1 Kings 18:17-19
“When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?” And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father’s house, because you have abandoned the commandments of the Lord and followed the Baals. Now therefore send and gather all Israel to me at Mount Carmel, and the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.”
This is the second encounter between Elijah and king Ahab, and both men have changed in the three and a half years since Elijah proclaimed God’s judgment. Elijah is much stronger now, and king Ahab, it seems, has lost some of his confidence.
Ahab had sent people to search all over Israel to find and kill Elijah, but now that Ahab is finally face-to-face with Elijah, he does not order him killed. Does Ahab sense Elijah’s strength? Is the king afraid of Elijah? Has the reality and the severity of the drought drained away some of Ahab’s arrogance and bravado?
Whatever the case may be, Elijah takes command of the conversation. First he rebukes Ahab, then he challenges Ahab to gather the people of Israel and the prophets of Baal and Asherah at Mount Carmel.
Elijah issues a dramatic challenge to the king. It will be the prophets of Baal and Asherah on one side of the challenge, and Elijah the prophet of the God of Israel on the other side. In between are the people of Israel.
Elijah is going to provide undeniable proof to the people of Israel that the Lord God of heaven is the one true God. He is also going to demonstrate that Baal is a false god and a powerless idol.
At Mount Carmel, the real troubler of Israel will be revealed.