Elijah said to them, “I am the only one of the Lord’s prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets. Get two bulls for us. Let Baal’s prophets choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set 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 — he is God.” — 1 Kings 18:22-24
In today’s scripture reading we reflect on what I call the “miracle on Mount Carmel.” In Elijah’s time there were many religious options; the same is true in today’s culture. Recently, my 12-year-old granddaughter asked me, “Grandma, how do we know what we believe is right?” Although raised Christian, she is exposed to many different religions in school and in society.
My grandma used to say, “Baby, the proof has to be in the pudding!” As I was explaining the reason for our faith to my granddaughter, I thought about Elijah’s experience with the prophets and the priests of Baal. The children of Israel also were exposed to many different beliefs, and they lived among nations who believed in other gods. Elijah, as the prophet of Jehovah, sets the stage for each god to prove himself.
Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first, since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire.” So they took the bull given to them and prepared it. Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. “Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made. At noon Elijah began to taunt them.
“Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought or busy or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.” So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. Midday passed and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response; no one answered; no one paid attention.
Of course, I told my little granddaughter that the basis of our belief comes from the Bible and that the scriptures are supported by written history. According to scripture, we believe in the birth, death, burial and the wonderful resurrection of Jesus Christ. But I also told her that as Christians, we serve a living God. Christianity is not ritual; it’s relational. Like the prophet Elijah, we can be sure that God is listening when we pray. And if we’re confident that He’s listening, we know that what we’ve asked for is as good as ours.
Elijah prayed until literal fire fell from heaven. Get out of your house and go to God’s house today. Let Him speak to you so that you can learn how to build an altar that brings down the fire of God. Fire also denotes passion, fervor, zeal and enthusiasm. So when you face a dilemma like Elijah did, you too can be confident that “the god who answers by fire — he is God.”
Deason is the senior pastor at Liberty Prayer Chapel and the executive director of the Liberty County Manna House.