Wouldn’t you have loved to be a hawk circling above Mt Carmel on the day of the great showdown? Elijah was bringing it on with the false prophets. In this corner, with a long mangy beard – the man who many probably thought to be dead after three and a half years in hiding – the Prophet of Yahweh, Elijah! In the other corner four-hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and four-hundred prophets of Asherah.
The climate was hot in more ways than one. For many years, King Ahab, under the methodical manipulation of his wife Jezebel, had turned the kingdom of Israel into a spiritual and literal wasteland. Not only had they implemented Baal worship throughout the land, they had replaced God’s prophets with those of Baal and Asherah. As an added bonus, Jezebel had declared all-out war on the prophets of God and was killing them every chance she got.
It was in this environment that three and a half years earlier, God had sent Elijah to deliver a prophetic message to Ahab. God was ready to reveal Himself to His people. He was ready to challenge the false gods they had begun to serve.
To do this God would challenge the “great powers” of Baal directly. Among other things it was considered that Baal watched over his people. He controlled the storms and made people and crops fertile. God announced that He was going to dry up the earth and that Baal could not do a thing about it. Elijah announced to Ahab that it would not rain until the prophet said otherwise and his words came true. Ahab spent much of the drought searching for Elijah and attempting to keep his livestock alive.
When Elijah was finally ready, he showed up and announced the final test between God and Baal. God’s solo-prophet and the eight-hundred-fifty prophets of Baal and Asherah each set up an altar. The God who answered by fire would be the winner. This should have been an easy thing for Baal who was also known as the sun god.
After Baal’s group spent most of the day preparing, dancing, singing, yelling and even cutting themselves in a fruitless attempt to get their god’s attention, Elijah stepped in. He built the altar according to the twelve tribes of the covenant. He did it at the time of the evening sacrifice when God could be expected to arrive. He even gave the most precious gift he had after the long drought – water. He poured it over the sacrifice and the altar and asked God to show up. And show up He did!
The fire fell from Heaven licking up not only the sacrifice but the water and the altar as well. There should have been no doubt who the real God was. Elijah called God’s people back to God and executed all 850 false prophets. In short-order, after the false prophets were destroyed and God’s people had repented of their backsliding, God sent the desperately needed rain.
I find it notable that before the time of refreshing could come, there had to be even less water and more fire. It teaches us that when Heaven seems to be closed and we are all out of breaks, it is time to give up the things that we are holding so tightly, repent of our sins, and return to God.
Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away. Then times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord, and he will again send you Jesus, your appointed Messiah. Acts 3:19-20 (NLT)
Father bless us today. Forgive us of our sins, allow us to return to You and please heal our land. In Jesus Name, Amen!