The God Who Answers By Fire
THE GOD WHO ANSWERS BY FIRE
AProve it to me!@ Those have become household words in our own skeptical society. The time-honored virtues of trust and confidence are seldom to be found. This is not only true between two humans, but is also true between man and God. For centuries men have been saying that if God expects them to believe in Him, He must prove that He is, in fact, God. This sermon is a splendid example of proof that God is real and worthy of our absolute trust. 1 Kings 18, there is a showdown at Mount Carmel between the living God of heaven and the idols of men on earth.
I. Review of Events Leading Up to Carmel (1 Kings 17:1-18:18).
An overview of the movements related to Elijah=s life that can be found in these phrases:
1. AThere shall be neither dew nor rain@ Elijah speaking to Ahab(17:1).
1 Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, "As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word."
B. Hide yourself...Show yourself@ God speaking to Elijah (17:3; 18:1).
3. Seclusion at ACherith@ and AZarephath@ (17:3-24).
4. AElijah went to show himself to Ahab...Ahab went to meet Elijah> (18:2;16).
5. ATroubler of Israel,@ Ahab termed Elijah. AFollower of Baal,@ the prophet called the king.(18:17-18).
II Preparation for the Proof (1 Kings 18:19-21).
At the front end of this event, we want to observe the following elements of the story.
1. The Audience (vv 19-20). Two groups were represented at Elijahs request.
1. Prophets of Baal and the Asherah (v.19). Four hundred fifty (450) were aligned with Baal; 400 with the Assherah. All 850 ate at the queen=s table-at the kings expense. These prophets were promoters of idolatry in Israel. The upcoming challenge was directed specifically towards the prophets of Baal.
2. Sons of Israel (v.20). These simply were Elijah=s countrymen who worshiped the idols of Baal and the Asherah.
2. The Plan (v.21). Elijahs objective was to get people to make up their minds as to which - Baal or Jehovah - was actually God. They were Ahesitating between two opinions.@ The plan was for the benefit of the people rather than the priest, whose minds were already firm.
3. The Appeal (v.21). A...If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.@
III. Presentation of the Proof (1 Kings 18:22-38).
Elijah, God=s only prophet represented, declared war against the 450 prophets of Baal.
1. The Proposition (vv. 22-24). Two oxen were to be procured. The prophets of Baal were to have first choice of the animal they wanted to Acut up@ for the challenge. The meat was to be placed upon wood, unaccompanied by fire. Elijah in turn would do precisely the same. The prophets of Baal were then to call on Baal=s name in order for him to ignite a fire under their sacrifice. Again, Elijah would do the same - only he would call upon his God. The people accepted the proposition.
2. The Prophet and Baal (vv.25-29). The prophets began. From morning until evening they called to their god, AO Baal, answer us.@ By noon - no response; :no voice...no one answered@(v. 26). Humorous Observation: Elijah=s confidence showed through (v.27). He began mocking the prophets who, hard at work, failed to arouse their god. Call out with a loud voice "Shout louder!" he said. "Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened." Their appeal intensified. The volume of their voices increased. They Acut themselves@ until they hemorrhaged to get Baal=s attention, maintaining their frenzy until the time of the evening sacrifice. Still, they were met with silence; ABut there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.@(v.29). How painful and humiliating.
3. The Prophet and Jehovah God (vv.30-38). With the prophets of to the side - some bleeding, all exhausted - Elijah stepped forward and called the people to himself. With twelve stones (representing the twelve tribes of Jacob) he built his altan Ain the name of the Lord@ v.32), surrounded by a trench. When he placed his sacrifice atop the wood, he ordered four pitchers (or barrels) or water to be poured over the sacrifice, wood, and stones. This occurred three times. The run off water lay in the encircling trench. The prophet stepped up to the altar and said, AO Lord...today let it be known that Thou art God in Israel, and that I am Thy servant, and that I have done all these things at Thy word@ (v.36). Result? The fire of the Lord fell. The wood, sacrifice, stones, and dust were consumed in flame; even the water in the trench was Alicked up.@ God had responded to Elijah=s fearless demonstration of faith.
IV Response to the Events of Carmel(1 Kings 18:39-40).
Thanks to the writer of this historical piece, we can see just how God=s people and His prophet reacted.
1. People of Israel (v.39). With tangible proof before them, they fell on their faces declaring, A"The LORD ©© he is God! The LORD ©© he is God!"
2. Elijah the Prophet (v.40). He ordered the weary prophets of Baal to be taken to the brook Kishon, where they were slaughtered. This mass annihilation removed a spiritual malignancy from the land of Israel.
5. Four Concluding Truths to Be Observed.
This encounter between Elijah and the prophets of Baal, orchestrated by God, and a handful of insights that should spill into our own experience today. Note them carefully.
1. When we are sure that we are in the will of God, we are invincible. Note that each time Elijah spoke, he did so in a commanding tone: ALet them choose@ (v.23); AThen you call@ (v.24); ACome here to me@ (v.30); AFill...with water...pour it on@ (v. 33); ASeize the prophets@ (v.40).
2. Divided allegiance is as wrong as open idolatry (v.21).
3. In the final analysis, our most effective weapon is prayer (vv. 36-37).
4. Never underestimate the power of one totally dedicated life. (Consider how the chapter revolves around the effective work of one man standing against 450 prophets of Baal and numberless Asons of Israel.@)
Lesson 1: When we=re sure we=re in the will of God, we=re invincible.
1. Have you ever been outnumbered 850 to 1 like Elijah?
2. How did God bring glory to Himself through the situation?
Lesson 2: Divided allegiance is as wrong as open idolatry.
1. Have you been guilty of this hypocrisy lately?
2. How did it manifest itself?
Lesson 3: In the final analysis, prayer is our most effective weapon.
1. Let=s get gut level honest. Do you pray?
2. When? How often? If you struggle with this (as so many do), what hinders you in praying?
Lesson 4: Never underestimate the power of one totally dedicated life.
1. Could you be described as that one life?
2. If not, what is it that stands in the way?