Elijah would rather have famine that would bring great hardship, but would eventually cause the people to turn to the Lord, than for the nation to go on in short term prosperity but ultimately bring down upon themselves the judgment of God.
He realised that this people would never turn to the Lord until they felt the iron in their soul, until they were brought down to the very depths of deprivation, where food and water, the bare essentials of life, could not be easily found or provided.
He further realised that the Lord had already taught the truth that in order for a person, or a nation, who had rejected the Word of God to turn again to the Lord they need to put between a rock and hard place. A place so afflicting to the soul that they begin to consider the things of God, Deuteronomy 28:23,24. Consider the days of the Judges and the Kings of Israel and Judah. This truth is often illustrated in these times.
It is only by God doing this that a person, who has wrongly set their affections on the things of this world, will ever be brought to see the folly of their ways. For folly it is!
The fact that this principle abides true today has a bearing upon us. Are we prepared for our country to be brought down to its very knees, materially and financially, so that it might turn unto God? Are we willing to pay that price to see a turning again unto God? Our natural reaction would be: Lord turn the tide some easier way! But that is not possible as far as can be discerned from the Word of God.
It comes down to what we value more, material prosperity with godlessness or material hardship and a turning again unto God. This was the dilemma that faced Elijah. Do you not think he realised what he was praying for and wrestled with the consequences of what he sought from God? The dilemma was settled in Elijah's mind. He came to the place where he would rather have the famine and material and physical hardship than see his country and its people go on in their rebellion against God.
Are we prepared to have our comfortable way of living disturbed so that we might see a great turning again to God? Or do we think that this is too great a price to pay for a turning unto God? This is a serious matter to consider.
Because they were the Lord's firstborn they were going to be severely chastened by the Lord. Other nations it would seem were not judged as harshly as Israel for their sins. Israel's chastening came from the fact that they were privileged with the truth and rejected it. This alone can explain what happened to them.
The chastening of nations that have had the Gospel, and rejected it, will be greater than those that have not had the Gospel. This alone explains why Britain is afflicted with social problems that, for example, are not as bad in other countries of Europe. Britain is a nation under the chastening hand of God!
This was by gradual stages. Elijah had to go live by the Brook Cherith for a time. The ravens brought him bread and flesh morning and evening. Then the brook dried up and he had to move elsewhere. Zarephath was not in Israel, cf. Luke 4:25,26. Even outside Israel the effects were being felt. Here God miraculously sustained His servant.
The thirst for earthly things must be broken in their lives. The manner of living associated with the worship of Baal is exemplified in the lives of Ahab and Jezebel. It was sensual and worldly. It was given to covetous living, as illustrated by Ahab's desire for Naboth's vineyard. It had little or no regard for the Law of God. If Ahab had any regard he would have known that the law forbid Naboth to sell his vineyard.
There was a breaking with the worship of Baal. The halting between two opinions was brought to a head by Elijah under the Lord's direction. The people had to make up their mind whom they would serve.
Baal and the false prophets were exposed for what they were, lying deceivers of the people. Elijah, and more importantly the Lord, declared that He was the living and the true God, who alone ought to be worshipped.
On mount Carmel the people cried out: The Lord, He is the God; The Lord, He is the God, 1 Kings 18:39.
There was a returning to the Lord on the part of the people and a cutting off of the false prophets of Baal. If we are to see a turning to the Lord in our country something similar needs to happen.