Wednesday, March 10th 1 Kings 18:30-39

Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come closer to me”; and all the people came closer to him. First he repaired the altar of the LORD that had been thrown down; Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD came, saying, “Israel shall be your name”; with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD. Then he made a trench around the altar, large enough to contain two measures of seed. Next he put the wood in order, cut the bull in pieces, and laid it on the wood. He said, “Fill four jars with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.” Then he said, “Do it a second time”; and they did it a second time. Again he said, “Do it a third time”; and they did it a third time, so that the water ran all around the altar, and filled the trench also with water. At the time of the offering of the oblation, the prophet Elijah came near and said, “O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your bidding. Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so that this people may know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt offering, the wood, the stones, and the dust, and even licked up the water that was in the trench. When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The LORD indeed is God; the LORD indeed is God.” 1 Kings 18:30-39

At first it seems that the story is about Elijah doing battle with the false prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. Elijah, alone and unarmed, against 450 of the best and brightest prophets of the false god in which the people’s hopes had come to rest. As if that weren’t enough, Elijah did the equivalent of tying his arms behind his back, standing on one foot and hiding his eyes. He covered the bull on his altar with water and joined the false prophets in the “Battle of the Burning Bulls.”

The false prophets prayed, pranced and prattled all day long but couldn’t produce a spark, let alone kindle a flame. Even in the face of Elijah’s prophetic trash talking, Baal didn’t answer.

Then, with a single prayer, a solitary plea to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, Elijah’s sacrifice burned like a $20 bill in a teenager’s pocket. Gone in a flash.

Winner: Elijah and the one true God.

At first it seems that the story is about Elijah doing battle with the false prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel…until we see the response of the people in the 39th verse. Then we see the battle for what it truly was.

It was a battle for the hearts and minds of people who ought to have known better in the first place. It was about God graciously accommodating the needs of his fickle-faithed children.

The mountains of our lives are tests. Tests of loyalty and tests of power. Tests, not in the sense of passing and failing but tests in the sense of burning away the impurities of our doubts, despairs and defects. Those mountains never go away, they just keep coming and coming. Elijah tasted God’s power that day on Mount Carmel; it wouldn’t be long before Elijah would taste again a sense of God’s absence. Then too, it would be faith that would make Elijah well.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, we often long for the kind of cosmic display of your power seen on Mount Carmel. Yet even in that story, we see that such longings display a lack of faith on our part. And then we realize that it isn’t the majesty of a fire but the still small voice that reassures us of your presence that is what really strengthens our faith. Speak that word to us today. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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