by Mike Ratliff
17 When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is this you, you troubler of Israel?” 18 He said, “I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father’s house have, because you have forsaken the commandments of the LORD and you have followed the Baals. 19 Now then send and gather to me all Israel at Mount Carmel, together with 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of the Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.” 1 Kings 18:17-19 (NASB)
There was a time when the English and American cultures were decidedly “Christian.” Those days are long gone. Whatever it is that God is doing through this, the “Remnant” of genuine believers within the visible Church must awaken and become prepared for what is coming. We cannot be complacent any longer. Why? No matter where we turn, we either encounter growing apostasy within the visible Church or neo-pagans, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, or New Agers being included in the “many ways to God.” Atheism is gaining ground all over the Western World.
The Christian world view is no longer prevalent in the West. It is under attack from every direction. What should be astounding to us, however, is that what is replacing it is highly irrational. It claims tolerance yet will not tolerate Christians having a say in anything. Personally, I see these trends as the beginnings of a very hostile environment for the uncompromising Christian. While that may be something we look to with foreboding, I believe it is going to be used by God to cleanse His Church in preparation for the return of her Bridegroom.
“Nearly forty years ago, in his book The Church at the End of the 20th Century, Francis A. Schaeffer penned the following: “Does the church have a future in our generation? …I believe the church is in real danger. It is in for a rough day. We are facing present pressures and a present and future manipulation which will be so overwhelming in the days to come that they will make the battles of the last forty years look like child’s play.” During the past forty years, the church has seen many rough days, and I would venture to say that the signs of the times certainly seem to indicate that we are in for many more rough days during the next forty years.
Schaeffer was not a prophet, nor am I a prophet or the son of a prophet, and as Charles Haddon Spurgeon once said, “There are two great certainties about things that shall come to pass – one is that God knows, and the other is that we do not know.” It is true that we do not know all the truth about the future, but we do know the truth. It is the truth that abides within us, the truth that sanctifies us, the truth that makes us free, the truth that ensures our future. And although we don’t know the future, we know the One who sovereignly holds the future.
The Old Testament prophets were men who were called to stand between God and man. Even when nobody wanted to hear their God-ordained, Spirit-empowered message, they preached the truth. They were God’s ambassadors on earth who were commissioned by God to foretell the future and forthtell the hard truth of God’s eternal truth to His people. As such, they were men whom God made completely dependent upon Himself, so that in the midst of rough days they might live coram Deo, before His face, abiding in His truth and proclaiming His truth to the appointed generation of God’s people. And just as the young prophet Daniel resolved in his heart that he would not defile himself with the delicacies of the governing king of Babylon, so we must resolve in our hearts to proclaim the whole counsel of God’s truth, in season and out of season, being confident that no matter what comes our way in this world, Jesus Christ, the true prophet, has gained the victory, and we are more than conquerers in Him.” – Burk Parsons, editor of Tabletalk magazine and minister of congregational life at Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Florida
Let us now look at how a believer who is totally sold-out to God can be used by Him to tell the truth and accomplish what appears to be the impossible. Elijah confronted King Ahab in in 1 Kings 17:1 by saying, “As the LORD, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.” Then God made Elijah flee into the wilderness as the drought devastated Israel for three years. (James 5:17)
Why did God have Elijah pray for drought and tell Ahab that it was his fault?
29 Now Ahab the son of Omri became king over Israel in the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, and Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty-two years. 30 Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD more than all who were before him.
31 It came about, as though it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he married Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went to serve Baal and worshiped him. 32 So he erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal which he built in Samaria. 33 Ahab also made the Asherah. Thus Ahab did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel than all the kings of Israel who were before him. 1 Kings 16:29-33 (NASB)
He led the Israelites into Baal worship along with making an Asherah and worshiping it. Baal and Asherah worship was nothing new. It had been infiltrating into Israel for a long time. However, Ahab gave it official sanction. Jezabel had massacred the prophets of the Lord. When Elijah confronts Ahab he is quite alone. Or is he?
20 So Ahab sent a message among all the sons of Israel and brought the prophets together at Mount Carmel. 21 Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people did not answer him a word. 22 Then Elijah said to the people, “I alone am left a prophet of the LORD, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men. 23 Now let them give us two oxen; and let them choose one ox for themselves and cut it up, and place it on the wood, but put no fire under it; and I will prepare the other ox and lay it on the wood, and I will not put a fire under it. 24 Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD, and the God who answers by fire, He is God.” And all the people said, “That is a good idea.”
25 So Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one ox for yourselves and prepare it first for you are many, and call on the name of your god, but put no fire under it.” 26 Then they took the ox which was given them and they prepared it and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon saying, “O Baal, answer us.” But there was no voice and no one answered. And they leaped about the altar which they made. 27 It came about at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, “Call out with a loud voice, for he is a god; either he is occupied or gone aside, or is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and needs to be awakened.” 28 So they cried with a loud voice and cut themselves according to their custom with swords and lances until the blood gushed out on them. 29 When midday was past, they raved until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice; but there was no voice, no one answered, and no one paid attention. 1 Kings 18:20-29 (NASB)
Elijah confronts the people. He asks, “How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” In Hebrew, Elijah actually says, “limp along on or between two twigs.” Israel had one foot in Baal worship and one foot in worship of the Lord. This, of course, is apostasy. However, Elijah’s point is that there is no middle ground. There can be no compromise. He offers a contest to the 850 false prophets who were being cared for by Jezabel. The challenge is that the god who answers by fire is the real God. Each side would have an ox to sacrifice, but no fire could be put under it. The fire to make it a burnt offering must come from their God.
Baal’s followers believed that he controlled the thunder, lightening, and storms. The Lord’s believers believe that He does all of that. This was a very valid test. Did you notice how Elijah mocked these false prophets and Baal? The myths surrounding Baal portrayed him as musing on actions to take, fighting a war, traveling, and even dying and coming back to life. Elijah’s sarcasm was directed at these beliefs. These false prophets cut themselves until their blood gushed out. They were trying to add their own blood to the sacrifice in order to gain Baal’s pity. Interestingly, this was forbidden by Old Testament Law. No matter how much these false prophets cried out to their god, “No one answered; no one paid attention.” Baal was proven to be non-existent.
30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” So all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the LORD which had been torn down. 31 Elijah took twelve stones according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD had come, saying, “Israel shall be your name.” 32 So with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD, and he made a trench around the altar, large enough to hold two measures of seed. 33 Then he arranged the wood and cut the ox in pieces and laid it on the wood. 34 And he said, “Fill four pitchers with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.” And he said, “Do it a second time,” and they did it a second time. And he said, “Do it a third time,” and they did it a third time. 35 The water flowed around the altar and he also filled the trench with water. 1 Kings 18:30-35 (NASB)
The altar’s construction with 12 stones represented the 12 tribes. In God’s eyes the two nations, Israel and Judah, were still one people under the same covenant. The trench held about 4 gallons. The water was poured on the bull, the wood, the altar and the ground. What ran off was held in the trench. There was no humanly way to light a fire under that.
36 At the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant and I have done all these things at Your word. 37 Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that You, O LORD, are God, and that You have turned their heart back again.” 38 Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. 39 When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, “The LORD, He is God; the LORD, He is God.” 40 Then Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; do not let one of them escape.” So they seized them; and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there. 1 Kings 18:36-40 (NASB)
Elijah’s prayer was very direct. He gave all the glory to God. He prayed that God would answer him by sending His fire to the altar for the purpose that the people may know that the Lord is God. Notice also, that he prayed that they would realize that God had turned their hearts back to Him. This is a call for God to send the spirit of repentance into them. Then God sent His fire. This fire not only dried up the water from the offering, it consumed the wood, the stones and the dust. It also licked up the water in the trench.
Though God suffers His to run in blindness and error for a time, yet at the length He calls them home to Him by some notorious sign and work. These people responded in repentance and obedience and worship. Elijah told them to seize the false prophets and they did so. Then Elijah killed them all. Elijah was not politically correct. He was not tolerant. He was not a compromiser. He stood in the power of God in total obedience to Him. God used him in this in a very powerful way, yet all of the power and good works were God’s. Elijah simply believed God, obeyed God, and prayed.
The Church is still alive. It is under severe attack and Baal worship in the form of enslavement to the flesh and self-gratification is dulling the spiritual senses of those in her. The Visible Church is not all Christian, but all of the Invisible Church is. It is these who must awaken and obey God by giving themselves totally to Him. The time of cleansing has begun. It will only intensify. If we will obey our Lord, becoming Spirit-filled and prayerful there is no limit to the powerful works God will do through us. At the time of our testing we will tell the truth like Elijah even if it costs us our lives.
Soli Deo Gloria!