There is a question in the Old Testament that amazes me and in fact makes me smile a bit … King Ahab finally meets his nemesis, Elijah, after a three year absence and says to him, “Is that you, O troubler of Israel?” (I Kings 18:17). Hello? Who is the “troubler”? Who started this mess?
It wasn’t Elijah … it was the king! Let’s back up in the story a bit …
Ahab was king of Israel and he was a BAD dude! In fact, I Kings 16:30 says of him, “Now Ahab … did evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him.” He was NOT a good guy. The Bible also says that it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam, he took an evil wife, he served Baal, worshiped him and he “did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings who were before him” (v 33).
Society had digressed rapidly. Worship of God was nearly non-existent. The temples and altars of God were in disrepair. Children were being sacrificed. Sexual immorality was rampant and sexual orgies took place in the temple of the pagan gods. The people bowed down before these “pretend” gods giving false worship. The worship of pagan gods was on the increase. Few true believers of Jehovah were left.
When we walk in disobedience to God, when we lead others into sin and to rebel against the Lord God … there will be hell to pay! Pay day was a comin’ for Ahab and Israel.
There was a prophet … one who was in communication with the Almighty God. He was bold, confident, assertive, confrontative and unafraid.
The prophet Elijah meets the king and has the courage … the audacity … to tell the king that it is NOT going to rain nor would there be dew upon the ground until he (Elijah) says so! WOW! Do we have any of those kinds of prophets today? I know we have many so-called prophets and I know that the office of the prophet is one of the five-fold ministry gifts … but I also know that the office and the title have been misused in our day. I’m looking for a PROPHET of the Lord who would dare to be used OF GOD to approach our national leaders (and leaders of other countries as well) and say, “Mr. Leader (whomever it may be) … it is not going to rain (or whatever!) until you turn back to God and lead your nation to do the same”. Is it possible?
Obviously it would HAVE to be a God-thing!
The land was so parched. The soil was packed hard. The farmers could hardly make a hole to plant a seed and even if they did it wouldn’t root and grow. Famine was wide spread. I would imagine food was probably coming in from other countries but the cost would have been high and many would not be able to afford it.
Of course, the king had the means to get what he and his family needed but it was getting harder and harder to come by. What he wouldn’t do for rain! What he could do, he would not do because he had to keep peace with his wife. And well, he wasn’t responsive to God anyway and so far her god had seemed capable.
But it had not rained in almost three years! He was getting desperate. During the previous three years he had searched long and hard for Elijah but could not find him.
At this writing we won’t go into the good things the Lord did for and through Elijah during those years but finally it was time for Elijah to once again confront the king.
The meeting is set up and Ahab greets Elijah with the question previously stated, “Is that you, O troubler of Israel?” Yeah, right … oh Ahab … you brought it on your nation and yourself by your own doings!!
I love Elijah’s response, (I Kings 18:18), “I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father’s house have, in that you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord and have followed the Baals.” Oh yes sir, Ahab, you are the troubled one!
What follows next is one of the most exciting stories in the Old Testament.
Elijah (not the king!) set the conditions. He told the king to gather all Israel plus the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah on Mt. Carmel. Then Elijah says to all the people, “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” Elijah threw down the gauntlet!
The people answered not a word. I guess maybe the people thought they were going to see a good show. Perhaps they thought there would be no way one man could stand against 850 “prophets” so no one stood up for righteousness. Let me say here, indecision IS a decision!
Elijah further states the terms of the sacrifice …
two bulls (one for each side)
cut it in pieces
lay it on the wood
put no fire under it
call on the name of your gods
Elijah would call on the name of the Lord
see which god (God) would answer by fire
Bigger team gets to go first. They cried out to Baal for SIX hours. Nothing, nada, zip, zero … not one thing happened. In fact, Elijah even taunted them! “Cry a bit louder, he might be busy or on a trip, maybe he is meditating or perhaps he is sleeping”. (The Living Bible even says that “maybe he is on the toilet”!)
The priests of the false gods cry louder, they cut themselves, blood gushes out and around the bull and the altar “but there was no voice; no one answered, no one paid attention.” (v 29). Where is their god when they need him?
Time’s up. It’s God’s move now.
Elijah calls the people to himself and he repairs “the altar of the Lord that was broken down”. Oh … that is step number one. Looking at our nation today it saddens me to see how the altars have disappeared … our Biblical foundation has eroded and to see God answer our cry we need to repair the altars of the Lord!
Look what Elijah did … he took 12 stones (one each for the 12 tribes of Israel) and rebuilt the altar. Then he dug a deep trench all around the altar. Next he put the wood on the altar, then he cut the bull and laid it on the wood. What he did next rendered the sacrifice useless unless God performed a miracle … he had 12 barrels full of water POURED over the whole thing! So much water that the sacrifice was soaked, the wood was soaked and the trench was full!
I wonder what the people were thinking! I’d love to know. Especially when they saw him pour 12 barrels of precious, maybe even hoarded water on the altar! Water that was needed. Water that was priceless at this point. The people probably thought that Elijah is CRAZY … he is using water up our reserves!
Now the good part … everything’s ready … Elijah shows no angst or fear and whereas the false prophets had HOURS to cry out to their god, Elijah says a very short prayer … “Lord God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word. Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that You are the Lord God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again.” Only 63 words (NKJV)! Short, sweet and to the point.
Suddenly … bang! … I don’t know if it was a bolt of lightening or a pillar of fire that came down from above (it had happened before with the children of Israel in the desert) but the fire of the Lord hit that altar and “consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and the stones and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench” (v 38).
The response? When the people saw the fire they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God!” (v 39).
I love to hear Ronn preach this story … he makes it come alive and these are his thoughts on the consuming fire …
We can understand why the Lord took the sacrifice of the bull. It was what he had commanded in the beginning. But why burn up the wood, the stones, the dust and the water?
The wood? You usually need wood, or kindling, to build a fire … get’s it going. So the wood represents our methods of organization which becomes consumed by the fire of the Lord.
The stones? Remember there were 12 stones for the 12 tribes? Well, that way no one tribe could say “O look, there is the Judah stone … top right! Levi couldn’t say … “Ah, there’s ours, top left.
Likewise, the Baptists can’t say, “We are the center stone” or the Assemblies of God are unable to say, “Look, there we are, bottom right, the cornerstone.” When the fire of God comes we are all united by His power and become one in Him!
The dust? That’s an interesting one … anytime you build something with stones you will have dust from building them together. Masonry is very messy. When we as believers start to come together there will be disagreements, dust will be made, but it does not have to separate or irritate … it will all go up in the fire of God!
The water? When water was poured on top of it all, it was rendered useless! Wet wood does not burn! We are useless to anybody or anything without the fire of God!
When the world sees the real and the powerful fire of God THEN they will cry out … “The Lord, HE is God! THE LORD, HE IS GOD!”
In this hour of crisis in the Church and in the world, God’s people need to cry out for FRESH FIRE!
“Lord, send us prophets today who are not afraid! Prophets who will speak out before the rulers of our nations. TRUE prophets who hear from God!”