1 Kings 18:25-29
And Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal, Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first; for ye are many; and call on the name of your gods, but put no fire under. And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made. And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked. And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them. And it came to pass, when midday was past, and they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded.
Well, here we are! The time for the great “showdown: is here! I hope readers notice that every time I type that word, “showdown,” it has been in quotation marks; that has not been an accident. We often refer to this as the contest on mount Carmen between the Prophet Elijah and the prophets of Baal. Two points are critical to assess at this point: It was NOT a contest, and it was NOT between Elijah and anybody. The result of this confrontation was predetermined, preordained, and there was never any question of just who would prevail here. Elijah was simply God’s chosen tool and representative; he was simply the man God had picked to show His might and power to the idolatrous Israelites, Ahab, and the prophets of Baal.
Before we move on, let’s recap quickly where we have been. Three long years ago, Elijah had pronounced God’s judgement via drought on the nation of Israel for turning their backs on God under the leadership of King Ahab and the evil, idol worshiping Queen Jezebel. Elijah then took off into the desert to escape the wrath of the angry Jezebel, who we find out later began a systematic pogrom and purge of the men of God in the Kingdom. Elijah basically hid himself out for three years first by a brook where he was fed by a raven daily, then with a widow woman and her child, where God provided for the three of them. Elijah was doing much more than just hanging out; God was working a purpose in The Prophet. Elijah was being taught, groomed, and strengthened for a great work
What are some of the things Elijah learned over the course of three years?
Elijah learned that, if God called him to do something even though seemingly dangerous, that He would protect and provide for him. We see that as he sat by the brook Kidron for a year drinking its waters and being fed by a raven. We see that as God provided for Elijah for two more years while dwelling with the widow woman and her son, who just before Elijah’s arrival were preparing to eat their last meal and die.
Elijah learned that God would provide physical safety for His people if He puts them at risk. No doubt while Elijah was sitting hidden by that brook, Ahab and his soldiers were desperately seeking to kill this prophet who had spoken so brashly against him. Then God sends Elijah to abide with the widow, practically in the evil Queen Jezebel’s very back yard!
Elijah learned that his God can do anything, even seemingly the impossible. Remember that the raising of the widow woman’s son was the first instance in The Bible of that occurring. It must have been an amazing and awesome thing for Elijah to be a part of, and must have forever cemented in The Prophet’s mind the power of God.
Elijah learned that sometimes we just have to be where God puts us, and that every mission counts. He spent likely two years in the widow’s home, very likely sharing his God with her. As we see, she did become a believer in the One True God. Than may have seemed like an insignificant little mission, but Elijah was willing, and he simply did it.
Now it’s time. Elijah has invited the people of Israel, Ahab, Jezebel, and the prophets of Baal and Asherah to a confrontation on mount Carmel. We would find out soon, just who the real God was, and who the fake gods were as well. The challenge was straightforward. Each side would take a sacrificial bullock, lay it on the altar, and the God who consumed the sacrifice with fire from heaven would prove the be the true God.
Right from the beginning, we see Elijah striking right at the heart of the believers of Baal. After all, Baal was the god of storms and lighthing(fire from heaven.) Surely such a god could perform his mission, right? Not only that, but Elijah said they could go first, and take all of the time they needed to call their god and watch him work.
Call they did! They called, and called, and called some more. There was silence. Where was Baal? They danced, shouted some more, and even cut themselves. Still, there was silence. Where was Baal?
It seems Elijah had the same question, and his reaction may seem odd to us. Elijah shouted at the dancing prophets of Baal and mocked them! Is Baal sleeping? Is he travelling? Perhaps he cannot hear so well? There is even writing that suggests Elijah asked the frantic prophets of Baal if perhaps their god was out relieving himself. Honestly, this is smack talking at its best!
So, what can we learn here? Are we to mock and deride those who have opposing views from us? Are we to mock and deride those who may mock and deride God and thumb their nose in His face? Probably not. We are called to:
I Peter 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:
That doesn’t really sound like mockery now does it? Perhaps we should take a quick more in depth look at the term “meek.” Meek as described in the Bible does not mean a retiring weakness, but rather a state of strength under control. In its every day usage it was commonly used to describe the training of a horse. A horse would be “meeked.” That stallion would not lose one ounce of it’s vast strength and power, but that power would simply be controlled and in a submissive state to the desires of its master. That is how meekness applies to us, Great power, from the Holy Spirit, under control and submissive to the desires of our master, Jesus Christ.
So, are we to mock our “opponents?” Very likely the answer to that is simply: no. On the other hand, when faced with open challenges to our God, mockery of Him, and open mistreatment of His people, are we to turn the other cheek and head for the hills? Maybe. There is a time for heading for the hills, but the when is not our decision; that timing and that decision belongs to God. Our job is to listen to Him and execute that timing according to His will. On the other hand, God may not be telling us to head for the hills.
It may be our time, just as it was Elijah’s time. Perhaps we have been taught, tested, provided for and molded, and it is time for God to use us in a great way. So, while maybe mockery is not the way we should deal with those who oppose or mock God, standing in an unequivocal way against them is just fine and dandy.
When told that “truth is relative,” and that it’s not what we believe that matters but how sincerely we believe it, are we willing to look a person in the eye and say: “That is untrue!”?
When the people we are with mock God, Jesus, and those who believe in Him, do we speak up or remain silent?
Are we willing to speak out against things God clearly considers sin, even when the tide of the world says otherwise?
When God asks us to go to our mount Carmel, will we be willing?
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.
Next: The rain comes