Elijah: The Battle with Baal
Bible Reading: 1 Kings 18:1-40
We have read and seen Elijah become a man of God through the testing of his faith. What we read in one chapter takes place over a three and a half year period, and the time has come for God to send the rain to the earth once more. But before the rain comes, God is going to show His supremacy and glory before all of Israel. God going to demonstrate His power by dethroning the false god, Baal, and He plans to use Elijah to do it.
God sends Elijah to confront King Ahab, and there is no love-loss between the two. Ahab calls Elijah the, “troubler of Israel,” to which Elijah responds by placing the blame for Israel’s trouble on King Ahab and his fathers before him. Elijah throws down the gauntlet and challenges the prophets of Baal to a showdown. All of Israel gathers on Mount Carmel to watch Elijah square off against Baal’s 450 prophets, as well as 400 more prophets of Asherah. Before the contest begins, Elijah states the purpose of the showdown to the people, and his words are bold and courageous. “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” There is a lesson for each one of us here: Faith is not something to play around with. Choose this day whom you will serve and worship, and then be loyal. Will you be a child of God? If so, then commit to being His and obey His word. In 1 Kings 18, Elijah challenges Israel to choose whether to worship God or Baal, and the same challenge is given to us as well.
Israel was able to personally see the showdown between God and Baal, but we must read it. The rules of the showdown were simple:
- The prophet(s) would prepare a sacrificial bull for their god.
- The prophet(s) would then call out to their god to consume the sacrifice with fire.
- Only the true god would consume the sacrifice with fire.
The prophets of Baal went first, and it did NOT go well. They cry out to Baal from morning until late afternoon, and he does not answer; Baal cannot answer. They go so far as to give themselves ceremonial cuts with swords. Elijah was there to point out to Israel that Baal was not answering, going as far as to mock the prophets by saying that Baal was asleep, or on a trip, or maybe taking too long in the bathroom. I do not condone kicking someone when they are down, but to be honest, I did chuckle when I read Elijah’s taunts. It would be hilarious, if it also was not even more heartbreaking. Sin has blinded these 450 prophets, the King and Queen of Israel, and most of Israel. They had put their faith in Baal, and now were seeing their worlds flipped upside down. Why didn’t Baal answer with fire? He could not answer because Baal is not real, but they were about to see if God was real.
Elijah takes his turn and prepares the sacrifice. He takes it a step further by making it “difficult” for God. Elijah has three large pots of water poured over the sacrifice. There is so much water that it fills up the trench surrounding the altar! But nothing is too great or too difficult for God! Elijah just needs to call out to God one time, and God sends down a pillar of fire to consume the sacrifice, the altar, and all the water! God has won the showdown in a landslide, and the people repent and believe.
Call to Action: We may never see a showdown between God and an idol like Israel did, but we face the same crucial decision they did. There are multiple idols vying for our hearts and worship every day, and we must shut them down and worship God alone. John Calvin once said that the human heart is an idol factory, and that it constantly churns out new idols for our worship. We must be committed to God, and unwavering in our faith. We must commit to be believers who pray, read the Bible, and boldly stand for Christ. Lord willing, through our faith, our children will grow up learning to do the same.