Thoughts for the Day

Wednesday, 12th June 2024: Elijah 2 - The prophet trusts Yahweh

Baal Asherah Elijah 1 Kings 18 Yahweh

Reading : Verses from 1 Kings, Chapter 18


After many days the word of the Lord came to Elijah, in the third year of the drought saying, ‘Go, present yourself to Ahab; I will send rain on the earth.’ So Elijah went to present himself to Ahab. .... When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, ‘Is it you, you troubler of Israel?’ He answered, ‘I have not troubled Israel; but you have, and your father’s house, because you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord and followed the Baals. Now therefore have all Israel assemble for me at Mount Carmel, with the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.

So Ahab sent to all the Israelites, and assembled the prophets at Mount Carmel. Elijah then came near to all the people, and said, ‘How long will you go limping with two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.’ The people did not answer him a word. Then Elijah said to the people, ‘I, even I only, am left a prophet of the Lord; but Baal’s prophets number four hundred and fifty. Let two bulls be given to us; let them choose one bull for themselves, cut it in pieces, and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it; I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it. Then you call on the name of your god and I will call on the name of the Lord; the god who answers by fire is indeed God.’ All the people answered, ‘Well spoken!’ Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, ‘Choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first, for you are many; then call on the name of your god, but put no fire to it.’ So they took the bull that was given them, prepared it, and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon, crying, ‘O Baal, answer us!’ But there was no voice, and no answer. They limped about the altar that they had made. At noon Elijah mocked them, saying, ‘Cry aloud! Surely he is a god; either he is meditating, or he has wandered away, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.’ Then they cried aloud and, as was their custom, they cut themselves with swords and lances until the blood gushed out over them. As midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice, no answer, and no response.

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 round 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.’

(Lectionary, New Revised Standard Version)


Today we pick up the story of the prophet Elijah. God had told him to announce a severe drought in Samaria, and then to hide from Ahab the king. Now after three-and-a-half years God tells him to approach the king, and despite his fear, he trusts God and obeys. Ahab is one of the most evil of kings - he and his wife Jezebel have persecuted God's followers, killed his prophets, and promoted the official worship of Baal and Asherah throughout the country.

So the scene is set for a showdown between the prophets of Baal and Asherah, and Elijah, Yahweh's prophet. Present are 850 prophets of Baal and Asherah, the king and his court, and Elijah. From the outset he accuses the court of "limping" between the two faiths, before challenging them to a contest. He taunts every effort the prophets of Baal make until they give up. Then he sets the scene by making sure no fire can be ignited on Yahweh's altar by pouring jar after jar of water on it. In comparison to the hours of frenzied calling by his opponents to their god his prayer is simple: ‘O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel'. Yahweh responds with fire that comes down from above, and the people immediately fall to their knees in prayer vowing that "The Lord indeed is God!"

Charles Spurgeon the great 19th century evangelist said of this passage that Elijah's appeal calls us to account for the period of time in which we have not made a decision between Yahweh and 'Baal'. “How many more sermons do you want? How many more Sundays must roll away wasted? How many warnings, how many sicknesses, how many toilings of the bell to warn you that you must die, before you will be impressed? How many plagues and pestilences must ravage this world before you will turn to God in truth?"

I ask us all: How long will we limp between two opinions, following the god of this world rather than the living God as seen in our Lord Jesus Christ?


may we put all our trust in You
rather than in the fleeting distractions
of this life.
May we stand fast to our Christian values
when the world ignores them,
and ever fight for the truth
as seen in Jesus Christ our Lord.

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