Elijah has just challenged Israel to decide which god they are going to worship and serve. The showdown is taking place on Mount Carmel.
1 Kings 18:20-21a “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.’”
“How long will you waver?” Remember who Elijah’s talking to right now. He’s not talking to the Philistines or the Babylonians, to the Canaanites or the Egyptians. He’s talking to the Israelites, to God’s chosen people, to the heirs of the Covenant. Does it really matter what we believe about God? How long will you keep believing whatever you want to believe about God? How long will you be content to be “in Christ” on Sunday and in the world the rest of the week. When are you going to choose? When are you going to decide? When are you going to commit?
Let’s settle this thing once and for all, right here, right now. If Baal is god, if there is any other god, serve him with all your heart, your soul, your strength and your mind. But if there is no other god, if the Lord is the only true God, follow Him, worship Him, and serve Him. Give yourself completely to Him and stop playing games with your spirituality.
Let’s go to the altar and figure out what we believe and who we believe in. The altar is where we take care of business between ourselves and our god. Having an altar indicates that we know things are not right between our god and us. Things are not equal. We’re not in control.
Having an altar indicates that we believe in someone greater, that we depend on someone greater than ourselves. It indicates that we believe there’s a power, there’s a wisdom that’s beyond any human wisdom or power. Having an altar indicates that we don’t make the rules, our god does. Having an altar indicates we believe we need a god.
But if we don’t know what we believe about God or if we act as our own god, if we’re not too concerned with being accountable to any god, then we don’t really need an altar. If we don’t believe we need an altar then all we need is an explanation to keep ourselves from going crazy. We have to come up with some kind of answer for how we got here and where we’re going, what are we doing and why are we doing it and what comes next.
Those are all the questions a god is supposed to answer and all of those answers have to be 100% correct. They need to be the truth. Believing in God is not helping us to overcome our fear of dying, it’s helping us to clear up our confusion and uncertainty about living. If we’re acting as our own god and we don’t believe we need an altar then we have to figure out what we’re going to do – to use up all the time we have – before all the time we have is used up and why it’s even necessary to try.
If we don’t believe we need an altar, it doesn’t matter how we live or when we die. In fact, it doesn’t really matter if we live or die. If everything is a result of a random, cosmic accident instead of being divinely and purposefully created, if there truly is nothing better or greater in store for us after this brief, temporary, earthly existence is over; if we know we’re going to die and we can’t do anything to stop it, if we really do know it all and there is no god, we already know too much.
We’re the most pathetic and miserable creatures on earth because no other animal has the ability to think about or to worry about things like mortality or eternity or about a purpose for their existence. Knowing it all isn’t really that bad as long as we don’t think about it too much. Without Jesus, too much knowledge will make us miserable. Without Jesus, too much knowledge will drive us insane.
I just love Israel’s response to what Elijah just said. It’s so typical of our sinful, human nature.
18:21b “But the people said nothing.”
What can we say when we know something’s true, when we know something’s right, but we don’t want to change? What can we say? Nothing – there is nothing we can say.
1 Kings 18:22 “Then Elijah said to them,’ I am the only one of the Lord’s prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets.’”
We’ve talked before about Elijah being clueless and it looks like he’s still having a problem with that here. He’s not the only one of the Lord’s prophets left. But sometimes, to him, it seems like he is. Obadiah told Elijah that he had been risking his life by hiding one hundred of the Lord’s prophets in caves and supplying them with food and water from King Ahab’s personal supply. Evidently, Elijah wasn’t paying attention.
1 Kings 18:23-24a “Get two bulls for us. Let them choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces 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 s God.”
“The god who answers by fire;” the god who actually does something; the god who answers prayer, who comes through for His people when they need Him the most – “He is God.” He is really God. He is the only God and when we find Him, let’s stop playing games and devote our lives to Him, let’s start loving Him and serving Him with all our hearts.
1 Kings 18:24b “Then all the people said, ‘What you say is good.’”
When Elijah told them to decide between the Lord God, Almighty, the I Am that I Am, they had nothing to say because they had no excuse for not doing it. Now, all they can say is, ‘We don’t know what to say, but “what you say is good.’” Those were good words and that was good preaching, Elijah. It just wasn’t good enough to change anything.
Lord willing, we’ll continue on from here next Tuesday. Thanks for getting into God’s word with Pastor Buj.