After the Victory, the Battle Begins : Part 1 :: By Paul J. Scharf

After the Victory, the Battle Begins : Part 1 :: By Paul J. Scharf

On Mount Carmel, Elijah experienced one of the greatest spiritual victories recorded in all of Holy Scripture. His triumph over Ahab, Jezebel, and “the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal, and the four hundred prophets of Asherah” (1 Kings 18:19) devastated the wicked king and queen.

Ahab offered a muted response to his embarrassing defeat (e.g., 1 Kings 18:41-46), while Jezebel became infuriated (1 Kings 19:1-2). Like Satan himself, she manifested her darkest rage when she understood the certainty of her ultimate demise (1 Kings 21:23; 2 Kings 9:30-37; cf. Rom. 16:20; Rev. 12:12).

Thus, Elijah barely had a moment to savor the victory on Carmel before he was drawn into another battle—one that was much deeper and darker because it was spiritual and internal. Eradicating 450 false prophets (1 Kings 18:40; cf. 19:1) was no challenge at all when compared with controlling his own sinful nature (cf. Rom. 7:15-25).

A Man of Faith

We know that “without faith it is impossible to please” God (Heb. 11:6). Elijah surely exhibited faith on Mount Carmel. The Apostle John tells us that such bold faith “is the victory that has overcome the world” (1 John 5:4).

We find that God was preparing His prophet for all that lay ahead as much as “three years and six months” (Jas. 5:17; cf. 1 Kings 18:1) prior to the battle on Carmel. The Lord taught Elijah incredible lessons of faith in 1 Kings 17—first by the nondescript Brook Cherith (which eventually “dried up” [1 Kings 17:7]), then in the far northern coastal city of Zarephath (where Elijah would soon be blamed for the death of a widow’s cherished son [1 Kings 17:17-24; cf. Luke 4:25-26]).

Both miracles of provision and events of devastation were woven throughout these incredible circumstances. God was challenging and stretching Elijah during these times. During this prelude to victory on Carmel, even as he performed the great miracles of chapter 17, we see in Elijah’s life a sense of frustration—even desperation.

The Lord often performs a similar stretching process in the lives of believers today—especially within His most faithful servants (see Phil. 4:10-20).

A Man of Fear

Elijah’s heart—including both his human frailty and sinful weakness—is in full view in the chapters that precede and follow his epic spiritual triumph.

As we watch him in his success on Carmel, we note that it was spectacular but not conclusive. Such is the nature of spiritual warfare and of all service for the Lord. Even more personal and intense battles still lay ahead for Elijah.

His victory was appropriately achieved on that mountaintop, but the events that followed propelled him downward—both literally and figuratively. This man who had not flinched in the face of deadly danger now cowered in trepidation at the vain threats of Jezebel. His discouragement, doubt, fear and failure are described for all to see as “he arose and ran for his life” (1 Kings 19:3) to the southern end of Judah, and even to Mount Horeb.

And therein lies a great lesson: Victory makes us vulnerable to pride and carelessness (cf. Prov. 16:18-19), while defeat leaves us susceptible to depression and anxiety (cf. Gen. 42:36; Job 3:25; Prov. 10:24; Isa. 66:4). Elijah experienced both. He was surely learning “how to be abased, and … how to abound” (Phil. 4:12).

We can scarcely imagine the intensity of the extremes that Elijah underwent, and the events were beginning to take their toll. On the heels of the encounter on the mountaintop came “a day’s journey into the wilderness” (1 Kings 19:4).

After all the miracles he had seen (cf. 1 Kings 18:12), Elijah’s faith could still be swallowed up in unbelief. Only a short time after his moment of triumph, he succumbed to despair “under a broom tree” (1 Kings 19:4).

May God help us to learn from his fascinating example in order that we might enjoy more spiritual triumphs and endure fewer defeats—all the while learning how to handle the pressures of either one.


Paul J. Scharf (M.A., M.Div., Faith Baptist Theological Seminary) is a church ministries representative for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, based in Columbus, WI, and serving in the Midwest. For more information on his ministry, visit or, or email

Scripture taken from the New King James Version.



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