In my last post on Psalm 29 I mentioned that one of the so-called gods worshiped by the Canaanites, neighbours of Israel, was Baal, the “storm god”. Sadly, worship of this false god at times spilled over into Israel and when we get to I Kings 18 this apostacy was having devastating effects upon the people and the land. In fact, the Lord had allowed there to be 3 years of drought in Israel and the prophets of God had told the people that their idolatry was the reason this was happening.
So, enter two of the main characters involved – Elijah, the faithful prophet of God and King Ahab, described as the king who “did more to arouse the anger of the Lord…than did all the kings of Israel before him.” (1 Kings 16:33) Being married to Jezebel, a Sidonian and Baal worshiper, hadn’t helped.
So, they meet after some time and Ahab isn’t too friendly, in fact says, “So it’s you, old troublemaker!” But Elijah clarifies the situation and answers, “It’s not I who has caused trouble in Israel, but you…you’ve dumped God’s ways and commands and run off after the local gods, the Baals.”
Elijah then challenges the king to a showdown on Mount Carmel. He invites everyone in Israel, including all the false prophets of Baal. When assembled Elijah challenged the people: “How long are you going to sit on the fence? If God is the real God, follow him; if it’s Baal, follow him. Make up your minds!” Sadly, the response was that, “Nobody said a word; nobody made a move.” Such was the low spiritual morale of the people at that time.
We then read in the text that, “Elijah said, “I’m the only prophet of God left in Israel; and there are 450 prophets of Baal. Let the Baal prophets bring up two oxen; let them pick one, butcher it, and lay it out on an altar on firewood—but don’t ignite it. I’ll take the other ox, cut it up, and lay it on the wood. But neither will I light the fire. Then you pray to your gods and I’ll pray to God. The god who answers with fire will prove to be, in fact, God.”
Then at last the people responded: “All the people agreed: ‘A good plan—do it!’”
Being a gentleman Elijah told the Baal prophets, “Choose your ox and prepare it. You go first, you’re the majority. Then pray to your god, but don’t light the fire.”
So they took the ox he had given them, prepared it for the altar, then prayed to Baal. They prayed all morning long, “O Baal, answer us!” But nothing happened—not so much as a whisper of breeze. Desperate, they jumped and stomped on the altar they had made.”
That’s the problem with placing your faith in any thing else other than the Lord.
Then we read that somehow Elijah wasn’t surprised and “By noon, Elijah had started making fun of them, taunting, “Call a little louder—he is a god, after all. Maybe he’s off meditating somewhere or other, or maybe he’s gotten involved in a project, or maybe he’s on vacation. You don’t suppose he’s overslept, do you, and needs to be [woken] up?” They prayed louder and louder, cutting themselves with swords and knives—a ritual common to them—until they were covered with blood. This went on until well past noon. They used every religious trick and strategy they knew to make something happen on the altar, but nothing happened—not so much as a whisper, not a flicker of response.”
Well, by then Elijah decided enough was enough and “told the people, “Enough of that—it’s my turn. Gather around.” And they gathered. He then put the altar back together for by now it was in ruins. Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes of Jacob…He built the stones into the altar in honour of God. Then Elijah dug a fairly wide trench around the altar. He laid firewood on the altar, cut up the ox, put it on the wood, and said, “Fill four buckets with water and drench both the ox and the firewood.” Then he said, “Do it again,” and they did it. Then he said, “Do it a third time,” and they did it a third time. The altar was drenched and the trench was filled with water.”
In contrast to the ranting and raving of the false prophets, we are told that “Elijah the prophet came up and prayed, “O God, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, make it known right now that you are God in Israel, that I am your servant, and that I’m doing what I’m doing under your orders. Answer me, God; O answer me and reveal to this people that you are God, the true God, and that you are giving these people another chance at repentance.”
And, no surprise to Elijah, “Immediately the fire of God fell and burned up the offering, the wood, the stones, the dirt, and even the water in the trench.
39 All the people saw it happen and fell on their faces in awed worship, exclaiming, “God is the true God! God is the true God!”
There is more to the story but a short time later we read, “The sky grew black with wind-driven clouds, and then a huge cloudburst of rain.” (1 Kings 18 Message) The drought was broken! Yahweh, the one and only true and living God, the Lord of all creation, had spoken.
We are not given any more information about the storm that brought the rain to that parched land, but just maybe for a while the situation was something like that described in Psalm 29 when:
3–4 The voice of the Lord echoes through the skies and seas.
The Glory-God reigns as he thunders in the clouds.
So powerful is his voice, so brilliant and bright,
how majestic as he thunders over the great waters
5 His tympanic thunder topples the strongest of trees.
His symphonic sound splinters the mighty forests.
6 Now he moves Zion’s mountains by the might of his voice,
shaking the snowy peaks with his ear splitting sound!
7 The lightning-fire flashes, striking as he speaks.
8 God reveals himself when he makes the fault lines quake,
shaking deserts, speaking his voice.
9 God’s mighty voice makes the deer to give birth.
His thunderbolt voice lays the forest bare.
In his temple all fall before him with each one shouting,
“Glory, glory, the God of glory!” (TPT)
What we know did happen though was that the people had no doubt who was the true God.
So, does God still speak to us today? If so, how?
The reality is that God is always speaking in various ways. This is not the problem. The problem is our spiritual deafness.
The author of the letter to the Hebrews puts it like this:
Long ago God spoke in many different ways to our fathers through the prophets, in visions, dreams, and even face to face, telling them little by little about his plans.2 But now in these days he has spoken to us through his Son to whom he has given everything and through whom he made the world and everything there is. God’s Son shines out with God’s glory, and all that God’s Son is and does marks him as God. He regulates the universe by the mighty power of his command. He is the one who died to cleanse us and clear our record of all sin, and then sat down in highest honour beside the great God of heaven. (Hebrews 1:1-3 Living Bible)
I, with many around the world can testify that the Bible is God’s Word to us today and through this book he speaks. I went from being a total unbeliever to a follower of Jesus solely from reading the Bible over a 3 month period. Nicky Gumbel (Alpha Series) tells of how he was a lawyer and an atheist and how reading God’s Word transformed his life completely. A Pakistani Muslim friend of mine became a follower of Jesus as a result of reading the Bible in his own language over a period of time. An Afghan Muslim friend living as a refugee in India was transformed having read the Bible and hearing the truth about Jesus. A Buddhist friend in Mongolia met Christians who shared with her the truth from God’s Word and she believed and continues to give her life serving Jesus. And these are just a few of multiple examples of how God is speaking to people today through his Word.
Have you heard his voice? Do you want to hear his voice?
The reality is that we are without excuse as Paul in Romans 1 says:
19 For the truth about God is known to them instinctively; God has put this knowledge in their hearts. 20 Since earliest times men have seen the earth and sky and all God made, and have known of his existence and great eternal power. So they will have no excuse when they stand before God at Judgment Day. (Romans 1:19,20 Living Bible)
And so the writer in Hebrews, quoting from Psalm 95, gives us some important advice:
“Today, if you hear his voice,
8 do not harden your hearts…
12 See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. (Hebrews 3:7, 8 & 12)
Thank you, Father that Jesus, who is described as the living Word of God (John 1) brings life and light to all who would hear your voice and respond with open hearts. Thank you that in these days those who love you come from all nations of the world. Such is the power of your Word. Speak to me this day. Amen.