FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT
Lord, Your power over nature never ceases to amaze us.
Read 1 KINGS 18:16–46
Elijah on Mount Carmel
16 So Obadiah went to meet Ahab and told him, and Ahab went to meet Elijah. 17 When he saw Elijah, he said to him, “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?”
18 “I have not made trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “But you and your father’s family have. You have abandoned the Lord’s commands and have followed the Baals. 19 Now summon the people from all over Israel to meet me on Mount Carmel. And bring the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.”
20 So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel. 21 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.
22 Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only one of the Lord’s prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets. 23 Get two bulls for us. Let Baal’s prophets choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. 24 Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by fire—he is God.”
Then all the people said, “What you say is good.”
25 Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first, since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire.” 26 So they took the bull given them and prepared it.
Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. “Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made.
27 At noon Elijah began to taunt them. “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.” 28 So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. 29 Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.
30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come here to me.” They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the Lord, which had been torn down. 31 Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, saying, “Your name shall be Israel.” 32 With the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two seahs[a] of seed. 33 He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, “Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood.”
34 “Do it again,” he said, and they did it again.
“Do it a third time,” he ordered, and they did it the third time. 35 The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench.
36 At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 37 Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”
38 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.
39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!”
40 Then Elijah commanded them, “Seize the prophets of Baal. Don’t let anyone get away!” They seized them, and Elijah had them brought down to the Kishon Valley and slaughtered there.
41 And Elijah said to Ahab, “Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain.” 42 So Ahab went off to eat and drink, but Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel, bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees.
43 “Go and look toward the sea,” he told his servant. And he went up and looked.
“There is nothing there,” he said.
Seven times Elijah said, “Go back.”
44 The seventh time the servant reported, “A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea.”
So Elijah said, “Go and tell Ahab, ‘Hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.’”
45 Meanwhile, the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain started falling and Ahab rode off to Jezreel. 46 The power of the Lord came on Elijah and, tucking his cloak into his belt, he ran ahead of Ahab all the way to Jezreel.
a 1 Kings 18:32 That is, probably about 24 pounds or about 11 kilograms
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“Thou art coming to a King; / large petitions with thee bring; / for his grace and power are such, / none can ever ask too much” (John Newton, 1725–1807).
After some three years of drought the Lord decides to relieve his people and send rain, but ﬁrst he must persuade them to start looking to him for help, not to Baal. He longs to hear their prayers once more. He longs to demonstrate the power of prayer. Elijah has experienced that power himself through trust and subsequent obedience to some difficult words of the Lord. Now he puts what he has learned in private into practice in a very public arena. As soon as his audience has gathered, he jumps straight to the heart of the issue (21). He sternly issues a deeply uncomfortable question for anyone trying to sit on the fence, but, while the people may not regard Baal very much, they know all too well the wrath of Ahab and Jezebel. Therefore, they are in no hurry to nail their colors to the Lord’s mast. They want proof, a miracle! They have, of course, forgotten all the miracles of the past. So, in his great mercy, the Lord gives them another one.
They recognize that this contest is more than fair (24). The prophets of Baal go ﬁrst, but, as a manufactured god, Baal is incapable of any response. Elijah makes the most of Baal’s deafening silence (27), provoking the pagans to frenzy. By contrast, his own measured, methodical actions reveal a deep respect for the Lord, his word and his covenant. Imagine the shock as Elijah curiously arranges twelve stones (not just ten to represent the northern kingdom) and pours twelve jars of precious water over the sacriﬁce. At the prescribed time he prays a simple but reverent prayer (36,37), focusing on the glory of God and the spiritual need of the moment. Heaven responds, the people quickly turn to the Lord, and Elijah keeps praying until the promise is fulﬁlled and the long overdue rains arrive.
Meditate upon your own experiences of answered prayer and give thanks. Pray for anyone trying to sit on the fence spiritually. Pray that your nation might follow the Lord.
Lord, we thank You for responding to prayer in a public arena when Your people are counting on You to come through for us. Help us to ﬁght the good ﬁght (cf. 1 Tim. 6:12).