READ: 1 Kings 18
THINK: I think this is one of the coolest stories in the entire Bible. Just a quick refresher on the situation: Ahab and his wife Jezebel are the most wicked rulers in the history of Israel and they have killed off a bunch of God’s prophets and turned the people away from God and towards Baal, a pagan god. In response to their wickedness, God has Elijah go and tell them that he will no longer send rain on Israel. Ahab is really mad at Elijah for this – because obviously it’s Elijah’s fault and not his – so he tries to kill Elijah and Elijah has to hide out. It has been over 3 ½ years since the last rainfall and Israel is suffering the devastating effects. There are no crops, no fruit, and the livestock are struggling to survive. And then God tells Elijah to go to Ahab and the story in this chapter goes down.
There are so many incredible things in this passage, but there are three in particular that jump out to me: 1. The ultimatum – “If Yahweh is God follow him, but if Baal is God follow him,” 2. The taunting – “Maybe Baal is sleeping,” & 3. The drenching – “The water ran down the altar and filled the trench.” All of these aspects and the thrust of the entire story are ultimately about knowing the one true God who desires to be known.
When Elijah asked the people to dump water on the altar the people must have thought that he was crazy. It hadn’t rained in over 3 years. Plant life was non-existent, animals were dying, and people were suffering. To come up with enough water to drench that offering was a major sacrifice. In the midst of that drought, water was more valuable than gold. Understand that their lives were on the line and water was the most precious thing they had. And then Elijah had them drench it again. And again until it was soaked. This made sure that nobody could accuse Elijah of starting the fire in any way that was less than a miracle from God. But it also communicated a powerful message: that knowing God is more valuable than anything else that we have. Anything. Water was precious, but it was useless and meaningless compared to the value of knowing God.
When Elijah taunted the prophets of Baal it was…hilarious. I can’t imagine that he ever had more fun in his entire life of ministry than he did when he was making fun of those guys and their nobody of a false god. Maybe it’s the jerk in me, but I really hope someday that God calls upon me to heckle idiots for the sake of name. On a serious note though, besides being pretty stinking funny, Elijah’s taunts communicated something incredible about the one true God and how he can be known. He made sure that everyone knew that a real God doesn’t go on vacation or take naps or need a hearing aid. God is present and he is available to be known. Knowing God isn’t about weird rituals or cutting yourself or yelling loud enough. It’s about simply responding to him because he is already there and he sought us first.
At the end of the day, we will all follow something. Something will take the top spot in our lives and we will dedicate ourselves to pursuing it. For many in our world it will be money or power or fame or sex. The gods of 21st century American culture have different names than the gods of the Ancient Near East. But our gods have just as deep a hold on our lives as Baal did on the Israelites thousands of years ago. And they are just as destructive and poisonous. And they are just as fake. There is one God. We can waste our lives away on a path to destruction by following our modern Baals if we want, but if God is God then we should follow him instead.
We have the incredible privilege of knowing the God of the universe. And though we don’t deserve it and we ought to have been left in our sinful state cut off from our Creator, he loves us enough that he has crossed over the divide caused by our sin and made himself available to be known by his creation. My prayer to God is the same as Elijah’s for Israel, that “[all] people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you would turn their hearts back again.”
PRAY: Thank God for his grace in letting us know him. Worship him for his presence in your life. Commit yourself to pursuing and following him instead of wasting your life away pursuing false the false gods that our culture says we should pursue.