Israel is about to find out which god is the true, the real and the only God.
1 Kings 18:31-33a 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 twelve stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two seahs (about thirteen quarts) of seed. He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood.”
Elijah reminds Israel why it is called the altar of the Lord and what that truly means.
1 Kings 18:33b-35 “Then he said to them, ‘Fill the four 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 the did it the third time. The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench.”
There were two altars and two bulls, but only one altar was soaked with water. Water will either put a fire out or prevent a fire from starting. “The God who answers by fire – He is God.” He’s the real God.
Fire represents God’s assessment of our lives; the Lord’s judgment of our work. When the animal was totally consumed by the fire, when there was nothing left but ashes, I’d know that God had accepted my offering. In this case, the water that Elijah kept pouring on the sacrifice was an attempt to stop God from judging sin.
It was a way of confronting the idea that we don’t need to worry about a fire. We don’t need to repent. We don’t need a savior. We’re acceptable to God just the way we are and we’re not worried about any judgment. Water was one last, desperate attempt to stop the judgment of sin and Elijah wanted the Israelites to see that, regardless of what we try to do to stop it, it doesn’t work.
1 Kings 18:36-38 “At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: ‘O LORD, 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, O Lord, answer me so these people will know that you, O 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’”
The other prophets had cried out all day long. “O Baal answer us” and nothing happened. Elijah cried “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel” and he only had to say it once. Not even all that water could stop the fire from falling. It completely consumed the sacrifice and the altar. It pulverized the rocks, scorched the soil and vaporized the water. Are you still wondering who the real God is?
“For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver ,costly stones, wood, hay, or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire and the fire will test the quality of everyone’s work. If what is built survives, they will receive their reward. If it burned up, they will suffer loss; they themselves will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.” (1 Corinthians 3:11-15)
Our good works, our sincerest efforts to make ourselves right with God, to become acceptable to God will not be able to prevent God from judging our sin any more than hosing down the altar with water could prevent the fire from falling.
But if we still don’t think we need an altar, if we’re completely satisfied with our own understanding about life and death, if we’re perfectly content to deal with and relate to God on our own terms, there’s nothing more anyone can say to us.
But if we want to discover who the real God is; if we need a place to make things right, to ask for and to receive forgiveness of sin; if we need a place to do what God requires for sin to be removed from His sight forever and to have all our guilt and shame completely taken away, if we believe we need a savior, there’s only one place to go. There’s only one altar to turn to.
All the gods human minds have created require us to make sacrifices for them. Our God is the only God who became a sacrifice for us. There’s only one altar that produces results. There’s only one God who answers by fire. That altar is the cross of Calvary where Jesus Christ, where God Himself became the sacrifice, the perfect sacrifice, the final sacrifice that was willingly and lovingly placed on the altar for all who would accept it.
Our God became sin for us. He took all our sin on Himself and died in our place, He became our substitute. He became flesh and blood so He could shed His blood for the forgiveness of our sin. Then He rose from the grave so that all who trusted in Him alone, would not perish but would receive everlasting life. No more wavering between two opinions. No more questions about who the real God is. The Lord is God and Jesus Christ is Lord. Love Him. Serve Him. Worship Him. Live for Him.
Lord willing, we’ll pick it up again from here next Tuesday. Thanks for getting into God’s Word with Pastor Buj.