Saying nothing – July 21, 2019
So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel. Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” But the people said nothing.
1 Kings 18:20
Sometimes our great mistake is not in saying the wrong thing. It’s in saying nothing.
This was the case when Israelites were asked to say if they would follow the LORD or Baal.
To their shame, they said nothing.
It was a sad state of affairs when Ahab and Jezebel, the king and queen of Israel, officially sanctioned the heathen god, Baal. Worship of that idol involved ritualistic prostitution and the sacrifice of babies. Strangely, it was appealing to Israel. Defiance of the Lord always is.
It wasn’t a subtle temptation. It was a clear-cut, in-your-face challenge to the worship of the Holy One of Israel. As the prophet Elijah made clear, it presented an either-or decision. Peaceful coexistence of the two was not an option.
Yet, on this day, the people were not willing to immediately make that choice. They weren’t sure which one they should acknowledge as master.
They knew that the priests of Baal were many and powerful. To speak against Baal was to place one’s life at risk. Besides, Baal worship had become commonplace in Israel.
And yet, they knew about the Lord God. The writings of Moses had told them about his power in creation; his judgments against sin; his forbidding the worship of false gods; and his promised blessing for those who loved and served him.
But face-to-face with the forces of Baal, they wilted.
They said nothing.
It pains us to hear of this because we understand them. We know what it is like to be put on the spot by those who flaunt the power of the Lord God. We may not join in their defiance of the Lord of glory, but sometimes we aren’t brave enough to admit we follow him.
It is easier, it is safer, then, to say nothing.
In his mercy, the Lord may allow us to get away with it. He may not strike us dead on the spot. He may give us another chance to show our faith, as he did to these people.
Elijah demanded a showdown. Two bulls were to be killed and placed upon a pile of wood on an altar. To the priests of Baal, he said, “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.”
This time the people did say something. They told Elijah, “What you say is good.”
It was good, but not for the Baal worshipers. All day those priests prayed, then cut themselves to demand the idol’s attention. Nothing.
Elijah taunted, “Shout louder! Maybe he is sleeping.” Still nothing.
When evening came, Elijah built an altar for a sacrifice to the Lord, put slaughtered bulls upon it, and poured water over everything—again and again. Then he called upon the Lord to answer his prayer.
The result? “Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.”
Now the people were willing to say something more: “When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, ‘The LORD—he is God! The LORD—he is God!'” (1 Kings 18:39)
We have seen an even greater demonstration of his power, have we not? The Holy Spirit has shown us the Son of God dying for us, rising from the dead, then rising into heaven.
So, what will we do when asked to say if we stand with him or against him?
Surely, we will not say nothing.
Surely we will not say nothing.
Prayer: Great and gracious God, we blush to think of the times when we failed to speak up for you. We know that you do not need us to defend you. Rather, we have the need to admit that we follow you. We need to confess, “The LORD—he is God! The LORD—he is God!” Because it is true. Amen.
Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.
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