Elijah and the prophets of Baal
It had not rained. The Land was dry and barren. Darkness crept over the land and into the people’s hearts. The people disobeyed God and his commands.
There was a man of God. He had declared the drought and by the Word of the Lord made the rain stop falling. His name was Elijah.
Elijah woke that morning and wrapped the truth around himself. He put faith on his head. His righteousness protected his heart. He had the Lord’s words that he could weald as a sword.
And so, once he was surrounded by the Lord, he went out to fight. Not against flesh and blood. But against the powers of darkness that ruled the land that was infecting the hearts of the Israelites. They had wavered between two opinions for too long. Today was the day of decision.
The Lord had whispered the plan to Elijah. It was daring and reckless. It needed nerve and absolute trust. Elijah was ever so alone. Apart from the Lord.
“Today we will decide who the one true God is.”
Elijah’s voice rang out across the mountainside.
“I am alone. But there are 450 prophets of baal. We will both sacrifice a bull on an altar but not light a fire under it. Whoever’s God answers with fire is the one true God.”
With all the confidence of someone who has foreseen the final outcome, he let the prophets go first. He wanted to build up to the great finale. The prophets would be a good opening act.
He could see the prophets building their altar, the bull cut into pieces and placed on the wood. He could almost hear the sniggering prophets, ‘This will be easy.’ They mumbled ‘Baal the fire god is ready and waiting to wipe the smile off Elijah’s face.’
At first Elijah just quietly stands as the prophets pray and pray.
The prophets pray more fervently, leaping and dancing round the altar. Elijah looks on, a slight smile playing on his lips.
For hours they continue. At noon Elijah suddenly becomes animated.
“Maybe he can’t hear you?”
Maybe he is on holiday? Or asleep? Try to wake up your god!”
The prophets try harder and harder. They cut themselves and cried out. As the blood flowed but no fire came it drew near to the time of the evening sacrifice.
Elijah knew it was time to stop the charade.
“Come near to me.”
This quiet authority stopped the prophets who fell silent. They watched, wretched and confused, as Elijah took 12 stones to repair a broken altar to the Lord.
One man in the middle of many enemies he laid the wood and the meat. He dug a trench around the altar.
“Pour water over it all.” The people looking on thought he was mad, but obeyed. Covering the offering with water.
“Do it again.” Elijah said. “And again.”
The water poured down and filled the trench. The prophets and the people moved in a bit closer. The surety of this one man drew them in. They could not believe that he was stupid enough to cover the offering with water. Surely nothing would light the fire now. Then who would be declared the true God? Maybe the prophets could try again?
When the time was right Elijah stepped forward. His whole focus was on the Lord and the offering in front of him. He looked towards heaven and simply prayed to the Lord who he knew was listening.
“Lord, God of Abraham. You are God. I have done these things at your word. Hear me. May these people know you are the true God. Bring them back to you.”
There was the briefest of moments when no one moved or even breathed.
Then the fire came.
It fell down from heaven like lightening. It consumed like a swarm of locusts devouring the offering, licking the trench clean of any water. Elijah, his eyes closed, could feel the heat of the fire on his face. His heart was full of the certainty that hadn’t wavered since he first
heard the Lord’s plan. He opened his eyes to see the crowd fall down as one man, crying out “The Lord, He is God.”
The Lord who was waiting for Elijah’s prayer had answered. Not for the request of fire but of hearts that were convinced and divided no more. Hearts turned back to the true way. The darkness had been cast out leaving room for the light of God to flood in.
Elijah knew it was time for the rain to fall again.