Updated: May 19
In today’s Bible prayer, we hear about a battle between God and the god Baal.
King Ahab is on the throne and he has allowed Baal to be worshipped in Israel alongside God. Baal was a god of fertility and of storms. After delivering the winter rains and spring vegetation Baal was vanquished for the summer only to be resurrected the following year.
God was probably still considered to be the national deity of Israel but the tradition of the countries around Israel was to have a number of deities for different functions and even for different cities or families.
King Ahab’s wife Jezebel is a passionate worshipper of Baal and seems to have a great deal of influence over Ahab. Under Ahab’s reign the worship of Baal has been re-introduced and is permitted and perhaps even encouraged. Jezebel is so passionate about her faith that she has been going about and having prophets of the Living God killed.
Obadiah, was the Palace Administrator, one of Ahab’s trusted servants. His name means Servant of Jehovah and that suited him very well because he loved God. While Jezebel was killing every one of God’s prophets that she could find, Obadiah was saving others by hiding them in caves.
There had been a drought and therefore a famine in the land for about 3 years. On God’s prompting, a prophet called Elijah had announced the drought and now, God tells him to go and announce its end.
This was such a brave thing to do. Elijah went to present himself in front of the King who was allowing God’s prophets to be exterminated. Elijah thought he was the only one of God’s prophets left and would have been wondering if death was near for him too.
But Elijah had listened to God, He had heard God and then did what God said.
Elijah tells Ahab to call the people of Israel together on Mount Carmel. Mount Carmel is more of a high ridge than a mountain. It is about 12 miles long with views at the highest point overlooking the Mediterranean. And it is here, at this high point, that Elijah challenges the 450 prophets of Baal.
450 -to-1. God loves it when the odds are stacked against us. It means he can really show, without a doubt that He is the only living God!
Elijah tells the Baal prophets to build an alter, sacrifice a bull on it and to ask their god to set light to it. They build the altar, kill the bull and nothing happens. They pray, they cry out and they cut themselves as if that will help and they do this for hours. Still nothing happens.
At the end of the day, Elijah builds his own alter, sacrifices another bull, digs a trench round everything and drenches it all in gallons and gallons of water. Then, he prays. ‘Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.’
Elijah’s prayer and everything he was doing this day was to save the people of Israel and turn them back to God. So that the people of Israel will worship God as their only God.
Of course, God instantly sends fire which burns up the sacrifice and all the water. It even burned up the stones that the altar was made of. It was an impressive sight and left the Israelites in awe and turning back to God.
Elijah listened to God and then did what God said. He was obedient. He was obedient even when the odds were stacked against him, even when it was likely to cost him his life.
Tonight, let’s reflect again on Elijah’s prayer. Let’s make time to listen to God and then, to do what he says, even if the odds are stacked against us, especially of the odds are stacked against us.