Every time I read this story my pulse quickens and I feel the power of God come down. If I am discouraged or feel weak, this story is a powerful reminder of the glory and power of God. While he may permit some things to last for a season according to his own purpose there does come a day of reckoning. Let me set the stage for this story...
Israel had become a divided nation. After the death of Solomon, civil war had broken out. Only the tribe of Judah remained faithful to the House of David. This is the kingdom became known as Judah while the second kingdom became the Kingdom of Israel (See 1 Kings 12 for more information). It's helpful to know this when studying the Old Testament.
During the time of the prophet Elijah, there reigned a king in Israel named Ahab. Note that the Bible says Ahab did more evil that any of those before him in the sight of the Lord. That gives you a pretty good idea of what Ahab was like!
I think it's important to know a bit about Baal too. You'll understand why as the story progresses. I'll share what little I do know about this Canaanite god. He was supposed to be the son of the chief Canaanite god who was called "El" not to be confused with the true God. Although he is the "father" he doesn't rank the importance of Baal, "the son". You can probably see where this is going. Baal is an "antichrist" or false christ. He is also supposed to be the storm god and the principal Canaanite deity. Remember the storm god part. This will be important as the story unfolds. Oh, he was also had power over fire such as what comes from lightening. That will be important also later on.
Remember, Israel has turned from God and is worshiping the so-called god of the storm. Now God declares there will be no rain or dew in the land until He (God) not Baal (false god) says so. Do you understand what was happening here? God was saying Baal is not the god of the storm, He is! God meant business.
I'm going to jump ahead three years. You can read about what happened during those three years in 1 Kings 17. God tells Elijah to go see Ahab. Now Ahab had been hunting for Elijah without success for three years. He had even gone to other nations looking for Elijah. Why? Because there hadn't been any rain or even dew in the land for three years. Some of you may have lived through times of extended drought. You know what it's like! I've only been through about a year of a bad drought and since I live in the Land of 10,000 lakes that's not nearly as bad as it might be in other places.
Ahab's god, Baal, had of course failed to produce any rain. Ahab had to admit that Elijah's God was more powerful than Baal. Of course, Ahab couldn't admit that. Instead he just blamed everything on Elijah. Elijah boldly answers this charge. Elijah not only turns around and sets Ahab straight as to who the trouble-maker really is, he also gives an order to Ahab and Ahab obeys him! Notice who really has the authority here. It certainly does not seem to be Ahab.
Elijah stands up in front of the people and issues an ultimatum. Elijah then issues the challenge The people seemed to think this was a good idea. People love competitions. It was 450 prophets of Baal to 1 prophet of God. Everyone got set for the big showdown. I'm sure people were expecting that Elijah was going to get fried by some lightening from heaven. Knowing the human race, I'm sure there were bookies and vendors all over the place mingling with the gawkers.
Elijah shows good sportsmanship. He lets the prophets of Baal go first. The sacrifice is prepared and the prophets begin to call upon Baal to send down fire from heaven. They start out in the morning and continue on until noon. Now, although the Bible does not mention this specifically, we do have historical evidence which suggests that priests or prophets of ancient religions were not above using "tricks" to amaze their family, friends and tourists. I have a funny feeling that some of these "tricks" might have been set up. If so, you can imagine how surprised these prophets might have been when their tricks flopped. This is just mere speculation on my part of course but I've just wondered about this sometimes. It makes me smile.
Around noon, Elijah got tired of how things were going. He decided to have some fun. I really believe that was what he was doing. I mean, here were 450 men dancing around and shouting all morning to a god Elijah knew could not hear them or do anything for them. I really love what Elijah does. Guess what? They do what Elijah says! They begin to shout even louder and then they start cutting themselves with knives and spears so their blood flowed. This goes on until the time of the evening sacrifice. The last part of verse 29 says "But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention" (NIV).
Elijah had enough. They had been at this all day. He repairs the altar of the Lord which lay in ruins. He digs a deep trench around the altar of the Lord. He arranges the wood and the sacrifice. Then he commands that four large jars of water be poured over the sacrifice and the wood. This is done three times. Lest anyone think these were small jars which just wet a corner of the sacrifice, the Bible tells us that the water ran down the sacrifice and the altar and even filled the trench.
The sacrifice was ready. No one could accuse Elijah of tricks. He was going to call down fire upon a water-soaked sacrifice which was on water-soaked wood. Okay.
There was no dancing, shouting, crying or cutting. God's servant called upon God and He responded immediately. Read that again slowly and let the full impact of what just happened hit you. The fire not only fell, it consumed everything...everything including the water-soaked sacrifice, the water-soaked wood, the stones, the dust...and the water.
That, my friend is the power of God. That is the power of your Heavenly Father, your Master and Savior, your Redeemer, your Healer. If you are truly washed by the Blood of the Lamb of God, that is whose authority you walk under. Not your own authority but the authority given to you by Christ Jesus. I had to sit here for just a moment in complete silence as I contemplated this. I hope you are too.
The people fell to the ground and declared "The Lord--he is God! They recognized who God was. The false god of the storm who was supposed to control lightening was unable to send fire from heaven. Only The Lord God Almighty was able to do so.
There's something more. After the prophets of Baal were killed according to Elijah's direction, Elijah tells Ahab that it is going to rain. For three years, the prophets of Baal (false god of the storm) had been unable to produce any rain. When God said rain, it rained.
The Lord--he is God! The Lord--he is God!
I JUST read 1 Kings 19 last night. I got all steamed at that Jezebel, let me tell you!
And none of us should ever let this wonderful lesson grow cold in our hearts, GOD IS GOD ALONE.
Wonderful job of handling this record! There are certain records in the Old Testament which should be required reading every so often, and this is certainily one of those records.
Just as a note of additional information. It is interesting to note the three times Elijah is brought up or appears in the New Testament. He is with Moses on the Mount of Transfiguration, He is again with Moses as a witness in Revelation and then there are the verses in James 5:16b-18:
"The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.
Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years ans six months.
And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit."
Elijah is mentioned as the prime example of "the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much". He was the "prophet's prophet". As great as Elijah was, he was still a man with a nature like ours. He faced doubts, fears and even depression. Yet, when God needed him to show who was really God, he was there standing tall and being all God needed him to be.
Thank you for bringing this incredible man of faith to the forefront of our minds during these critical hours in which we live.
I just read 1 Kings to my children in our Bible study time. It is very encouraging to me at this time, where I go from complete confidence in God, to fear, to depression and just wanting to stay in bed. He gives the strength when we need it. Very good blog, thanks for reiterating it to me, it spoke quite loudly to me! Blessings! Andrea
I don't rember who said it, but is stated in the bible, that all scripture was written for our admonition. This account of Baal seems no different. In Revelations you might associate Baal-by-lon as an emerging religious syndrome in these times and futher down the future. Baal is just another name for the devil. It is truly shocking to understand that some circles worship Baal in these modern times.
These worshipers of Baal cannot bring down the rain, the washing of the word, the baptism of the holy spirit. They claim that they are in 'the spirit' but not everyone is convinced. There's an account in Acts where Philip met this sorcerer name Simon who wanted to buy the power to bring down the ' water'- the spirit- but was rebuked for his sin by the apostles. It is not new that the babylonian religion is the oldest of since time began. Since the crade of civilization. Abraham came from Babylon.
And yet Jesus told the Jews and Pharasses that their genre or generation will not end till they see the Lord come back at the end of time. The Baals have been. Are. And will be here when Jesus returns. Revelations. You be no mean sea me again until you say blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord...Jesus. May you be blessed. Amen.