1 Kings 18
As we mentioned yesterday, Elijah did what God told him to do, and did it when God told him to do it. So in I Kings 18, when God told Elijah to “Go and present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the land.” Elijah went to find Ahab – even though Elijah was a wanted man. And Elijah knew that God was going to finally send rain – after a 3.5 year drought.
When they met, Elijah proposed a “God contest” to Ahab. He told Ahab to gather at Mount Carmel the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah, along with representatives from throughout all of Israel. (The 400 prophets of Asherah declined the invitation.) Once everyone was assembled, Elijah made a speech in front of all of the representatives saying (1 Kings 18:21), “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.”
Then Elijah proposed a challenge. Give a bull to the 450 prophets of Baal, and Elijah would get a bull. They would build an altar, and he would build an altar. They would pray to Baal, and he would pray to Jehovah. The god that answered by fire from heaven would be the real god. All the people replied, “What you say is good.”
So the 450 prophets of Baal got to go first. They chose their bull, and built their altar. They prayed from morning until noon, but nothing happened. At noon, Elijah started taunting them, “Shout louder! Surely he is a god. Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.” So they shouted louder, and started slashing themselves with swords and spears – but there was still no response.
Then Elijah got his turn. He rebuilt the altar of God, cut up the bull, and put it on top of his altar. He then dug a trench around the altar, and had the people pour 12 large jars of water over the offering and the wood. (Remember there had been a drought for 3.5 years, so water was very precious, and this had to have seemed like a huge waste of water.) The water completely filled the trench – Elijah was giving himself a handicap. Then Elijah prayed, “O Lord, 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. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”
Did you notice Elijah’s reason for asking God to send fire from heaven? Was it to make Elijah look good? No. It was to show the people that Jehovah is the only true God, and to show the people that Elijah obeyed God. And ultimately, it was so the people would turn back to God.
Anyway, Elijah prayed, then *poof* fire fell from heaven and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, and even the water. When the people saw this, they fell face-down on the ground and said, “The Lord – He is God. The Lord – He is God.”
Once the 450 prophets of Baal were slaughtered, Elijah told Ahab to go eat and drink before the rain started. Then Elijah knelt to the ground and prayed for rain. He sent his servant to look out over the Mediterranean Sea to see if he saw any clouds. There were none. This was repeated. After the seventh prayer, the servant said he saw a small cloud forming. Elijah told Ahab to jump in his chariot and escape to Jezreel before the rain stopped him, so Ahab rode off. “The power of the Lord came upon Elijah and, tucking his cloak into his belt, he ran ahead of Ahab all the way to Jezreel.” – 17 miles.
In addition to Elijah’s obedience mentioned in yesterday’s devotion, in this story we see examples of his incredible faith. Would you have had the guts to confront Ahab, even though Ahab had put a bounty on your head? Elijah did. Would you have been bold enough to challenge the pagan priests to a contest to call fire from heaven to declare which god was real? Elijah did. Would you have been so bold as to tell Ahab to eat before the rain stopped him – even though the sky was still clear. Elijah did.
How could Elijah have such profound faith in God? It was because he was doing what God had told him to do. And since he was obeying God, he had complete faith that God had things under control, even when things seemed impossible. And then as icing on the cake, God gave him supernatural strength and endurance to outrun a horse and chariot for 17 miles to stay ahead of the rain.
The incredible faith, answers to prayer, and incredible endurance that Elijah experienced were all because he followed God wholeheartedly.
Wouldn’t you love to have incredible faith, amazing answers to prayer, and other incredible things happen to you too? You can – if you too choose to follow God wholeheartedly, and obey him in every way. Or are you stuck “wavering between two opinions?” If so, I’m reminded of Revelation 3:15-16, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”
Make up your mind. Completely commit to one side or the other. I’m choosing Elijah’s side – God’s side. Which will you choose?
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
- Imagine you were an observer on Mount Carmel. What sights, sounds, smells, and emotions would you experience? What would you tell others about this experience?
- What other false gods and idols have taken the place of Baal today?
- Can you be on God’s side – just a little bit? What will happen?
- How are you doing at following God wholeheartedly? What would God suggest you change in order to follow Him better?