But the LORD is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King. At His wrath the earth quakes, and the nations cannot endure His indignation. Jeremiah 10:10
In my reading through the Bible, this morning I came across this story of Elijah and the "battle" with Baal. This is one of my favorite stories of the Old Testament, which showcases God's mighty power and the disastrous results of not following Him.
In I Kings 18, we find this story. God's people had been ruled by evil kings for many years, and were currently under the reign of Ahab. These kings had turned the people away from their Deliverer and had them worshiping idols, in this case Baal and Asherah. Elijah had prophesied that they would go without rain for 3 years, and they had. God sends Elijah back to the King, and Elijah tells Ahab why Israel has been in such a rough spot for these three years.
When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, "Is this you, you troubler of Israel?" He said, "I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father's house have, because you have forsaken the commandments of the LORD and you have followed the Baals. Now then send and gather to me all Israel at Mount Carmel, together with 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of the Asherah, who eat at Jezebel's table." I Kings 18:17-19
So, the King gathers all the people as Elijah requests and he challenges their poor choices.
Elijah came near to all the people and said, "How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him." But the people did not answer him a word.
I Kings 18:21
So, Elijah sets out to prove to these hard hearted people that the Lord IS God - that He is THE living God in contrast to their idols of wood and stone. He does this by setting up a contest of sorts. The followers of Baal will build an altar, prepare an ox for sacrifice, and pray to Baal to set it on fire. Then Elijah will build an altar, prepare an ox and pray to God and ask Him to set it on fire.
Elijah invites the followers of Baal to go first.
Then they took the ox which was given them and they prepared it and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon saying, "O Baal, answer us." But there was no voice and no one answered. And they leaped about the altar which they made. I Kings 18:26
Can you picture this? They are dancing around, jumping, flailing, crying out and not getting a response. Elijah pokes a little fun at them:
It came about at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, "Call out with a loud voice, for he is a god; either he is occupied or gone aside, or is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and needs to be awakened." I Kings 18:27
And now the people who follow Baal start to get a little desperate. They believe that their god of wood and stone will answer them if they try hard enough, and they even resort to harming themselves in order to get his attention.
So they cried with a loud voice and cut themselves according to their custom with swords and lances until the blood gushed out on them. When midday was past, they raved until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice; but there was no voice, no one answered, and no one paid attention. I Kings 18:28-29
No one paid attention. Why? Because their "god" is made out of wood - the same wood that they use to keep warm and cook food! I am reminded what the prophet Isaiah says later in the Old Testament about how foolish it is for people to worship idols made by the hands of men.
Surely he cuts cedars for himself, and takes a cypress or an oak and raises it for himself among the trees of the forest. He plants a fir, and the rain makes it grow. Then it becomes something for a man to burn, so he takes one of them and warms himself; he also makes a fire to bake bread. He also makes a god and worships it; he makes it a graven image and falls down before it. Half of it he burns in the fire; over this half he eats meat as he roasts a roast and is satisfied. He also warms himself and says, "Aha! I am warm, I have seen the fire." But the rest of it he makes into a god, his graven image He falls down before it and worships; he also prays to it and says, "Deliver me, for you are my god." Isaiah 44:14-17
Well, now it's Elijah's turn, and he knows that His God is about to put on a show for these idolatrous Israelites. And he ups the ante - in addition to just putting an ox on the altar, he douses the animal and the whole area with water!
Then Elijah said to all the people, "Come near to me." So all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the LORD which had been torn down. Elijah took twelve stones according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD had come, saying, "Israel shall be your name." So with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD, and he made a trench around the altar, large enough to hold two measures of seed. Then he arranged the wood and cut the ox in pieces and laid it on the wood. And he said, "Fill four pitchers with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood." And he said, "Do it a second time," and they did it a second time. And he said, "Do it a third time," and they did it a third time. The water flowed around the altar and he also filled the trench with water. I Kings 18:30-35
And now we see the power of the living God. Elijah cries out to Him in prayer:
At the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet came near and said, "O LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant and I have done all these things at Your word. Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that You, O LORD, are God, and that You have turned their heart back again." I Kings 18:36-37
God answers mightily.
Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. I Kings 18:38
And the people have no choice but to respond to what they see - and repent that the LORD is the One True God, the only One worthy to be worshipped and praised.
When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, "The LORD, He is God; the LORD, He is God." I Kings 18:39
Elijah's God does indeed still live today. The same God that brought fire down upon that sacrifice to show that He is the One True God can and will bring fire to your soul and showers of blessing to your life.
Think about what you are valuing and "worshipping" more than the Lord your God. Turn away from those things, whether they are material items, expectations, emotional ideals, or harmful habits. Leave behind the idols of this world and find the freedom of passionately pursuing the Only One who can answer your prayers - the living God!
Elijah's God Still Lives Today
Words by William Grum
Elijah made a sacrifice
To offer to Jehovah;
It had been wet with water thrice,
Baal’s sacrifice was over.
Elijah prayed: the fire came down
And licked the water all around;
So doubting ones believed, and found
Elijah’s God was living.
Elijah’s God still lives today,
To take the guilt of sin away;
And when I pray my heart’s desire,
Upon my soul He sends the fire.
Elijah’s God still lives today
And answers still by fire;
My friend, just let Him have His way;
He’ll grant your heart’s desire.
Consume the sacrifice you make,
And bid your slumbr’ing soul awake;
The chains of inbred sin will break;
Elijah’s God is living.
Elijah’s God still lives today
And answers still by power,
As when Elijah prayed for rain,
God answered with a shower.
If you would have your soul refreshed
With rain that falls from Heaven,
You must “pray through” like all the rest,
And showers shall be given.