Saturday, December 17, 2016

Elijah: Meeting the Threat of False Gods

1 Kgs 18–19

Elijah on Mount Carmel


The prophet Elijah decided it was time for a showdown between him and about a million Baal prophets—well 450 of them anyway. It was time to declare allegiances and see which God proved capable of defending his reputation and honor. Since Baal was supposedly a storm-god, Elijah figured sending a storm should be a snap for him—if he were really a god at all. To he told the Baal prophets to do their stuff, and get their god to send a fiery storm on their altar. The Baal prophets thought, “Boy, Elijah is playing right into our hands. Baal’s a storm-god for heaven’s sake!” They jumped on their altar and got going But noon came and “there was no sound, no answer” (1 Kgs 18:26).

Elijah wanted to rub their faces in it; so he began mocking them. Maybe you’re not yelling loud enough, jumping high enough, cutting deep enough. Maybe Baal’s off causing storms in the Bermuda Triangle. Maybe he’s tired and taking a rest—or maybe he’s visiting the restroom. The jumped, jived, and screamed until they got into such a religious frenzy that they even began to self-mutilate. They probably thought a little blood would get their god on the move. But evening came, “and still there was no sound, no answer, and no response” (18:29).

Now it was Elijah’s turn. Boy did he want to pour it on—literally. First, “he repaired the alter of the Lord that had been torn down” (18:30). Then he really got dramatic. He had a trench dug around the altar, and got volunteers to flood the place with water. Then he had them do it again—and again. Only when the whole lot were sloshing around in water up to their shins did Elijah decide to do any praying. Instead of screaming, dancing, and carrying on, he just mentioned to the Lord that it would be good if he would show his people who was really God so that they would acknowledge it (18:36–37).

Lightning flashed, the water on the altar and in the trenches sizzled away like your mom’s spit on the iron. When people could see through the steam and smoke, all they could see was blackened bare spot. Now the people got into it. The cry went up, “The Lord—he is God! Yes, the Lord is God!” (18:39). Elijah figured this was as good a time as any to put finished to Baalism. So he told the people to drag all the Baal prophets off to the Kishon Valley where he would kill them (18:40).

Whew! Did this ever get Queen Jezebel’s tail into a twist (1 Kgs 19). As a princess from Tyre, she had always been pretty much “into” Baalism. These prophets had been her closest advisers and fixers. Word got back to Elijah that she wanted his hide, so he went and hid out on Mount Horeb where the Lord sustained him (1 Kgs 19:1–8).

Elijah began to have a bit of a pity party. The Lord came around asking what he was up do hiding out on Horeb. Elijah pretty much told the Lord that he was all the Lord had to operate with in this world; he was the sole covenant keeper and Baal prophet slayer. He said I can’t take it; kill me (19:9–10). Instead, God told him get up and start listening for my voice again. As Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a storm blasted through, then an earthquake rumbled in, and then a fiery storm came. But the Lord was not in them (19:11–12)

Instead, only when silence returned did “the sound of a gentle whisper” come to Elijah’s ears (19:12). Elijah was hearing from the Lord, who once again asked him what he was doing hiding out on Horeb (19:13). Again Elijah told the Lord that he was the only one still left to follow the Lord faithfully, and wicked people were out for his skin.

The Lord told him, Not so! Get up and get back to your business of pointing out the way of the Lord to my people. I’m going to have you appointing new kings, and a new successor who himself will appoint new kings. And there are 7,000 of your compatriots in Israel who have never bowed to Baal (19:15–18). Even in this most desperate time, things are better than you know.

Questions, Reflections, and Commitments

  • What are the modern manifestations of Baalism in our culture?
  • Does God more often speak to you in the still small voice rather than the blast of powerful and miraculous manifestations? Is your ear tuned to that still small voice?
  • Have you gotten discouraged, thinking that the cause of God is growing weak today? Ask God to alert you to today’s 7,000.

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