We like to “spin” our story by hiring a publicist to make our “mistakes” seem less offensive. We gloss over our sin by making excuses. Rather than reveal our hearts, we wear masks of deceit. When we see God, we are instantly aware of our sinfulness (Isaiah 6:5). In Kings 18, God demands the people demonstrate their loyalty to Him.
Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come here to me.” They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the Lord, which had been torn down. Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, saying, “Your name shall be Israel.” With the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two seahs of seed. He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, “Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood.”
“Do it again,” he said, and they did it again. “Do it a third time,” he ordered, and they did it the third time. The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench. (1 Kings 18:30-35)
Elijah methodically prepared the sacrifice.
- He repaired the altar of the Lord that had been torn down. When we neglect our spiritual health, we become useless as that altar. He did not use any of the materials from the Baal prophets’ altar. Often times people try to recycle their old belief system into their new faith. Jesus warned against this practice (Matthew 9:16-17). We cannot pick and choose which portions of scripture to embrace. It is all or nothing. (See God Forces the Lukewarm People Out of Their Comfort Zone.)
- He took twelve stones to represent the twelve tribes. Although the nation had divided, Judah from Israel about fifty years ealier, God’s desire was that they would be united. There were twelve stones on the breast piece worn by the high priest (Exodus 28:20-22). When Israel entered the Promise Land twelve stones were taken from the center of the Jordan River. An altar was built with those stones to commemorate the past and current miracles.
Here on Mt Carmel, I hope the grandparents took the time to explain the importance of the twelve stones to their grandchildren. It is obvious they had not transferred the message to their children. It is our duty to diligently teach God’s truth the future generations (Deuteronomy 11:18-20)
- After carefully arranging the wood and properly killing the bull (A bull was the symbol of Baal.) God is very specific about about the proper way to build an altar. As the King of the Kings, it is proper that we approach Him with respect.
- Three times Elijah commanded that the altar be doused with water. Since there had been no rain for three and a half years, the water was probably brought from the Mediterranean Sea. Three is often a symbol of judgment. Jonah in the belly of the fish, Jesus in the tomb are just two of the over 300 references to the number three.
At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”
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. (1 Kings 18:36-38 NIV)
Elijah sacrificed at the time in the evening that God had designated as the proper time for a sacrifice. Contrast Elijah’s prayer to the screaming and cutting of the Baal prophets. Do you see the dignity and respect in his approaching God? It reminds me of Jesus speaking with God.
So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” (John 11:41,42 NIV)
This is just prior to his raising Lazarus from the dead. The purpose of both miracles was to reveal the God to the people. Elijah wanted the people to know the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel was the one true powerful living God. He wanted to leave their worship of false idols. Jesus wanted the people to know that God had sent Him as the true Messiah. He wanted them to have the Truth.
When the fire of the Lord fell, it not only burned the bull, but it also burned the stone and the mud. Water and soil are normally used to extinguish a fire. Stones are used to contain a fire. This supernatural fire revealed the power of the True God.
Obedience reveals our true nature.
Then Elijah commanded them, “Seize the prophets of Baal. Don’t let anyone get away!” They seized them, and Elijah had them brought down to the Kishon Valley and slaughtered there. (1 Kings 18:39-40 NIV)
The people make a declaration of belief, “The Lord- he is God!” It is one thing to say you believe something (James 2:18). But it is another thing to act on that belief. Elijah commanded that they obey the law and put their faith into action, by executing the prophets of Baal. God could have directed the fire to kill to false prophets, but He tested the people’s hearts. He asked them to obey the law, by killing the deceivers. The Brook of Kishon flowed with the blood of 850 prophets (1 Kings 18:19). This was not the first time idol worshipers were killed in mass. Three thousand men died after they worshiped the golden calf (Exodus 32:28).
Death is the penalty for sin.
I too have worshiped false idols and deserve execution.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23 NIV)
Jesus took the place of the sacrificial lamb on God’s altar. He paid the penalty of sin for all. Blood is required for atonement. I pray that my actions reveal a heart of gratefulness.
- Do you believe that we take sin too casually today? Why or why not?
- Do you believe God believe God still reveals himself in miraculous ways? Why or why not?
- Do we still have people who lead others into worshiping false Gods? If so give a nameless example.