1 Kings 18:17-39
This is one of the most famous incidents in Elijah’s story. We see Elijah challenging the idolatrous king Ahab to bring forward his 450 prophets of Baal, and to have a contest to show who the true living God is.
The way the contest was to work was that a sacrifice would be prepared for the Lord and another for Baal. Then the prophets would pray to their gods, and the one that responded by providing the fire for their offering would have proven their true divinity.
The prophets of Baal had the first attempt, and unsurprisingly nothing happened despite how frantic their prayers became. They shouted and screamed and even cut themselves in an attempt to provoke a response, all the while with Elijah mocking them about their so-called god’s inability to do anything.
When it came to Elijah’s turn, he had the offering that he had prepared doused in water, to leave no doubt at all that what people were about to witness was from God. Then he prayed a much calmer prayer than that of Baal’s prophets, simply asking the Lord to reveal and glorify himself. God answered the prayer and the offering was consumed.
On this day a great victory was won. God showed himself to be supreme. Unlike the idols of wood and stone, who obviously cannot do anything, God is the Living God who hears and answers prayers, who declares the end from the beginning and who draws near to his people. Seeing God’s work on that day was decisive and the people recognised that he is the true God.
Some Key Points:
- False gods may promise much but they ultimately cannot deliver as they are human creations.
- The Lord is the living God and he shows himself in power and glory.
- To see God move we don’t need to work up frantic desperate prayers, but rather calmly pray in faith that he is alive and hears our prayers.
- Confidence In the Living God – Sometimes we can act as though we expect God won’t want to be involved in the things of life and is more like Baal in this story. But we worship the Living God and so we should expect that we will see him move.
- Let God Be God – Whilst it may not always be appropriate to organise a competition like this (you would imagine Elijah did so based on a prompting from God), it does show that we don’t need to ‘prove’ God to people, but can instead point them to him and trust him to show himself.
- Worship the Lord – The end of the story was all the people seeing that the Lord is truly God and worshipping him as supreme. We should join them in this worship of the one true king.