The 18th and 19th chapters of 1 Kings, are among some of my favorite chapters.
In chapter 18, we witness this nail-biting encounter with the prophet Elijah and the 450 prophets of Baal. Remember the account? All the people of Israel, the 450 prophets of Baal and Elijah are on top of Mount Carmel. There Elijah challenges the prophets to a showdown of whose God (god) is really real. The quest: get their perspective God (god) to bring fire to consume their sacrifice.
The prophets of Baal work all morning to get their “non-god” to do something, but nothing happens. All afternoon they continue their futile attempt to get their sacrifice to burn. Elijah hasn’t even started getting ready. As a matter of fact, he’s trash-talking these prophets. Read this…
“Pray louder!” he said. “Baal must be a god. Maybe he’s daydreaming or using the toilet or traveling somewhere. Or maybe he’s asleep, and you have to wake him up.” 1 Kings 18:27 CEV
It wasn’t until evening when Elijah slaughtered his bull, built his altar, and then with extreme faith told the people to douse his altar with water – enough to soak it and fill the ditch he had dug around it.
Then he prayed and immediately God sent fire, consuming the sacrifice, the wooden altar and even the stones (1 Kings 18:38 CEV
Then because it hadn’t rained in 3 three years (and by the way – Elijah was the one who said it wouldn’t rain until he said so – 1 Kings 17:1), the rains started.
But here’s what really strikes me today. Here’s the man of great faith.. doing powerful things for God, but then gets a death threat from King Ahab’s wife, Jezebel. She sent a message to Elijah to inform him, she was going to hunt him down and kill him on the spot.
And instead of faith rising up, Elijah became afraid and he ran as far away as he possibly could from her. Elijah cried out to God and said…
“I’ve had enough. Just let me die! I’m no better off than my ancestors.” 1 Kings 19:4 CEV
It was on Mount Sinai he had an encounter with God. The wind shook the mountain and shattered the rocks… there was an earthquake… there was fire – but God wasn’t in any of those. And then God showed His power by being in a gentle breeze.
Twice God asked Elijah, “Why are you here?” I don’t believe God was asking Elijah why he was on the top of Mount Sinai, as much as He was asking why he was so doubtful and afraid. He was so bold standing against the prophets of Baal and then one woman threatened him and he wants to die?
Here’s my word of encouragement for you today: Make no doubt about it, Elijah was a great prophet for God, but he let one negative person determine his outlook on life, and it wasn’t God. Because of this event, Elijah was replaced by Elisha.
Hold on to your faith. Trust God. Walk bold and confident in who you are and Whose you are and do what God’s called you to do!
Lead me and I will follow! In Jesus name, Amen.
Rev. Dr. MM Marxhausen
Mark was Spiritual Director for VdC from 2016 to 2019. He's written many of the devotions, especially the Devote and Affirm series, found on this website.