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. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The LORD, He is God; the LORD, He is God.” 1 Kings 18:38,39
I wasn’t sure if I should write this blog. After all, I’ve covered 1 Kings 18 before and the confrontation Elijah has on Mt. Carmel with the prophets of Baal. I wrote about it in a previous blog (ELIJAH - Profiles In Courage) and had the opportunity to talk about it on a recent podcast with my wife Corrie (you can listen on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Pandora, etc). So I feared that perhaps I’ve discussed this story too much…it might be a little overdone.
There’s another reason why I wasn’t sure I should type this blog. But the hesitancy left upon my heart became the very indication that I needed to write it: I was afraid of what people might think. Afraid of offending. Afraid of being too real. Once I realized that fear was tied into my own pride and desire to be liked, I knew it was the Lord telling me to dive into 1 Kings 18 once again. That’s one of the truly amazing things about Scripture and I hope you’ve discovered it: every time you go back to a passage there is something more. It truly is a book that is alive and for today!
I considered 1 Kings 18 as it came up in my yearly reading plan. A few things struck me this time around…not so much with Elijah and his boldness but more so with the Israeli audience and their hesitancy. I can’t help but see the church today through this lens. I can’t help but believe a showdown is coming between the righteousness of the Lord and the forces of evil. This is all in 1 Kings 18. And because of this, I believe it’s worth looking at today.
1. The prevailing culture hates Christianity
When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?” 1 Kings 18:17
At the beginning of the chapter, the Lord tells Elijah to go and face Ahab. This was a big deal because the prophets of the Lord were already being persecuted and were hiding because of Jezebel (Ahab’s wicked wife and Israel’s queen). But Elijah obeys the word. God tells Elijah he will bring rain and that is the message to bring to Ahab. I believe God wanted Ahab (an evil king) to know that rain would come because He would provide it. Still, Ahab’s first words when he sees Elijah are words of condemnation: Is it you, you troubler of Israel? Ahab in his warped mind truly believes Elijah is the real enemy. He sees Elijah as the one who has brought trouble upon the land, even though it is clearly due to Ahab’s abandonment of God’s commands.
It is interesting to see culture today reflecting the same warped perspective of Ahab. Christian thoughts and ideals are outdated and wrong for society. Judeo-Christian beliefs based upon Scripture have no basis influencing government or school or business (the culture at large). We need to realize the tide has turned and even accelerated in recent months and years. Our land, once founded upon the truth of God’s word, now yearns for its own truth. It’s own standard. And because of that, we are hated. Maybe not on a face-to-face level but certainly through the media (censorship), leadership/politics (through laws), entertainment (making fun of Christianity), and beyond. And just like the prophets of the Lord (men like Obadiah in 1 Kings 18), we have been in hiding.
2. The church is afraid to take a side, to make a stand
And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word. 1 Kings 18:21
And the people did not answer him a word. That part of the verse leapt out at me recently as I read 1 Kings 18. I can’t help but imagine the scene being played out. The gauntlet being thrown down and Elijah putting an ultimatum before the people: Serve God or serve Baal. You can’t serve both. And the people fell silent. Why? Were they afraid? Did they want to step out but the fear of Ahab/Jezebel, the prophets of Baal, or of other Israelites keep them from speaking? Yes, I believe all of those were factors.
Sadly it is not much different today. Churches and pastors don’t speak on the evils of our culture. They don’t call out sin. They don’t preach on hell. It’s predominately soft-gospel or gospel-lite messages. It’s trying to keep everyone happy (within and without). But as the first point notes, we will never keep the culture happy. They hate the message of the Gospel. They hate what Christianity stands for. Elijah points out the hypocrisy: you can’t serve both. You have to take a stand. Christians are either going to have to make this decision or it will be made for them. Time is short.
3. A showdown is coming
And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The LORD, He is God; the LORD, He is God.” And Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape.” And they seized them. And Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon and slaughtered them there. 1 Kings 18:38-40
Not long after the fire falls on the altar at Mt. Carmel, the Lord fulfills His promise to bring rain on the land. It is a reminder that God never fails to act after He has spoken. What He said, He will do. I believe God is going to bring rain. I believe the church is being prepared for it and the harvest fields are ripe. At the same time, a showdown is coming between the righteousness of the Lord and the evil of our present-day culture. There is a point at which His wrath cannot be stayed and held back any longer. God is a jealous God. He is jealous for America. He loves this land. But His anger has been kindled by the continual pushing away of His presence. The continual pronouncements and actions of a nation that no longer considers Him their “first love.”
Into this, the aspects of boldness and readiness must come. The time for indecision is over. We can no longer “limp between two different opinions” and hope that by playing it safe we will somehow avoid the battle. We will not. God is calling out and raising up voices for truth. He is looking for Elijahs who will confront Ahabs. Once the people saw the miracle, they fell down and worshipped God. But what if we had faith to trust and worship before the miracle? That is the faith of an Elijah. That is the faith we are called to have in these days.
If you’ve read this far, I trust I haven’t offended you or made you turn away. Understand my own heart needs this message. My own heart wants to keep it safe, to stay between the lines and hope that evil just somehow magically disappears. But I know better. I know from Scripture so many kings and kingdoms have followed this same path that our world is on. Our world is on fire; I blogged on that topic last month and how to respond in Christ (A World On Fire). Part of my job as I receive this call is to both spur on the faithful and to wake up those who have been lulled to sleep. Honestly, my heart is more drawn to the faithful because if you aren’t awake by now I don’t know what else will convince you. But I will keep sharing and keep praying for eyes to be opened.
Guys I love you. I try to say that each time I write and I hope you hear my heart behind all of this. God is a God of love. Yes, He deals harshly with sin (ask the prophets of Baal along with Ahab and Jezebel). But He gives us the opportunity to repent, to turn towards Him, and to walk in His ways. We have that opportunity right now. We are living in a time in which we will see great things even in the midst of the darkness. I want to have a front row seat to His glory like those who fell down and worshipped in 1 Kings 18. I hope I see you there with me. Let’s go Elijahs!
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Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Ephesians 5:15-17