Reading For Tuesday 1 Kings 18:17-40
Ahab did not greet Elijah with a humble and contrite heart, but with sarcasm and belligerence. In words seething with defiance, Elijah accused Ahab of abandoning the commandments of the Lord, and he issued a challenge to the king. He called for all of Israel to be gathered at Mt. Carmel along with the 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah for a prophetic showdown. Ahab immediately complied with the demands of the wanted prophet and he summoned the nation and the prophets of Baal to Mt. Carmel. No indication is given of the size of the crowd that assembled on Mt. Carmel, but the dramatic confrontation must have attracted a large crowd. Elijah called the people to choose between Baal or Yahweh. However, awestruck by the presence of the king and the prophets, the people answered not a word. Perhaps they were convicted in their consciences and were consequently speechless. Since his opponents were so numerous, and since they were supported by the crown, Elijah proposed that they supply the two sacrificial bulls. One was to be selected and prepared by the prophets of Baal, the other by God’s prophet. Elijah offered his rivals their choice of the oxen as a guarantee that they would have no excuse that their animal was less fit for sacrifice. They were to set the sacrifice on the altar wood, but no fire was to be set to the wood. The deity that responded to the prayers of his worshipers and consumed the sacrificial bull with fire from heaven would be recognized as the true God.
The people agreed, and Elijah repeated the proposal to the prophets of Baal. They had been put in a position in which they could hardly refuse the test and still retain the respect of their constituents. They prepared the animal in the prescribed manner and began to call on the name of Baal. From morning until noon they continued to cry out that Baal might hear their prayers. At noon, Elijah began to ridicule his opponents. He urged them to shout louder. In condescending tones, Elijah provided some possible explanations for Baal’s silence, and these insults stirred the prophets of Baal to renewed determination. Grabbing the swords and spears of soldiers standing nearby they began to cut themselves, hoping by acts of self-harm to attract the attention of their god. These men were sincere in their faith.
When the Baal prophets retired from the field exhausted, Elijah called the people and began his demonstration by rebuilding the altar of God. By repairing the altar, Elijah was calling the people to true faith. Twelve stones were used to restore the altar, symbolizing the twelve tribes of Israel. By this action, Elijah was silently protesting the schism in the north. With the twelve stones from the old altar, Elijah built a new one, and a trench was dug around the altar. The sacrifice was cut in pieces and laid on the altar wood. The prophet then ordered water to be poured on the sacrificial animal and the wood beneath, and it was repeated two more times. So much water was poured over the altar that it ran down and filled the trench around the altar. At about three o’clock in the afternoon, Elijah drew near his water-drenched altar. He lifted his eyes heavenward and began to pray. He called on the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel and prayed that God would vindicate himself and his prophet there on that mount. Fire from heaven would prove that all which Elijah had said and done had been done through the word of God. He prayed that the people would be convinced that he alone was God and turn back to the God of their fathers. This prayer was answered dramatically, and the fire not only consumed the sacrificial animal and wood, but it also disintegrated the stones, scorched the dust about the altar, and even licked up the water in the trench. The people reacted to the divine demonstration instantly and decisively. Recognizing the manifestation of the divine presence, they fell on their faces and proclaimed that Lord was God repeatedly. Elijah ordered the Baal prophets to be apprehended and killed.
Things To Consider:
- How does one assess when to obey God rather than the law?
- How do we vacillate between following God and following false gods?
- The truth is not determined by numbers.
- Why is it hard to go against the crowd?
- Do you have any altars in your life that need to be repaired?
- Have you prayed earnestly and seen prayer answered?
- How should we deal with sin?