Elijah on Mount Carmel

Notes & Transcripts

OHP Intro-said before, Elijah appears at time of transition. He will appear again in the end times. What happens here is a picture of the way thing will be at the end. Revelation, particularly Rev17, indicates at the end people will be godless but they will be very religious. We need to be careful that we don’t confuse Christianity with religion - can you tell the difference?

What are the marks of false religion? Faith is found in individuals, like the widow & Elijah. A nation as a whole cannot have faith. You can have a state religion but it will not be faith. You cannot impose or decree faith in Christ. Israel as a nation was religious but it was false religion. They worshipped, as everyone must, but it was not יהוה, they had rejected Him for another. The question of this passage is: Who is God? For there is only one.

OHP1 Syncretism 1 Kings 18:20 - Ahab had got to desperation point - at one time he would have paid scant attention to their rugged prophet - "Who does he think he is?" - but now he obeys implicitly what Elijah says. He gathered the whole nation including the prophets - I wonder how they like being dictated to by a prophet of יהוה? But they came. Ahab and the nation had been brought low - they couldn’t afford not to listen and comply anymore. How often it is that it is only when we are brought very low that we begin to listen to what the word of the LORD says. Now they were ready to listen - it had taken three and a half years. 1 Kings 18:21 - Elijah called Israel to mount Carmel along with the idolatrous false prophets for a confrontation. All were gathered there - this was a show down to demonstrate once and for all who was God. A contest between impotent Baal and the Living, All Powerful, יהוה. The people of Israel were thoroughly syncretistic - they had a bit of יהוה worship and a bit of Baal - they covered their bases, kept all options covered. Insurance policy Christians - have a bit of all religions going, in the world by a bit of Christianity just in case. Have a bit of everything then you’re sure to have the right one amongst them. It does not work like that! - because יהוה is a jealous God demanding exclusive allegiance. You cannot have יהוה and something else as well. As soon as you have something else, you no longer have יהוה. You cannot have a foot in both camps [as Eric Dunlop said to me, "You cannot sit on the fence."] - you have either one or the other. Here Elijah calls the people to choose - to choose between יהוה and Baal. Make up your mind, you cannot have it both ways because the two are mutually exclusive - if יהוה is God, then no one else can be. But the people would not make a decision - they answered him not one word. After three and a half years of no rain they still were not convinced of the power of יהוה to withhold the rain and of the impotence of Baal to supply it! Where was Obadiah and the 100 prophets? Despite the devastating drought they still had not been brought low enough to repent, to turn from their allegiance to Baal and give themselves to following יהוה alone! What does it take to convince the stubborn human heart? (Jer 17:9,10). With all that hard hitting evidence and the desperateness of their plight they would not make a decision, a commitment. They preferred to continue on in their misery and death. So too is it with those who reject Jesus today. To make no decision is to reject יהוה. The decision had to, of necessity, be followed through with action, total commitment, an allegiance of lifestyle - if יהוה be God go after  Him, if Baal be God go after him. Whoever we honour as God, that one we worship, that one we serve, that one we go after - our whole life taken up in pursuit and following of him. But like today, people were unwilling to make a TOTAL COMMITMENT. How long will you waver between two opinions? If יהוה be God FOLLOW HIM! The choice is ours and all consequences are determined by this mother of choices. 1 Kings 18:22 - Elijah was ALONE in his allegiance to יהוה. No one among all Israel would side with him. They wouldn’t make a choice. Like sheep they followed the prevailing influence. It takes character to stand alone in opposition to unanimous contrary opinion - to make a stand for יהוה - the overwhelming majority can be totally wrong! Elijah was the only one left who heard יהוה’s voice - how tragic! - but how akin to our own situation. "Everybody" was following Baal - the prophets of Baal vastly outnumbered the true prophet - the people are convinced by this strength of numbers ("so many cannot be wrong"). 1 Kings 18:23 - Elijah proposed a contest to prove which god was real, true. Both would do the same: the people would provide two bullocks and one would go to each, each would prepare them, cut them up and lay them on the wood ready to sacrifice and neither would set fire to the wood.

Love show 1 Kings 18:24 - Then both groups were to pray to their god. The priests of Baal would call on the name of their god. But Elijah would call on the name of יהוה! The one which answered, answered by sending fire to ignite the sacrifice, that one was to be recognised as God If God is real, is true, then He must be able to hear and answer. Everyone thought that this was a great idea. Yes, the people love a show, a spectacle, something dramatic, supernatural. They love a show down. People long to see evidence that God is real - to see something convincing. To them this was a good idea. Man always wants to see - he prefers to walk by sight and not by faith. The people really believed their idol had power - they actually were convinced that it could bring fire down - how deluded! And because of the overwhelming support for the idea, the man serving religionists had to go along with it because they are dictated to by public opinion. There was no way for them to back down without Baal seeming impotent. They were trapped into going along with the idea. But there was overwhelming evidence of the convincing and supernatural kind if the people wanted to see it - what better showed the impotence of Baal to produce rain and of  יהוה’s power to withhold it at His word than a three and a half year period with no rain? But people don’t see (nor want to see) the overwhelming witness all around them every day. No, they want the spectacular show and refuse the daily consistent evidence such as each sunrise, each breath etc.

No response 1 Kings 18:25,26 - So the prophets of Baal set to and called upon the name of Baal: "Oh Baal! Answer us!". They were at it all morning but there was no response: "No voice, no answer." They limped around the altar - but it was futile, it achieved nothing, nothing happened. It never will when we call on an idol, a god that is no god - yet still we rely upon that which is not God! There is no voice, no answer. How pathetic and tragic when people earnestly call on someone who isn’t there, who doesn’t have any existence except in the imaginations of men. 1 Kings 18:27 - Elijah sat back and watched the spectacle - it was a ridiculous carry on and he made fun of them, mocking them and their so called god. He taunted them: perhaps their god was asleep, or meditating, or on a journey, or temporarily slipped out for something - pray louder! Attract his attention. What type of god is it that is not omnipotent, knowing all things, who doesn’t hear, who is of human similitude, getting busy and tied up with his own business? The concept of god was very little different to a man - he was weak and impotent, small and puny even in their own minds, let alone in reality. The tragedy was they took it all so seriously, they took Elijah’s mocking seriously, not realising what an indictment it was on Baal. They took his advice and prayed all the louder in order to gain his attention. We today make a lot of noise and fuss calling upon God - perhaps the volume and performance indicate how impotent our god really is - it is not the God of Elijah! The multiplication of noise is a substitute for the lack of evident power and response (cf. 1 Kings 19:12).

Sincere 1 Kings 18:28 - They cried out louder and louder - they were desperate to be heard. They cannot be accused of being insincere or uncommitted. They were absolutely sincere and genuine in their belief of Baal - utterly devoted with a dedication which went beyond personal regard - they cut themselves until their blood flowed as their cruel and barbaric cult demanded. So much for those who say that as long as  you have faith, that you are sincere, genuine in your seeking, full of zeal, passion and dedication it doesn’t matter what you call your god. Oh yes it does matter! Despite their undeniable sincerity and devotion it was to a block of wood not to the Living God. Their zeal was utterly misplaced and the results are tragic. Sincere, but sincerely wrong. There is no reward for genuineness of motive. There is only one God and only one way to Him (John 14:6; Rom 10:1-3; Hos 4:6). People can be utterly convinced they are right and be devoted to their beliefs but when they are in fact in error it is tragic indeed and there is little you can do to persuade them otherwise despite the patent futility of the results. It doesn’t work despite all the shouting and harsh self treatment.

Futile and empty 1 Kings 18:29 - Noon passed, they still carried on, in spiritual frenzy that they had hyped themselves up into they prophesied - but still no fire. So it came time for the evening sacrifice - they had been at it all day BUT NOTHING HAPPENED! Still there was no voice, no answer, no one paid attention. There was no voice because there was NO ONE! No one answered because there was NO ONE to answer, no one paid attention because there was NO ONE! What utter futility! What a waste of time, effort, blood - all expended on someone who didn’t even exist! Tragic in the extreme! So called "spiritual " men receive "revelation", are utterly devoted but their prophecy is false - it is the result of hyping themselves up into a state whereby they are open to demonic influence. It may impress, but it is false! There was plenty of prophecy but no fulfilment - much like the charismatic church today. Nothing actually happens - NO ONE is there to hear, to answer, to pay attention. Why spend so much time, energy and resources on what can never produce anything? What utter futility! We hear "prophecy" but no one has spoken - it is all the product of man hyping himself into a frenzy.

Deliberate rejection of God 1 Kings 18:30 - So after a day long calling upon Baal, Elijah’s turn came to call upon His God. Elijah called the people close - for there was to be no loud demonstrative ranting. He wanted them to see and hear what took place. To see God’s deeds, to hear His voice, we must come near (James 4:8). The altar of  had been torn down - a deliberate rejection of the worship of יהוה. It wasn’t broken down from neglect but by vehement opposition, violent antagonism, a determined campaign to wipe out every vestige of יהוה worship (cf. 1 Kings 18:4; 19:2). It was all out spiritual war - when the drought came Jezebel was determined to wipe out all opposition to Baal, wipe out this יהוה who dared challenge her god. But though you can remove Baal by destroying idols and though you can rear down places where יהוה is worshipped and kill His followers, you cannot get rid of יהוה because He is God! He is I AM! He exists, He is present everywhere, He cannot be destroyed. In coming near to יהוה what has been destroyed must be healed, restored, mended, built back up again. The place of worship, of sacrifice, of meeting with יהוה, of offering up to Him must first be restored. Elijah built up that which had been torn down. The foundations must be relaid.

OHP2 Back to basics 1 Kings 18:31-35 - Elijah relaid the foundation stones - went back to the very beginning of יהוה establishing a covenant relationship with Israel. He took 12 stones, representing the 12 tribes (not 10 - he included Judah and Benjamin who were now a  separate nation) - the 12 sons of Jacob, not the sons of Israel. Elijah went back to the time of the twister, the deceiver, the man going his own way, out of relationship with יהוה. Back to the time when Jacob’s name was changed to Israel, the time relationship was established, the time Israel first came into existence by the word of  יהוה. This is what Elijah brought them back to. It all started with יהוה - he was bringing them back to that place where it all began. They had torn down their very roots, their foundation, rejecting Him who brought them into being. Elijah went back and rebuilt that foundation, brought them back to basics, to the origins, back to יהוה 1 Kings 18:33 - Elijah, having rebuilt the destroyed altar to יהוה based on the relationship established with Israel hundreds of years before. 1 Kings 18:34 - Then Elijah did something unusual - he ordered water to be poured over the altar - Elijah intended to prove the greatness of God - making it difficult to set alight, made the task no harder for God. There would be no excuse that tinder dry conditions had allowed spontaneous combustion, a spark from a stone etc. The people were going to see that יהוה is ALMIGHTY! - that there is no obstacle that we can place that will stand in His way and prevent Him doing what He is going to do. We may think we can preserve ourself from the fires of judgment, but no matter how well we think we are protected, (1 Kings 18:35) no obstacle will stand in the way of יהוה - The whole thing was sodden with water, even the trench around the altar. Nothing was less likely to be consumed by fire. We may think that we are impervious, but the fire will fall. Elijah will yet call fire from heaven (Rev 11:5).

Total dedication/sacrifice 1 Kings 18:36- everything was ready in time for the evening sacrifice (it was a burnt offering of total dedication) as instituted by יהוה (Num 28:1-4) - false religion requires no sacrifice - give the people what they want with the minimum required of them.. Elijah drew near to יהוה at the appointed time - his special relationship with יהוה and the privilege of hearing from Him did not make him presumptuous, but on the contrary, reverential and fearful in his approach to יהוה - so too will we be if we truly know Him. Elijah knew him - spoke to Him by Name - he could call upon יהוה because he was in relationship with Him. He called upon יהוה to vindicate him as indeed being His servant and not acting in some grandstanding arrogant way but in explicit obedience - that what he had done had no been his own idea or doing but that everything he had done had been at the direction of  יהוה’s word. Elijah called upon יהוה to vindicate His word that He had spoken to Elijah and also to vindicate Himself - make it known that You are God! - we can only pray this prayer if we are in obedience for this is the essential requirement for relationship with יהוה

Turn back to God 1 Kings 18:37 - Elijah’s role is to turn hearts back to God (cf. Luke 1:16,17; 2:76,77; 3:3; mal 3:1,2). To call to repentance. The burden of Elijah’s heart, his prophetic role is: to turn back the people’s hearts to God. But had their hearts turned? God can force us to say “He is God”, overwhelm us - but it must come from the heart, by faith, like the widow.

Know that יהוה  is God 1 Kings 18:37 - In this short, two verse, prayer (cf. the all day praying of the prophets of Baal), the Name יְהוָה occurs 3x, God 3 times " אֱלֹהִים " "answer" 2x and "know" 2x. Elijah calls upon God to answer - if God is real, true, alive, if He hears then the expectation is that He will answer, unlike the false gods who cannot. Elijah assumes God hears, is interested and is concerned enough with man to act (Heb 11:6). Elijah had a purpose in mind - it was not supernatural demonstration for its own sake - the purpose was that the people might KNOW - to impart knowledge - knowledge of God, knowledge of יהוה. Today’s interest in the supernatural is for the show, to see the spectacular or for our own self interest - to be healed, delivered, set free, blessed, solve our problem etc. When God acted miraculously it was as signs - pointing to God. Miracles are not ends in themselves, their purpose is to impart knowledge of God. But today we deprecate knowledge - in reference to the supernatural we glorify not being able to understand - this is the opposite intention of  יהוה’s demonstration of His power. It has a purpose, a lesson to be learnt from it (cf. Matt 16:9-11). The nation was perishing for lack of knowledge (Hos 4:6). Knowledge of יהוה is our imperative need. This was Elijah’s concern - that knowledge of יהוה was in danger of dying out. He was desperate to see that knowledge of יהוה restored. Only by knowing God would their hearts be turned to Him. God had not given up on His people - He was at work. Despite the appearance that knowledge of Him had almost vanished, He was acting, turning His people’s heart back to Him. Hallelujah! Today, the need is the same - a desperate need for real KNOWLEDGE of God as He really is - not as we would like Him to be. But we scorn knowledge and the pursuit of it - glorying in our lack of training and knowledge of God’s Word, rather esteeming charisma, personality and manifestations. 1 Kings 18:38 - This prayer must have been in accord with יהוה’s own desire and will for He did indeed answer! Hallelujah! The fire of יהוה fell! Before the rains of refreshing come, the fire of judgment must first fall. The water was no impediment to יהוה - His fire licked it up, the offering was acceptable to יהוה for His fire consumed it. When God acts He leaves no doubt. No smouldering fire under a burnt offering here! The burnt offering was CONSUMED! Not only it, but the wood, not only the wood but the stones of the altar as well, not only the altar but the earth upon which it was placed! Who is God: יהוה or Baal?! A fairly convincing demonstration! 1 Kings 18:39 - All the people saw and they were convinced [they walked by sight, not by faith]. The utter ineffectual impotence and futility of Baal had been demonstrated and in wondrous contrast the almighty power and reality of God, of יהוה! Who can stand before such power and might?! They did the only thing they could do: they fell on their faces - spontaneous, genuine, unfeigned WORSHIP. What else can you do when confronted with the REALITY of the LIVING GOD?! We exhort people to worship, and seek to offer acceptable worship, to fix our minds on the Lord - but when confronted with His REALITY we do so spontaneously - no one needs to tell us to. The people confessed יהוה. יהוה is God! יהוה is GOD! Elijah’s prayer was answered, knowledge of God was imparted - that יהוה was indeed God and there is no other. They, like we, know the correct answer - they had been taught all through their history that יהוה is God. But now they truly KNEW - not the correct answer, the right theology, but REALITY - יּהּוּהּ IS GOD! God is really GOD! This knowledge of the reality of God is imperative. Fear and worship overwhelm us when we are confronted with the reality of God - this we desperately need.

Mercy follows judgment  1 Kings 18:40 The people may acknowledge יהוה as God but the prophets of Baal didn’t - even after such a convincing demonstration . There was no excuse for their unrepentant stubborn stance - the unrepentant, after being given ample opportunity to change meet the fate of the unrepentant: the judgment of DEATH! The unrepentant are not spared. False religion cannot be allowed to coexist with the true - Those that lead the masses into error, idolatry and away from יהוה are held responsible, and judged more severely than those they lead. They are held accountable for those under their influence. Hence the prophets were judged without mercy - not one was spared or allowed to escape. The people were to demonstrate their newly proclaimed allegiance to יהוה, bring forth the acts of repentance, show they had turned from Baal by themselves seizing the prophets of Baal. They (plural) seized them but Elijah brought them down (singular) to the brook Kishon and slew them (singular). One man alone killed 450 (perhaps 850) prophets - a grisly and arduous task - one by one - each saw his fate approaching. A massacre! The false prophets were slaughtered! This is the fate of ALL false prophets. Not one was spared. The evil, that which leads away from יהוה, must be completely exterminated - no influence left that can corrupt. This was Israel’s mistake when they entered the land, they did not completely wipe out the heathen in the land as יהוה instructed them to do. 1 Kings 18:41 - Only once evil had been dealt with could the matter of blessing be addressed. Only now could Elijah deal with the issue for which he had been sent (cf. 1 Kings 18:1). The prophet has to tear down before he can rebuild (Jer 1:9,10). Only after sin has been removed can we plant. Only following repentance can the rain of the Holy Spirit fall (Acts 2:38). Now Elijah announced to Ahab abundant rain. No rain was in sight but Elijah had heard the word of יהוה (1 KIngs 18:1). Because he had heard יהוה say that He will send rain, Elijah by faith could already hear it. This wasn’t some psyching himself up, positive confession, visualizing it - יהוה had spoken - rain was certain. This is seeing prophetically. As far as the man of God was concerned it was there [not that this let him off the hook for a moment - he didn’t sit back and wait - knowing God’s certain will, he prayed it into being cf. Dan 9:2,3). Why was Ahab to go up, eat and drink? - partake of sacrifice. Was it perhaps to feast in celebration of the breaking of the drought?

Intercession 1 Kings 18:42 - For a short time, at least, after the demonstration of the power of יהוה, His servant, the prophet, was obeyed (cf. the people in 1 Kings 18:40). Ahab obeys Elijah and "goes up and eats and drinks" as ordered. He celebrates despite the fact that there is as yet no sign of rain. He "sent up" - probably ate at a "high place" - seen as an offering, a consecration to God, an act of worship. Seeing God’s mighty hand at work inspires faith that He can do what He has promised. The king went up to celebrate - the prophet went up to pray. The prophet is a man alone - while others are feasting, he is apart. Others in rowdy social intercourse, Elijah is bowed to the ground, prostrate before God - in humility, worship, desperate intense intercession - his face between his knees. Others are celebrating God’s blessing and coming goodness, the prophet is on his face before יהוה earnestly praying it into being. They enjoy the blessing , they have no idea what goes on to bring it to pass. 1 Kings 18:43 -  Elijah prayed expectantly - he had his servant look to see the answer. And even though the answer was negative Elijah didn’t give up nor was disappointed. He was persistent He prayed with absolute certainty of faith. יהוה had said it was going to rain, so rain it must, and he was going to pray until it did. He kept sending his servant back - there had to be a sign of rain coming because יהוה had said. Jesus has said that He will return, He will make Jerusalem a praise in all the earth - therefore this will certainly come about. Therefore, like Elijah, we must keep praying and not let up until it comes to pass. Keep watching and praying - pray then look for signs of the answer coming. Keep praying and watching until the signs of the answer appear. The future is not foretold to us so that  we can sit back and see it happen or predict it, but in order to show us how to pray, so that by earnest prayer we may cause יהוה to bring int obeying what He has said He will do. Pray and don’t give up. continue watching expectantly for the certain answer. 1 Kings 18:44 - Elijah prayed until he saw the answer on its way. The merest hint, the very first sign, a small cloud, was enough. Elijah knew the rain was imminent and now he sprang into action, not before. He told his servant to warn Ahab of tremendous rain - to hurry, for the rain was such that it would prevent travel. God had said that he would send rain (cf. 1 Kings 18:1) and here it was on its way! It was after all the waiting, time to act - and to move fast. In the end times after waiting and intercession there will come time for quick action.

1 Kings 18:45 - In the time it took the servant to tell the message to Ahab, the sky had grown dark with clouds - this front was moving in at a tremendous pace. The fire was spectacular and necessary to force the people to acknowledge יהוה as God, but it was the repentance, acknowledging יהוה as God, that was required before God could bring the blessing He had promised. The fire was God’s judgment, the rain was His blessing. The fire, though awesome, did not solve their most pressing and dire need. You can have all the fire you want but it doesn’t solve the drought. What is needed is rain! God’s presence that comes in response to repentance - dark clouds is where יהוה dwells (Psalm 18:11; 97:2); (1 Kings 8:12). What is required is His Holy Spirit among us - the great wind (Acts 2:2); and Jesus come amongst us: the rain (Joel 2:23; James 5:7,8). Ahab heeded Elijah’s instructions and rode to Jezreel to beat the incoming great rain squall. But his chariot was no competition for Elijah when the hand of the LORD was upon him! When  acts He does so with amazing rapidity! Three and a half long years of drought broken in a sudden moment (Isaiah 60:22).

Conclusion - Spectacle didn’t change heart - following judgment came mercy - and pure mercy it was because despite their confession the nation had not turned back to God. Despite the most spectacular proof and great kindness, still the nation clings to its false religion - walking by sight. This is how it will be at the end - God will perform wonders, men will know undeniably that it is God but still oppose Him and go their own way. Depressing - what hope is there? - next time speak about seeking God earnestly and then about the remnant.

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