By Dustin Allman
Pastor, The Fort Church, Kingsport
Focal Passage: 1 Kings 18:25-39
God alone is full of glory. The surrounding context shows us that a showdown of worship is imminent.
The purpose of this showdown wasn’t for entertainment, but to demand a choice of worshiping either Yahweh God or Baal. Elijah addresses the people on top of the mountain saying, “How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If Yahweh is God, follow Him. But if Baal, follow him” (Ch. 18:21).
Elijah’s message is plain and simple. You cannot worship Baal or Asherah and Yahweh! What you believe about God is the most important matter you could ever think through. Commitments have consequences. He calls the people to actually follow God, not to discuss ideas. Nothing half-hearted, but total devotion!
We understand this battle for our allegiance more than we’d like to admit. We know people who want to worship on a Sunday, but when it comes to business, politics, economics or conflict, they’re tempted to prioritize conventional wisdom, what’s popular or more culturally acceptable. God will not share His glory with another.
Nothing is too hard for God. But to all those watching, it might’ve looked like a far more difficult challenge! The contest was simple. Each side would prepare a sacrifice and the real deity would respond with fire from heaven. Elijah explains the rules and basically gives every advantage to the home team.
He reminds them he’s outnumbered and shows good sportsmanship by letting the prophets of Baal choose first. Elijah even has the altar flooded to make it harder! To top it off, the entire contest played into Baal’s strength.
Baal was supposedly the god of the sun, so fire should be easy. Surely he can burn some wood. The people like their chances. “Bring it on,” they say. The God who answered prayer would prove Himself as the real God.
God’s children always have a connection to God the Father. You may remember the old cell phone commercial, “Can you hear me now?” In this case, there was never a connection in the first place.
Baal couldn’t answer because he didn’t exist. Verse 26 says after the people did not hear from Baal for half the day, they began to dance around the altar. They were only burning calories. It was an entertaining show, but it accomplished nothing.
Elijah engages in some holy sarcasm by mocking them in verse 27, “Shout loudly, for he’s a god! Maybe he’s thinking it over; maybe he has wandered away; or maybe he’s on the road. Perhaps he’s sleeping and will wake up!” One suggestion regarding “wandered away” is that he had to take a restroom break! They continue to cut themselves with knives and spears to get their god’s attention.
In this story, we can easily detect the emptiness of false religion. Elijah prays a brief prayer (vv. 36-37) and God hears and acts in an incredible way (vv. 38-39). God has no rivals.
He never sleeps. He is never “away.” God’s people can always reach their Father.
God had conclusively proved His power against Baal’s impotence and the people were forced to recognize it. B&R