where God will feed him by ravens. The Hebrew root meaning for Cherith is “cut off”. Elijah is cut off from society having to fully trust in the Lord to miraculously provide for him through the ravens by the brook which is about to dry up. Elijah is cut off from being able to provide for himself or from being able to improve his situation. Elijah must rest in the Lord and wait on Him to act on his behalf. And we will see that the Lord is always faithful to those who trust in Him as we end the reading with the brook drying up. Tomorrow the Lord will send Elijah to a gentile woman where once again He will provide in a miraculous way for those who have faith in Him.
Over in Judah, King Asa, who began well, did not end his life seeking the Lord – “Asa became diseased in his feet, and his malady was severe; yet in his disease he did not seek the Lord, but the physicians.” After Asa dies, his son Jehoshaphat becomes the next king of Judah. Jehoshaphat walks in the ways of the Lord, leads the people in Bible literacy by sending the Levites all throughout Judah with the Book of the Law to teach the people, and he fortifies the cities in Judah.
So at this point in the Story, Judah has returned to the Lord but Israel is steeped in idolatry. Tomorrow the Lord sends Elijah back to Northern Israel to confront Ahab and the false prophets. There is about to be an exciting showdown between Baal and the Lord on Mount Carmel… so keep reading!
(1 Kings 15:16-22, 2 Chronicles 16:1-10, 1 Kings 16:1-34, 1 Kings 15:23-24, 2 Chronicles 16:11-17:19, 1 Kings 17:1-7)