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Elijah's Test by Fire!

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Lord, Let The Fire Fall


Text: I Kings 18: 21-24

Intro: Ever since the day man discovered it, fire has been a useful tool. But man soon discovered that fire could be both friend and foe. Not only could it provide light and warmth and be use to cook food, but it could also do great harm.

                  However, it is not with the particular uses of fire that I am concerned today. I am interested in the symbology of fire, as it relates to God.
You see, throughout Scripture, we find that God has responded by, appeared in the form of, or has been likened to fire. And in every case, fire is seen as a symbol of God’s purity and holiness.

In Genesis 15: 17-18, God, as a flaming torch, passed between the pieces of Abraham’s sacrifice, confirming His covenant with him. Here, the fire speaks of God’s purity, holiness, and reliability.

In Exodus 3: 2-6, God appears to Moses in the burning bush. Again, the righteous purity and holiness of God is implied by the presence of fire. This is further emphasized by God’s command to Moses to remove his sandals, because he was on holy ground.

Exodus 13: 21-22 depicts God in the form of a pillar of fire. Here the Hebrews saw God not only as the pure and holy One, but also as their Light and Guide, as well as their powerful Protector. The pillar of fire assured Israel of God’s presence.

Today’s message finds it’s setting on Mt. Carmel, where the prophet Elijah has proposed a showdown of sorts. Due to Israel’s backsliding into idolatry, under the wicked reign of King Ahab, God has withheld the rain for three and a half years (James 5: 17). But Elijah has summoned the Israelites and their wicked king to Mt. Carmel for the purpose of settling, once and for all, the question of who was the one true God. The deciding factor would be the god that answered by fire.

This is an exciting story. But folks, there is truth for us in this account. The fact is people of our day are also waiting for the fire to fall. “How so?” you may ask. I’m referring to the fact that most people in our modern-day society simply don’t find God and His church very exciting, or relevant. I believe that is largely due to the fact that the fire of God’s purity, power and presence has ceased to bun among God’s people.

 

My prayer today is, “Lord, let the fire fall! Let the hearts of Your people burn once again with a holy fervor for You, that all the world may know the one, true God lives.”
As we view this passage, I want us to be aware what necessitated the falling of the fire of God among His people, as well as the results it produced.


Theme: The fire of God needed to fall because of:


I. THE PROBLEM AMONG GOD’S PEOPLE

A. The People Were Corrupt.

1. Ahab had led the people into idolatry.

I Kings 18: 17 “And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel?
18 And he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and thou hast followed Baalim.”


NOTE: Ahab was one of the most wicked kings that ever reigned over Israel, according to I Kings 16: 33, which says, “And Ahab made a grove; and Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him.”

2. Ahab’s wife, Queen Jezebel, blatantly honored and supported the idolatrous priests of Baal.

I Kings 18: 19 “Now therefore send, and gather to me all Israel unto mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the groves four hundred, which eat at Jezebel’s table.”

NOTE: It seems that our nation has made a habit of honoring people, who deserve none. We give accolades to perverse movie stars, and elevate to hero status, athletes who live ungodly and perverted lives. That says a lot about how far our nation has fallen from God. Thomas Carlyle once said, “Show me the man you honor and I will know what kind of man you are.”

B. The People Were Confused.

I Kings 18: 20 “So Ahab sent unto all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together unto mount Carmel.
21 And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.”

NOTE: [1] Idolatry had been a recurring problem throughout Israel’s history. They would serve God faithfully for a while, and then resort to serving idols for a while. They seemed to lean in whatever direction the wind of popular opinion was blowing at the time.
[2] People in our day are in much the same spiritual condition. They are not only confused about who God really is, but whether He even exists at all.


II. THE PROPOSED PLAN OF PROOF

A. Elijah Proposes A Trial.

I Kings 18: 22 “Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the Lord; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men.
23 Let them therefore give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: and I will dress the other bullock, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under:
24 And call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the Lord: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God. And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken.”


NOTE: [1] Notice that there was to be no man-made fire put under the sacrifice. After all, this was not to be about what man could do, but about what God could do.
[2] People are waiting to see some things from Christians:

2a. People need to see the fire of fervor for God. Our indifference towards God implies His lack of significance.

2b. People need to see the fire of committed consistency in the way we live. Our wishy-washy lifestyle sends the message to the world that God doesn’t really make a difference in one’s life.

2c. People need to see the fire of God’s power, purity, and presence in the lives of His children. Too often, Christians live and react to life as though God were impotent, indifferent, and absent.

B. Baal Is Put To The Test.

1. Prayer was enjoined.

1a. An Altar was made

I Kings 18: 25 “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.
26a 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…”

2. Baal’s priests were enthusiastic.

I Kings 18: 26b “…and they leaped upon the altar which was made.
27 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 is sleeping, and must be awaked.
28 And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them.”

3. Their god did not respond to their efforts.

I Kings 18: 29 “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.”

NOTE: [1] There are a few things to be noted here:

1a. The priests of Baal had prayer, but no power; they had fervor, but no fire; they had an altar, but a god who was absent.

1b. Folks, all the fleshly programs and enthusiasm builders in the world won’t bring down the fire of God. But these guys had a more basic problem.

Ps.135: 15 “The idols of the heathen are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands.
16 They have mouths, but they speak not; eyes have they, but they see not;
17 They have ears, but they hear not; neither is there any breath in their mouths.”

1c. If actions speak louder than words, then Baal’s lack of activity spoke volumes. Let me illustrate.

A young American engineer was sent to Ireland by his company to work in a new electronics plant. It was a two-year assignment that he had accepted because it would enable him to earn enough to marry his long-time girlfriend. She had a job near her home in Tennessee, and their plan was to pool their resources and put a down payment on a house when he returned. They corresponded often, but as the lonely weeks went by, she began expressing doubts that he was being true to her, exposed as he was to comely Irish lasses.
The young engineer wrote back, declaring with some passion that he was paying absolutely no attention to the local girls. “I admit,” he wrote, “that sometimes I’m tempted. But I fight it. I’m keeping myself for you.”
In the next mail, the engineer received a package. It contained a note from his girl and a harmonica. “I’m sending this to you,” she wrote, “so you can learn to play it and have something to take your mind off those girls.”
The engineer replied, “Thanks for the harmonica. I’m practicing on it every night and thinking of you.”
At the end of his two-year stint, the engineer was transferred back to company headquarters. He took the first plane to Tennessee to be reunited with his girl. Her whole family was with her, but as he rushed forward to embrace her, she held up a restraining hand and said sternly, “Just hold on there a minute, Billy Bob. Before any serious kissin’ and huggin’ gets started here, let me hear you play that harmonica!”

Bits & Pieces, October 15, 1992, pp. 17-18.

[2] Another application to be made here is this: God is not impressed with the fleshly fire of religious self-effort; no matter how enthusiastic it may be. He is looking for the fire of Holy Spirit-inspired commitment, dedication, and love toward God that comes from the heart.


III. THE PREPARATION OF GOD’S PROPHET

A. Elijah Repaired The Broken Altar.

I Kings 18: 30 “And Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me. And all the people came near unto him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord that was broken down.
31 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:”


NOTE: [1] Ahab and Jezebel had ordered all the altars of Jehovah destroyed, according to I Kings 19: 10. The priests of Baal had destroyed this altar with all their false religious hoopla. There’s a principle to be found in that: Anytime we allow false gods to come into our lives, the altar of God will suffer.
[2] Dear child of God, if you are backslidden and away from God today, you need to repair the altar of your heart and turn back to Him. The fire of God can’t fall until the altar is repaired.

B. Elijah Removed Every Possibility Of Artificiality.

I Kings 18: 32 “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.
33 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.
34 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.
35 And the water ran round about the altar; and he filled the trench also with water.”

C. Elijah Requested A Show Of Power From God Almighty.

I Kings 18: 36 “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.
37 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.”


IV. THE POWER OF GOD WAS PERSUASIVE

A. The Altar And Sacrifice Were Consumed.

I Kings 18: 38 “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.”

B. The People Came To The Right Conclusion.

I Kings 18: 39 “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.”

C. False Religion Was Condemned.

I Kings 18: 40 “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.”

NOTE: The principle here is that when the fire of God falls in a person’s life, bringing them to fervor and full commitment to Christ, every provision for the false gods of the past must be terminated, not toyed with.









Theme: The fire of God needed to fall because (of):


I. THE PROBLEM AMONG GOD’S PEOPLE

II. THE PROPOSED PLAN FOR PROOF

III. THE PREPARATION OF GOD’S PROPHET

IV. THE POWER OF GOD WAS PERSUASIVE

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