1 Kings 18 is a fascinating Chapter to read, full of tension, drama and great dialog. It features Elijah the prophet, whose life would make a pretty interesting mini-series, as he confronted the evil minions of Ahab and Jezebel on Mount Carmel. The god Baal was a Mesopotamian pagan deity whose name was a form of the word “Lord”, closely associated with fertility and storms. Anytime you combine being pagan with fertility, your PG worship rating goes right out the window– as do morality, decency, and true godliness. Under King Ahab’s corrupt leadership Israel had begun to worship Baal, and the Lord sent Elijah to do something about it.
“So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel. Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” But the people said nothing.” (1 Kings 18:20-21, NIV)
A Dramatic Confrontation
The full chapter of 1 Kings 18 contains one of the great stories in the Bible. While Ahab was King of Israel, he and his evil wife Jezebel reinstituted Baal worship with its corrupt high places and pagan practices. Ahab was a bad king, but his wife was even worse. Jezebel was killing the Lord’s prophets wherever she found them according to verse four, so it took great courage for Elijah even to appear before the king, much less challenge his authority. But challenge it he did, and Ahab gathered his 450 prophets of Baal to stand against this one man.
Picture the scene: a evil King surrounded by corrupt priests wielding power over a confused people. They gathered on Mount Carmel for an epic confrontation between God and evil. (If you think about it, it’s never “good versus evil” it’s really always about God versus evil!) It was a dark chapter in Israel’s history, and the nation stood at a crossroads between the Lord and 450 prophets of Baal. What a moment! What a story!
God Versus Evil
Elijah confronted them with a challenge: each of us will prepare a sacrifice, and then call upon God to consume it with fire. The prophets of Baal went first, to no avail. They danced, threw fits, and cut themselves. Nothing happened. No fire—no testimony. Their story ended in futile pursuit of a false, vain god whose only power existed in temporary pagan pleasures. (Not so different than most pursuits today, is it?)
Elijah then poured water over his sacrifice until it was soaked. Then he did it AGAIN. Then he had them soak it with water a THIRD TIME. When he finally called upon the Lord, the Bible says, “Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.” (18:38) What a finish!
The prophets of Baal were proved to be charlatans and deceivers. And after watching the Lord’s fire rain down from heaven, the Israelites acknowledged and followed God. The prophets of Baal were pursued and struck down, to a man.
There are a couple of things important here: One, never underestimate the power and influence one person can have. James 5:17 says, “Elijah was a man just like us”. Is that true? Perhaps one person like you can help someone turn their life around. (To paraphrase Chris Farley’s motivational speaker Matt Foley: “Even if that person is YOU.”) Edmund Burke said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” So, then, DO SOMETHING. Even if you don’t change the world, you may change YOURSELF.
Second, Elijah confronted evil by calling down the fire of God. When is the last time you asked for God’s fire to come down and consume you? Ever? (No story, no testimony…) Like Elijah, we live in a world where leaders support shaky beliefs, people follow false gods, and evil seems to be gaining… And a lot of folks are on the fence like the crowd watching Elijah, interested on seeing whether God will work, but saying nothing. They are waiting to see whether a new chapter of Acts will be written… I’m thinking this world could use a few more fired-up Christians, and the world could change, one heart at a time. Could it happen?
Jeremiah 33:3 says, “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.” Give it a shot, you might be surprised. And think of the story they might write about YOU someday!
Fire on the Mountain
Ahab ruled with evil lust.
He worshipped Baal, he screamed and cussed,
He broke the covenant’s sacred trust
And woke the Lord’s divine disgust.
Jezebel was his evil Queen.
She did some things that were obscene–
More evil than Ahab had been,
Hateful, powerful, cold and mean.
Their pagan prophets made the scene,
(Just read it in First Kings Eighteen)
But it was all corrupt, unclean,
The worst stuff you have ever seen…
Against them, just one prophet came:
(Elijah was his given name),
A man who prayed, and stopped the rain,
A man of faith. He changed the game
When he alone on Carmel stood
And challenged Israel to do good.
Elijah, see, he understood,
In an hour of need, that Yahweh COULD
Display His power against great odds:
If you need help, then ask for God’s.
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