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.”
1 Kings 18:27
He showed no mercy. He was not polite. He made fun of their faith. He ridiculed their “higher power.”
He taunted them.
It might make us wonder if Elijah went too far. Perhaps his zeal for the Lord God caused him to cross the line of what was acceptable and God-pleasing.
After all, did not the Lord God love these people? Was the Savior of the world not going to die for these people?
He did love them. He would die for them. In fact, these were some of his chosen people.
They were children of Israel.
And that made the situation much worse.
These were the descendants of Abraham, the heirs of the covenant, relatives of the heroes of faith. How did they end up as fanatic followers of the idol, Baal?
After the death of Solomon, the nation of Israel split in two. The northern ten tribes kept the name “Israel.” The southern two tribes called themselves, “Judah.” Jerusalem, with the temple, was in Judah.
To keep the nations apart, the leaders of the northern kingdom set up an alternate temple, an alternate priesthood—essentially an alternate religion. By the time of the prophet Elijah, the worship of idols dominated their religious scene. Under the rule of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, the worship of Baal was the state religion of Israel.
Worshipers of the true God were threatened. Elijah, spokesman of Jehovah, was branded as a traitor and sentenced to death—if ever he could be found. He was in hiding.
At the Lord’s direction, Elijah finally showed himself to Ahab to demand a showdown. He invited the people to gather at Mount Carmel as he confronted the 450 prophets of Baal.
To the people of Israel, he posed the question: “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. They were waiting to see the outcome of the test.
Slaughtered bulls were placed upon two altars with wood underneath. Elijah told the priests of Baal, “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.”
The prophets of Baal went first. “O Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made.” That’s when Elijah began to taunt them. “So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed.”
Still no answer. No fire. Because Baal was no God.
Elijah needed to demonstrate the frailty, the emptiness, and the sinfulness of idolatry. So, he acted boldly.
Idolatry was the work of Satan. Elijah’s taunting was a rejection of the devil and all of his works and all of his ways.
As the day came to an end, they poured water again and again over the altar before Elijah. Following a prayer to the LORD, fire streaked from heaven to burn up the sacrifice, the wood, and even the surrounding stones.
“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)
Those prophets of Baal? This was their judgment day. By Elijah’s command, they were brought into the Kishon Valley and slaughtered. All of them.
Surely, this is a warning never to place faith into anything other but the true and living God.
Surely, this is a reminder of the grace of God for sinners that he would send his Son to die for people like us—people who by nature are idolaters, those who tend to fear, love, and trust in things other than God.
Surely, our entire life should be an offering of thanksgiving, service, and praise to the only true Savior God.
Surely, the LORD our God never does sleep. There is never a need to wake him. Never.
Prayer:Almighty God, Lord of creation, and God of mercy, we look back with fretful eyes into the valley of Kishon and the fate of those idolaters. We remember your saying that “The wages of sin is death.” But you have given us life, instead. You have given us Jesus. We need not fear a valley of Kishon. We fear no evil in the valley of the shadow of death. Amen.
Written by Rev. Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.
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