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The Downward Spiral of Israel

Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord more than all who were before him.
–1 Kings 16:30

Elijah was an ordinary man whom God used in extraordinary ways because he dared to follow God’s unique purpose for his life; to influence culture, and stand strong in the face of wicked leaders; to wait on God’s timing; to trust in God’s provision; and to listen to God’s voice in the chaos. And at the end of his life, he stood firm, knowing he gave it all for the cause of the Lord.

To understand the world in which Elijah lived, we have to understand what was going on morally and spiritually in Israel three thousand years ago. It is easy to think, “Back in biblical times, it was a lot easier to live for God than it is today. Today there is such sin and secularism that it’s too hard to live for God. Things were not as bad back then as they are today.” That’s true. Things back then weren’t as bad as today; they were much worse. Just look at the spiritual debauchery and idolatry that characterized the world of Elijah.

The book of 1 Kings begins with the funeral of King David. When David died, the downward slide of Israel began with his son Solomon. Now, Solomon started out strong for God. His heart was wholly devoted to God, but then he disregarded the commands of God. Look at 1 Kings 11:4: “When Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away after other gods; and his heart was not wholly devoted to the Lord his God.” After Solomon died, his son Rehoboam became king, and the downward slide of the nation continued. A civil war occurred in 922 B.C. that split Israel into two parts. The northern kingdom retained the name of Israel. The southern kingdom was called Judah. Elijah lived in the northern kingdom of Israel, which had nineteen kings–and they were all rotten to the core.

The downward slide of Israel that began with Solomon intensified under King Ahab. The Bible says, “Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel than all the kings of Israel who were before him” (1 Kings 16:33). Ahab’s wife, Jezebel, worshipped a foreign god, and she brought the worship of that foreign god, Baal, into Israel.

Who was Baal? His name means “lord” or “owner.” Baal was thought to be the god of the sun, rain, fertility, and climate change. What was particularly odious to God was the way in which people worshipped Baal. They worshipped this false god through sexual perversion, self-mutilation, and child sacrifice. King Ahab built a temple for Baal in the capital city, and he also made a statue to Asherah, who was thought to be the female companion of Baal (1 Kings 16:32-33).

Evil was running rampant throughout the nation, and at that particular time God raised up His representative–a man named Elijah.

Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Choosing the Extraordinary Life” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2017.

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.


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