And now we move on to the Prophets. Those who announced the coming of the Lord.
1 Kings 18:20-24, 32-39 (CEV)
20 Ahab got everyone together, then they went to meet Elijah on Mount Carmel. 21 Elijah stood in front of them and said, “How much longer will you try to have things both ways? If the Lord is God, worship him! But if Baal is God, worship him!”
The people did not say a word.
22 Then Elijah continued:
I am the Lord’s only prophet, but Baal has four hundred fifty prophets.
23 Bring us two bulls. Baal’s prophets can take one of them, kill it, and cut it into pieces. Then they can put the meat on the wood without lighting the fire. I will do the same thing with the other bull, and I won’t light a fire under it either.
24 The prophets of Baal will pray to their god, and I will pray to the Lord. The one who answers by starting the fire is God.
“That’s a good idea,” everyone agreed.
That is a powerful question!
How much longer will you try to have things both ways? (v21)
Particularly in the context of beginnings and endings. Do we want to hedge our bets? To say we’ll follow God, but not abandon our ‘other gods’? Are we ready to wholeheartedly journey with God? Or in travel parlance, do we want an open return, just so we can keep our travel plans flexible and change our mind at any moment? Or a season ticket, so we can come and go as often as we want?
31-32 Then he used twelve stones to build an altar in honor of the Lord. Each stone stood for one of the tribes of Israel, which was the name the Lord had given to their ancestor Jacob. Elijah dug a ditch around the altar, large enough to hold about thirteen quarts. 33 He placed the wood on the altar, then they cut the bull into pieces and laid the meat on the wood.
He told the people, “Fill four large jars with water and pour it over the meat and the wood.” After they did this, 34 he told them to do it two more times. They did exactly as he said 35 until finally, the water ran down the altar and filled the ditch.
36 When it was time for the evening sacrifice, Elijah prayed:
Our Lord, you are the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel. Now, prove that you are the God of this nation, and that I, your servant, have done this at your command. 37 Please answer me, so these people will know that you are the Lord God, and that you will turn their hearts back to you.
38 The Lord immediately sent fire, and it burned up the sacrifice, the wood, and the stones. It scorched the ground everywhere around the altar and dried up every drop of water in the ditch. 39 When the crowd saw what had happened, they all bowed down and shouted, “The Lord is God! The Lord is God!”
If nothing else, this story is a warning never to challenge God. There’s one of Elijah and 450 of Baal’s prophets; their wood is dry, Elijah’s is doused in water – but then they were praying to Baal and Elijah was praying to the Living God. How emphatic is God!
Maggi reminds us that Elijah is the ‘foreshadowing’ of John the Baptist(p55). He is part of the line pointing us towards Jesus. He is not afraid to make a splash, to make his point about God, even to take a risk. What if the sacrifice had not caught fire? How stupid would he have looked? But that was not the kind of God Elijah knew…
But Maggi raises the question,
Who’s setting the agenda?
A not dissimilar question to ‘are you going to try to have it both ways?’, even whilst following God. Are we making a splash for God for his sake – or our own?
Let’s not be afraid to do something spectacular for God – but may it be for his glory, not ours
Forgive me Lord,
the times I have
tried to have things both ways,
to follow you,
but want my way too
and to listen to other voices.
the times I have let others
set the agenda,
and followed their ways,
Forgive me Lord,
I have done the right thing
for the wrong reason,
or just done the wrong thing.
When I have focussed on how good I will look
and not what you want me to do.
Lord, send the fire
to my life,
This year, several of us are reading Beginnings and Endings by Maggi Dawn and joining together to comment on it. Do join us at the Adventbookclub Facebook page, follow #adventbookclub on Twitter or comment below. If you are also reading and blogging on this book, let me know and I will link to your blog.