The Utility Room: God's Great Water Heater

The Story of Elijah and the Altar

I Kings Chapter 18

Elijah was a great prophet of God who lived during the times of the Kings of Israel . The kingdom of Israel had been divided into two kingdoms, Israel in the north and Judah in the south, because of the excessive extravagance and oppression of the people by Solomon's son Rehoboam. Elijah lived in the northern kingdom Israel and tried to bring the nation back to righteousness by his preaching and miracles that were done in answer to his prayers.

Because of the strong and fierce neighboring nations who wanted to overthrow the Israelite kingdom the kings of Israel entered into military alliances with friendly nations. They often married the daughters of the surrounding kings so that their fathers-in-law would not go to war against them because the children of the Kings of Israel were the grandchildren of those foreign kings. One of those grandchildren would become the new king of Israel someday.

One of the descendants of King David who became king of Israel was King Ahab. King Ahab had married Jezebel, a particularly beautiful but especially evil daughter of one of the neighboring kings. Jezebel brought statues of her false god Baal with her when she married King Ahab. She established temples for the worship of the false god Baal and brought four hundred fifty priests of Baal with her so that she could entice the citizens of Israel to turn from the worship of the one true God, the LORD God, to follow the prophets of Baal.

Jezebel was extremely selfish and encouraged her husband king Ahab to do evil things so that he could take away the possessions of other people and use them himself. For example, when a farmer named Naboth refused to sell his vineyard to King Ahab Jezebel had her henchmen kill Naboth so that King Ahab could confiscate the vineyard.

The LORD God became so angry at the evil that was being committed in Israel that He sent Elijah to preach strong sermons against the evil deeds of Jezebel and King Ahab. This made Jezebel hate Elijah with such a raging fury that she vowed to have Elijah killed.

The LORD instructed Elijah to tell Ahab that there would be no more rain until Elijah ordered it to rain. Then the LORD sent Elijah to hide by a brook until it dried up while God sent ravens to bring him food. In their beaks they would grab morsels of food, possibly from King Ahab's table, then fly to Elijah by the Brook Cherith and drop it into Elijah's hand to sustain him.

After the brook dried up Elijah went to live with a poor widow and her son where God caused a miraculous refilling of the barrel of flour and the jug of oil to sustain them throughout the remainder of the drought.

After three years without rain God instructed Elijah, "Go tell King Ahab to gather the prophets of Baal to mount Carmel where I will show the nation of Israel my power."

King Ahab called the citizens of Israel to Mount Carmel which is along the northern part of Israel, along the Mediterranean shore. Elijah called out to the people, "How long will you falter between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him, but if Baal, follow him."

The people were quiet, not answering a word. Elijah continued, "I alone am left a prophet of the LORD; but Baal's prophets are four hundred fifty men.

"Bring two bulls. Give one to the prophets of Baal to cut up and offer as sacrifice on the altar but put no fire under the sacrifice. I will cut up another bull and build an alter of stone to offer unto the LORD God but will place no fire under the sacrifice. Let the god who is the real God answer by sending down fire from Heaven to burn up the sacrifice. If Baal can do this let all of the people worship Baal. But if Baal cannot do this let the LORD God send fire from Heaven to consume the sacrifice and let the people worship the LORD God only."

The prophets of Baal placed their cut up bull on their altar of stone and prayed all day for Baal to send down fire from heaven to burn the sacrifice. They leaped about the altar. They cried. They cut themselves with knives to get Baal to answer, but nothing happened.

After hours of prayer Elijah mocked them saying, " Cry aloud, for he is a god; either he is meditating, or he is busy, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is sleeping and must be awakened."

Until evening they cried aloud for Baal to answer them without avail. Finally Elijah selected twelve stones to represent the twelve tribes of Israel and built an altar. He made a trench around the altar large enough to hold a great amount of water. He ordered the men to pour four large pots of water over the sacrifice and to run into the trench where it surrounded the altar like a large moat. Three times the men poured four large pots of water over the sacrifice until it filled the trench.

At the time of the evening offering of sacrifice Elijah called out, "LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be know this day that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word. Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that his people may know that You are the LORD God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again."

"Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and the stones and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench." Never had such a water heater been seen in the presence of the people at the request of the prophet of the LORD God.

The people were so astonished that they fell upon their faces and cried out repeatedly,, "The LORD, He is God!"

Elijah ordered all of the four hundred fifty prophets of Baal to be seized by the people and killed with the sword.

Then Elijah turned to King Ahab and announced, "Go up and eat and drink; for there is the sound of abundance of rain."

Elijah went back to the brook Cherith and prayed earnestly for rain until his servant came and told him that clouds were forming over the Mediterranean Sea. A great storm came upon the land and for the first time in three years the drought was broken and the people once again were able to grow their bountiful crops. This was because of the mercy and provision of rain from the LORD God in answer to Elijah's prayer of faith.


1. God is not pleased when people become selfish and uncaring about the rights and needs of other people whom God also loves.

2. God has promised to meet the needs of the people who love Him and who believe in Him. Just as God was able to cause the ravens to feed Elijah and to cause the flour and oil to remain so can He supply all of our needs as we pray to Him and believe in His promises.

3. The LORD God is all powerful. When He is ready to reveal His power to the people there is nothing on Earth that can stop Him. Even the soaking wet sacrifice and the moat full of water could not stop the fire from God from burning up the sacrifice, the stones, the dust and the water.

4. God never changes. Hebrews 13:8 states, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever." We can expect Him to continue to meet our needs as we ask in faith.