1 Kings 18:30-40
And Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me. And all the people came near unto him. And he repaired And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of the LORD came, saying, Israel shall be thy name: And with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD: and he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two measures of seed. And he put the wood in order, and cut the bullock in pieces, and laid him on the wood, and said, Fill four barrels with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice, and on the wood. And he said, Do it the second time. And they did it the second time. And he said, Do it the third time. And they did it the third time. And the water ran round about the altar; and he filled the trench also with water.And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again. Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The LORD, he is the God; the LORD, he is the God. And Elijah said unto them, Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape. And they took them: and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there.
After hours of watching the 450 prophets of Baal dance and cut themselves, Elijah finally took his turn. This would have been around three in the afternoon, about the time of the evening sacrifice as described in verse 36. So, Elijah calls the people of Israel to come near as he prepares to show them the awesome power of God.
Apparently, both the false prophets and Elijah were using an altar previously built for the worship of God, because we see a reference to the altar of the LORD that was broken down. It’s some what unclear just where the altar came from. It may even have been one in use by men and women worshiping God in private during the evil reign of Ahab and Jezebel. Note some things here; Elijah did not just immediately use that altar, as is. He repaired it. He made God’s House ready for the worship of God. What a great representation of how we should prepare ourselves, and God’s House for the proper worship of him. Elijah collected 12 stones to repair and build the altar he would use for his sacrifice, and our text tells us these represented the 12 tribes of Israel. In God’s mind, even though the 12 tribes were divided asunder in the Divided Kingdom of the day, they were still the people and the nation He had made His covenant with.
As earlier Elijah had stacked the deck in favor of the false prophets, he now stacked the deck against the True God. Three times Elijah ordered the altar and the sacrifice to be saturated with barrels of water. So much water was applied that it ran off of the altar into a trench which had been dug around it! Basically, this altar and the sacrifice were literally sitting almost in pool of water. It must have been obvious to all gathered that no human was going to be able to start a fire there and consume that offering. Elijah had spent three long years learning just who God was, and what He was capable of doing; now the nation of Israel and its idolatrous people were about to learn the same lesson.
Elijah knew what was about to happen, nonetheless he prayed this prayer:
LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again
There were many messages in this very simple prayer.
Elijah prayed that this thing be done for the honor and glory of God. Those are the prayers God responds to. Even our Jesus told us that :
John 14:3 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
Not only would God be known as the God of Israel, but Elijah would be know as the man speaking for him. As with all prophets, the signs were merely and indication of for just whom they were speaking.
Finally, this prayer was a wonderful example of God’s grace and forgiveness, even in the face of such idolatry and rebellion by His people. God was drawing His people back to Him, and if they responded, He would welcome them back with open arms. Since we have been noting during this study the similarities between that day and this day, we should note that one as well. Even today, God is drawing His people back to Him, and will welcome them with open arms if we only turn our hearts back again.
What happened next? Well, of course God proved he was, in fact, God. Immediately upon the conclusion of Elijah’s prayer, fire descended from Heaven and consumed both the sacrifice and the altar. Never again would this place be used for the worship of any false god.
Most likely the prophets of Baal were shocked beyond degree at this turn of events, after all they had danced and called to their god for hours! Something else important happens here when we note the differing reactions of the people assembled on mount Carmel.
The prophets of Baal continued their rebellion, not with words and prayers to false gods, but by fleeing the scene.
The people of Israel turned to God in repentance, acknowledged Him, and worshiped Him
The slaying of the prophets of Baal at Elijah’s order may seem rough and harsh, but was it really? They saw the same God in action that the Israelites saw, yet they continued in their rebellion. They had been warned of their rebellion, as the Law of Moses was clear what was to be done to false prophets; they were to be killed. God had given them every chance to turn to HIm in submission just as God’s people did when they proclaimed, The LORD, he is the God; the LORD, he is the God
God has not changed in respect to how He will deal with us. We have discussed the many similarities between then and now during the course of this study, and they continue. God warned the people then, and He warns the people today. God showed Himself then, and He shows Himself today. Some chose to repent and come to God then, and some do now. God accepted the ones who repented then, and He still does; He offered forgiveness then, and He offers it now.
Sadly, due to some rejecting God’s offer of forgiveness, some faced judgment then, and some face it today. It doesn’t need to be that way, as the offer of forgiveness remains open until one’s final breath.